I had more butterflies for this game than I’ve ever had. I just really wanted to come out here and put on a good performance for my teammates and do my job. —Washington State quarterback Luke Falk
SALT LAKE CITY — After breaking the only Pac-12 passing record he didn’t own, Washington State quarterback Luke Falk embraced the one coach who saw his potential when no one else did.
“Luke is an achiever,” said former Logan High football coach Mike Favero, choking back tears after Falk led the Cougars to a 33-25 victory over Utah Saturday night. “He’s lived his dream and was never going to stop until he accomplished it. Awesome.”
After leading the Cougars to a critical conference victory that sets them up for a chance to play for a conference championship if they can beat their rivals in two weeks, the Logan alum passed for 311 yards and three touchdowns in the stadium he’s wanted to play in since he was a teen.
“I was really excited,” he said of how he felt about returning to his home state to play one of the many teams that passed on him when he was in high school. “I had more butterflies for this game than I’ve ever had. I just really wanted to come out here and put on a good performance for my teammates and do my job. This one really means a lot to me. I’m not going to lie about that.”
The record, he said wasn’t as important to him as the chance to take another step toward playing for a Pac-12 title, but it did mean a bit more since he earned it in front of more than 60 friends and family.
“That is pretty cool,” he said. “I’m glad we did it.”
Rice-Eccles is the site of the high school playoffs, but Falk never got the chance to play there. While he grew up a Utah State fan, he once hoped to play for the Utes after they joined the Pac-12.
But Falk, who lost his junior football season to high school transfer rules after moving to California to work with a nationally renowned quarterback coach, didn’t get a single offer from any of the schools in his home state. He committed to Cornell but then decided not to take that opportunity after the coach left for the Canadian Football League.
He sent a video to Washington State, and the Cougars offered him a spot as a preferred walk-on. Head coach Mike Leach told him he’d have the chance to compete, and Falk said that was all he wanted. Saturday night he became the statistical leader in every passing category in the conference with his 118th touchdown pass.
"He is the all-time leading passer in the greatest passing league in the history of college football," Leach said. "And he also leads it in touchdowns now."
His career may be a surprise to some, but not Favero, who never understood why no Division I coaches saw Falk’s potential.
“He can deal with it,” he said of the challenges Falk has faced throughout his football career, including being benched briefly this season. “He controls what he can control. He’s been through a ton, even this year. He doesn’t flinch. He’s the man.”
Leach let Falk’s performance speak for itself, but said the records also belong to the offensive line and receivers who’ve played alongside him.
“I think his numbers speak for themselves,” Leach said. “I think especially early on in his career, most of those other guys came from a better supporting cast because we were a team that evolved and got better and improved as time went on. I think that’s the real distinction here.”
Falk and the Cougar offense moved the ball well most of the game but stalled in the red zone repeatedly which made the game much closer than it should have been with seven Utah turnovers.
The fact that it wasn’t perfect didn’t matter to Favero.
“He won,” Favero said, tears in his eyes. “He beat Utah in Utah.”
When asked what it meant to see him succeed after what he’d been through, Favero points at the tears.
“A lot,” he said. “Awesome.” Leach said he didn’t even discuss the emotional complexities of returning to Utah for the first time. Falk said there was “a lot of emotion” connected to Saturday’s contest.11 comments on this story
“I’ve wanted to play in this game ever since I got to Washington State,” Falk said. “I’m so proud of the guys, how we battled, and I’m really happy to get a win.”
He said he would have liked a shot to play for the Aggies as he grew up a USU fan or the Utes because they were members of the Pac-12. However, he’s not looking in the rearview mirror at all.
“It didn’t work out, but now I’m here,” Falk said. “I’m glad Washington State gave me an opportunity. I’m just having so much fun.”