Coug fans – take a second to imagine something. It's Saturday night, and you're scrolling Twitter or Facebook, or maybe taking in KREM 2 News at 11 - and you see Luke Falk say this.
“A lot of emotion. I’ve wanted to play in this game ever since I got to Washington State. I’m just so proud of the guys and how we battled. Defense, special teams and offense all come together and just really happy to get a win here.”
How sweet would that sound? Luke Falk taking a moment to reflect on his latest landmark victory - beating the Huskies in his third try, and turning a good season into a great one. Not sure there's anything that would bring Coug fans down from that euphoria.
Ok, back to reality - those were Falk's words after he helped Wazzu take down Utah in his home state. In that game he punctuated his onslaught of the record books with perhaps the most impressive mark of all - the most career touchdown passes in Pac-12 history.
Falk’s stats are dumb. There are video game numbers, then there's whatever Falk has put up since 2014. He's got 14,117 passing yards; 13,755 yards of total offense; 1,367 completions; and all those touchdowns - 118 of them. Pretty cool, but knowing Falk - and his delightfully boring nature - records are kind of whatever.
“I don’t really care about all the individual stuff I’m a team oriented guy.”
Falk has demonstrated that, so it makes sense that the one record that he made known was on his radar was Jason Gesser's mark for career wins. It was 24. Falk snapped it against Colorado and cranked it up to 27 by beating Utah. Twenty of those wins have come against Pac-12 teams. He has wins over 10 of them. You can't help but notice the one program missing from the list: Washington.
Falk is 0-for-2 in starts against the Huskies. Last year's loss was far and away the more disheartening of the two defeats. He might already have an Apple Cup win to his resume if not for the injury two years ago against Colorado the week before they faced a Husky team WSU had a reasonable shot at beating. Falk was candid during WSU’s bye week about how much of a bummer it was to be a spectator for that one.
“It was one of the hardest days just being on the sideline, not being able to do anything that game. I’m really excited that I get the opportunity to go in there with my teammates and play at Husky Stadium.”
This game means something to him. We talk about legacies with quarterbacks more than we do any other position in any other sport. They are determined not just by stats and wins - but certain types of victories, and how well a guy plays in certain types of games. Falk has the numbers part of it locked down. But performance in Apple Cups will always be a factor in how WSU quarterbacks will be remembered. And don't try to tell me Falk isn't concerned with his legacy - one of my favorite quotes from him came after the Stanford win, when he came up big a week after getting benched for the second time this season.
“I just came into this week ready to play, ready to play my game and remind people who I am.”
‘Remind people who I am.’ Like Marlo Stanfield’s infamous line in season five of The Wire, “my name is my name.”
Luke Falk is the Messiah of the Palouse. He elevated the program to sustained success they hadn't experienced in over a decade. A former walk-on who became one of the most accomplished quarterbacks to play in a conference known for excellence at the position. Fans and opponents have gotten so accustomed to a name that will be forever entwined with the resurgence of Washington State football.
“Of course Luke Falk has been in that system forever,” Washington head coach Chris Petersen said Monday. “Is he every going to graduate?”
Yes, he will. But here's the thing - graduation signals more than just the end of some phase of life. It suggests growth, accomplishment, and completion. Luke Falk will soon graduate out of his position as Washington State's quarterback. But I'd guess even he wouldn't consider his work truly complete without the one thing that has eluded him to this point in his WSU career - an Apple Cup win.
Falk isn't much of a talker, but if he gets it done Saturday I'd make sure to catch whatever he's got to say after the face about finally adding a win over the Huskies - and with it a Pac-12 North title - to his otherwise peerless resume.