WSU Football: The Connor Halliday Project Volume 1 – Revisiting Auburn


Aug 31, 2013; Auburn, AL, USA; Washington State Cougars quarterback Connor Halliday (12) warms up prior to the game against the Auburn Tigers at Jordan Hare Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

I’ve been going over and over the 6 turnovers that Connor Halliday has made so far through just two games, trying to figure out a pattern or trend. Well, the immediate pattern is that Connor is the only one turning the football over, which is both bad and good. It’s as if Connor is saying “Well, it’s complicated… and it’s not you, it’s me”. Thing is, it’s really not that complicated. Stop breaking up that on-again, off-again relationship with your girlfriend… er… offense!

I kid. Kinda.

WSU Football Blog has an article up that was VERY INTERESTING in charting Halliday while under pressure. I’d recommend giving that link a read as it has more than a little bit to do with my points here, but is also just good analysis of where we can improve as an offense.

I plan on revisiting this subject each week as we push through the season, to the tune of a 12 part series (one for each game and hopefully 13).

Turnovers have been the theme in weeks 1 and 2 so far, so in Vol. 1 let’s look at the 3 turnovers from the Auburn game for Connor Halliday and my analysis of each. Then we’ll more quickly look at 3 of the better plays from him during the game. A lot of these plays can be found HERE ON ESPN.COM


  • INT #1 – Tip Drill

The Outcome: The first interception of the season isn’t where the Cougars lost the Auburn game, but it sure as heck prevented them from winning it, or at least putting Auburn in a chokehold early. Cougs up 7-0 near the end of the 1st quarter, 1st and 10 on the WSU 45 yard line. Quick slant route by Brett Bartolone, ball is slightly behind and goes careening off of both arms and straight into the air. The ball is picked at midfield and returned to the 16, compounded by a personal foul that places the ball at the 8. Up to that point, Washington State was winning both field position and momentum, as well as the game on the scoreboard.

The Decision: This was not a terrible decision by Connor, in fact it was an interception that you have to be willing to live with, but it still could have been better. Bartolone was double covered and the swing pass was open immediately but I understand that he made a decision and stuck by it. The ball was slightly behind Brett, but CH was trying to keep his receiver out of harms way, leading him away from the imminent hit. Noble as this was, it made the pass a very difficult one to complete. Basically this was really neither players’ fault, just a play that happens from time to time in a football game and in the air raid sometimes the quick 5 yarder to keep ahead of the chains is a very smart play. The one thing that could have been avoided was a throw into double coverage.

  • INT #2 – Throw Back Across

The Result: All football fans have seen their quarterback get flushed out of the pocket, sprint to either side of the field and then think they see an open man running across the back lines of nowhere-dom… WIDE OPEN. Quarterback more often than not thinks “I’m Super Man(!) I can make this throw and be a hero”. If your name is “#DangeRuss (el Wilson)” you may be able to get away with this decision because you throw better on the run anyway. However if your name is not that, and especially if your name is “#WhydYouThrowThatConnor (Halliday)” the result is 99.9% a defender with their mitts on the football. The one exception was a play last year against Colorado that somehow ended with a Gabe Marks touchdown and even seeing it live at Martin when he let it go I said “oh god”. Anyway, the worst happened again here. Actually it happened twice in the first half, but Auburn’s safety dropped #2.

The Decision: If this isn’t the worst decision Connor has ever made, it’s darn near the worst. Compounding the horribleness of this decision though is that it literally came on the next offensive play after a Cougar 3-and-out that saw Connor throw 3 passes way off the mark. That possession was the one after the first interception, so within 5 offensive plays Connor threw 2 picks and 3 incompletions. That’s just not going to garner winning results. Going back to the Colorado touchdown in 2012, it was honestly the worst thing that could’ve happened and I even said it at the time while I was in the stadium. I knew it was a miracle, I think we all did, but it was Connor’s first (and probably only successful) play like that and it happened to work out in his favor. Since then he’s not shaken the fact that it was the exception, not the rule.

  • INT #3 – Bad Read

The Result: The Cougars were once again first and goal at the 8, late in the game and had to have 6. I’ll reiterate, first and goal. Connor takes 1 step, hesitates and for some unknown reason floats it right to the linebacker who’s dropping out into the flats. The game was all but over at that point, then the defense got the ball back around midfield. However a failed 4th down conversion ended the game for good.

The Decision: This is the pick that is the most scrutinized, and for good reason. Connor failed to trust his eyes on the play. He very clearly sees the backer dropping out. In fact the more I look at it the backer knew exactly what was coming and shadowed the route the entire way. To make matters worse, it looks like two different crossing patterns would have scored if Halliday just gets off of his initial read and checks down. This is the type of thing that got him benched in favor of Tuel in 2012 and he’s got to eliminate it from his game. Oh, and back to the final 4th down conversion that went sailing over the head of FOUR defenders and the “intended” receiver Dom Williams; Halliday stared right at a 1-on-1 matchup with a defender 8 yards off with Gabe Marks. Marks ran an in and was WIDE OPEN for a first down, but again Connor didn’t trust what he saw. He’s got to trust what he sees, always!


  • Running Away

Aug 31, 2013; Auburn, AL, USA; Washington State Cougars quarterback Connor Halliday (12) carries against the Auburn Tigers at Jordan Hare Stadium. The Tigers beat the Cougars 31-24. Mandatory Credit: John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

After his two first quarter blunders scrambling right, Connor learned the lesson. Again, took him two times, but he finally got it. Lane opened up and instead of forcing the ball on the sidelines or trying to make the hero-throw he just got what he could get. In one instance it was a huge 3rd down conversion on 3rd and 9, which shows great awareness.

  • The Slant Touchdown

A little more than half of Connor’s throws in the game were right on the money, but the one that caught my eye was the short slant route to Bobby Ratliff for a touchdown. Connor recognizes that the LB is up as a 5th rusher, the CB is head-up (not shaded one way or other) on his receiver and calls a double slant, then throws a dime to the inside man right out of the break. As long as Ratliff could get his head around Connor knew there was nobody there to help and it was going to score. Terrific decision pre-play, terrific execution during. Why he didn’t call this play on the interception in the endzone I don’t know. I do know it would have been the same result.

  • Run Check On 4th Down and On Goal Line

Several times Connor was very smart in checking to runs (remember Leach always calls passes when he does call the play, or just let’s his quarterbacks run their own offense). The three plays that I really loved though, were the 4th down conversion on the final drive and the two runs inside the 5 early in the game. It’s easy to say that when all three were successful, I know. But more than the results, the fact that he had the confidence to call runs in those situations serves notice not only to his team, but to defensive coordinators from here on out. If you’re not ready for the run you could get burned, which is a big plus as far as honesty is concerned from opposing defenses. Still gotta execute, but runs in these situations will make Halliday better when he does pass.

 Overall Grade: