A GRIP ON SPORTS
This could be a day Washington State football fans tell their grandchildren about. Or not. Read on.
• Today is the day the Cougars have a chance to post their sixth win of the 2013 season. Six wins. The Holy Grail. Bowl eligibility. OK, to be precise, six wins only gets you into the bowl picture if there aren't enough seven-win schools, but let's not nitpick. Winning six games has gotten a lot of teams in bowls recently (though not WSU in 2006). And that number will send the Cougars bowling, god-willing and the creek don't rise (and ticket sales are guaranteed). So today very well could be a memorable day for WSU fans. Think about this. If you were a high school senior in 2003, the Cougars were the best team in the state in your memory. After all, as you marched down the high school halls, you knew Washington State would win 10 football games. The Cougs did it three years in a row. So off you head to Pullman, visions of sitting on a beach somewhere in California in December dancing in your head. Supporting the football team, of course. But no. Each year ended in frustration, bowl-wise, as the Cougars suffered through a decade of staying home in an era when, seemingly, everyone went bowling. But today could end that streak. After 10 years of waiting, of graduating from WSU, of getting that first job, of dealing with the fallout of the Great Recession, of getting that second job, of marriage, kids and mortgages, now is your day. The crimson sweatshirt is washed. The flag is pressed. The adult beverages are chilled. And … well, I hate to snow on your parade, but today might not be the day. That sixth win may not come until next Friday, during the Apple Cup. See, college football is all about matchups and, for some reason, the Cougars have not matched up well with Utah the past few years. Sure, two years ago WSU should have won in the snow (pictured) – I still believe the penultimate play of the final drive got in the end zone – but the Utes beat up the Cougar offense, especially Connor Halliday. Last year? Well, let's forget last year. I have. All I know is Utah crushed the Cougs. But this year's Utah team is 1-6 in the Pac-12, argues hopeful Cougar fan. Sure. But that one win was over Stanford. And most of the losses have been by a handful of points. The Cougars' losses have been ugly. But the wins have been beautiful, like last week's in Arizona, comes the rebuttal. OK, if WSU plays like it did last week, it will win. I'll give you that. And I will be the first to say the Cougars deserve to go bowling. I'm just not sure it will happen. Call me a cynic, call me a realist, call me fat, I can take all those. Just don't call me a hater. Because I'm not. I don't even feel this way because of the legacy of so many times WSU being on the cusp of great things, only to see it slip away. So often, in fact, there is a phrase to describe it. But the past is past. Today is today. And today it's going to be tough. Let's call it Utah, 24-21 and move on.
• Of course, I've been wrong before. Many times. There is always that to hang your hat on. And I would not mind seeing guys like Elliott Bosch, John Fullington, Deone Bucannon, Nolan Washington, guys I watched grow up their first couple years in Pullman, win their final home game. Like Andy Dufresne, they have crawled through a mile of junk. And they've earned their day on the beach.
• WSU: Let's get you ready for the game. Jacob Thorpe has an advance in today's S-R, along with a short preview and the keys to a Cougar victory. He also has a couple of blog posts, including one on Vince Mayle (pictured) being granted another year by the NCAA and one with links this morning. … Speaking of Bosch, and we did above, the senior center is the subject of this Q&A on ESPN.com's Pac-12 blog. The blog also has its mailbag and a look at today's games. … The Salt Lake Tribune does a position-by-position preview (and predicts the Utes will lose big). It also has a story that notes Utah has to win if it wants to go bowling. That's also the thrust of this preview. … Jon Wilner picks WSU to win as well. … Tia Presley scored a career-high 37 points as WSU's women rallied to defeat Fresno State.
• EWU: It's Senior Day in Cheney and Jim Allen marks the occasion with a look at the core of the Eagles' team, the most successful group of seniors in school history. … The basketball team picked up an impressive win, 80-68 over Boston University, in a tournament in Irvine, Calif. … Southern Utah will try to ensure a postseason berth when it hosts Northern Arizona today. … Weber State just wants to end its season with a win in a game that features two head coaches who were together on Paul Wulff's staff in Pullman (Jody Sears with Weber and Mike Kramer with Idaho State).
• Idaho: Why would Idaho fly across the country to get thumped by the nation's No. 2 football team? One guess. Yep, it's money. Josh Wright has the story. Josh also has some notes on the basketball team's win over North Texas in Portland in this blog post.
• Whitworth: The Pirates opened the basketball season at home with a win over a team from New York whose name is too long to type. Thomas Clouse has the story.
• Chiefs: The Portland Winterhawks have the Chiefs' number. And right now that number is 12, as in consecutive wins for Portland in the series. … Everett won again, this time on the road. … Tri-City dropped a home game to Kelowna.
• Preps: After all that went wrong this season for the Coeur d'Alene High football team, the final game of the season went completely right, as the Viks won the 5A title, 31-28, over Highland. Greg Lee has the story and Jesse Tinsley the photographs. … Greg also has a feature today advancing a softball clinic in Coeur d'Alene. … Central Valley will play for the state 4A soccer title after defeating GSL rival Mead in the semifinals. … St. George's won't be playing a 2B boys soccer title after falling in the semis. … Undefeated Lind-Ritzville/Sprague rolled over Colfax in the 2B football quarterfinals.
• Seahawks: All we can offer today is this stat-filled blog post from the Seattle Times. Hope that is enough.
• Mariners: It may not come as a surprise, but the M's are cutting ties with all of Eric Wedge's coaches.
• We're on our way to Pullman this morning. I'll be doing the post-game call-in show about an hour after the game is over and I'll be joined by a surprise special guest. You can listen anywhere with the Tunein Radio app or on the Cougar radio stations this side of the Cascades. If the Cougars win, feel free to call in and tell me I how poor my prediction was. Just be nice. Until later …