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Grip on Sports: WSU rallies over Oregon State and keeps a possible epic Apple Cup on track

Washington State receiver Tavares Martin Jr. (8) beats the Oregon State defense to the end zone for a touchdown during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Corvallis, Saturday, Oct. 29, 2016. (Timothy J. Gonzalez / Associated Press)
Washington State receiver Tavares Martin Jr. (8) beats the Oregon State defense to the end zone for a touchdown during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Corvallis, Saturday, Oct. 29, 2016. (Timothy J. Gonzalez / Associated Press)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • The college football season is anything but a holiday. Yet you can mark the time via holidays. And, after Washington State’s wild comeback win in Corvallis last night, we will. Read on.

••••••••••

• Thanksgiving is coming. The holiday weekend is filled with overeating, over-reacting to weird Uncle Clete and, if the Pac-12 season continues the way it is going, over-hyping the Apple Cup.

Wait, is that even possible this year?

Maybe not. But who would have thought such a thing on Labor Day?

That first weekend of the college football season featured a Washington blowout of Rutgers – such results have pretty much continued since – and a Washington State home loss to Eastern Washington.

It was the latter result that makes us ponder the very existence of time and space relative to football and the holidays.

Lose to an FCS school – OK, quite possibly the country’s best FCS school, as the Eagles have consistently shown since, including yesterday – and you still have a chance for the a Pac-12 title and the Rose Bowl? Sure. Anyone can take a holiday in a non-conference game and still win a conference title. The standings are different after all.

But who would have thought, as we get ready for Halloween, the Cougars and the Huskies would still be undefeated in Pac-12 play and barreling toward one of the most important Apple Cups ever?

The Huskies, sure. Everyone – read, UW fans and smarter members of the media, a category that doesn’t include this guy – knew this was their year. So an 8-0 record, a No. 4 national ranking and a perfect Pac-12 mark after five weeks is of no surprise.

But Washington State was 0-2 after a road loss to Boise State. The Cougars’  coach compared them to a JC softball team, questioned their toughness and basically talked as if they were a bunch of saps.

Yet, after last night’s come-from-three-touchdowns-down 35-31 win at Oregon State, the same coach, one Mike Leach, actually complimented their resolve. Of course, he ripped them for falling behind 21-0 to a team that is 2-6, 1-4 in the conference.

Rightfully so, especially considering Leach also spread the culpas to mea and the rest of the coaching staff. It took a now-not-surprising, come-to-Jesus meeting on the sidelines and a third quarter from the New England Patriots’ playbook to rally for the win, but still, the Cougars rallied for their sixth consecutive victory.

And the Apple Cup, that little rivalry game that will be played on the Palouse this season, still holds the opportunity for a matchup of two teams unbeaten in Pac-12 play. With the North title on the line.

Oh sure, there are a lot of games left to play. The Cougars play three of their last four, however, in Pullman, starting next week vs. Arizona – game time still to be determined.

And the Huskies seemingly have just one tough test prior, a home game vs. a USC team that’s turned the corner and still has a shot in the South.

Which means there is no guarantee both will make their day-after-Thanksgiving battle unscathed in conference.

But if they do? It will be a game hyped to the gills. It will be must-see-TV. And it could make the rest of holiday season even more special.

•••

• WSU: Did anyone doze off late in the first half last night, wake as the game ended and wonder if they had slept through a whole season or something? The first half was as poor seemed as the Cougars can play, what with the missed tackles and missed receivers and missed chances. And the third quarter was as well as they can play, with only one missed tackle keeping them from holding the Beavers to negative yardage. Meanwhile, the offense woke up, Gabe Marks set records and Luke Falk again showed he’s the toughest hombre in the Northwest. Jacob Thorpe was in Corvallis and he put together a late-night report featuring his game story, a notebook, the scoring, players of the game, and video interviews from Marks, Falk and Leach. He also passes along WSU’s postgame notes. … There is also the usual coverage from Stefanie Loh at the Times. … From the Oregon State side, where the loss of the huge lead was lamented, we can offer a whole bunch of stories. … The Cougar volleyball team was upset at California last night.

Elsewhere in the Pac-12, Washington remained undefeated though it took a special punt return – and, as the guys at FoxSports and ESPN pointed out, a whole bunch of missed block-in-the-back calls – to get past host Utah, 31-24. … Stanford rediscovered its offense in a 34-10 win over the reeling Arizona Wildcats in Tucson. … Oregon broke its long losing streak in front of a sparse Autzen Stadium crowd, handing Arizona State and its leaky defense a 54-35 defeat.

• Gonzaga: BYU began its season with a 20-point exhibition win.

• EWU: The Montana rivalry still burns bright in Cheney, even if the games aren’t the barnburners they used to be. John Blanchette checks the temperature of the Eagles and Griz following Eastern’s 35-16 win at Roos Field. … Jim Allen checks in with the game story and a notebook while Tyler Tjomsland has a photo report. There is also coverage from the Missoulian to pass along. … Around the Big Sky, North Dakota remained undefeated in conference by handing Weber State its first conference loss. … Cal Poly, which hosts Eastern next week, outscored Sacramento State on the road. … Portland State must have used all their luck last season as it lost another heartbreaker, this time to Northern Colorado. … Idaho State got walloped at home by Southern Utah.

• Whitworth: The Pirates rebounded from its first conference loss with an easy win at Pacific.

• Chiefs: The long road trip is over, but it ended on a sour note as Spokane fell 3-2 in overtime against Swift Current. … Portland lost its fourth consecutive WHL game.

• Preps: Next week’s schedule for GSL football teams is set. … We can offer a roundup of all of Idaho’s postseason sports action from Saturday.

• Seahawks: Jimmy Graham is going home, sort of, today. … Michael Bennett is staying home and there are reports today he will undergo surgery Monday on his injured knee. … Without Bennett, there are a bunch of Seahawk defenders who are in the spotlight. … Speaking of the defense, it is fun to put it in a historical context. … The Hawks might be going with a basketball player at left tackle. Thank goodness the Saints’ defense is not all that good.

• Sounders: Once again it is Dallas standing between Seattle and the Western Conference finals. The semifinals begin tonight at CenturyLink.

•••

• After Saturday night’s easy win, the World Series is 3-1 in favor of the Cleveland Indians. If the Cubs are going to break a 108-year drought, coming back from a 3-1 deficit would be just about perfect, right? Until later …

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