A GRIP ON SPORTS • What is that old saying about the amount of fight in the dog? Something about size, right? But what happens when the bigger dog puts up the biggest fight? Well, you end up with a game like you saw yesterday. Read on.
• The Apple Cup meant something yesterday. Heck, it always means something but yesterday it really meant something. And Washington State didn’t show up. Oh, the Cougars were inside Martin Stadium, sure, but they were nothing more than road kill for the first 15 minutes. After that, the game was a wash. It didn’t matter. By then, WSU’s Pac-12 title-game hopes were already cleaned out.
And why is that? Not the final score, which happened to be 45-17, but the Cougars not showing up? Could it be as simple as a lack of belief winning was possible?
Honestly, how many Washington State fans did you talk with last week that, though they were looking forward to the game, had a deep reservoir of trepidation from which to draw?
It’s past history, isn’t it? There’s some inferiority complex mixed in too. And an undercurrent of never-to-be-expressed-before-the-Cup respect for their Seattle rivals.
All of which seemed on display with and by their football team in the first quarter.
No matter what college football coaches like to say and no matter how much they try to limit it, the outside world creeps into their little bubble. And infects their team.
College football players are young men. They are also students, as the NCAA likes to remind us over and over, interacting with their peers on a daily basis. Social animals. And, if you will, social-media animals these days.
As such they hear things. They are aware of the noise. It infects them to a degree.
An underdog story is always fun to read. But be the underdog over and over and it becomes more than a story but a lifestyle. The only way to cleanse it is to become the top dog. And that takes a whole bunch of beasts pulling together day after day. Winning battle after battle.
The Cougars did that for eight consecutive games. And still everyone – including themselves – knew it was all prelude. The way Washington was playing, the Cougars would have to prove themselves in late November, no matter what happened during the streak.
They couldn’t. Not against 10th-ranked Colorado last week. Not against 5th-ranked Washington yesterday.
This WSU team is good. Just not that good. Not yet. So when things started to go bad yesterday, when the offense needed to step up, when the defense needed to toughen up, they dropped the ball. Literally. And UW was ready to accept it. To run with it. To pass the Cougars by. To win.
• The outcome was there to be seen, of course, not just during the game but before. Most of us saw it but were a bit hesitant to admit it, thinking the Cougars just might overcome.
Here is what I wrote yesterday:
“All of this screams close game. Which is why I don’t believe it will be. One of these schools is going to play its best game of the season today. One won’t. … If you grabbed my leftover turkey sandwich and threatened to eat it unless I told you what I thought, I would profess the belief the Huskies are going to walk away with it.”
See, wiggle room. The last refuge of the indecisive.
When I was finally put on the spot yesterday by the Associated Press’ Tim Booth, I picked the Huskies to win by 10, 31-21.
I was way off.
WSU: The coverage of this year’s Apple Cup rivaled that of D-Day. And that’s just in The Spokesman-Review. Jacob Thorpe, still dealing with the aftereffects of a bad pre-Thanksgiving meal, powered through and wrote the game story and the WSU reaction, as well as pointing out the key plays and players. He also offered short pregame stories on Bob Robertson missing his first Apple Cup since Lyndon Johnson was president and the Cougars getting back some key defenders. We can also pass along the scoring. … John Blanchette’s column pointed out the meaning of the game and the final score. … Josh Wright crossed the border and covered the Husky side of things, including the domination at the line of scrimmage, the first quarter and next week’s opponent. Whitney Ogden had a story on a charity coming up big at halftime. … Tyler Tjomsland has the photo report from Pullman. … The West Side newspapers were well represented as well, covering much of the same ground, from game stories to column after column after column. There were also stories on the Husky domination and what it means. … And the coverage didn’t stop there. ESPN.com’s Ted Miller was in the press box and has a story on how great UW looked (it did). … Drew Bledsoe’s son, John, is headed to Pullman.
Elsewhere in Pac-12 football, Miller also has his weekly mailbag and Jon Wilner looks at the bowl games. In that vein, we talked about bowls on the postgame show, speculating about the Cougars’ destination. As we were going off the air, a Holiday Bowl representative, who had been at the Apple Cup, called our producer and let him know the bowl was still really interested in Washington State. Maybe it wouldn’t be a bad idea to book a flight to San Diego for after Christmas. … There was one other Pac-12 game yesterday and, after it was over, there was one less bowl-eligible conference school. Arizona, the worst team in the conference, routed Arizona State in Tucson, doing something WSU wasn’t able to do, win at home against your favored rival. … There is one more rivalry game today, the Civil War in Corvallis. Will Oregon show the will to win or will Oregon State find a way? … The biggest game of the day is in Boulder, where the Pac-12 South – and UW’s opponent Friday – will be decided. With a win Colorado wins the South. With a Utah win, USC wins. If you are a Cougar fan and want to go to San Diego, root for Colorado this week. That eliminates Utah from the Holiday Bowl picture. … UCLA and California meet in Berkeley. … USC hosts non-conference rival Notre Dame and Stanford has a bye. Well, the Cardinal play Rice but you get my drift.
Gonzaga: The Zags are once again in the finals of an Orlando-based Thanksgiving tournament. They rallied in the second half to get past Florida. Jim Meehan was there and has this game story as well as the offensive and defensive players of the game and the key moment. … I chipped in with my column on the TV coverage. Two words: Dick Vitale. GU plays in the title game Sunday against Iowa State. … The GU women lost again in the Virgin Islands. … Portland lost to Dayton.
EWU: Around the Big Sky in football, Weber State’s goal is just to win a playoff game. … Cal Poly faces a familiar foe in today’s first-round FCS matchup. … In basketball, Portland State fell to Loyola-Marymount.
Whitworth: The Pirates opened the Whit Classic with a 95-87 win over Texas Lutheran. Josh Horton has the game story.
Chiefs: The Arena scoreboard just kept adding numbers on the Spokane side last night. When the game with Vancouver finally ended, the Chiefs had won 10-1 and two players had scored three goals. Tom Clouse has the story.
Seahawks: It’s official. The Hawks will be without Earl Thomas for the first time in his career when they play Tampa Bay on the road Sunday afternoon. … Russell Wilson is incredibly consistent. Coaches love that. … Doug Baldwin was fined.
Sounders: It was a hard year for Seattle. But somehow they’ve gotten through it and are one good effort away from playing for the MLS title.
• It’s hard to believe it’s Saturday morning. The last couple days have seemed like a weekend, what with all the sports on. Until later …
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