Sat., Oct. 31, 2015
Halloween games are spooky, but not in the way you might think
A GRIP ON SPORTS • Really, the last day of October doesn’t scare me much. Except when I look under the maple trees and see the huge piles of leaves already on the ground. And then look up and realize how many more still have to fall. That’s scary. But not as scary as what is happening tonight. Read on.
• And I’m not referring to the goblins and witches wandering the neighborhood, if any young child dresses up as a goblin and/or witch anymore. Kim will have to deal with them. I'll be in Pullman watching the Cougars have to deal with the monsters of Palo Alto, the big uglies of the Bay, or whatever spooky nickname you want to give Stanford’s eighth-ranked football team. Isn’t it funny the school with the highest academic standards in the Pac-12 plays the most Neanderthal-type of football? But that’s the dichotomy of the Cardinal. Or maybe not. The smartest guys line up sometimes 10 offensive-linemen-size players – I’m including quarterback Kevin Hogan in that group, and though he's large for a quarterback, linemen haven't been his size since Bill Moos was playing the position – and give the ball to their littlest guy, Christian McCaffrey. But it’s not the beef that gets you. Well, not only the beef. It’s the way the Cardinal use it. There are so many combinations and so many plays out of those combinations, they can confuse a defense even with big men rumbling all over the place. And that’s just on offense. The Cardinal defense plays smart as well. They may just be the best in the conference in masking what they are going to do. Which poses an extreme problem for an offense like Washington State’s, which relies on getting the pre-snap read correct. Talk about frightening.
• There is another scary proposition taking shape tonight in Pullman and we’re not referring to the rain that is expected to fall all day. Stanford has been good for a long time on special teams. The Cougars haven’t been. The confluence of the two may be enough to determine the battle for the Pac-12 North’s frontrunner status. (Yes, I just wrote that on Oct. 31. The Cougars play a game tonight at home that will determine the frontrunner in the Pac-12 North. That’s not something I have ever written before.) But tonight is night dedicated to play-acting. Maybe the WSU special teams can dress up as a group that shuts down the opponent and earn a draw on all kicks. That could make a huge difference in the outcome.
• One last point. A lot of folks are making a big deal about the rain that is expected to fall during the game. How it is an advantage for the team that runs the ball. Outdated thinking in my estimation. With the changes in how a game is run – the ball is kept a lot drier than it was 30 years ago – and the evolution of shoes and gloves, rain may actually be an advantage for the passing team. After all, the offense knows where it is going while running a pattern. The receiver can prepare for a quick cut. The defense has to adjust and make cuts on the fly. Such cuts are harder when the footing is a bit slippery. But where the rain may hurt WSU is in the stands. The students have been fair-weather – and sometimes not even then – fans for a long time. If the night gets nasty, they may just shuffle off to the closest Halloween party at halftime and never return. If Martin Stadium turns into Holland Library after halftime, that’s not an atmosphere that ensures success.
• WSU: Jacob Thorpe switched gears yesterday and covered basketball. The Cougars opened up the 2015-16 season, sort of, with a non-counting exhibition against Lewis-Clark State. Jacob has the game story, the final stats and the postgame press conference. ... But football wasn’t neglected. He has an advance and the keys to the game. ... The Pac-12 cross country championships were not neglected either. ... Finally, Jacob wraps up all that and the rest of the day around the Pac-12 in his morning post that is jammed full of links. ... We have the mailbag from ESPN.com’s Pac-12 blog as well as what to watch around the conference and five things to look for in Pullman tonight.
• Gonzaga: The Bulldogs’ mens' soccer team got blitzed by USF.
• EWU: The fifth-ranked Eagles begin the home stretch with a home game against improved Weber State this afternoon. Jim Allen has the advance. ... The biggest game in the Big Sky today may be in Portland, where Montana meets Portland State. ... The Eagles’ volleyball team is headed to the postseason. ... Eastern and Idaho battled to a draw in soccer.
• Idaho: The Vandals opened the basketball season with an exhibition as well last night, defeating St. Martin’s.
• Whitworth: The Pirates host Pacific this afternoon at the Pine Bowl.
• Chiefs: The road has been kind recently to Spokane as the Chiefs won again last night, this time 3-1 at Red Deer. ... Portland is officially on a roll, having won five consecutive times. Last night it was 2-1 at Everett. ... The Americans got healthy, defeating visiting Vancouver 2-1.
• Preps: The last night of football’s regular season featured some firsts, including Rogers securing its first trip to the postseason as a GSL member. Greg Lee has that story and Jesse Tinsley has photographs of the win over North Central. ... Gonzaga Prep clinched another undefeated regular season – the first of those came long before I was born – with a 47-7 win over Ferris. Jim Allen has the game story. ... Central Valley locked up second place with a 31-17 win over rival U-High. ... Lewis and Clark got past Mead 21-14 and secured the third 4A postseason berth. Greg has that story and Jesse adds the photographs. ... Colville defeated Lakeside 41-28 and won the Northeast A title. Tom Clouse has the game story. ... We also have a roundup of the rest of the football action around the area. ... The state volleyball tournaments are going on in Idaho and we can pass along stories from the 5A and 3A tournaments. ... Mt. Spokane won the 3A district soccer title with a 4-1 decision over North Central.
• Seahawks: Boy, the stories Pete Carroll could tell. But most of them may start with “there was the time we lost to ...” There will be positive endings, though. ... The Seahawks aren’t blitzing all that much. But expect Dallas to blitz a bunch, especially with Russell Okung showing up on the injury list. ... The Cowboys’ offensive line is like Stanford’s. Big and ornery.
• Mariners: The Series is closer because the Mets pitched a bit closer? I think there are more reasons than that.
• Sounders: Seattle will face FC Dallas in the semifinals. That’s fine. But what isn’t fine is Brad Evans’ hamstring. ... Sigi Schmid also has stories to tell. Always.
• Boy did I screw up yesterday. Thought I was doing radio. Had the time blocked out on my calendar. Even drove all the way to the studio. Then realized I had screwed up. I wasn’t on the schedule. Oh well, it was like a gift of three hours. Hope you didn’t try to listen and wonder where I was. I was still trying to figure it out myself. ... By the way, wanted to pass this along for all you Grantland fans out there. And the four or five sports journalism fans. Until later ...