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SportsLink

Archive for August 2007

EWU thunders way to win

Matt Nichols tied a school record with six touchdown passes in Eastern Washington’s season-opening 52-13 victory over University of Montana-Western Friday night in Cheney.

Changes for SportsLink

We’ve streamlined all of our blog content so that you can view it all in one spot. The SportsLink blog gives readers sports news updates, notes and opinion and allows readers to give feedback.

If you prefer to just read about a specific team, you can use our handy filter on your right.
For blog entries posted prior to today, click the following links:
Idaho Vandals
Eastern Eagles
Gonzaga Bulldogs
Spokane Chiefs
Spokane Shock
Washington Preps
Idaho Preps


Thacker’s contract not renewed

The basketball coaching contract of Freeman’s Mike Thacker has been terminated by the school district’s board of directors.
No reason was given, although Superintendent Sergio Hernandez confirmed the decision.

New guys are on the radar

COUGARS

I have a list about as long as Fabian Boeke’s arms to do this morning – in case you don’t know, the WSU freshman from Germany has a 747’s wingspan – so here’s my plan:

A post this morning with links, etc. Then tonight, after I’ve had my fill of brats and “cheese” in Madison, I’ll post again with my last thoughts. Until then, read on Macduff …

A quick Wednesday morning post

COUGARS • UPDATED: 2:30 P.M.

We’re going to have quick post this morning – and I promise when I have Internet access at my apartment I’ll post earlier – because my plate is full and I don’t mean with breakfast … hmmm, breakfast … but with stories

So let’s just post the links and get out of here.

Nuggets from Tuesday

COUGARS

Just wanted to give you the news nuggets from practice today. …………… There, you have them.

Only kidding. If you want the news, click the full entry link.

Badgers’ fight song is stuck in my head

COUGARS

Sorry this is later than usual, but I got involved in writing tomorrow’s story (on Wisconsin – wait, isn’t that a song?) and trying to get into the Pac-10 conference call – phone problems, so I’ll have to wait for the tape (coaches, waiting for tape, that’s appropriate) – so posting links and notes sort of slipped through the cracks.

But we’re here now, so click the full entry link for your daily Cougar fix.

From Saturday to 2008, Monday has something for everyone

COUGARS

This might be a pretty long post, so we are going to use the read full entry link. We’re doing that because we are trying to get you, the SportsLink reader, trained to just read this intro blurb, then click on the full entry link for the rest of the story.

Our new SportsLink, which will debut soon, will demand that type of presentation, so I’m planning ahead. For more Cougar links, for more on what coach Bill Doba had to say at his Monday morning press conference, click the full entry link.

Erickson just happy to be coaching

By Joe Davidson
Sacramento Bee
Dennis Erickson is as vagabond as they come.
Twenty five years and nine different head coaching gigs. From coast to coast, small college to big-time university; to the NFL and back to college.

Better late than never

COUGARS

It’s been a long day already, and I realized just recently –when I received an e-mailed question – I haven’t checked in with you folks. So how’s your Sunday going? I’ve been working on a story for Tuesday and doing laundry, so I hope your day is better.

Let’s just get to the links first, like to my long story on WSU’s football scheduling philosophy. There was also this sidebar on one of their season-opening upsets, this one of Illinois back in 1994. And, lest I forget, this piece on yesterday’s scrimmage.

Todd Milles had this piece about Saturday’s rehearsal. The e-mail I received asked about Isaiah Barsh. My understanding is his departure was a mutual thing. The other question I had recently concerned Grady Maxwell. He’s been out for more than a week with a right knee sprain. The injury has cost him an opportunity to compete for one of the backup guard positions.

WSU’s Offensive line

WSU’s offensive line by Vince Grippi

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Badgers are now on their mind

COUGARS

Practice yesterday was going along pretty non-descript. There was no great plays on either side of the ball, the drills were the typical, get-better-by-working-on-fundamentals type, the weather wasn’t even too hot or too cold. It wasn’t a bad practice, actually it was pretty intense, but there was just nothing out of the ordinary.

Then the last couple periods were used to get ready for Wisconsin.

And it finally sunk in the first game is just about a week away. From there games come every Saturday – except the bye in late October – and there will be no time to catch a breath or heal a wound.

Here’s my short story from practice. Then I have my usual preview piece, today on the wide receivers (see video below). Tomorrow we look at the offensive line, which is coming together nicely. Sunday, we are going to write about WSU’s football scheduling philosophy, not only for 2007 but also from the past few years.

Practice today is at 4 – which is the normal time for practice during the school year, which is an answer to a question – and being I’m spending the weekend in Pullman, I’ll post something afterward. Promise.

• As for some of your questions, here are the answers. … Yes, Andy Mattingly is a backup and has been all fall. He’s playing the Sam backer with Cory Evans. When Jason Stripling with declared ineligible – and I’m still trying to find out of his appeal has been denied, but I believe it still is in process – Alex Hamill became the Will backer, with JC transfer Kendrick Dunn the backup. Hamill is out with a foot injury, though Dunn won the job before Hamill was hurt. As for Mattingly, he will probably play as much as any starter, because he is so versatile. … Gibson is running better on his knee. I believe if the Cougs were playing today, he could strap it up and get out there. But as they have time – he’s a veteran who knows what he has to do – until they play, they are letting him heal completely. If he isn’t back in pads by Sunday, I’ll be surprised. Then again, I’m the guy who thought Jeff Weaver and Jose Guillen were going to be busts for the M’s, so what do I know? … And, no, I don’t know why Butch Van Breda Kolff was living in Spokane, unless this is where college coaches go to fish, play golf and while away their golden years.

• For you Dennis Erickson fans, and I know there are still a few out there, here is the Seattle Times’ preview of Arizona State.

• I guess I missed this yesterday – I’m hoping it wasn’t available on-line for some technical reason – but Todd Milles had a story on the Cougar running backs.

Butch van Breda Kolff dies in Spokane

SPOKANE (Associated Press) - Butch van Breda Kolff, who coached the Los Angeles Lakers to two NBA finals appearances and won 482 games as a college coach, has died after a long illness.
Van Breda Kolff, 84, died Wednesday afternoon at a nursing home in Spokane, his daughter, Kristina van Breda Kolff, said.

WSU’s Running backs

Running backs by Vince Grippi

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Almost done with previews

COUGARS

Only three more position previews to go. Today’s preview covered the quarterback spot, and when you are talking QB at WSU you’re really talking Alex Brink. The senior is the most prolific of all the starters no matter the position.

Tomorrow we look at the running backs.

Also, we had this little story on practice yesterday – the Cougs scrimmaged more than I’ve seen them this fall, with less individual time. The first game is drawing nearer.

Also drawing nearer is the day when WSU needs its starters healthy. All of them. If a guy isn’t back by Sunday, he will be a long shot to play. That being said, there should be only a couple of players who won’t be back by Sunday. Otherwise, guys like Andy Mattingly, Brandon Gibson, Alfonso Jackson, Daniel Blackledge, Dan Rowlands, they should all be back, as should highly touted JC safety Terry Mixon, who was testing his hamstring Tuesday. I don’t know if Alex Hamill’s foot will allow him to go.

• Here is the Times’ short piece from today - by the way, if you have been following the Sammie Stroughter saga at Oregon State, this story should interest you – and here is Todd Milles story on the tight ends.

• As we draw closer to the start of the season, there are a few more stories from around the nation with a Cougar mention.

• This Capital Times column about a WSU professor with deep Wisconsin ties is worth reading. It’s funny and has a great punch line.

• Next year’s opening game with Oklahoma State, to be held in Seattle in late August, is the subject of this Tulsa World story and this

• The Kansas City Star seems to be running on-line previews from the Sports Network of every major college team. Here is the WSU preview. Pretty superficial and out of date.

Sorry for the error, but shouldn’t there be an e somewhere?

COUGARS

OK, you can beat me with a wooden spoon. I know I spelled Tyron Brackenridge’s first name wrong, but honestly I knew there was no e when I looked him up on the NFL’s website. Why I didn’t fix it, now that I don’t know.

If that’s the worst faux pas I pull this season I’ll be one happy guy.

Let’s move on.

The thesis of today’s defensive backs preview story is that the Cougars weren’t too good last year against the pass, they lost a bunch of talent and now they need to get better. How will that happen? Today’s story focused on the players, as it should be, but I do also believe there is a change in philosophy – though I wasn’t around much last year so I have no in-depth frame of reference.

It seems the Cougs’ goal this year will be to keep the receivers in front of them. Yield the short pass, tackle. Yield the short pass, tackle. Yield the short pass, tackle. You get the picture? By making an offense slowly work its way down the field, the theory is there are more chances of an offensive breakdown. Don’t give up the big play won’t the little plays won’t hurt you. It’s sort of like Lou Piniella’s philosophy that solo home runs never beat you.

For this to work, the front seven have to do two things: stuff the run (or at the least slow it down considerably) and harass the passer, either through pressure or by destroying his pre-snap reads. With those goals accomplished, the Coug philosophy has a chance to succeed.

• Jim Moore has this column on new offensive tackle Vaughn Lesuma. Moore catches the essence of the tackle, a likable, articulate, intelligent big guy – just like most offensive linemen. (Today’s contest: guess what position the young Vince Grippi played in football.)

• Bud Withers of the Times has this piece on the 20th year of the Cougar offense.

Pretty good depth today when it comes to Cougar reading. Tomorrow we’ll have our preview of the quarterback position (scoop: Alex Brink is the starter) and a summary of today’s practice. We’ll try to post sometime this evening, though after practice I’m making an important business deal in Pullman (reading that over, it sounds illegal so let me assure you what I’m doing is above-board and lawful).

WSU Linebackers

And Vince’s previews keep coming.

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More out there than you might think

MORNING NEWS

I know this space is being dominated by WSU news, but there are other stuff I still want to call to your attention.

• Eastern had its first full-contact drills on Saturday and Steve Bergum was there. Here’s his story.

• Bergum also had this story on two young female golfers in the Spokane area. Kim really liked it.

• Idaho scrimmaged on Saturday, with running back Brian Flowers shining with 36 yards on five carries.

• Did anyone watch the Hawks last night? Were they as bad as it sounded? It sure seemed that way to Mike Holmgren, who had plenty to say.

• The M’s still are having something to say about the postseason – season ticket holder received their “pay now or forget it” letter about postseason tickets this week – with Jeff Weaver turning in another good performance.

WSU the Rodney Dangerfield of major college football

COUGARS • UPDATED: 7 P.M.

Just had to drop this link on you.

If you feel Washington State never gets any respect nationally, you are right. And this column by ESPN’s Mark Schlabach proves it.

The Cougars have been the most underrated team in the past 10 years in the formula Schlabach uses. Check it out.

You can also check out John Blanchette’s column from this morning on former Coug defensive back Marcus Trufant.

UPDATE: The AP poll is out and USC is No. 1, of course, with Wisconsin No. 7, the same spot it was in the coaches poll. The Cougars have four opponents ranked in the top 25.

Nothing livens up practice more than a little wrestling

COUGARS

The intensity was up last night at practice and in at least one case it boiled over. But such is the deal with college football. I was trying to figure out recently when the last time I had seen a full-pad college practice where there wasn’t at least one display of emotion, one fracas or one boiling-point face off. And I couldn’t think of one.

Eighteen to 24-year-old men playing a game in which they are supposed to try to knock the other guys’ head off. Gee, there might be a little emotion? You think. But it is also fun to watch the reaction from teammates. Most of the time such incidents are shrugged off. Other times the respective units rally around their guy – most of the battles are between offensive and defensive players – and use it as motivation for the rest of practice.

Case in point: Recently Cougar running back Dwight Tardy got into it with a defensive lineman nearly twice his size (I can’t remember which one, but they are all almost twice his size) during an end-of-practice scrimmage. Though nothing untoward happened, the offense started whooping and hollering, backing up their guy.

On the next play, Tardy took a pitch left. As he was just about to turn up the sidelines, linebacker Greg Trent unloaded a monster hit, knocking Tardy out of bounds and on his butt. Now the defense was hollering. Tardy got up, patted Trent on the back and practice went on. Point taken.

• Last night’s Cougar practice was their fourth at night this fall and, once again, with the lights on and the heat turned down, they had a good one. You can read my story about it here.

The News Tribune’s Todd Milles was in Pullman and he filed this story after talking with coach Bill Doba.

The Times’ Craig Smith has this piece on free spirit Jed Collins, one of the more interesting of the Cougars.

Some shocking news from the P-I’s Jim Moore. It has to do with shirts and shorts. And the Huskies. By the way, I received an email asking about former Ferris star Cameron Elisara and how he was doing at UW. So I found this. Don’t ostracize me. I’m just providing a reader service.

I’m heading home after practice this afternoon, so don’t expect a post until later. Tomorrow we start our unit-by-unit previews with the special teams. Also, the Cougars will be holding a night scrimmage in Martin Stadium (7:30) and we’ll be there.

Housekeeping and some links

COUGARS

First off this morning I want to say thanks to those of you who supported my arguments on the posts below. But I wish such phrases as “talking out of his ass,” weren’t used. There’s no need to go there. If someone doesn’t understand my sense of humor, so be it. I never got Milton Berle either. Just let them make their comments, disagree with them if you want, but GSLFan and everyone else, we don’t need to go there. Besides, the image you painted turned my stomach.

The last line was a joke, of course.

But the sentiment behind it is real. Let’s all – me included – remain civil – unless we’re talking about USC (maybe I should label all the jokes).

Now on to today. My story off Wednesday’s scrimmage can be found here. There are two practices scheduled for today and I’ll be at both. And, for those of you who asked about a future WSU beat writer, I would like to refer you to this recent blog post from our editor, Steve Smith. After you read this you should understand I’m your guy for the foreseeable future and I can see all the way to the summer of ‘08 right now.

I stand by what I wrote in this space yesterday, in that, as I look at each position, the Cougars are better than or just as good as last year in quite a few. Does that mean I believe a 12-0 season is in the offing? Please. But it’s been my experience if the Cougars remain comparatively healthy, they can compete with nearly everyone they play (for a recent example of that, look at last year’s first nine games). Isn’t that all any WSU fan could ask for?

• Jim Moore of the P-I had this piece on the player of the week, Romeen Abdollmohammadi. And the Times had this rewrite of the WSU release as did the News Tribune.

Redmond is a veteran in pennant races

AFTERNOON NEWS

I couldn’t wander out to the Cougars’ second scrimmage of the fall without sending you to John Blanchette’s column from this morning. It’s about Gonzaga’s Mike Redmond, in about his 45th season with the Twins, and his unique – and veteran – insight into major league baseball.

This and that from Tuesday in Pullman

COUGARS

As we are between practices in sunny Pullman – it is more than 90 degrees in the hard-to-avoid sun – I have a little time to catch up.

And there is a lot to catch up with.

• Reserve linebacker Andy Mattingly has his right ankle in a boot, the victim of a sprain suffered late in Sunday night’s practice. He told me he expects to be out a week, but coach Bill Doba said it was up to 10 days. Mattingly has been running with the No. 1 unit at the weakside linebacker occasionally – Cory Evans is the starter – and is a key special team performer. If he’s out 10 days, that still gives the Mead High graduate a week to get ready for Wisconsin.

• The defensive secondary is starting to take shape. The only given coming in was captain Husain Abdullah would be one starting safety, and he’s playing well. But the other three spots were up for grabs. It looks like now they have been grabbed. Freshman Chima Nwachukwu and JC transfer Devin Giles have moved into the No. 1 corner spots while another JC transfer, Alfonso Jackson, has taken over the other safety spot since Christian Bass has been out with an injury. Whether the lineup is permanent – What’s the line? We’re all day-to-day? – remains to be seen.

• Tomorrow’s story in the S-R will be about the changes up front on defense, with Ropati Pitoitua playing defensive end in some situations. My guess is – and this has no basis in anything I’ve heard from any of the coaches – it might be a move made with Wisconsin’s size up front in mind. The Badgers have a reputation of trying to road-grade their way down the field, so a bigger end (Pitoitua is two inches and 48 pounds larger than Kevin Kooyman) may be a way to slow that down. Again, that’s just me thinking out loud.

• Offensively, Brandon Gibson didn’t participate in much of practice, though his left knee problem doesn’t seem too serious. Dwight Tardy didn’t practice this morning but said he would be back in the evening session. One guy who stood out this morning was redshirt freshman running back Marcus Richmond, who ran with authority and purpose. The 6-1, 215-pounder is taking advantage of the reps he’s been getting with Tardy out.

• Jeshua Anderson continues to impress, though he did get dinged up a little in a passing drill, but was OK and continued through practice. The freshman speedster has impressed offensive coordinator and receivers coach Mike Levenseller and may follow in the footsteps of Michael Bumpus and Gibson in playing quite a bit as a true freshman.

• Here are a couple of links, starting with Nick Daschel’s story about Gibson in the Columbian. Then there’s this Wisconsin State Journal piece on the Badgers’ No. 2 quarterback Allan Evridge, who has something in common with WSU backup quarterback Kevin Lopina. Can you figure out what it is? There is also this piece on the Big Ten, with Wisconsin picked to win the conference.

••••••••••

The official WSU injury report follows on the read full entry link. Limited means kids are on the field, but their participation is limited. Out indefinitely means they won’t be practicing in the next couple days. No practice means they could back tomorrow.

Inquiring minds wanted to know

COUGARS

OK, you’ve got questions, I’ve got answers …

Jimmy asks: What is the status of Mixon? Well, Jimmy, Terry Mixon is still nursing a hamstring strain. The highly thought of junior college transfer (Grossmont CC in San Diego) wasn’t participating in practice Sunday and I’m not sure if he’ll be on Tuesday. The sad thing for he and the Cougars is he came into fall practice overweight – rehabilitating a broken bone in his foot didn’t help – and then suffered the injury. His injury, however, has allowed another JC transfer, Alfonso Jackson, to move ahead in the starting safety derby. Jackson, a muscular 5-foot-9 transfer from Blinn CC in Hearne, Texas, has impressed the coaching staff with his willingness to close a hole and his ability to make plays.

RayL asks: … but we have green offensive line players with only a couple of year’s experience playing football. My question is: How does this happen and is there hope? Ray, sure there’s hope. Both Vaughn and Reed Lesuma, the inexperienced tackles you are referring to, are physical talented players with a huge upside. Reed is playing behind returning redshirt Micah Hannam at right tackle but Vaughn is currently the starter at left tackle. Plus, any line coached by George Yarno is going to improve. As the days wear on, they are working together better and showing growth as a group. How does this happen? There are two ways to look at it. One way is to say the Cougars have mined some unlikely talent, beating other schools for a couple talented players just because they were willing to take a chance. The other way is to shake your head in disbelief because a Pac-10 team is reduced to such extraordinary measure in an attempt to put together a productive offensive line. Take you pick. But remember, if Andy Roof were available, four of the five starters would be guys who started a lot last year.

Scott wanted to know: Hey I was just curious why you don’t ever link Lewiston Tribune or the Moscow-Pullman Daily Bulletin? Scott, the answer is simple. Both Lewiston and Moscow are pay-to-read sites. The Spokesman is as well, but if I link a S-R story, that allows you to read it for free. Such is not the case with other pay sites. If I were to link their stories, you would have to pay to read them. So I don’t send you there.

CougNut was interested in: the Cougar Hardwood Classic and the Hispanic Invitational: Well, I listed the teams in the Spokane tournament earlier (Air Force, Montana and Mississippi Valley State), which hadn’t been mentioned anywhere else as far as I know. Plus, as of last week, the Cougar game in Seattle was still up in the air. According to a source, as of late last week there was a chance WSU might play in the Pete Newell Classic instead of the Seattle game. That might have changed, but that’s the latest information I had.

Amy emailed asking for information on Coug alums playing in the NFL: That information will take some time to compile, so I’m passing for now. I would rather spend my limited time on current Cougars. If I happen to see or hear anything, I’ll pass it on.

Finally tomdorkey: I fixed the link so you can get the second page of the Gibson story.

I’ll be out of here early tomorrow to make the 9:30 a.m. practice, so there probably won’t be a morning post. As I didn’t write for publication today – and the Cougs didn’t practice – there isn’t much to link to anyway.

These notes were caught in my Web

MORNING NEWS

Though Cougar coverage is taking up most of my time, I still find a few moments to cruise up and down the Web like a crazed spider, running down bits and pieces of information about Inland Northwest sports. And this is what I found this morning …

• Here are a couple of interesting Gonzaga basketball notes for you, one about former Zag Bakari Hendrix, still chasing his basketball dreams at age 30. The San Francisco Examiner had this story.

The other Gonzaga note concerns this year’s schedule. According to this Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel story, the Zags and Marquette almost came to an agreement on a home-and-home contract. But it fell through.

• From the Mariners, there is this fun L.A. Times story about how the Angels are feeling the M’s heat. Yah, I know, Seattle is still in the Angels’ rear-view mirror, but heck, the M’s aren’t falling off to the side of the road like the Rangers, who broke down months ago, and the A’s, who have yet to put together their patented second-half run.

There is this piece from Iowa, of all places, on M’s farmhand Jeff Clement. Of course Clement is an Iowa native.

We can’t move on without links to the Times’ game story, the P-I’s story and the New Tribune’s piece.

• For those of you – and I know there are a couple because I hear from you occasionally – that harbor dreams of the Sonics staying in Seattle, read this Greg John’s story in the P-I and abandon all hope. Sorry.

• And, for you Hawks’ fans – sorry that you’ve been abandoned thus far this fall – here is Dave Boling’s column following last night’s win in San Diego.

• Finally, an inside source told me last week the Spokane Indians were going to win the Northwest League title. I laughed. I’m not laughing anymore.

The local news can be filling

MORNING NEWS

There is so much in the way of local news today, we had to take some time and link to the stories.

• We’ll start with college football and this Steve Bergum piece on Eastern Washington kicking off fall practice Monday. The Eagles are doing something interesting, starting practice late (they open Aug. 31), then doing their two-a-days after the first game. For more on Eastern, check out Steve’s blog.

• Speaking of Eastern, John Blanchette makes a persuasive argument this morning that the Cougars should be playing Eastern instead of, say, Portland State. Isn’t it better, if you are going to play a 1-AA school (yah, I know officially that’s not the designation anymore, but I’m still using it), to play one in your own state, keeping the money here? Makes sense to me.

• The Vandals had their first scrimmage Saturday and we ran this story. For more on UI sports, check out Dave Trimmer’s Vandal blog.

• Dave also had another story in today’s paper. It’s on the summer travels of former U-Hi basketball star Angie Bjorklund. Bjorklund played this summer in Europe for the U.S. Under-19 team, helping them to the world title.

• The Spokane Indians may only have a 23-28 record, but they are atop the Northwest League’s East Division.

• I also want to point you toward the old-fashioned version of Internet comments, your letters that appeared in today’s paper. They are all about Barry Bonds and his not-tainted-one-iota home run record.

••••••••••

• Before we post these links, I thought it would be appropriate to call your attention to a few baseball-related links. The M’s won yesterday, but it wasn’t easy despite a grand slam from Yuniesky Betancourt and a three-run shot from the suddenly powerful Raul Ibanez. Speaking of home runs, the Times’ Larry Stone visited Babe Ruth’s birthplace for this column. And Tacoma’s John McGrath expresses joy at a M’s/Yankees wild-card race.

Scrimmage has a lot on the line

COUGARS

There will be enough happening today at the first scrimmage of the fall that there’s little need for me to write much this morning. However, there is a little I would like to share.

• The first thing, of course, is a link to my story from this morning. As you can tell, offensive line coach George Yarno is working his butt off to develop an offensive line in time for Wisconsin. The line, as a group, was better Friday night – much better. Individually, freshman Andrew Roxas (6-foot-1, 295 pounds), from St. Francis High in La Canada, Calif., (just north of the Rose Bowl) showed Yarno a lot of heart and effort in the pass-rush drill. He got an opportunity to work at left guard, right guard and right tackle, where Yarno told him he would be the shortest right tackle to ever start in the Pac-10. Yarno was kidding, but Roxas has moved up the depth chart.

• A handful of players participated in just one practice Friday, some because they didn’t have enough practices in to do two in one day, others as a precaution as they are coming off injuries. In the former category receiver Michael Bumpus skipped the morning and tackle Reed Lesuma the evening. In the latter, defensive tackles A’i Ahmu (foot) and Aaron Johnson (back) split the practices, with Johnson going in the morning and Ahmu the night.

• A lot of you have expressed interest in how the competition in the defensive backfield is going. The short answer is it is still on-going; no one has been officially chosen. The long answer is expect the new kids to emerge on top. As far as I can tell through watching and listening, freshman Chima Nwachukwu from Allen, Texas, and sophomore Devin Giles, the transfer who didn’t play last year at Coffeyville (Kan.) College, have shown enough to be considered my favorites to start against Wisconsin at the corners. Whether they will or not – they are athletic and physical enough to do it – will be decided in the next three weeks. Until then, returnees B.J. Williams, Ryan Kensok and B.T. Walker are running with the first team. Markus Dawes was, but he’s been hurt the past couple days and hasn’t practiced. At safety, Husain Abdullah has really stepped up, and has cemented his spot as the leader of the secondary. In his case, senioritis is a good thing. The other spot may just go to sophomore Xavier Hicks or junior college transfer Alfonso Jackson, though senior Christian Bass is there right now. This will be interesting to watch.

• Outside the area, the Seattle Times had this short story about today’s scrimmage.

• I’ll be back this evening with my thoughts. If you attend the scrimmage, let me know what you thought.

Basketball schedule includes a Spokane tournament

COUGARS

Just wanted to let you know, for those of you who asked, I ran down the highlights of the WSU basketball schedule for 2007-08.

And yes, WSU will be playing in Spokane in late November. The inaugural Hispanic Invitational – the proceeds from the four-team tournament are earmarked for charity – from Nov. 23-25 will include Air Force, Montana, Mississippi Valley State and the Cougs in a round-robin format (each team gets three games). If you remember the tournament the Cougs played to open the season last year in Milwaukee, then you have an idea of what’s in store.

The Cougars’ non-conference schedule will also include a road trip to Waco for a late-November game against Baylor and another trip to Spokane to face Gonzaga in early December. Also, WSU will make a return trip to Idaho State – WSU have a two-for-one contract with the Bengals; two in Pullman, one in Pocatello.

There are other games, of course, include a battle with Idaho, but they pale in comparison with what the Pac-10 will bring. The Cougars open the Pac-10 schedule with games at Washington, at UCLA and at USC. Considering all might be in the top 25 at the time, the conference didn’t do WSU any favors.

I’m off to the late football practice, so don’t expect anything else until tomorrow morning.

Cougars will face Portland State next season

COUGARS

One note that will be in the S-R tomorrow.

Washington State announced some schedule changes for the 2008 season, adding Big Sky Conference member Portland State, coached by former NFL head coach Jerry Glanville, in Pullman on Sept. 20.

According to athletic director Jim Sterk, the Cougars are still looking for an opponent in Seattle on Aug. 30, after an agreement with the University of Utah was cancelled by mutual agreement.

Sterk said ESPN is helping to arrange a new opponent and the game would be televised nationally. The other two non-conference games are road trips to Baylor and Hawaii.

One school that won’t be on the schedule is Idaho. The Vandals will probably appear only once every two or three years, according to Sterk.

All the pads come out today

COUGARS

Just a quick note – with a few links – before I head out to practice – the first with full pads – today.

Before we get into the links, I noticed there were some pissy back-and-forth comments between posters yesterday. It wasn’t too bad, but I don’t want to let it get out of hand.

I know there are a lot of places on the Net where civility has gone out the door (I know, because I visit them once in a while). But that’s not going to happen here. You can get on each other a little, you can disagree with each other’s views, but if it gets personal, awful, terrible plagues will descend on your house (frogs, locusts, etc.). And you just might get banned from this site. And when I say personal, I mean that about the WSU players and coaches as well. An opinion about performance is one thing; a personal comment is another. So, please, keep it civil. Remember my rule: If you wouldn’t say it to your mother, don’t say it here.

Now if you think what I’ve written is full of the stuff you put around your tomatoes, well that falls in the performance category, doesn’t it? You can disagree with what I write all you want. I’ll read it and, if it has merit, I’ll take it to heart. If it doesn’t? I’ll just laugh and move on – as long as it’s not personal.

What Robert wrote today wasn’t personal. He thought I should have pointed out in my story this morning on kickoffs how bad the Cougars were last year. He even included statistics.

Thanks Robert, I do understand your point, but I was using this story to look forward not backward. There is a new rule in place, a new coach in place (Dave Walkosky), possible a new kicker, there is a new emphasis … so fans can expect to see something different this season.

Over the next couple weeks, we will be looking at positions, including special teams. That’s where I thought it would be more appropriate to delve into last year’s troubles in all the units – and what’s been done about it – in more depth.

And Rufus, coach Doba never got upset about asking about the injuries. His comment was said in jest, which sometimes is hard to convey in the written word.

••••••••••

In other Cougar news, Craig Smith of the Times wrote about running back Chris Ivory, who came into camp looking more like a linebacker this year.

• Today’s the first day of practice at San Diego State, the Cougars second opponent of the season (Sept. 8 in Seattle). The Union-Tribune had this story.

• Well, it’s time to get to practice. I’m going to write my story for the paper after it is done, then head back to Spokane for a quick visit with the family - Kim and I will be celebrating our 28th anniversary tonight - so don’t expect another long post until tomorrow. I guess I could post, but that might mean I’m not celebrating 29 next year …

Some Shocking news this morning

MORNING NEWS

There was an abundance of local sports stories in today’s paper, so we wanted to get the links to you as quickly as possible.

The most interesting story comes from columnist John Blanchette, who discovered Shock general manager Adam Nebeker’s post on a Shock message board. Wow. Things must have gotten ugly Saturday night.

The Cougars aren’t the only college football team in the area getting ready for a tremendous test in the opener. The Idaho Vandals have a date at USC, thanks to former head coach – twice removed – Nick Holt, who just happens to be the Trojans’ defensive coordinator now. Dave Trimmer filed this report from Vandals camp.

The high school football season is getting underway in Idaho as well, with defending state 5A champion Lake City trying to fill a myriad of graduation losses.

The Spokane Indians were blown out in the series finale against Salem-Keiser and the Spokane Bandits reached the semifinals of the State AAA Legion tournament.

If you are interested in the Seahawks, here is the P-I’s piece about Marcus Trufant’s future. If you are disinterested in Barry Bonds, don’t miss this Jerry Brewer column about the home run record-setter’s future. If you watched the M’s pound the Orioles last night, you might want to read this Larry LaRue story about Raul Ibanez and his future. And if you are interested in the Huskies, you might want to read this on Carl Bonnell’s past – and future.

This WSU team battling to improve

COUGARS

Before we get into today’s football practice – sneak preview: there were three altercations, which means the juices were flowing – this just in on the basketball front …

The Cougars’ Aron Baynes had 18 points and 12 rebounds in Australia’s 81-79 basketball loss to Korea in the World University Games opener for both teams Tuesday in Bangkok, Thailand. Reports are Baynes has slimmed a little, has not lost any strength and has gained quickness.

Another Coug, Thomas Abercrombie, will play for New Zealand when it faces Canada later tonight.

Now back to football …

Most players added shoulder pads Tuesday to the helmets they’ve been wearing for the first two days and the hitting took a turn for the louder.

I saw all three shoving matches and thought back to an old high school coach I knew who always, publicly, discouraged such shows of emotion and, privately, reveled in them. They showed, he said, the kids cared. He just didn’t want them to “care” so much someone got hurt. That wasn’t going to happen today, because all three disputes were stopped quickly.

But they sure fired people up. Especially on the defensive side.

• Speaking of defense, the two initials, B.T. Walker and B.J. Williams, were manning the corners with the first unit today, while Christian Bass joined Husain Abdullah at the safeties. Markus Dawes and Ryan Kensok also ran with that unit at corner. The corners on the second group? Chima Nwachukwu and Devin Giles, both of whom covered darn well in the scrimmage portion. By the way, Abdullah had his second interception in as many days.

One freshman to remember on defense is Hallston Higgins. He’s playing middle linebacker behind Greg Trent so he shouldn’t see the field much, but when he does he may just be something special.

• I’m just starting to understand the intelligence behind the Cougars running attack and why smaller, quicker running backs can thrive in it. The Cougs’ passing game spreads defenders all over the field, opening running lanes in the gaps between the onrushing defensive linemen and the linebackers. The running backs at times seem almost to disappear behind the offensive line, only to reappear in the open spot in the defense. Both Dwight Tardy and Chris Ivory have shown a knack thus far for exploding into the secondary when given the seam.

• The player of the day? That award goes to receiver Brandon Gibson. Even though Bill Doba keeps comparing him to Jason Hill and saying Gibson could be one of the best receivers WSU has ever produced, Gibson stays grounded. At the end of practice today I saw him carrying the water bottles off the field. When I mentioned that was a job for the freshmen, he shook his head, smiled and said something to the effect upperclassmen need to do it more.

• There is one more day in half pads and I’m holding my breath. My story for Wednesday is about the importance of staying healthy, and how all the players that are bouncing back from injuries are doing. If anyone gets hurt tomorrow, I know I’ll get blamed. Maybe I should wear a T-shirt that reads, “I don’t work for Sports Illustrated.”

We’ll be back in the morning with links to the stories about the Cougs.

Everyone is looking forward to padding up

COUGARS

First off, I’m sorry I didn’t post yesterday afternoon. Instead, I spent two hours with a Cougar administrator digging holes in the University of Moscow golf course. Course 1, Vince 0.

But then I thought about writing.

And went to bed.

So here is your Cougar update from Monday’s practice: Not a hell of a lot different happened.

Before I get to answering your questions (on the full entry link), here is a link to my story about the Cougar running game – as an aside, it amazes me how short the Cougar running backs are … they aren’t small, not with the muscles they carry, but they aren’t tall … then again Steve Broussard is their position coach and he’s no Yao, but he did have a pretty successful career – as well as a link to Craig Smith’s story in the Times.

Smith wrote about freshman wide receiver Jeshua Anderson, who has performed well thus far. I’m sure we’ll be seeing more of Mr. Anderson down the road.

For more, click the full entry link …

The first day of practice

COUGARS

The first practice of the college football season is a hodge-podge of activity.

There’s the new guys running around, often so overwhelmed with information it just doesn’t compute. “Paralysis by analysis,” is how head coach Bill Doba put it Sunday.

There’s the loss of players over the spring and summer, players that might have been relied upon to contribute, and the subsequent shuffling necessary to compensate. As far as we can figure, the Cougs lost 10 guys with eligibility remaining, including running backs DeMaundary Woolridge and Derrell Hutsona, backup quarterback Arkelon Hall, safety DeWayne Patterson, defensive lineman Bryan Tarkington and offensive lineman Derek Hunter. Wide receiver Michael Willis and linebacker Jason Stripling are practicing, but ineligible.

There’s the loss of old coaches and the gain of the new, with new voices, new perspectives and new ideas. Though Robb Akey has left to coach the University of Idaho, Doba has taken over Akey’s spot as defensive coordinator and new corner coach Dave Walkosky has taken over Akey’s role as the enthusiastic and energetic voice who echoes over practice. Walkosky is joined by new defensive line coach Marty Long – another of Akey’s old roles – and first-year running back coach Steve Broussard, who made his name in the Palouse in the late 1980s as one of the Cougs’ all-time best running backs.

There’s no pads, so there is no real hitting, but there is a real threat of injuries, something the Cougs avoided Sunday, with only a slight neck strain suffered by defensive lineman Kevin Kooyman marring what would have been a perfect day. He is expected back Monday. Another player expected back Monday is Michael Bumpus, who missed the first day with what was described as a paperwork snafu. Doesn’t seem like a big deal. Also, heralded recruit Terry Mixon’s summer conditioning was limited by a foot injury - Doba said he has a screw in place, but shouldn’t be too limited by it now - and needs to get into better shape, according to the coach.

With all that, it’s surprising any steps are taken. But there were some. Remember, though, all these observations were made after one day of helmet-only practice. That’s not enough time for anyone, even a grizzled old veteran coach, of which I’m not, to make a determination of what the future will hold.

We won’t be hitting the links as much in the future

MORNING NEWS

It’s time to let them go. The M’s I mean.

For most of the summer we’ve followed Seattle on their quest to overcome three years of ineptitude and mismanagement, three years of losing records, three years of fan frustration. And they have taken giant steps toward overcoming the latter two – the first one will take a while.

But as the pennant race winds down, this on-line column has to turn its inquiring mind (what little of it remains after 50 years of underuse) elsewhere.

For the foreseeable future I will be covering the Washington State Cougars for the Inland Northwest’s paper of record. And that, my friends, is a full-time job – and then some.

So it’s time to let the M’s go. No more daily updates (I’ve been weaning you off them recently during my vacation time and the beginning of the Cougar workload), no more bitching about Bill Bavasi, no more bemoaning Richie Sexson’s lack of productivity, no more slobbering over the defensive exploits of Adrian Beltre.

This on-line column will continue to follow sports important to Inland Northwest fans, including the M’s, Bulldogs, Eagles, Shock, Vandals, etc., but just not to the degree you’ve grown accustomed to over the past year. Sorry. There is only so much time in a day.

Now I’m being honest here. I could have kept my fingers shut and just strung you along, knowing you would continue to click here each day out of habit. But that’s not what I want. I hope you will continue to click here for the best links to Inland Northwest sports news, because even if I’m not going into the depth I have for the past 12 months, there will still be more to read here – and more sports links – than anywhere else. Honestly, my life is so boring I can take the time to make it so.

And, hopefully, there will be more Cougar news – if that’s your cup of tea – than you can swallow. Including information you won’t be able to get elsewhere.

So click the full entry link to get started on the new adventure …

No more waiting

COUGARS

It all starts tomorrow. Or today, if you are reading this on Sunday morning.

Football practice begins at 3 p.m. with a helmet-only workout. Which means the 110 or so who turn out – we’ll find out tomorrow if someone didn’t show up or is not available for some reason – will be getting back into shape. Though, with the amount of summer workouts players do today, they can’t be too out of shape.

In Sunday morning’s S-R I will have a story that looks at the most interesting questions head coach Bill Doba and the Cougar staff have to answer before the game in Wisconsin in less than a month. I came up with about 25, winnowed them down to five I thought would interest you, kept the rest to check out over the next few weeks, and wrote the story you can find on the full entry link (the unedited version; I’m sure there were a few typos, grammatical mistakes and just plain stupid wording the copy desk fixed before it appeared in your Sunday paper).

In researching the story I spent about 20 minutes on the phone with coach Doba. We talked about more than made the story – some of which you will probably see down the road – but one subject he really seemed to enjoy talking about was his new – old? – job, defensive coordinator and linebackers coach.

I’ve known a lot of teachers in my life and one reason a lot of them stay in the profession is being around the kids, being in contact with teenagers and 20-somethings, keeps them … I don’t want to say young, because that’s too easy, so I’ll go with … vibrant. And Doba seems the same way. After spending the spring mixing it up, teaching, coaching, being a lot more involved, seemed to agree with him.

One of my buddies played the offensive line at a Southern California football power years ago and he never really got to know the head coach until he was a fifth-year senior and finally starting. Up until then the guy was just a figure looming over practice. I know all major college head coaches aren’t like that, but some are. They want to be aloof from the players. Doba isn’t that type of guy. He seems happier when he’s around his Cougars. And that’s admirable.

But will it translate into wins? Who knows? A lot of Washington State’s success every year revolves around health and luck. If the Cougars stay healthy, if the ball bounces the right way a few times … even Doba alluded to the same things at the Pac-10 media day.

All I know is practice starts tomorrow. And I’ll be there. Till then …

By the way, I almost forgot this. The P-I’s Greg John’s did a nice profile on former Coug and Hawk Robbie Tobeck.

Shock’s Keefe expects a big encore

SHOCK

All the Spokane Shock did last year was sell Spokane on Arena football. And go 14-2. And win the af2 title.

So why is Rob Keefe saying this year’s team is better? You’ll have to read John Blanchette’s column to find out, but I’ll give you a hint: better talent. Isn’t that always the bottom line?

The Shock open this year’s af2 playoffs by hosting the Louisville Fire, coach Adam Shackleford’s old team, Saturday at 5 p.m. in the Arena.

Price, Erickson in the news

COUGARS

Still waiting on the official word concerning player eligibility, but there were these stories I wanted to pass on.

They concern former Washington State coaches who are either embarking on a new job (Dennis Erickson) or who are embarking on a new part of life (Mike Price).

According to this Jim Moore column, Price is lucky to be walking around, let alone coaching football. A good story with a happy outcome.

And, according to this East Valley Tribune story, Erickson feels he’s lucky to have the Arizona State job. Of course, Dennis has had a lot of practice starting new jobs.

M’s don’t let Angels come all the way back

MARINERS

It is the type of win that just might win a pennant. A resilient triumph, a shocking success, a never-say-ah-crap-we-blew-a-lead-now-we’re-going-to-lose victory.

Right. It was just another game in August.

But it is obvious it meant a lot to the M’s, winning like they did on Yunieksy Betancourt’s RBI single in the 12th. Heck, Jose Guillen almost caught Betancourt before he touched first base, such was the ex-Angel’s excitement at pulling within three games of his old team.

The win, which came despite J.J. Putz falling victim to a) a three-run Angels’ rally in the ninth; and b) the Sports Illustrated jinx for the second time in a week, gave Seattle a series win,

It also may have given the M’s a hangover – pitching and emotionally – as the Red Sox come to town. We’ll find out Friday when Horacio Ramirez (6-3, 6.52) faces the comeback kid, Jon Lester (1-0, 4.26).

Today’s hot list …

• From Felix being knocked down to J.J. being knocked around, the game stories look at the bad things that happened Wednesday night. And then they examine the bottom line, the win. Here they are, from the Times, the P-I, the News Tribune and the Herald. Here is the L.A. Times story.

• I said this when they signed him, and I’m standing by it: Guillen is a clubhouse cancer just waiting to metastasize. And the explosion is coming. In the long run, it will probably cost the M’s the postseason. Why am I bringing this up now? Because the M’s announced late Wednesday that they are calling up Adam Jones on Friday. And Guillen went off in this Geoff Baker blog post. Sooner or later Mt. Guillen will erupt and the M’s may just melt down.

• The King pitched OK Wednesday, but not like royalty. According to Ted Miller, Felix is discovering how hard it is to wear the crown so early.

• Richie Sexson, hitting below the Mendoza line, has finally been benched. Well, sort of. He’s now sharing more time with Ben Broussard.

• The M’s have another shortstop prospect in the minors, Carlos Triunfel. And they also have one of their minor league relievers in the bigs and helping.

• And here is our question of the day …

• Is this the right time to bring up Adam Jones?

It may be hot, but football is about to start

COUGARS • UPDATED: 7:15 P.M.

Football practice is just around the corner – it starts Sunday – but there are still some loose ends I’m trying to tie together.

• There’s the academic status of a few players. According to head coach Bill Doba, today’s the day summer grades are official. But even if a player came up short, he still can enter an appeals process and become eligible this season. We’re trying to run down the official status of couple of players – we do know backup offensive lineman Derek Hunter has decided to transfer – and when we do, we’ll put it up here.

• Other information I want to share concerns practice times that first week of workouts. Unlike many other Pac-10 schools, you can actually watch the Cougars practice if you want to stand outside in 90-degree weather. UPDATE: The practice schedule for the first week is on the end of this post. For other things I know right now, read on.

Linebackers will try to douse Fire

SHOCK

With the first round of the playoffs coming up Saturday – the Shock (12-4) host the Louisville Fire (9-7) at 5 p.m. in the Arena – Jessica Brown talked with the middle of the Spokane defense: linebackers Kelvin Morris and Jermaine Harris.

The two af2 rookies took differing paths to Spokane, but both have reached the same destination: anchors for one of the best af2 defense.

For more on the Shock, check out Jessica’s Shock blog.

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Jim Allen (@srjimallen) 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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