PULLMAN – For the first time in 21 games, there was a new quarterback spokesman in front of the assembled media Saturday following Washington State’s 44-17 loss to USC.
Luke Falk was pressed into action when Connor Halliday’s leg broke in the first quarter of that game and also assumed the duty of dragging his tired, beat-up body in front of the cameras to answer for the offense without time for a change of clothes, a shower, or to fix his hair.
The redshirt freshman was appropriately deferential and did his best to take blame for a loss that clearly wasn’t the fault of a backup quarterback who received little help from his defense or his receivers.
“I needed to calm down and go out there like in practice and go through my reads and lead my team down the field,” he said.
Also: “Ultimately my job is to get us in the end zone and I failed to do that a few times tonight. I’ve got to be better.”
It wasn’t a fair assessment, considering Falk threw for 370 yards and a couple of touchdowns in just over three quarters of his first significant action. He showed poise by standing tall in the pocket and buying time for his receivers with his footwork, and the maturity to throw the ball away when nobody was open.
His coach, Mike Leach, said Falk played “better than I think anyone would have expected.”
Better than anyone except Falk, apparently, whose self-effacement painted a picture of a nervous Nellie whose legs couldn’t stop shaking in the face of USC’s oncoming pass rush.
“I need to be better,” Falk said. “I thought we really had a chance to stay in the game and I just, I’ve got to be more consistent and I’ve just got to be better overall.”
That wasn’t true Saturday. It will be this weekend at Oregon State, however, because Falk won’t be the backup who filled in admirably during a tough situation against a killer defense.
He’ll be the starting quarterback in the Air Raid offense, throwing 50 or more times against a veteran secondary that ranks No. 10 in the country in passing defense. The Beavers have allowed just seven passing touchdowns all season and they’ve grabbed nine interceptions.
After going against Oregon State’s defensive backs and USC’s defensive line, Washington State’s new quarterback will have seen just about everything despite his limited playing time.
“I feel that, with Luke being young and hungry, he has so much to strive toward and he has shoes that he would want to fill or make his own presence known,” said linebacker Jeremiah Allison said. “With that being said, I feel like he’s going to do great things.”
One could argue he already has, considering his rapid ascent in status since he enrolled.
Falk is a redshirt freshman who walked on to the team last season. He received some notoriety early in his prep career in Logan, Utah – most famously a scholarship offer from Florida State when he was a sophomore – but a short-lived stint at California football powerhouse Oaks Christian meant he was ineligible as a junior and the scholarship offers fell by the wayside.
He came to WSU and was told by Leach that the Cougars would pick up the tab for his scholarship if he could reach No. 3 on the quarterback depth chart. After just one season he was already No. 2.
For the next three games at least, he’ll be No. 1. And, according to his teammates, he’s already acting like it on the field, despite the deference he naturally showed after the game.
“He was ready to go and I think he’s been ready since the day he got here,” left tackle Joe Dahl said. “That’s just how he is. He’s calm and confident and he knows he would be able to do the job.”
Subscribe to the sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.