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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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The best time to make a road trip is when the foundational work is being done

A GRIP ON SPORTS • One of the sure sounds of spring is the beep, beep, beep of a truck backing up at a road construction project. Started hearing that this week. Which means it is time for a road trip. Read on.

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• Yep, I’m going to pile into my car, head down U.S. Highway 195 (maybe) and take a gander at the 2016 Washington State Cougar football team. It seems like a good day to do it. Why? It’s not snowing. Or raining. And it’s going to be somewhere in the neighborhood of 70 degrees. Heck, I might have to put on some sunscreen. Besides, the Cougars are deep enough into spring practice they are in pads. And they know the drills. Which, of course, is the central core of any college football team’s practice time. Drills. Never-ending drills. Blocking drills. Passing drills. Ball-pursuit drills. Drills take up a lot more time than, say, actually playing 11-on-11 football. Of course they do. Playing 11-on-11 football is really hard on a body. Perfecting the technique one needs to be successful at 11-on-11 football isn’t nearly as physically demanding. Mentally, now that’s a different story. Over the years I’ve realized the most mentally tough teams practice well. They stay focused. They get their work done correctly. Does that mean that teams that screw around on the practice field automatically fold on game days. Those that screw around, yes. Those who have fun, not necessarily. Those are two mutually exclusive things. I’ve seen college football teams enjoy the heck out of practice, hoot and holler, jump around, get into each other’s grills, and still be meticulous about their work. Then they go out each fall Saturday, hoot and holler, jump around, get into their opponents’ grills and are meticulous about kicking rear. I’ve also seen teams that have no fun at practice be awful on Saturdays. Mainly because they were not all that good getting their work done Monday through Friday. No matter how you go about those repetitive drills, with a smile on your face or a look of determination, doesn’t mean as much as how hard you work at them day after day. Dealing well with the recurring nature of football drills is the mark of a successful player and team.

• What do I hope to see today? I’m not sure. I will have an open mind. And I’ll let Jacob Thorpe fill it. The guy who is there every day has the best handle on who is doing well and who isn’t. I know. I was that guy for a while. Nothing used to bother me more than when someone else would parachute in for a day with a preconceived notion. That so-and-so was the guy to watch or this-or-that position was going to be the key to the year. And they would, oftentimes, loudly tell everyone what they thought. The best thing to do, if you watch only occasionally, is keep the mouth closed and the eyes and ears open. You learn so much more that way. Then you can make sweeping pronouncements based on a couple hours experience. Next thing you know you might have a dedicated spot on one of those ESPN shows.

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• WSU: Speaking of Jacob, he was here yesterday and held a live chat. You can read the transcript here as well. And Jacob also appeared in the paper. Well, his byline did. It was attached to this story on the newest Cougars and how they are adjusting. ... Want a radical scheduling idea?

• Gonzaga: USF hired a new basketball coach yesterday, reaching across the country to hire a guy who used to work across the Bay.

• EWU: Spring football is beginning today in Cheney as well, with the Eagles, who open their season in Pullman, having to answer a lot of questions. Jim Allen delves into those queries and has some answers as well.

• Chiefs: In the regular season, overtime wins don’t mean as much in the standings. In the playoffs, they may actually mean more. Especially when the favored team scores the game-winner on the underdogs’ home ice. That’s what happened last night as Victoria won 3-2 at the Arena to take a 3-1 lead in the WHL series. Tom Clouse has the story. ... At least the Chiefs are still playing. Their two biggest rivals, Tri-City (didn’t make playoffs) and Portland aren’t. The Winterhawks’ season ended last night in a loss to Everett.

• Preps: The spring sports previews continue today, with Greg Lee covering track and field. He has a glance at the local leagues and a feature on Rogers’ state-leading sprinter Khalil Winfrey (pictured). We can pass along the best marks of the year as well. They will get better as the season rolls on. ... Greg also has the list of area basketball players who made their respective all-state teams. ... Jim Allen was on the soccer pitch yesterday, covering Ferris’ 1-0 win over Gonzaga Prep.

• Seahawks: Russell Okung said goodbye to Seattle and its fans. It is worth reading. ... Doug Baldwin will be getting a new deal soon.

• Mariners: You know it is almost time for the regular season to begin when Felix Hernandez makes his final spring training start. That happened yesterday. The M’s lost. ... Seattle hooked up with San Diego again yesterday on a trade. The M’s received a relief pitcher to round out the bullpen. The Padres received a player whose identity, like Superman’s, will be revealed later. ... Soon we will find out how Scott Servais manages this middle-of-the-pack baseball team.

• Sounders: Seattle is 0-3. Does that mean the season is going to be dismal? Maybe. But the Sounders aren’t panicking. They may have a different look on Saturday, however.

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• The quickest way from my home to Pullman is straight down U.S. Highway 195, with the caveat of making sure you crawl through Colfax. But I don’t always take the quickest way. Sometimes I like to take a more roundabout way, catching a look at the smaller towns and communities from here to there. I may just do that today. 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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