Cougars quarterback Connor Halliday not a fan of game in Seattle
Washington State quarterback Connor Halliday said he would rather play No. 2 Oregon in Pullman this week instead of in Seattle.
Oregon vs. WSU @ CenturyLink Field, 7:30 p.m., ESPN
SPOKANE — Washington State quarterback Connor Halliday said Monday that he would rather play No. 2 Oregon in Pullman this weekend instead of in Seattle.
But this is Washington State's annual game in Seattle, intended to appeal to the sizable alumni base in Western Washington, and a big crowd is expected at CenturyLink Field.
"It's not a true home game. It's frustrating we don't get to play the game in Martin Stadium," Halliday said in a conference call from Pullman. "I wish all of our home games were here. I don't see why we have to go someplace else to play a home game."
Washington State began playing an annual "home" game in Seattle about a decade ago, often in front of crowds of 50,000. Martin Stadium has a capacity of 33,000.
The game used to involve only nonconference opponents, but last year they played Oregon State in Seattle, losing 44-21 before 49,219 fans.
This year's game with Oregon is expected to draw a huge crowd of Ducks fans, as well as WSU fans, which could push the crowd to more than 60,000, WSU officials have said.
"The state is full of Cougar fans, and more of them are over there than any other area," coach Mike Leach said. "Martin Stadium is my favorite, of course, but we are excited to play anywhere."
It doesn't get any easier
Washington State's most lamentable issues the past three weeks have involved attitude, complacency and an inability to blow opponents away when the opportunity is presented.
This week? The Cougars aren't likely to find themselves in a similar position.
That's because WSU faces No. 2 Oregon, the team with the fast break offense — and, apparently, a pretty stout defense — fresh off a 49-0 pasting of the No. 22-ranked Arizona Wildcats.
Fourth-quarter execution issues are bad enough when you're playing against teams you should beat. That was made as evident as ever in WSU's come-from-ahead 35-34 loss to Colorado on Saturday.
But against the Ducks and Heisman Trophy candidate De'Anthony Thomas? Things could turn sour a little earlier than the fourth quarter. Oregon (4-0) was installed as a 29-point favorite.
"We don't have a lot of control over what the Oregon Ducks do," Leach said Saturday. "We have a lot of control over what we do and how we approach things mentally, how we think about things. Right now, we're just a team that operates in spurts."
The good spurts usually come in the first half. WSU has outscored its last three opponents 73-41 before halftime. And those opponents have responded by outscoring the Cougars 41-20 in the second half.
Inefficiency has plagued both sides of the ball. Quarterback Connor Halliday completed 19 of his 30 passes in Saturday's first half for 224 yards. In the second half, he completed just 13 of 30 passes (43 percent) for 177 yards, a touchdown and an interception, notching just 5.9 yards per attempt.
"I don't think it's so much complacency," Halliday said. "I just think it's stupid plays. Dropping balls, stupid penalties, not running in the right hole, me not making the right checks. It's all mental."
Christian Caple of The Spokesman-Review contributed to this report