A GRIP ON SPORTS
A late night in Pullman. Check that. It turned into an early morning in Pullman and Colfax and Steptoe and Thornton and Rosalia and Spangle. Read on.
• When Washington State starts a football game at 7:37 p.m., you know you won't be leaving the stadium until 10:30. At the earliest. That is, of course, if you stay until the end. And why wouldn't you? There were fireworks. Not that type you see over Avista Stadium during the summer but human interaction fireworks. First there were last-minute fireworks between Mike Leach and referee Michael Batlan, resulting in a well-earned 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against the second year Cougar coach. Then there were fireworks between Leach and first-year Idaho coach Paul Petrino (pictured above) during – and after – the postgame handshake (pictured below). The “discussion” seems to have been up there with Jim Harbaugh and Pete Carroll's “what's your deal?” handshake after Stanford routed USC a few years ago. What makes the postgame even more interesting is Petrino lives in Pullman and is, according to more than one Pullman insider, building a house next door to Leach's residence. Now that could be a fun neighborhood. Actually, such postgame brouhahas happen more than you may think, but usually are just a result of competitive juices running high. Coaches understand that and – Harbaugh and Carroll's relationship notwithstanding – the participants usually iron out their differences before too long (see this post from a national coaching site). There is too much interaction not to. Leach's conversation with Batlan may be more problematic for the WSU coach as he must have said something that offended the referee – Batlan's field microphone was still on after he announced the penalty and he could be heard saying to another official “you heard what he said, right?” The Pac-12 takes a dim view of coaches criticizing their officials, especially with salty language. Everyone else in America can be critical of Pac-12 officiating – and they are – but the league's coaches have to keep their lips sealed. At least in places where they can be overheard. I'm sure some of the private conversations on the phone from outposts like Pullman and Eugene and Phoenix have included words worthy of a scene from “The Wire.” … OK, that's the peripheral stuff. None of this should take away from the performance of the Cougar defense. It shutout a team that just a week ago put up 35 on a decent Northern Illinois team. And none of it should diminish the fact WSU is 3-1 for the second time in three years, though this time seems a little more sustainable – mainly because of the stout nature of the defense. Remember, two years ago WSU's third win came on a last-minute play in Colorado and, more importantly, the Cougars were without their starting quarterback, eventually-to-be-NFL-bound Jeff Tuel. So the tough losing streak that followed was understandable. But even with No. 5 Stanford looming next week – another late start, 7 p.m. in Seattle – this WSU squad has the feel of one that can compete with most of the teams on their schedule. Sure there are problems – four turnovers vs. Idaho, a lack of depth up front on both sides of the ball – but no college team is perfect. How it deals with such problems is what matters. And WSU is dealing with them. Before, during and after games.
• WSU: Christian Caple's coverage in today's S-R includes the quickly-put-together game story, his keys to the game, a notebook (which begins with the postgame handshake), statistics and scoring. On the blog, he added the game book from WSU, videos from Connor Halliday, Mike Leach, Xavier Cooper and Gabe Marks, a tale of the tape and a summary of his pregame live chat. And, of course, he has his morning post with links. … Tyler Tjomsland has photos from the Palouse showdown. … On ESPN.com's Pac-12 blog there are the things learned during the weekend around the conference and helmet stickers, including one for Marks. It also has WSU projected into the Fight Hunger Bowl (at AT&T Park in San Francisco, where the Cougars played Cal a couple years ago).
• Gonzaga: Adam Morrison is back at GU, this time as a student assistant coach. He's finishing up his degree and passing along knowledge gained over years of playing basketball at the highest level. His level-headed, well-though-out statements are a big part of Jim Meehan's feature in today's paper. I've known Adam since he was in grade school and Jim's piece really catches who he is, a thoughtful, well-grounded person who has never let what life has thrown him keep him down. … Gonzaga's cross country team had a good day. Those results are part of our college roundup.
• Whitworth: The Pirates dropped their first game of the season, a 25-20 decision to the La Verne Leopards. Tom Clouse was at the Pine Bowl and has this story.
• Preps: Greg Lee is looking back at the recently completed prep football weekend each Sunday and today his story revolves around the surprises. … Coeur d'Alene led early but couldn't hold on at Highland. … We also have a roundup of Saturday's other action.
• Mariners: I'm not sure what the final score was, but Raul Ibanez hit his 300th career home run – and tied Ted Williams for the most home runs in a season for a 41-year-old. So there is that. … OK, the final was 6-5 in the Angels favor, but it still takes a backseat to Ibanez's accomplishments. The guy has a had a solid, respectable career and that my friends is, in my eyes, a great compliment. … The Phillies have taken the interim tag off Ryne Sandberg's managerial title. He'll be back next season.
• Seahawks: No matter how much the Hawks are favored today – it's a bunch – they expect a tough battle from Jacksonville. We'll see. … The Hawks have signed a tackle to fill in for the short-term while Russell Okung is out.
• Sounders: It seems as if we expect a win out of the Sounders every match now. Even when Clint Dempsey is a late scratch with a hamstring injury. But the 1-1 draw in Los Angeles is still pretty darn good. And the Sounders were pleased with the result, considering the venue and the circumstances.
• We got back to Spokane a bit before 3 a.m. this morning and was just too tired to put this post together then – despite the fact we almost hit a deer a block from our house. Having to come to a complete stop on U.S. 195 just south of Plaza to let a pair cross is one thing, that's somewhat expected. But to come around a corner and almost nail one in the neighborhood, well that gets your blood going. Still, just minutes later I fell into bed and was out. Less than four hours later we were up and writing, thanks to two dogs who urgently needed to visit the backyard bushes. Now it's time to nap. Until later …