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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883


WSU declares its bowl candidacy in the first half then coasts to win

Washington State quarterback Luke Falk (4) looks for an open teammate Oregon State during the second half of a PAC 12 football game on Saturday, Oct 17, 2015, at Martin Stadium in Pullman, Wash. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Washington State quarterback Luke Falk (4) looks for an open teammate Oregon State during the second half of a PAC 12 football game on Saturday, Oct 17, 2015, at Martin Stadium in Pullman, Wash. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • If Saturday’s game was crucial in Washington State’s progression from mediocrity, as I posited earlier in the week, then the Cougars certainly made a statement in the first half. And another in the second. Read on.


• Not the same one, of course. John Blanchette hits the pylon with the football in his column this morning, but we’ll echo the sentiment. After all, from the final horn a week ago until the opening kickoff yesterday, I’ve been beating the drum concerning the importance of playing better than your competition. And the Cougars did that – in the opening 30 minutes. Of course, I’ve seen opening halves like that before. In 2008, In 2009. And, to less of a degree, 2010. Except, it was the Cougars playing like pumpkins. Yesterday, WSU did what was needed against the orange-clad Beavers. They beat them into submission in the first half. Finished them off, as John points out. Had seven drives, scored six touchdowns. Finished the seventh with a field goal. The defense bent often but didn’t let OSU penetrate the end zone until late in the second quarter. Other than another special-teams snafu – Victor Bolden’s explosive 100-yard kickoff return – the Cougars were special. The second half? Not so much. The offense sputtered as Luke Falk made a couple poor-to-awful decisions with the ball. The defense mixed in more guys and lost a little cohesion. The special teams didn’t shine. Only a surprisingly fast Shalom Luani – Mike Leach’s description, not mine – and his 84-yard interception return for a touchdown stood out in the positive column. And yet, who cares? Oh sure, the coaches and the players. Fans, too, I guess, as Washington State’s are conditioned to open a door, see a pony wearing a bow and immediately wonder how much byproduct they will have to shovel. Still, a win is a win – admit it, if Falk had led the Cougars on a game-winning drive against Portland State, you wouldn’t even be thinking about the Vikings now, would you? – and Washington State needs wins these days. So Vernon Adams didn’t play in Eugene. Who cares about that? Washington found out what he means to the Ducks last night. Yet you don’t get do-overs in college football. The Cougars defeated Oregon in double overtime. It's a done deal. And then they stacked another win on top of it yesterday. They are 4-2. Halfway through the season, they are 4-2. Yes, the second half schedule is considerably tougher. But, as yesterday’s game proved – warts and all – this is considerably tougher Cougar team. The Cougars may not go 2-4 down the stretch – the minimum needed for the second bowl game in three years – but they should be favored at least twice. And they actually seem capable of finishing better than that. Arizona is flawed, Stanford could very well be looking forward to Colorado (just kidding; threw that in there to see if you were paying attention), Arizona State has holes, UCLA a split personality. After that it’s the two must-win (should-win?) games, Colorado and the Huskies, the former because the Cougars are the better team and the latter because it’s the freaking Apple Cup for goodness sakes. I'm pretty sure somewhere in the next six games, the Cougars will put together a full game. Sixty minutes of the type of football they displayed in the first half yesterday. Heck they may even do it more than once. If they do, Coug fans can sell the pony byproduct and purchase a trip someplace warm in December. 


• WSU: We have the usual here, from Jacob Thorpe’s game story – a little inside baseball here: The S-R has a new software system that facilitates the web operation; it seems Jacob’s first, web-based story is online but the second story, with the quotes and comments, hasn’t made an appearance – through his keys to the win and a notebook on Dom Williams’ dealing with sorrow, to the blog items like the final stats and a morning post with links. ...Tyler Tjomsland also has a photo gallery. ... Jacob, of course, took care of the game links, so we went looking for columns, like Ken Goe’s in the Oregonian, and other game stories, such as Kerry Eggers’ in the Portland Tribune. We also can pass along the summary on’s Pac-12 blog. ... From the rest of the conference, we found columns on the Ducks’ 12th consecutive win in their rivalry with Washington as well as a column from USC’s loss in their rivalry with Notre Dame. 

• Gonzaga: It was not a good Saturday for the Zags, with the volleyball team and women’s soccer team dropping WCC contests.

• EWU: The Eagles have played, seemingly, nothing but close games. Not Saturday. At least not in the second half. Eastern pulled away from Idaho State after halftime for a 45-28 victory. Jim Allen was in Pocatello and has the game story and a notebook. ... Portland State’s run of good play continued with a 59-42 shootout win over Montana State. ... Weber State is also on a roll and the Wildcats edged North Dakota 25-24 after trailing by two touchdowns. ... Sacramento State is struggling, losing 44-0 at Southern Utah for its sixth consecutive loss.

• Idaho: The trip to Troy, Ala., was like something out of a Coen Brothers’ film. But, oh brother, the game was something Vandal fans can remember. A late field goal that doinked off the upright allowed UI to hold on to a 19-16 victory, the first time a Paul Petrino-coached Vandal team has won on the road. Sean Kramer has more in this blog post.

• Whitworth: The Pirates are 6-0 after pounding Pacific Lutheran 32-7. Tom Clouse has the game story.

• Chiefs: The Chiefs played last night in the Arena and Tom was there, but I can’t for the life of me find the game story. They lost 5-1 to Kamloops, the Chiefs’ fifth consecutive defeat. ... Tri-City had little trouble with Portland, winning the home contest 4-2.

• Preps: Greg Lee looks back at the football weekend which included Gonzaga Prep clinching a share of another GSL crown. ... We also can pass along a roundup of Saturday’s prep action.

• Seahawks: What is real for the Seattle Seahawks this season? Is it the Super Bowl contending team they have been the past two years? Or is that team finished and it is something else? We may just find out this afternoon against Carolina. ... Kevin Norwood is with the Panthers but he may not be active. ... What are the keys for the Hawks?

• Sounders: If Seattle can win today in sunny Houston, something it has never done, it will clinch a playoff berth. ... Dallas clinched the Western Conference with a 1-0 win over visiting Real Salt Lake.


• You know, a 70-degree day in mid-October is just about perfect for a football game. Such was the case yesterday in Pullman. It won’t be that way in Seattle today. Until later ...

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

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