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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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It’s not your granddad’s Wazzu anymore

A GRIP ON SPORTS

What was it we said yesterday? That college football was a tough game, physically and mentally? We didn't realize how tough. Read on.

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• You want to know how much Washington State football has changed in the past two or three years? Don't look at the new buildings ringing Martin Stadium or the head coach's contract. Nope. Just look at what happened in the past 48 hours. After back-to-back kickoff returns for touchdowns and a missed game-deciding last-second field goal, Mike Leach fired special teams coach – and assistant head coach – Erik Russell (pictured) on Sunday, though it wasn't announced until Monday. How rare is that in Pullman? How about no one, including folks with institutional memory dating back to the early 1970s, could ever remember a football coach being fired midseason before. Welcome to big time college football Cougar fans. In a results-based business, the lack of results means someone gets axed. Tough. Listening to Leach talk yesterday and then chatting with folks close to the program, the bottom line seems to be there was some disagreement in what changes needed to be made concerning special teams. At his press conference, Leach said "we wanted to split the special teams up among the assistants and the way he’s most effective is with him running the whole thing.” It seems Leach was using the royal we, referring to himself, so now the special team responsibilities will be shared by the entire staff, with offensive quality control assistant Eric Mele overseeing the effort. And that, my friends, is how changes are made in multi-million dollar businesses.

• Let's be fair. I took Washington State to account a bit yesterday concerning the absence of Connor Halliday from its usual Monday press availability. After setting an NCAA record for passing yardage and total offense, it only made sense to have the quarterback available to talk about the accomplishment. Last night, Bill Stevens, the man in charge of WSU's athletic communications, sent out an email informing the media Halliday would be available today. This is unprecedented under Leach. The Monday press conference is usually the only time in which players are available. But making an exception this week is the right thing to do. Now every media member in America wants Halliday to have another exceptional game this Friday. Why? Because if he struggles, Leach may never let another player talk again. And, yes, we are kidding. ... Sort of.

• Russell Wilson. Need I say more? The Seahawks seemed a bit sloppy last night – a two-week layoff in the middle of the season will do that to you – but Wilson didn't let it cost them a victory. He moved the team down the field with his legs, rushing for 122 yards. He hit key passes when he needed to. And he pulled a Fran Tarkenton-like play out of his hat late in the 27-17 win, hitting Marshawn Lynch for a huge gain on the game-clinching drive. He's something special.

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• WSU: As can be expected, all the news emanating from Pullman kept Jacob Thorpe busy yesterday. He started it on the blog, where he posted the Russell news first, then added video of Leach's press conference. Jacob then moved on to a practice report and posted WSU's game notes before putting together a notebook that included the firing and some Halliday news. He also has his first look at Stanford. Finally, Jacob has a morning post with links and recruiting news. ... Stanford's loss at Notre Dame was a combination of things, but the key one was the lack of execution on offense. What was it former coach John McKay once said when asked about the execution of USC's offense? "I'm in favor of it," McKay reportedly quipped. ... ESPN.com's Pac-12 blog also has some observations about last weekend's games as well as the Russell news.

• EWU: Vernon Adams didn't want to see the Eagle lose at home to Idaho State. So he kept dragging his banged up foot out onto the red turf and led Eastern to a 56-53 win. Afterward, x-rays revealed the breaks and Adams is out for a few weeks. Jim Allen has more in this story.

• Whitworth: The Pirates had a nice day on the links yesterday.

• Chiefs: Victoria got past Portland 6-2 yesterday in Victoria.

• Preps: Freeman stayed atop the NWPrepsNow power rankings.

• Seahawks: Much of the focus this morning was on Wilson's performance, as well it should be. He was remarkable. But the defense was pretty stout as well, giving up one long touchdown pass while playing a switching man-to-man coverage as well as a late touchdown drive. Otherwise, Washington was bottled up pretty well. ... By the way, if it weren't for a bunch of penalties, the Hawks would have won going away and Percy Harvin would have been the star. ... Jon Ryan not only punted well, he also picked up a big first down on a fake field goal. ... Pete Carroll and Russell Wilson met with the media afterward. Richard Sherman also said some Richard Sherman-like things and I'm sure that will be the focus of the national media today. ... The Hawks passed this test and came out of the game relatively healthy. Lynch didn't start, however, as his back was tight once again. ... The snap counts tell us who filled in where.

• Mariners: The offseason will include Taijuan Walker, among others, working in what was once known as the instructional league. ... Corey Hart became a free agent instead of accepting a minor league assignment.

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• The football weekend is behind us. Another looms just up ahead. Time sure flies, doesn't it? Until later ... 



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

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