Saturday's Apple Cup doubles as Senior Night for Washington State, a chance to say goodbye to a quality group of seniors -- guys that stuck it out through a coaching change and plenty of losses. That begins with Connor Halliday, who we already said goodbye to in a way after he was injured. All of that still rings true, and you should read it.
Halliday has always been polarizing, even after his career was ended. There continues to be this weird debate about his merits as a quarterback, and whether Washington State would've been better off with someone else. Every Luke Falk touchdown against Oregon State was an indictment against Halliday; every poor decision against Arizona State turned into a debate about whether fans were being too soft on Falk or too hard on Halliday before.
There hasn't, however, been as much of an appreciation of Connor Halliday, the person and player, as there should be. So drop the debate for a moment and consider the following:
1014/1634 (62.1 percent), 11,308 yards, 90 touchdowns, 50 interceptions. He was sacked 75 times and hit countless others. The only full season he played came in 2013. Halliday was a damn warrior that put up ridiculous numbers.
It took until this week for us to realize, somehow, that Connor Halliday has only played in one Apple Cup. That came just last season, and was away from Pullman. Despite a long career that's included just about every record imaginable, Halliday has been unable to play in three Apple Cups -- a lacerated liver ended his season in 2011, a concussion the week before the Apple Cup kept him out in 2012, and this season was obviously over after he suffered a horrific leg injury earlier in the year.
It's a shame, really, that after everything he's been through, and how much he's put his body on the line, that Halliday has only been able to play in that one Apple Cup in Seattle. It is, however, his Senior Night, even if he's not playing. He may be on crutches and on a long road to recovery that hopefully ends with a shot at the NFL, but it's Halliday's night.
Give him the ovation he deserves. Appreciate what he's done for Washington State, because he's done a whole hell of a lot.
A few thoughts on other seniors I've come across during their time in Pullman. It's a small class, but many of these players have stuck through a ton of bad times to finish their career at Washington State.
Vince Mayle is a receiver who I wish the Cougars had more time with. They got two very good seasons out of him, and he's been an absolute beast this year. After coming in as a RS Jr. looking like a man among boys, Mayle slimmed down and adjusted to the offense right in time for his senior season. All he's done this year is put up north of 1,400 yards receiving and nine touchdowns while being the Cougars biggest threat on the outside. Despite a few cases of the drops, Mayle has been solid and consistent, and will be missed.
Cyrus Coen was a walk-on that had to earn his way at Washington State. A cousin of Jack Thompson, his path to Pullman wasn't the easiest -- he was undersized and injured his senior year of high school, but came to WSU at the recommendation of Thompson and played in 12 games as a freshman. He earned a scholarship after his sophomore year, and has been a key contributor along the way. He's a guy you should be proud of: hard-working yet undersized, athletic and cerebral. Coen has quietly been one of the best players on defense this year, both stopping the run and in coverage. He earned his way to Senior Night and to a starting spot in the linebacking corps.
Rickey Galvin's career started in perhaps the worst way a career could start. There was excitement around Galvin, who showed explosiveness in camp at running back. He took his first carry at Oklahoma State, went to put his hand down, and immediately fractured his forearm, ending his season. He promptly came back and was the team's leading rushing the next year before moving to receiver, playing three games as a sophomore … and injuring his arm again.
There is no questioning Rickey Galvin's heart or determination, and there never will be. He's not the biggest guy in the world, and remained undersized even as a slot receiver. But damn if he didn't play as if he was four inches taller and 40 pounds heavier. Galvin struggled with injuries, but like the rest of this senior class, he put his body on the line for teams that just weren't that good.
Isiah Myers is a quiet assassin. That's the only way I can think to describe him. He's been overshadowed by other receivers -- namely Marquess Wilson and Vince Mayle -- but has plugged along throughout his career while quietly putting up numbers. This season, his senior season, has been his best: a chance to break 1,000 yards isn't out of the question and his 12 touchdowns top a receiving corps that's been prolific. Myers has been damn good, even if he's been quiet along the way.
Toni Pole, on the other hand, may be the most passionate senior. You won't hear a ton from him, but he's been a hell of a player and even better person. He embodies the attitude of his position coach, Joe Salave'a, both on and off the field. This includes volunteer work around Pullman, and playing as a tenacious nose tackle in the middle of the defense. Pole is a force to be reckoned with and an anchor of the defense. Oh, and there was that interception in the 2012 Apple Cup that you may remember.
These are just a few of the seniors leaving on Saturday. All have had an impact in one way or another, whether on the field or in practice. Give it up for the seniors one more time.