Very few quarterbacks in college football, let alone the Pac-12, can match what either Jake Browning or Luke Falk have achieved in their careers.
Browning has become one of the most accomplished passers in Washington’s illustrious history. He owns the school record for most touchdown passes in a career and tied the Pac-12 mark for most touchdowns in a season.
Falk is an all-time great who is arguably the best quarterback to ever play for Washington State. He’s the Pac-12’s career leader in both passing yards and touchdowns.
They’ll cross paths for the final time when the Cougars (9-2, 6-2 Pac-12) face the Huskies (9-2, 6-2) for The Apple Cup at 5 p.m. Saturday at Husky Stadium.
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As part of the build up to The Apple Cup, the News Tribune will preview what the Cougars and Huskies have at each position starting the quarterbacks.
MAKING A CASE FOR BROWNING
Much has been said about Browning not replicating his passing totals from last season. He entered the year as a potential Heisman Trophy candidate after throwing 43 touchdowns in 2016.
Browning has 2,451 yards and 18 touchdowns. Those aren’t jaw-dropping stats but he is having the most responsible season of his career. He’s only thrown for five interceptions and taken 14 sacks. If those numbers hold, it would be the lowest amount in each category in his three years a starter.
Another facet of Browning’s game which has improved is his accuracy. He’s completing 69.1 percent of his passes. That alone would make for the 10th most accurate season by a Pac-12 quarterback with at least 700 attempts, according to sports-reference.com
If there’s a concern, it would be Browning’s knack to hold onto the ball. His ability to weave around and buy time has helped UW. But he’s also had games, like in the 30-22 loss to Stanford, when he took two costly fourth-quarter sacks.
MAKING A CASE FOR FALK
Falk’s numbers, while still strong, don’t match what he did in his first two seasons. He threw for more than 4,400 yards in 2015 and 2016. This year, he comes into The Apple Cup with 3,224 yards.
Still, there have been games when Falk has been unstoppable. He torched Oregon State for 396 yards and six touchdowns. A week later, he tormented Nevada for 478 yards and five touchdowns.
Falk also had success against Stanford and Utah which are both ranked in the Top 60 in passing defense. He threw for more than 300 yards and had three touchdowns in each performance against the Cardinal and the Utes.
That said, there have also been some difficult moments in 2017. The redshirt senior was benched after a slow start in a loss to Arizona. Plus, there was his five interception performance in a shocking 37-3 loss to California.
AND THE WINNER IS...
For now, it’d be Browning. His passing numbers aren’t the strongest but he’s kept UW in every game with how he’s taken care of the ball. That’ll be big considering WSU’s defense has generated the third-most turnovers in the nation.
Ryan S. Clark: @ryan_s_clark