Washington State University has had a handful of prolific quarterbacks in their past. Here is my list as the top five to do it in the Crimson and Grey.
Number Five – Drew Bledsoe. Bledsoe had a strong Junior season with Washington State. In 1992, he led the 15th ranked Cougars to a 9-3 overall record. Bledsoe won Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Year and finished eighth in the Heisman voting. He finished the season throwing the ball for 3,246 yards, with 20 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. During Bledsoe’s Junior season, the Cougars knocked off No. 5 UW in the Apple Cup and won the Copper Bowl by defeating No. 18 Utah 31-28. After forging his Senior season, Bledsoe was taken first overall in the 1993 NFL draft.
Number Four – Ryan Leaf. Leaf had a phenomenal Junior season with the Cougs. He led the Pac-10 co-champion Cougars to a 10-2 record. Leaf was first-team All-American, Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Year and finished third in the Heisman voting. Leaf threw for 3,968 yards, 34 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. A few notable wins for Ryan Leaf include victories against No. 23 USC and No. 20 UW, in the Apple Cup. He led the eighth-ranked Cougars to the 1998 Rose Bowl, (the first Rose Bowl since 1930) where they lost to first-ranked Michigan, 21-16. Leaf was drafted second overall in the 1998 NFL draft.
Number Three – Gardner Minshew II. Gardner brought his “Minshew Magic” to Pullman in 2018. Minshew spent his final year of college eligibility at WSU, after transferring from East Carolina University. He proceeded to lead the Cougars to theirbest overall record ever, at 11-2. Minshew was Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year, Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Trophy winner and finished fifth in the Heisman voting. In 2018, Minshew threw for 4,779 yards, 38 touchdowns, and only nine interceptions. He led the Cougars to a win over No. 12 Oregon, and helped fuel a victory in the Alamo Bowl, beating No. 24 Iowa state, by a score of 28-26. Gardner was drafted 178thoverall in 2019 and is the new staring quarterback for the Jacksonville Jaguars after having a terrific rookie season.
Number Two – Jason Gesser. Gesser had two spectacular seasons as Washington State’s starting quarterback. In 2001, he led the Cougs to a 10-2 season. In his Junior campaign, Gesser threw for 3,010 yards, 26 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. In the same season, he and the Cougars beat No. 23 Stanford, No. 9 UCLA and No. 13 Purdue in the Sun Bowl.
In his Senior year, Gesser propelled the Cougs to a 10-3 season, where they were Pac-10 co-champions with USC. Gesser was Pac-10 co-Offensive Player of the Year and finished seventh in the Heisman voting. As a Senior, Gesser threw for 3,408 yards, 28 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. In the 2002 season, WSU took down No. 18 USC, No. 16 ASU and No.15 Oregon. He led the Cougs to the Rose Bowl, where they were defeated by the No. 8 Oklahoma Sooners, and Gesser played the game with a nagging high-ankle sprain.
Finally, Number One – Luke Falk. Luke was my top pick as WSU’s best quarterback ever, based off his statistics and consistency as a starter through three of his four years in Pullman. He drove the Cougars to three straight bowl-eligible seasons, with an overall record of 28-15 (including his five played games as a Freshman).
In 2015, Falk and the Cougars finished 9-4. Falk, a Sophomore, was First-team all-Pac-12 and led the nation in pass completions to go along with 4,561 passing yards, 38 touchdowns, and only eight interceptions. That year, WSU defeated the University of Miami in the Sun Bowl.
In 2016, Luke and the Cougs finished 8-5 in his Junior season. Falk was given Second-team All-Pac-12 honors. He once again led the nation in pass completions and had a terrific season, with 4,468 yards, 38 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Washington State lost their season finale to Minnesota in the Holiday Bowl.
In Falk’s Senior season, Wazzu finished 9-4. He won the Burlsworth Trophy after throwing for 3,593 yards, 30 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. That same season, WSU knocked off No. 5 USC and No. 18 Stanford. The Cougs lost to Michigan State in the Holiday Bowl, where Tyler Hilinski played for an injured Falk.