A GRIP ON SPORTS
After watching quite a bit of college football on television yesterday, I came up with a question. Read on.
• It's a simple one conceived after watching California, Stanford and UCLA – three of Washington State's next four opponents – on Saturday. When will WSU score another touchdown? I am exercising a bit of hyperbole here, of course, but with the disjointed nature of the Cougars' offense recently, there is a kernel of truth in the question. Cal dominated UCLA up front much of the night, taking away Johnathan Franklin and making the Bruins a one-dimensional team, something the Cougars can boast – is that the right word? – without any help from their opponents. The Cardinal gave up 48 points, sure, but their front seven is still something to behold. Those guys will be drooling after watching film of WSU's protections against Oregon and Oregon State. UCLA has shown flashes of being a decent defensive squad, with size up front that is hard to block consistently, though California shredded them a bit last night. And though I didn't get to see much of Utah's game with USC on Thursday, we all know the Utes have one of the best defensive linemen in the conference and are tough at home. So the next four games – after that it gets real easy (right) with Arizona State and Washington rounding out the schedule – are going to test the Cougar offense. Which brings us back to our original question: When will WSU score its next touchdown?
• One last thing about the Cougar offense and we'll move on. It's obvious there is a divide between Team Tuel and Team Halliday out there right now, with Cougar fans split between playing senior Jeff Tuel or sophomore Connor Halliday at quarterback. Heck, I even observed a Twitter duel last night between some of the biggest Cougar fans I know (to paraphrase Rodney King "can't we all just get along?") and it turned nasty. The choice is a complicated one for coach Mike Leach. Both guys are well liked by their teammates, Halliday probably offering a higher upside (and a lower downside) while Tuel seemingly steadier and with more experience. It's a conundrum, that's for sure, and one of the reasons why college football coaches make so much money. But really, the decision isn't as crucial to how the offense performs as figuring out the five guys who will play up front. The Cougars offensive line is still a work in progress halfway through the season, with the only guy who has started every game in the same position being center Elliott Bosch. Yesterday, Gunnar Eklund played the entire game at left tackle (those two, by the way, both came to Pullman as walk-ons) but the other three spots changed twice during the game, making it obvious offensive line coach Clay McGuire isn't happy with the group. John Fullington started at left guard, joined by Matt Goetz at right guard and Jake Rodgers at right tackle. But Wade Jacobson was inserted at right tackle, with Rodgers sliding inside and Goetz moving over to replace Fullington. Then down the stretch Fullington returned, Goetz, who started the season on the bench, moved back and Rodgers left. Until that group jells and performs at a high level – if it can – then the offense won't perform at a high level.
• Washington State: You want postgame video? You want transcripts of postgame interviews? You want blog posts from last night, live chats, morning posts with links and thoughts? Well, if you want any of those things, especially video of the participants, Christian Caple has them for you. And they're all on SportsLink. ... Of course, Christian has a bunch of coverage in the newspaper, including his game story, a notebook, a sidebar on the quarterbacks, the statistics and scoring. And his keys to the game. ... Though Christian's morning post has the main links from around the Pac-12 (I highly recommend Bud Withers' column this morning) I'll add these two from ESPN.com's blog. ... Larry Scott has some thoughts on TV and other conference items.
• EWU: I was searching for a nickname for North Dakota earlier this week, because I knew the NCAA had banned the Fighting Sioux moniker, but didn't realize until yesterday the school is going without one this year. And next year and the next, all courtesy of the state legislature. And we thought our governmental bodies had important issues to deal with. Ha. Anyhow, John Blanchette was all over the nickname controversy in his column covering Eastern's 55-17 Big Sky Conference rout yesterday of the Non-Fighting PCs (see, even I have an ill-conceived suggestion). Jim Allen also has the game coverage as the Eagles now can start thinking about their showdown with Montana State next Saturday. We also can pass along Tyler Tjomsland's picture story.
• Idaho: There is joy in Moscow this morning. The Vandals have earned a win. They defeated New Mexico State 26-18, helped in large part by the Aggies' mistakes. Josh Wright has the story and a late-night blog post. ... Couldn't neglect to point out Louisiana Tech routed UNLV last night. With the win, Tech is ranked this week by the AP.
• Whitworth: The Pirates' winning streak ran into a Willamette team that seemed to pick up steam after halftime, with the Bearcats putting together a dominating third quarter in the 38-24 victory. Jim Meehan was there and filed this piece.
• Chiefs: Spokane received a late goal from an unlikely source Saturday night and used it to get past Lethbridge, 4-2, in the Arena. Jess Brown has the story.
• Preps: In a showdown of quite possible the two best volleyball teams in the state, Mead held off Jackson to win the Crossover Classic title. Greg Lee was at Ferris High for the championship match and has this story. ... North Central is still flexing its muscles in cross country circles.
• Seahawks: The Hawks have never been all that good crossing the country and winning late (another my bad) Sunday games in the Eastern Time Zone, but that's the challenge that faces them today. That and the Carolina Panthers, led by quarterback Cam Newton. That and their own offensive woes, which may just lead to a quarterback controversy at some point. ... Danny O'Neill has his NFL power rankings and a column.
• Mariners: Larry Stone rates the major league teams one last time, gives out awards for the final week and wonders how the A's and the Mariners took such divergent paths. I think that answer is pretty simple: The A's fans are better, much more loyal and resilient than the frontrunners who follow the M's. ... Didn't bother me at all to see the Giants – and the A's for that matter – lose yesterday. Old habits – and baseball ties – die hard.
• Sounders: For all of you who wonder if soccer will ever take off in this country, I present today's game at CenturyLink Field as proof it already has. Maybe not in your circle of friends, but among large swaths of America's young adults, and they're the ones who will write the future.
• I hope no one tried the 800-number I put up here yesterday, considering the number for CougTalk is an 866 one. I fixed it later in the day but all I can say is mea culpa (or "my bad" before "my bad" was a thing, like about two thousand years before). Speaking of a lot of years, tomorrow is my 56th birthday (and the 56th anniversary of Don Larsen's World Series perfect game) so I'm thinking of taking the day off. Thinking of taking the day off. I probably won't. I mean what better present could a 56-year-old man have than to be able to yell the sporting equivalent of "get off my lawn" to dozens of captive readers? Until later ...