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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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The weekend was packed, but there was a big hole on Sunday

A GRIP ON SPORTS • It was a long weekend. And a somewhat empty one, thanks to the NFL. Read on.

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• The weekend that was continued some things, changed some others and gave us a chance to pause midseason ...

• In the continued category, the Washington State Cougars continued their winning ways, albeit with – according to the Pac-12 Conference – a boost from the officiating crew. Personally, I haven’t agreed with the conference on any of its pronouncements recently and that trend, well, continued. What is undeniable, however, is WSU is playing better football than any time in the past decade, even better than Bill Doba’s penultimate season, when the Cougars were also 6-3 with three games remaining. This group is getting better play up front on the defensive side of the ball and that is all the difference. OK, that and better depth. And, remember, we’re talking about right now. Everything could change Saturday night in Pasadena, where the Bruins are an eight-point favorite in the one spot I could find a line. Football is a week-by-week sport as any college coach will tell you. So enjoy it. Savor it. And get ready for next weekend.

• Another thing that continued this weekend was North Central’s boys running away with a state cross country title. That makes 10 in a row for the Indians, the longest such streak in state history. It is so long that I do believe I was still in charge of the S-R’s prep coverage when it began – though it so long ago my memory may be faulty. Since then, though, my personal history has changed from prep guy to Internet columnist to Cougar beat writer to retired to talking head. And the Indians just kept rolling along. It’s a pretty special accomplishment.

• A change may be in the air around the Big Sky Conference, with the wind blowing toward Cedar City, Utah. With just two weeks left in the season, the Thunderbirds of Southern Utah lead the conference standings. Their 6-0 record puts them a game up on Eastern Washington and two on Portland State, which host SUU on Saturday. Out in Cheney, the Eagles put themselves a game behind when they couldn’t get third-down stops against Northern Arizona and lost 52-30. It’s the same story with Eastern. Though the Eagles offense earns all the headlines, they really are only as good as their defense allows them to be. Both losses to FCS teams this season could be attributed to an inability to consistently get off the field. Of course, like two weeks ago, the defense has been the driving force in wins as well. But the bottom line is simple: If the Eagles want to make some noise in the playoffs, heck, if they want to make the postseason, the defense has to play better consistently.

• Sundays just aren’t the same without a Seahawk game. While driving around a bit yesterday I noticed a dearth of cars in parking lots of taverns and sports bars. It made me wonder. How different are the receipts on a Sunday in which the Hawks aren’t playing? I’m guessing it’s significant. Sports is so ingrained in our society we sometimes forget how it affects everything from mental wellness to economic success.

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• WSU: There you have it. Jacob Thorpe is guaranteeing Cougar fans a bowl game. I guess he was channeling his inner Joe Namath when he wrote this story. I wonder if he was wearing a faux-mike coat, a la Joe Willie, at the time. ... Jacob spent some of his Seahawks-less Sunday looking back at the Arizona State win. ... He also put up a blog post on the Pac-12’s decision to punish Saturday’s officiating crew. The post earned quite a few comments, though I deleted a couple that were spam related. ... You like power rankings? Of course you do, if only to disagree with them. ... The WSU women couldn’t repeat the earlier season upset against Arizona State in volleyball. But the basketball team earned an exhibition victory.

• Gonzaga: The Zags and the Cougars played in a men’s golf tournament in Hawaii. Now, that sounds like fun no matter the results.

• Idaho: After one of the best seasons in school history, the Vandal soccer team fell in the Big Sky championship.

• Chiefs: Everett is still trying to figure out how it is winning.

• Seahawks: With the season half-over (or, if you are an optimist, half-begun), it’s time for grades and such. ... The Hawks are a three-point favorite against Arizona. ... The defense feels it is back on track. ... This game looks fun. Even to me.

• Sounders: When the curtain dropped on the Sounders’ season, courtesy of a penalty-kick shootout loss in Dallas, the speculation began concern possible behind-the-scenes machinations. Will there be changes in Seattle after the disappointing season? ... The Timbers will face FC Dallas in the Western Conference finals after getting past Vancouver 2-0 on the road.

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• It’s time for folks like me to recharge. As I said, it was a long weekend. Mondays, when you are retired-mode, are days to recharge and refresh. That’s my plan anyway. 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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