CF.C AT 10: Key Cougs shaped our decade

FROM AUGUST 15, 1998 -- the day first hit the Web -- through today, our 10th anniversary, the Cougars have played more than 100 football games. We've watched, written about and talked about every one of them. We've covered close to every spring practice and August workout. We formed opinions, and welcomed a good debate about right calls and wrong ones, this player vs. that one.

So it is that we dusted off 10 years worth of memories to come up with the names of some of the people from 1998-2008 who helped make the Decade one for the ages.

The biggest honor bestowed here -- Player of the Decade -- was a unanimous choice by the CF.C staff. In fact, not one of our people even nominated a runner up. That's how important Jason Gesser was, and is, to the Cougar Nation.

Over the years we've opined on a lot of topics. Some of our ideas were spot on, others not so much. But the one that has remained fondest in our hearts was a prophetic piece, written in the dog days of the 1998 season by John Witter. The column was about a little-known freshman quarterback from Honolulu. The headline said it all ...

"Hope has a name: G-E-S-S-E-R."

Who would have guessed, when he made his first start more than a year later, in the final game of the 1999 season, that Gesser would become the winningest signal caller in school history.

So that's where we'll start our all-decade roll call of awards -- with the man who gave us hope in 1998 and 1999 and so many unforgettable memories in 2000, 2001 and 2002.

Player of the CF.C Decade: Jason Gesser
Winningest QB in school history who led team to 2003 Rose Bowl. Finished seventh in Heisman voting. Team captain an unprecedented three times, he made "voluntary" summer workouts mandatory, building on the work Ryan Leaf had done in that department. Played final season with bad ribs most of the way and then guided Cougs to title-clinching win over UCLA with one leg in a protective boot. Named Pac-10 Co-Offensive Player of the Year with Carson Palmer, and first-team All-American by College Football News.

Offensive Player of the Decade:
Jerome Harrison
Consensus All-American after racking up a whopping 1,900 yards in 2005, including 205 in his last game in crimson, the dramatic win over the Dawgs in Seattle.
Runner up: Jason Hill

Defensive Player of the Decade:
Erik Coleman
Three-year starter on three 10-win teams. Big-time playmaker, at both corner and safety. Earned first-team All-Pac-10 and honorable mention All-America honors in 2003.
Runner up: Marcus Trufant

Linemen of the Decade:
D.D. Acholonu (DEF), Derrick Roche(OFF)
An electrifying sack artist on defensive and a steady-as-rain All-American on offense. They helped make good teams downright unforgettable.
Runners up: Rien Long, Calvin Armstrong

Special Teamer of the Decade:
Kyle Basler
A big leg with such precise punting skills that he was MVP of '03 Holiday Bowl.
Runner up: Drew Dunning

Walk-on of the Decade:
Scott Lunde
Special teams mainstay in 2000 and 2001 before turning into a key offensive weapon in 2002 and 2003. The Pride of Hudson's Bay High caught 72 passes over his final two seasons for more than 1,000 yards.
Runner up: Mawuli Davis

True Grit Award:
Matt Kegel
He's probably still seeing a shrink over the 2002 Apple Cup, yet led Cougs to 10 wins and Holiday Bowl glory in 2003 despite having to battle series of injuries.
Runners up: Steve Birnbaum and Alex Brink, two devout Cougs who took unmerciful poundings from the faithful.

Most Spirited Player of the Decade:
Billy Newman
An uncanny nose for the ball, he left WSU as the sixth-most prolific tackler in school history. But it was the hard-hitting safety's enthusiasm, on and off the field, that made him something special.
Runners up: Dave Minnich , Mkristo Bruce

Most Versatile Player of the Decade:
Collin Henderson
Receiver, punt returner, holder and trick-play QB who completed 11 of 12 passes for 575 yards and 6 TDs.
Runners up: Jed Collins, Michael Bumpus

Best Interviewee of the Decade:
Eric Frampton
The personable safety from the Bay Area was always gracious, articulate, insightful, earnest and upbeat.
Runners up: Scott Davis, Mkristo Bruce

Team of the Decade:
The 10-3 Cougs of 2003
Sure, it's tough to pass on the Rose Bowl-bound club of 2002. But when you consider the backdrop for 2003, it's a no-brainer. They lost their coach and four -- yes, four -- first-team All-Americans from the prior season. They dropped a true heartbreaker at Notre Dame in Week 2 and were then dismissed heading to No. 17 Colorado, whom the Cougs wound up crushing. They went down to Oregon, which was fresh off a Sports Illustrated stunner at Michigan, and proceeded to smash the Ducks. And on it went. At season's end, the '03 Cougs capped things off with one of the great wins in school history, the upset of No. 5 Texas in the Holiday Bowl. Hats off to Bill Doba and the boys for a season that will never be forgotten.
Runner up: 2002 Pac-10 Champions

Game of the Decade:
WSU 30, USC 27 - 2002
Effectively for the Pac-10 title, it's Gesser vs. Palmer in sold out Martin Stadium. Not decided until overtime when Long and the defense jumps on Palmer and Drew Dunning splits the uprights.
Runner up: WSU 28, Texas 20 - 2003 Holiday Bowl

Play of the Decade:
Alex Brink to Brandon Gibson, 30 seconds left, 2007 Apple Cup.
Call us crazy, given all the memorable moments from 2001, 2002 and 2003, but dollars to doughnuts, 20 years from now, the crimson faithful will recall the game-winning TD pass at Husky Stadium like it was yesterday.
Runners up: 1) Sammy Moore catching a fourth-quarter bomb from Jason Gesser on his finger tips to set up crucial FG against USC in 2002; 2) Alex Brink to Trandon Harvey, 1 minute left, to score winning TD in 2005 Apple Cup.

Most Memorable Single Game Performance of the Decade:
Will Derting, WSU at Notre Dame, 2003
Alas, the Cougs lost in overtime but Derting, just a sophomore, dominated in a way rarely seen. The linebacker carded 12 tackles, three sacks and a forced fumble. Indeed, his head-on pasting of Irish quarterback Carlyle Holiday still resonates on the Palouse to this day.
Runners up: Jerome Harrison, '05 Apple Cup win; and D.D. Acholonu, '03 Apple Cup loss.

Best Name of the Decade:
Kyle Stiffarm
Runner up: Sam Lightbody

Nightmare of the Decade:
Backward Forward Pass, 2002 Apple Cup
Runner up: 2003 Apple Cup




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