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Sports >  Seattle Seahawks

Grip on Sports: The Vandals long journey to a bowl reaches its conclusion this afternoon

Idaho Vandals tight end Deon Watson (3) celebrates with running back Denzal Brantley (24) after Watson scored a touchdown during a college football game on Saturday, Oct 15, 2016, at the Kibbie Dome in Moscow, Idaho. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Idaho Vandals tight end Deon Watson (3) celebrates with running back Denzal Brantley (24) after Watson scored a touchdown during a college football game on Saturday, Oct 15, 2016, at the Kibbie Dome in Moscow, Idaho. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • The Advent calendar has yielded almost all its candy. The ground is covered with snow, though probably another dusting is needed to keep it white for Sunday. And folks are rushing everywhere to get that “perfect” last-minute gift. There’s no problem if the recipient is an Idaho football fan, however. A win this afternoon would do just fine. Anyway you can guarantee that Santa? Read on.

••••••••••

• No there isn’t. But for Idaho, in its penultimate FBS season, has won already. No, we’re not talking about the eight wins in the ledger. Those are great. But getting to a bowl game in its second-to-last chance at it, that’s a huge win for a program that’s struggled for relevance since moving from the FCS ranks.

There are some Vandal fans who will tell you it was still the right idea to leave the Big Sky way back when. That it was important for the state’s flagship university to play at the highest level possible. That if Boise State can do it, Idaho still can.

I get the arguments. I understand where they are coming from. I respect those with such opinions. I just don’t agree with them.

University president Chuck Staben made the right decision this year when he began the unprecedented – is there another spelling I should be using these days? – process of sending the football program back to its roots.

Even with today’s game.

Yes, the Vandals made a bowl, their third. And all three have been in the warm-weather city of Boise, where it will be sunny today and 27 degrees. That’s about 3 degrees cooler than Moscow, if you are interested. Aren’t bowls supposed to be in tropical locales? Where it is warm and a beach beckons?

But let’s not nitpick. Not today. The Vandals’ seniors deserve the chance to just play football, not be a football among competing interests.

The Famous Potato Bowl opponent is Colorado State, an irony in itself. When Paul Petrino was brought in to turn the Idaho program around, the coach bought a house in Pullman. His neighborhood mate? Washington State coach Mike Leach, who was also brought to the Palouse to turn a program around.

Leach did, getting the Cougars to a bowl game his second season. The opponent? Colorado State.

Now Petrino has turned the Vandals into a bowl squad and the opponent is the same. It’s a coincidence, sure, but it’s also another little nugget for a game that will be full of them.

The Vandals, who posted an 8-4 regular season record, are a nearly two-touchdown underdog. But they have to be the more motivated team, what with it the first bowl appearance for all their players. It’s a dream come true.

Bowling is a near-annual occurrence for the Rams, and a bowl in Boise at 4 p.m. (PST) on a cold Thursday afternoon might not have been high on their Christmas wish list.

So expect the Vandals to come out with a fire. If Colorado State doesn’t match it, it will be a great day for the underdog.

•••

WSU: If there is an assistant coach the Cougars probably can’t afford to lose, it is Joe Salave’a, who has dominion over the defensive line and is also one of the best recruiters on the West Coast. Jacob Thorpe passes along the news Salave’a has agreed to an extension to his contract. … Jacob also has some thoughts on the season of Holiday Bowl opponent Minnesota. … Stefanie Loh has a feature on a couple of linebackers who are more than just teammates. … In basketball, the Cougar men held off Sacramento State at home yesterday while the women fell late at No. 18 Kentucky. … Around the Pac-12, it looks as if Oregon State has settled on Scott Barnes as its next athletic director. The two sides are working on an agreement. … In football, Oregon received a present yesterday, with Royce Freeman announcing he’s coming back. … Washington’s Chris Petersen has a reputation that might not be as true anymore. … Some Colorado players are happy to be going home. … USC begins Rose Bowl prep with one player on its mind. … The Cougars have four players on this list and are rated near the bottom on this secondary ranking. … In basketball, California had a chance to help the conference’s RPI, but instead saw its home winning streak end to former WSU coach Tony Bennett and 12th-ranked Virginia. … Oregon State snapped its losing streak with a home win versus Kent State. … UCLA continued to win, rolling over Western Michigan. … Arizona State hopes to be at .500 when conference play begins. … Arizona’s players are ready to get away.

Gonzaga: The Bulldogs took care of business at home last night, defeating overmatched South Dakota by almost 40 points. Jim Meehan was in McCarthey and he has his game story and the three keys to the win. … John Blanchette has his column and he points out the Zags’ 12-0 accomplishment is as important as any college basketball one from yesterday. … Whitney Ogden asked the Zags what they want for Christmas. … Dan Pelle has the photo gallery from the game. … I chipped in by watching the game at home and writing a column on the broadcast.

EWU: The Eagles will play at Colorado this evening. … Around the Big Sky last night, Weber State earned a tough win over Utah State. … Montana State lost at home and Southern Utah lost on the road.

Idaho: In Petrino’s four years in Moscow, he has had more downs than ups. But there were always words of encouragement, some from some unexpected sources. Josh Wright’s advance cites one such source. … Greg Lee has a story on the Vandals used to being underdogs. … And Josh has the keys to today’s game.

Preps: We can pass along roundups of girls and boys games around the area from last night. … We can also pass along the Tacoma News Tribune’s state boys basketball rankings. There are a lot of local names.

Seahawks: We mentioned it yesterday, but K.J. Wright not earning a Pro Bowl spot seems a bit off. … Michael Bennett explains why he was fined by using math. Sort of. … Bobby Wagner is in line to break a old Seattle record. … If things break right for Seattle this weekend, they can clinch the first-round bye. … It’s not easy being a rookie offensive lineman. … Jon Ryan is trying to come back from his concussion. … Is Richard Sherman petty?

•••

• Guess what? The fallout from Idaho’s bowl appearance has trickled down to the Grippi household. Like a bunch of falling dominos. See, with Idaho in Boise playing, Dennis Patchin can’t do the radio show today. I can. So I will. I’ll be on with Rick Lukens this afternoon on 700 ESPN from 3 to 5 p.m. (the EWU basketball game comes on then). You can listen here if you want. And there will be another experienced hand on the show as well. You’ll have to tune it to find out who it is. Until later …

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