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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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It’s been a while

A GRIP ON SPORTS

It's a problem Washington State hasn't had for, oh, a decade or so. But it reared its ugly head yesterday. Read on.

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• When the first semester ended at Washington State last week, something happened that hasn't happened in a while. The grades became relevant in relationship to playing time. See, for the past 10 years, it didn’t matter if a Cougar football player had a problem with his first semester grades. By the time they came out, the season was over. The player had a while to get his house back in order. And I can say quite confidently there was a player or two in that stretch that needed the time to get back in the good graces with the NCAA, the conference and school. But it all happened in the background, on the heels of another bowl-less season. With success, however, comes a bit more responsibility. The bowl games are part of the second semester, even if they exist in the netherworld between the fall and spring. Football players are faced with the same demands basketball players have always had: keep your grades up in the fall or winter might turn out to be really cold. For all but one of the Cougars, that task was accomplished. The one who failed, however, is a big one, redshirt junior defensive tackle Toni Pole (pictured). I'm sure that Pole wasn't the only WSU player who waited on pins and needles for grades to be released Tuesday night, hoping a good mark on the final would lead to success in a class. But he was the only one we know of who didn't get an affirmative answer. So his teammates will have to do battle with Colorado State without the hero of last year's Apple Cup or the guy who blocked a key field goal in this year's USC game. More importantly, they'll be without a big body up front that does a pretty darn good job of filling gaps, of keeping the WSU linebackers clean and doing the dirty work in the run game. Which is important considering the Rams average 202.7 yards a game on the ground, in the top third among FBS teams. (As an aside, with CSU's Kapri Bibbs ranked eighth in NCAA rushing with 1,572 yards, the Cougars will have faced five of the top eight rushers in the FBS this season – Bishop Sankey, Ka'Deem Carey, Tre Mason, Tyler Gaffney and Bibbs – in their 13 games.) As the game wears on, we'll see if the Cougar front, missing one of its key elements, begins to wear down.

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• WSU: Jacob Thorpe is in Albuquerque (lucky dog), wearing his pork-pie hat and making sure he has more than just his Pole story and blog post to pass along. He also has a blog post from yesterday concerning the 1998 Rose Bowl (many Cougar fans are still waiting for the final seconds to be played) and one from this morning with links. ... John Blanchette has a WSU bowl trivia challenge for you (with the answers here if you want to see how you did). ... The Cougar men pulled away from San Francisco State in Kennewick before 2,911 last night (Jacob has a blog post on the game) while the women held off UC Riverside in overtime. ... Colorado State's defensive staff has a long-time connection to the WSU defensive staff. ... A couple of CSU players are happy to be playing Mike Leach's team. ... The Rams are being recognized nationally. ... Bud Withers has a notebook from the bowl site and a story on Marcus Mason. ... The Los Angeles Times uncovered some allegations of cheating by assistant football coach Josh Lupoti at UW.

• Gonzaga: First-year women's assistant Nicole Powell earned some national ink this week.

• EWU: Talking with Eastern coach Beau Baldwin yesterday on the radio show, he expressed respect for Towson running back Terrance West (pictured). But he didn’t seem too worried, in that he mentioned the Eagles have faced a lot of great running backs this season. Jim Allen has more in this story. ... Jim also has a story on another honor for Cooper Kupp and a blog post on that plus today's morning post with links. ... Southern Utah was blown out by San Diego State.

• Idaho: The Vandals need help after last football season. They received some yesterday by signing eight junior college players. Josh Wright has the particulars in this blog post.

• Preps: It's Thursday, so there is a lot of news and notes in the prep ranks. We can start with Greg Lee's column concerning the success area teams had during the fall seasons, continue with Greg's feature on CV's Austin Daines. ... We also can pass along this story on North Idaho athletes earning all-state honors along with Mike Vlahovich's advance of the Tri-State wrestling tournament, his obituary of former state wrestling champion and coach Scott Bliss (pictured) and today's roundup of last night's wrestling action. ... We also have a roundup of basketball action.

• Seahawks: The big news yesterday was the news everyone was waiting for: Brandon Browner's drug suspension. Browner was suspended indefinitely by the NFL, which probably means his Seattle career is over (he's a free agent after the season). ... Pete Carroll and Earl Thomas met with the media yesterday. ... The Cardinals would like nothing better than to upset all the Hawks' well-placed postseason plans. ... Guess what? Percy Harvin didn't practice yesterday. Do you think we will see him again this season? He is just part of the team's injury report.

• Sounders: Seattle picked up two more players yesterday as the roster remake continues.

• Mariners: You want the M's to keep signing players? Well they did yesterday, bringing back oft-injured outfielder Franklin Gutierrez. Gutierrez signed an incentive-laded one-year contract. ... Raul Ibanez is a former Mariner once again, agreeing to a one-year deal with the Angels.

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• That's it for today. We are back on the Patchin, Lukens and Osso radio show today between 3 and 6 p.m. If you want to listen, here's a link. Until then ...



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

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