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Grip on Sports: It may have started in the heat of August, but football season around these parts is about to end

Washington State Cougars defensive lineman Hercules Mata'afa (50) reacts after he stopped Stanford Cardinal running back Bryce Love (20) during the first half of a college football game on Saturday, November 4, 2017, at Martin Stadium in Pullman, Wash. WSU led 14-7 at the half. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Washington State Cougars defensive lineman Hercules Mata'afa (50) reacts after he stopped Stanford Cardinal running back Bryce Love (20) during the first half of a college football game on Saturday, November 4, 2017, at Martin Stadium in Pullman, Wash. WSU led 14-7 at the half. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • It seems as if football in the Inland Northwest this season has been going on for forever. At least since last summer, which, by the way, happens to be true. But it’s about to end. Read on.

••••••••••

• Hot August Nights. Wasn’t that a Neil Diamond album back in the day? Yes it was, thanks for asking. The roaring crescendo of “Brother Love.” The New England-adopted “Sweet Caroline.” My favorite “Solitary Man.” The awful side two. One of the best selling albums of 1972.

And it had nothing on hot August days.

That’s when football begins. On 100-degree days in mid-summer. When does it end? Well, that varies. For some of our area teams, like Eastern Washington, Idaho, Whitworth and the high schools, in late November or early December this season.

But for one school it is still playing. Washington State has made a bowl. Again. The Cougars play tomorrow night in the Holiday Bowl. Again.

Those hot August days in Lewiston are just a memory, seared in the Cougars’ minds, sure, but just a memory.

They were the foundation of a third consecutive season that will end in a bowl. The fourth in five years. This year, again, the Cougars have a chance for their first 10 win season since 2003. Coincidentally, they earned that 10th win that year in the Holiday Bowl. It was against Texas.

(Fun trivia fact: Qualcomm Stadium will become the site of Washington State’s most bowl appearances this week. It will be the Cougars fourth time playing in the place, passing the Rose Bowl, where they have played three times over the years. The first Rose Bowl they appeared in, more than 100 years ago, was played down the road in Tournament Park.)

But that was then. This is now. Last year’s Holiday Bowl was a boring mess, a 17-12 loss to a Minnesota team going through an ugly coaching change.

This year could be more of the same, if the wrap Luke Falk was sporting on his left wrist yesterday means he’s not at 100 percent. This is Falk’s last game in a Cougar uniform. He’s been the most prolific quarterback in the school’s history. One could argue, Apple Cup record aside, he’s been the best. And he’ll be on the field just once more. Anything less than being fully healthy would seem a bit unfair. 

It won’t be 100 degrees in San Diego. But it also won’t be 15 degrees either. Once again, the Cougars’ season will end in a warm-weather bowl game as the calendar prepares to morph into the new year.

•••

WSU: While the Cougars were touring a Navy ship – an event documented by Tyler Tjomsland – Theo Lawson put together this story on two of their young linebackers. … Is Alex Grinch leaving after the Holiday Bowl? The way the defensive coordinator answered Theo’s questions, I would say yes. … Jim Allen is also in San Diego, covering Michigan State. … There is coverage in the Times as well, with Stefanie Loh at the ship tour as well as writing about Hercules Mata’afa’s first-half absence and Grinch’s future…. We also can pass along stories from the Michigan State side of things as well as one from San Diego

Elsewhere in the Pac-12, the Fiesta Bowl may not be the college football playoffs, but it does show how far Washington has progressed. A big part of the Huskies’ progression has been supplied by quarterback Jake Browning and running back Miles Gaskins. … The Pac-12 is 1-2 in bowls after a Josh Rosen-lessdoctors made the decision for the more-than-likely NFL-bound quarterback – UCLA team collapsed in the second half of a 35-17 loss to Kansas State last night. … The lone win came yesterday as well, as Utah shut down West Virginia in a 30-14 victory. Kyle Whittingham’s teams are 11-1 in bowls. … USC will need to play fast against Ohio State in the Cotton Bowl. … Colorado is looking to improve on the offensive line next season. … Arizona plays Purdue tonight in the next bowl game on the conference’s schedule. … TCU and Stanford will meet in the Alamo Bowl. … On the basketball court, the Pac-12 teams have solid records but aren’t polling well. … Washington’s win over Kansas is looking even better considering the payout. … USC is still dealing with the Tony Bland-related payouts.

Gonzaga: The WCC regular season schedule begins Thursday – Gonzaga hosts Pacific and there will be no students in the building – so Jim Meehan takes a look at the conference race. … Jim Allen does the same with the women. … Back to the men, they dropped in the coaches’ poll as well. … Speaking of previews, we can offer one from Utah. Down the road, BYU made a roster change. No, this isn’t the NBA.

EWU: We can pass along the Missoulian’s preview of the Big Sky Conference basketball race.

Chiefs: Kailer Yamamoto scored a goal for the U.S. at the world junior hockey championships.

Seahawks: If the Hawks need more motivation for Sunday’s game with Arizona, Bruce Arians gave them some. … Pete Carroll spoke yesterday and addressed Earl Thomas’ comments. … The schedule for next season is almost set. … If you were wondering about the kettle leap, Richard Sherman instigated it.

•••       

• With the Cougars’ bowl game and the Gonzaga basketball game tomorrow night conflicting, this guy had to pick one to cover. He will be watching football, and then commenting about it in print for the S-R and on radio for IMG and you folks. And he promises not to refer to himself in the third person. And he is so sorry he did it here. Until later … 

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