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Grip on Sports: Eagles fly, Gonzaga shoots down Jays, M’s turn over their roster and a visit from an old friend

Eastern Washington  defensive back Dehonta Hayes, second from right,  reacts after the Eagles recovered a Nicholls State fumble during the second half  Saturday at Roos Field in Cheney. EWU won  42-21. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Eastern Washington defensive back Dehonta Hayes, second from right, reacts after the Eagles recovered a Nicholls State fumble during the second half Saturday at Roos Field in Cheney. EWU won 42-21. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • Where were we? Oh sure, contemplating a franchise-changing M’s trade. Or wondering if Gonzaga would survive its first true road test. Maybe it was thinking about the Hawks’ prodigal son returning. No, like one of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings battle scenes, it was all about the Eagles. Read on.

••••••••••

• Yes, Eastern moved on to the quarterfinals of the FCS playoffs yesterday, with a harder-than-it-looked 42-21 win over visiting Nicholls State. Heck, at one point Nicholls led 14-3 and the folks who were watching it on the big screens in the establishment I settled into were pretty nervous. But it was nothing a few wings and a couple of Eagle touchdowns couldn’t fix.

The adult beverages (for other people watching, not me – I was driving) probably didn’t hurt either.

Now the Eagles have to do the hardest thing in sports: hit a baseball. Wait, that’s not it. They have to defeat another football team twice in a season. Heck, twice in a month. They will host UC Davis this upcoming weekend. The winner gets a semifinal date, more-than-likely with another Big Sky foe, Weber State.

• Richard Sherman and the 49ers are at CenturyLink Field this afternoon. The former is really inconsequential in the scheme of important things. The latter does mean something. The Hawks have to take care of business or last week’s win over Carolina – and next week’s battle with Minnesota – don’t mean much in their playoff hunt.

• Let’s be honest. There is only so much energy a college basketball player can expend during any given game. And when your bench has been culled by injuries, meaning you have to expend that energy for longer periods, something has to give.

At Gonzaga, that something is usually the defense. The Zags live and die through their offense. It’s what’s built their program and its good enough this year to take them to some precedented heights (I would say unprecedented, but they have already made a Final Four appearance).

Yesterday, their defense was a step slow much of the afternoon in a 103-92 win at a loud, hostile Creighton arena. No matter. The Zags strung together enough immovable second-half stops to compliment their irresistible offense and pick up another impressive victory.

When this GU teams gets to full strength, watch out.

• Finally, the trade with the Mets has been hammered out. All is left is MLB’s approval.

The Mariners will part with Robinson Cano (and $20 million to help pay his multi-million-dollar contract) and Edwin Diaz, the best closer in baseball last season. They will get a couple of expensive veterans back and three prospects, including the best New York one has.

The M’s are in full rebuild mode. The next two years or so will be rough. In a different way than the past 17.

•••

Gonzaga: Omaha is a great city – if your name is Warren Buffett or a college baseball player. As a destination from Spokane in the late fall, it’s probably not on anyone’s bucket list. But Jim Meehan made the trip and has his game analysis, the three keys to the victory and an update on Killian Tillie. … There is a photo report from the game, recap and highlights from the guys in the office and a TV Take by some old guy. … The Gonzaga women will host eighth-ranked Stanford this afternoon. Dave Nichols has a preview of the contest. Jim Allen also did a feature story on GU guard Jessie Loera, from Moses Lake. … Around the WCC, BYU lost another game, this one to in-state rival Weber State. The Cougars had won 15 consecutive times in the series. … Pacific won against Air Force.

WSU: Will Gardner Minshew be invited to New York for the Heisman ceremony? Theo Lawson takes a look at the mustache-adorned one’s chances. The Cougars will also find out their bowl destination this evening. They won’t be in the playoffs, but will they earn a New Year’s Six bowl? … The volleyball team advanced to the NCAA Sweet 16 with a home win over Tennessee. Peter Harriman was there and has this game story. … The men’s basketball team traveled to Las Cruces, N.M. and lost to New Mexico State. … The women’s basketball team picked up a home win. … Elsewhere in the Pac-12, we wanted to make sure we finished up the Oregonian’s series on the conference. … In basketball, Oregon lost to Kelvin Sampson’s Houston Cougars. … Stanford couldn’t hold on at Kansas. … USC got beat at home by fifth-ranked Nevada. … Utah picked up a win over visiting Tulsa. … Oregon State won big. … Arizona State defeated Texas Southern … In football, Stanford won the Big Game once again. If California never wins, can it really be a “Big Game?” … Colorado’s season changed in two quarters.

EWU: What turned Eastern’s game around? A late-first half field goal block. John Blanchette uses it as the jumping-off point for his column. … Ryan Collingwood has the game analysis and a notebook. … Tyler Tjomsland was on the red turf and has a photo report. … The men’s basketball team lost at Seattle U. against former coach Jim Hayford and the Redhawks. … Around the Big Sky, UC Davis and Weber State picked up home wins while Montana State lost at top-ranked North Dakota State.

Idaho: The Vandal men picked up a much-needed win at North Dakota.

Whitworth: The Pirates finished off a perfect Northwest Conference home weekend with a 123-98 win over Pacific. Dan Thompson has the game story.

Chiefs: Spokane traveled to Portland and lost 8-2.

Preps: It was a busy Saturday, what with Colville winning the State 1A football title over league rival Newport, 48-7, and a big day of hoops. We have a GSL basketball roundup as well as ones from area girls and boys action. … Two local girls will move on after strong Foot Locker cross country regional results. … A former Post Falls standout picked up more college soccer awards.

Seahawks: There are players out this week, as per usual. … A loss against the woeful 49ers would be awful.

Mariners: What else matters? The trade is the big deal. Literally.

•••       

• Do you have a busy Sunday on tap? After a jam-packed Saturday, I would like to take it pretty easy today. But there is no chance of that, right? Until later …

 

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