Arrow-right Camera

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Sunday, December 15, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
Snow 32° Snow
Sports

A Grip on Sports: It wasn’t an Apple Cup to remember for Washington State, except in ways no one would ever want

Washington State Cougars head coach Mike Leach reacts to a call during the second half of a college football game on Friday, November 29, 2019, at Husky Stadium in Seattle, Wash. UW won the game 31-13. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Washington State Cougars head coach Mike Leach reacts to a call during the second half of a college football game on Friday, November 29, 2019, at Husky Stadium in Seattle, Wash. UW won the game 31-13. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • What a day for Washington State athletics, right? The soccer team is on its way to the College Cup Final Four next week after upsetting South Carolina 1-0 in overtime. That other contest yesterday, the one in Seattle, who cares about that? Everyone knows WSU is a soccer school.

•••••••

• OK, we’re kidding. Yes, the Cougar soccer team went into Columbia, South Carolina and upset a Gamecock squad probably dotted with four- and five-star recruits. And coach Todd Shulenberger, in his fifth season, was actually smiling in the postgame news conference.

How refreshing. How collegial. How different.

At least different than what occurred on this side of the country Friday. From the outcome to the postgame, one event shined a light on what’s special about Cougars while the other, once again, put a black mark nationally on the Pullman school.

It’s not just the Cougars lost their seventh consecutive Apple Cup, it’s how their head coach handled it that will live in infamy. And it will.

Remember when Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy went on his rant about being a man, being 40 a dozen years ago? How about Alan Iverson and practice or Jim Mora Sr., and the playoffs?

Does anyone really remember what led up to those infamous comments? Nope. It’s all about the sound bite.

Mike Leach once again showed, to paraphrase the famous words of Denny Green, he is who, and what, we thought he was. And he showed it in an angry explosion that will be viewed over and over from now until the Internet dies.

Funny, Leach’s postgame tirade, in response to a question from the S-R’s John Blanchette concerning recruiting classes and upsets, was easily avoidable.

All that was needed was a modicum of civility. But that is in short supply within our society these days, in all areas.

The Golden Rule is passé, it seems. And rarely practiced in public settings.

There is never a reason to expectorate verbally on someone as Leach did from the podium following the 31-13 Apple Cup loss. Nothing excuses it.

If one of Leach’s players had done a similar thing in the course of a game and harmed the program, rest assured that player would be in the sand pit within hours of returning to Pullman.

And Leach’s word choices will harm the Cougars in the long run. If a coach from Colorado or Oregon State or UCLA is in a recruit’s living room, battling WSU for the services of the young man sitting across from him, you think he won’t mention it? And add, “if he says things like this in public, how do you think he’s treating his players behind closed doors?”

It’s a good question.

• Another good question concerns when WSU’s Apple Cup losing streak will end. Let’s examine the two different philosophies at play yesterday. Washington, a running team at heart, decided to attack with the deep ball whenever possible against a Cougar defense that was stacking the box. In other words, the Huskies adjusted what they emphasis in an attempt to maximize their opportunities.

It could have failed miserably. It didn’t.

That’s not WSU’s way. We get it. The genius of the Air Raid is in its simplicity. By executing the same thing over and over, there is a precision that is hard to defend.

But it relies on the five offensive linemen winning the battle up front. When they do, the time and space allows the quarterback the freedom to find whomever has worked themselves free. Some teams counter this by sending more rushers. That, however, opens more holes on the backside.

What Washington has been able to do is battle simplicity with simplicity. The Huskies shrink those open areas with eight while also making the Cougar quarterback make quicker decisions due to pressure from just three. Over the past few years, the UW rushers have won the battle up front.

The first WSU possession yesterday? There was no pressure at all. Anthony Gordon was near-perfect. Washington State marched down the field. Touchdown.

From there on in, it was different. More pressure. Less open space. Fewer successes for WSU.

A big part of it was Brandon Arconado leaving with his injury. Of all the Cougar receivers, he has been the best not just finding the open spot, but finding the open spot where Gordon could see. It’s built a trust other WSU receivers haven’t developed.

Without that security, Gordon seemed jumpy, lost a bit. In other words, just like his predecessors in this game.

•••

WSU: Let’s get to the coverage, because there is always so much. We linked some of the West Side coverage above, while here we start with Theo Lawson’s work, from his game analysis to his story on Arconado’s absence, from his difference makers to Gordon’s passing the 5,000-yard mark. He also has some of Leach’s other postgame thoughts and a quick story on the early touchdown. … Blanchette has his column, focusing on the one constant in all the recent Apple Cup losses. … Tyler Tjomsland has the photo gallery from the game. … The folks in the office put together a recap with highlights. … We sat at home and watched the Fox broadcast, leading to this TV Take. … We won’t forget the soccer team’s historic win in the NCAA Tournament. … The women’s basketball team, playing in the toughest holiday tournament, lost for a second time. … Back to the football game, Washington doesn’t expect to lose to Washington State these days. Confidence goes a long way in helping keep a streak going. … Elsewhere in the Pac-12, the Civil War today means as much to Oregon State as it does to Oregon. … Utah has a lot more on the line today when it hosts revived Colorado in Salt Lake City. … Stanford faces cross-country rival Notre Dame. … UCLA and California will meet in the Rose Bowl today. … There is more at stake than bragging rights as Arizona State and Arizona meet. … In basketball news, Oregon lost again in the Bahamas. … Utah held off UC Davis. … Markus Howard and Marquette torched USC. … Penn rallied, but Arizona was able to hold on at the Wooden Classic

Gonzaga: A road-weary and injury-addled Bulldog team lost for the first time this season. It came in the Battle 4 Atlantis finals against Michigan. Jim Meehan has his analysis and the three keys to UM’s win. … The folks in the office put together this recap. … We also can pass along a photo gallery. … The women opened their holiday tournament with a win over Dayton. … Around the WCC, Saint Mary's handed Utah State its first loss.

Chiefs: Spokane led 2-0 against Vancouver last night in the Arena but couldn’t hold the lead and fell 3-2 in overtime. Kevin Dudley has the game story.

Seahawks: The big question is whether Jadeveon Clowney will play Monday. … Russell Wilson isn't ready to slow down. … The Hawks' newest safety enjoyed Thanksgiving.

Sounders: Seattle picked up a backup goalkeeper.

•••       

• It’s a Saturday morning and there is no college football game I have to watch. That seems weird. But OK by me. I have other things to do. Taking a nap just may be one of them. Until later …

Subscribe to the sports newsletter

Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.

You have been successfully subscribed!
There was a problem subscribing you to the newsletter. Double check your email and try again, or email webteam@spokesman.com