A GRIP ON SPORTS
When the 2013 Washington State football schedule was released, Cougar fans across the nation – OK, across the Northwest – looked at the first two games and their heads fell. Auburn at Auburn? Well, that's on us. That was our choice. But followed by USC at USC? Really? Thanks Pac-12 for such a nice, soft opener to conference play. Well, it turned out OK. Read on.
• It has been a while since Washington State has defeated USC in Los Angeles. More than a decade in fact. Heck, it had been more than a decade since the Cougars had defeated the Trojans at all. But that changed last night in the Coliseum. The Cougars won. And won with a style that hasn't been seen in these parts since the 1990s. With a smothering defense. The Cougars two scores last night: A 70-yard interception return by Damante Horton less than a minute before halftime and a 41-yard field goal by Andrew Furney. That was it. And all that was needed. Now, before you start making your bowl reservations Mr. and Mrs. CougarFan, remember this. The 2013 Trojans, despite their No. 25 national ranking, aren't Pete Carroll's Trojans. Or John McKay's. They are a pedestrian offensive team with a worse-than-usual offensive line still searching for a quarterback. Yes, USC is stout up front defensively, darn stout. And it showed as they Trojan front seven harassed Connor Halliday all night – he was sacked four times, was nearly sacked on a ball he fumbled and rarely got to step into any throw on a pattern over 5 yards. But Halliday and the Cougar offense went into Chad Davis-mode in the second half (and if you don't know that reference, you haven't been a WSU follower as long as most of our readers), moving the ball cautiously and not being afraid to end a possession with a punt. Dink and dunk enough and something might break. It did. A 1-yard pass to Dom Williams turned into two missed tackles and a 50-yard completion. A few plays later and Furney did something his USC counterpart couldn't, convert a field goal attempt. Another Horton interception (pictured) – and a pass interference call on USC the likes of which rarely seemed to be called the past 50 years – later, it was over. Lo and behold Washington State had a 10-7 win over USC. And Pullman erupted in celebration. Most who studied the Cougar schedule thought they would be 2-2 after four games. Now, with Southern Utah and Idaho looming at home, the Cougars can be expected to enter the Stanford game in Seattle 3-1. That would mean only three more wins over the next eight games and WSU would be doing something at the end of the season it hasn't done in as almost as long as its been since it had defeated USC: Going to a bowl. Now that would be cause for a real celebration in Pullman – and everywhere else Cougar fans live.
• WSU: The late night in Los Angeles meant Christian Caple had to run his version of the hurry-up to get his stories into the paper, but he beat the rush with a game story, a notebook, the keys to the game, the scoring and statistics. And, oh ya, a pregame live chat and a tale of the tape on the blog along with videos of Mike Leach, Halliday and Furney. … Christian will also have a blog post this morning with links to the other Pac-12 action.
• EWU: After upsetting a higher-division foe last week, the Eastern Eagles were not about to let the same happen to them Saturday. Jim Allen was in Cheney as the Eagles bounced out to a big early lead and coasted past Western Oregon, 43-14. He covered it all in this game story.
• Idaho: The Vandals struggled on defense and offense against host Wyoming yesterday, with the Cowboys winning 42-10 in a game delayed by lightning.
• Whitworth: The Pirates opened their season by hosting St. Scholastica, a Minnesota school with a recent history of success. But, as Tom Clouse's story shows, there was little off that against Whitworth, which won easily, 36-7.
• Preps: What did we learn in the first full weekend of prep football? Greg Lee tells us. … Coeur d'Alene lost a 43-42 shootout to Bothell at Husky Stadium. … Mead finished off U-Hi, 42-14, in a game delayed by lightning Thursday night. Greg was there. … The cross country season got underway and North Central won.
• Mariners: The second of the M's hyped “Big Three” young starters took the mound at Safeco last night and, like Taijuan Walker, James Paxton opened with a strong outing. The big left-hander gave up just one earned run in six innings as the M's topped Tampa Bay 6-2.
• Seahawks: The season begins today in Carolina. Anything less than a dominating win over the Panthers might be considered a cause for alarm for a Hawk fan base thinking Super Bowl. But some folks think it will be close. Here's why. … The Hawks, like just about every favorite since Goliath was listed as a 37-point favorite over David at Big Saul's Sports Book, swear they are not looking past Carolina.
• Sounders: Here's the thing about soccer. Sometimes the other team helps you. Like the Chicago Fire did in the second half of the Sounders 2-1 win Saturday night at CenturyLink. A Chicago own goal gave Seattle the margin of victory. … The Sounders first goal came from Lamar Neagle. … After moving ever closer to Real Salt Lake in the Western Conference, the Sounders and coach Sigi Schmid talked about the win and the upcoming showdown with RSL.
• That's it for today. I was up really late last night but it was worth it. There haven't been many games over the past few years when the Cougar fans seemed truly happy. Saturday night was one of those times. Until later …