Sep 28, 2013; Seattle, WA, USA; Washington State Cougars quarterback Connor Halliday (12) passes the ball during the 1st half against the Stanford Cardinal at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports
Halliday’s performance Saturday was actually pretty solid when you consider the conditions, the defense he was facing and the dropped passes of three perfectly thrown third down balls to wide open receivers. Yeah, yeah, the ball was wet, it was cold blah blah blah. Connor can throw it, receiver should catch it, simple as that. Mike Leach would say the same.
He threw it with the most command he has all season, in my opinion at least. The throw that I probably loved the most was one to Dominique Williams down the right sideline near the end of the half. He dropped it over the corner and away from the safety who was coming over, all in stride to Williams who made a nice catch. It was a 43 yard gain and he threw it like that all night long. As I said, the three third down drops were on similarly good throws (different routes).
The offensive line also did him no favors, as their continued whiffs ended up with him on the MRI table in the 3rd quarter. They were also the sole reason for the interception that he was forced to throw. He finished 24 of 36 for 184 and an interception.
Sep 28, 2013; Seattle, WA, USA; Stanford Cardinal wide receiver Michael Rector (3) catches a pass while being covered by Washington State Cougars cornerback Damante Horton (6) during the 1st quarter at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports
There’s no stat to show you just how many times Horton was thrown at Saturday but two plays come to mind when talking about his performance and neither looked good on the surface. A closer look says he played a heck of a game.
A deep skinny-post route by Michael Rector for 48 yards on the first drive (shown right) is the first. Horton was man up with no safety help (as he was most of the night) and played the route extremely well, staying stride for stride with Rector. The little-used receiver just made a tremendous play on the ball with the flowing locks of D.H. all over him.
The second play was “saved” by Deone Bucannon. At the Cougar 15, Horton bit on a slant-and-go route to the boundary side (short side) of the field. He jumped the slant and the receiver broke ‘wide open’ behind him for the apparent touch. At first glance this looks like a mistake and Bucannon bailed his butt out, but really, that’s what Horton’s responsibility is (the slant) and he plays it very instinctively and well on this play (and in general). Bucannon’s job is the back end of the play and he plays it very instinctively also. Result; interception.
I ask you, do you want the Damante Horton that waits around for receivers to catch the ball like he did all of last year, or do you want the Damante Horton that has 3 picks while sitting on those routes and single handed-ly won the USC game? When a Deone Bucannon-type player is behind you (especially close to the endzone), your job is to attack. When you’re man-up, your job is to not get beat over the top. D.H. did his job well against Stanford.
I can hear it now; “Yeah right! We all saw the game and receivers were open all night!” While that is a somewhat fair premise based on the results, the idea of this piece is “misleading performances”, not necessarily “better than it looked” (although the first two fall under that category).
The defensive line got absolutely zero pressure on Kevin Hogan and the linebackers didn’t touch him either. I’ve never seen five and six man blitzes come up as empty as Washington State’s did all of Saturday evening. Stanford’s line was simply a wall and when an O-line plays like that, eventually someone will get open. To be frank, most of the time that’s the difference between a secondary that looks great and a secondary that looks awful.
That said, the secondary did a fairly decent job save for a few plays and Nolan Washington, who was repeatedly picked on and beaten. Even the Devon Cajuste stats (4 catches, 115 yards, 2 TD’s) are a little misleading against the secondary, as three of those catches were made against linebackers. Not surprisingly, the other was made on Washington. Really, until the Washington State turnovers started piling up, Stanford was only up 17-3 midway through the 3rd quarter and the offense had had every opportunity to make a game of it.
As a whole, the Cougs are still 11th in the nation in pass defense through five games, which is a pretty special effort given the personnel issues of last season and a very similar secondary this season. If you’d have told Coug fans that stat before the season, most would have called you a lunatic.
To see the plays I’m referring to GO HERE.