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Sunday, February 23, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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A Grip on Sports: Can Mike Leach point the way to a Cougar win in today’s Apple Cup?

Washington State Cougars head coach Mike Leach reacts to a targeting call on defensive lineman Hercules Mata’afa (50) during the second half of the 2017 Apple Cup on Saturday, Nov. 25, 2017, at Husky Stadium in Seattle. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Washington State Cougars head coach Mike Leach reacts to a targeting call on defensive lineman Hercules Mata’afa (50) during the second half of the 2017 Apple Cup on Saturday, Nov. 25, 2017, at Husky Stadium in Seattle. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • It’s Black Friday. Or, as Cougar fans have called it for the past six years, Black Friday. The connotation is a bit different, however, as there hasn’t been an Apple Cup victory for sale in that whole time period.

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• Yes, we know the Apple Cup hasn’t been played on the Friday after Thanksgiving every one of those last six. We took a little poetic license, as Longfellow might have said. Just like the Huskies have taken a little with the Cougar offense recently.

Does that string end today? Do the Cougars move the ball well enough to snap the six-game rivalry game losing streak? What do I look like, the answer man?

Heck, if I knew, I would be in Vegas this morning hopping from book to book, then spending the rest of the weekend someplace exotic, like Orlando.

But that’s part of the charm of a rivalry game. Sometimes teams do things they haven’t done all year. There have been some downright awful Washington State teams over the years.

Wait, the rest of that sentence disappeared. It was supposed to finish with “that have upset UW.”

It would be an upset today. The Huskies, sporting a 6-5 record, are a seven-point favorite. Yep, favored by a touchdown against a team that has the same overall and conference mark.

It would seem a bit much until you examine Washington State’s road results this season.

The Cougars have yet to win on their opponent’s home field. Four games, four losses. By an average of 11 points. (If you are wondering, yes WSU won in Houston, but it was at Reliant Stadium, not on the UH Cougars’ home field.)

Sure, the Huskies haven’t been perfect on the Alaska Airlines’ sponsored turf, either, losing three times this season. But those losses have been by average of less than four points.

All signs point to UW extending its rivalry winning streak to an unlucky (for Cougar fans) seven. Which is why we believe Anthony Gordon will do something no WSU quarterback has done since Alex Brink: lead his team to a win over the Huskies in Seattle.

If you are wondering how we came up with that prediction, let's just say we’re going with a gut feeling. The day after Thanksgiving, that might be another in a series of recent mistakes.

• There had to be a point against Oregon yesterday, Mark Few looked down his bench and wondered where everyone was. As the Zags’ 73-72 overtime game wound down, Few had five players available that he’s used extended minutes this season. Killian Tillie had fouled out. Admon Gilder was obviously bothered by his leg injury. Anton Watson was sitting with a boot on his right leg. The five the Zags had on the court were the five they were going to finish with.

They were enough.

But will they be enough today as the Bulldogs try to win a Battle 4 Atlantis championship? Three games in three days is a holiday tournament thing. It doesn’t happen any other time for Gonzaga, as the WCC postseason tournament always takes a break for Sundays.

And this holiday tournament happened to occur while GU is shorthanded.

Win or lose today, the Zags’ players have four days off before they take the court again. They host Texas Southern on Wednesday evening. Then on Sunday, Dec. 8, they travel to Seattle to take on Washington. Maybe by then they’ll all be healthy again.

•••

WSU: Is Anthony Gordon a “system quarterback?” Does it matter? And what does it mean, anyway? Those are some of the questions Dan Thompson examined today as Gordon prepares to pass the 5,000-passing-yard mark for the season. … Theo Lawson spends his time with the rivalry, previewing what will obviously be a hard-fought battle, looking at the keys to the outcome and making a prediction. Theo seems to believe in tradition. … He also has a mailbag in which he tries to answer a few questions. … While the football team is trying to outscore its cross-state rival, the soccer team will try to get a goal past a stingy South Carolina defense in the NCAA quarterfinals. Ryan Collingwood has a preview. … The women’s basketball team lost for the first time this season last night. … There are always people who have been on both sides of a rivalry. Even one as intense as this one. … Elsewhere in the Pac-12, there are other picks to consider. … No matter what happens Saturday against UCLA, California will be in a bowl game. … Oregon knows Oregon State's offense can be explosive. … So can Utah's defense. Colorado's run game will be tested by the Utes' front line. … Last year's Territorial Cup was a shootout. … In basketball news, Utah's star forward has to play even better. … UCLA is in the middle of a rebuild. … USC picked up a win in Florida. … Arizona outscored Pepperdine, winning on a last-second hoop.

Gonzaga: Jim Meehan has his analysis of the Zags’ win as well as the three keys to the outcome. … He also takes time to preview the key matchup in today’s championship. … The folks in the office put together a recap with highlights. … We watched the win over Oregon from home and put together a TV Take. … There is a series of photographs from the game. … The women begin their holiday tournament adventure this morning in Florida. Jim Allen has a preview. … Around the WCC, BYU is about to get Yoeli Childs back. … Santa Clara picked up a win Wednesday.

Seahawks: The Hawks are not healthy.

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• We will be doing a TV Take today. It’s up to you to guess on which game, Gonzaga’s championship matchup with Michigan or the Apple Cup. (Hint, it’s not GU.) See you sometime after 4 this afternoon. Until then …

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