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A Grip on Sports: Even hours later, WSU and its fans still have to be wondering what happened

UCLA celebrates after sacking Washington State Cougars quarterback Anthony Gordon (18) and forcing a fumble during the second half of a college football game on Saturday, September 21, 2019, at Martin Stadium in Pullman, Wash. UCLA won the game 67-63. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
UCLA celebrates after sacking Washington State Cougars quarterback Anthony Gordon (18) and forcing a fumble during the second half of a college football game on Saturday, September 21, 2019, at Martin Stadium in Pullman, Wash. UCLA won the game 67-63. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • There are a million ways to start this morning’s column, but in reality there is only one. How in the heck did that happen? And we don’t have to explain what “that” means.


• It would be easy to make fun of the Washington State Cougar football team this morning. After all, not many teams have blown a 32-point lead. At home. Or scored 65 points and lost. At home.

But surely there is nothing we could write here that would be worse than what happened to WSU between the hours of 9 and 11 last night. Not even the jokes that ran through our mind as we inched our way up U.S. Highway 195 in the early morning hours. The cruel, cruel jokes. We will keep them to ourselves.

Instead we will try to figure out just how WSU blew a 49-17 lead in the last 19 minutes – giving up 50 points in the process – of the Pac-12’s highest scoring game ever.

Oh wait. It’s not that hard.

How about four turnovers lost in that stretch? Or the 10 plays from scrimmage UCLA had of 15 yards or more, including a 94-yard pitch and catch that featured one broken tackle and one stiff-arm that knocked a Cougar defender to the ground? Or a 69-yard punt return for a touchdown?

Honestly, there is probably a UCLA player running through Westwood right now with a couple of guys in anthracite jerseys chasing him. And not coming close.

OK, that’s enough. Let’s end it with this. We were in Martin Stadium when Connor Halliday led the Cougars down the field trailing California 60-59 as time ran out, only to see Quentin Breshears miss a 19-yard field goal and Washington State lose.

Jared Goff threw for 527 yards that night in 2014. Halliday? An NCAA-record 734. And yet, that loss wasn’t as big a gut punch to Cougar fans as last night’s was.

• We wrote thousands of words last night, some of which we had to throw away due to UCLA’s comeback. We’re not going to let them disappear into the ether though. We saved them and they appear in the next four sections. Well, the lead paragraph we wrote that included the words “Washington State held off UCLA’s explosive second half” doesn’t appear, but everything else.

• Can we agree it is time to stop with the Christian McCaffrey comparisons?

When (Max) Borghi ripped off a 56-yard run in which the sophomore running back broke three seemingly certain tackles, ESPN immediately broke to a prepackaged McCaffrey piece.

Yes, it’s a good comparison. But every game?

• For some reason ESPN’s main camera seemed to be located just north of Colton.

Though it was a long way from the field, it also gave a more complete view of the field, something appreciated at times with WSU’s passing offense. It was almost akin to the type of film coachs watch.

• (Beth) Mowins is one of the best play-by-play voices ESPN has, but even she isn’t immune to hyperbole. Case in point, an early report from (Rocky) Boiman.

The sideline reporter told the viewing audience UCLA head coach Chip Kelly was livid on the sideline after the Cougars’ first touchdown.

He was complaining about a facemask call against Borghi that gave WSU 15 of the 71 yards gained prior to Gordon’s 4-yard scoring pass to Easop Winston.

“That kept alive that drive for Washington State,” Mowins said.

Uh, no. The call came on a first-down play. In the middle of the field.

It helped, sure, but really didn’t “keep the drive alive.”

• Becht pointed out defensive back Darnay Holmes in the first quarter, mentioning he’s UCLA’s most effective cover corner, but qualified his comments by saying “how effective can you be with five wideouts?”

Or when the WSU offense decides to pick on you. On Washington State’s second possession, Patmon beat Holmes on a go route for 35 yards. And Washington State’s second touchdown came after Winston beat Holmes off the line and gathered in an easy 28-yard touchdown pass.
And what-seemed-to-be a key fourth-quarter touchdown was a result of Winston once again beating Holmes and gathering in a Gordon pass.

Holmes did grab an interception, but it came off a pass that hit Patmon in the hands and he bobbled it toward Holmes, who was at least three yards away.

• OK, that’s it for stuff I wrote last night. Now back to your regularly scheduled morning briefing.

• There is only one Inland Northwest college football fan base that is happy this morning and they are ecstatic.

That would be the Idaho Vandals’ fan base.

UI pounded Eastern Washington in the first half and then held on for a 35-27 win in the Kibbie Dome yesterday afternoon. As the headline in today’s S-R says, it was a powerful statement.

It was also the only win any of the four local colleges enjoyed. WSU, EWU and Whitworth all fell in a Saturday that was perfect for college football. But imperfect for 75 percent of the area’s teams.


WSU: Theo Lawson pounded out a game analysis – probably more than one – of UCLA’s improbable win. He also put together the difference makers and a story before the game on a missing receiver. … We had our TV Take, which probably makes little to no sense. We were just throwing words together as the game ended. Hey, I heard that “what’s different than normal” joke you just muttered under your breath. … Dan Thompson has a couple of stories, one on Gardner Minshew’s visit and the other on the records broken by a couple of WSU offensive players. …Tyler Tjomsland has two photo galleries, one on Minshew and one on the game action. … The guys in the office put together the highlights and a recap. … Minshew Mania reaches everywhere. … UCLA’s comeback was as unexpected in Los Angeles as it was in Pullman. … Elsewhere in the Pac-12, it was a weekend for quarterbacks to post insane numbers. And for the conference to eat its own again. … Washington went into Provo and pounded BYU. The Huskies offense looked good again. … Stanford has lost three consecutive games and Oregon no longer has a “Stanford problem.” … Colorado handed Arizona State its first loss of the year but it wasn’t easy. … California remained undefeated with a win at Mississippi, but it came with the obligatory odd last-second call by Pac-12 officials. … Utah has WSU next. … USC still has Clay Helton. … Finally, Larry Scott spoke.

Gonzaga: Former basketball coach Dan Fitzgerald headlines the folks who will be inducted into the Inland Northwest Sports Hall of Fame in October.

EWU and Idaho: The Vandals raced out to a 28-0 halftime lead and held off the Eagles’ second-half rally. Ryan Collingwood has the game analysis and combined with Peter Harriman on a notebook. … John Blanchette took in the afternoon game and has this column. … Libby Kamrowski also has a photo gallery from the Kibbie Dome. … A former Idaho sprinter was honored by Jamaica. … Around the Big Sky, Montana State took down Norfolk State. … Montana won with a second-half burst. … Northern Arizona lost on the road. … UC Davis lost at top-ranked North Dakota State. … Northern Colorado lost to South Dakota.

Whitworth: The Pirates played their second game of the season and for the second time played in California. But the outcome of this one was different as they fell 37-30 to Chapman.

Preps: Joe Albi Stadium’s days as the home of Spokane high school football are numbered. Megan Rowe looked into the movement that is trying to save the facility and John went back into the archives to identify 10 special moments in its history. … We can pass along a soccer roundup filled with Saturday’s action.

Chiefs: Host Kelowna rallied to top Spokane 4-3 in overtime.

Seahawks: The Saints, minus star quarterback Drew Brees, invade CenturyLink this afternoon. Don’t worry. Sean Payton will have some tricks ready for the Hawks.

Mariners: The season is almost over. As is Felix Hernandez’s time in Seattle.

Sounders: Seattle has a chance to clinch a playoff spot.


• My son came up with an interesting idea for Seahawk watching this year. We are eating dishes associated with the city from which the Hawks’ opponent hails. Today it’s sausage and shrimp gumbo and, if everything goes right, crawfish pie. Except, try as I might, I couldn’t find crawfish in Spokane. So we are substituting some fresh-water lobster. I’m sure it won’t be as good but what can you do? We don’t live in Mississippi. Until later …

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