Both QBs spoke with Cougfan.com in an exclusive interview as Mike Price and his No. 10 squad prepare to take on No. 6 Ohio State in Columbus. WSU is only a touchdown underdog in what many are calling one of the most anticipated regular season match-ups of the year.
"And to be completely honest, I really don't know what it is like for Jason and the team going into Ohio State, because I was never really in a college game of that magnitude," said Thompson, the "Throwin' Samoan" who from 1975-78 set numerous school records and the NCAA mark for most career passing yards. "But let me tell you one thing. I never get tired of saying good things about Jason. He is such a poised kid. I'm impressed. I will tell you right now that just watching the team play this year, the sky is the limit. Don't get me wrong, Ohio State is a huge contest. But the sky is the limit. This could be the most magical of all Coug football seasons, ever."
While Thompson and Rosenbach may have never led the Cougs east on a game of this magnitude, both have stood behind center against some big programs in some mighty imposing venues. And both flew back to Pullman with a "W." In 1977, Thompson threw two touchdown passes as the Cougars upset Nebraska, 19-10, in front of 76,000 slack-jawed Cornhuskers. On the strength of five passes to pay dirt, Rosenbach sent most of 92,000 Tennessee fans home early in 1988, taking the Volunteers behind the woodshed, 52-24.
Thompson now is the quarterbacks coach for Ballard High School. Rosenbach is offensive coordinator and QB coach for Eastern Washington University. And while the former QB slinger finds himself occasionally coaching against Pac-10 schools, he still has praise for the field general of his old alma mater.
"I think one of the big approaches you have to take is there is no such thing as big or little games. It would be easy to look at a schedule and say, 'that is a powerhouse Pac-10 school, or they play like a NAIA,' but really doesn't get you anywhere. It is all about execution, game after game, play after play, practice after practice. And you know that Coach Price has the experience and focus to expect that type of commitment from his players," said Rosenbach who finished the 1988 collegiate season with a QB rating of 162, throwing for 2,791 yards and 23 touchdowns. "I think going into Ohio State, the only one who really knows how Jason Gesser is dealing with the pressure is Jason Gesser, but his numbers speak for themselves."
And what of the Heisman trophy? Thompson began the Cougar tradition of top-10 finishes in Heisman voting, which Gesser is gunning to accentuate with a win later this year. Thompson finished ninth, Rosenbach seventh, Drew Bledsoe finished eighth with Ryan Leaf storming all the way to No. 3 in the voting. But should Gesser get caught up in all the Heisman-hype and talk of which NFL team looks to take him in the first round?
Absolutely not," Thompson said. "That should be the farthest thing from his mind, and from what Jason has shown, he has kept those things mentally far back in the cupboard. This is where the tremendous leadership of Coach Price and the coach staff comes in, not only with Jason but the entire team. This is what success really means. It isn't being caught up in potential greatness, it means stepping up and getting the job done under the highest levels of competition. That's why I'm so excited about watching this year's team. They have that magic, you know. It's impressive for me to watch. And as the grandfather of this generation of Cougar QB's, I'm proud not only to be a part of that fraternity, but part of the whole university, because we are all sharing in this excitement."
"The college years are special, and they should be savored," Rosenbach added. "Like a lot of things in life, you may not realize it during the moment, but these are special times."