WSU NOTES: Missed connection haunts Halliday

PULLMAN – Connor Halliday has thrown a whopping nine touchdown passes in the past two games, but highly competitive individuals like Halliday are never satisfied. Halliday enjoyed another huge TD tally Saturday night, but he admitted his poor start was directly related to his failure to connect with wide, wide open Isiah Myers for a touchdown on Washington State's first play from scrimmage.

"I kind of got off to a slow start," Halliday said after the 42-0 homecoming win over Idaho. "You've got to put things behind you. I was still kind of thinking about our first play. They bring that corner blitz and safety blitz, too. They mixed up; they blew that coverage.

"I'm expecting Isiah to keep streaking up the sideline. We have a ‘fade' there, and he's thinking I'm going to throw a ‘hot' (shorter pass). That was frustrating."

Despite a 2-for-7 start, Halliday wound up completing 31 of 43 passes for 346 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions against a porous Idaho defense.

"He played a pretty good game … he tried to make too much happen (early)," Mike Leach said.

Halliday, a redshirt junior from Spokane, tied Ryan Leaf for the school record of six games with four or more touchdown passes. Halliday moved past former teammate Jeff Tuel for seventh in WSU history with 34 TD passes.

Halliday's 72.1 pass completion percentage Saturday ranks third in his career. He nailed a career-high 78 percent the week before against Southern Utah.

"The only reason we're really getting stopped is if we stop ourselves," Halliday said. "Eight possessions in the second half, we scored on five of them. The other three were two (lost) fumbles and a pick."

Go, Defense!: Offensive players seemed just as excited as their teammates on defense about WSU's first shutout in 10 years, and first home shutout in 14 years.

"The defense played unbelievable," Halliday said.

"Our defense is playing like one of the best defenses in the country," wide receiver Gabe Marks said.

"We get pumped when the defense makes plays," running back Jeremiah Laufasa said. "We love it."

Offensive players said they could tell the defense was greatly improved from a year ago when the team gathered for its first fall practices in Lewiston.

"I'm really proud of them," Halliday said. "Coach Breske (defensive coordinator Mike Breske) has done a heck of a job coaching them up. We've got two really, really strong leaders there with Deone (safety Deone Bucannon) and Darryl (linebacker Darryl Monroe)."

Leach, the offensive guru, joined offensive players in praising the defense.

"I was really, really proud of them," Leach said.

Washington State safety Deone Bucannon cracked the top 10 in career tackles and interceptions at WSU. His five tackles pushed him past Ron Childs into a ninth-place tie with Artie Holmes at 305, and his 11th interception tied him for eighth with Marcus Trufant, Torey Hunter and Don Paul.

"Numbers don't really matter to me," Bucannon said. "I didn't know that (about cracking the top 10). That's cool. At the end of the day, how our team feels and what the scoreboard says, that's what really matters to me."

Marks also hit some milestones Saturday, setting career highs with 11 catches, 146 receiving yards and two touchdown receptions.

Laufasa tied his career high of two touchdown runs; Monroe set a career high with 12 tackles; and end Xavier Cooper had a career-high 3 1-2 tackles for losses.

Good responses: Coaches challenged punter Mike Bowlin and punt returner Leon Brooks to pump up their production Saturday -- both seniors responded.

Bowlin's two punts hung in the air forever and traveled 46 and 53 yards. Brooks looked sharp on a career-best 51-yard punt return. And had another long return called back due to penalty.

Starting H receiver Brett Bartolone, who saw limited action in practice during the week, sat out the game with an undisclosed injury. Rickey Galvin and Brooks filled in nicely.

Kache Palacio started at BUCK linebacker for the second straight week. Destiny Vaeao apparently was injured at USC. Leach, of course, is extremely secretive about injuries.

Next up: The Cougars said more than 30,000 tickets have been sold for the annual Seattle "home" game next Saturday night. WSU takes on fifth-ranked Stanford (3-0) at CenturyLink Field. The game traditionally has brisk sales in the days before the game and strong sales on the day of the game from walk-ups.

Tickets, ranging from $13.56 to $88.86 (taxes and fees included), are available at

The Cougars announced during the Idaho game that ESPN will televise the Stanford contest at 7 p.m.

"As long as we go in there and make plays – make routine plays – we'll be fine," Marks said.

"Nobody lives to play Southern Utah," Halliday said. "Nobody lives to play something like that. You live to play the top five teams in the nation. That's where you can become something that they can say, ‘Hey, that's where the Cougars turned their thing around. They got a good win. It was the 2013 Cougars that started that.'"

Parking and traffic could pose potential challenges next Saturday, since the Seattle Mariners and Oakland Athletics play an afternoon baseball game next door to CenturyLink at Safeco Field - first pitch is scheduled for 1:10 p.m.

Fans are reminded that alcoholic beverages and barbecues are banned in CenturyLink parking lots. Food and beverages (including alcohol) are available at the adjacent Events Center as well as numerous nearby restaurants and watering holes.

Attendance at the WSU-Stanford game may also be affected by undefeated Washington's 4 p.m. home game with Arizona. The Cougars have never drawn less than 41,000 since the Seattle "home" games started in 2002. WSU did not play in Seattle in 2010.

WSU has played in Martin Stadium the last two weeks and the Cougars have three games left in Pullman: Oct. 12 versus Oregon State, Oct. 31 versus Arizona State and Nov. 23 versus Utah. The Dad's Weekend contest with Oregon State is sold out, and Saturday's homecoming crowd of 31,521 was about 1,200 short of a sellout.

"Our fans are off the chart … just a great environment," Leach said.

The Cougars have lost five straight to Stanford, but WSU gave the Cardinal a scare last year in a 24-17 thriller in Palo Alto, Calif.

  • Legendary WSU quarterback Jack Thompson is one of 25 finalists for the inaugural class in the Polynesian Football Hall of Fame. Cincinnati selected Thompson third overall in the 1979 NFL draft following his All-American senior season at WSU.

  • The Cougars are 3-1 for just the second time since 2007 – they also started 3-1 in 2011 – but they actually have the worst record among WSU's fall sports teams. The volleyball team is 13-0, and the women's soccer team is 6-0-2. Old Bohler Gym gets rockin' for big volleyball matches, and the place could be packed when the Cougars open Pac-12 play Wednesday night against third-ranked Washington (7:30, Pac-12 Networks). The Huskies are 8-0. Washington State also competes in men's and women's cross country in the fall, but the Cougars (who are down this year) don't have any dual meets.

  • The WSU-Idaho game wasn't the only football "Battle of the Palouse" staged this weekend. Pullman High edged Moscow, 42-40, in a wild non-league game Friday night in Moscow. Mason Petrino, the son of Idaho coach Paul Petrino (who lives in Pullman with his family), had a pass picked off and run back for a touchdown by Moscow safety-wide receiver Jack Akey, the son of former Idaho head coach and WSU assistant coach Robb Akey. David Ungerer, the son of former WSU assistant coach Dave Ungerer, is a key running back for Pullman. He's made a verbal commitment to Idaho.

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