A GRIP ON SPORTS
One more step. That's all Eastern Washington has to take to make another trip to Frisco, Texas and the FCS championship game. But, as they used to say in cartoons, that step is a doozy. Read on.
• Two years ago, Eastern Washington won the FCS title with a stirring fourth-quarter comeback in the title game. Last year North Dakota State won the title with a championship game win over Sam Houston State. So it's appropriate the last three teams standing in the FCS this season are those three. North Dakota State punched its Frisco ticket last night with a fourth-quarter touchdown and a 23-20 semifinal win over Georgia Southern at home - the same team it defeated in the semis last year. This afternoon in Cheney – a cool, possibly snowy Cheney – the Eagles will get their chance to join the Bison in Texas. Will they? Don't bet against it, though Sam Houston State is favored. The Eagles have an intangible – I know, some of you will posit there is no such thing – that's worth a lot of points. Eastern just doesn't believe it's going to lose. No matter how far behind they get, no matter how bleak things look, the Eastern players just figure they'll find a way. Block a field goal, force a fumble, connect on a long pass. They figure something will happen. And, except on two occasions – both on the road – it has. This version hasn't run away from many teams. It's had to sweat out opponents' rallies, had to overcome its mistakes and had to hold on more often than not. But the key here it has done just that. It doesn't matter who is playing quarterback. It doesn't matter how many guys are injured in the secondary. It doesn't matter what receiver is left open. Sooner or later this team figures out a way to win. And I expect the same thing to happen today. If the Eagles follow the usual script, they'll start slowly, break ahead midway through the game, turn the ball over to allow Sam Houston back into the contest and pull it out in the fourth quarter. That will be followed by the students and fans rushing the field, a bunch of calls to airlines for early January flights to Dallas and, finally, lots of partying in Cheney. Sounds like fun.
• Washington State: Christian Caple has his usual Saturday morning blog post that also contains more than its usual share of news. The key element is the loss of receivers coach Eric Morris (pictured), who has joined the Texas Tech staff. Christian has a story in today's paper and had a blog post yesterday. ... Christian also reveals he will be covering the women's game with Ohio State today. ... Among his links is Ted Miller's mailbag, but I won't let him steal my thunder. We still link it, as we have every Saturday since time began.
• Gonzaga: The Zags are in Seattle for their annual game, this time with Kansas State, a school that has given them problems in the past. Plus, this season the Wildcats are coached by Bruce Weber, who was at Illinois, another school that has caused GU problems before. Jim Meehan has an advance that details how odd this week has been for the Bulldogs. ... There is also this advance in the News Tribune from freelancer Howie Stalwick and one from Bud Withers in the Times. ... Portland earned a win last night over a lightly regarded foe while USD will face a highly regarded one today.
• EWU: Jim Allen has put in the time this week and it doesn't stop with this morning's paper. He has an advance and the keys to victory for both teams today. ... We also have more on North Dakota State's win last night. ... EWU's long snapper was a former walk-on who has earned his keep. ... Weber State faces BYU in the Big Sky's best basketball matchup today.
• Chiefs: It's not often a hockey team can rally from a late four-goal deficit. But that's exactly what the Chiefs did last night. Chris Derrick has the story of the huge comeback against Seattle. ... Portland won once more.
• Preps: Not only can we pass along roundups from boys and girls action from around the Inland Northwest from Friday night, we can also call your attention to the GSL girls roundup and Greg Lee's coverage of the boys, highlighted by his story on Central Valley's easy win over visiting Gonzaga Prep (pictured).
• Seahawks: The Hawks will travel to Toronto to face the Buffalo Bills without some key elements of their defense, mainly at cornerback. Seattle is down to the third string at one spot. ... Sidney Rice looks to be OK.
• I have a busy Saturday ahead of me so we'll sign off now. Have a good weekend and, if you are in the Spokane area, drive carefully. I'll be on the slick roads too. Until later ...