We at ACU have been quick to heap praise on our quarterback throughout the season, even if some of you (most of you(?) didn’t agree with our overly-positive sentiments. It made sense to me to throw out the positives of Connor Halliday’s performances all year, as there were far too many utterly horrific and unfair reviews based on a single stat but not the entire body of work.
Today is a day where I am going to be a little crass in my evaluation of Halliday and show that we are not above his criticism when warranted. I think that’s important to any place that gives blog-centric reviews of their team or individuals, the fair criticism of the team is a necessary evil sometimes.
So there are a couple things I noticed that concerned me. After all, Friday afternoon’s Apple Cup game at Washington gave us some excellent moments, but ultimately it’s another big loss that should have been a win and our QB could have been better.
Connor could have been a better leader. People have been on him all season about his demeanor, that he doesn’t show enough emotion or whatever on the field. I think those remarks among cougar fan board members were aimed at him not showing any anger/frustration towards his own mistakes, but my thoughts on Friday are why it’s been a good thing that he’s been mostly subdued this season.
His frustrations got the best of him, point blank. He got mad at Kristoff Williams for failing to put in the effort necessary to make a crucial block. He got mad at Elliot Bosch for lack of focus (five times with snap count issues by my tally, two resulting in time outs to save a penalty and the others resulting in QB runs off of a now broken play) and he got mad at missed blocks. In each case, his demeanor was one of frustration and ultimately, panic. That’s not the Halliday we know, nor should it be.
When Halliday is calm, everybody is calm. When he’s frazzled, everybody gets frazzled. That’s the way it works and obviously, things can only get worse when the quarterback begins to lose it on the field. Don’t get me wrong, getting in somebody’s face is the QB’s job at times, but throwing a tantrum because you didn’t get the snap off is a major sign of immaturity. I get it, he was frustrated that his center never looked at him and completely lost his focus, but that wasn’t the way to handle it. The Dawgs smelled blood and they got after him after that. It made a huge difference.
He got the job done, for the most part, throwing some gorgeous ringers around the lot for most of the afternoon. But the calm feeling we got against Arizona and Utah when the game was on the line, that wasn’t the feeling we got against UW. He stopped trusting his line and his progressions. He stopped trusting in the system fully. It led to two late interceptions, not to mention an unforgivable sack that thwarted an attempt at a huge field goal that would have changed everything at the end of the first half. The play wasn’t there, throw it away.
The last pick wasn’t a big deal because he had to try and move it down the field in a minute for two scores, but the first (and really the other two that should have gone back to the house earlier) was a result of panic and frustration throughout the day. He had made the throw to the slant all day long with perfect precision, so you know something threw him off. There was a blitz show and I don’t remember if it came or not but I know he thought it was coming and simply got rid of it, as opposed to throwing it.
In the end, it cost the Cougars the football game. Sure, Sankey ran for 200 and Seferian-Jenkins made two huge catches and the defense could’ve been better also, but when fist-met-face they stood in and gave Halliday and the offense a chance to go win it. The “O” didn’t come through.
That’s not the Connor we had started to see over the past couple weeks and it was a disappointing meltdown to watch, especially live. Don’t get me wrong, the O-line shares major blame. The sacks were mostly whiffs, the block-in-the-back penalty just outside the red zone was just as crucial to what could have and was probably going to be a touchdown march at the end of the first half. The snap incidents are just as inexcusable. But Connor didn’t help his team steady the sinking ship when it mattered most, he added extra weight.
He’ll learn from this though. There’s not a doubt in my mind he’s heading in the right direction overall and is the right leader for our football team. The Arizona and Utah games should have opened many a blind eye in that regard and he’s better for each of the adverse experiences he faced this season, along with his team.
Here’s to one more opportunity to get it right in 2013! Go Cougs!