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Petrino, Idaho at Sun Belt media day Edit

Paul Petrino got a taste of the Sun Belt football media day last year, after Idaho accepted an invite to the New Orleans-based conference. But on Tuesday, with Idaho an official football-only member of the Sun Belt, Petrino and the rest of the UI contingent traveled to the Superdome for a more full-fledged media day experience. 

Petrino was joined by center Mike Marboe and defensive end Maxx Forde in New Orleans to talk to the media. Check out below for some comments from Petrino on the dismissed Dezmon Epps, what he expects in 2014 and more. You can also watch an interview with Sun Belt commissioner Karl Benson here. Benson referenced the addition of Idaho and New Mexico State — two of the four new teams in the conference — as a way to get to 12 teams so the SBC could have a conference title game. But it fell short of that goal and wound up with 11 football-playing members for 2014.

Read on for quotes from Petrino.

College football is just around the corner

The Pac-12 is holding its annual gathering of coaches, players and reporters tomorrow and Thursday. Media Day (or Media Days, in this case) is a nice chance of us reporters to speak with coaches and players from different schools and send back a few stories and notebooks for you all to peruse.

More importantly, however, it signals the end of the offseason. You will start to see a lot more Washington State football news around here, and not all of it recruiting. We'll get back in the swing of things with our morning links, and keep an eye out for some live chats.

While the offseason was slow, there were some NCAA and WSU developments that will have an impact on the upcoming months. In case you have been hibernating since the end of last football season and are just now leaving your man, woman or bear-cave, follow the jump to see what you missed.

It’s not too long now

A GRIP ON SPORTS

As July winds down, the summer doldrums in the sports world begin to ease up. The wind beneath our sails? College football season. Read on.

Three Vandals on preseason all-Sun Belt teams

Center Mike Marboe and punter Austin Rehkow were named to the Sun Belt's first-team preseason all-conference team, while defensive end Maxx Forde was a second-round selection. The three Vandals were named Monday, the day before the Sun Belt's media day in New Orleans.

Marboe and Forde are seniors. Rehkow, a Spokane product, is a true sophomore who led the nation in punting average last year.

Sun Belt coaches picked Idaho to finish ninth in the 11-team conference over the weekend. Unanimous league favorite UL Lafayette had five players named to the first-team offense, including preseason offensive player of the year Terrance Broadway, the Rajun Cajuns' quarterback.

Arkansas State, picked second, put four players on the first-team defense, headlined by preseason defensive player of the year Qushaun Lee.

New Mexico State — voted last in the coaches' poll — had no all-conference selections.

Indians go wire-to-wire in first half

The Spokane Indians remained in first place in the Northwest League's North Division for the entire first half. Technically speaking, Vancouver sneaked ahead of Spokane by one-half game for 6 hours on Monday by defeating Tri-City in an afternoon game. But the Indians, knowing they had to beat Everett at night to keep Vancouver from winning the title, got the job done with great pitching by Derek Thompson and Shane McCain, solid defense and just enough timely hitting. Read story

Spokane rallies past the Storm

Spokane won its fourth straight game, this one a hard-earned 55-52 victory over visiting Tampa Bay on Monday night.

Erik Meyer tossed five touchdown passes and added another rushing. Terrance Sanders scored on a kick return and interception return and the Shock defensive line pretty much took over the game in the fourth quarter.

My unedited game story is below.

Shock v. Tampa Bay

S-R photojournalist Jesse Tinsley covered the Shock vs. Tampa Bay game.  View a gallery of photos from the game.

NIT puts GU in scheduling bind

Gonzaga's season opener is approximately 3 1/2 months away and five of its non-conference games are still TBD. (The Zags had 13 non-conference games in the 2013-14 regular season.)

The main hold-up is the NIT Season Tip-Off, which hasn't delivered on its original format for host schools Gonzaga, Georgia, Minnesota and St. John's (two home games, win those two you advance for two games at Madison Square Garden). The NIT hasn't been able to fill out a 16-team field.

The NIT's next proposal was one home game & three at the MSG (one a quasi guarantee game against Stony Brook that would fall between the semifinals and the championship/consolation and have no bearing on the final day pairings (yes, that makes no sense).

Gonzaga is hoping the NIT can find a better solution, possibly one with the Zags hosting one game and then playing two in MSG, provided it wins at the McCarthey Athletic Center. Not ideal, but it's late in the scheduling process to find suitable replacements.

The other snag is finding a foe for the annual Battle in Seattle. The matchup was thought to be ready for an announcement a couple weeks ago but it fell through.

Also, longtime basketball director of operations Jerry Krause will step down following the season.

More on the schedule and Krause here.

Fast forward: Stanford

Will Stanford's reign of terror ever end? It was one thing when you could count on cutting down the Tree's football team every year. Then it didn't matter that the fans in Palo Alto drove the nicest cars, had the best jobs, won nearly every Olympic sport and had a beautiful campus, to boot. Their football team sucked. John Elway never played in a bowl game.

But the Cardinal just played in its fourth consecutive BCS bowl game, losing to Michigan State in the Rose Bowl. Losing one of the NFL's best coaches, Jim Harbaugh, and one of its best young quarterbacks, Andrew Luck, barely registered.

Stanford is now one of the elite teams in college football, competes for a championship every season, and shows no signs of slowing down. Sure, they lost some notable players this offseason, including defensive stalwarts such as Shayne Skov, Trent Murphy, Ben Gardner and Ed Reynolds. The offense took some hits, too, losing leading rusher Tyler Gaffney and All-American guard David Yankey.

But Stanford has proved it can handle losses in the past, and has enough sustained football success that it can use it can recruit against anyone in the country. And while its academic standards give it a limited pool of talent from which to choose, the players who can get into Stanford are the most likely to value its reputation.

Follow the jump for our 2014 Stanford preview.

Dismissed Idaho receiver charged with petty theft

Dezmon Epps, who was dismissed from the Idaho football team on Sunday for a violation of team rules, was charged in Moscow with misdemeanor petty theft after allegedly stealing $37.72 in groceries from WinCo Foods.

The former Idaho wide receiver pled not guilty on Monday in Latah County District Court and posted a $300 cash bond. He's scheduled for a pretrial hearing on July 29.

Epps was already on probation after pleading guilty and serving a one-day sentence for a DUI in April.

Read more details below the link.

Arrows can boomerang occasionally

A GRIP ON SPORTS

It hasn't been a secret about how I feel about Fernando Rodney's pitching ability. It's stellar. But his antics? Read on.

Final strike eludes playoff-seeking Indians Edit

There may be a more cruel way to have a sure-fire playoff berth yanked away, but it's hard to fathom. The Spokane Indians were one strike away from wrapping up the Northwest League's North Division first-half title on Sunday when Everett's Corey Simpson hit a two-out, two-run homer on a 0-2 pitch in the top of the ninth inning. Everett's 3-2 win left Spokane and Vancouver tied for first place at 24-13 with one game left in the season's first half. If there's any consolation for Spokane, the only combination Monday that could stop the Indians from making the playoffs is a Spokane loss and Vancouver win. Anything else — both win, both lose, Spokane wins and Vancouver loses — and the Indians advance. Read story

Idaho dismisses WR Dezmon Epps

Dezmon Epps, Idaho's most productive wide receiver last year, has been booted from the team for a violation of team rules, coach Paul Petrino announced this afternoon. He was arrested in April on suspicion of driving under the influence. In June, he was sentenced to one day in jail and two years' probation after pleading guilty.

Epps was one of the two fastest players on the Idaho roster last year, along with running back Richard Montgomery, and one of the best skill players the Vandals have had in recent years.

For our full story, read on.

Man, the chase scenes were great

A GRIP ON SPORTS

We're going to wander a little far afield from sports today, though there will be an auto racing connection to our musings. But, really, it's a tenuous connection at best. Read on.

One win and Indians are in

After Saturday's 12-3 shellacking of Everett, the Spokane Indians need one victory — or one defeat by the Vancouver Canadians — in the next two games to qualify for postseason as the Northwest League's North Division first-half champion. The league's 38-game first half ends Monday and Spokane (24-12) holds a one-game lead over Vancouver (23-13). The only way Vancouver could take the automatic berth away from the Indians is if Spokane loses to Everett on Sunday and Monday while the Canadians win at Tri-City those two days. A tie doesn't do Vancouver any good because Spokane holds the first tiebreaker, its 4-2 edge over Vancouver so far this year. Read story

Sun Belt coaches pick Idaho ninth

In its first year back in the Sun Belt Conference since 2004, the Idaho football team has been tabbed to finish ninth out of 11 teams by the league's coaches. The preseason poll, released Saturday afternoon, had the Vandals just ahead of Georgia State and fellow newcomer New Mexico State. The three bottom teams were separated by a mere four points in the poll.

Louisiana Lafayette was the unanimous pick to win the league after garnering all 11 first-place votes. The coaches voted Arkansas State second, followed by South Alabama and Troy.

The Vandals open the season on Aug. 30 at Florida. The following Saturday, Sept. 6, they travel to face UL Monroe in their first Sun Belt game. Each Sun Belt team plays eight conference games, and this season Idaho misses UL Lafayette and Georgia State.

UI went 1-11 last year in Paul Petrino's first season as head coach.

Preseason Sun Belt coaches poll

1. UL Lafayette 121 (11)
2. Arkansas State 102
3. South Alabama 98
4. Troy 84
5. UL Monroe 78
6. Texas State 70
7. Appalachian State 47
8. Georgia Southern 44
9. Idaho 29
10. Georgia State 27
11. New Mexico State 26

Making short work of a long weekend

A GRIP ON SPORTS

When I finally turned off the television last night, the Mariners' game was still rolling along. When I awoke this morning, I half expected it to be going still. But it was over. As was, seemingly, the British Open. Read on.

It’s a nice time for an extended vacation

A GRIP ON SPORTS

The All-Star game was Tuesday night, right? Today is Friday. And baseball is just getting going again? These guys need another day off in the middle of the season? Really? Read on.

No void is ever left unfilled

A GRIP ON SPORTS

It is said the 24 hours after baseball's All-Star Game is the least crowded day in American sports. Which is why ESPN created the ESPYs, and stuck them there. Makes sense to me. Read on.

Shock win a close one

Spokane ended a trend of nearly two seasons worth of fairly comfortable to absolute blowout wins (read: all by double figures) by edging Arizona 73-66 on Saturday. That made the victory big on two fronts: 1). It came against the best franchise and No. 1 ranked team in the AFL. 2). It came in a close contest. Those have been rare for the Shock, and most of the time the outcome hasn't been favorable.

The trend should have ended in the season's fifth game but Spokane gave up a Hail Mary touchdown pass on the final play to fall to Cleveland 52-50. Other than that, Spokane's other six losses this season were by at least 10 points. Four of Spokane's five losses last season were by less than 10 points, including the 65-57 playoff loss at Arizona that ended the Shock's season.

I took a look at the numbers to lead off this week's Shock notebook. There's also a few paragraphs on James Ruffin's breakout season.

 

 

 

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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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