Why Jack Thompson is the best WSU QB ever

I HAVE ONE burning question as the Cougars head into the regular season: How come the nickname that my editors here at Cougfan.com slapped on Jason Gesser back in 1998 --- the Hurlin' Hawaiian -- has never caught on?

It's a natural. And given the school's history with QB monikers that trace to the Pacific islands, it's tradition as well!

Okay, so it's not really the most burning issue around, but you have to admit it's a damn good question.

And speaking of Jack Thompson, the beloved Throwin' Samoan of the 1970s, I received some e-mails from friends who caught my five minutes of fame on Fox
Sports Northwest last week. They wanted to know why I said Jack was the greatest Cougar QB of all time.

As much as admire the work of Ed Goddard, Mark Rypien, Timm Rosenbach, Drew Bledsoe, Ryan Leaf and Jason Gesser, I think Jack is in a class by himself.

He finished his Cougar career as the most prolific passer in NCAA history --- and mind you, this was back in the days before the one-back. Jack played in standard two-back sets. There were no trips right or empty backfields.

But more than all that, Jack kept the WSU program afloat, rekindling enthusiasm in Cougar football during one of its darkest moments. Before him, Wazzu had produced one winning season since 1965. With Jack, as an old friend once said, the Cougar faithful were reborn because they knew that David could once again beat Goliath.

Facing the specter of his fourth head coach in as many years, he considered leaving WSU after the 1977 season. Because he had completed four years of school, he would have been eligible for the NFL draft. But he stayed in Pullman. The decision lent badly needed stability to the program and once again stoked the furnace of fan interest. I say Jack Thompson ranks not only as the greatest quarterback of recent times, but perhaps the greatest single influence in the history of the sport at WSU.

So there you have it.

PRESUMING YOUNG Mr. Gesser has learned how to slide and run out of bounds, he should break Jack's career records for total offense and passing, plus Leaf''s career record for TD passes.

Which is all fine and well.

But for my money, I want to see the Cougars pounding out yardage on the ground. Last season the cats had more than twice as many aerial yards (3,310) as ground hashes (1,515). In the ideal world, that split would be closer to 50/50.

With all the returning hosses up front, plus a ton of talent at running back with Jermaine Green, John Tippins, Jonathan Smith, Allen Thompson and LaVell Anderson, there's no reason the Cougs can't mix things up to a greater and more effective degree.

Their ability to do just that will determine whether the loftier expectations being foisted on this team are realized.

Gesser and the passing game will sparkle that much more if defenses have to play honest on every down. It'll also do wonders for Gesser's health because it'll cut down on the number of blitzes he'll have to deal with.

As the Spokesman-Review's esteemed Carter Strickland pointed out the other day, four of the last five Pac-10 champions -- including the 1997 Cougars -- inished first
or second in the conference in rushing.

Moreover, he noted, Mike Price's three best years in Pullman --- 1992, 1997 and 2001 -- featured running games that, on average, racked up 130 yards or more per game.

That's no coincidence.

I say forget about Quarterback U. This is the season WSU becomes the new Ta
ilback U.

Except, that is, when it comes to first-and-goal situations against  the Huskies
I'll gladly welcome a bootleg pass or two this time around.

And then we can start talking Pasadena. And then, just maybe, I'll pick the Hurlin' Hawaiian as the greatest QB ever to don the crimson and gray.

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