2014, Washington State Cougars, Halliday, Connor, 5,834 yards, 59 touchdowns.
That’s what it would take to put Connor Halliday on top of NCAA single-season passing records this upcoming season and yes, it’s doable. Like my friend when I told him Halliday has a shot at 50 and even 60 touchdowns in 2014, I hear you laughing outrageously. However, the idea might not be as far fetched as you think.
Halliday threw the ball 714 times in 2013, which is only five times less than all-time single-season pass attempts record holder B.J. Symons threw in 2003. The former Texas Tech quarterback played for Mike Leach that season, when he also put up the most yards a QB has ever thrown for (5,833). That’s a staggering number but it’s not untouchable, not with Leach as Halliday’s coach.
As far as the touchdowns go, the record is a ridiculous 58, thrown by Colt Brennan of Hawaii in 2008. Even with that yardage record, Symons’ 2003 campaign netted only a total of 52 TD’s, which is 3rd on the all-time list. The difference? Brennan’s receivers were just that much more explosive. This is why I think Halliday’s in a good position to not just eclipse the 45 that Coug-pundits are hoping for, but actually go for nearly 5 touchdowns per game in 2014!
Let’s be real, outside of Wes Welker and Michael Crabtree, it’s very difficult to think about another receiver that ever went through Tech that matches up with any the group that WSU will be putting out on the field this upcoming season. Seven upperclassmen and a super-soph make up the front end of the Cougar roster at WR, followed by a couple of explosive freshmen that I know will surprise the conference. This passing attack was one of the most explosive in the country last season and if you watched it in the Spring when Halliday was zinging it around, you understand that it is now going to be lethal.
Yes, the Pac-12 plays defense too. Yes, there are some top-tier defenses that Halliday will face over the course of 2014 in Stanford and USC and yes he struggled last season with them. But both of those teams will be replacing a ridiculous number of players defensively and will be shocked by the speed and efficiency of Washington State’s offense in Leach’s 3rd season.
So your next argument will be the WSU offensive line, but even though they are young, the Cougs got an average bump of about 30 lbs on the line. That’s just the size aspect of it though, the athleticism is about that much better with the new kids as well. That’s not to say they won’t have their struggles as they attempt to gel early in the season, but it does mean they should be more likely to recover from mistakes than in the recent past. A fifth-year senior at quarterback won’t hurt their progress either, as he should be able to get them into the correct positions to be successful more often than not.
The big knock on Halliday of course has been his interception total and especially those in the red zone, which he does need to take care of, but he showed progress (save for one throw) in the Spring game in this area. If he just keeps the drive going instead of trying to be a hero from time-to-time during a game, the Cougs cannot be stopped. Also, if he converts those red zone picks into points this season, he’ll already be around that 45 mark that everyone thinks he can get to.
After watching the final third of 2013, it’s very difficult to argue that the light hasn’t come on in this area for him. This Spring, the calmness that he brought to the offense was eerie. He just looked like a cat who had been through the fire and simply isn’t afraid of anything. He’s been to the big time venues in his college career and has learned from various mistakes, results and outcomes. He’s also learned how to be successful and probably more importantly, how not to.
And the biggest factor for me that makes him a real threat is that he throws his best passes on the toughest routes to complete in football, which is anything to the far sideline of the field. His anticipation has gotten to a point where he just feels where to throw the ball around or over a defender before they can play it and it’s impressive to watch. To those of you who saw those 22 int’s last season and are skeptical of his abilities, the same will not happen again in 2014.
Because of all that I believe we will see the Connor Halliday that threw for a bowl-record setting five first half touchdowns in last season’s New Mexico Bowl more often than not and that’s a bad, bad thing for opposing defenses in 2014. With the entire receiving core back, a seven game home schedule and the toughest games in Pullman, there’s an opportunity for something special this season offensively. Halliday will make a bigger difference than anybody will anticipate as long as he stays healthy.
6,000 yards and 60 touchdowns may be too-high of a goal to set for Connor himself, but not for me when I think of what he could accomplish this season with all the favorable factors. At the very least I think he throws for 5,000 and 50 touchdowns but he’ll get every opportunity to do better than even that. There are things that he must get rid of in his game to accomplish either feat, but there is definitely opportunity and a perfect storm to realize greatness of a historic level.