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Top 5 WSU QBs

Five Greatest WSU Quarterbacks of All Time


Getty Images/WSU photo

By Jace McKinney, SportsPac12

It is no secret that Washington State has had plenty of success at the quarterback position over the years, from Heisman candidates to NFL Super Bowl-winning passers. Each quarterback wrote their own story at WSU, and was loved by the Cougar faithful in different ways, regardless of whether he spent four years on campus, or just one season. 

In determining the five greatest quarterbacks in school history, there are many attributes to consider. For the purpose of this ranking, I looked primarily at career wins, bowl appearances, and ESPN's Total Quarterback Rating (QBR), as well as each player's overall impact on the program. 


I also took into account the system and coaches under which the quarterback played. It is hard to guess, for example, what kind of numbers a quarterback such as Jack Thompson or Jason Gesser might have put up in Mike Leach's Air Raid system. 


Consequently, key stats such as total passing yards and touchdowns were not the sole deciding factors. Also, I did not consider where each player was drafted, or how they performed in the NFL, as I am only concerned here with how they performed at WSU.



Jack Thompson under center for WSU in 1976 | WSU photo


5. Jack Thompson (1975-78)

There is no question that Jack Thompson is one of the greatest Cougars of all time. As one of only two WSU players at any position to have his number (14) retired, the “Throwin’ Samoan” set the standard for quarterbacks on the Palouse. 

While at Wazzu, Thompson accounted for 7,818 yards and 53 touchdown passes, good for a QBR of 122.9. At the time, his final numbers included Pac-10 records for completions, attempts, and touchdown passes. 

Thompson finished his college career with 15 career wins, despite playing for four different coaches (Jim Sweeney, Jackie Sherrill, Warren Powers, and Jim Walden). His impressive statistics and gritty play also earned him a Top 10 finish in the Heisman voting. 


Luke Falk looks to pass against Arizona in 2017 | Getty Images


4. Luke Falk (2014-17)


Luke Falk’s stats are off the charts, and there is no debating that he helped transform WSU into the up-and-coming program it is today. The former walk-on could not have found a better coach to play for than Mike Leach. 

While in Pullman, Falk made 40 starts, recording 27 wins, including seven fourth-quarter comebacks. In his sophomore season, he threw for 4,561 yards and 38 touchdowns. 

Altogether, Falk passed for 14,481 yards and 119 touchdowns, compiling a 142.8 QBR. He still holds the Pac-12 record for career yards and touchdown passes, and is the all-time leader in program wins. 


Drew Bledsoe passes under pressure vs. USC in the early 1990s | Getty Images


3. Drew Bledsoe (1990-92)


Drew Bledsoe, a homegrown talent from the state of Washington, put up remarkable numbers, especially for not playing in Leach's Air Raid system. 

Under coach Mike Price, he threw for 7,373 yards and 46 touchdowns for a 126.2 QBR. By the end of his college career, Bledsoe held WSU's single-game passing record at 476, as well as the single-season record for passing yards with 3,946. Had he not left school a year early, his numbers would have been even better. 

In 1992, he led the Cougars to a 9-3 record, and a No. 10 ranking in the Coaches Poll, capping off his sensational season with a victory in the Copper Bowl. His performance that season earned him the Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Year award. 


Jason Gesser winds up for one of his school-record throws | WSU photo


2. Jason Gesser (1999-2002)


Jason Gesser had a stellar career at Washington State, one a quarterback at any college would envy. He threw for 8,830 yards and 70 touchdowns, compiling a 134.7 QBR, while wining 22 games under Coach Price. 

Gesser led the Cougars to back-to-back 10-win seasons, including a trip to the 2002 Rose Bowl. His accolades that year included Pac-10 Co-Offensive Player of the Year, and a Top 7 finish in the Heisman voting. 

When his playing days at Wazzu were over, Gesser owned school records for total wins, career starts, total yards, pass attempts, completions, and touchdown passes, including at least one touchdown pass in 25 straight games


Ryan Leaf scrambles vs. Michigan in the 1998 Rose Bowl | Getty Images


1. Ryan Leaf (1995-97)


Ryan Leaf took the program to new heights during his tenure at WSU, leading the Cougs to their winningest season since the 1920’s. He also secured Washington State's first outright Pac-10 title, engineering Wazzu's first trip back to the Rose Bowl since 1931. 

Leaf threw for 7,433 yards and 59 touchdowns in his career under Price, good for a 141.4 QBR. He set a single-season school record with 33 touchdown passes, bringing home the 1997 Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Year award. 

He also finished in the Top 3 of the Heisman voting, and was named to the Sporting News All-America team.

—Honorable Mention—

Gardner Minshew throws a pass in the 20198Alamo Bowl | Getty Images


Gardner Minshew (2018)

Though Gardner Minshew played in Pullman for just one season, he made an impact that will last for years. His 70.7% completion percentage, 4,779 passing yards, and 38 touchdown passes netted him a remarkable 147.6 QBR. 

Minshew guided the Cougs through a wild and exhilarating 11-win season that included a victory over Oregon during ESPN College GameDay's first-ever trip to the Palouse. He crowned the season with a gratifying Alamo Bowl victory over Iowa State. 

In short, Minshew led the program to new heights, ushering the Cougars back onto the national stage in dramatic fashion, with a Top 10 final AP ranking.  



Jace McKinney covers Washington State football and basketball for SportsPac12.com.


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