PULLMAN — If you thought the Stanford game was rough for Washington State quarterback Connor Halliday, go back and watch last year’s game against Oregon State.
The teams combined for eight turnovers, including three interceptions from Halliday, who was benched in the second quarter of the 19-6 loss.
As the Cougars (4-2, 2-1 Pac-12) prepare to host the Beavers on Saturday, much will depend on the play of Halliday, who is a year older and wiser and is coming off a 521-yard passing performance against Cal.
Ball security will be paramount against an OSU team that is averaging a hair over 41 points per game.
Halliday’s teammates don’t doubt him in the slightest.
“Connor is the toughest quarterback I’ve ever dealt with in my life,” said safety Deone Bucannon. “ He’s a tough, playmaking, hard-nosed guy, and he’s going to get the job done.”
There’s little doubt Halliday has improved immensely since that forgetful day in Corvallis.
The senior signal-caller’s struggles to take care of the football persisted in the first two games of this season, during which he threw five interceptions and just a single touchdown. But head coach Mike Leach kept faith in his quarterback, who has rewarded his coach’s confidence with 12 touchdowns against five interceptions over WSU’s past four games.
While Leach has been guarded in his praise of the quarterback, he did acknowledge that Halliday’s gaudy numbers against Cal were the result of his ideal stewardship of the Air Raid offense.
“I thought Connor did a good job of getting it to the running backs,” Leach said. “I like the fact that we didn’t run that much but they had quite a few touches. I did think it went pretty good as far as there was some balance to how many touches by position.”
With four wins, the Cougars have already surpassed their win total from last season and need only one more victory for their best record since 2007. Also, WSU is just two wins away from bowl eligibility.
The Cougars insist that, with bowl eligibility tantalizingly close, the team is avoiding reflection on the favorable math.
“It’s the most wins I’ve had here, ever, with six games left, so that’s really promising,” kicker Andrew Furney said. “But at the same time we’ve got to look one game at a time, Oregon State this week.”