Utah Utes football: Washington State QB has Utes' full attention

Published: Thursday, Nov. 17 2011 2:58 p.m. MST

Washington State quarterback Connor Halliday (12) completes this pass for a 17-yard touchdown to wide receiver Isiah Barton while protected by running back Rickey Galvin (5) and right tackle Dan Spitz (71) during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Arizona State, Saturday, Nov. 12, 2011, in Pullman, Wash. Halliday was 27-of-36 attempts, with four touchdowns and zero interceptions as Washington State won 37-27. (AP Photo/Dean Hare)

Dean Hare, Associated Press

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SALT LAKE CITY — The "Conference of Quarterbacks" added a new name to the mix last Saturday. Washington State redshirt freshman Connor Halliday burst onto the scene in a big way, coming off the bench to lead the Cougars to a 37-27 win over Arizona State.

Halliday wound up completing 27-of-36 passes for 494 yards and four touchdowns — the best showing by a freshman in conference history.

"If you're going to be playing football at the Pac-12 level, you've got to have confidence in yourself and believe if you get thrown out there that you are going to make things happen," Halliday told reporters. "If you don't have that confidence, I don't think you're going to be successful."

Halliday, whose previous college experience was limited to reserve duty against Idaho State and UNLV earlier in the season, came out throwing. His first pass went for 85 yards and a touchdown.

Things progressed from there as Washington State went on to upset the Sun Devils.

Utah's aim Saturday, obviously, is to make Halliday much less comfortable. The Utes plan to apply pressure and lots of it. That's how they roll.

"It's always an exciting opportunity — maybe rattle him and give him different looks and stuff," said safety Brian Blechen. "So we'll definitely get after him this week."

Halliday's first career start will come against a Utah squad that ranks second in the Pac-12 in pass efficiency defense and among the conference leaders in almost every other defensive category.

As such, Washington State coach Paul Wulff noted it'll take a team effort for Halliday to be successful once again.

"The other 10 guys on that football field have got to do their part and so it's on everyone's shoulders to execute whenever they're out there," he said in his weekly press conference.

Utah coach Kyle Whittingham acknowledged the game plan and approach for the Utes this week is very similar to the Arizona game and passing quarterback Nick Foles.

The difference, though, is a lack of information on Halliday. Prior to last week, he was 11-of-19 for 177 yards and three touchdowns on the season — appearing in the first two games and never leaving the bench over the next seven.

"You would like more of a body of work to study, but we have an entire game against Arizona State and there's a few snaps here and there in the previous games," Whittingham said. "Sure you'd like more film of the guy but we've got what we've got and we'll study the heck out of that."

The stakes are high.

"(Halliday) got in a rhythm against Arizona State and it was ugly," Whittingham said.

Time will tell, however, as to whether Halliday belongs in the discussion with Pac-12 standout quarterbacks like Andrew Luck, Matt Barkley and Foles.

"I don't now if you can do that after one game, but certainly he's off to a good start and if he continues to play like he did on Saturday I don't think there's any doubt about that," Whittingham said. "But I don't think there's a big enough body of work yet to make any comparisons or draw any conclusions."

Whittingham is confident, though, that Washington State is a sound, blue-collar team that is mentally tough. The Cougars (4-6) can become bowl eligible with season-ending wins over Utah and Washington.

"We know we're going to get their best shot and hopefully they get our best shot," Whittingham said.

EXTRA POINTS: Junior quarterback Jeff Tuel, who passed for 2,780 yards and 18 touchdowns for WSU last season, has played in just three games this year because of injuries. … Senior QB Marshall Lobbestael had thrown for 2,240 yards and 16 scores before giving way to Halliday. … Sophomore wide receiver Marquess Wilson tops the Cougars with 67 catches for 1,197 yards and nine touchdowns. … This is WSU's final home game of the season. … The all-time series between the Utes and Cougars is knotted at 5-5.

On the air

Utah (6-4, 3-4) at

Washington State (4-6, 2-5)

Saturday, 3 p.m.

TV: KJZZ Radio: 700 AM

Email: dirk@desnews.com

Twitter: @DirkFacer

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