Peyton Bender could start for WSU in the Apple Cup if Luke Falk is unable to play. Also, Jeremiah Allison was escorted onto the field by Carmento Floyd on Senior Night

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PULLMAN – For the second week in a row, Washington State backup quarterback Peyton Bender was called to duty as he watched the Cougars’ starter, Luke Falk, get knocked out of after he took a big hit.

Last week against UCLA, Falk returned in the second half to finish out the game.

This week, in the Cougars’ 27-3 win over Colorado on Saturday night, Falk was carted off the field and taken to the hospital during the game, and Bender found himself under the spotlight midway through the Cougars’ home finale.

“It looked like a hard hit and he wasn’t coming up, so I just strapped up and started warming up on the sideline, and then when I saw the stretcher come out, I figured it was probably going to be my show for the rest of the game,” said Bender, a redshirt freshman who competed with Falk for the starting job all the way through the end of the fall camp. “So I tried to get my mind right, stay focused and just go out there and get completions and move the ball.”

Bender went 13 of 22 for 133 yards, one touchdown and one interception in relief of Falk, and did enough to earn Mike Leach’s approval.

“I thought he played good,” Leach said of Bender’s performance. “He had a very impressive first drive when he came out there. I thought he moved the ball pretty well.”

Leach refused to comment on Falk’s status after the game, even threatening to leave his press conference after reporters peppered him with questions about Falk’s condition.

But if Bender gets the nod to start for WSU against the Huskies in the Apple Cup on Nov. 27, the Cougars say they’re confident he’ll be up to the task.

“You gotta understand, in summer camp, the battle between those two was neck and neck,” said senior linebacker Jeremiah Allison. “So the rope don’t fall off that much at all. Bender is a competitor, Luke is a competitor and both of them are good for our offense.”

When asked to compare his two quarterbacks’ playing styles, Leach said Bender has a quicker release and a “flashy arm” while Falk has “more experience managing the game and has got a little more dimension to what he can do.”

“But Peyton is a real head’s-up guy. He’s good at checking plays,” Leach said. “He hasn’t been able to put together – until now, really – a bunch of plays that you can really evaluate and identify what he’s been able to do, and his strengths and things like that. I think he’s steadily improving.

“I do think he’s been real productive and that showed today.”

Team rallies around fallen quarterback

Falk gave the crowd a thumbs up as he was carted off the field on Saturday night, WSU safety Isaac Dotson, raced over to intercept the cart and check on his friend.

“I just let him know we got him,” Dotson said. “That’s my brother, we room together and he’s my best friend, so I just wanted to let him know we’ll handle business for him and get it done.”

Dotson said Falk was responsive and that the quarterback said “OK” and told him and the rest of the team to “go get it.”

Allison called Falk “the strongest person I know.”

“He’s a guy who rallies the team,” Allison said. “In the beginning of the season, he sat me down and said, ‘Jeremiah, your senior season is going to be one to remember.’ And you know, when he said that to me, it meant a lot and I trusted him. And so far he’s held up his part of the bargain.”

Jeremiah Allison escorted by Dr. Elson Floyd’s widow on Senior Night

Jeremiah Allison’s personal story is one of heartbreak and survival. He lost his mother to a heart attack while he was still in high school, but has always tried to honor her memory by striving to finish his degree and also being a big contributor in the community.

On Senior Night, Allison paid tribute to his late mother with the words “RIP MOM” written in Sharpie on his white wrist band. He walked out on the field for the pre-game ceremony flanked by linebackers coach Ken Wilson and Carmento Floyd, the widow of WSU’s late president, Elson S. Floyd, who died of colon cancer in June.

Allison said after the game that having Carmento Floyd walk him onto the field was “so very special.”

“They’d been a big part of the football program. President Floyd was a big inspiration in my life,” Allison said. “I had a chance to sit down and talk to him a lot, and just to have his wife walk me out was a wonderful, remarkable experience and something I’ll cherish for the rest of my life.

“Her husband was a role model to me. He taught me certain tricks of the trade, how to get places and certain things in life. And just to have him in my corner was great.”