PULLMAN – Washington State redshirt freshman Connor Halliday suffered a lacerated liver during the Cougars’ 30-27 overtime loss to Utah on Saturday and will miss this week’s Apple Cup.
“He had and unbelievably courageous outing,” WSU coach Paul Wulff said Sunday night on his weekly conference call. “It looked like the initial injury probably happened early in the second quarter. He hung in there, took hits, and threw the ball under duress and pain.
“He brought us all the way back with a chance to win the game, so I’m very proud of his toughness and grit.”
Halliday, who was 21 of 48 for 290 yards passing and led the Cougars on a 74-yard, game-tying drive with less than a minute left, may have suffered the injury in the second quarter, when he was hit while delivering passes at least three times, one a roughing-the-passer penalty on Utah linebacker Chaz Walker.
When a WSU trainer expressed concern, Halliday waved him away, according to a source on the Cougar sideline. He did not complain of intense pain until after the game, when he was taken to Pullman Regional Hospital.
He stayed overnight in the intensive care unit and is expected to remain in the hospital for another 48 hours.
A liver laceration is not an uncommon injury and can occur due to blunt force trauma, according to numerous medical sources. But it is uncommon for a football player, especially when, as in Halliday’s case, there was no corresponding rib injury.
“That surprised everybody,” Wulff said. “He doesn’t have cracked ribs or anything like that. It was just right underneath that area and, like the internist said, it was just a perfect hit, a very rare hit that they see in car accidents and those type of things.”
The patient’s hemoglobin levels are monitored to ensure the bleeding has stopped and physical activity is usually not allowed for from six weeks to three months.
But Halliday wasn’t the only Cougar to suffer a season-ending injury against Utah. Senior receiver Isiah Barton, who came into the game second in receptions with 49 catches for 638 yards, suffered an anterior cruciate ligament tear in his right knee on a first-quarter sweep and will have surgery.
“He just planted,” Wulff said of the apparently mundane nature of the tackle, adding it was his understanding that “some 70 percent of all ACL injuries are non-contact ones.”
Wulff said defensive end Adam Coerper, who had seven tackles in the first half, suffered a strained medial collateral ligament in his left knee and is questionable for Saturday’s Apple Cup.
Senior left tackle David Gonzales rolled an ankle at the end of the game, though Wulff believes he will be available. He also believes there is a chance right tackle Dan Spitz, who sat out the Utah game with an ankle sprain, could be back.
Defensive tackle Toni Pole, who spent Saturday at his grandfather’s funeral in California, will be back this week as well.
Halliday made his first Pac-12 appearance against Arizona State on Nov. 12, entering the game on the third series and throwing for a WSU and Pac-12 freshman record 494 yards and four touchdowns.
Against Utah, in his first career start, he tossed three first-half interceptions, but came back to throw for more than 200 yards after intermission.
He also threw two touchdown passes and came within inches of another when his final completion to Marquess Wilson near the end of regulation was spotted inches short of the goal line.
It was that play that still seemed to bother Wulff on Sunday. Not the play itself, but the lack of a video review.
“Trying to be unbiased, I do believe he was across the line,” said Wulff, who mentioned he had reviewed video and a still photo taken by a WSU photographer, something that wouldn’t have been available to a replay official.
“In terms of reviewing it,” he said, “I wish they would have reviewed it. I don’t know a TV review would have changed the call. The fact that they put it a few inches from the goal line, I don’t know if the video would have conclusively showed (a touchdown).
With Halliday out and Jeff Tuel still unable to play while recovering from a fractured clavicle re-injured midway through the season, fifth-year senior Marshall Lobbestael will start against the Huskies on Saturday at CenturyLink Field in Seattle.
Redshirt sophomore David Gilbertson, who threw one pass in the season opener against Idaho State, moves into the backup role.
“We’ve had some unfortunate things go against our team with the injuries from the beginning of this year,” Wulff said. “Those things happen in key spots.”
In his 10 games – eight starts – Lobbestael has completed 59.9 percent of his passes for 2,240 yards and 16 touchdowns.
The Huskies were without starting quarterback Keith Price most of the way in their 38-21 loss to Oregon State on Saturday. Backup Nick Montana started the game and was 11 of 21 for 79 yards and two touchdowns passing.
Price, suffering from a left-knee strain, replaced him in the fourth quarter and completed 5 of 9 passes for 76 yards and a touchdown. He is expected to be ready to play Saturday.