SPOKANE — Early in Washington State’s spring football game Saturday, it seemed that coach Mike Leach’s self-assigned task of creating two equal teams would prove impossible. After all, starting quarterback Connor Halliday couldn’t play for both sides.
But Halliday’s Crimson team had to hold on for a 23-19 victory in front of an announced crowd of 6,233 at Joe Albi Stadium after his backups overcame some early jitters to rally the Gray squad.
It helped that Halliday and the Crimson offense sat the final period, which had a running clock, after playing during the first two 15-minute quarters.
“It was competitive,” Leach said. “At times we were not as congruent as I would like because we have guys playing next to people they don’t play next to. We tried to split the teams as equal as we could in our preferred way. We know it’s not going to be perfect.”
Halliday looked every bit the starter, completing 25 of 41 passes for 326 yards and three touchdowns. He led the Crimson team to a field goal on his first
drive, which was set up by a 42-yard pass to River Cracraft.
He hit Drew Loftus for a 2-yard touchdown pass on his second drive to give the Crimson squad a 10-0 lead.
Halliday and Loftus connected again for the winning 22-yard touchdown. But the fifth-year senior quarterback wasn’t immune from turnovers, twice getting intercepted by cornerback Daquawn Brown.
“I thought I played all right,” Halliday said. “It was a little frustrating. The (second interception) I just threw without seeing (Cracraft). I threw to the spot he’s always at on the post outside. I thought he was going to go inside. But other than that, we played well. We got better today, and that’s what I like the most.”
The secondary and offensive lines are the only position groups without any seniors. Those units entered the spring as the Cougars’ biggest question marks, but there was little that caused concern Saturday.
The offensive lines allowed a combined seven sacks, but they came over the course of 107 drop-backs by the three quarterbacks.
“I thought (the secondary) did pretty good, but I thought our offensive line did pretty good, too,” Leach said. “We had those guys split up, and that’s the position that puts the most pressure on, and I really thought they played pretty well.”
Backup quarterback Tyler Bruggman played the first quarter for the Gray team and threw interceptions on all three of his first-half drives. Tracy Clark snagged a poorly placed throw over the middle to end the first drive one play after fellow cornerback Marcellus Pippins dropped an apparent interception.
Linebacker Jeremiah Allison also corralled a Bruggman pass over the middle, needing one hand to reel it in. On the third drive, it was safety Beau Glover (Gig Harbor High School) who dug out a bobbled pass.
Bruggman completed 12 of 28 passes for 154 yards. Luke Falk took over as the Gray team’s quarterback in the second quarter, and he and Bruggman saw work in the second half while Halliday sat.
Falk completed 20 of 31 passes for 213 yards and found Rickey Galvin for a score from a yard out.
“Your first spring game is always tough. You want to make many things happen, and you want to come out here and play well,” Halliday said. “Those guys have had a heck of a spring ball for their first spring under their belt, and I thought they played well today.”