Someone mentioned to me yesterday that Connor Halliday had the quintessential Cougar career: he started out relatively unknown outside of Washington, his freshman year he had a breakout moment, he lost often but looked damn good doing it, and he would be just fine if the season had ended 25% sooner. In short, he is a Coug through and through.
I do not want that little quip to overshadow what the man has done though. While a lot of fans may have cursed his name, there were many times where you sat back and looked on in amazement at what you were seeing. I was very fortunate to see two of his most monumental games: his freshman year against Arizona State and his senior year against Cal. His 494 yard performance (coming into the game as the third string, mind you) ranked as the best passing performance from a freshman in Pac-8/10/12 history and second best Cougar performance, ever. This was also before the Mike Leach era. The ASU game was a victory. The Cal game was a bitter defeat, much like many others that maligned his impressive career. The game was four hours and thirty minutes of track meets. Connor would drive down the field, and the defense would let one up. The kickoff team allowed two kick returns for a touchdown, back-to-back, and in an almost identical fashion. Connor kept chugging along, despite this. At the end of the game, he led his team down to within the one yard line, and the kicker missed the field goal. Whether the snap was bad (it was), the holder messed up the placement (I am pretty sure he did), or the kicker just did a terrible job (from the one yard line, he had to have), it does not matter. The Cougs just found ways to lose, even when Connor did his best.
I’m not saying that Halliday was perfect, he was far from it. That scrambling-right-jump-throw thing he did aggravated me to no end, and more often than not ended in an interception. He has issues with staring down receivers, and I’m not so certain that is part of the play design for every play. He also has a little bit of the Rex Grossman “Unleash the Dragon” in him as well.
But he was perfect for that team. There couldn’t have been a better inaugural career quarterback for Leach’s legacy at WSU. Halliday diced up all the records at Washington State, and even broke some NCAA records to boot. He set the bar pretty damn high for all Cougar quarterbacks to come.
Regardless of what happens to his career after this, he joins a vaunted fraternity alongside Jason Gesser, Drew Bledsoe, Mark Rypien, and Ryan Leaf. That is an accomplishment that deserves a chug of fireball.