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Early sunsets and late starts

A GRIP ON SPORTS

As fall begins to take hold around the Inland Northwest (there are more than a few leaves turning in our back yard) and the mornings become cooler, we can only look forward with anticipation of a 7:30 p.m. football game in Pullman. It's less than two weeks away. Hurrah. Read on.

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• In case you didn't know it, that "hurrah" was sarcastic. A 7:30 game in Los Angeles, Seattle, Berkeley, Salt Lake City or Tempe isn't that big a deal. Heck, it might even be better because, when the game ends, the freeways home aren't nearly as crowded. And most of the crowd lives within less than an hour of the stadium. But a 7:30 game in Eugene, Corvallis or Pullman is a different animal. Getting home from the Pac-12's more rural venues can be a chore, especially considering a large majority of the crowd has to travel more than an hour-and-a-half to hit the sack. But the Ducks have been dealt a lot of late night games this season, the first under the new media contract. And now the Cougars have been given one, Oct. 13 against California. We all knew this was coming, thanks to the millions and millions of dollars ESPN and Fox threw the conference's way. We all knew there would be games starting on Saturday from around noon until late in the evening. But the reality of it is beginning to set in for the fans who like to attend games in person. Heck, the Oregon athletic director wrote an open letter of apology to the Duck fans recently, as Oregon has played mainly night games this season. But this is the first one in Pullman this season. There have been others, of course. Heck, last year, the Cougars big upset of Arizona State (above) – keyed by Connor Halliday's nearly 500 yards passing – was a late start. The closeness of the game, the WSU dominance through the air, the last return of Dennis Erickson, it all added up to a pretty special evening in the Palouse, despite the temperatures dipping near freezing. But the California contest may be different. All I can say is this is a game WSU better keep close in the first half. If it's a blowout either way, when all the students leave at halftime (and many of them leave, even in games with decent start times), they may just be joined by some of the Spokane and Tri-City portion of the crowd.

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• Washington State: Christian Caple has his usual fare for a Tuesday morning, with video recaps of yesterday's press conferences, a transcript of some of Mike Leach's comments and a morning blog post. He also has a morning post with links to more WSU items and Pac-12 stories. Add in the two pieces he has in today's paper - a story on Connor Halliday's play and a first look at Oregon State - and your day is complete. ... The Cougars received a big basketball commitment yesterday, when Ikenna Iroegbu tweeted he's headed to Pullman. The Oak Hill Academy point guard is the younger brother of former WSU walk-on Chuks, who transferred before the season in an attempt to get on the court more often. The younger Iroegbu has been a player the Cougars have been watching – and been interested in – for some time. Christian has a blog post and short story. ... Ted Miller over on ESPN.com's Pac-12 blog answers two questions: What's on tap for this weekend and where the Pac-12 teams rank in the national statistics.

• EWU: Jim Allen has a blog post this morning with more on the Eagles' comeback against Montana, their matchup this weekend with North Dakota and links from around the Big Sky. ... If you want to attend an Eastern football game, all you have to do is click here, take the quiz and you are entered into our contest.

• Idaho: The trip down Rout 66 in North Carolina is behind the Vandals now, according to coach Robb Akey. But the road ahead, that's hard to see. Josh Wright has a blog post and story on both of those subjects. ... There are three really good teams in the WAC this season: Utah State, which meets BYU on Friday, San Jose State, which has a bye this week, and undefeated Louisiana Tech, which is getting some national love.

• Chiefs: Yesterday I missed this game story on Spokane's first loss of the season, so I'm passing it along today. Sorry.

• Seahawks: There is no quarterback controversy in Seattle. At least in Pete Carroll's mind, and he's really all that matters. There is some conversation, however, on how healthy Matt Flynn really is. ... More on the upset loss in St. Louis. ... Jim Meehan catches up with former Seahawk executive Randy Mueller (above), who has something in common with two Washington State assistant coaches.

• Mariners: The Mariners won't have a Cy Young Award winner this year, not after how Felix Hernandez (and the team) coasted to the finish, including last night's 8-4 loss. But they were on the field when the high-priced and highly touted Angels were eliminated from the pennant chase, so there is that. ... Eric Wedge believes the Justin Smoak we saw in September is the real one. ... This Geoff Baker blog post is worth reading. My vote, now that the Tigers are in the playoffs and the Angels are out, is for Miguel Cabrera.

• Sounders: It's going to be crowded in CenturyLink this weekend when the Timbers visit. It might even end up being a sellout.

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• That's our Tuesday morning report. Tomorrow morning I am going in for an eye exam, a prerequisite for becoming an NFL replacement referee. Wait, the lockout is over? Dang it. Until later ...




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Vince Grippi
Vince Grippi is a freelance local sports blogger for spokesman.com. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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