It's a shame, really, that the game Luke Falk stamped as his signature win will be overshadowed by the disastrous spiral of a former college football power.
Instead of discussing why Oregon's playoff chances lie dead on the table, fans east of the Cascade Range should focus on the redshirt-sophomore's ascendance into Mike Leach's latest fully operational quarterback robot.
In beating the Ducks 45-38 on the road in double-overtime, Falk was 50-for-74 -- just think about that for a second -- for 505 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions, adding a rushing score and absorbing seven sacks. And he got better as the game went on, as the Cougars' first win in Autzen Stadium in more than a decade inched closer to becoming a reality.
"The top spot is a no-brainer this time," wrote ESPN's David Lombardi in this week's Pac-12 quarterback rankings. "Falk was nails on two pressure-packed drives. ... Similar clutch play continued in the ensuing two overtime periods, and the Cougars beat Oregon on the road in the same season that they lost to Portland State at home. Wait, what?!"
Quarterbacks in Mike Leach's system are used to attention, if not for their future NFL prospects then at least for their record-breaking performances. The Cougar under center before Falk, Connor Halliday, broke the all-time Division I record for passing attempts in a game (89) and passing yards in a game (734) in two separate games. Before Halliday, Jeff Tuel wrote his name all over the Cougars' record book. Graham Harrell led the nation in passing his junior season at Texas Tech, before Leach migrated to the Pacific Northwest.
So, the Dread Pirate Leach is used to hijacking headlines with his quarterback's video-game stats.
But in Falk he might have his most poised Air Raid pupil. The Logan, Utah, native drew looks from Florida State before his family moved to California, then back to Utah, which meant he was forced to sit out his junior season. The instability in his recruiting process wasn't all bad; he ended up committed to Cornell in the Ivy League.
Falk was a key get for Cornell head coach Kent Austin ... right up until Austin bolted for the opportunity to be the general manager-coach for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the Canadian Football League.
"I committed to Cornell but their coach left, and the staff here at Washington State gave me a buzz," Falk told 710 ESPN Seattle in 2014. "They wanted me to walk-on, and I wanted to take that opportunity to come play for Coach Leach in a great offense and a great conference."
ESPN's RecruitingNation had trouble finding bad things to say about Falk in its initial scouting report.
"Does not bring eyes down or get antsy with pressure. Is in command and confident," reads the report for Falk. "Very poised with a calm presence and feel in the pocket, shows subtle pocket movement and feel for the rush."
That calmness was apparent to Leach, too.
"He’s very relaxed," Leach told the Spokesman-Review in Spokane, Washington. "He’s very calm and has the ability to focus on the play itself regardless of the situation or what happened before."
In front of the press on Saturday, Falk looked exhausted but happy. His left shirtsleeve was ripped open, and his eyeblack smeared down his cheeks. Reporters barely heard him over the celebration coming out of the visiting locker room. While Mark Helfrich was trying to explain why Oregon had fallen from last year's title game all the way out of the AP Top 25 and beyond, Falk was content, absorbing the magnitude of a signature win.
"I kind of wish I was celebrating with my teammates in there right now," he confessed. "I've visualized this a thousand times. [This was] not the way I visualized it."
He paused, smiled.
"It went a little better."