A GRIP ON SPORTS
There was a tweet from one of the Washington State football players last night – and no, I'm not going to rat him out – that said it all about playing a game in Las Vegas. The essence of the tweet concerned how sad it was driving by the strip and not stopping, instead heading to the team hotel. While their fans get to head to Vegas for playtime, the football team has to focus on work. Funny, the college kids are the ones playing a game, the fans are the ones with jobs. Read on.
• I'm not going anywhere with the lead-in, no 3,000-word rant about the hypocrisy of college football or the money-grubbing folks who run Oregon's athletic department (what, you might ask; my answer, see the Washington State section below). Instead I'll just say this: The Cougar football players are lucky. They'll leave Vegas with their shirts, which is more than can be said about a lot of their fans. And one other thing. As a friend of mine once said, what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas … except the hangover. That comes with you.
• Will the Cougars experience a loser's hangover tomorrow? The game opened at 11.5 points but has dropped to eight, which probably reflects Jeff Tuel's injury and his up-in-the-air status for this evening. The drop has also occurred despite the multitude of WSU fans in the city, presumably putting a bunch of money on their team. So what do the oddsmakers know? After all, Washington State routed UNLV 59-7 last year, opening the game with scoring drives of 79, 74, 81 and 80 yards. The Rebels have struggled this season, though they haven't played anyone as physical as Wisconsin, their opponent last season the week before the WSU game. The Cougar offense has struggled as well, ranked 111th in the nation in yards with 289.5 per game. The difference tonight will probably be the triggerman, with Connor Halliday (above) filling the role instead of Tuel. If Vegas has questions about the change, Cougar fans don't. They know Halliday's abilities. They know he can decimate a defense with his arm (ask ASU). They also know their team's rushing defense has been better than advertised thus far this season – the group is 37th in the nation, giving up 106.5 yards a game – which bodes well against UNLV, a rush-first team. With those thoughts in mind, I'm going with the Cougars, though it will be tighter than last season (that's the biggest “duh” statement of the year). Let's say WSU wins, 35-17. And yes, I'm picking them to cover.
• Washington State: Christian Caple is in Las Vegas – hence, the relative absence of tweets – and he'll be at tonight's game, which, by the way, is on ESPN starting at 6, so the Pac-12/DirectTV pissing match doesn't affect the coverage. He was busy yesterday, not only flying to Vegas, but also putting together this story that focuses on last year's game, his two-minute drill and a blog post with UNLV information courtesy the Las Vegas Sun beat writer. Then he opened today with his morning blog post, has a trip planned to In-n-Out (I'm sure he'll follow the fine WSU beat writer tradition) and has to bet my life savings ($413.73) on the Cougars at the nearest sports book. … The star of last year's win over UNLV, quarterback Marshall Lobbestael, has found a new calling. He's helping his former high school coach and my former Hoopfest teammate, Dave Ward, with the Sedro-Woolley football team. … OK, I had to pass this story from The Register-Guard concerning Oregon's football scheduling “problems.” See, the Ducks have to play seven home games, so that makes it tough when it comes to finding lackeys, er, opponents, to come to Autzen. It was this sentence that caught my eye: “In an economic climate that necessitates Oregon playing no fewer than seven lucrative home games per season …” Really? It's not necessary, the Ducks' hierarchy just wants the money sellouts – and seven home games – bring in. And isn't the economic climate the same in the entire nation? Just budget better – hey, Oregon, you are paying your baseball coach more than a half-million dollars and the program loses more than that (plus has yet to get to the College World Series) – and you could play more high-profile non-conference road games. Don't give this baloney excuse of only being able to play non-conference road games in years the Civil War is played because you “need” seven home games. As our parents taught us years ago, want and need are two different things.
• EWU: Nothing on the Eagles today (they have a bye this week) but we do have the news of a “new” athletic director in Missoula. Montana wanted to change the culture of the athletic department so much after its recent problems that it hired an insider to take over. What? So much for change. … Portland State's coach has UW roots.
• Idaho: The Vandals will carry a memory into Saturday's game at LSU. It's the memory of senior receiver Ken McRoyal, a New Orleans native who was killed in May at a party near his home in Los Angeles. … Quarterback Dominique Blackman was one of McRoyal's friends, but McRoyal's violent death wasn't the first to touch his life. … Utah State is trying to win with in-state kids.
• Preps: Gonzaga Prep's offense was in high gear Thursday night as the Bullpups raced past Ferris, 39-13, at Albi Stadium. Greg Lee was there and has this story. … East Valley High running back Adam Talley left the team to concentrate on work. … GSL volleyball opened last night. Here's the S-R's roundup.
• Shock: The Arena Football League won't return to the old days of two-way players. That was the biggest decision to come out of league meetings this week. Jim Meehan has the story.
• Seahawks: The Seattle Seahawks have started the season 0-2 15 times in their history and never once made the playoffs that year. So it behooves Seattle to find a way to win Sunday vs. the Dallas Cowboys. … They should have tackle Russell Okung in the lineup though receiver Sidney Rice was sitting yesterday. … The Cowboys have fans everywhere because, you know, lots of people grow up as frontrunners.
• Mariners: Just when you thought Felix Hernandez would salvage something of the Mariners' season by winning the Cy Young Award, he loses three consecutive games. Is there some sort of Mariner equivalent to “Couging it?” The most recent loss came yesterday in Toronto. … At least next season the woeful – is there a better word to describe a team that is so bad Roger Clemens may throw for them before the season ends? – Astros will be in the division.
• It's going to be another late night as the Cougar game begins at 6, will probably end somewhere around 9:30 and our hour-long post-game call-in show will start around 10:30. Hey, that's late for me. Tune in, will you? And if you're near a phone and have a thought, question or comment, call us. Dennis Patchin or I will give you the number more than once tonight. Until later …