A GRIP ON SPORTS
You know that wonderful pro football saying “next man up?” Well, it applies to other professions as well. Including this one. Read on.
• When Christian Caple emailed me at 2 a.m. (5 a.m. his time in Atlanta) to ask if I could handle the Pac-12 links today, I had no problem saying yes. After all, that's what a team sport is all about, covering for the other the guy, especially when the other guy's hotel reservation somehow got lost. So we have a handful of links in the Washington State section that we normally wouldn't have. That led, of course, to a bit longer morning. And for that I blame whatever hotel chain it was that messed up.
• Three quick thoughts on the Cougar 31-24 loss, all of which I covered last night on the post-game call-in show.The offensive line looked to be much improved. There were some communication breakdowns on running plays early but that seemed to be straightened out and the pass protection was good most of the night. But next week's test against USC's front will be a bit sterner. The defense will be improved again. The speed (or lack of) will still be a problem – the difference in that regard and the Auburn defense was easy to discern – but the schemes are solid and the players sell out. Two things seemed problematic, however. The Cougars only had one sack (it came on the game's first play, a fumbled snap) and only forced one turnover (Auburn had three fumbles but lost just the final one). Both those numbers have to improve for WSU to win. Connor Halliday has to make better decisions. The redshirt junior quarterback, in only his seventh collegiate start, three for more than 300 yards for a sixth time. But the one interception, when he rolled right and threw back across his body toward the middle, was all on him – he admitted as much afterward. There were other, similar decisions throughout the game that didn't turn into picks only because Auburn's defenders had stone hands or the Cougar receivers played defensive back on the balls. Winning the turnover battle decides a majority of college games, so Halliday has to continue to improve in this regard for the Cougars to take the next step.
• The best game of the day was in Corvallis, where the Eastern Eagles upset 24th-ranked Oregon State. All week long on the radio I harped on one thing. The Beavers were overrated. Their defense was suspect and they had injuries on the offensive line. Well, the o-line held up quite nicely, thank you, but Vernon Adams (pictured celebrating) and the Eagles ran – and passed – all over the OSU defense. Adams was spectacular, throwing for more than 400 yards and running for another 100-plus. His 518 yards of total offense broke a Reser Stadium record set by former WSU quarterback Alex Brink. But this was not a case of one man making the difference. It was team effort and the better team – on this day at least – won. People have to understand there is little difference between the best of the FCS (of which Eastern definitely is one) and the second tier of the FBS (where Oregon State resides this season). If the FCS schools could ever get these games at home – it will never happen – then there would be even more wins by the lower level schools.
• WSU: I will give Christian this. He sat in the hotel lobby (hereafter known as the scene of the crime), ignored all the hullabaloo and put together a post with game links. We also pass along his game story, his keys to the game, notebook, tale of the tape, scoring, statistics and postgame video of Mike Leach, Darryl Monroe, Connor Halliday (pictured), Elliot Bosch and Deone Bucannon. He also had a live chat yesterday. … John Blanchette traveled to Auburn as well and has this column. … ESPN.com has some instant analysis on its Pac-12 blog. … On the other side of this state, the Washington Huskies christened their rebuilt football palace with a 38-6 drubbing of 19th-ranked Boise State. The Huskies did what might have seemed impossible. Their play outshined their expensive new stadium. The win might just have been the best in Steve Sarkisian's tenure and they did it without their star tight end. … Unlike their in-state rivals up Interstate 5, the Oregon Ducks had no trouble with their FCS opponent. The Ducks manhandled Nicholls State 66-3, rolling up almost 800 yards. … California opened the Sonny Dykes era with a 44-30 home loss to Northwestern. … The Oregon State links are contained in the EWU section below. … UCLA and Brett Hundley had little trouble with Nevada, 58-20. … Colorado will battle in-state rival Colorado State tonight in Denver. … Utah's win Thursday came, in large part, due to the efforts of the Utes' kicker.
• EWU: If there has been a bigger win in Eastern's football history, I can only think of one: the 2010 NCAA title game. Other than that, the 49-46 upset of Oregon State will have to rank right up there. Jim Allen was in Corvallis and had a game story, a video from the postgame celebration and a morning post with links to coverage of the upset and other Big Sky games. He also has another post this morning with more on the Eagles' big win. … Adams' game (pictured) got him some hometown ink.
• Idaho: The Vandals scored on their opening possession. And that's all I've got. Other than that it was all North Texas in the 40-6 rout. Josh Wright has more on the first game of coach Paul Petrino's Idaho tenure.
• Indians: Well, well. The Indians just keep on winning. Saturday night with was by a 6-3 score, keeping Spokane's playoff hopes alive. Two more games with Everett in Everett remain and the Indians probably need to win both.
• Preps: The Rogers High football team is trying to erase an image of defeat. The Pirates are using hard work as their tool in this quest. Jonathan Brunt has this story and Dan Pelle has the pictures.
• Mariners: Before you get all excited about the M's third consecutive win, remember all three came against the Astros. Saturday night's score was 3-1 after the M's scored three first-inning runs. … Dustin Ackley is swinging the bat as well as he has in his career. … Agent Scott Boras says Kendrys Morales (pictured) is open to returning to the M's. But will he?
• Seahawks: The Hawks got down to the NFL-mandated roster of 53 players Saturday, cutting a mix of veterans and youngsters. There were only a few surprises but Antonio Winfield's departure has to be one of them. … They also made a trade for a defensive lineman.
• Sounders: Seattle lost a player just a few minutes in to a red card, meaning the Sounders played the rest of the way with Columbus a man down. Still, Eddie Johnson's goal gave them a 1-0 win and the much-needed three points. … Johnson's goal celebration made it clear how he feels about all the money Seattle has thrown around at designated players.
• That's our fuller-than-full Sunday morning report. We'll be back tomorrow for a Labor Day holiday report. Until then …