The No. 21 Washington State Cougars are 2-0 on the season after beating Boise State 47-44 in triple overtime Saturday, and while the fact that they came back from a 21-point deficit was surprising, it wasn’t the most surprisingly part of the win.
That would be that it wasn’t senior quarterback Luke Falk who orchestrated the comeback but rather redshirt sophomore Tyler Hilinski. Filling in for Falk after he was knocked out of the game due to injury, Hilinski completed 25 of 33 passes for 240 yards, three touchdowns and an interception, not only helping WSU score three unanswered touchdowns to end the fourth quarter but also keep pace in the first two overtime periods, setting up his winning 22-yard pass to Jamal Morrow.
Naturally, speculation has quickly turned to whether the Cougars have a quarterback controversy on their hands. And while 710 ESPN Seattle’s Brock Huard won’t go that far, he said on Monday’s Blue 42 segment of Brock and Salk that there is a legitimate reason for Washington State fans to both have concern in Falk’s status and confidence in Hilinski’s ability.
“Luke Falk’s health has to come into question,” Huard said. “Whether it’s a hand injury, a neck injury, a head injury, whatever it is, if it does keep him out and you open the door, this is why the quarterbacks in that system never want to give anybody a chance. Do not miss a rep and give somebody else an opportunity, especially in that scheme with those running backs and their ability to spread the ball all over the field and their offensive line’s ability to at least pass-protect. The backup’s gonna come in and he’s gonna have success, and Hilinski did just that.”
If Hilinski hadn’t responded like he did, it’s very unlikely the Cougs would have been victorious on Saturday night.
“The redshirt sophomore came in and played a whale of a game in those moments,” Huard said. “If he has a bad pass, if he throws (another) pick, if he fumbles, there was no margin (of error) down 21. … Quite an accomplishment. Quarterback controversy, not yet, but the injury situation will be one that I and I think all Cougar fans should watch very, very closely.”
While Hilinksi being pressed into duty wasn’t part of the game plan heading into the Boise State game, Mike Leach’s coaching staff is comfortable in letting him run the offense if needed, which Huard said was apparent when he was preparing for an assignment to color commentate last year’s Holiday Bowl against Minnesota.
“They like him over there,” Huard said. “When I did their bowl game last year it was Hilinski and it was Falk and it was everybody else (at quarterback in practice). They were the only two that got any attention, that really got any work and any reps.”