Cougar QB history bodes well for Halliday

PULLMAN - If history is any indication, CougFans this season could be in for quite the treat when it comes to senior quarterback Connor Halliday. CF.C examined seven former WSU quarterbacks in five statistical areas of the passing game. The final two years of Cougar quarterbacks’ college careers were put under scrutiny.

The results indicate Connor Halliday could be substantially better than he was last season. Our statistical study went back as far as the mid-to-late 1970s when Jack Thompson was throwing passes for the Cougars, all the way up to when Alex Brink was under center.

It turned out that all seven QBs made a positive change between their two seasons in at least one of the five main areas examined. And with the exception of Thompson, the other quarterbacks improved in at least three of the categories of yards per attempt, yards per completion, touchdown/interception ratio, completion percentage, and passing yards.

Ryan Leaf of the mid 1990s and Timm Rosenbach from the late 1980s did better in their final seasons in all five of the categories.

Rosenbach experiences the most drastic makeover between the 1987 and 1988 seasons. In 1988, he finished first in the Pac-10 Conference with 3097 passing yards, 9.2 yards per attempt, and 24 passing touchdowns. Those touchdowns became even more significant when compared to the interception totals from both years.

In 1987, Rosenbach threw only 11 touchdowns compared to 24 interceptions, but then reversed those numbers in his final year with the Cougars. Such a feat would be incredible for Halliday, who led the nation with 22 interceptions last season. Obviously, with 34 touchdowns through the air in 2013, Halliday won’t want to reverse his totals like Rosenbach did, but a significantly lower amount of turnovers certainly seems plausible.

A more logical progression for Halliday would be similar to that of Leaf or Jason Gesser, who each had strong passing seasons to improve upon going into their final year.

Gesser threw for fewer yards per completion in his senior season, but in the other four categories, he showed steady improvement. Leaf’s transformation was far more significant as he increased his yards per attempt by more than two hashes, and his yards per completion by about three. Leaf was three percent more accurate, while throwing 13 more touchdowns and one fewer interception.

Any improvement from Halliday in the touchdown passes department would break the tie between the two for the most ever by a WSU player in a single season.

By comparison, Halliday was more accurate than all seven of the quarterbacks in their second-to-last seasons, and only Rosenbach improved his completion percentage enough to surpass Halliday’s redshirt junior mark of 62.9 percent.

More completions per attempt and turning slightly more of those completions into touchdowns would put Halliday at the top of the conference in terms of passing. Only Oregon State’s Sean Mannion threw more touchdown passes in 2013, and the highest completion percentage among Pac-12 starters was owned by UCLA’s Brett Hundley, who connected on 66.8 percent of his throws.

One area where Halliday struggled compared to the other former WSU quarterbacks was yards per completion. All of his Cougar counterparts posted higher amounts in that category over the course of all the seasons examined.

Mark Rypien, Drew Bledsoe and Gesser were the three quarterbacks who saw a decrease in their yards per completion in their final seasons, but all of them put up at least 13 yards per completion in their second-to-last season with the team. Taking that into account, each decrease was less than one yard, meaning they did not lose much from their previous year’s total. Among the other four quarterbacks, Rosenbach showed the most improvement in that category from 11.0 to 14.2.

Only time will tell how strongly Halliday performs during the 2014 season, but WSU tradition gives good reason to expect great numbers.

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