Mike Leach has a reputation for creating prolific offenses with huge stats for strong-armed quarterbacks. Since taking over the Washington State Cougars, he has been building things up gradually on the offensive side of the ball and showed flashes of the prolific scoring that we have come to expect from his Air Raid system. In 2014, the Cougs are looking to take the next step behind a monster season for quarterback Connor Halliday.
As Halliday has gotten acclimated to the Cougars’ pass-happy offense over the last two seasons, he has made major strides in his game. Last season, he finished as the second-most prolific passer in the Pac-12 (behind only record-setting Sean Mannion) averaging 353.6 yards per game. He completed 62.9 percent of his passes as he racked up 4,597 yards and 34 touchdowns but suffered a conference-high 22 interceptions.
As the season went on, Halliday appeared to get more and more comfortable leading the offense. After a rough outing against the Oregon Ducks where he threw four interceptions in a 62-38 loss, Halliday tightened things up down the stretch. Over the final five games, including the bowl game, Halliday threw for 16 touchdowns against just five interceptions while throwing for 300 yards or more four times.
He saved arguably his most impressive performance for last as Halliday was explosive in the Gildan New Mexico Bowl against the Colorado State Rams. While WSU ultimately came out on the losing end of things in a wild 48-45 finish, Halliday did everything he could, throwing for 410 yards and six touchdowns in the game while completing 63.8 percent of his passes.
That momentum will serve him well as he takes the reins for his senior season in 2014. The key of Halliday will be to tighten up his game even further and significantly cut down on the number of turnovers he commits. If he can do that, WSU has a deep stable of receivers and an ever-improving defense that could provide enough support for Halliday and the Cougars to have a huge season in 2014.