PULLMAN — When Washington State was at its worst during its deflating defeat against Rutgers last Thursday, senior quarterback Connor Halliday was at his best.
After a costly turnover in the fourth quarter, Halliday ran over to the offending receiver but did not express his frustration. Instead, he gave him a high-five and a smile.
“I was just telling him that we’re going to need another score and I’m going to be coming back to you so forget about that,” Halliday said. “We’re going to win this game and we’ll laugh about it later.”
Halliday went back to the receiver but the Cougars did not win and it’s doubtful the fourth quarter of WSU’s final Seattle game will bring back many mirthful memories. But people might remember that as a defining moment in Halliday’s growth as a quarterback.
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Halliday has had to absorb more hits over the years than most quarterbacks. In the past, Halliday’s frustration became more apparent as the sacks mounted. But after each of three grimace-inducing hits Thursday, Halliday was upbeat, and his postgame praise for his young offensive linemen was effusive.
The prolific quarterback has turned into a positive leader, and his teammates appreciate it.
“He was calm; he was more poised,” receiver Vince Mayle said. “We talk after every drive so he wasn’t as, like, if things didn’t go our way he was more positive and ‘Let’s get it going.’ That was good.”
That “coach-on-the-field” mentality became apparent this offseason during workouts, when Halliday was the team’s coach during the times Mike Leach and his staff weren’t allowed to be with the players.
“I think he really took off the middle of last season and did a lot of great things,” Leach said.
“I think most of his success and effectiveness as a leader happens off the field, that you don’t have the opportunity to see but he leads the effort, the focus, all that stuff,” the coach added.
• Daquawn Brown, who started at field cornerback last week, has replaced Tracy Clark at boundary cornerback. Charleston White will start in Brown’s former position. Additionally, Darius Lemora has been inserted as the starting strong safety. Lemora played extensively against Rutgers, and the defense as a whole appeared to play better with the redshirt freshman on the field.
• Linebacker Cyrus Coen was back at practice after missing last week with an injury. He looked like his old self at practice, forcing a fumble, tipping a pass and making a number of tackles while practicing with the starting unit.