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Wednesday, April 1, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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A Grip on Sports: Another playoff chance for the Pac-12 disappeared in a flash this morning

Southern California running back Stephen Carr  scores a touchdown against Stanford on Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019, in Los Angeles. (Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)
Southern California running back Stephen Carr scores a touchdown against Stanford on Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019, in Los Angeles. (Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • Look, we’re always ready for #Pac12AfterDark. But when Mother Nature gets involved and turns it into #Pac12EarlyMorning, forgetaboutit. Nothing good happens after midnight, except maybe to the occasional California kicker.


• If you stayed up to watch, there is little chance you are reading this hot off the (virtual) presses. But if you remained awake long enough to see the end, you saw California kick a game-winning field goal at 1:22 a.m. Not only did it lift the Golden Bears to a stunning, 20-19 upset in Seattle, it may have been the first time ever the Pac-12’s playoff hopes were struck by lightning. In a bad way.

For more than two hours last night, the teams sat in their Husky Stadium locker rooms, waiting out a lightning storm that made playing their conference opener impossible.

When they finally returned to the field, the stands were half empty, the atmosphere lacking an electricity (figuratively, of course) and Washington seemed dominate. Until the Huskies weren’t.

The circumstances won’t matter. What will is the final score.

As much as many folks that read this feature despise the Huskies and the Ducks, this season they seemed the Pac-12’s best hopes for returning to a place it hasn’t been in a few years: the college football playoffs.

The Ducks roasted their chances in Texas last week, losing late to Auburn. Now Washington’s hopes were washed away by thunderstorms and the roar of the Bears. Actually, the foot of one Bear from 17 yards out as time expired.

Two weeks into the season, the three teams from the Pac-12 North with the highest national profile (Washington, Oregon and Stanford, which was blown out at USC in a regular #pac12AfterDark game last night) all have one loss and are basically eliminated from playoff consideration. (Other top teams from other conferences are given a pass for one loss. Not the Pac-12.) That leaves Washington State as the lone North contender, a role that would serve the Cougars fine if, you know, they’ve ever gone undefeated. It has never happened. It more than likely would have to this season for the conference to be repped in the playoffs by the North champ.

The South still has two contenders, but neither Utah nor USC seem strong enough to sail through the year without a stumble. Heck, it might even be next week, who knows. When it does happen, don’t be surprised if it happens late some night or early the next morning. That’s just the way things work around here.

• The NFL's first Sunday is upon us. The Seahawks made some moves to improve a weakness – pass rush – entering training camp. That’s all well and good, but what the heck is going on with Antonio Brown?

Just kidding, of course. You all know the answer to that one. This year’s melodrama of choice during the preseason ended yesterday with the mercurial star receiver signing with New England. Who would have thought? Oh, ya. Everyone.

• Back to the college ranks. Both WSU and Eastern scored 59 points yesterday. Two teams within 100 miles of each other came a point shy of 60. Whitworth joined the fun and hung 50 on host La Verne. That’s all pretty impressive. However, the most important point total in the area was 41. That’s how many Idaho scored to overcome Central Washington’s upset bid. The Vandals couldn’t afford to start the year 0-2. They didn’t.


WSU: The Cougars weren’t as sharp in their second game as they had been in the opener, but it didn’t matter. They won by almost as much. Theo Lawson has the game analysis concerning the 59-17 decision over Northern Colorado as well as the three difference makers and a look at a suddenly thin linebacker corps. … John Blanchette discusses attendance or lack-there-of on the near-perfect day. … Tyler Tjomsland has the photo gallery. … I returned to TV Take duties and what a game to do it. The broadcast via Comcast – Spokane’s largest cable provider – was awful most of the game. … Dan Thompson has three stories, one on Ryan Leaf’s big day, one on Ron Stone Jr.’s ejection for targeting and the final one on Brandon Arcanado’s career day. … The guys in the office also put together the highlights and a recap of the game. … The defense wasn't all that sharp, though UNC was happy with its running game. … Elsewhere in the Pac-12, it wasn’t the best early morning for the conference, what with Washington’s stunning defeat to Cal obviously a blow to UW’s playoff hopes. The Bears moved the ball well in the second half while the Husky offense sputtered. It was the second consecutive year Washington lost to Cal. … The other night game featured a surprising outcome what with USC missing its star quarterback. But another star may have been born a few miles from Hollywood. And Stanford? The Cardinal were missing their star quarterback as well. And then they missed opportunities. … Oregon State missed a big opportunity to pick up a win, letting a lead slip away late in Hawaii and losing 31-28. … Oregon dropped 77 on a Nevada team coming off a win against Purdue. The Ducks had 11 players score touchdowns in the 77-6 victory. … The most exciting game of the day occurred in Boulder as Colorado rallied for a 34-31 overtime victory against Nebraska. The game included the day's best trick play and a lot of bad blood. … Utah went about its business, especially in the second half, and handled Northern Illinois, 35-17. It was the type of win the Utes needed. … UCLA seems to be going the wrong way after a 23-14 home loss to San Diego State. The Bruins turn the ball over often. … Arizona rolled over Northern Arizona, as it should. The Lumberjacks did get their offense going in UA's 65-41 win. … Finally, Arizona State learned some things from the close win over Sacramento State. Next up? Michigan State on the road.

Gonzaga: All is not going well at BYU right now.

EWU: The Eagles rolled over Lindenwood University – that sounds a bit like a school that teaches furniture manufacturing – in Cheney and may have discovered their next great receiver in the process. Ryan Collingwood introduces us to Dre’ Sonte Dorton, who set an Eastern single-game receiving mark in the 59-31 nonconference win. … Ryan also has a notebook and Libby Kamrowski has a photo report. … Around the Big Sky, Portland State crushed visiting Simon Frazier. … Troy Anderson is everything for Montana State, even a throwback to an early time. The Bobcats rolled over Southeast Missouri. … Montana also rolled, crushing North Alabama in the Griz's home opener. … Weber State handled Cal Poly 41-24 in Ogden. … UC Davis survived San Diego 38-35 on a last-second fumble.

Idaho: The Vandals came alive after halftime to top Central Washington 41-31. Peter Harriman was in the Kibbie Dome and has this game story.

Whitworth: It will be a while before the Pirates play at the Pine Bowl, but they opened their season with a 50-24 rout of Le Verne in Southern California.

Indians: Hillsboro topped Tri-City 5-3 to open the Northwest League championship series on a walk-off three-run home run.

Preps: Central Valley opened its football season with a road trip to Bellevue, topping the Wolverines 27-10. … Shadle Park High grad Ed Fisher was honored by the school he coached to a state football title, South Kitsap. SK named the football field in his honor. It's all part of our local briefs.

Seahawks: The Hawks open against the Bengals. There is a lot to watch. … There was a small roster move yesterday.

Mariners: Did the M's lose? They were playing the Astros, so yes. … Seattle's future is coming together in Arkansas.

Sounders: Seattle – or at least guys wearing Seattle uniforms – dropped a 2-0 decision to Colorado.


• Is there anything more frustrating than sitting down to watch a sporting event and have the broadcast not work correctly? For many folks, including me, who buy their entertainment from Comcast, it happened yesterday with the Cougar game. After being excited to be able to watch Pac-12 Washington in high-def, it was deflating to have a feed that kept breaking down. The real sad part? People who have cut the cord and buy their televised sports in other ways had no problems at all. Maybe it's a plot to get me to change. Let me tell you Mr. Big Businessman. I'm old. It will take a lot more than that. It will take a coupon or something. Really. A discount would be nice. Until later …

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