Sept. 7, 2000
PULLMAN, Wash. - Now, Jason Gesser knows how it feels to lose.
Washington State's sophomore quarterback suffered his first career loss as a starter when Stanford beat the Cougars 24-10 on Saturday.
Gesser, 21, had won all 24 of his starts as a high school quarterback in Honolulu, and led the Cougars to a victory over Hawaii in his only start last season.
A dejected Gesser stared at the floor as he met with reporters after Saturday's game.
"I've never experienced it before in my life," said Gesser, who completed 20 of 36 passes for 161 yards, but was intercepted twice and sacked three times.
He didn't know if he could salvage something useful from the loss.
"I'll watch the film and see what I can learn," Gesser said.
He'll have some extra time to prepare for Idaho, as Washington State has a bye Saturday.
Coach Mike Price said Stanford's defense gave Gesser fits.
"He never got in the flow," Price said. "I don't know if I gave him a chance to get in the flow."
"He was out of his comfort zone," Price added. "He doesn't play like that. He's better than that and he will play better than that."
The Cougar offense finally moved the ball a bit in the second half, when Gesser scrambled for yardage and the receivers began to hold onto the ball. But the Cougars failed to score an offensive touchdown for the first time in recent memory.
Despite the outcome, Gesser remains a major focus of Washington State's hopes to recover from a pair of three-victory seasons. Teammates selected him one of four team captains this season, a rare honor for a sophomore.
One reason may be that he declined to return home to Honolulu during the summer, opting to remain in the heat of the Palouse to work out.
At times, he had as many as eight teammates staying at his house as he helped organize practices that under NCAA rules must be voluntary and without coaches.
Giving up the beaches of Honolulu for the lentil fields of Pullman wasn't hard, Gesser insisted.
"The offseason is the only time you can strive to get better than other teams," Gesser said. "We know what we've got to do to get better."
The 6-foot-1 Gesser is generously listed at 200 pounds, and is a far cry from the big quarterbacks - think Ryan Leaf or Drew Bledsoe - WSU fans are used to seeing.
That's a big reason coaches are on him to protect himself.
Price has ordered Gesser to think more often about running out of bounds, sliding to avoid hits and throwing the ball away. Gesser vows he's been listening.
"I'm going to be playing smart, of course, this year," Gesser said. "If it's second-and-10 and I only get 5 yards, I don't cut back across the field and take a big hit.
"But if it's third-and-10 and I scramble out, and we only need a couple more yards for a first down, I might go ahead and dive for it."
What would you expect from a grandson of former Green Bay Packer star Red Dunn?
Gesser played in WSU's first four games last season before injuring his thumb. He missed the next six games, but returned to start at Hawaii and led the Cougars to a 22-14 victory.
Gesser chose WSU because of Price's long-time emphasis on passing. During the recruiting process, Gesser was counseled to evaluate whether he could get along with Price and quarterbacks coach Eric Price, the coach's son.
"We related real well and communicated real well," Gesser said. "On the recruiting trip, I had the feeling this is the place for me."
He's found a mentor in another refugee from Pacific Islands, former Washington State quarterback Jack Thompson - the legendary Throwin' Samoan.
Thompson, now a Seattle-area businessman, is still the team career leader in total offense and passing yards.
He's spent time talking with Gesser, offering tips during practices.
"I'm real close with Jack Thompson," Gesser said. "Me and him talk back and forth."
By NICHOLAS K. GERANIOS
Associated Press Writer