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Monday, February 17, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Sports

A Grip on Sports: It’s OK to miss a lot following your local college football team, but it’s better when it wins

California's Christopher Brown Jr. (34) celebrates with Kekoa Crawford, right, and Makai Polk (17) after scoring a touchdown against Washington State in the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 9, 2019, in Berkeley, Calif. (Ben Margot / AP)
California's Christopher Brown Jr. (34) celebrates with Kekoa Crawford, right, and Makai Polk (17) after scoring a touchdown against Washington State in the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 9, 2019, in Berkeley, Calif. (Ben Margot / AP)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • As the sun sets on one college season, it’s rising on another. And that’s a little disconcerting – and tiring.

•••••••

• It happens every fall. College football’s regular season begins to near the finish line while basketball season is getting out of the starting blocks. The dutiful sports fan tries to keep up, but with so much going on, it’s hard to keep up.

We’re here to help.

Except we struggled Saturday as well. It was all a matter of priorities.

For us, our priority is sometimes outside of our control. Yesterday that meant sitting down at 4 p.m. and turning the TV to the Pac-12 Network. The Cougars were playing against California. Two .500 teams with no chance at a conference title playing in a half-empty stadium. What a rush.

LSU’s down-to-the-wire win at Alabama? Nope, had to turn it off. Iowa State’s big comeback at Oklahoma? It went on without us.

Which isn’t unusual. If you are a Washington State football fan (or an Eastern or Idaho or even Whitworth one), you have to make similar decisions often. It just seemed the 4 p.m. kick time intruded in a lot of ways yesterday.

And not just with football.

Gonzaga, playing the basketball equivalent of WSU’s early season New Mexico State game, tipped off just after the Cougars’ second false start penalty and ended before California’s sixth explosive play.

If watching the Cougs stumble around Memorial Stadium was your priority, there wasn’t a chance to see the Zags dismantle Arkansas-Pine Bluff. OK, so you didn’t miss much. Unless you take pride in watching all of the local teams as often as possible.

Idaho was on over on Root and the Vandals were holding their own with Montana – until the fourth quarter. Whitworth was on SWX, looking for most of the game as if it was on its way to another Northwest Conference title.

Or you could watch Anthony Gordon try to deal with California’s coverage schemes and Cougar defenders fail to break down and make tackles. In other words, when it comes to the defense at least, a rerun of the past few weeks.

Except for the Oregon game a couple weeks ago. The Ducks may be headed to the College Football Playoffs and yet, against them, Washington State looked like the better group for much of the night.

So what happened? Other than the bye week, you mean? It’s odd how often college teams come out of their week off looking sluggish and slow. But that’s how WSU looked yesterday, especially on defense.

A California team that struggled to score against the likes of North Texas, which hadn’t scored more than 20 points since its starting quarterback was hurt, put up 33 against the Cougars.

That’s only four less than Oregon, with a possible first-round NFL draft pick at quarterback, did two weeks ago. We will go out on a limb here and say California’s Devin Modster won’t be drafted in the first round. Or at all.

And yet he led an offense that wore down and dissected the Cougs. As has been the case for just about everyone since the second half of the UCLA debacle.

A season that began with so much promise now has come down to this. For WSU to reach its fifth consecutive bowl game, the Cougars must win two of their final three games. There is Stanford in Pullman at 1 p.m. next Saturday. Oregon State visits a week after that. And then there is the Apple Cup.

Unless Washington State miraculously begins to tackle better, we can guarantee there won’t be any scheduling conflicts for area sports fans in December.

•••

WSU: Mike Leach didn’t say anything too untoward after the loss, though his sarcasm certainly came through in his praise for the field goal block team. And his field goal kicker. Theo Lawson has his analysis of how Washington State played, the difference makers, a look at the defensive issues and, from before the game, the news a key defensive player was out. … The folks in the office put together a recap with highlights. … There were plenty of photos of California's win from the Associated Press. … And I did my part, spending more than three hours watching and listening to the broadcast. Here is the TV Take. … Hey, the women’s basketball team is 2-0 after a home win against BYU. … Elsewhere in the Pac-12, the biggest upset of the day came in Eugene, courtesy of the Oregon women's basketball team. The Ducks edged the U.S. National Team. … In other basketball news, the Oregon men also won, routing Boise State. … Oregon State handed Iowa State a loss with a late rally. … Back to football. Colorado rallied, kicked a last-second field goal and snapped its losing streak, defeating Stanford 16-13. The Cardinal is struggling to make a bowl. … USC went the opposite route, scoring early and often and holding off Arizona State in Tempe. … Arizona's defense is historically bad. … Washington's win Friday needs to lead to a strong finish.

Gonzaga: Once more the Zags hosted a team that didn’t supply much in the way of competition. Jim Meehan was in the Kennel and he has a game analysis, the three keys to the Zags’ 110-60 victory, and a story on Joel Ayayi’s outstanding performance. … John Blanchette has a column, focusing on the importance of this season’s grad transfers. … Libby Kamrowski supplies the photo gallery. … The folks in the office did double duty, putting together a recap with highlights from this game as well. … The women's team plays this afternoon, meeting Cal State Bakersfield. Jim Allen has a preview. … Around the WCC, not only did San Diego lose to Long Beach State, it lost a player to injury as well. … USF pulled away late to top Princeton.

EWU: The Eagles crossed off an accomplishment yesterday. They won for the first time on the road this season. And it was pretty easy against Idaho State. … The basketball team went across the state. It will return with another victory, this one 74-66 over Seattle University. … Elsewhere in the Big Sky, Montana State traveled to Greeley and beat up Northern Colorado. … It was tighter than Weber State probably hoped, but the Wildcats got past North Dakota 30-27. … Sacramento State rallied in the fourth quarter to stun Northern Arizona. … Portland State couldn't hold off UC Davis. … In basketball, Montana State picked up a win. … So did Southern Utah, at Nebraska. … Portland State battled but fell to Indiana.

Idaho: The Vandals were in this one for much of the day. But Dalton Sneed, the former starting quarterback sidelined by an injury, came off the bench as Montana rolled late to a 42-17 win in Missoula.

Whitworth: The Pirates needed a win over visiting Linfield yesterday to have a shot at the Northwest Conference football title. But they couldn’t hold off the Wildcats and lost in overtime. Ryan Collingwood was there and has this game story. … So was Dan Pelle, who supplies a photo gallery. … The basketball team won for the second time in as many starts.

Preps: Saturday marked the end of the cross country season and, as usual, Spokane runners did well. North Central won the 3A girls title again and this one set a record. We can pass along a roundup of the 4A/3A races and one on the smaller schools. … We also have roundups of volleyball and soccer action. … Our local briefs include an update on a Lewis and Clark basketball player who continues to light up the scoreboard at the college level.

Chiefs: Spokane welcomed Kelowna to the Arena last night. Well, welcomed might not be the right word. The Chiefs won 6-1. Kevin Dudley was there and has this story. … Around the WHL, Portland picked up a home win against Vancouver.

Seahawks: Monday will be Russell Wilson's biggest test. After all, Richard Sherman is on the other side. … How will Josh Gordon fit in?

Sounders: The MLS title is on the line today as Seattle hosts Toronto for the Cup. Which Sounder will step up?

•••       

• One final reminder. We won’t be here tomorrow. Taking the day off. We’ll be back Tuesday. Until then …

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