Going to zero: Peyton Manning guides Halliday

HOLLYWOOD, Calif. -- One of the NFL’s greatest passers threw some valuable advice to Washington State quarterback Connor Halliday.

“Peyton Manning told me his thing was to always get back to zero,” said Connor Halliday during the Pac-12 Football Media Day at Paramount Studios on Wednesday.

“Get back to being even keeled before you go out for that next drive. I think I did a better job of that toward the end of the year.”

Halliday, who visited this summer with Manning at the Manning family quarterback camp, would enjoy starting this season like he performed at the finish of last.

Thirteen of Halliday’s 22 interceptions occurred in the first six games of the season. And after being picked off four times in the loss to Oregon, he managed to toss but five INTs in the final five games of the season.

“I just think being a little bit more composed,” Halliday said of his improved play in the second half of last season. “You can’t play quarterback mad. Going three and out or maybe throwing a pick early and getting frustrated and things snowball. The same goes for throwing a touchdown pass. Throwing a touchdown pass the first play of the game, you’ve got to let that go, too. You can’t stay high, you can’t stay too low.”

Repetition will generate high marks toward Halliday’s success, Cougars head coach Mike Leach said Wednesday.

“Just keep doing the same things over and over,” Leach said. “Do it better and just keep working.”

Halliday will have to get better this year working with a new center. His long-time friend and former center at both WSU and Ferris High, Elliott Bosch, has graduated. Sophomores Sam Flor and Riley Sorenson are competing for the starting job.

“We’ve been playing football together since we were like sixth grade,” Halliday said of Bosch. “The center position is still up for grabs. We’ve definitely got to shore that up. Hopefully, one of those guys steps up. It will be a change. Elliott did a good job of understanding what I wanted and relaying that message to the guys up front. I don’t really have a guy like that now.

“We’ve got two guys who are very talented, but they’ve have never taken a college football snap. They’re both very good, but they’re both a little passive. I know they’re young, but we need them.”

There is nothing passive about Halliday, some of the Pac-12’s top defensive players said Wednesday.

“He’s a great quarterback,” said USC defensive end Leonard Williams said. “All quarterbacks in the Pac-12 are pretty good. We have to come ready to compete every game we play, so we don’t pick one player or the next player. We treat them all the same.”

Williams, though, acknowledged that Halliday isn’t just any player.

“He has a great arm and just the ability to be able to run,” Williams said. “You got to be ready for him to run at any time.”

Said Oregon linebacker Derrick Malone, “I know I have to be on my ‘A’ game (against Halliday). He’s very talented, so you have to be prepared and be ready. You know it’s going to be a very pass-happy game. I know last year I was running so much all over the field. I was exhausted.”

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