College football: QB Luke Falk to return to WSU for senior season

Washington State quarterback Luke Falk will return to Washington State for his senior year.

Instead of forgoing his final season of eligibility to enter the NFL draft early, Falk will be back behind center for WSU next season, the Cougars’ record-setting quarterback announced Wednesday morning via a statement released by WSU.

In a conference call with reporters Wednesday, Falk said he came back to school to “finish what I started.”

“I honestly didn’t really want to make a big deal about it. I just wanted to let people know so they weren’t in the dark. Honestly, I really wanted to come back. There really wasn’t a gut feeling (in me) to go out this year,” Falk said. “I felt like I had a lot to prove. At the end of the day it was what felt good to me.”

Washington State Cougars quarterback Luke Falk (4) is set to return for another year under center.

Orlando Ramirez | USA TODAY Sports Images

Washington State Cougars quarterback Luke Falk (4) is set to return for another year under center.

Falk led the Cougars to an 8-5 finish in 2016 that included an eight-game win streak, but was bookended by a pair of losses at the start of the season, and a three-game losing streak that included WSU’s Holiday Bowl defeat to Minnesota.

“I really wanted to have another year with everyone,” Falk said. “I felt like we still have a lot to accomplish. We ended the season not the way we wanted to. I’m hungry for more. I want to go out the right way with the big senior class I came in with.”

Falk came to WSU in 2013 as part of a class that has become the nucleus of WSU’s starting lineup over the last two years, and includes key players like running backs Jamal Morrow and Gerard Wicks, receiver Robert Lewis right tackle Cole Madison, left guard Cody O’Connell and linebackers Isaac Dotson and Peyton Pelluer.

“In the last two years, we’ve done a good job of building the program. We were close this year and we have a lot of seniors who want to continue to play football, and I think we can take that step next year,” Falk said.

Falk said he submitted paperwork to the NFL committee that evaluates underclassmen who are contemplating coming out early for the NFL draft, but declined to share the committee’s evaluation of his skills.

He made his decision to return after consulting a small circle of people close to him, though he said he also had conversations with a few former Cougars quarterbacks who made it to the NFL. Falk said his teammates have known about his decision to return “for a long, long time” and that he “didn’t even really need to tell them.”

Falk’s announcement comes five days before the deadline for underclassmen to declare their intention to enter the NFL draft, and finally puts an end to weeks of speculation about whether Falk would leave school early for the NFL.

One person likely isn’t surprised at all. WSU coach Mike Leach told reporters at a press conference the day before the Holiday Bowl last month that he believed Falk would return for his senior season, but until Wednesday, the quarterback had been conspicuously silent on the issue, which led to speculation that he might opt to leave early.

Washington State Cougars head coach Mike Leach (left) discussed the draft only briefly with his QB.

Ron Chenoy | USA TODAY Sports Images

Washington State Cougars head coach Mike Leach (left) discussed the draft only briefly with his QB.

Falk said he and Leach spoke only briefly about his plans for next season.

“He just asked if I was coming back, and I said, ‘Yeah.’ That was the conversation we had,” Falk said. “We just talk about the X’s and O’s and our football relationship. I really appreciate him and I’m happy to play for him for another year.”

Dubbed “The Messiah of the Palouse” by his go-to receiver, Gabe Marks, Falk has rewritten the Cougars’ record books in two and a half seasons as WSU’s starting quarterback.

Falk, a two-time All-Pac-12 selection, owns WSU’s single season records for 300-yard passing games (10), completion percentage (70.0) and touchdown passes (38 — twice). He also holds WSU career records for pass completions (1,047), and completion percentage (68.8) and is No. 2 in passing touchdowns (89) and pass attempts (1,520) and No. 3 in passing yards (10,893).

The 6-foot-4, 216-pound quarterback finished his junior year ranked fourth nationally in passing yards per game (343.7) and passing yards (4,468). He also tied his own single season record for touchdown passes (38), and with 89 career touchdown passes, now sits at No. 6 in Pac-12 history. He is also the Pac-12’s active career leader with 1,047 pass completions.

With 18 career wins, Falk is now chasing Jason Gesser’s record for most wins by a quarterback in WSU history (24).

Should he have declared early for this year’s NFL Draft, Falk was viewed by some NFL talent evaluators as an early-to-mid round selection. His accuracy, toughness and poise in the pocket attracted the attention of draft evaluators, but when he finally does come up for draft evaluation next year, he’ll have to answer questions about how well he’ll be able to transition from WSU’s Air Raid offense to the pro-style offense used by most NFL teams.

Washington State Cougars quarterback Luke Falk (4) said his focus is on leadership heading into next year.

Orlando Ramirez | USA TODAY Sports Images

Washington State Cougars quarterback Luke Falk (4) said his focus is on leadership heading into next year.

In the meantime, Falk says he’ll spend this next year working on enhancing his leadership skills, improving his reads, and trying to put on some weight.

He’s on track to graduate with a social sciences degree in the spring, but said he’s contemplating starting an MBA program after that.

“I don’t really want to waste a chance to get some good education,” Falk said.

Falk’s return is a huge boost for a WSU offense that needs to replace two of its top three receivers — Marks and River Cracraft — and will have to fill two spots on the offensive line at center and right guard.

The Cougars do, however, return all three talented co-starting running backs from 2016 who accounted for 30 of WSU’s 67 touchdowns in 2016. Morrow, Wicks and James Williams proved invaluable for their versatility, and they combined for 37.8 percent of WSU’s all-purpose yards in 2016, tallying 2,829 of WSU’s 7,484 total all-purpose yards.

Receiver Tavares Martin, who finished second only to Marks with 728 receiving yards and seven touchdowns, will also return along with unanimous All-American offensive guard O’Connell, right tackle Madison and left tackle Andre Dillard.

This article is written by Stefanie Loh from Seattle Times and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network.

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