PULLMAN — George Washington could have used some truth-telling lessons from Connor Halliday.
Washington State’s quarterback, in his final season as a Cougar, is honest to a fault, even when his coaches and the WSU communications staff might prefer that the senior fib a bit.
Sometimes his honesty is cutting, such as when he gives blunt assessments of his teammates’ abilities, or the lack thereof, which he did more often earlier in his career.
Sometimes it’s kind of funny, like when he said at the start of last season that Auburn would be one of the five best teams in the country if only it had a quarterback. The Tigers ended up playing for for a national championship.
And sometimes it’s simply sad, such as when he gives a refreshingly but brutally honest assessment of a disappointing season in which he’s been historically proficient. The Cougars are 2-6 and it seems at times that no amount of passing yards and touchdowns could have changed that.
“It’s very frustrating because I’ve been around here for five years and I’m kind of the hometown guy and everything,” said Halliday, who is a Ferris High School graduate. “I was really excited for this season to try to build something special here. And yes, we can go, we need to go 4-0 and win a bowl game here, but it is tough every week losing games like this.”
“But I’m the leader of the team so I don’t have time for sorrow or be sad or anything like that. It’s on to the next one.”
Hardly a game goes by anymore where Halliday doesn’t break some long-standing record or other.
After 37 career starts, he’s long enough in the tooth to challenge or knock out school, Pacific-12 Conference and national career records, and prolific enough to take down season or single-game records as well, and he does it all the time.
“He’s played extremely well,” WSU coach Mike Leach, said. “I think that especially when you consider we’ve played a steady bunch of Top 25 teams, and as productive as he’s been offensively as far as moving the ball, I think he’s done a really good job.”
But Halliday is rarely able to celebrate his achievements.
He became Washington State’s all-time passing leader during a 59-37 loss to Arizona, and set the NCAA single-game passing record by throwing for 734 yards in a loss to California, in which 59 points wasn’t enough to give him a well-deserved happy postgame.
From a statistical standpoint, Halliday’s senior season is going better than he ever imagined — he leads the nation in passing by nearly 1,000 yards — but the season itself has been filled with disappointing endings.
Last year, Halliday helped lead the team to its first bowl game in a decade and the expectation this year was that with all of Halliday’s favorite receivers back the Cougars could finally have a winning record and more.
He improved on the field, cutting down his interceptions, notching up his yards and touchdowns and becoming a much more efficient distributor.
“It’s night and day,” receivers coach Dennis Simmons said. “Obviously, the progression in Year 2 is always going to better than it was in the first year. But the guy’s at like 4,000 yards so you can tell that he put some work in this summer both in the film room and out on the field with the quarterback play and learning the offense and having a plan where to go with the football.”
And he’s improved off the field. The blowups at underperforming teammates are mostly gone and Halliday says that he realizes the influence he has with his teammates and wants to do right by them.
“Last year after the bowl game, I really sensed the weight that my words and my actions hold. And I think I’ve done a good job carrying myself in a positive way this year and I think it’s showed in leadership,” Halliday said, adding, “I think it needs to show in some more wins.”