EUGENE — Luke Falk is the first Washington State quarterback to post back-to-back wins over Oregon since Ryan Leaf in 1996-97.
Falk and the Cougars will try to make it three consecutive victories over the Ducks for the first time since 1984 when they visit Autzen Stadium on Saturday.
Falk is 2-0 against Oregon and has completed 86 of 122 passes for 876 yards and six touchdowns without an interception.
“He makes everything go and he has a good supporting cast,” said Oregon defensive line coach Joe Salave’a, who was an assistant for the Cougars the past five seasons. “We’ve got to make sure we are detailed in our game plan and execution. He’s going to make his plays. He’s blessed with a lot of tools and shows that off every Saturday.”
In last Friday’s 30-27 victory over then-No. 5 Southern California, the 6-foot-4 senior passed Oregon State’s Sean Mannion to set the Pac-12 record for completions (1,211) and tied former Duck Marcus Mariota for second with 105 touchdown passes.
He also holds school records with 12,611 passing yards and 1,741 attempts.
One of Falk’s poorest performances came last season in a 38-24 loss to Colorado, a game in which he completed 26 of 53 passes for 325 yards in a 38-24 loss to the Buffaloes and Jim Leavitt’s defense, which intercepted him once. That is the only one of his 33 career starts in which he completed fewer than 50 percent of his passes and was held to one touchdown pass or fewer.
“He’s going to move the ball, we know that, he’s too good,” said Leavitt, now Oregon’s defensive coordinator. “Hopefully, we can challenge him a little bit. It’s tough. The guy has been around for a long time and you haven’t seen many defenses slow him down ever. That’s the challenge we’re working on now.”
Falk was a walk-on from Logan, Utah, when he arrived in Pullman in 2013 with a promise from Mike Leach that he would get a shot to play.
“I think the biggest thing is that he gave me an equal opportunity,” Falk said. “That appealed to me and I believed when coach Leach said he would give me a fair shot to compete with the guys on scholarship. Things worked out and the stars aligned here at Washington State.”
Falk passed for 471 yards and five TDs in his first start, a 39-32 victory over Mannion and the Beavers late in his freshman season. He led the Cougars to a 9-4 record as a sophomore and an 8-5 mark last season.
No. 11 Washington State (5-0) is one of 17 remaining unbeaten teams in FBS this season.
“The guys have done a good job responding over the years as we tried to build something,” Falk said. “We wanted to put Washington State on the map and win the Pac-12 championship, and those are still our goals.”
Falk passed for 505 yards and five touchdowns during his last trip to Autzen Stadium two years ago, when the Cougars upset the Ducks 45-38 in double overtime, a game that many Cougars consider the turning point in the recent rise of the program. Last year, he threw one touchdown pass in a 51-33 victory over the Ducks. Washington State scored six rushing touchdowns and gained 280 yards on the ground.
Jamal Morrow, James Williams and Gerard Wicks each ran for two TDs against the Ducks, and all three are back.
“Jamal is a stud and a gamer, all our running backs are,” Falk said. “Jamal had made huge plays this year and the other two are big-time too. We’re blessed to have versatile guys.”
Oregon returns many of the same players on defense from last season with a new coaching staff. The Ducks are allowing 26 points per game after giving up 41.4 last season.
“They’re big and physical and really fast,” Falk said of the Ducks. “They fly around the ball and present different challenges. They have a great line coach who was here in coach Joe, so I know those guys will play hard.”