Cougars’ miserable season gets even worse with Halliday’s injury
The worst part wasn’t the final score, a 44-17 loss to USC. Nor was it that the loss was the final blow to any hope of a bowl game.
It was the end of Connor Halliday’s college football career to a broken leg in the first quarter. Washington State’s quarterback was in agony, and you really felt for the kid when they brought out the cart to take him off the field. USC quarterback Cody Kessler, in a classy move, came out to offer condolences to Halliday and shake his hand.
Halliday will be remembered as a brash quarterback with prolific school-record-setting numbers. He finished his WSU career with 11,304 yards with 90 touchdowns and 50 interceptions. He got us to the New Mexico Bowl last year, but even that one ended poorly, as bad as you could possibly imagine.
As everyone else has written today, Halliday deserved better. His senior season should have concluded with another bowl-game appearance but didn’t, and now he’ll watch his backup, Luke Falk, play in the last three games while he stands on the sidelines with crutches.
Even if he hadn’t gotten hurt, the Cougars would have lost to USC anyway. They trailed 14-0 when Halliday left the game. If he were still healthy, Halliday would have played at least 99 percent of the time in the last three games against Oregon State, Arizona State and Washington.
Those games are meaningless now, and at least coach Mike Leach is forced to go with Falk. These three games will help Falk gain experience for next year.
He looked surprisingly good against USC, completing 38 of 57 passes for 370 yards and two touchdowns. His numbers would’ve been better were it not for several drops by Cougars receivers. Falk also showed some pocket savvy and more mobility than Halliday.
At this point, what can you say about the Cougars that hasn’t already been said? They gave up another punt return for a touchdown, this time by Nelson Agholor.
In what must be a college football record for futility on special teams, the Cougars have now allowed three touchdowns on kickoff returns and three on punt returns this season.
Leach’s firing of the special-teams coach after the Cal game has not made a difference. After Saturday’s game, he said the Cougars might think about punting out of bounds in the future, and he might have been joking or hopefully not.
The young secondary was blistered as expected by Agholor and Juju Smith as Kessler threw for an even 400 yards.
The Cougars are now 2-7 this year and 11-23 in three years under Leach, whose supporters are vocal in their belief that it will be different next year when his recruits are juniors and seniors.
I’m skeptical. We’ve lost our last three games by 17, 22 and 27 points, getting progressively worse by the week. We’ve given up an average of 51 points in the last three home games. I wonder if all of the players are rowing in the Pirate’s direction.
“Still want to go to Corvallis?” I asked Stevie, one of my 10-year-olds. We’d been planning to make the trip for the Beavers’ game this Saturday.
“No,” Stevie said. “I never did.”
Faith in the Cougs is wavering. You could see it in the empty sections at Martin Stadium, though the horrendous weather had something to do with it, too.
“I’ll never spend money again to bring my family to a Coug game,” Tweeted Michael Erga, ending it with #wasteofmoney.
As bad as we’ve been, I still think the Cougars have a shot against the Beavers, who are not very good themselves, and against the Dawgs because we always have a shot in the Apple Cup. In between, we’ll have the obligatory game at ASU when we get our doors blown off as usual.
I’ll be interested to watch Falk and see if the Cougars will play hard when there’s nothing at stake anymore.
The Go 2 Guy also writes for SeattlePI.com and KitsapSun.com. You can reach Jim at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @cougsgo.