Despite five picks and nine sacks against California, WSU quarterback Luke Falk is on the brink of breaking a passel of Pac-12 passing records.
Given his history, chances seem excellent that Luke Falk will never again experience the kind of calamity that befell him last week in Berkeley. Playing against a Cal team that was 1-51-1 against Associated Press top 10 teams since 1978, the Washington State quarterback threw a career-high five interceptions, including one on his first pass, one in the end zone and another in the red zone on a botched shovel pass.
In addition to the five picks, the Bears sacked Falk nine times, which seems nearly impossible. On the last one, Falk fumbled and the ball was returned by Cal’s Gerran Brown for a touchdown. Falk and the Cougars lost 37-3, their first TD-less game since 2012 against Oregon, and subsequently tumbled seven spots to No. 15 in the AP rankings.
“There was no bright spot. We were pathetic,” coach Mike Leach said earlier this week in re-summing up WSU’s only loss of the season. “We were a bunch of pathetic front-runners.”
As for his quarterback, the best Leach could come up with was, “He was sacked nine times and he didn’t sack himself.”
Falk’s first shot at redemption comes Saturday night when the Cougars host Colorado at Martin Stadium (7:45 p.m., PT, ESPN). Falk will enter needing 422 passing yards (achievable for him) to break Sean Mannion’s Pac-12 record of 13,600, set at Oregon State between 2011-14.
Falk starts against the Buffaloes as the NCAA’s active career leader in passing yards (13,179), touchdown passes (108), passing yards per game (346.8) and total offense (12,803). Over WSU’s final five games, he is almost certain to set several other conference and school marks despite his odd pratfall at Cal.
Falk, who holds the conference record for career pass completions (1,263), needs nine TD passes to break Matt Barkley’s career mark of 116. He also needs 231 yards to break Marcus Mariota’s Pac-12 total offense mark. Mariota’s standard, achieved from 2012-14, could tumble easily against Colorado.
Falk accumulates huge numbers, as did Connor Halliday before him, largely as a consequence of playing in Leach’s Air Raid offense that spreads the field and favors short throws. Falk has attempted 305 passes this season, by far the most of any Pac-12 quarterback. Washington’s Jake Browning has attempted 203.
At more than 43 per game, Falk is on track for 522 attempts. WSU’s Jack Thompson, the “Throwin’ Samoan,” never threw for than 348 in a season (1978).
Not only will Falk own almost all of the Pac-12 and Washington State passing records by the time he’s done, he will have statistically “doubled up” on some notable WSU quarterbacks in several offensive categories, including attempts, completion, yards, TDs, and total offense.
Example: Not only has Falk thrown nearly 400 more passes than Jason Gesser and Clete Casper combined, he has already thrown 200 more than Halliday tossed in his WSU career.
|Jason Gesser||1999-02||1,118||402 attempts as a senior in 2002|
|Clete Casper||1978-82||376||Top moment: beat UW in ’82 Apple Cup|
|Luke Falk||2014-17||1,826||No. 2 Connor Halliday 1,633|
Falk established the Pac-12 record for career completions earlier this season, breaking the previous mark of 1,187 by Oregon State’s Mannion. How Falk’s 1,263 career completions compare to two legendary WSU quarterbacks:
|T. Rosenbach||1986-88||474||Head coach at Adams State (CO.)|
|Ryan Leaf||1994-97||473||Finished third in 1997 Heisman voting|
|Luke Falk||2014-17||1,263||No. 1 mark in Pac-12 history|
Only two Pac-12 quarterbacks, Mannion and Barkley, threw for more yards than has Falk, who will, barring injury, surpass both. Falk also has almost 1,000 more passing yards than Thompson and Mark Rypien combined:
|Jack Thompson||1975-78||7,818||2,762 as a sophomore in 1975|
|Mark Rypien||1981-85||4,573||1992 Super Bowl Most Valuable Player|
|Luke Falk||2014-17||13,179||14th best mark in NCAA history|
Among Pac-12 quarterbacks, only USC’s Barkley threw more TDs (116) than Falk. Nationally, he needs two to move past Russell Wilson, who tossed 109 for North Carolina State and Wisconsin. Falk has three more passing TDs than Ryan Leaf and Drew Bledsoe had combined when they played for WSU:
|Ryan Leaf||1994-97||59||Pac-10 Offensive Player of Year, 1997|
|Drew Bledsoe||1990-92||46||No. 1 overall draft pick in 1993|
|Luke Falk||2014-17||108||18 more TDs than Halliday’s 90|
Earlier this season, Falk surpassed Alex Brink (11,011 from 2004-06) and Halliday (10,182 from 2011-14) for the top total offense figure in WSU history. Falk also has generated more total offense than Thompson and Rypien did combined:
|Jack Thompson||1975-78||7,698||No. 3 overall pick in 1979 NFL draft|
|Mark Rypien||1981-85||5,101||Threw 115 TDs in 11 NFL seasons|
|Luke Falk||2014-17||12,803||Should break Mariota’s mark Saturday|
Despite the Falk meltdown last week, he and the Cougars have been installed as a 10-point choice over Colorado.