"I thought it was good other than you can't let the other team touch the ball," he said. "Last year he was explosive, but really reckless. We still need to iron out some things where he makes too much of an individual effort."
Leach noted some signs of maturation with Halliday, including his 11-yard scramble on third down. While he did not know Halliday would do that, he said it was a good decision.
"He's a fairly assertive, courageous guy," Leach said.
WSU outgained the Tigers 464-396, and Leach praised the Cougars' effort.
"We played really hard and we had some opportunities we would like to polish up on," he said, noting that the coaching staff had to focus on that more than other elements of their jobs last season. "But we had really good effort. That's huge because everything starts with it."
Ultimately, Halliday's three interceptions and touchdowns surrendered by the Cougar defense and special teams, on a 75-yard run and kickoff return, prevented WSU from pulling off the upset.
"The disappointing thing was we couldn't snatch it away," Leach said. "You have to seize opportunity. There's a point where you have to take the game away from the other guys."
THE COUGARS WILL look to accomplish that at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at USC (TV: Fox Sports 1). This will be the first meeting between the teams since the Trojans' 50-16 win in 2010 at Martin Stadium. That does not mean WSU is completely unfamiliar with USC as Trojans' defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast held the same title last year at California.
Leach also has seen enough of standout Trojans' wideout Marqise Lee to know "we have to keep a close eye on him." He seemed less concerned about whether USC starts Cody Kessler or Max Wittek at quarterback.
"They both appear to be kind of similar," Leach said.
He also thinks opening at Jordan-Hare Stadium will help the Cougars adjust to playing in the 93,607-set Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
"I think we had a bigger challenge with that than we're going to have all year," said Leach, referring to Auburn's crowd noise.
While some coaches prefer playing their nonconference games in succession to start the season, Leach said he does not mind playing USC in the second week. He also dismissed the notion that playing the Trojans early places more pressure on his team.
"We're already giving full urgency to everything we're doing," Leach said.
Leach noted that this year's team is confident, which extends to freshman cornerback Daquawn Brown.
"One thing that helps him as a freshman is that he's fearless," he said, adding that Brown could start this week. "Daquawn Brown isn't afraid of anything. He's going to be a really good player."
Leach also liked what he saw from freshman River Cracraft, who caught three passes for 18 yards as the starter at the "Z" receiving position. Halliday seemed to target Cracraft more during the second half.
"I do think (Halliday's) confident in Cracraft," Leach said. "I think he'll settle down and get better and better. He didn't really have any of those first-game meltdowns."
"I don't think he's the odd man out," he said. "The biggest thing is consistency. I think he definitely does some good things and we're excited about him."
"I'm excited to be there," Leach said. "It's a great stadium. They've had Super Bowls and Olympics there. At least for Raiders games it was a pretty lively place. We're looking forward to it."