Price likens Cougs to Rose Bowl team

  • Tuesday, October 16, 2001 9:00pm
  • Sports

Associated Press

SPOKANE – When Washington State went to the Rose Bowl after the 1997 season, the Cougars were led by Ryan Leaf and a slew of marquee players.

This season’s No. 19 Cougars have gone undefeated with a roster of unknowns – and even some players who aren’t on the roster.

Picked to finish last in the Pacific-10 Conference after winning only three league games since 1998, Washington State (6-0) leads the conference with a 4-0 record.

The Cougars host Division I-AA Montana State Thursday night at Pullman. The game was scheduled as a replacement for a Colorado game, which was canceled in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The last time a Cougars team was in the Top 25 was in 1997, when Leaf led the way to a 10-2 Rose Bowl season.

“The Rose Bowl team didn’t play any better than this team has played,” Price said. “The Rose Bowl team finished very strong. If we finish strong, we are a hell of a team.”

This year’s team is led by junior quarterback Jason Gesser. During his junior year, before he was the second pick in the NFL draft by San Diego, Leaf contended for the Heisman Trophy. Price said Gesser, also a junior, isn’t a top candidate this year, “but give him time. Before he graduates, he will be.”

The Cougars are first in scoring in the Pac-10 and fourth nationally, averaging 42 points a game. Their 466 yards of total offense also is tops in the league and sixth in the nation.

Coach Mike Price has fashioned a winner with journeymen – some of whom were on the January 1998 Rose Bowl roster – and hardworking walk-ons.

“We’ve always encouraged walk-ons,” said Price, who himself was a walk-on quarterback at WSU in the mid-1960s. “The walk-ons have really been good.”

Josh Moen is one.

A senior and four-year walk-on, Moen blocked a punt that was returned for a touchdown Saturday in a 45-39 upset of then-No. 23 Stanford.

You won’t find Moen’s picture or profile in the WSU media guide, but the Pac-10 on Monday named him its special-teams player of the week after his blocked punt and two tackles.

Moen nearly left school this year because of finances, but an aunt offered to pay for his final year at WSU, Price said.

Another is sophomore place-kicker Drew Dunning.

The Cougars’ leading scorer with 63 points, Dunning has hit 11 of 13 field goal attempts and 30 of 32 extra point attempts. He won a scholarship on the practice field by hitting a 42-yard field goal, becoming one of three kickers on scholarship.

“Drew Dunning is a walk-on and has done a great job as our kicker,” Price said Tuesday. Before the scholarship kick, “He looked at me and said ‘Show me the money’ and he kicked it straight. He definitely earned a scholarship at that time.”

Price has gotten other top players from several corners.

Mike Bush, the Cougars’ leading men’s basketball scorer, walked on last spring to become a starting wide receiver. He caught two passes for touchdowns against the Cardinal and averages 90 receiving yards per game.

When starting running back Dave Minnich had knee surgery the week before the Stanford game, freshman Allen Thompson stepped in. Then Thompson suffered a high ankle sprain in the game, and little-used junior John Tippins carried 13 times for 75 yards.

Tippins, a junior college transfer, was nearly kicked off the team after vigorous arguments with Price over playing time.

“They were between me and him and what I thought he needed to do, to the point he was almost dismissed,” Price said. “We had some nice, long, heated discussions. I feel good he’s back.”

Copyright ©2001 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Talk to us

More in Sports

Marysville Pilchuck’s Christian Van Natta lifts the ball in the air to celebrate a turnover during the game against Marysville Getchell on Friday, Sept. 16, 2022 in Marysville, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Prep football roundup for Friday, Sept. 29

Prep football roundup for Friday, Sept. 29: (Note for coaches/scorekeepers: To report… Continue reading

Who’s that frog? A local high school tennis player, that’s who

Arlington tennis player Robbie Balderas worked as AquaSox mascot Webbly this season, and the busy junior also runs a landscaping business.

Mountlake Terrace’s Zaveon Jones is pulled to the ground by a diving Nicholas Mouser of Monroe on Friday, Sept. 29, 2023, at Monroe High School in Monroe, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Swarming Monroe defense keys win over Terrace in Wesco 3A South showdown

The Bearcats slow down the Hawks’ potent ground game, and quarterback Blake Springer tosses three TDs in a 35-10 victory.

Arlington players lift the Stilly Cup in the air after beating Stanwood on Friday, Sept. 29, 2023 in Stanwood, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Arlington reclaims Stilly Cup after short hiatus, routs Stanwood 42-7

Leyton Martin registers 277 yards, 4 TDs as Eagles notch fifth straight game with at least six TDs.

Fall prep sports roundup.
Prep results for Saturday, Sept. 30

Prep results for Saturday, Sept. 30: (Note for coaches/scorekeepers: To report results… Continue reading

Marysville Pilchuck’s Dominik Kendrick (9) runs with the ball during a football game between Marysville Pilchuck and Stanwood at Marysville Pilchuck High School in Marysville, Washington on Friday, Sept. 8, 2023. Marysville Pilchuck takes the win, 36-7. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Marysville Pilchuck proud of 4-0 start, but has loftier goals

The Tomahawks aren’t listening to the outside noise, including a No. 1 WIAA RPI ranking, as a tough stretch lies ahead.

Houston Astros relief pitcher Hector Neris (50) gestures to Seattle Mariners' Julio Rodríguez (44) after striking Rodríguez out to end the sixth inning of a baseball game Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2023, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Lindsey Wasson)
MLB investigating Astros pitcher’s alleged use of homophobic slur

The incident occurred during a heated exchange between Houston’s Hector Neris and M’s star Julio Rodriguez on Wednesday night.

Prep roundup for Friday, Sept. 29

Prep roundup for Friday, Sept. 29: (Note for coaches/scorekeepers: To report results… Continue reading

Stanwood players react to their coach bringing them the Stilly Cup on Sept. 30, 2022 in Arlington. The Spartans snapped a 12-game losing streak in the rivalry matchup last year. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
4 games to watch in Week 5 of the prep football season

An in-depth look at the best games the area has to offer, plus a full schedule of the local action in Week 5.

Most Read