LEACH: Leaders emerging in Halliday's void

MIKE LEACH SAID during his weekly radio show Thursday night that after Connor Halliday went down to injury, some Cougars played tight the rest of the way in the USC loss. But life goes on, and the Cougs must move forward and face the adversity head on, he stressed. And Leach said it’s not just the guys playing on Saturday. Halliday must also do the same.

It’s been six days since Connor Halliday suffered a season- and college career-ending broken angle, but the fifth-year senior continues to improve, Leach said during his weekly radio show on Thursday night.

“He’s doing good,” Leach said. “He was in the hospital for a couple of days and a lot of the guys went to go see him. It was a revolving door, really. I’m sure the nurses were glad to get him out of there. He’s back in Spokane right now.

“The night of his injury, I got there at about 11:30 p.m. and was there till about 1:30. He was wide-awake on the pain medication. Typically guys get pretty chatty when they’re on them.”

And Halliday was pretty chatty, said Leach. Halliday and he have also been continually trading text messages, Leach said.

At the Spokane Cougar Club Luncheon this week, WSU assistant David Yost said the projection was 4-6 months for Halliday to fully recover. This could cause the Spokane native to miss some auditions for NFL teams. Not to worry, Leach said.

“He’s had a lot of time to exhibit his quality of play,” Leach said. “He was on pace to break the national passing record, which he could have done quite easily. This day and age, it’s a broken ankle. It isn’t fun, but it’s sometimes routine. You break it and it heals. I’m not a doctor, but they claim after they stick rods in there, it’s stronger than the other ankle.”

WITH HALLIDAY OUT the rest of the way, there's no choice for other Cougs: they have to step up from a leadership standpoint. Leach said that he’s seen some other players pick up their energy since the injury.

Joe Dahl, Jeremiah Allison, Darius Lemora, Kache Palacio, Destiny Vaeao and Vince Mayle,” Leach said. “Mayle is a work by example kind of guy. He’s a physical specimen.

“Everyone knows how he was before he got here. He was pretty raw, but he worked harder and harder to get better. He’s developed. Jamal Morrow is a guy who has played through soreness all year. He’s another guy who is ahead of schedule.”

Morrow, the redshirt freshman running back, has been steady for the Cougs throughout the season. Other freshmen have struggled to find the same consistency, said Leach.

“Most of the guys want to come in and play as freshman, but then they’re timid,” Leach said. “If you want to play as a freshman, you have to act like you belong there. Some of it is confidence and that comes with experience. Guys need to go out there and play confident. They’ve got to start with the right mentality.”

ONE GUY WHO does have the right mentality is Luke Falk, said Leach. The second-year freshman signal caller will make his first career start on Saturday when the Cougs play on the road at Oregon State. The Beavers’ secondary is among the best in the Pac-12 statistically, but Falk is ready.

“He just has to play within himself,” Leach said. “Nothing really changes. You read the field and make sure you recognize what they’re (defenders) doing and react to it. Nothing changes.

“They’ve put up good numbers this year, but USC had a decent secondary. Luke needs to worry about his job and not what the other guy might do.”

In a little over three quarters last week, Falk finished the day 38-of-57 for 346 yards, two touchdowns and one interception, (a Hail Mary as time expired in first half.)

It wouldn't be a normal radio show without Leach diving a little off topic. On Thursday night, Leach went on for a few minutes about rapper Mike Jones. Jones, who saw a huge amount of success in the early 2000s, visited Texas Tech for a practice and even wrote a song about Leach's former team. When asked who the best rapper on the team was, Leach said that's something he hopes to find out. "We may have some kind of a get-together and have a tournament for that," he said. "We may have to do that in private, though. Those things aren't typically G-rated."

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