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Halliday sets high marks for future QBs

Connor Halliday left a high mark for future WSU quarterbacks. (Associated Press)
Connor Halliday left a high mark for future WSU quarterbacks. (Associated Press)
PULLMAN – There was an extra coach on the sideline during Ferris’ football game against Gonzaga Prep on Oct. 31. Saxons alum Connor Halliday made the 80-mile drive from Martin Stadium to Joe Albi after Washington State’s Thursday practice. “He was awesome on our sideline,” Saxons coach Jim Sharkey said. “He actually helped me out quite a bit when we were talking routes and doing some different things. He got involved in the game so that was cool to see.” Sharkey was struck by how much Halliday has matured during his five years of college. The previous summer they had talked about the quarterback’s desire to improve his body language in games and to be a more positive leader, and the results were obvious even during his old school’s four-overtime loss. Two days later, Halliday’s leg was trapped during a sack by USC’s Leonard Williams, causing the fibula and tibia bones near his ankle to break and ending his college career. “It broke my heart to have it go down that way,” Sharkey said. The injury came just three games before he could put the cap on a noteworthy career the right way, depriving him of a chance to see just how far he could take a remarkable season. The pantheon of great quarterbacks at WSU is large but exclusive and it’s a set that Halliday has long dreamed of joining. He never won as many games as Jason Gesser and probably won’t be drafted early in the first round like Drew Bledsoe, Jack Thompson and Ryan Leaf, but he has undeniably carved out a legacy. Halliday made 28 starts at WSU and has the all-time school records for passing yards (11,304) and touchdowns (90). Against California this season he threw for 734 yards, more than any quarterback had done in a single game in NCAA history. Halliday only played the first quarter of the USC game and three Saturdays have since passed, but his 3,873 passing yards remain the most among all FBS quarterbacks this season. But his legacy also includes a 9-17 won-loss mark as a starter. “I’m frustrated that I’m kind of the guy that, I’ve got all the records but I haven’t got any wins,” Halliday said. “Frustrated that that tag will always be along with Connor Halliday, but I feel like I’m at least in the conversation with guys like (the great WSU quarterbacks). I just wish we could have won a couple more games.” While Halliday may not be remembered for the wins, he has undoubtedly left a lasting impression at WSU. In 2013 he broke the school’s decade-long bowl drought and his passing numbers kept the Cougars in the national conversation. And if the Cougars are able to return to prominence in the near future, Halliday will likely be remembered as one of the guys who got the ball rolling. “I think a lot of these guys are young guys and they kind of drew their sense of working hard and pushing themselves, and it was just a starting point, but I think they drew a certain amount of that from Connor,” coach Mike Leach said. “And I think Connor kind of illustrated some of the things that you can do individually and together if you push hard and you work hard.” At worst, Halliday will be the first in a new lineage of productive passers at WSU, ones noted for outperforming their college counterparts by hundreds of yards. With Halliday down, freshman Luke Falk has stepped in and continued his torrid pace, throwing for five touchdowns in his first start and 601 yards in his second. Falk credits the senior – who will begin rehabbing at Ferris soon but will be in Pullman, too, be honored as part of Senior Night before the Apple Cup – for getting him ready to succeed early. And while Halliday may not have the wins he wanted, if Falk leads the Cougars to greater things in the years to come, then credit must be given to the guy who set the table for him. “I’d like to think that all of my work and everything that I’ve put into it was a stepping stone for success in the program and that everything I’ve done in a leadership role has helped show Luke how to do it the right way,” Halliday said. “Hopefully, his career takes off and he breaks all my records and they start going to bowl games and everything that I wish I could have done.”
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