What we learned from the Cougars’ loss to Oregon
By Jim Moore
As expected, the Cougs lost to the Ducks Saturday night. As expected, the Ducks were unstoppable.
As unexpected, Connor Halliday set NCAA records by completing 58 of 89 passes for 557 yards.
The Cougs are 4-4 after losing their third consecutive game and get 11 days off before hosting Arizona State on Halloween night.
Three things we learned:
1. They won’t quit.
WSU coach Mike Leach called for QB Connor Halliday to throw a FBS-record 89 pass attempts vs. Oregon, something that raised the ire of Ducks defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti. (AP)
I mention this for two reasons — it’s in contrast to the Huskies. Some of their fans thought they quit in their 53-24 loss to Arizona State.
And the Cougs really did play to the end. The starters were in the game, and Halliday threw a touchdown pass with 11 seconds left to make the score look more respectable.
Defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti took exception with that, calling Mike Leach “low class.”
“That’s total (B.S.) that he threw at the end of the game like he did,” Aliotti said. “It’s low class and it’s (B.S.) to throw the ball when the game is completely over against kids that are basically our scout team.
“They want stats, they got stats. But we got the most important stat, and that’s the ‘W,’ and we’re happy about that.”
2. Halliday’s the man no matter what.
With four interceptions Saturday night, Halliday now leads the country with 17 in eight games.
I thought at the rate he’s been throwing interceptions that maybe Austin Apodaca should get a look, but Leach sticks with Halliday for two reasons, as far as I can tell — he wants Halliday to get as many reps as he can to learn a better grasp of the offense, AND Apodaca must be light years behind him as the backup QB.
If Apodaca were anywhere in the neighborhood of Halliday, most coaches would’ve given him a look-see by now. But apparently he’s not. And this is not debatable — Leach isn’t most coaches.
3. The defense is OK at best.
After the Cougs shut down USC, Southern Utah and Idaho, I thought they might have one of the better defenses in the Pac-12.
But they’ve given up nearly 2,000 yards the last three weeks. Stanford, Oregon State and Oregon averaged 56 points against the Cougars.
It’s more about the caliber of the competition, and the Cougs haven’t been able to stop the upper-level teams in the Pac-12.
What we’re still trying to figure out:
1. The Cougs in general.
They’re good enough to win their last four games against Arizona State, Arizona, Utah and Washington.
They’re bad enough to lose all four and finish 4-8. They will be underdogs in three games and could be in all four, unless they’re slightly favored over Utah in their last home game Nov. 23.
I’m guessing that they’ll be 5-6 going into the Apple Cup, needing a win over the Huskies to make it to a bowl game.
2. Will the schedule help them out?
The Cougars have played eight weeks in a row and now will play only one game in the next month.
The Halloween game against ASU is their only game between now and Nov. 16 at Arizona.
They probably need a break, Halliday in particular. He’s nursing a sore hip, side and ankle.
3. Will Halliday be the starter next year?
As prolific as he was Saturday night, his interceptions always tarnish his good contributions.
If he keeps throwing picks, expect a three-way battle next year with Halliday, Apodaca and redshirt freshman Tyler Bruggman.
The Go 2 Guy also writes for his website jimmoorethego2guy.com and kitsapsun.com. You can reach Jim at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @cougsgo.