Halliday shows promise in starting role

IN HIS FIRST start of the year, Connor Halliday threw three touchdown passes – one for 81 yards – to help Washington State escape its night in the desert without getting burned.

Still, the sophomore didn't turn in a flawless performance in the 35-27 win over UNLV at Sam Boyd Stadium. Even he acknowledged that.

"I'm where I need to be now and that's all that matters," he said in post game radio remarks following the second game in two weeks in which the Cougars struggled to put their opponent away. "I think I made a decent case."

Halliday, who completed 26 of 45 passes for 378 yards and threw four touchdowns, was replacing Jeff Tuel, who was injured in last week's home opener against Eastern Washington. By contrast, UNLV quarterback Nick Sherry completed 33 of 49 passes for 351 yards and three touchdowns. He also threw an interception.

"For a guy who hadn't played football for a long time, I thought he played good," said head coach Mike Leach after the game. "I thought he was really calm for a guy who hasn't played a lot."

HALLIDAY SHOWED ENOUGH PROMISE though that had fans on CF.C's message boards debating whether the sophomore could be the next Ryan Leaf. Aside from a pair of picks, there wasn't much to complain about. His first interception came on The Opening drive of the game. He also threw one in the Cougars' final series of the night.

"I'm glad we got the victory, but I'm frustrated with how we finished the fourth quarter with my interception," he said.

Still, getting a win in his third 300-yard performance and second four-touchdown game felt great. His prior start came in a 37-27 win last November against Arizona State, when he threw for a staggering 494 yards and four touchdowns.

"We're a team that has talent and can win games," he said.

He added that he has found Leach's system beneficial, as it "puts a lot on the quarterback's shoulder."

The deep ball worked well for the Cougars as junior Marquess Wilson and freshman Gabe Marks both caught touchdown passes of more than 50 yards, and six plays had a reception of more than 15 yards.

STILL, LEACH REMAINED mum when asked who will start next week when the Cougars open conference play against Colorado.

He was quoted in The Seattle Times as saying: "Why do people watch games? Because of the suspense. I'm not a guy who tells people the ending to a movie if they haven't seen it. If you want to see how it turns out, you've gotta come see the movie."

  • On his 21st birthday Friday, Wilson set a school record: His 112 receiving yards gave him his 12th career 100-yard game, passing Mike Levenseller for the most in WSU history. He now has 2,612 career receiving yards, the third most in WSU history and No. 33 in conference history.

    Wilson also scored the 19th and 20th touchdowns of his career, which moves him into the third spot on the school's top-10 list. His 81-yard catch was the second longest touchdown of his career. He scored a 85-yard touchdown against Arizona State last year.

  • In starting in his 39th straight game, Travis Long made two sacks to boost his career total to 15, and is now 10th on the university's top-10 list for career sacks. His two tackles-for-loss moved him into sixth place on the career top-10 list. He matched his career-high nine tackles with his performances against Southern Methodist in 2009 and BYU in August.

  • Walk-on left tackle Gunnar Eklund got his first start on Friday. Right guard Dan Spitz did not make the trip because of what Leach called "personal reasons" that kept him out of practice. John Fullington moved to left guard and Eklund, a redshirt freshman from Lake Stevens, got his chance.

  • Tyree Toomer's first-quarter interception was the first of his career.

  • In addition to catching his first career touchdown, Marks tallied his first 100-yard game.

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