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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883


Washington State is winning games up front, where it matters most

A GRIP ON SPORTS • Want to really enjoy a sporting event? Then don’t watch the ball. Focus on the folks away from it, see what they are doing and you’ll learn a lot. That’s what I tried to do yesterday in Washington State’s 45-42 win over Arizona and it worked. Again. Read on.


• When I was just a little tyke, my dad would take me to Dodger Stadium to watch, you know, the Dodgers. But also to learn baseball. He would sit there and point all that was happening away from the action. A ball would be driven up the right-centerfield alley and he would mention what the left-fielder was doing. Or how the runner from first was cutting off the angle around second and picking up the base coach early. Or where the pitcher was headed to back up. It was his way of helping me learn the nuances of the game and it came in handy as I tried to overcome some physical limitations – thanks, dad, for the slow Italian gene – and play the game at the highest level I could achieve. And it is still helping today. Whenever possible, I take may eye off the ball. It’s amazing what you see. Take yesterday for instance. While watching the Cougar win, I focused on the line play. Nothing sexy there, that’s for sure. But decisive. No matter how many yards Luke Falk threw for, no matter how many records Gabe Marks posted, no matter how many tackles Shalom Luani had, this game was won up front on both sides of the ball. The official stats will tell you Falk was sacked twice by the Wildcats, but that means he dropped back another 60-plus times and wasn’t pounded. And of those five dozen or so times he scanned the field, he had enough time to listen to one of his sisters’ CDs about half the time. He was so unmolested, Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez mentioned it in his post-game press conference and then sort of snapped, walking out after less than two minutes. The WSU O-line never snapped Saturday. They bent a little, but when push came to shove, literally, they protected Falk and opened enough holes the Cougar running backs (and the occasional quarterback keeper) accounted for 144 yards rushing on just 27 carries. That’s pretty good. And when WSU needed a first down at the end of the game to clinch its fifth win of the season – and its third consecutive Pac-12 victory – the guys up front delivered. Three runs gained 10 yards and the game was over. Just how winning teams do it. And the Cougars are a winning team right now. Thanks in large part to a defensive front that doesn’t get pushed around by other Pac-12 teams. At least not yet – Stanford comes to town next Saturday to deliver the group’s sternest test this season. The Wildcats rushed for just 37 yards in the first half, only 15 in the second quarter. Sure, not-for-long backup quarterback Jerrard Randall came in after halftime and gashed the Cougars for 59 yards on his first run and 105 total, but that seemed to be more of an outstanding athlete exploiting assignment flaws than the Cougar front being knocked off the ball. Heck, the longest run by a UA running back was seven yards, with Nick Wilson and Jared Baker combining for 30 yards on 17 carries. That is 1.76 yards per attempt folks. And those are Palouse Posse-like numbers. Heck, re-examining the statistics this morning, I began to wonder how WSU only won by three points. Oh, ya, another breakdown on special teams – that’s four kicks returned for touchdowns this season if you are keeping score at home and I know most of you are – and a couple of big gaffes late in the secondary accounted for 14 of UA’s 42 points. Still, that’s a bit of nitpicking. Especially when the big guys are doing their jobs so well.


• WSU: You like postgame videos? Then you’ll be happy with Jacob Thorpe’s report from yesterday. He has videos of interviews by Gunnar Eklund, Parker Henry, Jeremiah Allison, Falk and Marks (pictured) up on the blog. He also has a large serving of the written word in the paper, with his game story, a notebook and the keys to the game, as well as on the blog, where he passed along the statistics and a Pac-12 links-filled post. ...’s Pac-12 blog has a summary of the game and we found a couple stories and some photos from around the desert to pass along. ... I also like to link columns, so here is Ken Goe’s from Oregon State’s home loss to Colorado.

• Gonzaga: The Zags volleyball team had no trouble with Portland.

• EWU: Eastern Washington struggled on special teams, gave up two late scores, and fell behind with a little more than a minute remaining. But punter Jordan Dascalo, asked to kick the game-winning field goal, came through from 44 yards and Eastern survived, 43-41 at Northern Colorado. ... Elsewhere in the Big Sky, Northern Arizona outscored Weber State, 52-36 and 6-1 Portland State survived at Cal Poly, 38-35, thanks to quarterback Alex Kuresa’s four touchdowns. ... Sacramento State earned its first conference win with a 38-13 rout of Idaho State while UC Davis lost 34-6 to visiting Southern Utah. ... Both Montana schools earned wins, with Montana State routing East Tennessee State 63-7 and Montana having no trouble with North Dakota, winning 42-16.

• Idaho: It’s been awhile since the Vandals have won two consecutive games, but Saturday’s 27-13 win over Louisiana-Monroe accomplished it. Sean Kramer has all the particulars in this story and blog post.

• Whitworth: It was not a good day for the Pirates. ... The football team melted down in its showdown with No. 2 Linfield, losing 52-10. ... The men’s soccer team lost for the first time this season, 2-0 at Pacific Lutheran and the women’s team drew with Linfield at home.

• Chiefs: Spokane never could figure out the tough Victoria defense and fell 3-0 to the Royals. Tom Clouse has the story from the Arena and Tyler Tjomsland adds a photo report. ... Portland traveled up the interstate and handled Tri-City, 5-4. ... Everett didn’t travel anywhere but the Silvertips handled Seattle, 2-0.

• Preps: It’s playoff season in a lot of fall sports covered in this roundup of Saturday action. ... It was also the final day for girls soccer in Idaho, with Lake City falling in the state 5A championship on penalty kicks. ... Greg Lee looks back at the weekend’s key football games.

• Seahawks: We’re not really talking football here today. We’re talking money. Money Russell Wilson will receive and money the NFL took from Kam Chancellor.

• Sounders: Though Real Salt Lake has been eliminated from the postseason and a huge crowd is expected at CenturyLink, the Sounders know they are in for a tough match today as they try to clinch a playoff berth. ... Osvaldo Alonso’s father has finally gotten the chance to see his son again.


• By the way, if you are wondering how I figured the rushing numbers, it is simple. I take the running backs’ totals – they are always rushing attempts – and then add in Falk runs, though not his two sacks. Those aborted passing attempts accounted for 16 yards lost, so I add that number back into Falk’s total. I've really never understood why the NCAA persists in classifying sack yardage in the rush totals. Until later ...

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