A GRIP ON SPORTS
After months of watching a building materialize inch-by-inch on a web camera, today's the big day. Time for the big unveil. Washington State will host its first game in the rebuilt Martin Stadium this afternoon and the visitors from up U.S. Highway 195 by way of Bradshaw Road will do their best to make it a memorable one. Read on.
• Washington State wants to hold a big party today starting at noon. Eastern Washington wants to crash the thing like Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn. It's that simple. The Cougars, coming off a disappointing offensive showing in a 30-6 season-opening loss at BYU, have a lot to prove on the field. The off-the-field stuff, the new building on the south side of Martin, the sell-out, the excitement of new coach Mike Leach, all those things are secondary to what happens on the field. The uninformed fan might look at the matchup and think, “Eastern, an FCS school, we're going to roll.” But Eastern isn't just any FCS football team. It's one of the best FCS teams in the nation, sort of like Appalachian State was a few years back when it went into Ann Arbor and upset fifth-ranked Michigan, 34-32. And the best of the FCS can play with just about anyone in the FBS, especially early in the season before attrition takes a toll. And Eastern is healthy today, healthy physically and healthy mentally after throttling Idaho last week 20-3 over in Moscow. So don't expect the Eagles to roll over. Even if Washington State plays markedly better today than it did last week – and most college coaches will tell you the week between the first and second games is when the most improvement occurs during a season – it still could have its hands full. The Cougars have to be able to pressure EWU quarterback Kyle Padron (above), who has as strong arm but had a tendency to miss high while starting at SMU. And they can't afford the breakdowns in the secondary that occurred at BYU, as Eastern's receivers might be the best group they face all season. On the other side of the ball, the offensive line needs to give Tuel time to throw. The Eagles disrupted the Idaho offense with constant pressure last week and did a lot of the damage with the guys up front, not needing to add extra rushers to get the job done. But if the WSU o-line can protect, Marquess Wilson and company should find space in the secondary, something they didn't do last week. This one should be tight all game, but expect the Cougars to win a close one, say 35-28 over their rivals from Cheney.
• Washington State: Good news on the television front. If you are a Dish subscriber, you should be able to get the game on the Pac-12 Network's Washington channel today. The conference and the satellite company announced an agreement last night. It's all part of the Pac-12's regional philosophy, one that Christian Caple covered yesterday on the blog. … The sell-out (I covered one sell-out in my time in Pullman) led to WSU officials sending out a press release asking fans to take more time and consider alternate routes today. … Christian's advance in today's S-R makes it clear the Cougars want to play more like EWU did last week. He also has his two-minute drill and a morning post. … Though the Cougar game isn't considered one of them, a series of big games awaits the Pac-12 today. … And yesterday was Friday, which means Ted Miller had his mailbag at ESPN.com. … Utah lost its starting quarterback again.
• EWU: If you are interested in the Eagles' game today, see the paragraph above. … Big Sky teams play a bunch of well-regarded FBS foes today but the biggest games of the day might be in North Carolina, where Montana faces App State, and in North Dakota, where the conference newcomer hosts Portland State in what is a nonconference game.
• Gonzaga: Rob Sacre signed with the Lakers yesterday and is about to start his NBA adventure.
• Idaho: After last week's loss, the Vandals will try to get well in a tough place: on the road at Bowling Green. Josh Wright has an advance. … The WAC's profile took a nice step up in the second week of its final football season, as host Utah State stunned Utah, 27-20, in overtime. See, this is why Pac-12 schools should never play WAC teams on the road. Utah has learned its lesson and won't do it again. … In a Big Sky/WAC matchup, San Jose State hosts UC Davis today.
• Whitworth: The second week of the football season seems a lot like the first for the Pirates, though travel plans called for them to head south instead of east. Jim Meehan has an advance of their game at Whittier College, home of the Poets. Yes, the Poets.
• Preps: We were out at a Greater Spokane League game last night, watching Gonzaga Prep hold off U-Hi 14-10 in a game marked by second-half turnovers. But we weren't the only S-R representative at games. … Greg Lee covered the doubleheader at Albi Stadium and saw a GSL record 454 passing yards by Shadle sophomore Brett Rypien in Ferris' 41-21 victory (right). … He also covered Mead's 47-6 win over North Central. … Jess Brown was in the Valley and has the story on Central Valley's 41-14 win over Rogers. … There is also this roundup of all the football action from around the area.
• Mariners: Just when you might have thought Felix Hernandez would run away with the American League Cy Young Award, here come two consecutive defeats and now the race has tightened up considerably. The second of the losses came last night, 6-1, to the Oakland A's as Hernandez didn't make it out of the fourth inning. … Do you know Ichiro leaving and the M's rise (plus the Yankees' fall) is just a coincidence? … The starting rotation will change next week.
• Seahawks: Not much longer now and the Hawks will face off with the Arizona Cardinals with both teams featuring young quarterbacks in the beginning of the 2012 season. Arizona's has had some experience at this, however. … Both teams have questions at running back. … There is one guy Seattle doesn't want to see with the ball.
• Sounders: Today's matchup with Chivas USA features two desperate teams for totally different reasons. Though Seattle should be a bit more relaxed, considering how well it has put the ball in the net recently.
• Golf: It is Saturday, so that means Jim Meehan has his weekly column. It includes a bit of a history lesson.
• We're headed down to the big Palouse rumble and, hopefully, with all the scare tactics about the traffic problems, 195 will be smooth sailing through Colfax and to the revamped stadium. Though we'll probably take one of the back ways anyway. Join us for our postgame show an hour after the final gun (a cliché that is not applicable anymore), when Dennis Patchin and I will take your calls. It's available on KXLY 920 in Spokane and other stations in Eastern Washington on the Cougar radio network. You can also access it through the WSU website for a fee. We'll be back here with our thoughts tomorrow. Until then …