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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Opinion >  Syndicated columns

Blanchette: College NightGameDay makes up for bad ratings with simple winning

WSU fans cheer for their team with Mascot Butch during the second half of a college football game on Saturday, Nov. 12, 2016, at Martin Stadium in Pullman. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
WSU fans cheer for their team with Mascot Butch during the second half of a college football game on Saturday, Nov. 12, 2016, at Martin Stadium in Pullman. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

PULLMAN – Behind the scenes with College NightGameDay on its visit here Saturday for the California-Washington State game:

6 a.m. – Cougar tailgaters begin rolling out of their RVs and mixing the morning’s first Bloody Mary, trying to swallow a 324th consecutive snub from ESPN as the site for College GameDay.

6:01 – Another shot of vodka goes into everybody’s drinks when they switch on the TV and remember GameDay is setting up shop at the University of Washington instead. Oh, well. Gotta watch something – there’s still more than 13 hours to kill to kickoff.

6:02 – Fans perk up at the sight of their durable flag, Ol’ Crimson, again proudly waving behind enemy lines on the GameDay set, marking its 189th straight appearance.

6:03 – Fans ponder the relevance of being a school now known mostly for lifetime achievement in photobombing.

6:04 – More cocktails are mixed as fans celebrate Wazzu’s 114th straight appearance as Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott’s favorite participant on College NightGameDay – seen by no one east of Buttzville, N.D. – and mull why their crimson-hot and 23rd-ranked football team remains a national secret.

6:10 – On GameDay, ESPN host Rece Davis gushes about UW having “one of the most picturesque settings in college football” as a shot pans Lake Washington. Cougar viewers begin to protest, then remember that their picturesque setting of the Palouse’s rolling terrain won’t be seen under the cover of darkness on NightGameDay.

6:30 – A UW fan’s sign that reads, “Hillary Coug’d It” is shown. Remotes all over the Palouse click over to Saturday cartoons.

7:00 – GameDay shows Pike Place Market fish-tossers, borrowing footage from “Monday Night Football” that aired just five days earlier – and from every other sporting event telecast from Seattle in the last 25 years. Cougar fans ask themselves, “Now, why are we so agitated about not being on this damned show again?”

7:26 – A feature on UW quarterback Jake Browning and his Heisman candidacy is aired, the highlight of which is Browning wondering if all the attention he’s getting is because “I have a booger on my shirt.” Coug fans wonder if their guy, Luke Falk, who runs the most efficient offense in college football, needs to talk more about boogers to get traction in the Heisman campaign.

7:48 – It’s time for “Shallow Musings,” GameDay’s regular clip from WSU coach Mike Leach’s Monday press briefings where he holds forth on some nonfootball topic. This time the answer includes an insinuation that people who like Christmas are greedy. One of these times, he’ll cross up everyone and decline to answer even those kinds of questions at the risk of being fined.

7:50 – Desmond Howard, previewing the Wazzu game in GameDay’s stab at equal time, says Cal “plays defense like they’re doing the Mannequin Challenge.” Maybe give Desmond more airtime and “Shallow Musings” less.

8:59 – Lee Corso picks UW to beat USC and spikes a fish. TVs everywhere are unplugged and carted out to the trash.

9:00 – Savvy Coug tailgaters return to their RVs to nap, realizing kickoff for their game remains more than 10 hours away.

11:30 – Alums stroll Greek Row, hoping to find a fraternity party to keep their buzz going, only to learn that all such events have been banned for the semester. Now the GameDay sign, “Can the WSU flag still drink?” starts to make sense. Frat rats circle back to the tailgate lot to get their drink on.

2 p.m. – NightGameDay film crew crisscrosses the Palouse, looking to film local-life cutaways. A rancher forks out hay to feed his cattle, only to be asked by the cameraman, “Do you have any fish you can toss?”

4:30 – UW-USC kicks off in Seattle and Jake Browning throws his first interception. Cameras capture him muttering, “Boogers,” under his breath.

5:00 – NightGameDay tailgate reporter stops by one barbecue to ask what’s cooking, telling the chef, “They had salmon in Seattle. Yummy.” His response: road kill. “When you drive down from Edwall in the dark, you’re bound to pick off something tasty,” he tells her.

7:20 – Cameras focus in on a hand-made sign in Martin Stadium student section suggesting Cal quarterback Davis Webb does not relieve himself like a man. “Makes that Hillary sign look pretty good,” admits one Coug fan.

7:37 – Seventy-two seconds into the game, WSU’s Kaleb Fossum runs back a punt 75 yards for a touchdown. All TV sets in the Eastern time zone click off.

8:04 – Stadium announcer Glenn Johnson reports the score from Seattle: USC 26, UW 13. The roar eclipses any for Wazzu’s seven subsequent touchdowns. Later, it’s learned that other top-four teams Michigan and Clemson were also toppled. “That should move us up another two spots in the poll,” grumps a fan.

11:01 – Cougar receiver Gabe Marks sets the Pac-12 receptions record – 295 – on a short pass from Falk. It’s cheered by a stadium emptied to about a fourth of the original 30,135 fans. East Coast bias has nothing on West Coast last call.

11:14 – Cougars win 56-21. They’re alone atop the Pac-12 North. Turns out that NightGameDay really is the show to watch.

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