When analyzing the Washington State football program, one fact is immediately clear: They know how to groom quality quarterbacks on the Palouse.
The current Cougar signal-caller, junior Connor Halliday, is the latest in a line of successful QBs that includes Jack “The Throwin’ Samoan” Thompson, Mark Rypien, Drew Bledsoe and Ryan Leaf.
In many respects, Halliday seems ideally suited to lead coach Mike Leach’s “Air Raid” offense. The 6-2 190 native of Spokane, Washington, has a strong arm and a knack for finding open receivers in Leach’s chaotic passing attack.
Halliday has been on a torrid pace thus far in the 2013 season. Although Washington State’s record stands at 4-4 (2-3 Pac-12), the junior quarterback is in the process of re-writing the Wazzu and NCAA records books.
Against Cal on October 5, Halliday threw for 521 yards and three touchdowns in the second most prolific passing game in school history. The Cougars used their highest scoring conference game in 10 years to cruise to a 44-22 victory.
At Oregon two weeks later, Halliday set the FBS division record for pass attempts in a game with 89. He went 58-of-89 for 557 yards and four touchdowns and four interceptions in a 62-38 loss. That’s six more attempts than Drew Brees had for Purdue in 1998 against Wisconsin and ties the record for completions that Eastern Michigan’s Andy Schmitt set in 2008 against Central Michigan.
Halliday has shown flashes of brilliance during his time in Pullman. As a redshirt sophomore in 2012, he appeared in nine games, making five starts. Halliday passed for 1,874 yards with 15 touchdowns and 13 interceptions, and went 151-for-290. He recorded four 300-passing yard games and threw multiple touchdowns in three games.
As a redshirt freshman in 2011, Halliday appeared in four games, earning one start. Coming off the bench, he was 6-of-13 for 67 yards with one 20-yard touchdown pass against Idaho State, and 5-of-6 for 110 yards with touchdown passes of 57 yards and 10 yards against UNLV.
Arizona State fans should be aware that Halliday has a history facing the Sun Devils. He relieved Marshall Lobbestael against ASU in 2011 and threw for WSU freshman records of 494 yards and four touchdowns in a 37-27 win. The 494 yards are the second most in game all-time by a Cougar and most ever by a freshman in the Pac-12 Conference.
Halliday had a productive career at Joel E. Ferris High School in Spokane. As a senior, he led his team to the state championship game, completing 310-of-477 passes for 4,198 yards and 43 touchdowns en route to GSL Offensive Most Valuable Player honors. His 2,260 yards passing in eight GSL games broke the league record of 1,975 (previously held by former Cougar Mark Rypien).