If Halliday right, Falk plenty ready to start

PULLMAN -- Mike Leach gave Luke Falk a high compliment Saturday, saying the second-year freshman is beyond his years in readiness to take over as WSU's QB. Indeed, zero offensive modification will be necessary this week, Leach noted. Back in August, another prominent voice gave the one-time walk on a huge endorsement. Connor Halliday told CF.C in fall camp Falk could start and succeed right now.

“Luke, since he got here last June to where he is now, he’s probably the most improved player on the team in that amount of time,” Halliday said. “I’d have all the confidence in the world if he’d have to go out and start a game right now, and I know the guys in the locker room have got confidence for him too.”

Until Halliday went down with a broken ankle Saturday in the first quarter against USC, Falk was a fairly well-kept secret. He had thrown just two passes all season — both in mop up time against Portland State. Granted, one of them was an 80-yard scoring strike to Dom Williams, but the sample size was not large enough to have guessed at the steady production he turned in against the Trojans’ formidable pass rush.

Falk completed 38 of 57 passes for 346 yards and two TDs. His one interception really should have an asterisk next to it -- a Hail Mary at the end of the first half.

Leach said Monday at his press conference that Falk played smart, throwing balls away when needed and avoiding sacks.

Before Falk even went into the game, linebacker Jeremiah Allison said the young quarterback looked him in the eye and said "Let's get this W."

“I love Luke, from the first time I met him," Allison said. "He’s a guy with confidence. He loves Tom Brady, so he always feels like he has a chip on his shoulder. He’s a kid who wants to be better. He doesn’t feel like he knows the game to a certain extent, but he wants to get better. He looks for ways to get better, and that’s what I love about Luke. He’s a true competitor.”

Offensive lineman Joe Dahl echoed that praise. "He's got a great demeanor to him. He has confidence in himself as he should. He's going to be a great player."

TO FULLY UNDERSTAND HOW FAR AND FAST the Logan, Utah, product has come, consider that one year ago he wasn’t even high enough in the QB pecking order to run the Cougar scout team. That job belonged to 4-star rated true freshman Tyler Bruggman, who came to WSU with a ton of fanfare.

But by the time spring ball ended this past April, it was clear that Falk, a walk on, had pulled even with Bruggman and, in many eyes, surpassed him. When Bruggman announced about a week before fall camp he was transferring (winding up at Louisville), the proverbial “just one play away” bromide was fully Falk’s.

During fall camp, Leach put Falk on scholarship. He said Falk played with a poise that allowed him to find receivers in tight windows, that he stays in the pocket and lets the opportunities develop.

Falk’s old prep coach at Logan High, Mike Favero, told CF.C last summer Falk’s “football IQ, vision, accuracy, perseverance and leadership skills will make him a great QB at Washington State.”

Favero first worked with Falk when the quarterback was in the seventh grade. He said he taught Falk to think like he was on the other side of the ball, as a defensive coordinator, so that he could understand what his opponents were throwing at him.

“He quickly developed the ability to call his own plays at the line of scrimmage,” Favero said. “He was able to do this because he understood defenses as well as our offensive concepts. He mastered our offensive play-calling criteria which required him to read defensive numbers, angles and athletic match-ups with the goal of gaining a first down or a touchdown.”

FALK’S PATH TO A STARTING JOB IN THE PAC-12 has been unusual in more ways than just the fact he came to WSU as a walk on.

As a prep sophomore, he threw for nearly 1,500 yards and received a scholarship offer from Florida State. But a family move to California, and then a move back to Utah, wound up torpedoing his junior season. Under transfer rules, he couldn't play his junior season at Logan High. And the junior season is THE season in the modern world of college recruiting.

He might as well have moved to Greenland he had fallen so far off the recruiting radar. Falk simply fell through the cracks, Leach said on Monday.

Falk piled up huge passing yards as a senior, and the recruiting calls started again, but this time they were from Ivy League schools and smaller FBS schools such as Wyoming and Idaho. Everyone else long ago had found their guy.

Falk verbally pledged Cornell. And then Leach called with an opportunity: walk on at Washington State (the full tale can be found in the story linked below).

Today, the series of events that landed him in Pullman looks nothing less than fortuitous. Halliday, the most prolific passer in school history, is recovering from surgery, his Cougar career finished.

On Saturday in Corvallis, the starting role he said young Luke Falk was ready for in August will mark the official passing of the torch.

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