Nov 16, 2013; Tucson, AZ, USA; Washington State Cougars quarterback Connor Halliday (12) signals to his teammates during the first quarter against the Arizona Wildcats at Arizona Stadium. The Cougars beat the Wildcats 24-17. Mandatory Credit: Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports
The Crimson and Gray game has come and gone, and with it the only tangible opportunity to see our Washington State Cougars play legitimate snaps for the next four months. The good news is; we made it this far and now we have some things to talk about while we wait for Summer workouts to play out and more freshmen to arrive on campus. Let’s get it started with the first of my five takeaways from the scrimmage.
Halliday and the Offense Looked Good
There are some that have already argued that after 2 picks from Daquawn Brown (and a potential int dropped by Sebastian LaRue), Connor Halliday did not look improved in the Spring game. While he severely under-threw both of those passes and broke the golden rule by throwing back across his body once or twice, I wholeheartedly disagree that he did not look improved.
I’ve long been an advocate for Halliday and his ability to run this offense, perhaps above and beyond reason at times. But there are some things that you can see in a quarterback, things you look for beyond the stats. Sometimes they are subtle and sometimes you have to look in a different direction depending on the offense and team they are leading.
There were some timing issues and a high ball here or there, but overall I thought Connor looked every bit the part of a fifth year senior-leader. Unlike the past two Spring games when bad things would happen, he simply shrugged off both picks (and a Theron West fumble) to recover and march right back down the field. True he was supposed to do that against this young secondary and true also that this is the Spring game, but that’s exactly why it matters that he’s not freaking out over interceptions and bad throws… It’s the Spring game! He didn’t compound his mistakes one after another, he moved onto the next play and for the most part, he made the next play.
In general I saw everything I needed to see out of Connor, accuracy on his deep outs, decent movement in the pocket (though I would like to see him settle his feet a little more), beautiful touch on all three touchdowns and adjustments from bad throws on certain routes that allowed him to make the play the next time the route was thrown. One of the touchdowns was a simple two-yard fade to Drew Loftus, his second was a run-under-it-ball to Vince Mayle and then a third throw on a nice post route to Loftus.
Bottom line, despite the int’s, he looked good to me. I wasn’t looking for him to set the world on-fire and 26-39 for 286 yards and 3 touchdowns is a pretty good half of football. Just like we saw at the end of the season, the offense was humming pretty good with him on the field. If between now and Fall he can get it in his head that the offense will score if he doesn’t try and make the “hero” play, even every so often, this offense may be unstoppable with the weapons he possesses.
Also, not sure if you noticed, but the offense was fully installed and ran much differently when he was behind center. The offensive confidence was evident in the rest of the players and all of the “situational” route concepts were available to be called. They may not have used all of them the Cougs ended up running a much more complete offense with him out there. This was especially evident in the two-minute drill where Halliday led the offense into the end zone throwing some outs to River Cracraft and then lofting that beautiful touchdown on an over-under concept perfectly in-stride to Loftus.
Tyler Bruggman and Luke Falk both ran clearly limited or “dumbed-down” offenses with mostly vertical, swing and simple crossing concepts. In other words we saw out of them what we saw for the majority of Connor’s first year, simplicity to keep them away from too much thinking. It still didn’t work out too well at times because Bruggman threw three first half picks and Falk didn’t do much either, though he was clearly ahead in the race for the backup role. We may have severely underestimated his talents.