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Archive for September 2006

USC 28, Cougars 22 - Postgame

This was one they couldn’t finish.

Not that the Washington State Cougars didn’t try. Not until freshman Taylor Mays from O’Dea High in Seattle gathered in Alex Brink’s Hail Mary pass on the 4-yard line as time ran out did the third-ranked USC Trojans put away the Cougs, 28-22 Saturday night.

A this-close-to-a-100-yard drive couldn’t finish the Cougs. An 83-yard, 17-play, mind-numbing 8-minute, 21-second fourth-quarter drive couldn’t finish the Cougs. A career-high 11 receptions for 186 yards and two touchdowns by USC’s Steve Smith couldn’t finish the Cougs.

In the end, the better team finally finished the Cougs and their hopes of an upset to gratify a majority of the 35,117 in the Martin Stadium sellout crowd.

And now they lose one of their best run-stoppers, defensive tackle Fevaea’i Ahmu, who will miss an undetermined amount of time with the same injury that struck him early in fall camp: a partially displaced fracture of his left foot.

Despite that numbing injury, a lot went right for WSU on Saturday. Let’s count them.

USC 14, Cougars 12 - Halftime

As the score indicates, the Cougars are playing well.

How well?

Loren Langley has converted two field goals longer than 30 yards. USC offense has been stuck in first gear for most of the half. And Dwight Tardy has been a star.

The freshman running back from Southern California – the area, not the school – put together a highlight reel on the Cougars’ touchdown drive – and only one play was a run.

The 5-foot-11, 212-pounder sprung Alex Brink free on a drive-igniting scramble with a peel-back block that knocked USC’s Kyle Moore back on his heels.

Tardy picked up Dallas Sartz on a blitz allowing Brink to make a key pass completion.

Then Tardy did what he’s supposed to: run. His tackle-breaking ramble put the Cougs in position to score their lone touchdown.

Up to that point the Trojan defense had showcased near-perfect tackling. That’s a trademark of a Nick Holt-coached team, right? It has been that way for the past four games at least.

No matter how well the Trojans tackled, they had two glaring problems: They were clutching and grabbing receivers – three pass interference penalties garnered WSU 45 yards – and, this is probably related, they were having trouble stopping the Cougar short passing game.

Brink had almost twice as many passing yards in the first half as he had all game against USC last season.

Give the WSU O-line an assist on that, as Brink wasn’t pressured often before halftime.

So WSU took a two-point deficit into the locker room, not too bad considering the Cougs were a 17-point underdog coming in.

The Trojans get the ball first to start the second half in what may be one of the Cougs’ most important defensive possessions of the year.

See you at the end of the third quarter.

Vandals win in Utah

Idaho cruised at Utah State today, taking a 41-21 victory though there were some anxious moments early.

There’s more on Jim Meehan’s blog.

The Coug negatives: Pregame Part III

3:10 P.M.

I mentioned in an earlier post the Trojans have won their last 17 road games, including 12 in the Pac-10. Their last loss? In an overtime game in Pullman back in 2002.

That’s another Cougar positive, they’ve defeated a Pete Carroll-coached team in Pullman before. Of course, few of those Cougars are still in Pullman, that team was coached by Mike Price and WSU hasn’t defeated USC since – which pretty much negates any benefit.

- So does the Cougar injury woes up front. With Bobby Byrd and Josh Duin hurt, the Cougs have had to revamp the front five on offense. East Valley’s Andy Roof is back at right guard – we are going to watch Roof a lot today – but Dan Rowlands is listed as the starting right guard and the backup center. True freshman Kenny Alfred starts at center and Sean O’Conner mans the left-tackle spot. The facts are the Cougs are smaller up front today – against a big, quick squad – and inexperienced as a group.

- New Cougar uniforms. WSU unveiled a primarily gray home uniform – gray pants and sleeves, crimson torso – that remind me of a Arena football ensemble. Maybe this is the Cougs way to spark the offense.

- The strength of the USC offensive line is left tackle Sam Baker, a 6-foot-5 305-pound senior. He’ll match up often against Mkristo Bruce and if Baker gets at least a standoff, the Cougs’ pass rush may wilt.

- Pete Carroll is a better passer than Bill Doba. Watching the USC coach warm up on the sideline right now, it’s possible he’s a better passer than – wait, he just had a pass slip out of his hand and pop up in the air. Maybe he’s taught John David Booty that move.

More later. By the way, I’ve heard Conquest twice now. Only 1,457 more to go.

Pullman bleeds cardinal and gold: Pregame Part I

2:10 P.M.

It’s amazing how many USC shirts are walking the streets of Pullman – not the shirts of course, but Trojan fans wearing them.

Luckily the color is pretty close to Cougar crimson, so the USC fans can hide a bit, if they want. But knowing Trojan followers as I do – and I know plenty, let me tell you – they aren’t going to hide. After all, Larry Smith isn’t coaching there anymore.

No, it’s now Pete Carroll, and he’s only posted a 57-10 record in his six years at SC, including a 51-4 mark in the past four years. In that stretch, the Trojans (3-0 overall, 1-0 in the Pac-10) have won four conference titles, have finished in the AP top four – including two national titles – and have won 24 consecutive Pac-10 games. No wonder those Trojan fans don’t mind walking around in their cardinal and gold shirts.

Carroll’s Trojans are especially tough on the road, having won 17 consecutive road games.

So what chance do the Cougars have? On the next post, we’ll look at the positive and negatives on the ledger, and posit the way the Cougs could pull the season’s biggest upset.

UW worried as it enters Tucson on a roll

HUSKIES

A quick look at UW’s trip to Tucson shows the Huskies are worried, and they should be.

Mostly about overconfidence, which we at SportsLink just don’t understand. How can you be overconfident going into a game with the Pac-10’s best team? But, according to Bob Condotta’s Times story, that’s coach Tyrone Willingham’s biggest fear.

Sure the Wildcats are 2-2 (0-1 in the Pac-10). And sure they lost to USC last week (in an upset that ranks right up with the 1969 Mets and the Orioles). And sure the Huskies are 3-1 (1-0), including last week’s home win over UCLA. But these are the Bear Down Wildcats led by sophomore quarterback Willie Tuitama, an offensive line that will block somebody someday and a hard-hitting defense that held LSU to 45 points – and USC to 20.

So don’t be overconfident Huskies. Be worried, very worried.

Even if Times’ columnist Jerry Brewer thinks the biggest battle you have this week is with your own success.

Remember, Arizona coach Mike Stoops (half of the best brother coaching combination in college football, if not the world) says this is “a big game for the development of our program” in Molly Yanity’s P-I story. Talk about putting the onus on your team. Hope they can handle the pressure.

The Wildcats also are playing with a little chip on their shoulder, after last year’s upset loss to the Huskies in Tucson, sparked by Isaiah Stanback’s hard-to-comprehend, end-of-the-first-half pass. The Wildcats don’t want Stanback beating them again.

The game can be heard on 1230-AM starting at 7 p.m. Don’t miss it. It’s a rare chance to experience UA on its way to the Rose Bowl.

Favorites win in prep showdowns

PREPS

Friday night as a big one in prep football, with a showdown to savor on both sides of the border. Both went to the favorites.

In Idaho, Lake City coach Van Troxel wasn’t happy, but his Timberwolves earned a 21-18 win over intracity rival Coeur d’Alene.

At Albi Stadium, before a crowd that harkened back – in size at least – to the old days, Gonzaga Prep took advantage of mistakes to defeat Ferris 24-10.

There were other games on both sides of the border, of course, with U-Hi remaining tied for second in the Greater Spokane League with a 31-21 win over visiting Mead and Lakeland posted one of the night’s few upsets, handling favored Post Falls easily, 35-21.

We rounded up the football action in Washington, leading with Kettle Falls edging Colfax to remain undefeated and atop the Northeast A. We rounded up the Idaho action as well, as undefeated Timberlake pounded Priest River 45-7.

There was more than just football played Friday night, and here is the Idaho action, while the Washington roundup can be found here. As always, you can find the football standings – as well as all sports - here.

From the Columbia Basin league, Moses Lake rallied from 13-points down to upset undefeated Eisenhower 34-23, handing Ike its first loss of the season. In the only other action among CBL schools I could fine this morning, Pasco crushed Kennewick in a non-league game.

Across the mountains, O’Dea is rallying from a poor start to the season again, this time using Bainbridge to jump start its year, 21-14. O’Dea has won three consecutive games after starting 0-2. … Woodinville, a 4A finalist last year, also is back on the winning track, blasting Redmond 43-7. … Puyallup just keeps rolling along, shutting out Graham-Kapowsin 24-0. … Bothell stayed atop the KingCo 4A with an easy win over Franklin. … 3A defending champ Ferndale also stays on a roll, stopping 2A Lynden 28-21 behind Brady Locker. … Another Tuiasosopo, this one a cousin named Tyler, had a big game, leading Mariner over Snohomish in overtime 27-21. … Mount Tahoma held off North Kitsap in overtime. … Evergreen (Vancouver) routs Heritage. … Olympic raised its record to 4-1 with an easy

It’s a beautiful day and I’m about to ruin it

MISCELLANEOUS

After a long week, and a long day coming our way tomorrow, we’re hitting the golf course this afternoon. The brother-in-law has flown up from California and we’re playing in the Spokane Regional Sports Commission’s youth charity tournament this weekend. It combines two thinks I believe strongly in supporting: youth sports and losing golf balls. It’s a win-win.

Anyhow, the practice round is today, Al is teaming with a friend tomorrow (WSU vs. USC is not a game to miss) and I’m back on the links Sunday.

So here are a smattering of links on different subjects that will have to hold you the rest of the day – tonight is prep football night, so I’ll be at a game somewhere.

••••••••••

The Huskies received a verbal commitment from a junior basketball player, Elston Turner, Jr. If the name sounds familiar, it should. His dad played in the NBA.

A heartwarming story out of UW. This is worth reading. So is Don Ruiz’s column on why the UW game isn’t on TV.

Is college football in a down cycle? Actually, the question posed by Bud Withers is whether or not the big conferences are playing small this season.

••••••••••

Hope doesn’t spring eternal. The Mariners announced Thursday Bill Bavasi, Mike Hargrove and the rest of the coaching staff will return in 2007. The announcement came in a letter to season ticket holders. What, is the M’s management trying to kill season-ticket sales for next year? The P-I’s Art Thiel thinks this is a good move. Sorry, Art, I think you’re wrong about this one. Steve Kelley agrees with me, and writes it’s past time to turn the ship around. The Times also has its second M’s analysis piece today.

••••••••••

The Seahawks are saying all the right things about Mo Morris, according to Mike Sando’s story in today’s News Tribune.

••••••••••

That’s about it. Remember, to keep up on all the latest Cougars, Chiefs, Vandals and Eagles news, click the links on the right. Dave Trimmer already has links up on his Eagle blog to stories from around the Big Sky.

The appetizer before the main course

PREPS

As we get closer to the weekend, the prep action begins to heat up, building to tonight’s climax. Thursday was no different.

In the lone Greater Spokane League football game, Lewis and Clark intercepted a pass on the game’s first play, then proceeded to play better in a 39-0 romp over Shadle Park.

In Idaho girls soccer, Coeur d’Alene finally penetrated the tough Lakeland defense and won 1-0.

There were also prep roundups from Idaho and Washington.

It was a light night on the West Side as well, with one football game in the Times as part of a prep roundup, though there was a big volleyball showdown in the South Sound, with Rogers (Puyallup) defeating Puyallup in three and another big one in Bainbridge, with Blanchet sweeping the hosts in three.

Rene Ferran of Tri-Cities has his picks for Columbia Basin games. The biggest game in the CBL tonight is Moses Lake at Eisenhower. Speaking of Ike, the Cadets’ volleyball team keeps getting better.

The Sunfair Invitational cross country meet is this Saturday in Yakima and the Herald-Republic has an advance.

Undefeated Lynden plays undefeated Ferndale tonight in a matchup of Northwest Washington’s two best teams. Though Lynden and Ferndale are both 4-0, the Lions are a 2A school, while Ferndale is 3A, so the game has no league consequences.

In southern Idaho, undefeated Centennial held on to defeat Borah 40-34. Tonight, undefeated Capital visits once-defeated Mountain View in Meridian.

By the way, after praising the readership of this column for their intelligent, adult comments about an issue, there was an unsigned one posted of a personal nature that didn’t deserve the light of day. I guess not eveyone understands you can have a discussion about priorities and philosophies without it having to degenerate to name-calling. Too bad. Thanks again to the 99 percent of you who are willing to discuss issues intelligently.

Grabner back in Spokane

CHIEFS

We called your attention Wednesday to Jeff Bunch’s Chiefs blog post about Michael Grabner.

Well, Grabner is expected to be back in Spokane tonight and to play Saturday against Tri-City, according to Bunch’s blog.

The Chiefs aren’t the only team with a returner from the NHL. Goaltender Carey Price is back with the Tri-City Americans after being with the Montreal Canadiens, according to this Tri-City Herald story.

UW tough on third down

HUSKIES, COLLEGE FOOTBALL

As UW gets ready for the University of Arizona, the defense is ready to build on an impressive third-down performance against UCLA.

The Husky defensive unit yielded first downs on just four third-down attempts by the Bruins, according to the Times’ notebook today.

There is also an interesting feature on wide receiver Sonny Shackleford.

But forget about the players for a moment. According to Ted Miller, there’s something else at work for the Huskies.

On thing the Huskies have to worry about now: studies. School is back in session so it’s not just football all the time. UW is on the quarter system, so students start later and finish later.

The Times’ Bud Withers has an excellent column about Pac-10 football officiating, examining the conference crews from a multitude of angles – probably more angles than replay official Gordon Riese had to work with in Eugene.

UW’s womens basketball team received another commitment from a high school senior. This is a big one. Kali Bennett is a 6-foot-5 forward from Ventura, Calif.

What the CdA and LC coaches think

PREPS

Greg Lee sat down at different times with Coeur d’Alene coach Shawn Amos and Lake City coach Van Troxel recently to talk about Friday’s game.

Greg shares their comments on this blog post.

If you’re interested in the game, check this out.

Eneberg a tackling machine

EAGLES, VANDALS

While watching the Eastern game at Montana State last Saturday, I was struck by how often No. 40 was around the pile, even when he wasn’t in on the tackle. It might have been every play, even passes down the field – though there weren’t many of those.

That No. 40 is the Eags’ David Eneberg, a linebacker who led EWU with 13 tackles that day. Dave Trimmer profiled Eneberg in today’s paper. The Eagles host Sacramento State this Saturday at 2 p.m.

There’s more, like always, on Dave’s blog.

••••••••••

For the latest Vandal news, check out Jim Meehan’s blog. Jim looks at Idaho’s injury report.

Showdown night in Coeur d’Alene

PREPS

Friday night is the big showdown in Coeur d’Alene. The Vikings (4-1) of CdA host the Timberwolves (4-0) of Lake City. The winner is in first in the 5A Inland Empire League. Greg Lee takes a look at one of the state’s last great rivalries. We also had a graphic look at the rivalry, but because of the way it is produced, we can’t link to it here.

The main feature on the Washington side is about the new era at Ferris High. The Saxons are 4-0 and meet Gonzaga Prep on Friday with the Greater Spokane League on the line. But they’ll have to do it without their best athlete, quarterback/defensive back Shaun Stockton, who broke his clavicle in the first quarter against Lewis and Clark. Mike Vlahovich highlights the changes at Regal and 37th, with the biggest being this group is playing loose and having fun. Just like high school athletes are supposed to.

But there’s more. There are …

• Quick Hits from both sides of the border, Idaho and Washington.

• Prep profiles, including one of Post Falls’ Angie Whalen and one of Callie Paul from Lakeside (Nine Mile Falls).

• The Panhandle Picks from Greg Lee and the Idaho state rankings.

• Finally, Mike Vlahovich’s column about Central Valley graduate Steve Garrison, the head football coach at Monrovia High in Southern California. In the small world department, when my father went back to get his high school degree in the early 1960s – he quit school to enter the navy at 16 in 1941 – he attended Monrovia High. And when my eldest sister graduated in 1965, she graduated from Monrovia High.

Around the area, if you look at the Seattle Times state’s top 10 in 4A and 3A, there’s only one matchup between two ranked teams (Ferris vs. G-Prep) this weekend. But there are a couple of other good games, including Eisenhower hosting Moses Lake.

One last note on the Bellevue situation, Eric D. Williams of the News Tribune columnizes (is that a word?) on the money today.

There’s a new girls basketball coach at Arlington. That and other notes from Everett.

Maybe we could fund the debate team

PREPS

I want to thank everyone who has taken the time to write on the issue of Bellevue’s booster club’s $55,000 a year payment to the football coach.

This is just the type of well-thought-out, adult discussion I was hoping to foster here. Too often web site dialogues degenerate into name-calling and elementary-school-level intellectual arguments. That didn’t happen here, thanks to you.

I respect the points of view expressed here and, hopefully, in the future we will continue to have more back-and-forth on other issues. I feel privileged to be able to initiate discussions like this and facilitate their progress.

There is disagreement here – and yes, Zack, I did decry the waste of money spent on the Ferris situation, from both sides – but that’s OK. I’m not out to get everyone to agree with my point of view. I just want everyone to think about the issue.

Feel free to join in if you want, just click this link or this one to see previous comments.

T.O denies suicide attempt

PRO FOOTBALL

When you got up this morning and headed for work, all you could hear on sports talk radio was Terrell Owens’ attempted suicide. Whatever happened last night in Dallas was dissected from 1.73 million angles, though none were from the eye of the hurricane himself.

But Owens isn’t about to stay quiet and he met the press today in Dallas. He denied trying to kill himself. He says he was disoriented and confused but not suicidal. Then he went to practice.

It’s the strangest turn yet in the strange saga of T.O. Do you believe the police report? Or do you believe Owens?

Dan Le Batard, an ESPN the magazine columnist, states without qualification he believes T.O.’s side of the story. As you read this, remember Le Batard also has a Miami radio show that Owens appears on weekly, and no other radio show can boast that.

And does it matter who you believe? If he tried to take his own life, Owens needs counseling and support. If he didn’t, he still probably needs counseling and support after all he’s been through. I’m not alone in thinking this of course. It’s also the opinion of SI.com’s Michael Silver.

Grabner becomes a millionaire

CHIEFS

It’s not too often a millionaire takes the ice for the Spokane Chiefs, unless owner Bobby Brett puts on the skates. And even then I’m not sure.

Sometime in the next couple of weeks, there will be a millionaire with a Chiefs’ sweater on. Michael Grabner has signed a three-year contract with the Vancouver Canucks that will pay him $850,000 a year – the entry-level NHL salary. And Grabner expects to be back with the Chiefs within the next few days.

For more on this, and the Chiefs most recent trade, check out Jeff Bunch’s Chief’s blog.

Spokane lost last night in Vancouver to drop to 1-1 this season. They play in Tri-Cities on Saturday.

The Americans are 1-1 as well after winning in Kelowna on Saturday. The weakest team in the league might be the Portland Winter Hawks, who are 0-2 after two road games.

There’s more important things than games

PREPS UPDATED 1:55 P.M.; 2:05; 5:35

We’re starting today with some non-event news.

Coeur d’Alene High girls basketball coach Dale Poffenroth is undergoing open heart surgery today in Spokane. Poff, as he’s known, has been an institution in the Inland Northwest’s girls basketball scene the past 20-plus years. Let’s hope everything works out OK for him today and as he recovers. For more on his condition and what led up to today’s surgery, see Greg Lee’s on-line column post.

UPDATE NO. 3: As of 5 p.m., Poffenroth was out of surgery and doing well, according to CdA athletic director Larry Schwenke. For more, check Greg’s blog.

UPDATE NO. 2: Steve Kelley’s column today will make you wonder why anyone would ever worry about missed calls, missed field goals, missed wins when stuff like this happens.

Washington lost one of its girls sports pioneers recently, with the death of Irene Hallett in the Seattle area.

UPDATE: Greg Lee’s Panhandle Picks can be found on his on-line column. He picks Lake City to win the battle of CdA in a shootout.

As for the games, here is the Idaho prep roundup and the Washington roundup that appeared in today’s paper.

Here are the Seattle Times 4A and 3A state rankings. G-Prep is still third and Ferris ninth in the 4A. They meet Friday night at Albi. And, instead of listing all the AP rankings, I’ll just give you a link where Rene Ferran did all the work for me. Thanks, Rene.

We all know UA got robbed - somehow

COLLEGE FOOTBALL, HUSKIES

Well, foiled again. I really thought I would get some responses on a college top 5, but the optimism was misplaced.

Wait a minute. I get it now. No one disagreed with my list. That’s it. It was perfect. I have earned so much trust with my sage Pac-10 picks (more on that in a second) that you all agree with my rankings.

Good, because I came this close to ranking Arizona No. 5.

Speaking of the Wildcats, and my Pac-10 picks, I would have been nearly perfect if the Pac-10 officials hadn’t hosed Mike Stoops and his Wildcats. I know it was in revenge against his brother speaking the truth about the Oregon game the week before. They were mad at Oklahoma and took it out on U of A. I didn’t see the game, but I’m sure there are some video floating around the Net somewhere that shows UA getting hosed on some calls – has to be. We all know it happened.

If USC had any class, they would forfeit the game to the Wildcats. After all, the officials must have taken it away from the Cats.

Otherwise, the only game I missed was UCLA and UW (if you don’t count my stupid comments about the margin of victory). I’m just not a Husky believer yet. And I know they’re not going to win this week. They are headed to Tucson and, unless coach Stoops gets jobbed again, the Wildcats are taking this one.

The Huskies believe they have to improve their running game if they want to make a run (pardon the pun) at a Pac-10 title. Where can they improve? According to Bob Condotta’s blog, it starts up front.

This one had to hurt to write. Jim Moore of the P-I actually gives the Huskies their due, writing paragraphs like “The Huskies have gone from fractured to unified, not to mention bad to decent, and are on the verge of being highly competitive again.”

Pretty high praise indeed from Moore.

Meet Adam Shackleford

SHOCK

New coach Adam Shackleford came to town yesterday and met the press.

Shackleford wasted no time staking out his position: He’s not Chris Siegfried.

Actually, Shackleford wants to win as often as Siegfried did, he’s just going to do it his way. And Shackleford’s way has been pretty successful so far, though only as an offensive coordinator not a head coach.

And Shackleford will have his own team as well. Down in the story is a list of last year’s Shock players Siegfried hopes to take to Kansas City in the major Arena Football League. It’s pretty much all the Shock stars.

The offseason will be interesting.

Erickson’s search for answers isn’t as tough as some

VANDALS, EAGLES

Dennis Erickson is searching for answers – and offense. The University of Idaho coach, however, doesn’t think the way to answer those questioning his offense is to change quarterbacks, according to Jim Meehan’s WAC notebook in today’s S-R.

Meehan points out Idaho doesn’t have the most questions offensively in the WAC, and it certainly isn’t making the biggest changes. Those laurels would rest at Utah State. The Aggies have yet to score an offensive touchdown and Monday, their offensive coordinator resigned. There’s more on this in a story at the Idaho Statesman.

The Vandals travel to Logan, Utah for a noon game against the Aggies on Saturday.

••••••••••

Brett Bergstrom kicked four field goals in the Eagles’ Big Sky game at Montana State, a key component in EWU’s first victory of the season. For his efforts the conference named him the Special Teams Player of the Week. But, according to Dave Trimmer’s story, he would have rather not won the award. Why? Because he came to Eastern hoping to be a wide receiver or a safety, not a kicker.

The Eagles host Sacramento State on Saturday at 2 p.m. The game will be broadcast on 1510 AM.

••••••••••

If you didn’t see the link below, I’ll run it again here. It’s about Prosser quarterback Kellen Moore, who has decided to attend Boise State. His other two finalists, according to this Herald-Republic story, were Idaho and EWU.

UI looks to regroup

EAGLES, VANDALS

The Vandals are reeling after the shutout at Oregon State and there might be some changes.

Coach Dennis Erickson told Jim Meehan today that the quarterback job is still in the hands of Steve Wichman, but backup Brian Nooy is ready to play if needed. There’s more on this on Jim’s blog.

The noise coming out of Moscow this week sounds a lot like what was coming out of Cheney last week. But what a difference a win makes. As Dave Trimmer relates on his blog, Eagle head coach Paul Wulff was pleased with a lot that happened in Bozeman on Saturday.

Dave has links to ever Big Sky game over the weekend, but the best link of the day might be on Jim’s blog.

Utah State has yet to score on offense this year, so Monday the Aggies offensive coordinator Mike Santiago resigned. Notice Santiago’s statement: He’s resigning over philosophical differences (with head coach Brent Guy I’m assuming) and thanks the athletic director and the players - not coach Guy. Interesting.

We want your top five

COLLEGE FOOTBALL

Everyone and their brother has a top 25 nowdays, so why should we in the Inland Northwest not join the rush? Given your interest in college football, we might as well come up with our top five, at the least.

For background, here is the coaches’ top-25 with Ohio State No. 1, USC No. 2 and Auburn No. 3. Here is the AP poll with USC and Auburn flipped.

Let’s start a Monday morning thing. Give me your top five in the Comments. I’ll put them together and put out a fan’s top five on Tuesday afternoon. Here is mine for this week:

1. Ohio State
2. Auburn
3. USC
4. Michigan
5. West Virginia

I’m sure this won’t be the end of the season top five, partly due to Auburn’s schedule and USC’s injuries, but I think this is how these teams stand right now.

For more background, USA Today takes a look at the season at the one-third point.

Check the polls, read the stories and then give me your top five.

Maybe the Rose Bowl talk wasn’t premature

HUSKIES

There were some great stories out of Seattle concerning UW’s win over UCLA on Saturday, the best being the ones that focused on Dan Howell’s game-clinching interception – and not because it was the game clincher.

Howell lost his father recently, so the big play came at the right time for him emotionally. You can read about his reaction in Jerry Brewer’s column, a Molly Yanity P-I notebook, a short story in the News Tribune, Mike Allende’s piece in the Herald and Nick Daschel’s notes in Vancouver.

The win was big, even bigger than the Fresno State one according to Bob Condotta on his says. If they don’t win this weekend in Arizona, the big UCLA victory won’t mean as much.

The Huskies win did more than put them atop the Pac-10 standings. It also was the impetus for Kennedy High running back/safety Nate Williams to commit to UW. The Huskies’ basketball program also received an oral commitment over the weekend.

Seahawks move to 3-0 with three dominating quarters - and one stinker

QUESTION OF THE DAY

The Seahawks absolutely destroyed the Giants, so it is hard to fault their performance. But, as the Hawks turned the ball over in the fourth quarter to make it interesting, it brought us to …

Our Question of the Day:

The Hawks dominated the first three quarters on Sunday, en route to a dominating 42-30 win. What do you think of their performance? Were the first three quarters a preview of the Seattle team we will see the rest of the season, or was the fourth quarter more indicative? Or somewhere in between?

Just click the Comment link below and tell us what you think. And, like always, keep it appropriate.

What do you think of Saturday’s action?

QUESTION OF THE DAY

Saturday was a busy day for the Northwest’s college football teams. Whether you root for the Cougars or the Pirates, the Eagles or the Vandals, your team had a key game yesterday.

Which brings us to our Question of the Day …

What did you think of your team’s performance on Saturday? Was it what you expected or were you surprised? Are you happy or sad? Was it good or bad?

Just click the Comment link below and tell us what you think. And, like always, keep it appropriate.

Eastern gets desperate and defensive to earn first win

Sometimes being a little desperate can be a good thing.

Not when you’re talking to a possible date. Or when trying to get a loan.

But when you’re a college football team without a win going into the fourth week of the season, being a little desperate can be just the adrenaline rush you need.

It was for the Eastern Eagles on Saturday.

They traveled to Bozeman, played with a little desperate craziness, and left with a 19-10 Big Sky Conference victory.

Is the season saved? That remains to be seen. But another loss, especially a loss after the coaching staff had revamped the starting groups – six new starters was the correct answer if you were playing along at home – might have been fatal.

EWU at MSU, halftime

Who would have thought Brett Bergstrom’s right leg would be the most important appendage in EWU football, circa 2006?

Bergstrom, a senior, kicked three field goals in the first half – including a 53-yarder that tied for the fourth longest in Eastern history. The nine points Bergstrom supplied were the only nine scored – at least the only nine that counted.

The Bobcats had two long touchdowns negated by penalties – and there was no Oregon-like calls here, both penalties (a block in the back and a hold) were correct calls, made early – and the Eagles only moved the ball well twice.

Those two drives, both in the second quarter and both culminating in Bergstrom field goals (the last one as time ran out in the half) were opposites. The first was fueled by the passing of Matt Nichols and good protection up front. The second was a time-consuming, trap-blocking, run-oriented drive that moved from inside Eagle territory to the end of the quarter.

That was the first time the Eagle offensive line clicked, and may be a harbinger of things to come. Stay tuned.

EWU at MSU, Pregame

EAGLES UPDATED 11:45

OK, we’ve covered most everything else, so it’s time to get to the game at hand.

Desperate is the only word that can describe these two teams. Montana State is 1-2, with its only win one of the most celebrated upsets of the year in the season opener at Colorado.

The Eagles, who expected to be 0-2 after opening on the road against two better Division 1-A teams, is an unexpected 0-3 after losing to Central Washington at home last Saturday.

But EWU coach Paul Wulff professes today that winning isn’t the only thing - it’s not even important. The most crucial thing for the Eagles is that they play better.

If that happens, Wullf will believe EWU is on its way to a better season.

But no matter what the Eastern football coach told Dave Trimmer, the Eagles are desperate to win for their own piece of mind, if nothing else. If they do, it will be their fourth consecutive win over the Bobcats.


Can they? According to stories over here under the snow-dusted mountain peaks, the Bobcats are even more desperate to win. In yesterday’s Bozeman paper, there was a picture of first-year MSU defensive coordinator Rob Christoff with a description that basically said: He still had a job. The unwritten message: His job is in jeopardy after the Cats’ 45-0 loss to UC Davis last weekend. And, if the Eagles score a bunch, will the cutline have to change?

The big news on the field are the changes both teams are making in their starting lineups. The Eagles may have as many as five new starters (of 22) on offense and defense, while the Bobcats may also shuffle some spots.

And not all those changes are due to injuries. Some will probably be players who have started a lot and aren’t producing. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

Want more? Check out Dave’s blog.

UPDATE: With about 20 minutes to game time, let’s look at the key to this one.

As is the case in most football games, the most important people on the field will be the offensive line. It all starts there, especially for the Eagles.

EWU came into this season with a veteran group that was expected to be the cornerstone of the team. They were expected to keep the new starting quarterback safe as he matured. They were expected to open holes for the running game.

Neither of those things have happened - in all three games, not just in the two against Division 1-A opponents.

The Eagles’ quarterbacks have been sacked eight times. Their combined completion percentage is 48 percent, indicative of quarterbacks under pressure.

The running game? Almost non-existent. The Eags are averaging 2.1 yards a carry, though a big part of that is the 65 yards the quarterbacks have lost when sacked. But still, 274 yards rushing in three games won’t get it done.

So the O-line has to play better today for EWU to win. That’s what we’re going to be watching in the opening quarter, and let you know at the end of the first quarter. Stay tuned.

The Bruins a litmus test for UW

HUSKIES

Are the Huskies for real? Is their 2-1 record built on smoke and mirrors, or is it a true measure of a tough team.

According to the Seattle Times, we’ll find out today when they host UCLA in a late-afternoon game. The Bruins are 2-0 and coming off a bye week. They also have owned the Huskies the past few years.

But this year the Bruins are breaking in a new quarterback, 23-year-old sophomore Ben Olson.

Expect the unexpected - and the expected - in the GSL

PREPS UPDATED 10 A.M.

After four weeks of prep football action, there are two undefeated teams atop the Greater Spokane League standings. One was expected, one wasn’t. And they’ll meet next weekend.

The expected? Gonzaga Prep, and the Bulldogs have not disappointed, with a 4-0 overall record and a 3-0 mark in the GSL after Friday night’s 38-6 romp over University.

The Pups have owned the Titans recently, having won the last six meetings between the schools. They also have a five game winning streak against Ferris, the other undefeated GSL school – and this year’s surprise.

Under first-year head coach Jim Sharkey, the Saxons are 4-0 after passing over Shadle Park 35-14 in a non-league game at Albi. Jeff Minnerly, making his first start at quarterback in place of the injured Shawn Stockton, threw for more than 300 yards in the win.

The teams will meet Friday at Albi in the 8:30 game.

That wasn’t the only prep football action on Friday. In a big early season Great Northern League showdown, Pullman pounded West Valley in the Eagles first GNL game. Cheney and Clarkston, who along with WV dropped into the GNL from the GSL this season, won their openers.

Davenport entered Friday’s showdown with Reardan undefeated and top-ranked in the 2B ranks and left it with questions after a 32-0 Indian shellacking, highlighting small-school action in Washington.

Over in Idaho, Coeur d’Alene ran past Lakeland 35-14, Post Falls easily handled Moscow and Sandpoint earned its first win of the year. Also, Ferndale, one of Washington’s top-ranked 3A teams, traveled across the state and walloped Lewiston 34-19.

In other news from around Washington, the phenomenal success posted by Bellevue High has brought up allegations in the Seattle area of recruiting by the 3A power. But, according to a story in today’s Times, a school district investigation found no credible evidence of recruiting.

The district did uncover, however, that head coach Butch Goncharoff is being paid by the program’s booster club $55,000 a year above his school stipend. $55,000? That’s more than most teachers make in the classroom. Goncharoff is not a teacher at the school.

This a revelation we will be discussing here over the next week. And, of course, I would love your comments after you’ve read the story. Just click the Comments link below.

UPDATE (FROM HERE DOWN): Around the state, O’Dea isn’t off to its best year, running its record to 2-2 with a win over Seattle Prep on Friday night.

I’m starting to get sick of writing this, but another high school football player was killed this week in the Puget Sound area. Evergreen’s Mike Miller was shot and killed by his younger stepbrother, according to police cited in this Seattle Times story. News like this makes it hard to care about scores.

But there is more positive stories that come out of high school sports than negative, so let’s dwell on one of those. Here’s a Tacoma piece about some unexpected heroes in Friday night’s games.

South Kitsap and Lincoln we

Let’s laugh and have a good chuckle too

MISCELLANEOUS

Start your day with a couple laughs about the M’s.

The first comes courtesy of John Blanchette, as he comments on the (sad) news Ron Fairly won’t be back with the M’s broadcast team next year.

The second comes from Tacoma’s John McGrath, as he writes about the M’s next purge. You’ll laugh because it’s better than crying about the M’s front office. McGrath chronicles the latest in a series of poorly handled moves.

From the prep world, Craig Smith of the Times has a book for all parents of high school athletes. Meanwhile, Mount Si pounded defending 4A champion Skyline.

There is also a feature out of Tacoma on Cascade Christian’s undefeated football team.

Jim Meehan writes about UI linebacker David Vobora, the Eugene, Ore., product who leads the Vandals in tackles. Saturday will be a homecoming of sorts for Vobora too.

In WHL news, the league hopes to open up the game with new rules this season.

OK, so I’m headed out the door to pick up Dave. Next stop, that Rite-Aid on Regal for some vitamins - What, you thought I would say Bozeman? That’s about 10 stops away. – then on to Dave’s. As always, check the sports blogs for up-to-date news. This link will lead you to all of them.

Spokane picks a new coach

SHOCK

Spokane will hire Adam Shackleford as the Shock’s head coach, according to general manager Adam Nebeker.

According to Jim Meehan’s story in Thursday’s paper, the hire becomes official after approval from the arenafootball2 office, an approval that shouldn’t be too long in coming, according to Nebeker.

Shackleford replaces Chris Siegfried, who, after leading Spokane to the ArenaCup championship in the team’s expansion season, quit to become an offensive coordinator in the Arena Football League.

Shackleford was Louisville’s offensive coordinator the past two years, where he coached the league’s offensive player of the year two years in a row. Louisville was also one of only two teams to defeat Spokane last season, though it lost in the first round of the playoffs.

What is the coach’s responsibility?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL, WHL UPDATED 3:35 P.M.

There is a good story from USA Today on a coach’s responsibility relative to their scholarship athletes following NCAA rules. To a man, the coaches interviewed in this piece felt it was nearly impossible to police everything.

It seems like the day for sad stories (see Husky post below). This one from USA Today chronicles two players, one from Wake Forest, the other at Mississippi, and how they are coping with the loss of brothers. By the way, Ol’ Miss and Wake Forest play Saturday.

••••••••

The Everett Silvertips have picked a captain. The Portland Winter Hawks haven’t named a captain yet, but coach Mike Williamson has other worries.

We also have a Chiefs question posted on Jeff Bunch’s Chiefs Report blog.

UPDATE: The Seattle Times ran previews of the Thunderbirds’ season and the Silvertips’ year, one that is expected to be successful.

Dennis’ return, chapter two

VANDALS

It was expected, looking at the UI schedule before the season started, that two non-conference games would stand out.

The Washington State and Oregon State games. Sure, the other non-conference matchups had their cachet – Michigan State is coached by former Idaho coach John L. Smith and Idaho State was going to be the only game the Vandals would be favored – but WSU and OSU had a hook the others didn’t: the old stomping ground of Dennis Erickson.

And the hooks have been the same. The lead to this Corvallis story – about Erickson not walking to the wrong locker room or sideline or whatver – is similar to the leads of all the WSU stories.

That’s kind of why I’ve been avoiding linking to them this week. The Oregonian did a story, the Register-Guard did a story, probably the Willamette Weekly did a story.

But the real story should revolve around one question: Can Idaho win? The Beavers are favored by 23 points in the game (scheduled 7:22 p.m. kickoff; TV: FSN), so the oddsmakers don’t think so.

What do you think? Let me know, because I’m curious. The Vandals played so well against Michigan State, so poorly against WSU and just good enough against Idaho State. Is this the game they put it together?

As always, there is even more information to be found on Jim Meehan’s Vandal blog.

Purple was in his blood

HUSKIES

The reasons behind freshman defensive end Daniel Te’o-Nesheim deciding to become a Husky are a little different than most.

As Molly Yanity’s story in the P-I relates, Te’o-Nesheim lost his father when he was 14 to a aortic aneurysm. His dad had been a painter, and had worked on Husky Stadium when it was renovated some 20 years ago. So Daniel figured a part of his dad is at the stadium, and that’s where he wanted to play.

Another sad story: Linebacker Dan Howell lost his father to a heart attack 11 days ago. The junior is still trying to adjust.

According to Bob Condotta’s blog, the Huskies did get some good news: tight end Michael Gottlieb should play Saturday, after missing time due to injury.

UCLA’s Bruins will enter Husky Stadium on Saturday (4 p.m. PDT on TBS) with one of the oldest sophomore starting quarterbacks in the nation: Ben Olson, a 6-foot-5 left-hander who graduated from Thousand Oaks, Calif., High in 2002. They also enter with one of the top-rated passers in the NCAA, who also happens to be Olson, 23. So expect the Bruins to throw, and throw deep, a lot, if this Daily News story is right. Olson is just one of UCLA’s new starters this season.

Caesar Rayford is still enjoying his 15 minutes of fame after blocking the game-tying extra point last Saturday.

Nothing slow about today’s pitches

PREPS UPDATED 1 P.M.

Once again it is Prep Day in The Spokesman-Review.

On the Washington side, the lead piece concerned slowpitch softball’s expansion in the Greater Spokane League.

We also featured a Mike Vlahovich column and a feature on Davenport quarterback Kyle Nelson. There was also roundup.

But, like a Ronco commercial, we didn’t stop there. Wednesday also featured the biggest cross country meet of the young GSL season, with the nation’s No. 1 boys team, Mead, competing against the No. 4, three-time state champ Ferris, and young North Central. Ferris’ David Hickerson ran away with the top spot, the Panthers took the next three places, but the Saxons finished with six in the top 10 to win 27-29. It was just the first of four big showdowns between the schools en route to the state championship. One note that didn’t appear in the paper: Mead ran without Taylor Nepon, the Panthers top runner who is just now returning from injury.

UPDATE: Mike has added some more observations about Wednesday’s meet on his blog.

On the Idaho side, the main feature was about the eight seniors on the Coeur d’Alene girls soccer team.

We also featured a Greg Lee column on new CdA baseball coach Chris Stangel and a feature on Lake City soccer player Brandon Wood. We also ran the state football rankings and Lee’s Panhandle Picks.

And, as usual, we had Quick Hits in Idaho and Washington.

Around Washington, there was a lot of news in this Seattle Times’ notebook, including some good recruiting news for University of Oregon fans. There is also the Times’ weekly look at the top games in the Seattle area.

Soccer seems to be the sport of the day in the News Tribune, with a feature on two sisters at Fife High and a preview of today’s Gig Harbor vs. Bellarmine Prep matchup.

Rene Ferran reports on his blog Cydney Knight, a star last year at Richland, has transferred to Pasco and will sign a letter-of-intent in November to play basketball at the University of Utah.

There was a big Wesco cross country meet Wednesday, won by Lake Stevens’ Joey Bywater. And there was a fun cross country feature in Wednesday’s Columbian.

Finally, I noticed in Greg Lee’s Panhandle Picks, both Lee and his guest picked Lewiston to defeat Ferndale on Friday night. Two things: Here is the

NFL on quest to prove Qwest sound is phony?

SEAHAWKS

The crowd noise at Qwest Field was a factor in last season’s Hawk win over the New York Giants, but the NFL seems to be worried that it wasn’t all legal. And the league seems to be ready to crack down.

But the noise might be as big a factor as the Giants’ two giant receivers, 6-foot-5 Plaxico Burress and 6-3 Amani Toomer.

Eastern, Vandals face big week

EAGLES, VANDALS, COLLEGE FOOTBALL

Is Saturday’s game in Bozeman a must-win for Eastern?

Dave Trimmer, on his blog, says no. As he says, “I don’t think the Eagles have to win to salvage the season, though that might be hard to believe. I do think the Eagles have to compete. Remember, the Bobcats aren’t chopped liver and they are also wounded and desperate. It’s unlikely the BSC champ goes undefeated.”

Surprisingly, Eastern’s loss to Central means the same as if it had won - in the eyes of the NCAA Division 1-AA playoff selection committee, as Trimmer’s Big Sky notebook in today’s paper explains.

Still, Eastern is making some changes, as Trimmer’s blog entry details.

The Big Sky was also the focus of John Blanchette’s column today.

•••••••••

A lot of talk out of Corvallis has to do with Dennis Erickson’s return – not only Saturday but maybe down the road on a more permanent (if you can ever use that word about coaches) basis as well. Jim Meehan looks at that and more on his blog.

•••••••••

A couple of stories from USA Today on the Oklahoma/Oregon controversy. The first concerns the possibility of getting rid of conference-affiliated referee pools, and going to a more regional format. The second features the ACC’s head of officials telling college football fans to lighten up.

Typical Wednesday morning stuff

PREPS UPDATED 12:25 P.M.; 12:50

One thing I’ve noticed over the years is that Wednesday is not a day much given to features or in-depth prep stories in Northwest newspapers. And this morning was no exception. But the game coverage was complete, especially at the S-R.

There were a couple of big soccer matches in Coeur d’Alene on Tuesday, one for each gender. In the boys match, CdA stopped Lake City 1-0. In the girls, the Timberwolves came out on top by the same score.

We also had roundups on both sides of the border, led in Idaho by Lake City’s volleyball win over Lewiston and in Washington by Mead’s win over Shadle Park.

UPDATE: The Seattle Times’ football rankings for 4A and 3A schools are here. Local teams mentioned in 4A include G-Prep (3) and Ferris (10) and East Valley (6) in 3A.

UPDATE NO. 2: Mike Lopresti of the Gannett News Service weighs in on Connecticut’s hard-to-understand running-it-up rule.

In the Basin, Kamiakin held off West Valley (Yakima) in girls soccer action while Selah routed Quincy.

On the West Side, Central Kitsap tied Bellarmine Prep in soccer, blowing a 2-0 lead and missing an opportunity to defeat the Lions for the first time.

The News Tribune did reach beyond game coverage with this notebook.

So did the Boise Statesman, with an advance of a big cross country invitational this Saturday and a soccer preview.

Oklahoma football over the top?

QUESTION OF THE DAY

These Sooners aren’t going away quietly. Because of some questionable calls by Pac-10 officials in last Saturday’s Oklahoma-Oregon game, Sooners coach Bob Stoops is talking about canceling a game with Washington in 2008 unless the Pac-10 changes its officiating policy (see story below).

Which brings us to our Question of the Day …

Should Sooner Nation just shut up and take it or should they continue shouting from the rooftops?

Just click the Comment link below and tell us what you think. And, like always, keep it appropriate - even if the Sooners aren’t.

Polls and recruits

THE EARLY NEWS

The Washington State prep football poll is out and the East Side of the state is represented well, especially in the smaller school ranks. Here is the poll:

Class 4A
1. Puyallup (9) 3-0 99; 2. Gonzaga Prep (1) 3-0 82; 3. Eastlake 2-1 76; 4. Oak Harbor 3-0 73; 5. Edmonds-Woodway 3-0 61; 6. Pasco 2-1 43; 7. Eisenhower 3-0 34; 8. Kentwood 2-1 23; 9. Olympia 2-1 21; 10. Snohomish 3-0 10; Others receiving 6 or more points: Richland 8; Tahoma 7.

Class 3A
1. Bellevue (5) 3-0 102; 2. Auburn (5) 3-0 101; 3. Kennedy (1) 3-0 88; 4. Ferndale 3-0 78; 5. Lakes 3-0 66; 6. Kelso 3-0 45; 7. Auburn Riverside 3-0 39; 8. Mount Si 2-1 22; 9. Evergreen (Seattle) 3-0 16; 10. East Valley (Spokane) 2-1 13; Others receiving 6 or more points: Bainbridge 11. West Valley (Yakima) 10.

Class 2A
1. Prosser (9) 3-0 108; 2. Pullman (2) 3-0 100; 3. Lynden 3-0 79; 4. Archbishop Murphy 3-0 77; 5. Centralia 3-0 57; (tie) Tumwater 2-1 57; 7. Woodland 3-0 37; 8. Burlington-Edison 2-1 29; 9. Colville 3-0 22; 10. Mount Baker 3-0 19.

Class 1A
1. Connell (9) 3-0 99; 2. Royal 3-0 84; 3. Friday Harbor 3-0 78; 4. Castle Rock (1) 3-0 67; 5. Meridian 3-0 61; 6. Montesano 2-1 41; 7. Cascade Christian 3-0 26; 8. Kalama 2-1 24; 9. Colfax 3-0 23; 10. Kettle Falls 3-0 17; Others receiving 6 or more points: Onalaska 13. Lynden Christian 7.
Class 2B
1. Davenport (7) 4-0 88; 2. Reardan 2-0 75; 3. LaSalle (1) 3-0 58; 4. Life Christian Academy 3-0 56; 5. Willapa Valley (1) 4-0 48; 6. Adna 3-0 47; 7. Lind-Ritzville 2-0 45; 8. Wahkiakum 3-0 39; 9. Liberty (Spangle) 2-1 12; 10. Toutle Lake 3-0 7;

Class 1B
1. Odessa (9) 3-0 90; 2. St. John-Endicott 3-0 77; 3. Oakville 3-0 48; 4. Jubilee Academy 2-0 45; 5. Pateros 2-1 36; Others receiving 6 or more points: Prescott 30. Lummi 19. LaCrosse-Washtucna 15.

••••••••••

There are interesting updates on both the Eastern blog and Vandal blog.

Dave Trimmer reports on the EWU blog the Eagles played host to a 6-foot-10 basketball recruit last weekend, while Jim Meehan relates Mike Riley’s and Dennis Erickson’s conference calls today.

Seahawk defense, crowd ready to blast Giants

SEAHAWKS

It’s been a long time since the defense has been the star of the Seahawk franchise, but the Times’ Jerry Brewer is just the latest to write about that side of the ball.

The crowd has been a star in Seattle for some time, and don’t expect it to be any different this Sunday when the Giants visits. That crowd won’t be cheering Pork Chop Womack, however, because he’s hurt and out for six weeks with a knee injury. Chris Spencer fills in for Womack.

There will be one person in the stands Sunday who may be tempted to cheer a little for the Giants: Betsy Hasselbeck, whose sons Matt (the Seattle starting quarterback) and Tim (the New York backup QB) have put her in this predicament.

With Womack and tight end Itula Mili out and his offense not playing up to its potential yet, Hawk coach Mike Holmgren is looking for ways to improve its efficiency.

Injuries and insults

VANDALS, EAGLES

Tuesday is WAC notebook day at The S-R, and Jim Meehan leads with Luke Smith-Anderson’s injury. There is also more on Meehan’s Vandal blog.

After the loss to Central Washington, EWU coach Paul Wulff waited a day then unloaded publicly on his team.

The criticism was calculated. It wasn’t personal but it was scathing. Was it the right thing to do?

Most people will hedge their bets. They’ll say yes, if the Eagles turn around and kick Montana State’s rear end this weekend. But if EWU is on the wrong end of a kicking on Saturday? Then it was a mistake. That’s the bottom line. If it works, Wulff is a genius, a motivator who knew just the right buttons to push. If it fails, then Wulff went over the line, he should have kept the criticism in-house.

Personally, I’m going to say, no matter what happens Saturday, Wulff did the right thing. Why? Because he thought it was the right thing to do, and it is his team. It’s his decision, and he is going to do whatever he can to help his team win.

There’s more on the Eags on Dave Trimmer’s blog. By the way, the Eagles haven’t done too well in front of big crowds at home.

More injuries for WSU to overcome

COUGARS

As we mentioned last night, the injury situation for WSU is not good as the Cougs prepare for Stanford. The Times looks at the injuries and how the could affect the Cougs.

Here is our first look at the game and the Times’ first look.

Despite the Cougs’ injury woes, there’s not a lot of optimism in Stanford.

That’s about it for Cougar news, though, like always, there is more on All Cougs, All the Time.

Cougs, Huskies, polls, officials banged up

THE LATE NEWS

The Cougs injury update can be found on Glenn Kasses’ blog, and the news is not good.

The Huskies didn’t come out of Saturday’s Fresno State game unscathed either. Linebacker E.J. Savannah was injured, according to a note on Bob Condotta’s Husky blog.

The Associated Press issued a recalculated poll Monday, after one writer discovered he sent the wrong ballot.

Speaking of mistakes, did the officials screw up the end of the Oregon/Oklahoma game? The Pac-10 conference thinks so. It suspended the crew for a week.

But the guy who is the most pissed off is the University of Oklahoma president. David Boren wants the outcome stricken from the record book because of all the blunders.

I’m all for a university president being a sports fan, but doesn’t this guy have something a little more important to do? Like maybe keeping a closer eye on the basketball program and its telephone calls? Like maybe running a university? … What am I thinking? This is Oklahoma. Football is the university.

Speaking of pro football, the Seahawks will activate and play Deion Branch on Sunday against the Giants. Wide receiver is the least of the Hawks’ worries right now. A tight end or two would be nice. That and other Seahawks updates can be found on Mike Sando’s blog.

That’s it for now. Till tomorrow.

Defense in Seattle

SEAHAWKS

After having already watched one professional team Sunday morning – I had a tape of USC’s methodical win over Nebraska – I sat down to watch the Seahawks yesterday afternoon.

Talk about an offense not hitting on all cylinders. But SC can be excused, it lost Reggie Bush, Matt Lienart and that other big running back. All the Seahawks lost was Steve Hutchinson. Oh ya, and Jerramy Stevens. And Pork Roast. And that back up tight end. Maybe it’s no wonder.

But, as John Blanchette so accurately described it in today’s column, right now the defense is driving the Hawks. And, though the road is bumpy, the 11 guys on that side of the ball are navigating the first part of the season pretty well.

Blanchette also described the action in his game story and a notebook.

But that’s just the start of the coverage from Sunday.

From the P-I you can chose from the game story or two columns, Art Thiel’s about Mack Strong and Ted Miller’s on the defense. There is more here.

At the Times there is the game story, Steve Kelley’s column and Jerry Brewer’s column and more if you want it.

The New Tribune had the expected game story and two columns, Dave Boling’s and John McGrath. I really like McGrath’s column, because I focused a lot on Chris Spencer, who replaced Pork Chop Womack after the latter’s injury, and I felt Spencer did not just a passable job, but an good one. There is more from the News Tribune here.

Finally, we’ll cherry pick the best from Everett and Vancouver. The Herald’s sidebar on the offensive line is a good read, especially considering the unit was a question mark coming in. The Columbian’s Nick Daschel feels the defense is on the verge of becoming one of the NFL’s best.

But is it as good as SC’s? Or as well paid?

Cougars in the middle of a long grind

COUGS UPDATED 2:40 P.M.

Sometimes during a college football season you can get caught up looking at the last game, or the next one or even the one after that. In other words, it goes by week-by-week, and you don’t stop to look at the big picture.

Let’s look. Twelve consecutive Saturdays of football. That’s what’s different. There’s no bye this season for the Cougars. Talk about a grind.

Well if you must look at the season week-by-week, I guess we can start with last week. For concise looks back at the win, check here and here.

For a more in-depth look at what Saturday meant, check out Glenn Kasses’ story and his blog.

UPDATE: Glenn has posted an in-depth look at Saturday’s win, covering points as varied as the fumble that wasn’t to Alex Brink’s performance and what it means.

Seahawks: Clunker or cruiser?

QUESTION OF THE DAY

Against the Arizona Cardinals last year, the Seattle offense ran like a well-oiled machine. Sunday it ran about as smooth as a ‘74 Ford Pinto. You watched it, so we want to know how you saw it. Just answer the question below.

What do you think of the Seahawks’ performance on Sunday?

Just click on the Comments link below and give us your answer. Remember, keep it appropriate.

Cross country runs into the limelight

PREPS

The cross country runners took center stage Saturday at the always exciting Highlander Invitational. Though Mead’s boys team is ranked No. 1 in the nation, the Panthers weren’t No. 1 in Spokane on Saturday, as Ferris led the way in the senior boys race.

The Panthers and the Saxons, along with North Central, meet this Wednesday. If you like cross country, this is the GSL race to attend this year.

Speaking of cross country, the Bellingham Herald published its preview today.

There were some football games Saturday in the Puget Sound, including Seattle Prep’s victory over Port Angeles. There are also some notes on the end of this.

And there was an abundance of soccer, volleyball, cross country and swimming going on in Yakima.

Vancouver Columbian sports editor Greg Jayne deplores the proliferation of national prep sports coverage, fueled, he believes, by our insatiable need to know.

By the way, just about everything you need to know can be found here. Or at least there will be a link to it.

Cougars vs. Baylor, Conclusion

UPDATED 8:15 P.M.

This might have been the day Alex Brink took over the Cougars for good.

It didn’t start that way, but an 81-yard, game-winning drive in the final 5 minutes assured that it would finish that way.

Finish. That’s a word Cougar coach Bill Doba has used a lot this year. And maybe it’s a word that can now apply to any quarterback controversy.

Not that the dreaded QC didn’t raise its head at Qwest Field. With the Cougars struggling early, there were a smattering of boos heard in the first half – and some calls for backup quarterback Gary Rogers.

And when Rogers led the Cougs (2-1) to their first score? The most popular guy on the team – like any backup quarterback – became even more popular – if that’s possible.

But then Rogers underthrew Chris Jordan on the next possession and was picked off, the clamor dissipated. Until Brink started the third quarter. And every incompletion he threw was met with a louder and louder chorus of boos.

So what did Brink do? He answered the naysayers. On the Cougars second drive of the second half, he marched his offense 82 yards to a go-ahead score.

On the drive Brink completed passes to Michael Bumpus, Cody Boyd, Jason Hill and, in a sense, himself. Actually Dwight Tardy was the passer on Brink’s 4-yard touchdown catch, but you get the picture.

The next two times the Cougs had the ball, Brink completed passes – and the receivers fumbled. The first followed a 25-yard completion to Jed Collins – the Cougar defense held – and the second followed a 9-yard completion to Bumpus – the defense had no chance as Anthony Arline took the fumble in for the go-ahead 40-yard score.

And then came The Drive. Eighty-two yards under pressure. Eighty-two yards where Brink was called on to convert two third downs with his arm. Eighty-two yards that may have ensured Brink keeps the fans calling for Rogers quiet for a while.

“It was a big drive and, honestly, it was something I was looking forward to,” Brink said. “I’ve taken heat for not being able to win games late. To have the opportunity to do it against a good ball club was something I was looking forward to.”

The drive also ensured a Cougar win, which right now is more important than any of the effects it may have on Brink’s job. This program needed this win. And, with Stanford (which is struggling with Navy as this is written) on the horizon next Saturday, there is a chance they’ll go into the Sept. 30 home game against defending Pac-10 champion USC 3-1.

And they’ll go in with Alex Brink at quarterback. Why should there be any doubt? He completed 12 of his last 13 throws Saturday, throws he needed to make if the Cougars were going to win.

In other words, he finished. And so did the Cougars.

Cougars vs. Baylor, Halftime

If there wasn’t a quarterback controversy brewing in Pullman, Gary Rogers came within one poor throw of starting one.

After Rogers relieved Alex Brink and led the Cougs to their only score - finding Jason Hill alone in the end zone - some fans at Qwest Field started chanting “Rogers, Rogers,” prior to the Cougs’ next possession.

They didn’t need to chant, Rogers was already set to return. Alex Brink didn’t even take his baseball cap or the headphones off. But the chanters got their wish, and probably told their buddies they were responsible for Rogers being in the game.

Then Rogers tossed an end-of-the quarter interception, giving Baylor a chance to expand its two-point lead just before intermission.

My guess is Brink will return to start the third, despite a plethora of high first-half throws. But the Cougar receivers dropped a handful of good tosses as well, and no one was chanting for Benny Ward or Scott Selby.

And Rogers will play as well, I suspect. The Cougar offense just seemed to be a little crisper when he was on the field.

The defense, meanwhile, seemed to get a handle on Baylor’s offense. The biggest adjustment was a 3-4 set, with Aaron Johnson on the sidelines and linebacker Cory Evans getting a lot of time. The quicker look actually added pressure on BU quarterback Shawn Bell, mostly because he seemed to struggle to determine where the fourth rusher was coming from.

It also closed some of the gaping first-quarter gaps in the secondary, though the Baylor receivers did their part, dropping a couple of easy, big gainers.

Maybe it has something to do with the facility. Dropped passes may come with the territory.

The Cougars from Seattle, Pregame Edition

UPDATED 1:40; 1:55; 2:05

Here’s a note you probably won’t find anywhere else: The last time Baylor played against WSU in the state of Washington, the game was at Albi Stadium.

That happened back in 1966, when the Bears came into Spokane for an Oct. 1 date with the Cougars. Baylor, coached by John Bridgers, defeated the Cougars, with Bert Clark at the helm, won 20-14 before 19,775 (from the Baylor media guide) or 18,500 (WSU media guide). Add those two attendance figures together and you may have Saturday’s crowd.

By the way, that game was the second of three the Cougars played in Spokane that season. They actually played more in Spokane that season then they did in Pullman. The largest Spokane crowd? The Apple Cup, with 33,500. That was also a loss (19-7), part of the Cougs’ 3-7 record. Baylor finished 5-5 that season.

And don’t think the folks in Waco know the difference between Seattle and Spokane. In the pregame notes, the Baylor release lists the neutral site record of the teams at 1-1, with WSU winning in San Antonio (or was it Houston, all those Texas towns are the same to me) and the Bears winning in Seattle. No, actually at Spokane, a little city 285 miles east.

UPDATE: After sitting in Qwest Field - or Seahawks Stadium if you prefer - just for a while, you can understand why WSU is over here. Even if you take out the be-nice-to-the-Seattle-alumni argument, and the money-making potential, there is still one great reason for the Cougs to be here: This stadium is first class.

Playing here can only be a positive for the players, for recruiting and for the Cougar faithful who decide to attend.

Look at it this way. We all know Seattle is the new Spokane. And everyone in Spokane loved it when the Cougars played there.

UPDATE NO. 2: How many of you out there think of John Candy in “Volunteers” every time you hear the Cougar fight song? Am I the only one?

It hit me again a couple of minutes ago when the Coug band sprinted onto the Qwest turf, spelled out WSU and played the fight song.

Another thing, how many of the band members are actually playing? One of my best buddies spent four years in SC’s band, and only got to play the final two years. The two before, he just marched and filled space.

UPDATE NO. 2: The game is about to start, so we’ll be signing off for now. Click back for updates at the end of each quarter.

The Huskies are playing too

There is another Pac-10 team in action in Seattle today. The Huskies host Fresno State in, no matter what coach Tyrone Willingham wants you to believe, is a must win game.

The Huskies can’t afford to lose a non-league home game, to get into a losing rut prior to Pac-10 play. They need to build momentum.

That’s also the thrust of Don Ruiz’s story in the News Tribune.

For UW to be successful, however, quarterback Isaiah Stanback has to play better, according to a Bob Condotta piece in today’s Times. But the Bulldogs will be tough, as Fresno State has become one of West’s better programs.

It will be important for the Pac-10 to play well today, as the conference has high-profile games with Big 12 members Oklahoma, Nebraska, Baylor, among others.

Another Friday night in the books

PREPS

We’re on the way to Seattle for today’s Cougar game, so this will be short.

We saw parts of two games last night, Central Valley at Gonzaga Prep and Ferris vs. Lewis and Clark at Albi.

Friday was a big night in high school football where two things became clear: North Idaho football is superior this season, and the Greater Spokane League race is up in the air.

Here are our stories, starting with the South Hill battle.

Ferris lost starting quarterback – and safety – Shawn Stockton with a broken clavicle early, but still survived to defeat LC.

Coeur d’Alene scored six times to handle one of the GSL’s preseason favorites, Mead.

Lake City cemented its 5A ranking with an easy win over Sandpoint.

Post Falls battled past a game Cheney team.

In what may have been the best game of the night, Timberlake prevailed over Riverside in overtime.

A quick look around Washington shows Davis snapped the state’s longest losing streak, 31 games, with a 20-16 win over Sunnyside; Pasco held off Moses Lake in Moses Lake; Eastlake routed Woodinville; Richland stopped Walla Walla and its new offense; Eisenhower is 3-0 after breezing past Wenatchee; Southridge picked up its first win; Lake Stevens handed Monroe its first loss of the year; and Lincoln powered past Mount Tahoma.

Don’t forget, we’ll be covering the Cougar game from before-the-start t after-the-finish today. Click in.

Quick hits for Friday afternoon

HUSKIES, SEAHAWKS AND MORE UPDATED 2 P.M. 9-16

Because I know everyone has things they want to do this fine Friday afternoon, I’ll keep this short and just hit the highlights.

I teased this Bob Condotta story about Dwayne Wright yesterday, so here it is. Wright is the San Diego-area running back that signed a letter-of-intent with WSU, didn’t qualify and ended up at Fresno State.

After the discussion this week concerning the comments of UW athletic director Todd Turner, this column by the Oregonian’s John Canzano seems even more timely. When people who contribute financially to a program act like the own it and are given a voice, why shouldn’t people who contribute emotionally be afforded the same privilege?

UPDATE: Check out this Condotta post about “The Circle.”

If there is one area of the Seahawks that needs to improve the most between Week 1 and Week 2 (Sunday’s game at Qwest against the Cardinals), it is their offensive line. As Steve Kelley writes, “If the offensive line can’t keep (Matt) Hasselbeck upright and healthy, if it can’t crack open holes for (Shaun) Alexander, this team won’t get back to the Super Bowl, won’t even get back to the playoffs.”

Another area would be Mike Holgrem’s replay challenges, according to this Mike Sando story in the News Tribune.

According to published reports, Mariners GM Bill Bavasi and manager Mike Hargrove have started the search to replace Ron Hassey as the M’s bench coach. Both the Times and the News Tribune come to the same conclusion: If Hargrove wasn’t going to be back, why would he being searching for a new bench coach.

I have a different take. They both don’t know yet what’s going to happen for next year, so they are moving ahead like they’ll be back. Ownership will decide Bavasi’s fate and that, in turn, will decide Hargrove’s.

But I agree with Art Thiel’s column from today. The firing of Hassey and Dan Rohn was a waste of time. Neither of them were the hitting (the M’s have been shut out a team-record-tying 15 times this season) or pitching coach (enough said).

Injured wing Moises Gutierrez was returned to Everett, but no one knows when he will play. He’ll be performing for a considerably poorer coach Kevin Constantine, who was fined and suspended for making his team ride the bus back from Tri-Cities in uniform. That wasn’t the only WHL news today. Check out Jeff Bunch’s notebook.

Let your flag fly over these picks

COUGARS, PAC-10 PICKS

It’s funny, but a couple of Saturdays ago, while watching ESPN’s GameDay, I noticed a WSU flag waving in the background. As the GameDay crew was in some far-flung (from Washinton, anyway) locale, I thought it was weird – but interesting.

So today, I pick up the paper and Glenn Kasses has explained the whole flag thing to us. And it’s a pretty cool reason why you may see the flag on ESPN – though there is no way Lou and the boys are coming to Pullman, at least not in the foreseeable future.

Linebacker Scott Davis made one of WSU’s biggest plays last week, stopping Idaho’s Jayson Bird on a fourth-down run near the goal line. But Davis, a captain, hasn’t practiced much this week, nursing a strained Achilles. He will play tomorrow, however, and was the subject of Craig Smith’s Times’ story this morning.

The News-Tribune’s Todd Milles wrote about the WSU players who grew up in Texas (home of Saturday’s opponent, Baylor) and what that means. He also added a story on the Cougars’ schedule.

Now my picks. As I said in an earlier, subjective (is there any other type?) post, I was 4-4-1 last week. Not good, but at least I got UCLA right, which gives me family bragging rights. This week, I hope to do better.

The upsets:
No. 19 Nebraska over No. 4 USC. I know this is a longshot, but the Trojans’ injuries have to add up sometime, don’t they?
Navy over Stanford. I can’t for the life of me figure out why the Cardinal are favored. This is even one game where they aren’t a 50-I.Q.-point favorite.

The chalk:
No. 18 Oregon over No. 15 Oklahoma. This is one of the few times everyone in the Northwest should be rooting for Nike U.
No. 21 Cal over Portland State. Enough said.
No. 22 Arizona State over Colorado. Though this one will be close.
Arizona over Stephen F. Austin. The Wildcats begin their run to the Pac-10 title with this win.
Fresno State over Washington. Sorry Todd, but if this one is big – and I think it will be – there is going to be even more dissent.

And finally, the Cougs over Baylor. I will be surprised, however, if they win by the expected two touchdowns.

No matter the browser, there’s a way to get there

PREPS UPDATED 11:35 A.M.

If you are a Safari user (like me), you might be having trouble with our on-line Sports page again today. But if you follow the links below, you should be able to read the stories, though you might have to scroll down to get to the type.

UPDATE: The problem has been fixed and everything is accessible.

The first link takes you to our GSL soccer roundup from today, which leads with Mead defeating G-Prep. There is also this roundup, which has a decided volleyball bent.

The Columbia Basin League football schedule gets started for real tonight, and the Tri-City Herald’s Rene Ferran makes his picks.

Tri-City’s Mark McKenna has a feature on Prosser linebacker Josh Beck. Yes, a story about a Mustang defender at the pass-happy school.

Friday is prep notebook day in Yakima, and this one leads with a West Valley (Yakima) linebacker who hopes to bounce back from a knee injury in time for the postseason.

As we mentioned earlier this week, Todd Beamer High was 2-0 going into Thursday night’s game against Puyallup. Well the Heroes (that’s my nickname for them, their real mascot is Titans) are 2-1 after a 30-7 whipping put on by the Vikings, winners of 22 consecutive regular-season games.

Speaking of streaks – and we were, weren’t we? – the Evergreen (Burien) girls soccer team snapped a 28-game winless streak Thursday.

There hasn’t been a lot of football success at Monroe High recently, but the school has a new stadium, a new school and a 2-0 record going into tonight’s game with Lake Stevens.

If you didn’t know, there is a trophy awarded every year in the Tacoma School District to the football team that has the best record among the high schools. The Lincoln Abes (1-1) have won the last four, and could take a big step toward winning No. 5 with a victory tonight over Mount Tahoma (2-2).

Interesting story out of Boise, where Boise and Borah highs meet tonight. Both teams are coached by alums, and they met in this rivalry game back in the 1980s.

For you swim enthusiasts, here is a story from Kitsap about the Bainbridge swim team. Of course they are good, how else would you get around the Sound?

Big elk, little car. And the picture?

QUESTION OF THE DAY

Animal pictures always seem to be popular among newspaper readers, and we had one today on our hunting section. That’s the subject of our question …

Did you catch the picture of the trophy elk atop the little compact car on the cover of Thursday’s Hunting Guide in The Spokesman-Review? We’d love to hear what you thought when you saw it.

Just click on the Comments link below and give us your answer. Remember, keep it appropriate.

Stadium land is expensive

PRO FOOTBALL

The Dallas Cowboys are getting a new stadium. The one they have isn’t state-of-the-art enough for them. But at least Arlington’s city officials are being good sheperds of their community’s resources. Or something, as this story shows.

Branch who? How about the Darche injury?

SEAHAWKS

Now that the furor over Deion Branch has subsided (not really; here’s a Oregonian story about when Branch might play), we can get back to Sunday’s opponent, the Arizona Cardinals, right?

Not until we cover the biggest injury the Seahawks have suffered in years. Long snapper Jean-Philippe Darche has been put on injured reserve and will miss the rest of the season.

As anyone who knows football in-depth can tell you, the long snapper is one of the two or three most important positions on a football team (by the way, did I mention long snapping is a Grippi tradition?). And, after six years of dependable snapping, the Hawks will have to break in a new one this weekend (see Mike Sando’s blog post for more info).

With Darche having been replaced, it will be interesting to see if Mr. Clutch, kicker Josh Brown, has any troubles this week.

Back to the Cardinals. Kurt Warner, that broken-down, over-the-hill quarterback soon to be replaced by Heisman-winner Matt Lienart (the link is to his personal blog), was named NFC Offensive Player of the Week for his performance in last weekend’s win over San Francisco.

Warner will be trying to stop a Seahawks win streak against the NFC West, which includes a 6-0 mark last year.

With Branch at practice Wednesday, the majority of the attention was on him. But coach Mike Holmgren took pains to “motivate” the offensive line, even letting the starters know the young backups are waiting.

UW’s season bears a resemblence to WSU’s

HUSKIES, COLLEGE FOOTBALL UPDATE 4:25 P.M.

Reading Jerry Brewer’s column in today’s Times, it struck me how it could have been written about the Cougars as well. Read it and tell me if you don’t think there aren’t parallels in the two programs right now. Just click on the Comment line below.

In case you didn’t know, UW has an NCAA-leader on the team. It’s punter Sean Douglas, who, after setting a school record with an 82-yard punt vs. Oklahoma, leads the NCAA with a 52.1 average.

The Huskies victory total this year may just depend on how their seconday plays.

There’s another story on Fresno State running back Dwayne Wright, this one in the Everett Herald. The only thing I remember about Wright is how he was headed to WSU but couldn’t get in, so ended up going to a JC instead. The Cougar coaches knew then he would be exceptional.

Bob Condotta of the Times talked with Wright and will have a story tomorrow, but he put a sneak preview of it on his blog today, along with some good stuff about FSU coach Pat Hill.

Hate to point out mistakes, but Don Ruiz, in his blog post listing his Pac-10 power rankings, has WSU 2-0 and ranked sixth. Of course the Cougs are 1-1 and should be ranked behind Arizona, soon to be Pac-10 champions. UPDATE: The post has been fixed.

Ted Miller of the P-I sees this Saturday’s UO vs. OU game in Eugene as a key one for the entire Pac-10. Though the conference is meeting Big 12 foes in four games (including Baylor vs. WSU), the Oregon game is important to show how deep the Pac-10 is this season.

If you don’t want to venture to Seattle on Saturday, or drive to Cheney or Moscow, maybe there will be enough college football on TV to keep you busy. At least this USA Today story makes it seem that way. There will be seven games that day matching two teams that are both ranked. Me? Even though I’m headed to Seattle for the Coug game, I already have my DVR set for the Oregon-Oklahoma game early and for the SC-Nebraska game later on. I’m going to have plenty of football to watch Sunday morning.

M’s start house cleaning early

MARINERS

The firing of Ron Hassey (and to a lesser extent Dan Rohn) is one of those moves that forces you to wonder if more moves are on the way.

According to this P-I story, there are more questions about this change than could be answered on Wednesday. Even the people involved who would talk (Rohn) had questions. And the moves were surprising, more in their timings than the moves themselves. Rohn had been in the organization for years, but GM Bill Bavasi decided he wouldn’t be back next year, so why not make the move now.

All of this has me shaking my head. What is going on in Seattle? Is this the beginning of an offseason where everyone from Bavasi to Hargrove to the coaches is let go? Could be.

Back to the games, the M’s got blasted by Toronto as the M’s young pitchers struggled. The M’s, with less than 20 games remaining in the season – and in the Bavasi Era? – head for Kansas City.

Defense getting better at UW

THE LATE NEWS

Wednesday’s the day for the defense at UW to talk with the media, and the subject this week was the secondary’s performance, according to Bob Condotta’s blog.

The thin Mariner bullpen just got a little thinner with the news Rafael Soriano will miss the rest of the season.

The Idaho Statesman writes about the Vandals’ plans to open the offense this weekend.

Everett suffers a setback

WHL

The Everett Silvertips’ Moises Gutierrez was injured while in training camp with the Pittsburgh Penguins. The extent of the injury is not yet known.

And the opinion is …

SEAHAWKS UPDATED: 2 P.M.

After Deion Branch met the media in Seattle yesterday, the Seattle columnists delivered their impressions.

Call it a mixed bag.

Take Steve Kelley’s column for example. The Seattle Times columnist calls Branch the anti-T.O., and a receiver who will only make the already good Seahawk offense better.

The P-I’s Art Thiel sees a team willing to take a chance, to go against conventional wisdom in search of one more win at the end of the season.

On the other end of the spectrum was Tacoma’s John McGrath, who thinks the Hawks overpaid for a receiver when they really needed O-line help.

UPDATE: The Times broke out some quotes from Boston-area newspapers about the Branch deal.

The Williams have a big weekend

HUSKIES

This week’s visit from Fresno State brings Paul Williams back to Husky Stadium, a place that holds tough-to-face memories. And his older brother.

See, Paul is a receiver for FSU. His older brother J.D. is a secondary coach with the Huskies. And the memories? Painted in the end zone is No. 25, the number of Paul and J.D.’s brother, Curtis, a senior safety for the 2000 Huskies who was paralyzed during a game at Stanford and died of complications from the injuries in 2002.

Bob Condotta does a nice job describing what this weekend means to the Williams family in this feature.

Condotta also has some links to Fresno stories on his blog.

The top rushing team in the Pac-10 after two games? If you said UW, give yourself a pat on the back. Who would have thought, after all the problems early in fall camp, that the Huskies would have a potent rushing attack?

When it comes to rushing, Oregon coach Mike Belotti knows how good Fresno State’s Dwayne Wright is, after his Ducks played the Bulldogs last week. Check out what he has to say on Don Ruiz’s blog.

I wasn’t the only one who took exception to Adrian Peterson’s comments last week that Pac-10 teams aren’t physical. It seems the UW offensive line was ticked off by the statement as well. And they had a chance to do something about it.

Don’t look for GSL basketball teams at big events

PREPS

The organizers of the Les Schwab Hoop Challenge on Dec. 9 released the schedule Tuesday, and Kevin Love and Lake Oswego High will be playing. The schedule includes some great games, but no Greater Spokane League teams. Why, you may ask? Because the league is playing 20 – the maximum number of prep regular-season games – league games, leaving no non-league games. The coaches voted for this, and I don’t understand it at all.

Yes, I do understand how hard it would be to schedule say, 16, league games with 11 teams in the league (playing everyone once and six teams twice would naturally lead to some inequities). And yes, I understand the desire not to play just 10 league games, to try to keep the league schedule somewhere in the neighborhood of 16 to 20 games (so that year-to-year records could be somewhat comparable).

But the positives of non-league games easily outweigh the difficulties of figuring out how to have them. And those positive aren’t just limited to the stronger teams.

Yes, the better teams will be invited to tournaments like the Les Schwab. And yes, they’ll have an easier time scheduling. And, yes, they’ll get to travel, if they can raise the money to do it. All things the weaker teams may not have available to them.

But the weaker teams get the opportunity to play more games against teams they can compete against. What good does it for one of the weaker GSL girls teams to lose twice to University or LC by 40? Wouldn’t it be better to play a team from another league that they match up better with? Then the girls can learn the lessons available from competing to come out on top.

What good comes out of going into four or six or eight games in which you know you have no chance, no matter how well you play, how hard you play? Yes, you are going to have some of those, that is the nature of a league, especially the GSL. But the more you can limit those glorified scrimmages, the more you can replace them with actually competitive games, the more lessons the players can learn.

If you have any thoughts on this, please share them. I’d like to hear them. Just click on the Comments below.

By the way, volleyball – another sport with 20 regular-season dates (EDIT: Actually 16 and a jamboree) – figured out a way to do it.

Click the full entry link for links to other prep stories.

Chiefs trade ends a family relationship

CHIEFS, WHL

There was a short in today’s paper about the Chiefs trading the last of the Lynch Mob, as they were affectionately known when the four brothers played in Spokane.

But that wasn’t the only Chiefs-related news (read Northwest WHL news) I found today.

Here is an Everett story about the Silvertips being taken to the woodshed after a poor preseason game against Tri-City. And here is the other side of that, the Tri-City story about the shutout.

Baseball hiring in CdA doesn’t seem to inspire confidence

PREPS

Who would have thought a baseball coach hiring would move the attention meter?

If the comments posted on Greg Lee’s Idaho Prep Sports blog are any indication, then Coeur d’Alene athletic director Larry Schwenke’s decision to recommend Chris Stangel, a former California policeman, be hired as CdA’s next baseball coach isn’t a popular one.

There are three comments so far (1 p.m.) at the bottom of Greg’s story concerning Stangel, and none of the commentators like the hiring one bit. The jist of most of the comments revolve around passing over CdA alums for the job.

Check out the story and post your opinion on Greg’s blog.

Stanback on the hot seat?

HUSKIES, COLLEGE FOOTBALL

In the aftermath of the Oklahoma game, UW quarterback Isaiah Stanback doesn’t feel he has to worry about his starting quarterback spot.

He says he’s just going to play, do his best and leave the rest up to the coaches. He is still feeling the pain of his performance in Norman. Though he says that game is in his rearview mirror now.

But there is no quarterback controversy in Montlake, at least not in Tyrone Willingham’s way of thinking. And he is the coach.

Here is the Times’ look at the Bulldogs of Fresno State. There is also more on FSU on Bob Condotta’s blog and on Mike Allende’s blog.

I told you I would keep up on the Ray Ray McElrathbey situation and I don’t want to be a liar. Here’s an AP story about the NCAA’s decision to allow McElrathbey to accept funds to help raise his 11-year-old brother, Fahmarr.

We have to talk

PREPS

We’re going to start today with a sad note – and an always-needed discussion.

A North Thurston high football player was killed in a one-car rollover accident early Sunday morning. Police think alcohol was involved.

Kids, you are not indestructible, though you may think you are. And yes, it could happen to you. And no, you are not OK to drive if you’ve had even ONE drink.

This summer, our 18-year-old woke us up about 2 a.m., saying he was going out to pick up a couple friends who couldn’t get home because they’d been drinking. I offered to get dressed and go get them with him, because we didn’t want him out so late. He called the duo back and they didn’t want a parent picking them up.

Why the heck not? Their reason was simple: They didn’t want their parents to know they had been drinking.

Guys, we know. We don’t like it, we do everything we can to get you to stop, we warn, cajole and threaten, but we know. And the most important thing is, we don’t want you to die trying to get home. We want you home alive. We want to talk about what you’re doing, but the most important thing is: you are our children and we want you safe. Don’t try to sneak home. Face up to it. Call. Get a ride with someone sober, be it a friend or an adult. Get home safe.

Seattle decides to add a Branch

QUESTION OF THE DAY

The Seahawks made a big play Monday, and it wasn’t on the field. We want to know if you think it was the right call or a fumbled one. So here’s our question …

Are you pleased with the Deion Branch pick up by the Seahawks, or do you see this as an issue of not enough passes to go around?

Just click on the Comments link below and give us your answer. Remember, keep it appropriate.

Seahawks makes a deal

SEAHAWKS UPDATED 2:55 P.M.; UPDATED 7:40 P.M.

So Seattle has decided to part with a (reportedly) first-round pick in next year’s draft for one of the league’s better receivers.

How will Deion Branch do in Seattle? And who will be dropped to make room (my guess, Bobby Engram or possibly Willie Ponder, though he was just picked up for his kickoff return abilities)?

UPDATE: The first bylined story to hit was from Danny O’Neil of the Times.

UPDATE NO. 2: According to the Times’ Seahawk blog and Mike Sando’s blog, the Seahawks have been given a roster exemption for two weeks. That means they have a few days to decide who Branch replaces on the roster. I wonder if a receiver will get “injured” in that time. Also, Sando gives a little historical perspective to Seattle’s decision to send a No. 1 pick to New England.

The best way to get more information is to check out these sites: The Times’ Seahawk blog and the News Tribune’s blog. There will be more later - including the question of the day.

A split decision

COLLEGE FOOTBALL UPDATED 2:15 P.M.

So how did I do with my first Pac-10 picks?

Well, here they are. You decide …

Oregon State over Boise State in a close one.
Oklahoma over Washington, but closer than people think.
Stanford barely over San Jose State.
Arizona over LSU. The Wildcats are the team to beat this year in the Pac-10.
Fresno State keeps it close, but Oregon wins.
Cal in a romp over Minnesota.
ASU covers over Nevada.
UCLA doesn’t cover but still wins handily.
Idaho over WSU in a close one.

The true results: Boise won in a romp; Oklahoma won, but it was close for a half; San Jose rallied past Stanford; LSU crushed - crushed - Arizona, but the Wildcats are still the team to beat this year in the Pac-10; Oregon won at Fresno; Cal romped; ASU covered and UCLA didn’t; and, finally, WSU won going away.

Call it 4-4-1 (with UW being the tie).

UPDATE: Missed some good stories from around the country this morning, so I thought I would share. Here is Mike Lopresti’s column from USA Today and another story from the paper, this one on Ohio State’s long road ahead despite its win over Texas.

Seahawks: Dead or alive? Depends on your point of view

SEAHAWKS

There are two ways to look at the Seahawks’ 9-6 win over Detroit on Sunday.

There is the glass half-full way. That entails filling said glass with Jim Jones Kool-Aid and gulping down the concoction, thinking of the offense, an offense that no longer has Steve Hutchinson.

If that’s the way you want to go, there are a multitude of stories for you. The Seattle Times kicks it off, with a story by Greg Bishop that chronicles the tough day for the Seahawks’ offense, especially its two stars, Matt Hasselbeck and Shaun Alexander.

Art Thiel thinks the taste of the Kool-Aid erases the memory of last year, as did Ted Miller in his column.

The offensive line – sans Hutchinson – was not very good, and the Times’ notebook delves into that. An even more in-depth look at the line woes can be found in Everett.

And, despite its success, according to this Everett story, the defense wasn’t too happy with itself. Maybe they were counting the missed tackles like I was.

But there is another way to look at Sunday, and that entails filling your glass half full of Gentleman Jack and drinking a toast to the D, and to kicker Josh Brown. On a dark day in Detroit, they pulled the Seahawks through.

Answers to the morning’s question

We received two comments after the Battle of the Palouse, and both made some decent points.

Jimmy understands why both sides would want to take a hiatus in the rivalry. He’s right, the games do to seem to be pretty similar, though I think that will change if Dennis stays in Idaho. The Vandals will improve as Erickson recruits more players better able to play the game the way he wants it played.

A better reason to discontinue the yearly nature of the rivalry is how chippy Saturday’s game got after it was out of hand. The little cheap shots, the talking, the penalties – all children of a too-familiar rivalry. Take some time, play once every three years, and each class at each school will get a chance to face their neighbor at least once.

Jimmy also liked the passing game and how it featured someone other than Jason Hill. There were two stories today (in Tacoma and in Vancouver) that focused on Chris Jordan, if you’re interested. If the Cougs’ four receivers (Hill, Jordan, Michael Bumpus and Cody Boyd) stay healthy, Alex Brink’s life will be better.

That brings us to Jim H’s comments. I agree, the Cougs are going to struggle to have a winning season, though I see 5-7 more likely than 4-8 as Jim thinks. But I don’t agree with is comments that Brink is a jinx. The Cougar coaching staff sees their quarterback corps every day at practice. They dissect game video. They run meetings. They are in the best position to know who the best player is in the most important position on a football team.

Can Brink play better? Sure. Does Gary Rogers have talent? Sure. Do the Cougar coaches want to win? That one is an emphatic sure. So wouldn’t they want to put the best player on the field right now that they believe will help them win right now? Sure.

That’s it for Sunday’s question. We will post Monday’s question soon.

A day later

COUGARS, VANDALS

Saturday, WSU put a whipping on the University of Idaho.

There’s no way to deny it.

You watched it, either in person or on TV. So did a large group of reporters. This morning, I’m going to go over how they saw it.

Let’s start with the game reports. Here’s ours, first from Glenn Kasses, who reminds us there still is a gap between the programs, despite the return of Dennis Erickson and the excitement that move generated.

Jim Meehan talked with the Vandals afterward, and here is his story.

Of course, other reporters were there, including Craig Smith of the Seattle Times. Here is his story. And Todd Milles of the News Tribune writes about the Cougs team victory. Tri-Cities’ Jahmal Corner puts it into perspective.

There were features and notebooks as well, including ours about Alex Brink and our notebook. Tri-Cities had a notebook, as did Seattle.

Want the game stats? You can find them here.

So now we move to the next question, how?

John Blanchette explains the outcome while Glenn Kasses give the Cougars their game-day grades.

Remember to check out Glenn’s Cougar blog and Jim’s Vandal blog for updates.

Also, don’t forget to add your comments to the question below. Keep them appropriate, please. We may edit out the inappropriate parts. Later today, we’ll run through them.

That’s it for now. I want to watch the Seahawks. And they’ve already had a field goal blocked.

Battle of the Palouse - Final

FINAL UPDATE: 6:35 P.M.

This was a rout. In every way.

The Washington State Cougars showed there is a lot more than an 8-mile divide between themselves and their Palouse neighbors from the University of Idaho.

A divide that no matter how long the Vandals left their starters in - and some were on the field in the game’s final possessions - they weren’t going to bridge this Saturday.

For more on the Cougar rout, click on full entry.

Battle of the Palouse - Quarterbacks

First-half version …

Alex Brink showed his performance at Auburn was an abberation. He hit 10 of his 12 passes for 192 yards, though some 65 of them can be attributed to Jason Hill’s legs. Speaking of legs, Brink, taking up the slack with DeMaundray Woolridge sitting out, led the Cougars 46 yards on five rushing attempts. They had 70 yards total.

Steven Wichman threw the ball just as well as his Coug counterpart, but the Idaho QB got NO help from his receivers. Of his 12 incompletions in the half, at least six were out-and-out drops. He finished 7 of 19 for 105 yards, 35 of them on one play - a diving catch by Marlon Haynes.

But even that play was iffy, as Haynes didn’t even start sprinting until the ball was in the air. Otherwise, the pass was perfect, he would have caught it in stride and the Vandals would have a touchdown.

Battle of the Palouse - End of First Quarter

With the Cougars leading at the quarter, the Vandal fans cane take solace in one fact: The Vandals’ start this year is better than the start they had last year.

Which isn’t saying much being that it took the Cougars all of 69 seconds to score two TDs last year. This time it to 11:18 seconds.

The Cougars’ fans can take solace in this fact: Last week, WSU’s best starting position against Auburn was its 28. The first time WSU touched the ball today, it was at the Idaho 45 - and led to its first touchdown.

The difference early in this one is simple: The Cougars can catch the ball, the Vandals can’t.

Cougar defensive end Lance Broadus’ interception was a better catch than anyone on Idaho made the entire first 15 minutes.

Wendell Octave, Luke Smith-Anderson and the rest of the Vandal receiving corp just couldn’t make the big catch. In Octave’s defense, he did grab three passes in the quarter - but no one else caught any.

On the other hand, The Cougars’ Chris Jordan makes a diving catch of Alex Brink’s 22-yard touchdown throw - a throw that was put in a good place, but one only a spectacular catch would convert into a touchdown. Jordan made it.

Yes, the first touchdown came on a screen pass when Michael Bumpus was wide open - the Vandals brought both inside linebackers - but still it had to be made. The Vandals rarely made even the easy catch, finishing the quarter with 27yards receiving - all but 3 of that on the final first-quarter drive.

That was better though, then the early rushing attack - despite the scoreboard listing 991 yards rushing for the visitors … UI was in negative numbers at the time and the board couldn’t handle it.

Well, it could have been worse for UI - and better for WSU - but an early fumble was overruled by the booth and UI kept the ball. Of course, the Vandals still went three-and-out, a short punt followed and WSU scored.

Game day in Pullman

BATTLE OF THE PALOUSE

OK, enough with the preliminaries.

It’s time to play.

Click here up to game time, and we will have news, notes and links to important aspects of today’s Battle of the Palouse. And we’ll try to answer any questions you may have – just dump them in the comment line of the most recent post.

Afterward, we’ll let you know what we think, as well as the consensus around Pullman. And we’ll try to answer the rest of your questions – as well as give you an opportunity to vent, appropriately.

Keep clicking in – though for the next couple hours or so (it’s about 9:30 right now), we’ll be on U.S. 195 headed to the Palouse.

While we’re away, check out Glenn Kasses’ three things to watch analysis from today’s paper.

Or click on the Seattle Times’ preview story and capsule. Not enough? Well check out the advance from today’s News Tribune.

Hope that keeps you.

A typical night of prep football

PREPS

There were some great games last night, which isn’t unusual. It seems like every week in high school football something spectacular happens.

Think they were dancing in Garfield and Palouse last night? The Vikings ended LaCrosse-Washtucna’s 49-game winning streak with a 46-18 victory in Washtucna. Gar-Pal led 32-6 at half behind the devastating running of Jesse Cole. Here is the Seattle Times story from Craig Smith, on his way to cover the Cougars today.

Think they were dancing on the top of the South Hill, after Ferris’ comeback, 24-17 overtime victory over East Valley? The Saxons and Lewis and Clark, which stopped Mead 21-6 in the Albi Stadium nightcap, are both 2-0 going into next Friday’s South Hill rivalry game.

But that wasn’t all we covered this morning in our two editions of The Spokesman-Review. Here are links to the rest of the stories: Colville over Lakeland; Gonzaga Prep blasting Tacoma’s Bellarmine Prep again; Coeur d’Alene struggling against Centennial; and Capital of Boise handling Post Falls.

A sampling of game stories from around the state of Washington: Bellevue wins again, this time hammering Mount Si; Kentridge routs Rogers of Puyallup; Lake Washington comes from 18 points behind to stun Garfield; Lakes scores in the waning seconds, adds a two-point conversion and edges South Kitsap, 32-31; Olympia pounds Capital; undefeated Richland makes Southridge 0-2 after 21-20 win; 3A Kamiakin suprises 4A No. 1 Pasco, 31-17; Prosser rolls again, this time over East Valley (Yakima); Ferndale keeps winning streak alive by defeating Sehome; and Everett holds off Cascade in first meeting in three years.

Don’t ever forget the Super Bowl

SEAHAWKS, MARINERS

I’m going to combine the Seattle-area pro teams today, because of time constraints.

But I still have time enough to say, no, I’m not over it. The Hawks got hosed in the Super Bowl – and the Steelers are still getting every call, as witnessed by last night’s season-opening win over the Miami Dolphins (“Sorry, no one saw your red flag on the field, coach Saban.”) – and I’m not letting that go – ever (did I mention I’m Sicilian?).

Letting go is the premise of this Times’ article, but don’t buy into it. Join me and stew about the Super Bowl until – well, forever.

After a Super Bowl season – and yes, the Hawks were jobbed – Seattle fans may not let go of their Hawks again. At least that’s the premise of Art Thiel’s column.

Jim Moore takes a day off from making fun of the Huskies to making fun of the Detroit Lions assistant coach that was arrested for driving naked. Of course, he was reportedly intoxicated as well.

The Seahawks have picked their captains, and Mike Sando has them – along with a bunch of other stuff – on his blog.

On the Mariners’ front, with no Thursday game it was a chance for the Times’ Greg Bishop to catch up with J.J. Putz, who has delivered as the closer this year.

Eagle memories

EAGLES

Dave Trimmer needs help. OK, I know that’s an open-ended statement.

But actually Dave is asking for help from people who remember the last time Eastern Washington played a football game in Mountaineer Stadium in Morgantown, West Virginia.

On his blog, Dave is asking anyone who has memories of the 1967 NAIA championship game Eastern played against Fairmont State to share them with the readers.

If you have info about the game, click the comment link on Dave’s blog and share.

High school games on TV

PREPS UPDATED 12:15 P.M.

Comcast cable is broadcasting tapes of more than 50 high school football games around the state this fall, including one a week in the Greater Spokane League. To watch, you have to have the company’s digital cable ON DEMAND service. For more information, check out this Seattle Times’ story or check the Comcast varsity sports site.

Post Falls travels to Boise for a showdown with Capital High tonight at Bronco Stadium. Here is the advance of the game in the Idaho Statesman. If you watched the Boise State win over Oregon State last night, you noticed how hazy the skies were, thanks to forest fires in the area.

There were a couple of football games – and other prep sports – in the Spokane area last night. Here is the S-R’s Spokane roundup and the Idaho roundup.

UPDATE: Mike Vlahovich took in the Mead/Lewis and Clark volleyball game last night, and here are his impressions.

There were games around Washington last night as well, and the best was on the other side of the mountains. WashingtonPreps.com has Puyallup ranked No. 1 in the state, all classifications, and the website might be right. Last night, the Vikings handled Kentwood, 20-7, in Kent. Check the Times’ story here, the P-I piece here and the Tacoma story here.

The Tri-City Herald features a Pasco player who is just happy to be playing – and walking.

The paper’s Rene Ferran makes his picks for this week’s Tri-City-area games, most of which are non-league contests that used to be Big Nine games.

There was a lot of volleyball last night, with one sea change occurring in the Columbia Basin League. Check the second game on this link for Walla Walla’s win over Ike, a 4A finalist the past two years.

There is one great game in the South Sound tonight. Lakes, a Tacoma power and alma mater of one of Spokane’s leading citizens, faces South Kitsap,a perennial power formerly coached by East Valley assistant Ed Fisher, in the Tacoma Dome.

There was one great performance in the South Sound last weekend, when Clover Park running back Darriell Beaumonte rushed for 293 yards against Mount Rainier, a performance which included three touchdowns.

There is a traditional game in the Northwest part of the state, with Cascade taking on Everett in the renewal of a rivalry that was heated beyond words back in the ‘60s.

Finally, here is a sad story out of Seattle. Cleveland High was burglarized, and all the basketball equipment was stolen.

Don’t close the door on transfers

PREPS

I can remember driving to work a few years back, and being tailgated down Lincoln St. by an old pickup truck. The driver was a Shadle Park basketball player who lived up by Comstock Park. Every day he headed down Lincoln and basically passed Lewis and Clark on his way to the North Side school.

Attending Shadle where he could play basketball for head coach Darcy Weisner, was a decision the player and his family had made. At the time it seemed weird to me, driving that far for high school when there was an excellent academic school only a few blocks down the hill.

Such behavior, I felt then, was symptomatic of a deeper problem in high school sports: The idea the grass was greener on the other side.

Basically I figured kids who transfer for athletic reasons were not facing up to reality. If they were good enough to play, they would be able to play at the school in their neighborhood.

Then I had two boys go through high school.

Willingham shows a softer side

HUSKIES

I don’t know how good a football coach UW got when it hired Tyrone Willingham, but I do know they got a quality human being. Sure, he’s not the most open guy with the media, and that’s too bad. Sure, he always a stern visage when he’s on the sidelines, and that hides his human side.

But Willingham’s true character fights through the tough facade all the time, mostly in the little things he does. Take this example in today’s Times. This little gesture by Willingham, one he didn’t have to make, meant a lot to an old coach.

The Huskies will try to stop – or should I say limit? – Adrian Peterson on Saturday. But the OU running back may be unstoppable after being called out by his offensive coordinator this week.

The Oklahoma papers are focusing on UW’s Isaiah Stanback and his running ability, according to Mike Allende in his Everett Herald blog.

Poor Jim Moore. Due to a stupid prediction about the Mariners, of all teams, the P-I columnist is going to have to quit bashing the Huskies at least until Apple Cup week. So he is trying to get a season’s worth of ragging in between now and the M’s elimination in the AL West race. His effort Thursday was a good start.

Are we there yet?

EAGLES UPDATED 12:10 P.M.

Saturday’s order is a tall one.

Travel to, compete with and stay healthy against West Virginia. The sixth-ranked Mountaineers will make all those things difficult for EWU, according to Dave Trimmer’s story in today’s paper.

The travel part is covered a little deeper on Dave’s blog. Getting to West Virginia from Spokane isn’t easy. Heck, getting there from Pittsburgh isn’t easy.

Dave also has a multitude of links to stories concerning the game from the West Virginia perspective.

UPDATE: Seattle Times columnist Bud Withers caught up with Montana State coach Mike Kramer, and, as always, Kramer was not at a loss for words.

Maybe if we pick a better name, the rivalry will continue

VANDALS, COUGARS UPDATED 9:45 A.M.; 10:35 A.M.; 2:15 P.M.

Let’s get started today with the Battle of the Palouse – no one sent in any suggestions for a new name, so I’m going with a tried and true cliché.

There’s a sense this rivalry is winding down, as stories I talked about earlier this week alluded to. But John Blanchette got right to it today, listing all the reasons why this rivalry battle may become less frequent after next year.

If you think this game should stay a yearly occurrence, let me know and I’ll pass on your feelings this weekend. Otherwise, if it switches, don’t bitch.

Glenn Kasses looked at the defensive effort from last week (it was excellent) and the results (40 points, any questions?). As I said yesterday when talking about Alex Brink, effort and good intentions aren’t enough, you have to produce at the college level. As my dad used to say, no one wants to hear about the labor pains, they just want to see the baby.

Glenn also has his picks for the Pac-10 this week. Here are mine:

Oregon State over Boise State in a close one.
Oklahoma over Washington, but closer than people think.
Stanford barely over San Jose State.
Arizona over LSU. The Wildcats are the team to beat this year in the Pac-10.
Fresno State keeps it close, but Oregon wins.
Cal in a romp over Minnesota.
ASU covers over Nevada.
UCLA doesn’t cover but still wins handily.

WSU vs. Idaho? I’ll say Saturday.

UPDATE NO. 3: Jim Meehan has some interesting things to say about the Vandals’ future schedule on his blog.

From outside the area, the Seattle Times profiles Dennis Erickson’s return to Idaho and his first 8-mile trek to Pullman.

Tacoma’s Todd Milles also did a profile today, this one about Idaho outside linebacker Josh Bousman. Like yours truly, Todd is a former prep writer who covered Bousman when he played at Tacoma Baptist.

UPDATE: Missed this earlier, but Todd also profiled WSU punter Darryl Blunt.

The last Idaho profile of the day comes from the Idaho Statesman. The Boise paper, which covers the University of Idaho a little more than we do Boise State, writes about Vandal receiver Max Komar.

UPDATE NO. 2: Found this while I was browsing for EWU stories. It’s a guide to this weekend’s WAC games, with some fun information and picks.

The lessons of 2006

MARINERS

As another lost season rolls round and round before finally going down the drain, it’s time to look at what the Mariners gained this year, despite losing another 90 games (when the season is finally over).

On the rest of this blog entry, you’ll find my thoughts on the foundation that revealed itself this season, the foundation the M’s management can use to anchor a successful team next year and beyond.

Then, at the end, you’ll find a question I want you to answer. Please take the time, and we’ll discuss it on this site over the next couple weeks.

Now the positives. The M’s …

The Pac-10 is soft myth

HUSKIES

This is something I hate.

The University of Oklahoma’s Adrian Peterson wants everyone to believe the teams in the Big 12 are more physical than other conferences, including the Pac-10, home of the Sooners’ opponent this Saturday, the University of Washington.

“We’re more physical,” Peterson was quoted as saying by the Seattle Times’ Bob Condotta, “and run the ball with a smash-mouth style of play on both sides of the ball.”

The second part of that statement is true. The Big 12 schools, as a whole, would rather run the ball through you than pass it over you.

But the first part is a bunch of BS.

The Big 12 - or the SEC or the Big Ten for that matter - isn’t more physical than the Pac-10, if by physical you mean tough, which is what I believe Peterson meant here.

Just because the Pac-10 made its reputation with spread offenses and lightning-fast defenses, that doesn’t mean its players are soft. Far from it. Ask anyone who has lined up again USC’s O-line the past three years or tried to run through Arizona’s linebackers or tried to push around Oregon’s d-lineman. From top to bottom, the Pac-10 teams hit, and hit hard.

Condotta points out in his story … “of the five times (Peterson) has been held below 100 yards in games in which he was healthy, three have come against Pac-10 teams: USC in the 2005 Orange Bowl (25 carries, 85 yards), a regular-season game against UCLA last season (23-58) and the Holiday Bowl last season against Oregon (23-84).”

I watched that UCLA game and the Bruins – the gutty little Bruins – kicked his butt all over the field. They may have been wearing baby blue uniforms, but they hit Peterson in the mouth – again and again.

Pac-10 teams aren’t soft. They’re smart. If winning takes hitting with you, they will. But if they can make you miss them, if they can run by you, if they can make tackles and score touchdowns with speed instead of brawn, they’ll do that too.

It’s the ability to do both that is the key to success in modern college football. It’s why Nebraska has changed its offense, why Virginia Tech is good year after year, why Texas doesn’t win a national title until Vince Young comes along, why USC has won two of the past three national championships.

Soft isn’t the right word. Smart is.

Injuries crippling the Cougs

COUGARS, VANDALS

The Cougars aren’t going into this Saturday’s Palouse Showdown with the University of Idaho at full strength.

With the injuries suffered prior to the Auburn game still yet to heal (two defensive line starters and an offensive line starter out), their injury report Tuesday was kind of iffy. As in, there are a few starters who are iffy whether they will play or not, including one of the bright spots from last Saturday, running back DeMaundray Woolridge.

There’s more on the injury problem from Glenn Kasses at his blog. There is also an interesting conversation with Alex Brink, following his poorest showing of his career against Auburn.

Brink admitted as much during the news conference, and Glenn and Todd Milles of the News Tribune (whose story is here) wrote about it.

It is this type of attitude that will make Brink a success, not only as a college quarterback but for the rest of his life. He is willing to shoulder blame (a rare trait these days), he’s willing to admit failure (even rarer) and he’s willing to work as hard as possible to correct the errors (rarest). Whether or not he leads the Cougars to the Rose Bowl, he’s a winner.

That being said, college football is about winning – on the field. Moral victories don’t count, life lessons don’t count, good feelings don’t count. It is the wins and losses that go into the season ledger that count. If Brink doesn’t correct the mistakes quickly, he will find himself on the bench. That’s just the way it is. And rightfully so. The Cougars, and any college team, need to have the player at each position, quarterback to long snapper, who gives them the best opportunity to win.

Katelan Redmon picks the University of Washington

PREPS

Katelan Redmon, who helped Lewis and Clark to its first Washington State 4A girls basketball title last season, has given a verbal commitment to the University of Washington, according to LC coach Jim Redmon, who is also her uncle.

Redmon hit 10 of 12 shots - including eight in a row in the frst half - en route to a game-high 22 points in last year’s 66-44 finals win over Prairie, catapulting her to the top of many school’s recruiting lists.

Redmon was also a first-team All-Greater Spokane League selection last season. She played her freshman and sophomore years at Mt. Spokane before transferring to LC prior to her junior year.

A verbal committment is non-binding. The first day seniors like Redmon can sign a binding national letter of intent is Nov. 8.

The polls

COLLEGE FOOTBALL

The newest polls are out and Ohio State is No. 1 and Texas No. 2 in both, so Saturday’s meeting in Austin will be another 1 vs. 2 “Game of the Century.” Here at SportsLink, we are just referring to it as the “Game of September, 2006.”

How did the Pac-10 schools do? USC in now third in both polls, Cal dropped to 22nd (coaches) and 23rd (Associated Press), Oregon moved up to 20th in both and Arizona State is 25th in the AP poll.

You can see the entire coaches’ poll here and the AP poll here.

In other notes of interest, Auburn is still fourth in the AP poll (now tied with Notre Dame) with the Tigers’ big win over WSU moving them up two spots to fourth in the coaches’ poll. Eastern Washington’s opponent this weekend, West Virginia, is tied for fifth with Notre Dame - is that a rule now, the Irish have to be tied with someone? - in the coaches’ poll and is sixth in the AP poll (with five first-place votes). UW’s Saturday foe, Oklahoma, is 15th in AP and 10th in the coaches’ poll, a drop of five spots in each after struggling last Saturday.

Keeping up with UW

HUSKIES UPDATED: 1 P.M.

There are approximately 4,000 University of Washington alums in the Spokane area (according to the alumni association’s website), and at least some of them must be interested in Husky football – despite the past few years.

But getting news about their beloved Dawgs isn’t easy. We recognize that. So here at SportsLink, we’ve been trying to keep you apprised of UW’s progress thus far.

And it will continue – though I would love to hear from you. Just drop a comment once in a while so we know you are alive, and don’t wait until Apple Cup week.

Anyhow, today the Seattle Times’ Bob Condotta looks back at the 1985 Orange Bowl, fondly remembered as the Sooner Schooner game. A fun read.

The Times also has a notebook and a first look at the Sooners.

After Alabama-Birmingham backup quarterback Sam Hunt ran for 70 yards on 15 carries last Saturday, Husky quarterback Isaiah Stanback told the P-I he expects the Sooners to really focus on him.

The Tacoma News Tribune focused on the best player Oklahoma has: running back Adrian Peterson, who is a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate.

One last note. It can’t be easy covering the Dawgs, as reading Condotta’s blog shows. In last night’s post, he talked about coach Tyrone Willingham’s answers to a question about not going for two point late in the game. Condotta fills in the blanks that Willingham wouldn’t, then writes: “Certainly, these are the kinds of questions you wish sometimes that he would be a little more open with his answers.” As anyone who has ever covered a tight-lipped coach knows, that makes life tough. But it’s probably something that’s not going to change.

UPDATE: The news isn’t good about the UW tight ends. Check Condotta’s blog entry or Mike Allende’s blog from Everett or Don Ruiz’ entry from Tacoma.

The reasons we need high school athletics

PREP SPORTS

Why are high school sports important?

Craig Smith of the Seattle Times gives 1.3 million answers (actually more like 15) to that question in his prep column today. Craig sees the sports world through the same prism I do, so I highly recommend this column.

Gonzaga Prep is third this week in the Times’ statewide 4A rankings, with Mead moving in at No. 9. Pasco remains No. 1. In the 3A ranks, East Valley is fourth. Bellevue is the top-ranked team in 3A. In the WashingtonPreps.com rankings, Puyallup is No. 1 in the 4A, Gonzaga Prep fifth and Mead is in others to watch. In the 3A, East Valley is No. 5. Pullman is second in the 2A with West Valley ninth. Lakeside is sixth in the 1A. Davenport is atop the 2B ranks, with Reardan No. 2. LaCrosse-Washtucna remains top-ranked in the 1B.

Rene Ferren of Tri-Cities covered the Prosser (ranked 44th in the nation this week) rout of Southridge on Saturday, but that’s not the only game he commented upon in his blog.

I know this is late, but I’m including this link to the Yakima Herald-Republic’s Prosser game story just because the linescore at the bottom is so darn impressive – and scary if you’re a Prosser opponent.

The Seattle Times kicks off its coverage of girls soccer with a feature on Highline’s Kaitlyn Heinsohn. There is also a list of players to watch in the Puget Sound, while the Everett Herald profiles the Archbishop Murphy girls team.

One last football note from southern Idaho. Bishop Kelly’s 25-game winning streak was snapped by Centennial 32-16 on Friday night.

Kick it deep

THE EVENING NEWS

Glenn Kasses has posted his impressions of Saturday’s game, so check his blog. There’s a good note on the importance of the kickoff guy.

In case you’re wondering, Jim Meehan got his luggage back. That and more from Dennis Erickson on the Vandal blog.

The Huskies have some injuries at tight end. According to Bob Condotta’s blog post there is a shortage at the position. Sort of sounds like the Cougars’ defensive front.

Oklahoma is up next for UW, and though the Sooners struggled Saturday, they still are the Sooners and they still are hosting the Huskies. Don Ruiz of the News Tribune has a first look at UO on his blog.

And the final prep words from last weekend come from Mike Vlahovich on his blog. Mike links to a story from the News Tribune about Pullman having trouble getting non-league games. If you remember, last year the Greyhounds defeated Prosser, which went on to the 3A finals.

Thanks for the title Chris

SHOCK

This one is going on its own post.

The Spokane Shock brought an exciting, vibrant brand of football to Spokane this past spring and summer. And the man most responsible for the excitement and vibrancy was coach Chris Siegfried.

That’s why Jim Meehan’s story today about Siegfried leaving hits hard.

We knew he would be leaving sooner or later. Success is the father of demand, and Siegfried was in demand. Despite all the roadblocks in the way of an arenafootball2 coach – remember this is minor league sports and the guys have to make ends meet with other jobs, not to mention weddings – Siegfried had his team prepared each week.

The ArenaCup rout of Green Bay was just the pinnacle, the tip of the iceberg. It was the other 20-plus weeks of training, practice, games, that Siegfried laid the foundation for the final success.

And now he’s leaving for an offensive coordinator position in the “big leagues” of arena football. That is what’s so shocking. He showed here, and throughout his af2 career, he can be successful as a head coach. It’s surprising no one had the temerity to reach out and make him the head man somewhere in the top arena league.

He earned it.

Vandals, Eagles going in opposite directions - of the country

VANDALS, EAGLES

Speaking of hard-to-find-news, and I was in an earlier post, finding stories about the Eastern Washington Eagles and the Idaho Vandals anywhere but on our site is a chore (I guess I could have worked the word labor in here somewhere, but I’m getting tired of it).

Up next for the Vandals is Palouse rival Washington State – a shorter road trip than last Saturday, that’s for sure. But, looking back on Saturday against Michigan State, UI had a lot of positives. Jim Meehan looks back at the game and looks for his lost luggage on his blog.

Eastern, on the other hand, has a road trip across the nation and into the Alleghenies to face one of the nation’s top-ranked teams, West Virginia, in Morgantown. Though Eastern lost its opener to Oregon State, it was a good weekend for the Big Sky. Find links to all the stories at Dave Trimmer’s blog.

Happy birthday Tyler

COUGARS

Twenty-two years ago yesterday, Kim made good use of “labor” day, going into labor with our first-born son, Tyler. He was born the next day, which was Sept. 4, after more than 14 hours of labor – during which I discovered why they called it labor.

Happy birthday kid.

According to the dictionary, labor also means a particular piece of work, especially a long or difficult one. Like the Cougars went through at Auburn (just call me the King of Segue).

We ran Glenn Kasses’ analysis of the Cougars’ effort today, along with his
roundup of the game action. Glenn also has more commentary on his blog.

The analysis fits with what I wrote Saturday, but Glenn is closer to the situation and the team, so there are a few more insightful and well-grounded comments in his piece.

I’m not going to link to every Cougar story from around the state, but I will direct you to a few. Here is the Seattle Times follow up on the game, along with a game analysis.

In case you missed it, here is the Times’ game story. Also, the paper’s columnist, Bud Withers, was there, and here is what he wrote.

That’s about it. Up next, the Huskies.

Sunday brunch

MISCELLANEOUS Updated 10:50 A.M.

Just a quick post because I promised Kim today was her day. So while she’s getting ready to go out to breakfast, some random thoughts from Saturday.

The best Pac-10 teams I saw yesterday were, in order, USC, Oregon and UCLA. The poorest were, in no particular order, Arizona (and the Wildcats are my pick to surprise this season), Stanford and, yes, WSU. The Cougars played the best opponent of the trio, however.

Idaho was a much-improved football team, and will give anyone they play fits - if the Vandals play like they did Saturday. You can find more on Jim Meehan’s blog.

Cougars in Alabama (fourth quarter)

After three quarters in the heat and humidity of the South, the Cougars look pretty fresh on offense.

The defensive side is something else entirely. And now the defense needs a stop.

Click the full entry link and join us for the final quarter.

Cougars in Alabama (second quarter)

For two drives the WSU offense looked overmatched.

For two drives, the WSU defense gave and gave, but didn’t break.

Then the offensive line tightened up, the receivers had more time to get open, Woolridge broke a 42-yard run through a nice hole and, bingo, WSU leads 7-6.

Click the full entry link and follow the second quarter.

What a Saturday

Let’s see.

There’s been the Vandal game (see links below and Jim Meehan’s blog), which showed the difference a coach can make to a program.

There’s the West Virginia game, which, after watching just a few minutes, made me feel a little sorry for Eastern Washington – the Mountaineers’ opponent next weekend.

There’s the dominance of Ohio State, Nebraska, Oregon. Cal traveling to Tennessee. Michigan, Penn State struggling.

All on TV.

What a Saturday. Too bad we couldn’t see Washington and its hard-fought battle with San Jose State. Or Montana State and its second-half lead at Colorado.

But there is still a little for everyone. College football Saturday.

More to come with Auburn hosting WSU tonight and we’ll be on-line for that one as well.

Idaho’s second half

The announcers say that Idaho has to do just what they did, only better. Thanks.

We’ll try the same on this blog.

Hit full entry and follow along.

Watching the Vandals

IDAHO AT MICHIGAN STATE

Welcome to Saturday college football.

For most of today – until the Washington State postgame – we will be watching the TV games along with you.

And what a surprise: ESPN’s College Game Day is in Georgia for the Notre Dame game.

Click the full entry link, and you’ll get the full circle of coverage (not really, but I just saw the ESPN commercial and thought it sounded cool).

The Raiders were run over like Brian Bosworth

SEAHAWKS, MARINERS UPDATED 11:35 A.M.

A win over the Raiders is always a big deal in Seattle no matter if it is in the preseason or not. And when the Hawks win as handily as they did Thursday night, that’s an even bigger deal.

Just ask former S-R staffer Dave Boling. The Tacoma columnist explains why the way the Seahawks won Thursday is a big deal, because they offered so many glimpses of what they can do this season.

There are other points to be made of course, and other factors to examine. Let’s start with the News Tribune’s Mike Sando anticipating the Hawks’ upcoming cuts on his blog.

Steve Kelley voices his concerns about the Hawks after also illustrating their biggest strength.

One of those concerns is injuries and Seattle had another one Thursday.

Still, it is only a game and it is OK to laugh about it. If you’re not laughing after reading Art Theil’s column you need to loosen up a bit.

You want to be serious? OK, here’s a serious examination of Seattle’s backup defensive end Darryl Tapp.

UPDATE: ESPN is reporting Deion Branch has reached agreement with the New York Jets and the Seahawks. Now all those teams have to do is work out a trade agreement with New England in the next couple hours.

And we finish this Seattle pro sports post with an interesting piece from the P-I about the Mariners’ roster turnover. They are now one of the youngest teams in baseball.

Brothers in coaching

VANDALS

Jim Meehan examined the long standing relationship between Saturday’s rival coaches, Idaho’s Dennis Erickson and his former assistant and current Michigan State coach John L. Smith.

But Meehan went even deeper into Smith’s life on the Vandal blog today.

When you are rooting for your favorite team, or against their opponents – those jerks – it’s sometimes hard to remember both are just made up of people with the same problems you have. A note like Meehan had in his blog brings that back into focus.

More on the Eagles

EASTERN WASHINGTON

As I wrote in the post last night, there was no way the Eastern Washington Eagles’ football season could have gotten off to a worse start.

Dave Trimmer, in Corvallis for the game, witnessed it first-hand and had the same sad tale to tell.

There really isn’t much more to say. The Eagles knew they were in tough against a team that expects to contend for one of the Pac-10’s bowl berths, and they were. They know they are going to be in tougher next week in West Virginia, against a team that is a consensus top-10 preseason pick. That’s just the way it is.

Don’t expect complaining out of Cheney. Just expect a group of guys to get back to work, to try to improve and to give it another go next Saturday. It does get easier after that.

Dave has added more perspective, and links to Oregon-based stories on the game, on his blog.

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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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Jacob Thorpe Sports reporter Jacob Thorpe covers Washington State University athletics. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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Greg Lee Greg Lee covers high school sports in Eastern Washington and North Idaho. 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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