ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — While the ending may not have gone as quarterback Connor Halliday wished, just about everything else went right for the junior on Saturday.
His six touchdown passes tied the school record set by Jason Gesser in 2012, and tied the all-time FBS record for bowl games.
The records didn’t stop there for Halliday. He finished the season with 34 touchdown passes, tied with former NFL No. 2 overall pick Ryan Leaf for most in school history. His 449 completions and 714 pass attempts this season are each conference records.
“Connor played great, can’t ask for anything more from him,” receiver River Cracraft said. “He’s a great quarterback.”
Halliday finished the game with 410 yards while completing 37 of 58 passes. He threw just one interception, and it came on his second pass. Each touchdown pass went to a different receiver.
“I don’t really think too much about that,” Halliday said. “The bottom line, in this offense you just got to go through your reads. Whoever is your first read, you got to look at him first. Whoever is the fifth read, you look at him last.”
The quarterback wasn’t the only Cougar to put up big numbers, however. Cracraft, a freshman, posted career highs of nine catches for 125 yards. Cracraft, who caught a touchdown pass, tied the bowl record for receptions.
“I kind of had a feeling River was going to be special when the freshmen got here in June,” Halliday said. “He came out right away in 7 on 7 and made a difference. That kid just really loves football, he works his butt off and he grew up quite a bit today.”
In their final starts as seniors, linebacker Justin Sagote made a career-high 15 tackles while Nolan Washington had his first career fumble forced and fumble recovered. Another senior, Deone Bucannon, had seven tackles, bringing his season-total to 114, the most by a WSU player since James Darling’s 136 in 1996.
His interception gave him 15 for his career, third-most in school history.
WSU head coach Mike Leach said after the game that those season-long performances by WSU’s leaders played an important role in the development of the entire team in the coaching regime’s second season.
“We got better and better all year long, I think Connor and Deone have a lot to do with that and a lot to say about that,” Leach said. “They’re both examples of keeping on pushing and believing when other guys didn’t. They converted a lot of guys with them.”
The 35 points WSU scored in the first half were the team’s most since they played UNLV in 2011. Prior to Saturday, the most points WSU had ever scored in a bowl game was 33 in the 2001 Sun Bowl.