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In his much-anticipated return home, Washington State’s Falk throws three touchdowns to lead Cougars past Utes

Washington State Cougars quarterback Luke Falk (4) throws during the second half of a college football game on Saturday, November 11, 2017, at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City, Utah.   Tyler Tjomsland/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

SALT LAKE CITY – Luke Falk could’ve played a game at Rice-Eccles Stadium as a high school senior, but his Logan High Grizzlies didn’t make it deep enough into the Utah 4A playoffs to book a trip to the iconic football venue in Salt Lake City.

Falk could’ve played a few-dozen college games there, too, but the stadium’s main tenants never offered him a scholarship, let alone an opportunity to walk on for the Utah Utes.

Last time Washington State played at Rice-Eccles, Falk was still second on the Cougars depth chart, and was thus planted on the bench when Connor Halliday led the visitors to a 28-27 win during the 2014 season.

So Falk, the always-stoic WSU senior who’s never been much of an emotional roller-coaster, broke character when he was asked, following a 33-25 road win over Utah, what Saturday’s opportunity meant to him.

“A lot of emotion,” Falk said. “I’ve wanted to play in this game ever since I got to Washington State. I’m so proud of the guys and how we battled – the offense, defense, special teams all coming together. I’m just really happy to get a win out here.”

A collection of Utah-based reporters attended Washington State’s press conference just to hear the former Logan High quarterback reflect on his first start in his home state.

Falk estimated that 60 people came out to support him – “that’s probably lowballing it,” he said – in the second-to-last regular season game of his college career.

The QB’s father, Mike Falk, even found his way to a field-level seat.

“It kind of reminded me of my high school games,” Falk said. “I don’t know how he got on the sidelines but he just worked his way on there.” Laughed Falk: “He must know people.”

Saturday’s affair in Salt Lake City won’t go down as the best statistical game of Falk’s career, but the fourth-year starter got the Cougars into the end zone when they needed to, throwing three touchdown passes to up his career total to 118, while accumulating 311 yards through the air on 40-of-69 passing.

The Cougars improved to 9-2 overall and 6-2 in conference play. They’ll have a chance to snag a berth into the Pac-12 title game when they visit Washington for the Apple Cup two weeks from now.

The Utes, meanwhile, lost their fifth game in six tries and dropped 5-4 overall and 2-4 in the Pac-12.

Utah is one of three FBS programs in the Beehive State that elected not to offer Falk out of high school. The Cougars QB bounced around as a prep player and transferred to Oaks Christian Academy in Los Angeles as a high school sophomore, with the hope that playing in one of the country’s recruiting hotbeds would give him better exposure.

The experiment didn’t work and Falk returned to Logan High, though he wouldn’t be eligible to play the remainder of his sophomore year and also had to miss the entirety of his junior season. But Falk was prolific as a senior in Logan, drawing first-team all-state and all-region honors after throwing for 3,618 yards and 36 touchdowns

He set Utah high school single-season records for pass attempts (562) and completions (330), but the Grizzlies bowed out of the state playoffs after a loss to Timpview, which was coached by Cary Whittingham, the brother of current Utes coach Kyle Whittingham.

Utah gave the Logan QB a brief look, but never offered, and Utah State, the program based in Falk’s hometown, never came knocking. BYU passed him up, too.

“College wise, I was a big Utah State fan and playing high school ball in Logan, I always thought I’d play there,” Falk said. “When the Utes got in the Pac-12 I definitely wanted to get my shot to play for them. It didn’t work out, but I’m glad Washington State gave me an opportunity and I’m just having so much fun.”

Falk will leave Pullman as the Pac-12’s career leader in passing yards, touchdowns, attempts, completions and total offensive yards.