Bob Robertson has four decades of highlights

ASK BOB ROBERTSON to name the greatest Washington State football player he's ever seen, and Robertson will hem and haw longer than a child trying to explain why his hand got caught in the cookie jar. Ask Robertson to pick his most memorable Cougar football game, however, and there is no hesitation whatsoever.

"The most memorable game in my time was the Rose Bowl game in 1998, because it was the first Rose Bowl that Washington State had played in in 67 years," said Robertson, who will be back in the broadcast booth this Saturday to launch his 43rd season as the voice of the Cougars.

"It was the first one for the Cougars in the modern era of football. Mighty Michigan was battling to be ranked No. 1 in the country.

"Being there was the main thing. Looking out at that bowl (stadium) on New Year's Day, two-thirds or three-quarters of the stadium was in crimson. Whoever would have thought that little Washington State would have three-quarters of the stadium in crimson?"

All-American quarterback Ryan Leaf and the Cougars played gallantly, but the Wolverines won 21-16 and were crowned national champions. Robertson, like virtually all Cougar fans, swears to this day that WSU was robbed of 2 seconds on the clock at the end of the game.

ROBERTSON: First season with Cougs was 1964.

"It was a heck of a game," Robertson said. "We didn't win it, but we still have 2 seconds left to play, so maybe one of these days we'll be able to finish it.

"It was just a great thrill to be part of it because it meant so much to everybody. Not just players, but people who had suffered through not getting to that Rose Bowl game and watching other teams go.

"Finally, we were there. We were the center of attention at the Rose Bowl game in Pasadena."

Robertson's honorable mention choices for his most memorable game were the come-from-behind 1988 victory at No. 1 UCLA -- the Cougars' only win over a top-ranked football opponent -- and the 1992 "Snow Bowl" upset of No. 5 Washington in Pullman.

ROBERTSON'S PICK AS the best coach during his time in Pullman is Mike Price. It was Price who led the Cougars to Rose Bowls in 1998 and 2003. WSU lost that second Rose Bowl 34-14 to Oklahoma after Price had announced he was leaving to coach Alabama and would be replaced by trusty assistant Bill Doba.

"I think he made a terrible mistake by remaining on for the second one, the Oklahoma Rose Bowl game, instead of turning it over to Bill Doba at that point," Robertson said.

"I was on the fence at the time it happened. But now, looking at the result and all, I think it would have been better if he had stepped aside and said, ‘Let Bill Doba take the team now.' "But Mike got us to two Rose Bowls, and he developed a lot of kids and he was good for the program in so many ways."

Robertson's No. 2 coach is Jim Walden, his current broadcast partner. Walden led the Cougars to the 1981 Holiday Bowl -- WSU's first bowl game in 50 years -- and he eventually convinced school administrators to play all home games on campus instead of splitting games between Pullman and Spokane.

Robertson recalled that Walden became WSU's fourth head coach in as many years when he took over in 1978 following Warren Powers' move to Nebraska. Walden brought stability to the program during his nine years at the helm.

"He did an awful lot," Robertson said.

Robertson said he also was impressed with the coaching ability of Dennis Erickson, but can't rank him too high for one simple reason: "He didn't stay around long enough." Erickson left for Miami (Fla.) after coaching the Cougars in 1987-88.

As for that tricky "best player" question …

In no particular order, and without attempting to name every candidate, Robertson mentioned quarterbacks Drew Bledsoe, Mark Rypien, Jack Thompson, Jason Gesser, Timm Rosenbach, Tommy Roth and Leaf; offensive linemen Mike Utley, Scott Sanderson, Jason McEndoo and Robbie Tobeck; middle linebacker Will Derting; two-way lineman Bill Moos; fullback Larry Eilmes and College Hall of Fame running back Rueben Mayes.

"We've been blessed with superior players," Robertson said. "The problem, I suppose, is we haven't had enough of them all at once.

"A good example of that would be Alex Brink, who set all the passing records in the school's history and was not able to get us to a bowl game. What a super young man and quality athlete that just didn't have enough talent around him during his time at Washington State."

A SENSE OF HUMOR has served Robertson well during some of WSU's tougher seasons. He enjoyed the laughter that former broadcast partner Paul Sorensen provided inside and outside the broadcast booth, and Robertson says Walden brings many of the same qualities.

"He just loves life, and he's humorous," Robertson said.

"I tell my wife, ‘If Jim and I told the same joke at a banquet, when I finished people would be looking at me saying, ‘Huh?' Jim would tell the same joke, and by the time he got halfway through, they'd be rolling on the floor laughing.'"

Finally, Robertson was asked to pick the most memorable or "fun" play he's seen as a Cougar broadcaster. His first choice is not surprising, but most fans have probably long forgotten the other.

"The ‘funnest' play of all, going back to that 1992 ‘Blizzard Bowl' (the Apple Cup victory in the snow in Pullman), was the Bledsoe pass where (Phillip) Bobo caught it -- almost took it from the other receiver (C.J. Davis) -- and ended up sliding into the snow bank, and everyone piled on top of him. That was a memorable one.

"Then there was one with (coach) Jim Sweeney. There was a special emphasis on players and coaches getting on the field for a celebration after scores that year. Probably '74, maybe '75.

"The Cougars scored a touchdown … and they ran down to the west end zone to celebrate. When they started trying to pick them off the pile, right in the middle of the pile was Sweeney, whose first remark as he turned to the official was. ‘Don't flag me! Don't flag me!'"

Good times, good memories. Robertson still savors 'em all.

NOTABLE:
Robertson's first season with the Cougs was 1964. His missed three seasons -- 1969-71 -- when the station where he worked picked up the rights to Huskies broadcasts, but has been continuously in the Cougar booth since 1972. He was also the Cougars' basketball voice for 23 years.

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