Even though Washington State coach Mike Leach has had some of the best quarterbacks — statistically — they’re not always considered the nation’s best quarterbacks or even the best quarterbacks in their particular league.
Leach thinks Connor Halliday can change that.
Last season, Halliday threw an astonishing 714 passes for 4,597 yards and 34 touchdowns while leading the Cougars to their first bowl game since 2003.
“He's a very talented guy, and he's steadily improved and with a young supporting cast ended up fourth in the country in passing,” Leach said during Pac-12 media day on Wednesday. “So clearly he's one of the best quarterbacks in the entire nation like the debates and media faces. You might be rooting for your guy, and I don't care what you think, he's better than your guy is.”
Halliday ranked third nationally in passing yards and Washington State was fourth in the country with 368 passing yards per game. Halliday had just two games where he attempted fewer than 41 passes and he threw the ball 89 times — completing 65.2 percent — against Oregon, which broke an FBS record.
But the one thing that held Halliday back — aside from the Cougars’ 6-7 record — was the turnovers. Despite his stellar numbers, Halliday threw 22 interceptions, which was at least seven more than any other quarterback ranked in the top 5 passing nationally.
On Wednesday, Halliday chalked up his interceptions to the number of passes he threw last season, but he also acknowledged that the key to his success — and to Washington State’s — was cutting down the turnovers.
“The biggest deal is limiting (interceptions) to one or two times a game. Not having the four picks against Oregon or the three picks against Auburn,” Halliday said. “Limit it to one or two and bounce back right afterward. Don’t let it frustrate me for the rest of the game or the rest of the drive.”
Well, it's good to have goals.
And if Halliday can only throw 12 or 13 interceptions instead of 20-plus, that's at lest an improvement, and Leach said a bigger offensive line and having the entire receiving corps back would only help Halliday finish with better numbers.
And if Halliday can cut down on those turnovers and bring the Cougars more wins, he might have a place among the Pac-12’s best quarterbacks.
“Do it better, and just keep working,” Leach said of ways for his quarterback to progress. “If he keeps working and they become familiar with each other, they'll get better and better at working together.”
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