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Tuesday, November 12, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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A Grip on Sports: Young Zags and an old story highlight a Cougar-less Saturday

Freshman Brock Ravet, second from right, is congratulated after winning the three-point shooting contest Saturday, Oct. 5, 2019 at Kraziness in the Kennel at Gonzaga University. The fan festival for the Gonzaga Bulldogs was standing room only. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
Freshman Brock Ravet, second from right, is congratulated after winning the three-point shooting contest Saturday, Oct. 5, 2019 at Kraziness in the Kennel at Gonzaga University. The fan festival for the Gonzaga Bulldogs was standing room only. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • It’s a rare fall Saturday the past couple decades in which we haven’t had to work. Which opened an almost unlimited vista of opportunities on a clear, crisp day. We stayed (or went) inside. But that doesn’t mean we didn’t watch sports. And learn some things.

•••••••

• Thanks to a family friend, Kim and I were able to attend the Kraziness in the Kennel with some VIP perks. What does that mean? Our line was shorter, we got to mingle and watch TV, enjoy a cold beverage – don’t worry, I had diet soda – and sit in decent seats.

Oh, and catch up with some old friends, which is always nice. Then find out the oldest of Gonzaga’s friendly men’s basketball players is out again, though Mark Few wouldn’t term Killian Tillie’s absence Saturday injury-based. Sure, Tillie had surgery again, but it was preventative, sort of like why we take a cholesterol pill every night.

We do it to make sure there are no problems down the road.

As John Blanchette points out in his column this morning, that would go down easier with the Zag faithful if it applied to anyone other than Tillie, the most snakebit player Gonzaga has had since at least Josh Heytvelt.

The guy sitting in front of me sure had a lot to say about that, none of it positive. His response to the news of Tillie's surgery seemed a little out of proportion, venom-wise. And we thought GU fans were more of the nurturing, loving type.

Few is going to have to be a bit more nurturing and loving this season, that’s for sure. All but three players on the court yesterday afternoon were new to the roster (four when you count Tillie). Two are senior transfers (Admon Gilder and Ryan Gilder, both guards and both players who will contribute). The rest are freshmen.

Six of them.

Do they have talent? Of course they do. They wouldn’t be at GU if they didn’t. But nothing can make them older except time, practice and a tough non-conference schedule.

The Zags will scrimmage with Michigan State, a lot of folks’ pick to win the NCAA title. They will play at Texas A&M, Gilder’s old school. They will face quality in the Bahamas at a Thanksgiving tournament. They play at Washington and Arizona, two of the Pac-12’s better teams, in December. And they host North Carolina, the bluest of blue bloods.

No wonder Few told the crowd it would play a bigger-than-usual role in helping his team this season.

Their voices and support won’t help, though, as much as the passage of time.

• There is one nice perk when the Pac-12 team you follow (in my case, for work) has a bye. You get to focus on the conference’s other games. Sometimes that isn’t good.

If you happened to watch Stanford’s upset of Washington (and I did) last night, you were able to experience a little of why the conference has such a poor reputation concerning its officiating.

Sorry to go there, but there were so many little things done poorly, it undermines the fans’ confidence the conference’s representatives will get the big things right.

Case in point, a first-half punt. What happened seems minor, but it isn’t. Mainly because it was so embarrassing.

With time running down in the half and Stanford hoping to extend a 13-10 lead, the Huskies’ Joel Whitford uncorked a line-drive punt. It was so short it hit a Washington player in the leg at the Stanford 27-yard line, then kicked forward and rolled dead at the 10.

Everyone in the stadium knew it happened, including the officials and the ESPN announcers. What the former group didn’t know, however, was exactly where. Those of us at home did – as should of the folks in the replay booth. All we (and they) had to do was hit one button on the remote to see. It was the 27. That’s where the ball should have been marked. It wasn’t. When referee Kevin Mar came on our screen to explain, he told us about the touching and where it occurred. He said the 20-yard line, a point at which the ball had been rolling free. He and his crew were wrong.

This is what replay is meant for. The clock is stopped, the mistake is obvious. Buzz down and fix it. Nope. The ball stayed at the 20. Thousand of people watching at home, including the folks in charge of the conference’s officiating and those in charge of its image, knew it was wrong. Fix it. Nope. The ball stayed at the 20.

By the way, those seven yards may have ultimately cost Stanford a shot at a long Jet Toner field goal attempt. We will never know. But we do know the Cardinal didn’t start their possession in the right spot.

•••

WSU: Even though Theo Lawson was enjoying the bye week by celebrating friends’ nuptials (hey, he put his plans on Twitter, so I don’t feel bad sharing), he still talked with Mike Leach and let the Cougar coach enlighten us on defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys’ departure. Though Leach’s comments didn’t shed a whole lot of light on the change. …The letters to the editor on Leach's comments following the Utah loss were mixed in nature. … Elsewhere in the Pac-12, the standings seem a bit upside down right now. … Stanford controlled the line of scrimmage, made plays when it had to and ultimately held off Washington in the upset of the day. The Huskies never found their rhythm in the loss. … California shut out Oregon for a half, then the Ducks asserted themselves to gain a tight home win. The Bears' lack of offense cost them in the end. … The Arizona offense came alive behind a healthy Khalil Tate and the Wildcats won in Colorado. The Buffs might be better than their record, however. They certainly are beat up. … UCLA certainly isn't all that good. The Bruins looked poor again as Oregon State went into the Rose Bowl and outscored the host team, adding to Chip Kelly's woes. … The college athletic model will change.

Gonzaga: The Kraziness in the Kennel was just that, especially in the way the Gonzaga students went out of their way to make a quartet of recruits feel wanted (Justin Reed has a story). Besides the Killie injury (as we said, covered in John’s column), the news was a nearly new roster for the Zags. In Mark Few’s years on campus there has probably a season with more turnover – after more than three decades as an assistant and a head coach, it’s hard to imagine anything new – but we can’t think of one. Jim covers that aspect of the day. … Jim has another story as he passed along the news freshman Oumar Ballo, the most physically impressive player on the court, is still waiting for the NCAA to rule on his eligibility. … Jesse Tinsley braved the crowds of cameras for the best shots in this photo gallery.

EWU: Our Ryan Collingwood was in Sacramento, probably to catch up with his yearly quota of In-N-Out, but also to cover the game. He has this story. … Around the Big Sky,

Idaho: A week after dropping a road game to woeful Northern Colorado – the Bears are 1-5 after losing at Northern Arizona yesterday – the Vandals looked like a Big Sky contender again Saturday. But fourth-ranked Weber State was able to hold on for 41-35 win in the Kibbie Dome. Peter Harriman has the coverage.

Whitworth: The Pirates finally played at home Saturday and my, how did they play. How does winning 82-7 sound? Dan Thompson was at the Pine Bowl and has this game story.

Preps: There was one football game left over from Friday night, pushed back to Saturday after some lightning around Albi Stadium. The was some lightning yesterday, but it was all confined to the playing surface and most of it supplied by Lewis and Clark’s Keani Guthmueller. Dave Nichols was there and he has this story on LC’s 43-36 win over Post Falls. … Gonzaga Prep wing Liam Lloyd announced his college commitment yesterday, going on social media to tell everyone he will be playing at Grand Canyon College. Dave has a story on that as well. … Mead golfer Matt Jones was under par last weekend in an event at Pebble Beach. That news is part of our local briefs.

Chiefs: Spokane’s offense stayed hot, rolling Tri-City 7-1 last night in Kennewick.

Seahawks: No game today. Isn't that odd? Let's look ahead instead.

•••       

• Because Kim and I were out and about yesterday, I didn’t get anything I wanted done. Which means my Sunday will be busy. At least the sun will be out and  temperature is going to be in the high 50s today, making the mowing and raking and fertilizing a little more enjoyable. Until later …

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