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Eastern breathes new life into college football scene

A GRIP ON SPORTS

You want to know one thing that made me really happy about watching Eastern Washington's win over Sam Houston State yesterday on ESPN? Not once, as far as I could tell, did the self-proclaimed world-wide leader show the tired old shot of the Spokane Falls roaring in downtown. That seems like a win to me. Read on.

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• You notice in every Gonzaga basketball game the network shows, it has the same shot of the falls? Heck, I think you can see the YMCA in the background and it hasn't been around for years. But yesterday ESPN made do with shots of pine trees and wheat fields, River Park Square (from Friday) and Colin Cowherd. And plenty of football. Offensive football for the most part, with the announcers discussing more than once why anyone would want to be a defensive coordinator in modern college football. That's a discussion for another day – and a good one. But today we want to talk about the product on the red turf, something I hope disappears after Eastern wins it second or third national championship. The color is an affront to our eyes and, while it brought much-needed notice to the school, the football team is good enough to get beyond that, to stand on its own merits. It's not just Vernon Adams (pictured below) and Cooper Kupp, it's the program that's good. Heck, when Bo Levi Mitchell was leading the Eagles to the FCS title in 2010, it seemed as if Eastern had reach to pinnacle at quarterback. But the lineage, which reached back into the past of Erik Meyer and beyond, continued – and maybe even improved. Adams isn't dynamite, he's nitroglycerin. He can explode at just about any moment. And he makes defensive coordinators sweat. Yes, he was a little off yesterday – that, or Shaq Hill's arms were a bit short – but it didn't matter. He combines well-thrown balls with nearly uncontrollable legwork. Get him into open space and the only way you can seem to stop him is grab his face mask – or have him sent to the sideline for a bad visor. The most impressive thing about yesterday is the Eagles seemed to get better on every play on both sides of the ball. Sam Houston State was making the same mistakes in the fourth quarter it did in the opening minutes. Eastern didn't. Safety Tevin McDonald took a bad angle on run support one time and it resulted in a 70-plus-yard touchdown run. The second half he filled the right gaps twice that I saw and made big tackles. And, oh ya, he made the game's turning-point play, a blitz-caused tipped pass he also intercepted. Are there things to work on? Sure. The defense was pushed around up front in the second half. The receivers dropped some catchable balls, including a couple long throws. And the turf is just overpowering on the newest high-definition televisions. Plus, Cowherd isn't the only "celebrity" alum, right? There's ... well, there's Jess Walter. He's an award-winning author. Why not put him on ESPN's coverage? Heck, he has a killer jump shot with range out to at least 4 feet. But don't worry. It shouldn't be long now before Eastern isn't known for the red turf or Cowherd. It should be known as the best FCS program in the country. That's more than enough.

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• WSU: The Cougars just want to be the best program they can be. That starts Thursday night in Seattle, the final home game in CenturyLink for, more than likely, forever. Don't believe me? Bill Moos is as definitive as he gets in this piece. ... Jacob Thorpe will be in the CenturyLink press box and have full coverage for you. Of course, he has full coverage pretty much every day, what with his usual position previews, which end this morning with a look at the running backs, and his blog posts, including one yesterday on the depth chart and another today with links. ... He also takes a first look at the Rutgers game. ... Klay Thompson is not only glad to make the U.S. National Team, he's ecstatic the Warriors didn't use him to get Kevin Love. ... There are a heck of a lot of good quarterbacks in the Pac-12. ... Former WSU kicker Andrew Furney was cut by the Jets.

• EWU: Not only was ESPN all over Cheney yesterday, so was The Spokesman-Review. And next week the S-R will still be there in the form of Jim Allen. He had the game story from yesterday's 56-35 victory, which included a second-half beatdown and an unnecessary late Eagle score. Jim also has a notebook. ... John Blanchette was also at Roos Field and has a column on ESPN's impact on the FCS game. ... If you are visual learner, Colin Mulvany has a whole bunch of photographs for you to peruse. ... The rest of the Big Sky is about to get underway this week, with Weber State hoping to hold its own against Arizona State and Southern Utah, with a new offensive coordinator, taking on a brutal schedule.

• Indians: Another day in Hillisboro, another Indians' loss. This one was 5-4 and it took 11 innings.

• Seahawks: No one seems to be able to repeat as NFL champions anymore. Can the Hawks buck that trend? ... If Doug Baldwin has anything to say about it, they will. ... The one guy who seems bored? Punter Jon Ryan. ... Percy Harvin is Russell Wilson's main man these days. And vice-versa. ... We can still look back at the win over the Bears and check in on what folks said afterward. ... Pro Football Focus thought the Hawks' rookie offensive tackle had a poor game against the Bears. ... Cuts have to be made soon.

• Mariners: If the M's keep scoring five or seven runs in one inning, they probably don't need to do much more offensively. That's been the scenario the past two days in Boston and it's worked. Yesterday, the M's squared up about 10 balls in a row, scored seven runs – capped by Dustin Ackley's sneak-into-the-stands home run – and defeated the Sox 7-3. ... Dominic Leone is from New England. So getting a win in his first trip to Fenway was nearly perfect. ... Can Friday night's comeback jumpstart a season-ending rally? John McGrath thinks so. ... Sometimes you have to take chances to win.

• Sounders: Lethargic? Tired? Beat-down? How about a match against your archrivals to pick you up? A match on the road? That's the formula the Sounders hope works for them today as they travel to Portland. Seattle hasn't been all that good lately.

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• Another park, another Sunday. And another bad late-in-their-career Chicago song. It just went through my head. Sorry to share. Until later ... 




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Vince Grippi
Vince Grippi is a freelance local sports blogger for spokesman.com. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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