Washington State isn’t what one would call a balanced offense, but what happened on Saturday night at Autzen Stadium was, well, different.
Mike Leach‘s team ran the ball 12 times for two yards on the night but picked up 557 more through the air. Washington State quarterback Connor Halliday threw the ball an NCAA record 89 times and tied an NCAA record with 58 completions.
Impressive though Halliday’s 55-of-89, 557 yard performance may be, it comes in a loss–and it’s hard to say what a record for passing attempts even means.
“I’m kinda stunned by the fact that he would keep his starting quarterback and crew in there,” Oregon defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti said, “and still be throwing the ball with twenty seconds left, but he did. They wanted stats, they got stats, but we got the most important stat.”
The Ducks countered Washington States throw-the-ball-on-every-down approach by tempting Halliday into making poor throws, and Oregon’s defensive backs were all only too happy to play centerfield.
The difference in the game, once again, turned out to be the Ducks second half adjustments as Oregon turned a 10 point halftime lead into a 24 point victory that wasn’t as close as the scoreboard indicated.
“I was very pleased with the way we came out in the third quarter,” Aliotti said. “I thought in the third quarter we really took over the game and then in the fourth quarter he’s still throwing probably when most guys would try to end the game and go home.”
Oregon intercepted Halliday four times in the game, one in the second quarter, and three in the second half, returning one for a touchdown.
“We saw on film that (Halliday) takes chances and throws the ball up,” free safety Avery Patterson said. “That’s something we kind of keyed on, and we were able to capitalize.”
Perhaps most amazingly, the Ducks secondary defended 89 pass attempts without committing a single pass interference penalty. In fact, no flags were thrown for pass interference against either team despite over 120 pass attempts between the two teams.
“There were zero,” Alioti said. “In 121 passes. That’s almost impossible. Think about it.Think about that.”
Asked if that statistic had anything to do with his complaints about officiating in the past, Aliotti could only laugh.
“I can’t take full credit,” he said, “but I’ve never seen a game where you throw 121 passes and there’s not one pass interference call, so we’ll work on something else next week.”