Moos, Brink & Gesser talk Apple Cup, Gleason

EVERY APPLE CUP is special in its own way. But Saturday’s contest promises to be special regardless of the final score or the quality of play. Steve Gleason, the former WSU football and baseball standout who has fought such a brave battle against the incurable “Lou Gehrig’s Disease” ravaging his body, will be inducted into the WSU Athletics Hall of Fame at the Apple Cup (7:30 p.m., FOX Sports 1).

The game was sold out earlier, though a few more tickets became available Monday after they were returned by Washington fans.

Former Washington State football stars Jason Gesser, Alex Brink and Bill Moos shared their memories of playing in the Apple Cup during Moos’ weekly radio show Monday in Spokane. Moos, now the Cougars’ athletic director, made it clear that one of his favorite Apple Cup memories will be presenting Gleason with his Hall of Fame plaque during a brief on-field ceremony scheduled between the first and second quarters.

“I expect the crowd to go crazy,” Moos said.

“I’m getting chills just thinking about it,” Gesser said.

Gesser, who played with Gleason in 1999, said Gleason “inducted me into the Apple Cup by showing me what it was like.

“I remember him telling me, ‘I’m going to go down and I’m going to knock two guys out on this kickoff coverage. I’m going to knock the guy carrying the ball out, and I’m going to knock myself out. Then I’m going to get up and do it again next time.’”

Gesser said Gleason showed little regard for his body if he thought it would benefit the Cougars. Gleason also showed little regard for Gesser’s body when the Cougars were practicing for the 1998 Apple Cup.

“I’m a kid from Hawaii,” Gesser explained. “No clue about what the Apple Cup means or what it is. Nothin’. My redshirt year, I’m the scout-team quarterback, so I’m going up against the first-team defense all the time. They take care of ya. They’ll bang ya around a little bit, but they don’t really hit you and drive you to the ground or anything. They’ll take care of you during practice.

“Well, the Apple Cup week started off; it’s the first practice; we’re going into ‘team’ (drills). The first play in team, I’ll never forget it. I dropped back, and he’s (Gleason is) coming on the blitz, and he doesn’t get picked up. Usually he’ll come by, he’ll tap you in the stomach or kinda give you a shove if you throw the ball or something like that.”

Um, not during Apple Cup week, Jason.

“He’s barreling down,” Gesser recalled, “and I’m like, ‘Whoa! OK.’ So I end up throwing the ball, and he lights me up. Helmet right under my chin, grabs my waist and just drives me straight to the ground. On the (old artificial) turf back in the day, where it was basically cement. So the hit from him and another hit from the ground.

“I was just stunned. That was a huge hit. As he got up, he looked over at me. He goes, ‘Hey, welcome to Apple Cup week, Rook.’ And I said, ‘OK.’ He picked my hand up and basically pulled me up and stood me up, and at that point, I knew it was something different. I knew it was a different mentality.”

BRINK AND MOOS never played in a bowl game, but Gesser finished his college career in the 2003 Rose Bowl, losing to Oklahoma. The Cougars aren’t going to a bowl game this year, but Gesser said that should make the Apple Cup that much more important to the seniors.

“This could be the last football game they play,” Gesser noted. “To understand that; to play with those guys next to them in that stadium for the last time; to understand the meaning of it.”

Gesser, like Brink and Moos, cautioned players not to let emotions get the best of them.

“Take it for what it’s worth and enjoy it,” Gesser advised. “Don’t let it ‘overbear’ you.”

“You kick it up a notch,” Moos said, “but you still have to execute. You can’t get yourself so hyped up you can’t perform your duties.”

Brink joined the radio show from Montreal, Quebec. A backup on the Montreal Alouettes, Brink’s season ended Sunday when his team was eliminated in the Canadian Football League semifinals.

“The (Apple Cup) hype; the media attention leading up to it; you really do get kind of get caught up in it,” Brink said. I’ll never forget T-shirts are being made. It’s like, ‘Do you want to wear the T-shirt that’s making fun of the Dawgs?’ You’ve got all these different things that are going through your mind. Sometimes you forget about the game itself.

“Maintaining the right mentality and staying even-keeled through it all, that’s something that I know Coach (Mike) Leach and his staff will have first and foremost. The senior leaders, they’ve been through it, so they can help a lot of those young guys.”

BRINK SAID HE CHERISHES the memory of his late touchdown pass to Brandon Gibson to win the 2007 Apple Cup in Seattle in Brink’s final college game. Brink, the only WSU quarterback to win three Apple Cups, said he always understood the importance of winning the Apple Cup for the seniors.

“As a younger guy,” he said, “I felt that pressure, that responsibility to send the older guys out right. Especially, when I was playing, not having the opportunity to go to a bowl game. It was like, these guys (seniors) -- blood, sweat and tears for four or five years for Cougar football -- and all you want to do is send them out with a win.

“I’ll never forget ’06, my junior year. We lost at home. It was a wild game. The feeling after the game – first of all, it would have sent us to a bowl game. Then on top of that, to send the seniors out with a loss in the Apple Cup was just so heartbreaking.”

The Apple Cup is particularly meaningful to Moos, since he was the son of two WSU alums and grew up a diehard Cougars fan in Edwall and Olympia). The Cougars are just 3-8 this season, but Moos expects a supreme effort out of the team at the Apple Cup.

“I’ve seen seniors cut casts off their legs and off their arms themselves to go out there,” Moos said, “because there’s no tomorrow.”


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