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A storybook ending that never came

A GRIP ON SPORTS

What a football game. It had almost everything. A seemingly insurmountable lead. A Rockne-like locker room jump-start. An incredible comeback. Everything, it seems, except the storybook hometown victory. Well, real life isn't the movies. Read on.

••••••••••

• I've followed a lot of college football games this season, including quite a few Eastern ones. And still, nothing prepared me for what happened in the second half of the Eagles' semifinal against Sam Houston State yesterday. Sure, I knew the Eagles were tough, so they wouldn't roll over and die despite a five-touchdown deficit at halftime. But to have a chance to win as time expired? That seemed a bit far-fetched. Yet there it was, as the game wound down and the Vernon Adams-fired rally had brought Eastern back within one score. Any type of Sam Houston miscue or EWU miracle play and the rally could get over the top. Think of what that would have meant. For the next decade or two, high school coaches throughout the area could point out to their teams that a five-touchdown deficit was nothing. "Heck," they could say, "don't you remember what Eastern did in the playoffs a couple years ago?" And the kids would nod their heads in recognition, rise up as one and, armed with the knowledge a huge comeback was possible, race back on the field – where they would quickly find out they aren't quite ready for the FCS playoffs. Or, if the Eagles had gone on to win the FCS title after the stirring comeback, just think how many times any one of them could walk into watering hole in Cheney (as an aside, I spent a lot of time back in the day in Goofy's or Bill's, though such pursuits are rarely a part of my life anymore; I sure hope both taverns are still there, however, as I have fond memories of burning my tongue on fried chicken and putting out the fire with a cold beverage) and leave feeling a glow without ever having reached for their wallet. But the Hollywood-style ending never came. That last score, the final long field goal to send the game into overtime, the wild scramble for a loose ball that ended up in a the arms of an Eagle, it just didn't happen. When it was over, it was Sam Houston State that was headed home and a date in the title game. And the Eagles? In a season marked by close calls, stirring comebacks and exceptional plays, they came up just short. But they also built a foundation. This is a team that will be good, very good, for a long time. The seniors will be tough to replace, but Beau Baldwin and his staff have built enough depth and have developed enough of a pipeline to Washington's high school talent that there are capable replacements in the wings. The program is as solid as any in the FCS right now. And that bodes well for the future.

• One other note from this Sunday. If you have only time for one story this morning, make sure you read this one from the Washington Post on Lance Easley, the replacement referee who made the touchdown call in the Seahawks win over Green Bay. Death threats, really? What is wrong with people?

•••

• Washington State: The Cougar women had gone more than 10 years without a win as big as the one they grabbed Saturday in Beasley, upsetting No. 20 Ohio State 62-55. Christian Caple was in Bealsey and filed this story. He also has his morning blog post today, with links to Arizona's two stunning comebacks yesterday, one in the Wildcats bowl game – I gave up with a little more than a minute left and Nevada about to kick a field goal – and the other in their basketball matchup with Florida. The football game went viral early when two Wildcats duked it out on the sidelines. ... The Columbus Dispatch had coverage of WSU's win over Ohio State. ... Oregon's quest for a national volleyball title came up one match short

• Gonzaga: The Battle in Seattle was won, according to Jim Meehan's game story, when the Zags spent the week winning battles in practice. Honestly, though, that's the way all games are won, even though fans never get to see it. Jim has more in this blog post. ... Bud Withers has his coverage in the Times and CBSSports.com has this piece. ... BYU won another in-state rivalry game, tooling down the road to Weber State and coming away with a hard-earned victory. ... Finally, the Big East's breakup is official, with the seven Catholic basketball schools announcing their departure. Where it goes from here, who knows.

• EWU: Where to begin? Well, let's start with Jim Allen's game story, which tells the tale of the amazing comeback that fell just short. Then there is John Blanchette's column on the future Eastern has built. Finally there are a couple of sidebars, one by Jim on the seniors and one about Sam Houston. Tyler Tjomsland also has this photo story. ... Freelancer Howie Stalwick covered the game for the News Tribune. ... Portland State earned a basketball win over Division III George Fox.

• Idaho: When in doubt heading into a rivalry game, schedule a sure win. That's what the Vandals did last night, meeting Walla Walla University, a 0-14 NAIA Division II school, and rolling to a 91-47 victory. Josh Wright has a blog post and a story. ... Utah State ended the football season on a near-perfect note with a Famous Potato Bowl victory over Toledo. The basketball team also won.

• Whitworth: The Pirates had a worthwhile trip to Southern California, rolling past Occidental.

• Chiefs: It was Teddy Bear Toss night in Spokane and the folks in the stands had to hold onto their bears until the third period. And they ended up throwing them on the ice during a 2-1 loss to Tri-City. Chris Derrick has the story and a blog post. ... The folks in Portland tossed their bears a lot earlier and left with a victory.

• Preps: Greg Lee was at the Tri-State wrestling tournament, won by Oregon power Hermiston. ... We also have boys and girls roundups from a busy night of local basketball.

• Seahawks: The Hawks are north of the border today for a Toronto matchup with C.J. Spiller (pictured) and the Buffalo Bills. The cornerback-depleted Hawks need a win to stay in the NFC West race. And, considering the 49ers face New England this week, a Seattle win today could set up an epic game next Sunday night. ... The Seahawks welcomed back an old friend this week, hoping to give the offense a helping hand. ... The NFL's recent discipline fiascos need to stop, Danny O'Neil says. He also has his power rankings.

• Mariners: So where do the M's go from here? There are not a lot of players left in an offseason that is melting away.

•••

• That's our report for today. Looking forward to cleaning up the snow that fell overnight. No, I'm really not. Until later ...




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Vince Grippi





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