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Big plays abound at WSU practice

“Intense and sloppy … kind of an exchange of big plays,” were the words coach Mike Leach used to describe today's underclassmen scrimmage, which they're still calling Thursday Night Football.

He was absolutely right.

We'll describe those big plays and more, after the jump.

Tyler Hilinski signs with WSU

With the above tweet the Washington State football program made official the financial aid agreement signed today by prep quarterback Tyler Hilinski. The NCAA allows student athletes that are able to graduate high school early to sign with schools well before national signing day in February, and to enroll in time for spring football. 

Last spring Calvin Green and Sean Krepsz took advantage of this rule and participated in spring football after finishing up their high school careers ahead of schedule.

More on Hilinski after the jump.

 

What could have been in the Northwest

A GRIP ON SPORTS

Want to see what Seattle's professional basketball future could have looked like? Just watch Steve Ballmer's introduction to the Los Angeles Clippers fans yesterday. Read on.

WSU linebackers a veteran bunch

How experienced is Washington State's linebacking corps? Even the backups have starts under their belt. The Cougars' deep linebacking corps is the subject of our story in today's paper.

More links after the jump.

About as bad as it gets

Most people around these parts had a better night than the Spokane Indians. Yes, the Indians pounded out 17 hits and scored 12 runs against the Tri-City Dust Devils on Monday night. But the Dust Devils played their blackjack hand by collecting 19 hits and scoring 21 runs in a Northwest League game that played havoc with pitchers'  earned-run averages. Read story

Cougars bounce back

Washington State's coaches agreed that yesterday's practice left a lot to be desired. They were similarly unanimous (among the ones we asked) that today's was a lot crisper.

Our practice report is after the jump.

Zags open WCC with three road games

The WCC released its 2014-15 schedule — yes, GU plays conference games in late December again — and it looks nothing like last year's slate. The Zags open with three straight road games, including a WCC lid-lifter at BYU, followed by dates with San Diego and Portland. GU plays five of its first seven on the road.

Last year, Gonzaga opened the WCC with four consecutive home games.

BYU is picked second behind Gonzaga in most preseason polls (I'm picking Saint Mary's at No. 2). San Diego and Portland are contenders to finish in the top five. The Zags' home opener will be against USF, which shared second place with BYU last season, on Jan. 8. Gonzaga takes on Saint Mary's on Jan. 22 in Spokane and visits Moraga on Feb. 21.

The Bulldogs close the WCC schedule against BYU at the McCarthey Athletic Center on Feb. 28.

GU's non-conference and television schedule will be released at a later date.

More on Gonzaga's WCC schedule here and here's a link to the entire WCC schedule.

 

The next few weeks are going to be fun

A GRIP ON SPORTS

It's Monday. The workweek begins. But there is hope. After it ends Friday, there is college football Saturday. Read on.

WSU secondary learning quickly

The dorms in Pullman are open again and students are trickling back onto campus. School doesn't start for another week at Washington State but the football team's young defensive backs are studying hard for their first big test. That's the subject of our third WSU position preview.

Follow the jump for more links.

Dust Devils make playoff push

The Spokane Indians had little trouble against the Tri-City Dust Devils during the first half of the Northwest League season. The Indians outscored Tri-City 49-17 in winning five of six games. But the second half of the season has a different feel, as the North Division first-half champion Indians are discovering. Tri-City routed Spokane 7-0 on Sunday, outhitting the Indians 16-6. The Dust Devils are 3-2 against the Indians during the last five days and are tied with Vancouver for the division's second-half lead with 14 games left in the regular season. Spokane leads the season series 7-4 heading in to Monday's regular-season finale between the teams at Avista Stadium. It may be the end of regular-season play between Spokane and Tri-City, but the Dust Devils have put themselves in position to win the second half and set up a Sept. 2 divisional playoff opener in Pasco. Read story

WSU practice a bit sloppy

There was a lot going on at practice today. The Pac-12 Networks were in town filming and Rick Neuheisel took a keen interest in what the Cougars were doing, observing the drills closely, particularly the ones involving quarterbacks.

The Cougars also made use of the scout teams against the first string for the first time, which always creates some confusion. After practice coach Mike Leach had a bucket of water dumped on him for a good cause, which you can watch here.

The coaches acknowledged that there are always a few dud practices at this time of the year. But that doesn't mean they're happy about it.

“I didn't think it was a very good practice. I thought we started out pretty good, didn't do a good job of finishing practice,” Leacj said. “Today was the first day we traded scouts so sometimes, a lot of times that has an impact. It shouldn't, it shouldn't but yeah I thought both sides were soft in the team period. Prior to that I thought we were doing some good things but we have to be better than that tomorrow.”

More after the jump.

Mike Leach after practice

After practice Mike Leach cooled off before speaking to reporters by taking part in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. The video is below and the highlights of Leach's interview with reporters are transcribed after the jump.

 

Your Saturdays are no longer yours

A GRIP ON SPORTS

You know what yesterday was, don't you? Yep, the final Saturday of 2014 without a college football game. Really. Read on.

Sunday morning Pac-12 links

Good morning, everyone. I hope you were able to sleep in today or had an otherwise productive morning. If not you can make up for it by reading our Pac-12 links and catching up on all the conference happenings, after the jump.

Rare 1-0 games come back to back

Several years ago the Spokane Indians' scorekeeper, an affable man with a wry sense of humor, announced that he had one big wish in his job: to witness a 1-0 Northwest League game. He never got his wish, but maybe he noticed what happened the last two nights between the Indians and Tri-City Dust Devils. Tri-City blanked Spokane 1-0 on Friday and the Indians turned the tables Saturday with a 1-0 shutout at Avista Stadium. Read story

No clarity in Idaho QB race

We posted Paul Petrino's comments earlier. Below is our recap of Idaho's second fall scrimmage, with special focus on the muddied quarterback battle between Chad Chalich and Matt Linehan.

Also, a personal note: Today was my last covering the Vandals for the Spokesman-Review as a correspondent. After six years, I'm leaving to focus on my full-time job and my young family. It's been a privilege writing for the S-R, and I'm sure you'll be in good hands with my replacement. Thanks for reading and following along on this blog. You can find my story on Paul Petrino for the paper's season preview next week.

Petrino Q&A after second fall scrimmage

Paul Petrino went easy on his players Saturday morning, at least compared to what they're used to. Idaho scrimmaged just over 120 plays — instead of their customary 150-plus plays — over the course of about two hours in the Kibbie Dome.

Petrino's full comments to the media are below.

What a fun Friday night

A GRIP ON SPORTS

Well that was fun. As fun a Friday night as I can remember in a while. Maybe all the way back to high school. The M's win. Dominate really, and take over the lead in the second wild-card race. The Seahawks win. Dominate really, and take over, well, nothing, as it was just the second preseason game. But they won. And easily. That's enough. Read on.

Eastern football links

The Eastern Washington cornerbacks might face their toughest test of the season this morning at Roos Field. Here's my story on a talented by inexperienced group, along with a look at the entire EWU defense, courtesy of sports information director Dave Cook. …  Nothing new out of Sam Houston State, but here's the Bearkats' home page. …  UW coach Chris Petersen is trying to make the program friendlier, according to this story in the Seattle Times. … The Tacoma News Tribune has a blog on the Huskies. … Past struggles have made some Montana State players better, according to this story in the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, which also previews today's MSU scrimmage.

WSU’s new specialists

The Washington State coaches value special teams pretty highly. All coaches do to some degree, of course, and all will say that it's a third of the game, etc. Still, many coaches see coverage teams as a place to stick second string players, and save their starters for use on offense or defense. Maybe they're worried about injuries, or maybe they think a player whose only chance to make a play is on special teams will find just a little something extra in themselves to really blow up the ballcarrier.

Not the Cougars. In the words of Mike Leach, “Best players play. If you can't start on offense and you can't start on defense then you better have a good reason for being able to start on special teams.”

The Cougars will have new starters on special teams this season, at least they will at kicker, punter and punt returner. Our first 2014 position preview takes a look at the replacements.

More links are after the jump.

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Jim Allen Sports reporter Jim Allen's primary coverage areas are Eastern Washington University football and men's basketball, and college and high school soccer. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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Jim Meehan Jim Meehan's coverage areas include Gonzaga University men's basketball, Spokane Shock football, golf and volleyball. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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Chris Derrick Chris Derrick is a sports reporter. His primary coverage areas are the Spokane Chiefs, Spokane Indians, women's basketball and high school softball and volleyball. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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Josh Wright Josh Wright is a freelance correspondent who covers the University of Idaho football team and men's basketball team.

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Vince Grippi is the online producer for SportsLink, a product of The Spokesman-Review.

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