Oddly, Luke Falk thrives on contact; also, Shalom Luani makes first public comments since the Domino's Pizza fight
PALO ALTO, Calif. – The sight was a familiar and jarring one to Washington State fans who’d followed the Cougars’ ups and downs last season. And everyone held their breath in the third quarter of WSU’s eventual 42-16 win over No. 15 Stanford as starting quarterback, Luke Falk, lay flat on his back on the turf at Stanford Stadium.
Stanford safety Justin Reid had hit Falk head-first as the quarterback was sliding on the end of a run, and the officials’ penalty flag flew almost immediately, flagging Reid for targeting.
Mercifully, Falk soon started waving his hands around on the ground, and eventually stood up and walked to the sidelines.
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Reid was ejected from the game, a move Stanford coach David Shaw said afterward was fully justified given the way Reid had tackled Falk while the quarterback was going down.
“It was a good call. It’s a call you have to make,” Shaw said. “It’s a quarterback scrambling, a quarterback sliding. Now, from the replay, the contact was minimal with his helmet. But there was contact above the neck when the quarterback was sliding, so you’ve got to call it.
“We understand it and we embrace the rules that protect players.”
Oddly enough, the hit on Falk appeared to galvanize the Cougars, who sat out the next play, then came right back in, scrambled for a first down on his first play back and finished that drive by pushing the offense the final 37 yards down field and scoring on a 17-yard touchdown from Falk to Gabe Marks.
“It’s a football play. They take me out or whatever, but I was fine and came back in and just got on with play,” Falk said.
Marks’ theory? Contact fuels his quarterback.
“Luke does that all the time,” Marks said. “He’s a tough guy. I always say I think he enjoys getting hit sometimes, know what I mean? He doesn’t get hit at practice, so he likes to show his worth in big games and makes us feel like we’re gonna lose him, then he comes back.
“It’s a real rollercoaster with him sometimes, but it works. He knows how to get us going.”
Falk simply grinned when asked his opinion of Marks’ theory that he gets more amped up after he takes a big hit.
“I don’t know. It triggers something in me,” Falk said. “He might be right.”
It was a rough game for the placekickers on both teams. Stanford’s Conrad Ukropina made a 43-yard field goal in the second quarter, but the successful kick was bookended by two bizarre failed attempts.
Ukropina attempted a 49-yard field goal in the first quarter, but drove the ball into the left upright.
Shockingly, the ball once again hit that left upright later in the second quarter, when he attempted a 44-yard field goal.
Meanwhile, WSU kicker Erik Powell had his own problems, missed a 35-yard attempt in the second quarter that went wide right and dropped him to 0-for-5 on the season.
WSU held running back Christian McCaffrey to 35 rushing yards on eight carries, but that might have been due in part to the fact that McCaffrey was hurt during the game, and was spotted on the sideliens with an ice bag on his right hip in the fourth quarter.
Shaw said McCaffrey “did get banged up” but added, “there was no reason to put him in late in the game. We just left him out.”
Luani makes first public comments
WSU free safety Shalom Luani had four tackles, a pass breakup and an interception return of 45 yards in the Cougars’ win, and after the game, he was made available to the media for the first time this season.
Luani was arrested on suspicion of assault in August for his role in a fight that broke out outside a Domino’s Pizza, but he was never charged with any crime because the Whitman County Prosecutor determined he could not prove that Luani had not been acting in self-defense on the night of his arrest.
“It feels great to come together as a team, offense, special teams defense, its good to just play next to each other, shoulder to shoulder, it’s a good feeling,” Luani said.
But when asked to describe what the first few tumultuous weeks of the season had been like for him, Luani was stopped short of answering when a WSU sports information staff member interjected, asking media to focus their questions on the Stanford game.
RT Cole Madison hurt
WSU right tackle Cole Madison left the game early in the third quarter with what appeared to be some sort of an injury to his left leg. In Madison’s absence, B.J. Salmonson entered the game at right guard, and Eduardo Middleton moved to right tackle.
Madison later returned to the game, and was seen walking around on his own power as the team headed to the locker room after the game.