When Luke Falk led his team on the field with two minutes to go in Saturday’s game 45-38 win at Oregon, there was little doubt about what the sophomore was going to do.
He had been in a nearly identical situation weeks earlier against Rutgers, and delivered by leading his team on a 90-yard game-winning drive with just 13 seconds left. This time he needed to go only 70 yards, and sure enough he guided the team on the game-tying drive, scoring the equalizing touchdown with just one second left on the clock.
“When you think about playing quarterback when you’re a kid and you think about the situations everyone wants to be in as a kid — Tom Brady moments — he’s that guy,” WSU receiver Gabe Marks said. “He’s got that aura to him.”
Quarterback Luke Falk was added to the Manning Award watch list Wednesday, given to the nation's best quarterback. Falk leads the Pac-12 in passing at 392.8 yards-per-game, which also ranks third best in the country.
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Unlike the Rugers drive, which saw the Cougars dice apart the defense, the final drive against Oregon had multiple occasions where it seemed the game was on the line. Two plays into that drive, WSU had a 3rd-and-21 when Falk found Dom Williams for a 23-yard gain. Later on in the drive, facing a 4th-and-3, Falk connected with River Cracraft for 22 yards. That paved the way for his touchdown strike to Williams with a second to play.
“I think he’s been a very composed figure out there on those, and I think that has rubbed off on the rest of the team,” WSU coach Mike Leach said. “It starts with just the expectations that you can march down there and score. He does a good job of keeping everybody clear headed in those situations.”
Those were the moments Falk had been dreaming of since he was a kid growing up in Logan, Utah. He would pretend he was the Denver Broncos quarterback, leading the game-winning drive against the Oakland Raiders. However, as Falk said, there was a cost for practicing those moments indoors.
“I actually put some pillows down on our fireplace. It’s kind of weird because I didn’t want to hit my head when I was diving in the end zone for a touchdown,” Falk said. “I accidently burned one of them and my mom got pretty pissed off at me but I always envisioned myself winning the game and getting it done.”
Up until those final minutes of regulation against Oregon, Falk had suffered an up-and-down game, but when it counted the most he came through in the clutch. Not only did he help send the game into overtime with the late score, he ran in for the go-ahead touchdown in the first overtime and led the Cougars on the game-winning drive in the second extra session. That poise under pressure was something that Leach was looking for when he was scouting Falk in high school.
“You try to sort that as you watch film. How is he when they’re ahead, how is he when they’re behind?” Leach said. “And it appeared that he did, and then of course it turned out that he did.”
However, despite his high school success, Falk received offers to only Idaho, Wyoming and Cornell -- and Cornell doesn’t even offer scholarships. He chose to walk on at WSU in hopes of someday earning a scholarship, which he did before the 2014 season started. Midway through this season, it is obvious the gamble paid off. Falk was added to the Manning Award watch list Wednesday, and based off his 15 touchdowns compared to only two interceptions, it appears plenty more accolades are heading his way -- not that he’ll pay much attention to them.
Marks mentioned during Monday’s press conference that Falk has a humbleness about him that is uncommon in college football, and when the quarterback was asked for a response, he gave the most fitting answer.
“I just appreciate his comment, but I just want to be here to win and do my job,” Falk said.
If he keeps doing his job like he did against Oregon, the wins are certain to take care of themselves.