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Tuesday, August 19, 2014
Better know a Pac-12 QB: Connor Halliday

By Kevin Gemmell

The Pac-12 is blessed with an abundance of returning starting quarterbacks in 2014. With 10 starters coming back, many are wondering if the league is on pace for its best quarterback year ever. This week the Pac-12 blog will give you a snapshot of all 10.

Name: Connor Halliday

School: Washington State

Grade: Senior

2013 passing stats: Completed 449 of 714 pass attempts for a 62.9 completion percentage and 4,597 yards. Threw 34 touchdowns to 22 interceptions with a raw QBR of 47.8 and an adjusted QBR of 58.2.

Connor Halliday
Following three seasons in the same offense, Connor Halliday appears primed to lead the Cougars in 2014.
Career passing stats: Completed 660 of 1,108 pass attempts for a 59.6 completion percentage and 7,435 yards. Has thrown 58 touchdowns and 39 interceptions. Has a raw QBR of 43.7 and an adjusted QBR of 51.9.

2013 rushing stats: 50 rushing attempts for minus-177 yards and zero touchdowns.

Career rushing stats: 83 rushing attempts for minus-361 yards and zero touchdowns.

Halliday on Twitter

What you need to know about Halliday: His legend started when he played through a lacerated liver against Utah in 2011. It hiccupped when he played quarterback roulette with Jeff Tuel in 2012. And while he was far from perfect in 2013, he showed that he's more than capable of leading Mike Leach's Air Raid offense. His 4,597 passing yards were a WSU single-season record and the second most in league history. His 34 touchdowns matched Ryan Leaf (1997) and he had nine multi-touchdown games. He's tough, he's a leader (voted a team captain for all 13 games) and he's got a ton of experience.

Career high point: A six touchdown performance in a losing effort? Nah, Halliday will tell you (and he has) that being named the offensive MVP of the New Mexico Bowl last year doesn't mean squat since the Cougars lost to Colorado State 48-45. However, he was sharp in WSU's 49-37 win against Utah, which gave the Cougs that critical sixth win to make them bowl eligible for the first time since 2006 and eventually sent them to a bowl game for the first time in a decade. Halliday threw for 488 yards and four touchdowns without an interception -- his only game last year without at least one pick.

Career low point: A six touchdown performance in a losing effort? Oh wait, we covered that one already. His three interceptions against Auburn in the season opener last year (to just one touchdown) wasn't exactly a standout performance. In fact, the Cougars were in position to tie the game in the fourth quarter with less than five minutes to play when Halliday was intercepted in the red zone. Granted, going to SEC country to open the season is tough. But think of how the entire college football landscape would have been different if not for an interception or two.

When he was a recruit: Halliday didn't move the needle much when it came to Washington State's 2010 recruiting class, as the 6-foot-4 quarterback was ranked No. 168 in the country at his position and was the lowest-ranked member of the class. But there was some considerable excitement surrounding Halliday's potential when Drew Bledsoe comparisons were thrown around. "Connor has a big upside," then-head coach Paul Wulff said. "Connor has the intangibles in the passing game, he is very competitive, and he has a bright future at Washington State and could play early in his career." Halliday also received offers from Eastern Washington, Hawaii, Idaho and Montana, but the decision to commit to the in-state Cougars was an easy one for him, as well as one that would play out well when Mike Leach took over as head coach. The first lines of Halliday's ESPN Recruiting Nation scouting report reads like a manual for the quarterback position on Leach's Air Raid offense: "Halliday is a pocket passer in the shotgun spread offense and is an efficient player in the short and intermediate passing game. He is a touch and timing passer with good rhythm and displays solid overall accuracy."

Opposing head coach's take: "He still has work to do to a certain degree. But any given day he can throw for 350 and five touchdowns. Any given time he can be player of the week in the conference because he can hurt you. The scheme does help to a certain degree. But the bottom line is he'll stand in there and he took a lot of hits in a lot of games. But he always pulls himself back up and gets back at it on the next play."

What to expect in 2014: Numbers. Lots of big, beautiful, eye-popping, scoreboard-light-bulb-draining numbers. This is what Leach has been waiting for -- a quarterback who has experience in his system that he's been grooming for a couple of years. Halliday knows the scheme inside and out. And he's got the talent around him to put up jaw-dropping statistics. With all of that said, there is still work to do. His completion percentage is still too low for Leach's liking (62.9 last year) and, as previously mentioned, he only had one game last season where he didn't throw an interception. Six times he had multi-interception games. It's worth noting, however, that in his final five games, his touchdown-to-interception ratio was 16-5, so the potential for improvement is there. Above all else, Leach values accuracy and decision-making. But then again, what coach doesn't when talking about his quarterback. If Halliday can clean things up, he and the Cougars will light up scoreboards.

Erik McKinney contributed reporting.