Pardon the pun, but that’s how I felt watching the Cougs today.
After Connor Halliday’s injury, the Cougs looked like they could go the rest of the season without a win. This offseason was a bad one for the Cougs in terms of QB depth. Austin Apodaca and Tyler Bruggman both transferred away from Washington State for some reason, leaving redshirt freshman walk-on Luke Falk and true freshman Peyton Bender to stand guard behind Halliday. In a Power Five conference, that’s not exactly comforting. In relief last week, Falk had a less-than-convincing performance with only 40 yards and an interception against one of the weaker USC squads we’ve seen in the last 15 years.
This week, however, Falk looked like he could do no wrong. Oregon State is by no means a great team, but they do have some talent and have showed glimmers of hope during their relatively dismal season. The Cougs were missing River Cracraft and Theron West alongside Halliday. It wasn’t looking good before the game, but Falk put on a great show nonetheless.
The Cougars found themselves in a 10-0 hole on the road to start the game, and it looked like Mannion and the newly minted air-it-out Beavers were not going to be stopped. With six minutes left in the first quarter, the Cougs mounted a ten play drive that culminated in a five yard touchdown toss from Falk to Isaiah Myers. After another stop by the defense, WSU marched down the field again and went up 14-10 on the Beavers. After that, the Cougs only trailed once more on their way to a convincing 39-32 win.
We all know that Mike Leach’s system is built to create spots for quarterbacks to succeed. Both at Texas Tech and Washington State, young QBs have thrived and 400+ yard performances have typically been the norm. There was something remarkable today as Falk is an unheralded walk-on freshman. His high school career in Utah was exceptional, but talent has not been known to flourish there. Rivals rated him as a two-star quarterback and he only received scholarship offers from Idaho and Cornell. After Cornell’s coach left, he decommitted and decided to walk on at WSU.
His performance today was flawless. He went 72% on 61 attempts with 471 yards, five touchdowns, and no turnovers. He threw a lot of passes that were built for the receivers to do a lot of the legwork, but he was smart and calm in the process. His checkdowns were immaculate, having registered completions to nine different players, and he had a few instances having the wherewithal to throw the ball safely away to avoid a loss or interception (something Halliday definitely needed work on).
I don’t want to hype the kid up too much, one performance against an underachieving team does not make a quarterback of the future. But with his game today, I feel much more comfortable given the fact that Wazzu does not have much depth behind him for the next three years. He is the first quarterback that has been entirely recruited and trained by a Leach regime, and that might be just what the Cougars need on offense going forward.
It should also be noted that despite allowing 32 points, the defense definitely stepped up today against a very formidable passing attack. Sean Mannion is no slouch, and many of Oregon State’s receivers and tight ends range in height from 6’3 to 6’7.