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Leach, Halliday go down throwing

A GRIP ON SPORTS

Jeez, without a Seahawk game, what do we write about on a Sunday morning? Maybe a few NCAA passing records and what they mean? Read on.

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• Washington State lost to the second-ranked Oregon Ducks 62-38 last night in a matchup that was, for the second consecutive year, close at halftime. And not close by the end of the third quarter. When the ink dried on the final statistics, however, WSU junior quarterback Connor Halliday had set an NCAA FBS record for pass attempts with 89. He had tied the classifications' completion mark with 58. And he had broken school and Pac-12 records with 557 yards, throwing for four touchdowns along the way. But he also tossed four interceptions. Adding up all those numbers, what do you get? There are differing opinions about that – and we have one as well. Oregon defense coordinator Nick Allioti thought the performance, which included 28 fourth-quarter passes, showed WSU coach Mike Leach is "low class." "That's total (B.S.) that he threw the ball at the end of the game like he did," Aliotti told reporters afterward. "And you can print that and you can send it to him, and he can comment, too. I think it's low class and it's (B.S.) to throw the ball when the game is completely over against our kids that are basically our scout team." So there is that opinion. I'm sure Leach would disagree, though I'm also pretty sure his response to being asked about it would be something along the lines of  "I don't care what he thinks." Leach has his reasons. WSU's second-year coach told Bud Nameck on the postgame show that Halliday needs all the practice he can get and game reps are always better than practice reps. Both are true for a quarterback – and a team – that is still learning all the facets of Leach's philosophy. After all, Leach's offense is a passing offense, so having Halliday hand off in the fourth quarter wouldn't have accomplished anything. The Seattle Times' Bud Withers, who seemingly has watched more games in Autzen Stadium than the Duck's mascot, sees that element, the learning-the-offense part, as the key to Halliday's long night, calling it a case study in the development of a Mike Leach quarterback. Halliday, Withers points out, is learning what Leach wants without any role models. And he's doing it with a body that is nowhere near 100 percent."My shoulder's pretty messed up, my ankle's pretty messed up, my hip's pretty messed up, so it's kind of a perfect time for the bye week," Halliday told reporters afterward. The shoulder has been bad all season. The ankle and hip are reminders of hits earlier this one. And still, Halliday has stood in the pocket and delivered at least 65 passes in three games. Why that number? Because that was one shy of the school record before the season. Does he make mistakes? Heck yes. Anyone who drops back to pass 94 times – as Halliday did last night, being sacked four times and scrambling once – will make a bad decision or three. The third-quarter interception down the middle? A bad choice. (As an aside, the pick should have come back as Halliday was obviously roughed on the play and referee Jay Stricherz swallowed his flag. Is it strange that, after Allioti complained about the Pac-12 officials calling too many pass interference calls earlier in the week, the Cougars tried to pass 94 times and the physical Duck defensive backs were flagged for PI exactly zero times, something Allioti basically took credit for after the game. How is that an improvement Commissioner Larry Scott?) The interception in the end zone was on a play the receiver fell down, the one in the right flat was a great defensive read – the Ducks made it look as if the pattern would be open, then took it away – and the pick-six was on one of the Cougars five dropped passes. None of that excuses turnovers – Halliday was ticked after the game, saying he's trying everything they can think off to limit the mistakes and it hasn't worked yet – but it does put them in context. There is one other thing to put into context. At 4-4, the Cougars still must win two more games to get back to the Promised Land, a bowl game. Can they do it? The way Halliday throws the ball, they could easily go 4-0 down the stretch. Or 0-4. That reflects, in part, Leach's philosophy. And the rebuilding process. So does 89 pass attempts. Win or lose, it won't be boring.

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• WSU: With the late start and the 3 hour, 38 minute game time, Jacob Thorpe had to scramble to get his report done for the newspaper. Autzen is hands down the hardest place to work for a visiting reporter, with interview facilities non-existent and a long hike back to the press box to write. Jacob has his game story, a notebook, the keys to the game, a live chat prior to kickoff and the scoring. We can also pass along the statistics. ... We've already passed along a couple links, but we can add a notebook from Withers along with coverage from the Oregonian and some WSU-centric items from the Register-Guard. ... ESPN.com's Pac-12 blog has game coverage of the Ducks along with what we learned from the games yesterday and awards.

• EWU: The Eagles have had two chances to avenge losses from last season thus far in this one. They lost the first one but got one back yesterday with a 34-10 drubbing of Southern Utah. Jim Allen has a game story and Tyler Tjomsland adds a picture package. ... Montana State had a few troubles with woeful Weber State but earned a 34-16 win. ... Montana had to rally late before winning in overtime over visiting Cal Poly.

• Whitworth: The Pirates have lost five consecutive games, though Saturday's 51-17 defeat to second-ranked Linfield is easy to understand. Thomas Clouse has the story from the Pine Bowl.

• Chiefs: As Chris Derrick points out, all good things come to an end. That cliché was proved true last night in the Arena where Victoria hung a 4-1 defeat on the Chiefs. Chris has a game story and more in this blog post. ... Portland routed Tri-City 8-1 last night.

• Preps: Central Valley is making a late run at the postseason, which should come as no surprise. As Greg Lee points out, this is what the Bears seem to do every year.

• Golf: With the Inland Northwest Hall of Fame inductions slated for Tuesday, John Blanchette takes time to profile one of the area's treasures - and HOF inductee – Gary Lindeblad.

• Seahawks: With no game today, not a lot to pass along, though Bob Condotta did look back at the pregame keys to a win against Arizona and how the Hawks did in that regard. ... He also points out offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell's (pictured) name is starting to pop up in coaching rumors.

• Sounders: Talk about a free fall. The Sounders' fourth consecutive loss – a franchise record set in the 2-0 defeat at Dallas yesterday – leaves them in danger of not making the playoffs (though that would take an epic collapse). The awful stretch couldn't come at a worse time. ... If you want someone to blame, coach Sigi Schmid falls on his sword.

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• Gotta love college football games that don't finish until 11 p.m., as was the case with the Cougars last night. At least it gave me an opportunity to watch a boatload of games during the day. The most interesting result? Tennessee's win over No. 11 South Carolina. That just shows you how tough the SEC is, right? May I point out the Vols lost 59-14 at Oregon earlier this season in a game that was 59-7 after three quarters. It's simple. The SEC is wildly overrated this season. Alabama deserves to be No. 1. It is the defending champion and has done everything asked of it. After that, however, the conference is no better than the Pac-12. Until later ...




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Vince Grippi
Vince Grippi is a freelance local sports blogger for spokesman.com. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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