PULLMAN — If you thought the Stanford game was rough for Washington State quarterback Connor Halliday, go back and watch last year’s game against Oregon State.

The teams combined for eight turnovers, including three interceptions from Halliday, who was benched in the second quarter of the 19-6 loss.

As the Cougars prepare to host the Beavers in a Pac-12 game Saturday night, much will depend on the play of Halliday, who is coming off a career-best 521-yard passing performance with three touchdowns in a 44-22 victory at California.

Ball security will be paramount against an OSU team that is averaging 41.6 points.

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“Connor is the toughest quarterback I’ve ever dealt with in my life,” praised safety Deone Bucannon. “He’s gone through and overcome so much, and played at a high level every time, it’s kind of crazy. It’s kind of expected. When you say Connor, that’s what he is. He’s a tough, playmaking, hard-nosed guy and he’s going to get the job done.”

Bucannon added: “He’s a great quarterback. He’s the best quarterback that I’ve had on a team.”

There’s little doubt Halliday has improved immensely.

The senior’s struggles to take care of the football persisted in the first two games this season, when he was intercepted five times and threw just one TD. But coach Mike Leach kept faith in Halliday, who has rewarded his coach’s confidence with 12 touchdowns against five interceptions in his last four games.

While Leach has been guarded in his praise of the quarterback, he acknowledged that Halliday’s gaudy numbers on Saturday (521 passing yards, three touchdowns) were the result of his ideal stewardship of the Air Raid offense.

“I thought Connor did a good job of getting it to the running backs,” Leach said. “I like the fact that we didn’t run that much but they had quite a few touches. I did think it went pretty good as far as there was some balance to how many touches by position.”