A GRIP ON SPORTS
There were no college football games to watch live in the Inland Northwest yesterday, which didn't stop Saturday from turning into a day from hell for fans. Read on.
• Let's say you are a fan of Eastern Washington. Things have been going great for you. The Eagles have rallied time and again en route to the top ranking in the FCS polls – and first place in the Big Sky. But Saturday they got burned by Southern Utah, which turned the Eagles formula back on them. Yep, it was the Thunderbirds flying high in the fourth quarter, turning a late EWU turnover, a missed Eastern field goal and a couple clutch drives into a come-from-behind 30-27 upset victory. There goes the No. 1 ranking. And here comes Cal Poly for a big non-conference showdown next Saturday in Cheney. The Mustangs were also upset yesterday – by Sacramento State – but represent the toughest test Eastern will face the rest of the regular season – and the best chance to impress the FCS playoff selection committee.
• Let's say you’re a fan of Idaho. It's been a tough year, no doubt, with seven losses in eight games, many of them blowouts, and the recent firing of popular coach Robb Akey. But Saturday would be a respite. A bye. A chance for interim coach Jason Gesser to catch his breath and work some magic with the Vandals. Then comes the news two players, including starting quarterback Dominque Blackman (pictured), were kicked off the football team this week, reportedly for failing drug tests. Plus a player was suspended for voicing on Twitter his opinion of athletic director Rob Spear's decision to get rid of Akey. Funny, coaches preach loyalty to student athletes on a daily basis, but schools never seem to show it – or reward a public display of it. We are, of course, not talking about the Blackman decision here, but the suspension.
• Let's say you’re a fan of Washington State. In a season of few bright spots, the Cougars take a week off, regroup and then give 17th-ranked Stanford all it can handle on the road. But two plays – a blown coverage on a 70-yard Cardinal touchdown pass and a poorly thrown interception returned for a score – kill WSU's hopes for an upset. Even when the defense dominates the line of scrimmage, even when their quarterback throws for more than 400 yards, even when they battle for 60 minutes, the Cougars can't get over the hump. Learning how to win is a pain in the neck.
• Let's say you're a fan of Whitworth. Hey, you had the day off. You didn't have to deal with the Saturday from hell. Congrats.
• Washington State: We're going to write a bit more tomorrow morning about the Cougars' defense (there is too much going on today to give it the due it deserves) but we will say this much. For the second time in three weeks, WSU played its best defensive game in five years. Saturday's effort topped even the recent Oregon State performance. ... Christian Caple suffered through a miserable 70-degree, sunny day to file his usual Saturday report, starting with his postgame blog posts (a transcript of Mike Leach's interview, video from Leach, Jeff Tuel, Justin Sagote and Dominque Williams as well as a summary post). Then there is his game story, his notebook, the keys to the game and scoring. This morning he has his Sunday morning blog post with links from around the Pac-12.
• Gonzaga: There wasn't a lot to be taken from the Zags' opening exhibition against overmatched Northwest Nazarene, other than getting a chance to see newcomer Przemek Karnowski, the subject of John Blanchette's column. The Zags rolled 93-45, using everyone on their bench, though Kelly Olynyk was absent, sitting down until mid-November for an honor code violation. Jim Meehan has the game story as well as blog posts on Olynyk and the contest. ... Do you see John Stockton coaching in the NBA? The Salt Lake Tribune wants to know.
• EWU: The Eagles are now second in the Big Sky standings, trailing undefeated Northern Arizona (5-0). EWU and Cal Poly are 5-1 with Montana State at 4-1. ... Jim Allen was in Cedar City and filed this story of Eastern's upset defeat. ... Around the conference, we found this piece on NAU's win at Northern Colorado (an early safety ultimately was the difference in the 12-10 game), and stories from Sacramento State's upset of Cal Poly, Montana State's rout of North Dakota and Portland State's defeat of UC Davis.
• Idaho: Josh Wright was busy Saturday, not only keeping tabs on the Vandals exhibition win over a strong Seattle Pacific team but also dealing with the football problems. Here is his S-R story on the latter subject. ... Though the Vandals weren't in action, the rest of the WAC was. Louisiana Tech had a tougher-than-expected time at New Mexico State, Utah State rolled and San Jose State earned another its sixth win.
• Chiefs: Spokane made its last road game for a while memorable, holding off Tri-City 3-2 and tying the Americans atop the U.S. Division standings.
• Preps: Coeur d'Alene won a girls state cross country title in Idaho while North Central moved closer to another boys title in Washington as Saturday was dominated with state playoffs on both sides of the border. ... Mt. Spokane and U-Hi moved on in regional volleyball while the state tournaments finished up in Idaho. ... We also have a football roundup to pass along.
• Seahawks: Can the Hawks begin to play as well on the road as they do at home? Can Golden Tate redeem his poor effort at San Francisco? Can I stop typing questions? All those questions will be answered today when the Seahawks travel to Detroit to face the Lions. ... Thursday Night Football is not a well-received show. ... Who is the best in the NFL? Danny O'Neil has his pick.
• Sounders: If Sigi Schmid's Sounders win or tie today in Los Angeles against the Galaxy, they will finish with the Western Conference's second seed for the MLS playoffs. As well as they play at home, that's a big deal.
• Mariners: If you are looking for hope, look no further than Mike Zunino. ... Back in 1966, the Baltimore Orioles shut out the LA Dodgers three consecutive times in a four-game World Series sweep. I think I cried. Last night the Giants shut out the Tigers 2-0 for the second consecutive game and need just one more win for a second title in three years. I will not cry.
• I'm actually looking forward to the Seahawks game today, if only to see if Calvin Johnson puts on a show. The Hawks' tweaked the all-pro receiver a bit this week and I've always felt it's not a good idea to poke a bear. Then there is the possibility the World Series could end today, putting me out of my baseball misery, circa 2012. So it's a big day. With all that on my plate, I'll probably end up at a movie. Until later ...