PULLMAN – Although he will never admit it publicly, and probably not even privately, there has to have been a moment this season when Brandon Gibson couldn’t help but think about what might have been.
Not so much regret, but just a meandering thought as he walked toward the practice field on a frigid fall day, or removing his pads after another overwhelming defeat where he thought, “Why didn’t I go to the NFL last season because it couldn’t have been this bad. And even if it was, at least I’d be getting paid for it.”
Of course, if Gibson harbored such thoughts, he’s never shared them.
Instead, he’s maintained all season that he is at peace with his decision to forgo entering the NFL draft as a junior and return to Washington State for his senior season.
“No regrets,” he is quick to say.
Perhaps not. But as his senior season nears its end – Saturday’s Apple Cup against Washington (noon, FSN) will be his final game in Martin Stadium – could he have imagined all that has transpired this season for both him and the team; the lack of offensive production, the inconsistency and the losses.
“Not at all,” he said. “We’ve always been competitive since I’ve been here and we’ve always put up big numbers offensively.”
But that hasn’t been the case this season. The Cougars have been competitive in about two of their 11 games. And the big numbers on offense? Well, those never materialized for a number of reasons, including the parade of different quarterbacks who have taken snaps this season.
WSU has one of the worst passing attacks in the NCAA, averaging 150 yards per game, with just six touchdown passes.
And Gibson’s personal numbers follow the same path. He has caught 51 passes for 628 yards and two touchdowns. Those number aren’t bad, but they are far from last season when he caught 67 passes for a school-record 1,180 yards and nine touchdowns.
Not being able to contribute and make catches has left Gibson wearing clear looks of frustration after games, but never once did he complain or bemoan his situation.
“There’s nothing I can do about it,” he said about his stats being down. “Things happen. I think I’ve improved as a football player. I gained a little bit of leadership within myself in helping my teammates. At the end of the day it’s all about the team.”
Perhaps one reason Gibson hasn’t complained is that his consistency hasn’t been great. He’s had some uncharacteristic drops on passes he normally catches. It’s something that has surprised coach Paul Wulff.
“He’s had some drops that he’s never made before,” Wulff said. “He’s had quite a few, and that’s not like him. He’s had good hands his entire career. It’s just a direct reflection (of) having some frustration and maybe not 100 percent trust in everybody around him.”
And therein lies the problem for Gibson. Just about the time he would get used to a quarterback, the guy would get hurt and miss some games. It started with Gary Rogers, then Kevin Lopina, then Marshall Lobbestael, back to Lopina, then J.T. Levenseller and now Lopina again.
With so much instability at quarterback, along with some inconsistency from fellow receivers Daniel Blackledge and Jeshua Anderson, Gibson seemed to take much of the burden upon himself.
“I’ve seen that happen a lot when you have some veteran players make some mistakes,” Wulff said. “A lot of times they’re either trying to do too much, which I think he’s trying to do at times, and he ends up hurting himself.”
But Gibson’s decision to return to WSU this year wasn’t all for personal gain. He’s a team player and he also understood another year in college would help him in his goal to reach the NFL.
“I admire him for the decision he made, Wulff said. “In so many ways, he’s tried to do the right thing. He’s naturally had some frustration for probably his own performance at times and that of the whole team.”
What impresses Wulff is that Gibson hasn’t complained.
“He has done a good job of trying to stay the course,” Wulff said. “There are times he probably could have been a distraction but wasn’t, in terms of his attitude.”
Ultimately, the type of maturity that Gibson has displayed is something that should enhance his pro prospects.
“I know regardless of how our season has gone he did make the best decision to come back and better himself and get a year older and a year more mature in the game of football,” Wulff said.
It’s something that isn’t measure by statistics. If Gibson has regrets, he’s keeping them his own. Instead of lamenting what did or didn’t happen for him this season, he’s continued to look ahead.
“This is my last game at Martin Stadium and I want to leave with a win,” Gibson said. “This university and this football team (are) my biggest loves and I really appreciate what they’ve done for me.”
Ryan Divish: 253-597-8483