University of Washington

Huskies hassle Falk into three interceptions with three-man rush

As the Pac-12’s all-time leading passer, Luke Falk finally played a game in Husky Stadium on Saturday night.

And Washington State University’s history-making quarterback had little time to check out the digs.

It is because he was running for his life.

The Huskies’ game plan under defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski was simple: Rush the passer with three players, and drop the rest of the guys back in coverage.

And that three-man front, led by defensive tackle Vita Vea and nose tackle Greg Gaines, set the tone in the Huskies’ 41-14 victory over WSU in the 110th Apple Cup.

Falk was sacked five times. He threw three interceptions. And the WSU signal caller will leave the program 0-3 in intrastate rivalry games.

“That was the game plan ... to get after him with three guys,” Kwiatkowski said. “They stepped up big time.”

And the duress started in the first series. Falk endured a sack in each of WSU’s first three drives.

“I’ve never been a quarterback, but I am sure that affects you,” Gaines said.

The three-and-out Cougars’ series that was emblematic of the pressure Falk was under all game happened late in the first half.

With WSU pinned at its own 4-yard line, Vea crashed through the line and knocked Falk over, forcing an incomplete pass.

On second down, Vea and Benning Potoa’e, a Lakes High School product, went right up the middle to take Falk down for a 7-yard loss.

“I was honestly trying to take two guys,” Vea said.

Vea finished it off on third down by bumping Falk on a pass attempt. The WSU standout walked off the field shaking his head.

“Falk is an incredible passer, but when you can’t set your feet, it’s really hard,” UW linebacker Ben Burr-Kirven said. “Almost every snap of the game, it felt like somebody had a hand on him, or somebody was in his face.”


UW quarterback Jake Browning was the big winner Saturday, joining Cody Pickett and Warren Moon as the only UW quarterbacks in the modern era to win three Apple Cup games.

Browning is only a junior. If he chooses to return next season, he would have the opportunity to become the only quarterback to win four Apple Cups.

“It would be great to have him back here,” Burr-Kirven said. “Obviously the Apple Cup is the biggest game of the year for us, so to be the guy to have a chance to win four of those would be incredible. Hopefully he will come back and give it a shot.”


It is safe to say Falk won’t miss seeing the Huskies.

In back-to-back seasons, he threw three interceptions in Apple Cup losses. In fact, those UW games make up half of the four career games in which he has thrown three or more interceptions. The other two were against Arizona State (four) in 2014, and California (five) earlier this season.

“I saw about three different Luke Falks today,” WSU coach Mike Leach said. “I saw the first half guy, which that guy was a complete stranger. I saw, you know kind of in the middle of the game, just a guy struggling to get on track. ... And then I saw the Luke Falk at the end, and that’s the guy I’m a lot more familiar with.”

In his three Apple Cup appearances, Falk completed 92 of 154 passes for 993 yards, four touchdowns and eight interceptions.


Two key UW seniors — wide receiver Dante Pettis (left leg) and running back Lavon Coleman (left heel) — were injured in the first quarter, and never returned. Pettis was hurt on his first punt return attempt when WSU’s Kyle Celli slid into his knee. ... The UW defense held WSU to minus-28 rushing yards, which ranks No. 3 in school history for fewest yards. ...Former UW tailback Chris Polk was the program’s honored “Husky Legend.”

Related stories from Tacoma News Tribune