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WSU notebook: Grinch leaves the booth

Boise State’s Jeremy McNichols runs past WSU defensive lineman Hercules Mata’afa during the second half of the Broncos’ 31-28 victory on Saturday in Boise. (Otto Kitsinger / Associated Press)
Boise State’s Jeremy McNichols runs past WSU defensive lineman Hercules Mata’afa during the second half of the Broncos’ 31-28 victory on Saturday in Boise. (Otto Kitsinger / Associated Press)

BOISE – Washington State defensive coordinator Alex Grinch took a more personal approach for his game-day duties during the Cougars game at Boise State on Saturday. The second-year assistant eschewed his usual spot in the booth and coached from the sidelines for the first time in his current position.

Defensive quality control assistant Brian Odom took over Grinch’s headset and gave the coaching staff a bird’s eye view of the game.

In addition to his coordinator responsibilities, Grinch also is the team’s defensive backs coach. Secondary coaches typically observe the game from the coach’s booth in the press box in most college programs.

Grinch called the secondary’s performance in the season-opening loss to Eastern Washington the worst during his time in Pullman. The Cougars gave up 474 passing yards to first-time EWU starter Gage Gubrud, and defensive back Robert Taylor was tagged with a costly targeting penalty in the second half.

Grinch likely believes that by being on the sidelines will allow him to quickly rectify mistakes that went uncorrected against the Eagles.

Shalom, Luani!

Free safety Shalom Luani made his 2016 debut in Boise. The 2015 honorable mention All-Pac-12 defensive back did not suit up for WSU’s opener, likely due to his late-August arrest for assault outside a WSU pizza place.

Luani was sorely missed, and made his presence felt against the Broncos. The Cougars were held scoreless for most of the first half, and with BSU driving, WSU faced the prospect of a three-score deficit heading into the locker room.

But Luani intercepted quarterback Brett Rypien late in the second quarter and returned the ball 27 yards. He fumbled but the Cougars recovered at the BSU 26-yard line. Shortly thereafter, the Cougars scored their first and only touchdown of the first half.

He added a second interception late in the fourth quarter, and the Cougars followed up with a 33-yard touchdown on the next play to make a game of it.

Taylor started the game against EWU in Luani’s place, but was ejected because of the aforementioned targeting penalty. Because of the ejection, Taylor was not eligible to play until the second half of WSU’s game at BSU.

30 years of blue turf

BSU’s trademark blue turf is celebrating its 30th anniversary this season. The Broncos have played on a dark blue surface since 1986. And yes, it is trademarked. If any other school wants to have a turf color other than green they must first get approval from the BSU administration.

To honor the occasion, the Broncos have put together an All-Blue team composed of the best players at each position during the last 30 years. The All-Blue team was honored at halftime of Saturday’s game.

Morrow continues to dominate the toss

Jamal Morrow was once again the only Cougars captain and it’s easy to see why the coaches let him handle the coin toss duties all by himself. He’s got a 7-3 record since WSU gave him sole coin flip duties.

Cal Rypien?

Brett Rypien has made quite a name for himself in his short time as the BSU starting quarterback, winning first-team All-Mountain West honors as a freshman in 2015. The Shadle Park alum’s fame apparently has not extended to the NASCAR circuit, however, or maybe he’s just starting to remind people of legends of all stripes and sports.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. was the guest picker during ESPN’s College Gameday and picked the Broncos, accidentally referring to Rypien’s uncle as Cal Ripken Jr., the Hall of Fame baseball player for the Baltimore Orioles, rather than former star WSU quarterback Mark Rypien.

The elder Rypien also starred at Shadle Park High, leading the Highlanders to a state basketball title in 1981. After starring at WSU, Washington made him a sixth-round pick in the 1986 NFL draft. He led Washington to the 1991 Super Bowl and was named MVP.

That Ripken guy did some stuff, too, like playing an MLB-record 2,632 consecutive games.

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