Connor Halliday all straight talk in this Q&A

PULLMAN – Connor Halliday plays football exceptionally well, but he might talk an even better game than he plays. Washington State’s senior quarterback, much admired for his willingness to take a big hit if a play can be made, is every bit as willing to take on a tough question without flinching. His candor and honesty is welcome in the increasingly homogeneous world of athlete-media relations.

Halliday is this week’s guest for 11-on-1, Cougfan’s exclusive interview session. Eleven questions are posed to one person connected with WSU football. Some of Halliday’s answers may surprise you. Some may encourage you. Some may infuriate you. All, we believe, will interest you.

1. Cougfan: How do you explain WSU’s 2-6 record?

Halliday: I think the biggest thing is, we need more guys to truly be hurt by a loss. I don’t know how to explain that perfectly. Leach (head coach Mike Leach) has said it’s too easy to lose around here. It’s just the way it’s been around here the past 12 years or whatever.

A culture gets hard to break. It’s a little frustrating, because I thought we were a little bit ahead of that after last season. But we’ve had some guys on this team that have kind of reverted back to old actions when things have gotten tough.

2. Cougfan: After Saturday’s loss to Arizona, you said, “We didn’t have everybody playing as hard as we need them to play.” You’ve made bold statements like that in the past. How do your teammates react to that sort of criticism?

Halliday: The biggest thing about a leader and a quarterback is learning how to handle personalities. I think that’ll help me in the long run in whatever job I get. Knowing when you can talk like that and who you need to be very positive around … that’s the biggest stride I’ve made this year from last.

3. Cougfan: What has been the highlight of the season for you?

Halliday: The emergence of the young O-line (offensive line) and the play of (wide receiver) River Cracraft.

The young O-line has played tremendously. I mean, obviously, we throw the ball so often, there’s going to be a (bad) play here for there. But for the most part, they are head and shoulders above what I think any coach thought (could be expected this year) and kind of what I thought. I think we all thought they could be good, but they have really, really held their own against some great D (defensive) lines. The future is really bright there.

River – we knew he was talented. He had a heck of a true freshman year (last season) and made some plays, but this year he’s the absolute go-to guy. I mean, obviously, Vince (senior wide receiver Vince Mayle) is right there with him. Vince is probably a little more explosive and everything.

But for River to be doing the things he’s doing, I’m just so happy for him, because the guy puts in so much work in the film room, lifting (weights), running routes. You should see him in the summer. Our summer workout sessions are just grueling, and every day he’s out there running routes by himself, asking me to throw, asking someone to throw balls to him, asking someone to time him running routes. He’s always working on something.

4. Cougfan: What’s the best and worst thing about having Leach as your position coach?

Halliday: I think the best thing is once you get to a level of respect with him. I think he respects me. Now he gives you the reins to kind of developing the offense into what you want it to be, which is pretty cool and I think will help me at the next level if I get a chance. Calling plays at the line of scrimmage, which I do a lot here.

At times it’s very hard to play for him … it is very demanding, and it can be very, very pull-your-hair-out frustrating. But for those two hours you’re steaming mad, when you get home and you get the chance to take a breath, it dawns on you what he’s trying to do and how’s trying to get it out of you. Yes, he does things in his own way. Sometimes they’re for better, sometimes they’re for worse. But he gets stuff out of people I’ve never seen a lot of coaches do, so I really enjoy playing for him.

5. Cougfan: You’re the only experienced quarterback on the roster. How do you see the quarterback situation working out next year?

Halliday: I’m really excited about it. I’m happy for the guys. I’m happy to see what the offense can do. This O-line is only going to get better. Gabe’s (Gabe Marks, last year’s leading receiver) going to be coming off a redshirt year. Gabe’s going to be frickin’ excited to play football. I wouldn’t want to be the one guarding him.

Luke (redshirt freshman quarterback Luke Falk, WSU’s No. 2 quarterback) works SO hard at football. I mean, he puts in so much effort. He deserves everything he gets out of this. I think Luke’s going to be a very tough guy to beat out, because he works so hard. I think Leach realizes that. Peyton (Bender, a true freshman who is redshirting) is a very, very talented kid … he just needs to mature a little bit.

6. Cougfan: Going into the season, what did you think Washington State’s final record would be in the regular season?

Halliday: I truly believed 9-3, 10-2; 9-3 if somebody asked me before the season, that’s probably what I would have said in an honest answer. It hurts when a season goes along like this. It’s tough to completely explain it. We’re trying to figure out where we need to fix things.

7. Cougfan: Do you expect to be drafted by an NFL team?

Halliday: I’m not too sure. You never really know with how the season’s gone.

8. Cougfan: You’re set to train in Arizona or California after you graduate in December with a general studies degree. What are your plans if the NFL doesn’t work out for you?

Halliday: I will be heading to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho – the Hayden Lake area – and pursuing my dream of being a head golf professional. I want to go work at the Hayden Lake Country Club for Mark Bunn. He’s head pro out there. I’d start out at the bottom of the totem pole.

9. Cougfan: You wouldn’t want to try your luck in the Canadian or Arena leagues?

Halliday: It’s been my dream to play in the NFL since I was a little kid. You never want to lose that dream. If that’s the route I have to take, I’d definitely think about it.

10. Cougfan: You’ve already set all kinds of national, conference and school passing records. What record would you be proudest to own?

Halliday: Honestly, I don’t even know all the ones I hold or am close to breaking. If you ask me that a week after our bowl game, or the week after the Apple Cup, I will definitely be able to give you an answer.

11. Cougfan: How about the major-college record for passing yards in a season? You’ve got a shot at it.

Halliday: Yeah, if I were to break that one, that’d be a big, big deal. If I break that one, that means we’re probably headed to a bowl game, so that’d be very exciting.

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