I picked up the game of golf at a young age, probably around 5 or 6 when my grandparents bought me my first set of clubs. My grandmother would follow me around Wellington Hills Golf Course in Woodinville, putting up with my completely God-awful play as only a grandmother can. I have continued playing since then, maybe three times per month in the summer and working my way to a highly unscientific 20 handicap.
This year, my first round in late March ended with a 93. Not bad considering I hadn't hit much over the winter and the weather wasn't ideal. Just a couple of weeks ago at the same golf course, I finished again with a 93. Well not bad, right? You didn't improve but you stayed the same, and that's perfectly fine. Except that I'd played at least a dozen rounds between them and the weather conditions could only be described as idilic. I was making awful mistakes on the green and even dumped two balls in the water on one hole.
The score looked the exact same but how I got there was less than optimal and highly frustrating.
Junior quarterback Luke Falk's numbers look almost identical, heck, better than they did last year. Take a look for yourself:
2015 Season: 350.84 yards/game, 69.4% completion, 7.08 YPA, 4.75 TD to INT
2016 Season: 374.67 yards/game, 74.1% completion, 7.11 YPA, 5.5 TD to INT
The 2016 sample size is admittedly smaller than the 13 game one we got in 2015 but it looks like Falk is well on his way to a better statistical season this year.
But it just hasn't been the same Luke Falk, has it? He has been hesitant, the same problem we saw towards the beginning of last year where he would sit in the pocket for seemingly an age. Yogi Roth noted on our podcast this week that the offense is behind where it should be and inconsistency has been dogging them for their first three games.
What's more, Falk is hardly throwing the ball downfield more than 15 yards. His one bomb against Idaho to Kyle Sweet he was quite lucky to complete. Otherwise, he dinkedand dunked his way to a 6.2 YPA and led an offense that looked frankly anemic in the first half.
These next three weeks are critical for Washington State but especially the next two. The four teams thought to be contenders for the Pac-12 North title all spend the next couple of weekends playing one another, save for Oregon and Stanford meeting in Eugene in November. Although the conference title race wouldn't be over if WSU split the next couple Saturdays, going 1-1 against Oregon and Stanford is likely the bare minimum needed to have a chance at Santa Clara in December.
The easier team to beat, without a doubt, is Oregon. So what WSU needs most of all this weekend is for Luke Falk to get back to being the Luke Falk he was against ... well, Oregon. The yards per attempt in Eugene last year were low but he still racked up 505 yards of passing, five touchdowns and zero interceptions. He wasn't afraid to chuck it downfield and when the Cougars needed him most on that final drive, he trusted himself and his receivers in tight coverage.
For this offense to truly be successful and for it to function as the well-oiled machine we've seen it can be, Luke Falk needs to be mid-and-late season Luke Falk again and it has to start this week against Oregon. WSU has the offensive weapons available to beat the Ducks but their ability to get the ball in their hands depends largely on Falk (unless you're BOOBIE or Gerard Wicks who can take handoffs for a mile through a not-so-good Oregon defensive line).
Oregon is a very beatable team. But for WSU to beat them for a second consecutive year for the first time since 2003, we need a better version of Luke Falk that we know exists. The numbers say we're getting the same quarterback but the eye test proves what the numbers can't: he's not the same signal caller.
Getting on tilt in golf after a bad hole is something I always try to avoid. But two triple-bogeys in a row last month led to a 480 yard par 5 with plenty of room to make a mistake off the tee. So out came my driver for a stupid "screw it all, we're gunna hit this as hard as we can drive" and, for what seemed like the first time in ever, I connected with the ball in that way that feels absolutely perfect. The drive reflected it, and a slight fade came to a stop on the fairway 290 yards later.
Wind to my back, this green is easily reachable in two. A near perfect swing with a 5-iron and there went the ball, sailing towards the middle of the green, coming to a rest 25 feet from the hole.
Forget a birdie, I've got a chance at eagle. I don't think I've ever taken as close a look at a putt in my life but after a couple of minutes, I'd moved the ball to within 3 feet of the hole. Everyone else finished and I replaced my ball. A less careful look, I lined up for a sure birdie putt.
I pushed it. Left. And tapped in for par.
I finished that day with a 90. Golf is a terrible, terrible sport I look forward to playing again soon.
Luke Falk, the most important person vs. Oregon.