SAN DIEGO — Despite warming up, Pac-12 all-time leading passer Luke Falk was in street clothes for the start of Washington State’s Holiday Bowl matchup with Michigan State, effectively ending his college career.
Washington State head coach Mike Leach, lauded as he is for takes on pirates, frontiersmen, shovel passes and pets, is mum when it comes to injuries. Leach’s response at Wednesday’s press conference when asked about the possibility of an injury hampering Falk’s non-throwing hand:
“He’s doing great. You can use your imagination all you want about the cast. He has had something on his hand all year and hence we named him the King Slayer. Beyond that you’re on your own.”
In hindsight, Leach’s comments Wednesday about Luke Falk’s impact in three years at Washington State read like a post-script on the quarterback’s career, given what we know now.
Luke has had a tremendous impact on our program. That’s why we gave him the award on the aircraft carrier. Luke, besides his work ethic as a walk-on to become the — I mean, he’s top of the heap in the Pac 12 as far as yards, touchdowns, all those things. I think it started with just his incredible work ethic to become a starting quarterback at our place.
It’s rare Leach offer that much input on anything to do with an individual player — at least, without offering up a critique alongside the praise.
Falk passed Sean Mannion of 13,600 the Pac-12’s all-time leading passer on Nov. 4. The new benchmark is 14,481 yards, to go along with 119 touchdowns.
With Falk scratched from the lineup, sophomore Tyler Hilinski made his first career start.
Luke Falk ends his career and Tyler Hilinski begins his in a manner reminiscent of Falk taking the reins from Connor Halliday. An impressive individual career with a variety of statistical milestones ended in injury for Halliday in late 2014. Then a walk-on, Falk took over and only every relinquished the starting job due to injury thereafter.
Falk passed for five touchdowns in his first career start, a win over Mannion and Oregon State, coincidentally. Falk’s debut set a fitting tone, as his tenure effectively pulled a previously moribund Washington State program out of its doldrums and into annual contention for the Pac-12 North title each of the past three seasons.
Air-raid quarterbacks have a certain stigma around them as far as recognition for their statistical milestones. And, indeed, Luke Falk’s Pac-12 record-setting effort did not register more than a blip on the national radar.
But Washington State’s turnaround in Falk’s three years as starting quarterback is undeniable. And, depending on the severity of Falk’s wrist injury, he should be the most highly coveted Leach-coached quarterback prospect among NFL franchises come spring’s draft.