Because Washington State coach Mike Leach keeps a steadfast policy against discussing the health of his players, quarterback Luke Falk’s status for the Apple Cup remains questionable.
What nonsense. Why is the possibility Falk will suit up Friday against Washington even a question?
A week ago Saturday, Falk’s head was hit so hard it bounced on the Rose Bowl turf. Somebody who knows more about concussions than I do gave him clearance to stay in the game.
Last Saturday, after taking another blow to the head midway through the third quarter, he was removed from the field on a cart and didn’t return. To insist the second injury had no connection to the first requires a remarkable kind of stupidity.
And to think: Cougars athletic director Bill Moos told those listening to his Spokane-area radio segment Monday that he’s hopeful Falk can play against the Huskies.
Brain science remains inexact — doctors are still learning about the consequences of head trauma, let alone achieving a cure — but a time link has been established. Concussions suffered a week apart are much more likely to damage a brain than concussions suffered, say, a decade apart.
Again, I don’t have the medical credentials to identify Falk as a recent concussion victim. All I know is what I watched on TV: The back side of his skull bouncing on the ground on Nov. 14, and his valiant thumbs-up gesture as he was carted off the field on Nov. 21.
Concussion-protocol guidelines now are implemented for every sport, at every level. This represents progress. Not so long ago, when a woozy football player needed assistance to the sideline, broadcasters referred to the injury as “getting a bell rung.” No big deal. The bell-ringing brought over a trainer who held three fingers up and asked the athlete to identify how many fingers he saw. If he saw three, he was good to go.
This explains why thousands of football players — guys with the ability to perform back flips when they were 20 years old — are unable to remember why they’ve stumbled into the kitchen at the age of 50.
So, yes, I’m a proponent of concussion-protocol guidelines. I’m just more of a proponent of common sense. Putting Luke Falk in the most vulnerable football position there is Friday mocks any notion of common sense.
Beyond the sheer satisfaction of beating the Huskies, the short-term benefits of allowing Falk to participate in the Apple Cup hinge on a better chance of a 9-3 team traveling to the Foster Farms Bowl instead of an 8-4 team traveling to the Sun Bowl.
Or maybe it’s the other way around. Maybe the Sun Bowl is the intended destination, and the Foster Farms Bowl is Plan B. In any case, the urgent stakes for the Cougars are not self-evident.
And the long-term liabilities of allowing Falk to participate in the Apple Cup? The consequences are serious.
Anchored by linebackers hard-wired to collide with a purpose, the Huskies defense is the real deal. If Falk is sacked, there’s a chance he endures another blow to the head, for the third time in three weeks.
A redshirt sophomore primed to set career passing records in the Pac-12 Conference — heck, he might even set NCAA career passing records — Falk has potential that’s off the charts.
If I’m the head coach, I’m not taking the risk. I’m not following dubious concussion-protocol guidelines.
I’m trusting quarterback Peyton Bender, a redshirt freshman from Florida who was widely recruited and has appeared nonplussed when called upon to relieve Falk, can operate his team’s go-for-the-gusto offense with efficiency, if not flair.
Seems like a simple conclusion, doesn’t it? The quarterback who has been knocked into Palookaville twice in two weeks stays on the sideline, and his capable backup takes the reins in a game that doesn’t exactly scream “must win.”
This is not brain surgery.