The crowd huddled atop the ramp in the southwest corner of Rice-Eccles Stadium awaiting its quarterback. Night long had settled and the temperature was dipping down further, but they stood there.
They stood for the pride of Logan High. They stood for the most-decorated passer in the history of the Pac-12 Conference. They stood for Luke Falk.
A few feet away from the metal barricades in the swarm stood Mike Favero. He saw the tall, lanky kid with an arm and an eye for pinpoint accuracy so many years ago. So before Falk shuffled up the concrete ramp to meet those there for him, his high school coach stood there, doing his absolute best to put what happened Saturday evening into words.
It took only a few seconds talking about Falk before his eyes turned misty and his voice cracked.
“Awesome,” Favero said. “I’m speechless. I usually talk too much. I’ve got nothing to say.”
Washington State’s quarterback broke another record this weekend, this time setting the Pac-12 record for passing touchdowns. He broke the conference’s career record for passing yards a week ago. He already held the Pac-12 record for completions, attempts and completion percentage.
On this night, back home in Utah, in front of an estimated 60 friends and family members in attendance, with his father, Mike, on the sidelines, Falk threw his 116th, 117th and 118th career touchdown passes. No. 117 broke the record, fittingly a 1-yard pass one down after Falk tucked the ball and attempted to dive into the end zone, only to be thumped by three Utah defenders.
“It was pretty cool,” Falk said postgame, sporting a weathered WSU ball cap. “[It] definitely means something. Glad we did it here. Or in Pullman. Either one would have been good.”
In Salt Lake City meant something more.
His path to Pullman has been well-chronicled. Falk moved to Southern California to play at esteemed high school Oaks Christian High School only to return to Logan. As a high school junior, he played in only two games. Suddenly, the packed recruiting train that once featured an offer from Florida State was whittled down to Cornell. And that’s about it.
“The beauty for him is, he didn’t say it, but I’ll say it: Nobody offered him,” said an emotional Favero.
He walked on at Wazzu with coach Mike Leach, and the rest, is history.
“All-time leading passer in the greatest passing league in the history of college football and also leads it in touchdowns,” Leach said.
“I think his numbers speak for themselves,” Wazzu’s coach added.
Roughly 90 minutes south of Cache Valley, on the turf Falk admitted postgame he once envisioned calling home, he moved past USC quarterback Matt Barkley, who held the previous conference record for touchdowns with 116.
“I think I had more butterflies for this game than I’ve ever had,” he said. “This one really means a lot to me. Not going to lie about that, it really does.”
Luke Falk on what it means to play again in Utah pic.twitter.com/HDNRiTJFtK— Trib Preps (@TribPrepsEd) November 12, 2017
The numbers are legendary in their own right, too.
Falk has now thrown for 14,117 yards in three-and-a-half years leading the Cougars. In the 33-25 win over Utah, Falk threw a season-high 69 times, tied for third-most in his storied career. The senior has one game left, a road game in the Apple Cup rivalry at Washington in two weeks. No. 19 Wazzu (9-2 6-2) will climb the rankings and control its destiny: A win against the Huskies gives the Cougars their sought-after Pac-12 North crown.
Asked what breaking all these records means to him, Falk shrugged them off.
“The only thing I’m after is a championship win,” he said. “We’re one win away.”
The crowd continued to wait patiently for the quarterback overlooked by a nation and by his home state a few years ago. And in his Wazzu crimson sweater, Favero eventually let the tears building up just keep going.
“This happened for him, man,” Favero said. “It’s about him. It’s about Luke.”
#Wazzu coach Mike Leach offers his perspective on Luke Falk breaking the @pac12 record for career TD passes. pic.twitter.com/tuI9pnBRt0— Trib Preps (@TribPrepsEd) November 12, 2017