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Tight WSU takes forever to overtake MSU


COUGARS

It seems all the rage on college campuses all of a sudden. Walking the football team through campus. The Huskies did it. Arizona did it. And WSU did a short version of it prior to the game against Montana State on Saturday. It will probably continue until something unforeseen happens. Which almost happened yesterday in Pullman, though it came on the field. The Cougars came this close to dropping the one game this season they were supposed to win. Those final five words, that’s the rub. For more, read on.

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• Washington State: The one thing I’ve been able to count on the past 27 years I’ve worked at The Spokesman-Review is that John Blanchette will get to the nub of an issue. And he did it again this morning with his column. No matter what happened yesterday in Martin Stadium, some folks weren’t going to be happy. That’s ludicrous. And quite possibly contagious. In the days prior to the game, it was obvious the Cougars were tight. Too tight. And it showed on the field. It seems the pressure got to this young team. It was manifested by inappropriate plays – Jeff Tuel said afterward his first-play interception was “immature,” or, in other words, a bad play only a young player would make – and continually making decisions a second slow. Even coach Paul Wulff saw it. “These guys want to do well,” he said. “If anything, they’re tight. They’re coming out, they’re pressing. Young guys do that.” The pressure to win, and win impressively, was palatable all week. And within it were sown the seeds of yesterday’s 22-7 deficit. Tuel’s pass, James Montgomery’s fumble, Chantz Staden’s fumble, Brandon Rankin’s early personal foul, heck even the lack of aggressiveness on defense until late in the game, those were plays and decisions made by players and coaches trying too hard to win. When WSU finally said “what the freak,” if I may paraphrase “Risky Business,” then it started to play. And outscored MSU 16-0. And won. … We have our game story along with a notebook we did in conjunction with John. And there are our keys to the game. We also had some notes on SportsLink last night … Freelancer Howie Stalwick had his game coverage in the Kitsap Sun and other papers, including this notebook in the News Tribune. … One last question. I know my family in Spokane didn’t get to see the game, as it didn’t come through on Comcast. Was that a problem everywhere? And if so, how long?

•••

• Around the Pac-10: ESPN.com’s Ted Miller hands out his helmet stickers every Saturday night. One correction. C.J. Mizell did make some game-changing plays, but he did not start. Hallston Higgins was the starting middle linebacker and played a majority of the plays there. Usual starter Mike Ledgerwood is expected back this week from his stinger. … Washington: The Huskies started slowly, but finally routed Syracuse, 41-20. As Steve Kelley saw it, they were not perfect, but better. Part of that was because Jermaine Kearse was unguardable at times, to use a basketball term. … A big turnover ignited the blowout. … Oregon State: The Beavers had a bye. … Oregon: First came the rain, the thunder, the lightning. Then came the deluge as the Ducks flooded over Tennessee 48-13. … A big part of it was the play of quarterback Darron Thomas, making his first start in a hostile environment this season. But so was LaMichael James’ 72-yard touchdown run that broke a tie at 13. … Cal: If Colorado was wavering about joining the Pac-10 in 2011 instead of 2012, this defeat might entice the Buffs to wait until 2013 or 14. … Kevin Riley threw four touchdown passes in the 52-7 win. … Stanford: The Cardinal did what their coach wants them to do, they pounded UCLA up front in a 35-0 rout. … Even quarterback Andrew Luck boosted the Stanford rushing attack. … USC: Missed it by that much. We picked Virginia to upset the Trojans yesterday and the Cavaliers came close, falling to USC, 17-14. … Speaking of tight, the Trojans, formerly the loosest gooses in the land, seem to play with their hands around their necks. … UCLA: The Bruins’ offense just didn’t show up. … And that makes them nearly unwatchable. … Arizona State: It seems impossible, but there were two 41-20 wins by Pac-10 teams yesterday, one by UW and the other in Tempe, as the Sun Devils finally got going against Northern Arizona. … After two games against FCS schools, ASU finally has a test: Wisconsin in Madison. Been there. It ain’t easy. … Arizona: The Wildcats had no trouble with their FCS opponent. … Now comes a sterner opponent. Iowa invades Tucson next week.

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• That’s all for this morning. We’ll be back this evening after Wulff’s press conference. Until then …


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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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Jacob Thorpe (@JacobThorpe) Sports reporter Jacob Thorpe covers Washington State University athletics. 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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John Blanchette (@SRjblanchette) John Blanchette is a freelance writer who covers the University of Idaho football team and men's basketball team.

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

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