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Archive for July 2014

Indians use second half to try new looks

Admittedly, some Spokane Indians fans are concerned about the way the team has played in the last 2 1/2 weeks. Spokane owns the worst record (3-7) in the Northwest League during the early stages of the second half. The Indians have also lost 12 of their last 18 games overall and won just enough games during the end of the first half to qualify for the playoffs as North Division first-half champions. Seen another way, however, and it's not that strange that the Indians' fortunes have taken a turn. Read story

UPDATE: Drew Loftus arrested for assault

(This post was updated at 11:03 to include information from the police report.)

Washington State wide receiver Drew Loftus was arrested for assault in the fourth degree early Thursday morning, his 21st birthday. Officers responded to a call at Domino's Pizza on Northeast Monroe Street where two witnesses claimed to have been assaulted by a suspect, who was fleeing on foot, according to Sgt. Dan Dornes of the Pullman Police Department.

The victims were in Stubblefield's bar and taking video of the atmosphere. They said that Loftus and another football player were upset at being videotaped because they were not supposed to be in the bar.

Once outside a victim claims that he was punched by Loftus, who then ran off

More after the jump.

Steve Gleason will be inducted into the WSU Hall of Fame

Washington State just announced that former Cougar football and baseball player Steve Gleason will be the only 2014 inductee into the WSU Athletic Hall of Fame. Gleason, who played seven years in the NFL, was diagnosed with Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis in 2011 has been a leader raising awareness and fighting the disease through his foundation, Team Gleason.

The release from the school is after the jump.

No. 1 Eastern opens fall camp

Eastern Washington offensive line coach Aaron Best offers pointers during the Eagles' opening football practice Thursday morning.

Mike Leach talks about the Cougars before camp

Washington State head football coach Mike Leach spoke on the phone with members of the media today to talk about the Cougars fall camp. We've put together a transcription of the call's highlights, which you can read after the jump.

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WSU fall practice schedule

The Cougars will head to Sacajawea middle school in Lewiston, Idaho on Saturday for their first practice of the 2014 season. These practices are open to the media and public, although WSU will not be in full pads until Aug. 6, the fourth day of practice.

The team is being more restrictive with access than in seasons past. Unlike last year, practices will be closed when the Cougars return to Pullman and players won't be made available to the media from Aug. 14 until after the Rutgers game. (Update 12:31 p.m. I should note that while the Cougars will not have any open practices in Pullman this year, that is likely due to WSU's early game. Last year the final open practice was on Aug. 18, 13 days before the season began.)

The schedule of publicly available practices is after the jump.

Is the future now?

A GRIP ON SPORTS

Today is the day. The day the Mariners let their fans know how they feel about this season. Or maybe it's just the day they decide to continue to build for the future. Read on.

Looking at the WSU pre-camp depth chart

I was handed a media guide recently and inside was an updated depth chart. I've taken the liberty of scanning that page (Thanks, Cam Scanner!) and posting it below. Here are a few items of interest I saw while perusing:

— Freshman receiver Calvin Green is now listed as the backup H receiver. The former running back enrolled early to participate in spring ball, a decision that sure seems to have paid off.

— Jamal Morrow is listed as Theron West's backup at running back.

— Jeremiah Allison has moved to MIKE linebacker from WILL.

— Seems like quite a battle at cornerback with Tracy Clark or Charleston White starting on one side and Daquawn Brown and Marcellus Pippins starting on the other.

— Apart from Darryl Monroe (who is listed as 235 but says he's actually 239) the biggest weight gainer appears to be strong safety Isaac Dotson, who is listed at 218, 12 pounds more than he was listed in the spring.

Washington works on body, mind

Shock coach Andy Olson probably has a long list of worries when it comes to his team, but Mike Washington isn't one of them.

He knows the 5-foot-8 receiver is going to eat right, take care of his body, study film, practice hard and then study more film. But there's more to Washington than just the football player. He works just as hard on his mind and has a wide range of interests. More on Washington here.

Wednesday WSU chat

 

Try Relay: the free SMS and picture text app for iPhone.

 

To paraphrase Frank, it was a very good day

A GRIP ON SPORTS

There are good days and bad days in baseball. Yesterday was a very good day. Read on.

Catching up in time for fall camp

Well, summer is almost over. What's that you say? It's still as hot as a feverish St. Bernard outside and the kids won't be out of your hair for another month? Sure, I guess it's still summer for those of you who base your seasons on the public school calendar, the life cycles of various flora or the proximity of the sun to the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn.

But over here we like to align our seasons to the thumping of pads and the dribbling of basketballs. So with Washington State's fall camp set to begin on Saturday, let's consider that summer is coming to a close. I hope it was a good one.

We'll get ready for camp after the jump.

*Note: We will have a live chat on the blog tomorrow at 11 a.m. to preview camp. These chats will continue every Wednesday until the end of the season.

EWU sets 2017 game at Texas Tech

In a repeat engagement of Beau Baldwin’s head coaching debut at Eastern Washington, the Eagles will play at Texas Tech on Sept. 2, 2017, the school announced Tuesday afternoon.

The game will come nine years after the Eagles lost to 49-24 in Lubbock, Texas, to current Washington State coach Mike Leach. The Eagles finished 6-5 that season, while Texas Tech finished 11-2 and shared the Big 12 title with Oklahoma and Texas.

Eastern now has games against FBS foes scheduled for every year through 2019. The Eagles will play at Washington on Sept. 6, in just the second meeting with the Huskies, then will return to Seattle on Aug. 31, 2019.

Next season, Eastern will play at Oregon on Sept. 5, 2015, in the first meeting between those two schools. The Eagles also have scheduled games against Washington State for Sept. 3, 2016 and Sept. 15, 2018.

Including a season-opening 20-3 win at Idaho in 2012 and a 33-21 loss at Toledo in 2013, Eastern is now 9-22 all-time against FBS teams.

Something just clicked last night

A GRIP ON SPORTS

It hit late last night. No, not the muscle soreness from playing golf in almost 100-degree heat. That was expected. No, it was an unexpected reaction I had while watching, of all things, a professional soccer match. Read on.

Depth gives Indians an edge

Seth Spivey was joking Monday when he said that the entire Spokane Indians lineup could have been selected to the Northwest League All-Star Game. But Spivey, one of eight Indians named to the team last week, wasn't too far off. Just about every player on the Indians' roster would be a welcome addition on any other NWL roster. Read story

Fast forward: Arizona

There was a time when the Texas coaches thought Connor Brewer could carry the Longhorn's weighty legacy. That the high school All-American had the talent and poise to start at quarterback for one of the country's most prestigious programs. So too, the LSU coaches once thought Jerrard Randall could steer the Tigers in their ongoing quest for national championships, or at least contribute as a wide receiver.

As a fresh-faced high school graduate Jesse Scroggins took his quarterbacking talents to USC, dreaming of ruling the west coast at a school where seemingly every starter is an automatic NFL draftee.

Rocky starts deferred those dreams of glory for all three signal callers, and each made their way to the University of Arizona to play for Rich Rodriguez. One of the talent quarterbacks will emerge as the starter, unless of course redshirt freshman Anu Solomon wins the job as the only quarterback on the Wildcats roster who signed with UA out of high school.

At media days Rodriguez refused to hint who was ahead in the quarterback competition, which he said could continue even past the first game of the season.

We'll take a look at the rest of the Wildcats after the jump.

Is the M’s season slipping away?

A GRIP ON SPORTS

Why do I have the feeling the best of the Mariners' season just might be over? Maybe it's because they are unable to win consistently at home. Or it may be because they can't seem to score consistently. Or because the stress of all the close games seems to be wearing on the pitching staff. Whatever, it seems ominous as July fades into August. Read on.

Indians improve to 5-2 against Vancouver

What separates the Spokane Indians from the Vancouver Canadians so far this season isn't their records. Both teams are 27-17 overall in the Northwest League, better than the league's other six teams. But Spokane is guaranteed a postseason berth because it defeated North Division rival Vancouver four out of six times during the first half of league season, when both teams finished 25-13. Make that five out of seven times after Spokane defeated Vancouver 4-2 on Sunday night to open a three-game series at Avista Stadium. Read story

A couple weeks in, everyone will be really tired

A GRIP ON SPORTS

Guess what? We're a little short on thoughts today. College football, start soon please. Read on.

Shock win fifth in a row

Spokane closed the regular season with a 45-40 road win over Portland on Saturday. The Shock (11-7) won their fifth straight. They'll visit San Jose in the first round of the playoffs next Saturday at 7.

Quarterback Brian Zbydniewski tossed five touchdown passes. Both teams committed three turnovers but Spokane's Terrance Sanders scored on a 16-yard interception return.

Spokane (Erik Meyer) and Portland (Kyle Rowley) rested their starting quarterbacks with the playoffs coming up next week.

More below.

Shock close regular season at Portland

Spokane would like to keep its late-season roll going when it closes the regular season tonight at Portland.

The Shock are looking for their fifth straight win and want to avoid new entries to the injury list as they point to their Saturday, Aug. 2, playoff game against San Jose. .

More on Spokane-Portland here.

Where will Lynch’s holdout lead the Hawks?

A GRIP ON SPORTS

Want to get a headache? Try putting yourself in the mind of Seahawk running back Marshawn Lynch. And figure out what his end-game is during his holdout from the Hawks' training camp. Read on.

WSU gets a kicker, announces fall practice dates

The Washington State football team didn't just get a football operations building out of all that construction going on by Rogers Field last year. The Cougars also found a new August home in Lewiston, Idaho. Because WSU's practice fields were temporarily unavailable the Cougars spent part of fall camp at Sacajawea Middle School and the coaches liked the experience so much they'll be there even longer this season, from Aug. 2-13, before returning to Pullman to get ready for the season-opener against Rutgers.

Last year the Cougars went 6-7 and played in their first bowl game since 2003.

Washington State also appears to have found their kicker of the future in Petaluma, California's Matt Abramo, who announced his intentions to become a Cougar last night. Abrama told Britton Ransford of WazzuWatch.com (pay article) that he also holds scholarship offers from Air Force and San Jose State, and says he can punt if needed.

If that's not enough WSU news from yesterday for you, how about this? Pullman finally got another Taco Bell yesterday, and she's a beaut.

 

Flashback: Stanford

Merrily, the 2013 Cougars rolled through their first four games, emerging from the season's first chunk of games 3-1 with a surprising win over. Mike Leach's offense had started to match the hype, putting up 90 points in wins over Southern Utah and Idaho after some early hiccups.

But Washington State fans expected to score points – Leach had had been received in Pullman as an offensive rainmaker, and not a cheap one. The welcome surprise was the Cougars defense that had given up just 17 total points in the previous three games, including a single touchdown on the road at No. 25 USC.

The WSU Football team was rolling, on a three-game winning streak and with one of its tougher conference games already happily in the rearview mirror. Not even running into the wall of muscle and discipline that is the Stanford football team could put a damper Cougar fans' spirits, or so they thought.

No shirt, no helmet, no problem

Washington State football coach Mike Leach likes to exercise. He walks to work every day, and can often be spotted on one of his various constitutionals around Pullman.

So it makes sense why he spends his downtime in the offseason in Florida's Key West. Not only can he bike wherever he pleases, but with a dress code is apparently a little looser than that of a starched-collar town like Pullman, it's easy to show off the results of that hard work.

Halliday has a chance to be special

A GRIP ON SPORTS

The Pac-12 media days are done. All that's left before the start of the upcoming football season are those pesky preseason practices. What a bore. I'm joking, of course, but the rest of this post won't be humorous, I promise. It's about the Cougars' quarterback situation, sure, but it's mainly about the one guy who really matters on the depth chart, senior Connor Halliday. Read on.

Cougars land Bigge lineman

Dominic Davis wasn't the only recruit to declare his intentions to play in the crimson and gray yesterday. According to Britton Ransford of Wazzuwatch.com, 6-foot-6, 307 pound offensive lineman Cedric Bigge-Duren also plans to play his college ball at Washington State.

Despite his size, Bigge-Duren appears to be flying a bit under the radar. Unrated by Rivals.com and ESPN, the Oceanside, California lineman says he was offered scholarships by Nevada and San Jose State in addition to WSU. He'll be the second Oceanside High product on the Cougars offensive line, joining redshirt sophomore Eduardo Middleton.

Fleet Dominic Davis says he’ll go to WSU

Update: Greg Biggins of Scout.com has more from Davis.

Today wasn't Washington State's turn to speak to the print writers at Pac-12 media day but still a bit of WSU news came out. Dominic Davis, a speedy athlete from California's Bishop Alemany high school, told Scout's Barry Bolton that he will sign with the Cougars over scholarship offers from schools like UCLA, USC and Washington.

The 5-10, 175 pound Davis plays running back in high school but could make the switch to receiver at WSU much like former running backs Rickey Galvin and Calvin Green.

As always, there are the caveats that Davis' announcement isn't binding and according to Scout.com's Greg Biggin's the kid still hasn't visited the school. Still, it looks like another piece has been added to what at present looks like a very good recruiting class.

Here is his Scout.com recruiting profile.

Shock want to keep momentum rolling

Spokane is trying to finish the regular season on a five-game winning streak, but it also wants to be healthy for the playoffs.

Read more here about Spokane's approach to the regular-season finale at Portland on Saturday.

Tyler Bruggman to Louisville

Tyler Bruggman will be transferring to Kentucky's Louisville University to play for coach Bobby Petrino, as first reported by Mike Hughes of InsideTheVille.com (reading this article requires a 24/7 Network subscription). Bruggman redshirted last year after signing with Washington State in 2012 as coach Mike Leach's most highly-anticipated recruit to date.

Bruggman ran the scout team during his redshirt season and drew praise from coaches and was widely considered to be the next logical choice at quarterback after senior starter Connor Halliday graduates, but struggled to hold of walk-on quarterback Luke Falk during spring football. He surprised teammates and coaches with his recent decision to leave the program.

Leach addressed Bruggman's transfer at media day on Wednesday, acknowledging that the Cougars do not have much depth at the position (backup quarterback Austin Apodaca also transferred this offseason) but said that the extra practice reps will be good for Falk.

If Bruggman transferred in search of playing time than his choice of destinations is curious. Louisville already has eight quarterbacks on the roster fighting to replace Teddy Bridgewater. Bruggman will almost certainly have to sit out this season, and will compete in 2015 as a redshirt sophomore with three years to play.

Spreading the word about football season isn’t new

A GRIP ON SPORTS

I kept up with the first day of the Pac-12 media event the old-fashioned way: by reading tweets. None of this new-fangled video streaming for me. No sir. Words – and an occasional picture – are what it is about. Read on.

Pac-12 media day one roundup

From Hollywood — Bronzed from the sun and with A-list actors and actresses (depending on your preference) hanging from both arms, the Pac-12 media members emerged victorious from the first of the Pac-12's twain media days armed with a season's worth of sumptuous story lines and juicy anecdotes.

OK, so most of us are simply hot, whiny and secure in the knowledge that this was not the first college football offseason ever in which the players shrank. But there were some good stories to come out of Wednesday's session and I've collected a number of them here, starting with my own, after the jump.

 

Notes, quotes and stories from media day

On Wednesday, Washington State coach Mike Leach, quarterback Connor Halliday and linebacker Darryl Monroe had lots of time to speak to reporters without side distractions such as preparing for football games. In the relaxed atmosphere at Paramount Studios the Cougars opened up about a variety of topics once they were done with TV interviews.

Follow the jump for notes, quotes and stories from Pac-12 media day.

(Transcript) Mike Leach at media day

Mike Leach addressed the media here in Hollywood this afternoon. The format has been changed from previous seasons, where the coaches and players simply came up for their “podium session” group by group, and were asked inane, “off the wall” questions that nobody used in their actual stories. This year the coach and each player were available at separate podiums for 40 minutes. The verdict seems to be that the questions were a little better (we still got most of the good stuff at lunch with the players and coaches afterwards) but that there were many repeat questions as reporters moved around the room. The Pac-12 was good enough to transcribe the interviews with the coaches for us, and we've passed along Leach's after the jump.

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(Video) Mike Leach at media day

Follow the jump for videos, courtesy of the Pac-12, of Mike Leach at Pac-12 media day.

Bronze may be Sherman’s favorite color

A GRIP ON SPORTS

I always thought statues were reserved for ancient heroes. You know, David, Hercules or Caesar (the Roman ones, not from movies about apes) and the like. But turns out I may have been wrong. Football players – and key plays – seem to be all the rage these days. Read on.

Pac-12 Media Day (live stream)

Pac-12 Media Day begins today at 9 a.m. when commissioner Larry Scott will address the media. The rest of the schedule, and a live stream of the proceedings, is after the jump.

Petrino, Idaho at Sun Belt media day

Paul Petrino got a taste of the Sun Belt football media day last summer after Idaho accepted an invite to the New Orleans-based conference. But on Tuesday, with the Vandals an official football-only member of the Sun Belt, Petrino and the rest of the UI contingent traveled to the Superdome for a more full-fledged media day experience. 

Petrino was joined by center Mike Marboe and defensive end Maxx Forde in New Orleans to talk to the media. Check out below for some comments from Petrino on the dismissed Dezmon Epps, what he expects in 2014 and more. You can also watch an interview with Sun Belt commissioner Karl Benson here. Benson referenced the addition of Idaho and New Mexico State — two of the four new teams in the conference — as a way to get to 12 teams so the SBC could have a conference title game. But it fell short of that goal and wound up with 11 football-playing members for 2014.

Read on for quotes from Petrino.

College football is just around the corner

The Pac-12 is holding its annual gathering of coaches, players and reporters tomorrow and Thursday. Media Day (or Media Days, in this case) is a nice chance of us reporters to speak with coaches and players from different schools and send back a few stories and notebooks for you all to peruse.

More importantly, however, it signals the end of the offseason. You will start to see a lot more Washington State football news around here, and not all of it recruiting. We'll get back in the swing of things with our morning links, and keep an eye out for some live chats.

While the offseason was slow, there were some NCAA and WSU developments that will have an impact on the upcoming months. In case you have been hibernating since the end of last football season and are just now leaving your man, woman or bear-cave, follow the jump to see what you missed.

It’s not too long now

A GRIP ON SPORTS

As July winds down, the summer doldrums in the sports world begin to ease up. The wind beneath our sails? College football season. Read on.

Three Vandals on preseason all-Sun Belt teams

Center Mike Marboe and punter Austin Rehkow were named to the Sun Belt's first-team preseason all-conference team, while defensive end Maxx Forde was a second-round selection. The three Vandals were named Monday, the day before the Sun Belt's media day in New Orleans.

Marboe and Forde are seniors. Rehkow, a Spokane product, is a true sophomore who led the nation in punting average last year.

Sun Belt coaches picked Idaho to finish ninth in the 11-team conference over the weekend. Unanimous league favorite UL Lafayette had five players named to the first-team offense, including preseason offensive player of the year Terrance Broadway, the Rajun Cajuns' quarterback.

Arkansas State, picked second, put four players on the first-team defense, headlined by preseason defensive player of the year Qushaun Lee.

New Mexico State — voted last in the coaches' poll — had no all-conference selections.

Indians go wire-to-wire in first half

The Spokane Indians remained in first place in the Northwest League's North Division for the entire first half. Technically speaking, Vancouver sneaked ahead of Spokane by one-half game for 6 hours on Monday by defeating Tri-City in an afternoon game. But the Indians, knowing they had to beat Everett at night to keep Vancouver from winning the title, got the job done with great pitching by Derek Thompson and Shane McCain, solid defense and just enough timely hitting. Read story

Spokane rallies past the Storm

Spokane won its fourth straight game, this one a hard-earned 55-52 victory over visiting Tampa Bay on Monday night.

Erik Meyer tossed five touchdown passes and added another rushing. Terrance Sanders scored on a kick return and interception return and the Shock defensive line pretty much took over the game in the fourth quarter.

My unedited game story is below.

Shock v. Tampa Bay

S-R photojournalist Jesse Tinsley covered the Shock vs. Tampa Bay game.  View a gallery of photos from the game.

NIT puts GU in scheduling bind

Gonzaga's season opener is approximately 3 1/2 months away and five of its non-conference games are still TBD. (The Zags had 13 non-conference games in the 2013-14 regular season.)

The main hold-up is the NIT Season Tip-Off, which hasn't delivered on its original format for host schools Gonzaga, Georgia, Minnesota and St. John's (two home games, win those two you advance for two games at Madison Square Garden). The NIT hasn't been able to fill out a 16-team field.

The NIT's next proposal was one home game & three at the MSG (one a quasi guarantee game against Stony Brook that would fall between the semifinals and the championship/consolation and have no bearing on the final day pairings (yes, that makes no sense).

Gonzaga is hoping the NIT can find a better solution, possibly one with the Zags hosting one game and then playing two in MSG, provided it wins at the McCarthey Athletic Center. Not ideal, but it's late in the scheduling process to find suitable replacements.

The other snag is finding a foe for the annual Battle in Seattle. The matchup was thought to be ready for an announcement a couple weeks ago but it fell through.

Also, longtime basketball director of operations Jerry Krause will step down following the season.

More on the schedule and Krause here.

Fast forward: Stanford

Will Stanford's reign of terror ever end? It was one thing when you could count on cutting down the Tree's football team every year. Then it didn't matter that the fans in Palo Alto drove the nicest cars, had the best jobs, won nearly every Olympic sport and had a beautiful campus, to boot. Their football team sucked. John Elway never played in a bowl game.

But the Cardinal just played in its fourth consecutive BCS bowl game, losing to Michigan State in the Rose Bowl. Losing one of the NFL's best coaches, Jim Harbaugh, and one of its best young quarterbacks, Andrew Luck, barely registered.

Stanford is now one of the elite teams in college football, competes for a championship every season, and shows no signs of slowing down. Sure, they lost some notable players this offseason, including defensive stalwarts such as Shayne Skov, Trent Murphy, Ben Gardner and Ed Reynolds. The offense took some hits, too, losing leading rusher Tyler Gaffney and All-American guard David Yankey.

But Stanford has proved it can handle losses in the past, and has enough sustained football success that it can use it can recruit against anyone in the country. And while its academic standards give it a limited pool of talent from which to choose, the players who can get into Stanford are the most likely to value its reputation.

Follow the jump for our 2014 Stanford preview.

Dismissed Idaho receiver charged with petty theft

Dezmon Epps, who was dismissed from the Idaho football team on Sunday for a violation of team rules, was charged in Moscow with misdemeanor petty theft after allegedly stealing $37.72 in groceries from WinCo Foods.

The former Idaho wide receiver pled not guilty on Monday in Latah County District Court and posted a $300 cash bond. He's scheduled for a pretrial hearing on July 29.

Epps was already on probation after pleading guilty and serving a one-day sentence for a DUI in April.

Read more details below the link.

Arrows can boomerang occasionally

A GRIP ON SPORTS

It hasn't been a secret about how I feel about Fernando Rodney's pitching ability. It's stellar. But his antics? Read on.

Final strike eludes playoff-seeking Indians

There may be a more cruel way to have a sure-fire playoff berth yanked away, but it's hard to fathom. The Spokane Indians were one strike away from wrapping up the Northwest League's North Division first-half title on Sunday when Everett's Corey Simpson hit a two-out, two-run homer on a 0-2 pitch in the top of the ninth inning. Everett's 3-2 win left Spokane and Vancouver tied for first place at 24-13 with one game left in the season's first half. If there's any consolation for Spokane, the only combination Monday that could stop the Indians from making the playoffs is a Spokane loss and Vancouver win. Anything else — both win, both lose, Spokane wins and Vancouver loses — and the Indians advance. Read story

Idaho dismisses WR Dezmon Epps

Dezmon Epps, Idaho's most productive wide receiver last year, has been booted from the team for a violation of team rules, coach Paul Petrino announced this afternoon. He was arrested in April on suspicion of driving under the influence. In June, he was sentenced to one day in jail and two years' probation after pleading guilty.

Epps was one of the two fastest players on the Idaho roster last year, along with running back Richard Montgomery, and one of the best skill players the Vandals have had in recent years.

For our full story, read on.

Man, the chase scenes were great

A GRIP ON SPORTS

We're going to wander a little far afield from sports today, though there will be an auto racing connection to our musings. But, really, it's a tenuous connection at best. Read on.

One win and Indians are in

After Saturday's 12-3 shellacking of Everett, the Spokane Indians need one victory — or one defeat by the Vancouver Canadians — in the next two games to qualify for postseason as the Northwest League's North Division first-half champion. The league's 38-game first half ends Monday and Spokane (24-12) holds a one-game lead over Vancouver (23-13). The only way Vancouver could take the automatic berth away from the Indians is if Spokane loses to Everett on Sunday and Monday while the Canadians win at Tri-City those two days. A tie doesn't do Vancouver any good because Spokane holds the first tiebreaker, its 4-2 edge over Vancouver so far this year. Read story

Sun Belt coaches pick Idaho ninth

In its first year back in the Sun Belt Conference since 2004, the Idaho football team has been tabbed to finish ninth out of 11 teams by the league's coaches. The preseason poll, released Saturday afternoon, had the Vandals just ahead of Georgia State and fellow newcomer New Mexico State. The three bottom teams were separated by a mere four points in the poll.

Louisiana Lafayette was the unanimous pick to win the league after garnering all 11 first-place votes. The coaches voted Arkansas State second, followed by South Alabama and Troy.

The Vandals open the season on Aug. 30 at Florida. The following Saturday, Sept. 6, they travel to face UL Monroe in their first Sun Belt game. Each Sun Belt team plays eight conference games, and this season Idaho misses UL Lafayette and Georgia State.

UI went 1-11 last year in Paul Petrino's first season as head coach.

Preseason Sun Belt coaches poll

1. UL Lafayette 121 (11)
2. Arkansas State 102
3. South Alabama 98
4. Troy 84
5. UL Monroe 78
6. Texas State 70
7. Appalachian State 47
8. Georgia Southern 44
9. Idaho 29
10. Georgia State 27
11. New Mexico State 26

Making short work of a long weekend

A GRIP ON SPORTS

When I finally turned off the television last night, the Mariners' game was still rolling along. When I awoke this morning, I half expected it to be going still. But it was over. As was, seemingly, the British Open. Read on.

It’s a nice time for an extended vacation

A GRIP ON SPORTS

The All-Star game was Tuesday night, right? Today is Friday. And baseball is just getting going again? These guys need another day off in the middle of the season? Really? Read on.

No void is ever left unfilled

A GRIP ON SPORTS

It is said the 24 hours after baseball's All-Star Game is the least crowded day in American sports. Which is why ESPN created the ESPYs, and stuck them there. Makes sense to me. Read on.

Shock win a close one

Spokane ended a trend of nearly two seasons worth of fairly comfortable to absolute blowout wins (read: all by double figures) by edging Arizona 73-66 on Saturday. That made the victory big on two fronts: 1). It came against the best franchise and No. 1 ranked team in the AFL. 2). It came in a close contest. Those have been rare for the Shock, and most of the time the outcome hasn't been favorable.

The trend should have ended in the season's fifth game but Spokane gave up a Hail Mary touchdown pass on the final play to fall to Cleveland 52-50. Other than that, Spokane's other six losses this season were by at least 10 points. Four of Spokane's five losses last season were by less than 10 points, including the 65-57 playoff loss at Arizona that ended the Shock's season.

I took a look at the numbers to lead off this week's Shock notebook. There's also a few paragraphs on James Ruffin's breakout season.

 

 

 

Another All-Star Game flies by

A GRIP ON SPORTS

Where were we? Oh ya, baseball season. Well, we might as well get back to that. Read on.

Where do the M’s stand at the break?

A GRIP ON SPORTS

It's time for baseball's All-Star break. The traditional midpoint of the baseball season, though it comes well into the second half. However, it is a good time for reflection, if your team is still in the hunt for the postseason. That's not been the case around here for a few years. Read on.

Spanning the globe on a Sunday morning

A GRIP ON SPORTS

Some Sunday mornings have little in the way of excitement. This isn't one of those Sundays. Read on.

Tyler Bruggman transferring?

 

Tyler Bruggman has become the second quarterback to transfer from the Washington State football program this offseason, according to a report on Twitter from WazzuWatch.com's Britton Ransford. I have not yet confirmed the report. Bruggman was the first major quarterback signed by coach Mike Leach at WSU, and it was widely assumed that he would take over as the starter when Connor Halliday graduates.

Even the transfer of backup quarterback Austin Apodaca was supposed to break up the logjam at quarterback and pave the way for Bruggman to back up Halliday next season. But Bruggman did not look ready this spring and former walk-on Luke Falk played well enough to at least create a controversy if not take the No. 2 spot outright. Both Bruggman and Falk redshirted as freshmen last season.

If Bruggman is indeed leaving the program it leaves he Cougars membrane-thin behind Halliday, a fifth-year senior, with just Falk and incoming freshman Peyton Bender as scholarship quarterbacks.

Spokane Shock defeats Arizona Rattlers

S-R photojournalist Colin Mulvany covered the Spokane Shock's win over the Arizona Rattlers, 73-56, during an AFL game in the Spokane Arena, Sat., July 12, 2014. Check out this big picture story of his photos!

Shock hold off Rattlers

Spokane trailed by 21 points in the first quarter and quarterback Erik Meyer was uncharacteristically wild early.

Somehow, the Shock dug out of the hole behind a play-making defense and Meyer, who warmed up to throw six touchdown passes and run for two more in a wild 73-66 victory over the Arizona Rattlers on Saturday night at the Arena.

Spokane improved to 9-7, 8-2 in games with Meyer as the starting quarterback. Arizona dropped to 14-2.

My unedited game story is below.

Shock, Rattlers resume rivalry

One of the AFL's best rivalries, if not thee best, resumes tonight at the Arena: Spokane vs. Arizona.

With a healthy Erik Meyer, there is a growing sense that the Shock could be rounding into form at the right time, but they could use some visual proof. They've been good, very good, at times this season but a win over the top-ranked Rattlers would mean a ton for the Shock's confidence coming down the home stretch.

Here's my game preview. Here's the view from Phoenix.

He’s back

A GRIP ON SPORTS

Yesterday LeBron James decided to take his ball and go home. In this case, that's a good thing. Really. Read on.

Can the M’s buck this trend?

A GRIP ON SPORTS

Maybe John Buck really was the heart and soul of the 2014 Seattle Mariners. Read on.

Indians capture another NWL series

The Spokane Indians made it 6 for 7 in winning series this Northwest League season by turning back the Tri-City Dust Devils 5-2 at Avista Stadium. The Indians won the series 2-1 and are 4-0 in home series this year. Their lone series loss came at Eugene. Read story

The prodigal son returns

A GRIP ON SPORTS

Steve Garvey threw out the first pitch at the Spokane Indians game last night, wearing a 2014 Indians jersey even though his eldest son, Ryan, was in the visitor's dugout, a member of the Tri-City Dust Devils. And if that doesn't make you feel ancient, then you must be under 30. Read on.

Indians’ bats go from wild to mild

The good news for the Spokane Indians is that they've averaged 8.5 runs per game during their Northwest League series with the Tri-City Dust Devils at Avista Stadium. The bad news is that includes 16 runs during Tuesday's easy win and one run during Wednesday's agonizing loss. Read story

Idaho adds Molnar to staff; Marboe, Rehkow named to watch lists

The University of Idaho announced on Wednesday that it has hired Charley Molnar as wide receivers coach — a move that was first reported in early June by CoachingSearch.com. Molnar, the former head coach at UMass and offensive coordinator at Notre Dame, takes over receiving coaching duties from Vandals offensive coordinator Kris Cinkovich.

“Getting Charley to join our staff was a home run for us,” Idaho coach Paul Petrino said. “He has been one of the best offensive minds in college football. He is a great teacher of technique and details of his position.”

Molnar's hiring was prompted by the departure of offensive line coach Jon Carvin after spring camp. Instead of bring in an outside offensive line coach, Petrino moved Cinkovich from receivers coach to O-line coach (in addition to his role as offensive coordinator and assistant head coach).

In other news, Idaho center Mike Marboe was added to the Rimington Award watch list. The award is given to the nation's top center. Marboe has started 36 consecutive games — the fourth-most among active offensive linemen — entering his redshirt senior season for the Vandals.

Idaho kicker/punter Austin Rehkow was also one of 25 punters named to the Ray Guy Award watch list. Rehkow received All-America honors last years as a freshman after averaging 47.8 yards per punt and booting 34 punts of at least 50 yards.

Spokane gets back to work

Spokane is back on the practice field after last week's bye. We checked in with the Shock on the importance of Saturday's home game with Arizona, how players spent the bye week and updated the health of Adron Tennell and the status of Ryan Cave.

It's all in my weekly Shock notebook.

Angry, no. Jealous? Heck ya.

A GRIP ON SPORTS

There is an ancient cliché – isn't “ancient” the only type of cliché there is? – about the angry old fellow yelling “get off my lawn” at the neighborhood kids. We're not that guy. We're not angry at all. Now jealous, that's another story. Read on.

Indians hit one-third mark as dominant team

The 76-game Northwest League season reached its one-third point (minus one game, to be fair) Tuesday night with the Spokane Indians (18-7) flexing their muscles during a 16-4 win over the Tri-City Dust Devils at Avista Stadium. The Indians as a whole and their players as individuals are dominating league statistics. Read story

WSU will host Hawaii in Cougar Hardwood Classic

After a one-year hiatus, the Cougar Hardwood Classic is back. Idol Sports and Entertainment announced Tuesday morning that Washington State will host Hawaii on Saturday, Dec. 13, 2014 in WSU's annual nonconference game in Seattle's KeyArena. WSU is 8-0 in the Cougar Hardwood Classic, which began in 2005, beating teams like Pepperdine, LSU and San Diego State.

“(It) is an excellent opportunity to take our program to Seattle where there are so many great Coug fans ready to come out and support us,” WSU coach Ernie Kent said in a press release. “We are excited to have the chance to continue to grow the event as we battle and outstanding Hawaii team this year. It should make for a great basketball game for all the fans.”

The Cougars are 5-1 all-time against the Warriors, and have won the past four contests between the schools.

The light comes on early this time of year

A GRIP ON SPORTS

Here it is, a little past 6 in the morning and I'm trying to figure out what to write about. Welcome to summer in the Inland Northwest. Read on.

Monday fast forward: Cal

(Sorry today's installment is a little late in the day. I'm out of town and don't always have the best internet access. – Jacob)

There is something pure about a 0-12 record in college football. Well, purely pathetic. There are so many opportunities for a major college team to pick up a win or two over glorified NAIA teams that most of the worst teams skate by and are merely remembered as appallingly bad, if they are remembered at all.

But to reach true infamy, a team needs to catch all the bad breaks. Key players need to be injured, questionable flags need to be thrown, a schedule can't have any games that are too easy and at the end of it the coach probably wishes he could have a few calls back.

Achieving an “imperfect season” puts a major conference team in rarified air, truly. Recently, it probably means you're the Duke Blue Devils, a program that managed to do it in 1996, 2000, 2001, 2005 and 2006.  Prior to that, South Carolina pulled it off in 1999, Illinois went winless in 1997 and Kansas State didn't win a game in 1987 or '88.

Don't forget – as if any of you could – that the purple people eaters from the wet side of the state had 12 long bus rides home in 2008.

So when looking ahead to Washington State's game against California next season, remember that the Golden Bears were just a 37-30 home victory over Portland State from entering the Pantheon of Pitiful.

Follow the jump for our Cal preview.

Hector Noesi? Really?

A GRIP ON SPORTS

In every baseball season there is one or two games that are impossible to explain. The M's had one of those yesterday. Read on.

U.S. men are nowhere to be found at Wimbledon

A GRIP ON SPORTS

Getting up early on a Sunday morning is usually no one's idea of a good plan. I agree. Except when the Wimbledon men's final is on. Read on.

Indians-Canadians rubber game looms as vital

The Northwest League will take its first day off on Monday after 24 consecutive days of baseball. When play picks up on Tuesday, there will be 14 games left in the first half of the season. Following Sunday's afternoon game with the Vancouver Canadians — the finale of a three-game series at Avista Stadium — the Spokane Indians will hold either a three-game lead over Vancouver in the North Division or a one-game lead. Vancouver (14-9) put the pressure on the Indians (16-7) by winning Saturday's middle game 5-1. Read story

Indians can supply their own excitement

A GRIP ON SPORTS

Minor league baseball features a lot of bells, whistles and other gimmicks to entice fans to the ballpark. But the best way isn't a gimmick at all. Fireworks? Who needs them when you have a lineup that supplies its own? Read on.

Indians open crucial series with a bang

It was put-up-or-shut-up time for the Spokane Indians on Friday. The Indians put up 10 runs and 11 hits on the scoreboard to overwhelm the Vancouver Canadians 10-3 to start a key Northwest League series at Avista Stadium. Read story

The Fourth is about independence

A GRIP ON SPORTS

The Fourth of July is full of memories for me. You too I bet. I'm not sure there is a kid in America who didn't do something athletic on the Fourth at least once in his life. Heck, climbing on the roof to watch fireworks might even qualify. Read on.

Friday flashback: Idaho

If you thought 2013 was fun, you should have seen 2003.

You can tell things are getting better for the Washington State football program because the Cougars are starting to do things that haven't been done since the halcyon days of 2003, when Marcus Trufant was young, Oregon and Stanford were gimmes and the streets of Pullman were paved with Cougar Gold.

That year was the last time the team went to a bowl game until last season's trip to the New Mexico Bowl. It was also the last time the Cougars shut out an opponent, opening the season with a 25-0 victory over sometimes rival Idaho.

Well, if Cougars fans started to get a sense of déjà vu while watching the Cougars last season the nostalgia likely began in the team's fourth game, when WSU sent those same Vandals home with nary a point to show for their pillaging.

Flash back to WSU's 48-0 beat down of Idaho, after the jump.

It’s been a long time coming

A GRIP ON SPORTS

Let's jump into the Wayback Machine and set the dial to 2007. Not all that long ago in days maybe, but seemingly a generation ago in baseball time. Read on.

The M’s are now the summer’s bright spot

A GRIP ON SPORTS

After the disappointment of the U.S. World Cup loss to Belgium yesterday, I'm sure we were all in the need for a pick-me-up. If you watched the Mariners' game, you got one. And another. And another. Read on.

D.J. Shelton will get his shot

D.J. Shelton's willingness to rebound and ability to hit the occasional 3-pointer made him a valuable player for Washington State during his three years in Pullman. While the Cougars did not find much success while Shelton was in school, he still has a chance to be remembered among a select group of former players who found success in the pros.

While Shelton went unselected in last week's NBA draft, he will have a shot to impress professional teams while playing for Atlanta in the NBA summer league. The league's regular season runs from July 11-15 with playoffs running from July 16-21. If you have NBA TV, or sign up here for $15, you can likely watch Shelton play alongside fellow Atlanta rookie Adreian Payne, who the Hawks made the 15th pick in the draft after watching him score 41 points against Delaware in Spokane.

In other WSU news …

— CBS takes a look at which Cougars have NFL prospects.

— Deone Bucannon is already impressing in Arizona.

— SLAM magazine has a profile of incoming WSU basketball player Trevor Dunbar.

— The ESPN Pac-12 blog has a Q&A with special teams coordinator and assistant head coach Eric Russell.

Another European power awaits U.S.

A GRIP ON SPORTS

If I had any culinary skills outside the barbecue, I would make waffles this morning. Smother them in butter and syrup and then eat them with gusto. I guess it would be my patriotic duty. Read on.

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Jim Allen (@srjimallen) Sports reporter Jim Allen's primary coverage areas are Eastern Washington University football and men's basketball, and college and high school soccer. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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