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Tuesday, September 17, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Grip on Sports: If WSU defeats USC for the second consecutive year and no one is in the stadium to see it, does it count?

Washington State Cougars fans and players celebrate after WSU defeated USC during the second half of college football game on Friday, September 29, 2017, at Martin Stadium in Pullman, Wash. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Washington State Cougars fans and players celebrate after WSU defeated USC during the second half of college football game on Friday, September 29, 2017, at Martin Stadium in Pullman, Wash. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • Ever been to a night football game at the Coliseum in downtown Los Angeles? I have, more than once. It’s not easy getting there. And I have to believe tonight, when USC hosts Washington State in a game televised by ESPN, will be even tougher. Read on.

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• The Coliseum has been home to USC football since before Franklin Roosevelt was president. Think about that. Heck, when the facility opened, Calvin Coolidge was in the White House. He had just replaced Warren Harding, who had died of a heart attack just up the road in San Francisco. Talk about a long time ago.

Back then, getting to the Coliseum for a USC game was a lot easier. Just ride the Red Cars. (A little known fact: LA once had great mass transit, so good that after it was ripped up to build freeways, the cars were used in Australia for years.) Or take the Model A down Exposition Blvd. Saturday afternoon drives were always easy.

But as the city grew so did the traffic jams, until Los Angeles became known more for its traffic than its weather. It’s not easy getting around downtown during rush hours (rush hour is for other, quainter communities), especially on Friday nights.

Come to think of it, today is Friday. And the game is tonight. At 7:30. It’s on ESPN – if you are still here in the Inland Northwest and not in the land of the Lincoln Continental. 

Those of you in LA? Good luck getting there. And after you do, good luck finding your way around the old stadium. It’s undergoing its 47th facelift, this one to make it better for USC boosters to see the team they are underwriting – and to have a better view of whatever coach they want to run out of town. 

This week it is Clay Helton, who is still trying to win his first game against a Power Five opponent without Sam Darnold as his quarterback. In his three seasons, Helton’s teams are 0-6 against the big boys without Darnold through injury or, nowadays, gone to the NFL.

Will that streak end tonight? Yes. All because 78,402 folks in the football-crazy community will find their way in, be so loud the Cougar offense will not be able to communicate and USC will post its first shutout of the season.

If you believe that, I have a little boat in Long Beach I’d like to sell you.

• Writing can be fun. This column is that way every day. Reading it? That’s up to you to decide.

I can tell you I had fun writing a story that is on The Athletic’s website today. It’s about one of the most important people in Mike Leach’s coaching career, the person Leach says is the reason he is a coach.

And like everything else associated with Leach, this person isn’t typical of such influences among college football coaches.

•••

WSU: Yes, it is game day (small letters, two words, as opposed to what will be happening in Eugene tomorrow: capital letters, one word). Theo Lawson is there – how is In-N-Out, Theo? – and his preview tells us Washington State is trying to win consecutive game against the Trojans for only the second time ever. And Theo believes the Cougars will do it. He also has the blueprint of how it will be done. … The volleyball team lost for only the second time this season but it was at Washington. … I joined Larry Weir for the Press Box pod yesterday and, yes, we talked WSU vs. USC. But I got lost a bit and riffed about other subjects as well. Maybe Larry edited out my rambling. … If you like to tailgate at WSU home games, this story is for you. It’s also for you if you wanted to try it. … The Register-Guard columnist Austin Meek, who always does a great job with sensitive stories, writes about the Hilinskis this morning. Kym will be waving the flag tomorrow morning on GameDay. … The Times has a piece on Jamire Calvin, one of 33 Southern California players on the Cougar roster. … There is pressure on lots of folks connected to the struggling USC football program, including the offensive linemen.

Elsewhere in the Pac-12, it doesn’t pay to play back-to-back road games in the conference. Winning the second one is nearly impossible anywhere but Corvallis. … Remember the cupcakes? Washington certainly does. … When Stanford travels to Oregon, it is always a brawl. This year it is also a Heisman showcase. … Utah’s defense is always good. The offense? It needs help. … UCLA has questions everywhere. … Arizona State has challenges everywhere. … Oregon State's defense has improved. … On the basketball front, any list of tough venues that doesn’t include McHale is bogus in my book, and I’ve been at a lot. … Finally, Colorado’s athletic director has done good things.

Gonzaga: A friend of mine texted me a few weeks back to let me know assistant coach Tommy Lloyd was escorting Ivan Drago around the Gonzaga campus. Well, not really Drago. It was Martynas Arlauskas, a powerful wing from Lithuania. Arlauskas committed to GU yesterday. Want to know more? Read Jim Meehan’s story. Or watch Rocky III. … The men’s soccer team picked up a victory.

EWU: The past does influence the present. Every day. It certainly is at Eastern, where the offensive fireworks of this year’s team harken back to players from yesteryear. Ryan Collingwood has a story on two of EWU’s Hall of Fame players. … Around the Big Sky, Portland State’s offensive line relies on an anchor in the middle. … Winning is the only stat that matters for this Southern Utah player. … Northern Arizona is still dealing with injuries. … A Montana State player got engaged just before a recent game. … It’s been a while since Idaho State has played a football game in North Dakota.

Idaho: UC Davis is the site of Idaho's first football game back in the Big Sky. 

Chiefs: There are high expectations for Spokane this season, which opens next week. Kevin Dudley has an in-depth preview of the Chiefs’ season. … Elsewhere in the WHL, Everett is excited to see what the next generation can do.

Indians: It was surprisingly successful season for the Indians, considering it took a while for them to win a road game. But the second half was extra special as Spokane made a run to the Northwest League title series played, sadly, entirely on the road. Dave Nichols has a look back at the Indians’ year.

Preps: There was one high school football game last night. University defeated Rogers.

Seahawks: The Hawks’ running game is supposed to take heat off Russell Wilson. So far there is no evidence it can. … Bobby Wagner learned a lesson last season about injuries. … The no-huddle. Why not use it more? Wilson would like that. Maybe Brian Schottenheimer knows.

Mariners: Nelson Cruz wants to be back in Seattle but the M’s haven’t offered yet. Age has to be a big factor, right? … Have they found their utility man for next season?

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• If you live on the South Hill (I check that box) and have a dog or two (ditto with that one), this Jim Allen story may be of interest to you. And your pups. Until later … 

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