A GRIP ON SPORTS
Mike Leach was angry. That was obvious. The Cougars' fourth-quarter meltdown in a 52-24 loss to Oregon State had ticked him off. Rightfully so. It had probably ticked off every Cougar fan in America. Read on.
• Leach had every reason to be angry at his team in his postgame comments. They had disappeared in a game they were on the cusp of possibly winning. “Possibly” because it was no sure thing either way. Not then, not before the game (and we'll explain that in a minute). The game had featured four lead changes heading into the final minute of the third quarter. Neither team had shown any inclination to pull away. Until a special teams play went awry. The Cougars' punt team suffered a failure to communicate, and instead of handing the ball over to OSU in the Beavers territory, the miscommunication resulted in Oregon State beginning its last third-quarter drive at the WSU 27. The score was tied. It was time for the Cougar defense to step up, something it has done pretty well in such situations all season. Except this time it didn't. The Beavers scored in two plays. Game over. Well, not really, but reading the Cougars' body language it sure seemed like it was over even though almost a full quarter remained. The shoulders drooped. The energy waned. The “here-we-go-again” attitude seemed poised to emerge. And when Connor Halliday and Vince Mayle suffered another miscommunication – Mayle broke inside on a deep one-on-one route and Halliday had already delivered the ball to the outside, where only cornerback Rashaad Reynolds was – the Cougars broke. And that was why Leach was mad. He has spent the past 22 months trying to wean that losing attitude out of his team. But it is still there. It still will be for a while. After years and years of losing, it's not something that goes away in an instant. It takes players piling positive outcomes on top of each other like a pyramid. Only then, when a foundation of easy-to-recall moments is built, will such events not serve as some sort of crazy, college football Jenga game.
• As for the disappointment of the fans, the same things Leach saw got to them as well. That was obvious in the calls we received on the post-game show and in talking with others afterward. But there was one other thing. WSU fans are hungry – starving, actually – for a bowl game. And many of them had marked this game as a win. They marked it after the Beavers lost to Eastern Washington and they marked it with a Sharpie. But Oregon State is a pretty darn good football team. Better than I thought. The Beavers haven't lost since that season opener vs. EWU and they won't lose next week either against California. They will be bowl eligible then. The Cougars? Their hopes of making a bowl were dealt a blow last night and their fans' expectations were as well. I understand why the latter group would expect a win, though I don't understand why it seemed like money in the bank. Vegas had the game as basically a toss up and for 44 minutes, the gamblers were right. The last 16 minutes? No one, except OSU fans, thought there was anything right about that.
• WSU: Jacob Thorpe experienced his first Martin Stadium night game – and the stress-inducing deadlines that come with it. He has this game story in the Review along with a notebook, his keys to the game, the scoring and statistics. He also has more on the blog, including a pre-game chat and a morning post with links. … Josh Wright was also in attendance and he filed this sidebar on OSU's Brandin Cooks. … Tyler Tjomsland chips in with a photo story from the game. … The Times' Bud Withers was at Martin and he has this game story – he divined how mad Leach was as well – and a sidebar on Oregon State's Washington connections. … What did we learn this weekend? We learned Sean Mannion is pretty darn good and worthy of a helmet sticker. … The Oregonian's Ken Goe has this column on Leach and his personality. … The paper also has a game story and two sidebars from the OSU point of view. … I also found this game story from Corvallis.
• Gonzaga: The Zags held their annual Kraziness in the Kennel event yesterday and Jim Meehan was there. He passes along all the action in this story and blog post. … Gonzaga's volleyball team rallied for a big win.
• EWU: The bakeries in North Dakota must specialize in turnovers, because the Eagle defense fed off them yesterday. OK, a bad way to describe Eastern's 35-14 rout of North Dakota, so we'll let Jim Allen take over. He has this game story from the central part of the nation.
• Idaho: Not much went right for the Vandals in their trip to Arkansas to face what next year will be a Sun Belt Conference opponent. Quarterback Chad Chalich was injured, a rally fizzled and Arkansas State won, 48-24. Josh was in Pullman but he still put together this blog post following the game.
• Chiefs: Spokane scored three times in the third period and defeated host Red Deer 3-2 last night.
• Preps: It's Sunday, so Greg Lee looks back on the past week, a week that put Shadle Park in a position to win a part of its first GSL football title this century. … We also can pass along a roundup of Saturday's action.
• Seahawks: The Seattle defense wasn't happy with last week's performance. If there is any area in which the Hawks want to improve today when they host Tennessee, it's on that side of the ball. … The Hawks are a bit healthier today, especially on the offensive line, but the Titans are missing their quarterback, former Husky Jake Locker. … Seattle made another minor roster change yesterday. … What can you expect this afternoon from the Hawks? This might help you figure it out.
• Sounders: A lot of questions need to be answered today when the Sounders travel down I-5 to Portland and face the always-tough-and-physical-at-home Timbers. The biggest one is who will be in goal. Well, maybe not. The biggest one might just be whether they can regroup or not after two blowout losses. The one about who wins the Cascadia Cup is secondary.
• That's it for this morning. I wish there was more. But when you get home from Pullman after 3 in the morning, that's not a good thing, even if I were half my age (after all, if I were half my age, I would have gotten home at 3 after doing things to my body I would regret when I became my age, if you get my drift). Anyhow, I'm a bit burned out from burning the candles at both ends. So we will say goodbye. See you tomorrow. Until then …