Give Luke Falk keys to car, says Yogi Roth

YOGI ROTH, the personable Pac-12 Networks college football analyst and former Pete Carroll graduate assistant, spent time this week breaking down film of Cougar quarterback Luke Falk's performance against USC. His findings were numerous, and positive, he tells

Throwing accuracy, he said, demands "subtle and simple movements that are violent and quick but gracious," and in the roughly three quarters that Falk played against the Trojans, "I saw flashes of that.”

In fact, Roth was so impressed with what he saw on film that he tweeted about Falk on Monday, saying “shows real command on film, signs of a #NoFlinch mentality and a sense of calm in the pocket.”

Roth said the small sample size on Falk was telling in that the one-time walk on from Logan, Utah, was facing a defense that Roth regards as one of the most athletic in the country.


Yet Falk demonstrated excellent fundamentals, Roth said. Falk dropped back with a level head, threw with a solid base underneath him, and his arm load generated the velocity necessary to complete the zippy passes, Roth said.

And it wouldn't have hurt, Roth said, if Falk had gotten more help from his receivers, who dropped a number of passes.

“To me, I was impressed in a couple quarters. It’s also a credit to the system and the coaching of Mike Leach, to be honest. He’s kind of done it everywhere he’s been,” Roth said. “The quarterback who steps in is the next guy up and they drop into the system, and I think (Falk) is another example of that.”

Roth said Falk had the benefit of watching Connor Halliday run the offense the last two seasons, allowing Falk to grow up mentally. Through the old “watch and learn” method, Falk already knew what to do when he received his chance, Roth said.

“He could understand how to drive the car to a certain degree. I thought he had a real understanding of where the gas pedal was, he understood where his blinker was, he understood the system, he understood the car, and he understood what was underneath the hood,” Roth said. “I don’t know if he had the freedom that Connor Halliday does at the line of scrimmage, but at least off the cuff and in the plays that they were calling for him, he looked really comfortable, and he should in that system.”

Roth noted that Halliday had a decidedly rougher climb to No. 1 on the depth chart. He described Halliday’s transition from Paul Wulff's offense to Leach's, and his sharing of playing time with Jeff Tuel, as a “baptism by fire.”

Falk has not even played a full four quarters yet, but he already has a head start on conquering the toughest obstacle Roth says young quarterbacks face: the mental side of the position.

“You have to have an uncanny desire, a ridiculous competitive temperament to be able to watch an extra reel of film, more games, getting a feel for the coordinator, understanding where the ball needs to go,” Roth said.

Once Falk masters his mental game, Roth said, he can move on to the next struggle of youthful quarterbacks: deciphering the specific situations presented by the wide variety of defensive schemes in college football.

“A lot of teams try to just run their stuff regardless of what a defense does. I think that works on first and second down, but not on third down and not in the red zone. I think you have to have a plan,” Roth said. “For quarterbacks, their biggest challenge to me, especially the young ones, is mastering specific situations.”

Roth pointed to Halliday as a case-in-point. The fifth-year senior's anticipation improved significantly this season vs. last season, which means that he knew what his third read would be without progressing through the all of them individually, Roth said. That anticipation simply comes with time, he noted.

Roth, who will serve as the TV broadcast's color man, said this Saturday's Cougar-Beaver game (1 p.m., Pac-12 Networks) will be fun to watch because Falk will be facing a solid defense.

“They (OSU) don’t do a ton on early downs and distances, but what they do, they do really fast and really well. To me, that’s always a sign of a really talented defense. On third down, they get exotic, and I think that’s going to challenge him. It’s going to be fun to see his answers for that.”

Washington State quarterbacks have struggled against the Oregon State defense in the past, throwing four interceptions in each of the last two meetings.

Don’t think Falk is the only guy ready to take the reins of the Cougar offense. Roth also said Peyton Bender is ridiculously talented, and that the true freshman reminded Roth of Drew Brees in how he released the ball, how he played, and how he could read seams on the field.

Roth explained that he looks for ball revolutions in quarterbacks’ throws, and for how quickly the ball approaches receivers. While playing catch with Bender and from knowing him for a couple of years, Roth said Bender has those elements in his bag of tricks.

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