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Nice guys do get to finish

A GRIP ON SPORTS

It's an interesting weekend coming up in the Inland Northwest. Not only because the Cougars will host Colorado for homecoming (talk about picking the right opponent for that game), but also because Eastern Washington gets into Big Sky play with a game against an old friend's team. Read on.

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• There was a time, not too long ago, when Jody Sears (right) and Beau Baldwin used to sit together in the Big Sky press boxes, one calling Eastern's defensive signals, the other the Eagles' offensive plays. And now they meet as competitors and head coaches at opposing conference schools. Baldwin's path to head coach at Eastern was pretty simple. After leaving the EWU offensive coordinator spot, he became head coach at Central Washington before returning to Cheney when Paul Wulff headed down U.S. Highway 195 to take over the Washington State program. Sears followed Wulff to his hometown of Pullman – Sears was a standout on the football field for the Greyhounds and I can remember his days on the basketball court as well – where he served as Wulff's co-defensive coordinator for the first three years and his cornerbacks coach the last one. When Wulff was fired at the end of last year, Sears and most of the staff was let go as well, ending what was for Sears an idyllic time coaching football at his alma mater, surrounded by family and friends. But football coaching is the most tight-knit fraternity in the world and Sears latched on with old friend John L. Smith, then the head coach at Weber State. And when Smith bolted Ogden for an interim gig at Arkansas, the Wildcats needed a head coach. They turned to Sears. And handed him a schedule that makes Arkansas' seem easy. The Wildcats opened at Fresno State, faced BYU on the road and then hosted always-tough McNeese State at home. No wonder they are 0-3. Now here comes Eastern, the ninth-ranked FCS school in the country and, along with Montana State, probably the favorites to win the Big Sky Conference. No wonder Smith bolted. But I can guarantee you, as I know Jody Sears pretty well, he's still running onto the Weber State practice field every day with a smile and, if I were standing there, he would turn and say "present" as he jogged by. No matter how tough it gets in Ogden, Sears will stay in the moment, deal with each day as it comes and face the future with a smile.

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• Washington State: Christian Caple introduces us today to the man in the middle of the WSU defense, nose tackle Ioane Guata (right), the junior college transfer who has made a big difference up front for the Cougars. Besides the feature, Christian held a live chat yesterday (you can read the whole thing here) and had a post-practice blog post with video and the guess Connor Halliday will start at quarterback again this week. Christian also has his usual morning post along with his Pac-12 picks. If you want to make money this year, bet against Christian's picks. You would have been rich last week. ... Speaking of predictions, here are this week's from the guys at ESPN.com. ... CBSSports.com has a quick peek at the Colorado game. ... How bad are the Buffs? Jon Wilner is comparing them to the 2008 Huskies and the 2008 and 2009 Cougars. It's a tad early for that, don't you think?

• EWU: Jim Allen had a chance to sit with Jody Sears for a while at the Big Sky media day. That time resulted in this nice feature for today's S-R. Jim also has a blog post this morning with Big Sky links and will have a live chat this afternoon. ... The Sears/Baldwin connection is explored once more in this Salt Lake City Tribune piece. ... Idaho State has its hands full this week at Nebraska.

• Chiefs: Yep, it's about that time when junior hockey begins in the northern climes. Jess Brown has a short story on the kickoff this week. ... The Portland Winterhawks' coach talked with John Canzano yesterday.

• Preps: It's Thursday, which is Prep Page day in the old S-R. Greg Lee gushes a bit over Skyline after watching the Spartans destroy Coeur d'Alene last Saturday. He also has a feature on Mead's Danny Mattingly (left), the latest in a line of Mattinglys headed to college football. ... Correspondent Mike Vlahovich was at Wednesday's big cross country meet and Jim Allen covered a soccer showdown on the South Hill.

• Seahawks: When Jim Mora was the Hawks coach for that one year (ya, I sort of forgot too), he wanted to rebuild Seattle into more physical outfit. He didn't get it done. But now the Hawks are there and Pete Carroll is reaping the benefits. ... They were a bit too tough on Sunday, according to the NFL, with Golden Tate having to come up with $21,000 for his block. ... But one roadblock is looming. The NFC West is now one of the best divisions in the league. ... This week's game won't be easy.

• Mariners: As if 18 innings on Tuesday wasn't enough, the Orioles and Mariners went 11 more on Wednesday. But the outcome was the same, with Baltimore winning 3-1. This time Adam Jones came through for the O's, marking the 1,493rd time since being traded by the M's Jones has does something to make every Mariner fan slap his head and say "doh." ... Just because a game is long doesn't make it memorable, though Michael Saunders will remember he was tossed in the middle of it.

• Sounders: Brad Evans' late goal lifted Seattle past CD Marathon of Honduras 3-2 last night, clinching a CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal berth for the visiting team. The win elicited these responses. ... The Sounders are happy to have David Estrada back.

• NBA: Some folks in Seattle think Key Arena is doomed if the county and city agree to let a new facility be built in Sodo.

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• Kind of hard to believe it is already Thursday and there is golf on the television all day, an NFL game on tonight, college football's weekend kicking off and only a couple more days until Saturday. We'll be back tomorrow with our usual combination of links, notes and commentary. Until then ...




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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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