I guess it was a little predictible, but the first-ever WSU Football Blog poll question has selected Jason Gesser as the runaway winner for "Best WSU QB Ever". More than size or stats, Gesser just plain won. And who can ever forget his guts vs. UCLA in 2002? That performance still resonates today, and will always be with Coug fans everywhere.
Gesser finished with 61 out of 140 individual votes, or 43% of all votes cast. Bledsoe took 2nd with 39 votes, or 27%, followed by Leaf, who finished with 30 votes or 21%. Also interesting...but not really....was Brink finishing way back, with 10 votes, tied with the Throwin' Samoan.
I guess the voting shows one huge thing - wins, well, win votes. Statistically, Brink is the all-time leader in passing yards and TD's at WSU, and even won 3 Apple Cups, but he never tasted post-season play. That is the end-result of all this. But maybe it's not fair for Brink. Maybe some time needs to pass before it's even much of a debate. He did what he could with limited tools, and was absolutely great in his Apple Cup performances, so he'll always rate as one of the best. But clearly he'll never be looked upon as THE best, and no matter if it's 140 or 140,000 votes, he'll likely never break the Gesser-Bledsoe-Leaf ratings.
Predictably, this is a slow time right now for the football program. The holidays, the dead period in recruiting, and of course, no bowl game. But there is a little recruiting news. Cougfan has a story about Andrei Lintz, a 2-star TE prospect out of Bellingham. He holds an offer from WSU and has the Cougs as his leader. The usual NW schools are in the mix, but he hasn't been offered from UW, Oregon or OSU. He's a big, versatile kid at 6-4, 227, playing both ways and even punted in 2005.
The Sporting News has a story about the 1997 Rose Bowl breakthrough (it should be on the news feed to the right, but here's a link). What a team, and what a season. The Fab Five, the Fat Five, Leaf getting Heisman hype, Price the coach of the year, and even the defense was #1 in the Pac-10 in total D. That team was just so flippin' special, and really, pretty damn close to winning a national title. If they execute in the end vs. ASU, and they get another snap vs. Michigan, who the hell knows what could have been?
Like Nuss wrote about on his blog, he was covering the Cougars in 1997 for the Evergreen. He saw Mike Price weeping after that ASU loss. Not because they had simply lost the game, but because that was such a special team, and such a special season. That team was NOT a paper tiger. Remember, they had to go to USC, which was never easy, to Oregon, which is always tough, to ASU, which of course was the only regular season loss, and to UW, which was a top-10 team for a lot of 1997. They had OSU as their bye, and the Beav's were smack-dab in the middle of 27 straight losing seasons. They earned every inch of that season. Ah, memories.
Finally, hats off to Oregon State. Another 9-win, bowl-winning season. And thanks for representing the lousy Pac-10 showing thus far in the bowl season. To think that they won 9 games, and a bowl game, with a lousy QB situation (11 td's, 21 int's?) and the loss of the #1 returning WR in Stroughter?? Amazing coaching job by Riley by getting 9 wins out of a season that had 5-7 written all over it, especially when they were sitting at 2-3! They ran off 7 wins in their last 8 games. Nobody in the Pac-10 circles the wagons better than Mike Riley and the Beav's. Don't believe me? Last year, guess how they started their season? 2-3. How did they finish? 10-4, with a bowl victory. Amazing.
It really is impressive what they've been able to establish after so many years of misery. 27 straight losing seasons is hard to turn around! But think about where they are now - They've now won 5 of their 6 bowl games in this decade. They now have 58 victories since 2000, behind only USC and Oregon in the Pac-10. They've won 4 of their last 6 games vs. the hated Quacks. It's all about that 2000 season, with the Erickson excitement and Fiesta Bowl romp that got it all rolling. Now they have a fantastic, intimate 45,000+ seat facility that is first-class in every way.
As Kaddy and I have conversed, OSU did it, yes, with a sugar-daddy in the Reser sponsorship. But they've also done a genius thing, and that is reach out to the middle-level donor. The young alums that are establishing themselves in society are able to not only get season tickets, but the school makes them feel "special" I guess is the way to put it. OSU makes the middle guy feel important, if not downright VITAL, to the program's success, and they've managed to reel in those fish and not wasting energy in trying to land the White Whale. /criticism: Maybe our athletic department needs to worry less about landing Moby Dick (cough*Paul Allen*cough) and more about getting the middle guy with $500 in his pocket and would love to feel like he's important?? /end critcism. Just sayin'.
We'll have a new poll question up this week. The first one was an easy place to start, but if you have any suggestions, leave a comment. HAPPY NEW YEAR!