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Tuesday, May 21, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Grip on Sports: You know spring football’s hits are over when the weather begins to turn really nice

Washington State quarterback Cammon Cooper  takes a hit from Cougars defensive end Will Rodgers III  during Saturday’s Crimson and Gray Game at Martin Stadium in Pullman. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Washington State quarterback Cammon Cooper takes a hit from Cougars defensive end Will Rodgers III during Saturday’s Crimson and Gray Game at Martin Stadium in Pullman. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • Spring is really starting to kick into high gear around here, just in time for college football to put itself into park. Still, things happened that allow us to get a bit revved up. Read on.

••••••••••

• You know how to tell spring has sprung? Fill up a couple of those orange Home Depot buckets with weeds, that’s how. It’s pretty easy to do on the Saturday before Easter.

So is following along with spring football.

The Cougars basically finished up yesterday – there is one final practice next week – with the Crimson and Gray game. Idaho is done. Eastern Washington holds its final scrimmage on Saturday.

Then it is three months of waiting for the real games to start.

What have we learned this spring?

– Washington State is going to be solid once again. Mike Leach has built enough depth throughout the program even loss of NFL-caliber players – Andre Dillard and Gardner Minshew come to mind – don’t cause that big of a setback.

Especially considering the NCAA was kind enough to keep the graduate transfer program in place. If that’s where the Cougars tap for next year’s starting quarterback – Eastern transfer Gage Gubrud did not play yesterday while healing from an injury – they will be well stocked at Leach’s most important position. Even if Gubrud proves not to be the second coming of Minshew, Washington State should be fine, if Anthony Gordon’s performance from yesterday is any indication.

When Leach mentions that a quarterback “let it rip,” he’s pleased with the way he played. And Gordon earned those words after a 21-for-30 performance that included three touchdowns, 234 yards and an interception.

– Eastern Washington will be good again as well, what with the amount of players returning and the winning culture that is intact in Cheney no matter how many coaching changes occur.

The Eagles’ strength? The offensive line, which returns more starts than most NFL teams.

– Idaho will be rebuilding after a tough first year back in the Big Sky Conference. The Vandals will be as good as their quarterback play, which is still a work in progress.

• The Cougars returned the spring game to Pullman this year, with the express purpose of building a larger crowd. That didn’t happen, even if there were students in attendance.

Saturday’s total was announced at 5,059, which is about a thousand less than last year’s total at Spokane’s Albi Stadium. The poor weather in Pullman probably held the attendance down some.

I also went through the S-R’s files concerning the eight games at Albi just to see what Washington State drew over the years.  

The first year in 2011 – Paul Wulff’s last as head coach – only attracted 4,076. The next – Leach’s first – set a record with 10,713 in attendance. The rest were somewhere in-between, with an average of around 6,350 for seven of the games (for some reason there was no attendance listed in the S-R’s 2015 coverage).

I’m guessing there is some savings for the athletic department in time and money holding the game in Pullman, but at least some of it may be washed out by a loss of revenue through ticket sales.

•••

WSU: If you like video interviews, we have several to pass along, but first we want to highlight Theo Lawson’s story about the game, as well as a notebook he put together. … And then there are Tyler Tjomsland’s photographs. … About those videos. Theo posted interviews with Leach, Jahad Woods, defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys, Will Rodgers III, Liam Ryan, Gordon, Trey Tinsley and Travell Harris. … Klay Thompson and his dad are still close, even if the former WSU star lives hundreds of miles away. … Elsewhere in the Pac-12, it was a big day for spring games, with Oregon State and Oregon also holding them. The Beavers still haven’t decided on a quarterback while the Ducks found they should be OK with the players behind Justin Herbert. … UCLA also held its spring game and the defense shined. … In basketball news, Oregon picked up a coveted transfer and Colorado seems to be at a crossroads.

Gonzaga: This may or may not be a big deal. Zach Norvell Jr. announced yesterday he’s headed to the NBA Draft, the third GU player to make that announcement since the season ended. Now the question becomes whether the NBA Draft wants him. Over the next month Norvell will probably find out that answer. Jim Meehan has more in this story. … The baseball team won a series in Santa Clara.

EWU: The Eagles scrimmaged yesterday as well, with Ryan Collingwood watching the action out in the on-and-off showers. … Ryan also sat with athletic director Lynn Hickey this week and put together this story on her first year in the role. … Ryan also has one more story. The Eagles will play Gonzaga in hoops for the first time in a while this upcoming season.

Chiefs: Spokane led by two goals headed into the third period last night in Vancouver. Then the ice melted under the Chiefs’ skates – figuratively – and they lost 4-2.

Preps: We can pass along roundups from soccer, baseball and softball. … Four local gymnasts qualified for the Western Championships to be held in Spokane next month.

Mariners: The M’s continue to pummel poor pitching staffs, something that is obvious about the Angels. Four home runs lifted Seattle to a 6-5 win in Anaheim. … It was big night for Dee Gordon. … Gene Warnick has the Out of Right Field summary and a column about the bullpen. Have a Bloody Mary ready.

Seahawks: If you want Frank Clark, you better have a first-round pick to give the Hawks. And cap room to pay Clark.

•••       

• Usually Easter is a day off for me. But I woke early – thanks to a hungry cat that rose before the sun – and decided to keep you up to date. Oh, and I hid a dozen little chocolate eggs around the house to give my sons something of a flashback come dinnertime. Find all of them or they don’t get to eat. Yes, I believe in tough love. Until later …

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