Cougar QB Halliday opens up

PULLMAN -- Connor Halliday featured a golf ball-sized strawberry on the right side of his head during Monday's weekly player press conference. The quarterback, in breaking company policy, was quick to explain the mark before weighing in on his battle with Jeff Tuel for playing time, the receivers' ability to acclimate to the Air Raid Offense and how they plan to prepare for Colorado on Saturday.

But first, what happened to his head?

"The first play of the game when I got hit a little bit my helmet flew off and my head just kind of slid against the turf," he said. "That was painful from the first play."

Game-scrape aside, Halliday played on to the tune of a 378-yard, four touchdown performance that has some fans pining to see the Ferris High graduate on the field a lot more. Halliday attributed Friday's performance against UNLV to improved play from the offensive line and receivers.

"I think guys were running good routes," he said. "The offensive line played a heckuva game. I had a lot of time back there. I think I recognized some blitzes early and found kind of their soft spots to where people blitzed and there weren't many guys there."

The five touchdowns WSU scored in their 35-27 win at UNLV's Sam Boyd Stadium was Halliday's second start, and his first since losing to Utah in November of 2011. He said Friday's result came because receivers and quarterbacks are starting to fully grasp Leach's offense.

"I think we've come a long way from where we were in the spring," he said. "The wide receivers are really starting to understand the spacing of the offense when the defense is playing zone coverage or where to sit the routes down or where to try and run through to find the next hole."

"I think me and Jeff (Tuel) are doing a good job of triggering the ball when the ball needs to be triggered," he said.

Meanwhile, Mike Leach refuses to say who will start at quarterback on Saturday. But he also didn't sound like a coach ready to put Halliday back in a baseball cap and headset.

"I thought he played well," the head coach said. "I thought he was way ahead of schedule for a guy that only played a handful of games because he doesn't have many snaps under his belt. I think he's talented as far as going downfield."

FRIDAY'S VICTORY concluded a week in which Halliday said he was never told formally he would be getting the first road start of his career (Leach said Halliday probably figured it out mid-week.) However, Halliday said he couldn't help becoming especially excited when he learned the Cougars would be wearing their all-white road uniform combinations.

A 2-1, the Cougs now turn to their attention to an abysmal Colorado team coming off a 69-14 stomping by Fresno State. At 0-3, the Buffaloes have looked like to some observers, this one included, like a Big Sky team through the early part of the 2012 season. Halliday said their opponent's recent struggles won't play a factor in preparing for Saturday's homecoming game.

"I think we'll go into this game like every other one," he said. "Like Coach Leach says, ‘Respect all, fear none.' I think that's kind of our motto this year. If you go into any game thinking you're going to blow someone out then you're going to come out flat. I don't care if it's high school ball or junior high basketball."

Elliott Bosch Anchors O-line: Leach pegged Bosch as the offensive line's most consistent performer at the quarter mark of the season. Originally recruited as a 225-pound walk on defensive end out of the Greater Spokane League, Bosch's ascension to starting center and being placed on scholarship has been nothing short of remarkable.

There were times during his first three years in Pullman when he doubted his decision to pass on multiple Big Sky offers to become a Coug.

"Even in my second year I was kind of wondering if this was the right fight for me if this is what I wanted to be doing, ‘cause you're working really hard and you're not seeing any payoff and a lot of guys around you are getting the payoff so it's hard. I'm glad I stuck with it and it all paid off in the end," said Bosch.

Now at roughly 280 pounds, Halliday's former teammate at Ferris assessed his offensive line's performance on Monday.

"I think it was our best game this year but as a unit I don't think we've played a complete game together," he said. "We've had some individuals do well but we still need to find that game."

Bosch also echoed his head coach's recent comments about not giving in to fatigue.

"I think late in the game we have to be mentally tougher," he said. "I think that's the main issue. I don't think it's an issue of conditioning. We're in the best shape of any team in the Pac-12 so it's just a matter of us not giving into the feelings of being tired."


  • Ioane Gauta said Toni Pole has played a huge role in helping him learn the schemes engineered by defensive coordinator Mike Breske. On Monday Pole touched on those schemes and his role in the 3-4 to set some lofty expectations.

    "You can never be satisfied with where you are," he said. "Defensively our goal is to be top five in rush defense. But that takes time and a lot of effort out of everyone."

  • Halliday said Tuel's knee was feeling better on Sunday and that his fellow quarterback looked good throwing the ball.

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