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A Grip on Sports: From Colorado to Cheney and spots in-between, it was an interesting – and weather-bitten – day of college football

Utah Utes wide receiver Samson Nacua (45) runs the ball in for a touchdown against WSU during the first half of a college football game on Saturday, September 28, 2019, at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Utah Utes wide receiver Samson Nacua (45) runs the ball in for a touchdown against WSU during the first half of a college football game on Saturday, September 28, 2019, at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • On a day when we realized we are pretty close to being a college football player, we offer some Sunday morning thoughts. And a whole bunch of links.

•••••••

• Three out of four is pretty close, right? We are fat (though we are working on becoming less so). We are dumb (just ask a couple of folks who email me often). We are happy (in an ignorance-is-bliss way). We are not, however, entitled. Nope. No “Sir” or “Prince” or anything like that in front of our name. We're just a common fella. And, yes, we know that's not what Mike Leach meant.

• How about this for a revelation? Utah was better last night. Better up front, better at the quarterback position. Just better. And the Utes were playing at home, which is an advantage, one the Cougars better figure out how to overcome if they want to go bowling.

Winning the line of scrimmage has been the key to Washington State’s success the past couple years. At least, as in the games with Utah during the Cougars’ four-game series winning streak, getting a draw. That didn’t happen last night. The defensive line was overpowered, fooled and embarrassed. The offensive line was better but, when needed, couldn’t keep the pocket clean for Anthony Gordon.

The upfront battle explains, in large part, why Utah was also better at the quarterback position last night. Tyler Huntley was comfortable, Gordon wasn’t. Simple.

Now WSU has seven games left. The Cougars need three wins to go bowling again (it should be two, but, you know, that UCLA second half happened).

The road games are, in order, Arizona State (will be ranked), Oregon (is ranked), California (ranked), and Washington (ranked). Those are four tough asks. Washington State should be the underdog in all of them.

The home schedule? Colorado, Stanford and Oregon State. Without a road upset on their resume, the Cougars are going to have to be perfect at home to finish their season in a warm spot again. After the past game-and-a-half, it's hard to predict it will happen.

• We all know Eastern is tough at home in November. Which is why few in attendance were worried after the Eagles took a 21-point lead into halftime. The weather made it seem like November. That the Eagles didn't pull away from North Dakota after intermission was probably a combination of things, including letting off the gas a bit.

And there was quite a few folks who gave up at halftime as well, if the pictures on SWX from Roos Field were any indication. That and some anecdotal evidence.

I had to hit the store for dinner supplies – and some missing ingredients for today’s Southwest chili, our Seahawk-game meal – while the Eagles were still playing. While walking the halls of Albertson’s, I ran into three different groups of Eastern supporters who had left early. I would make some snide remark about fair-weather fans, but being I was miffed by the walk from the car to the deli counter, I’ll refrain. Casting the first stone and all that.

• There is no figuring out the University of Idaho football program these days. One week the Vandals dominate Eastern for a half and upset one of the FCS’ best teams. The next week they blow a two-touchdown second-half lead and lose to Northern Colorado, most certainly not one of the FCS’ top teams. In fact, the Bears might be among the worst.

If you have a finger on what’s going on in Moscow, let me know. I am flummoxed.

• Speaking of flummoxed, there were a couple Big Sky result that shocked me. The fact Montana won at UC Davis isn’t one of them. But how the Griz did it was. The game wasn’t even close. The Aggies were ranked fourth nationally before last week’s loss at top-ranked North Dakota State and had played well in an earlier loss at California.

The other result was Idaho State’s four-touchdown rout of Portland State. Though the Vikings aren’t exceptional, they had played well in their non-conference matchups, twice facing off with Power 5 schools. And that might be the rub. They may have been beaten down to such an extent they couldn’t compete. Then again, Idaho State may just be that much better.

•••

WSU: There was some worry the game would be delayed by lightning. Nope. Maybe that would have helped the Cougars. Theo Lawson not only played weatherman last night, he also fulfilled his main role of observer, putting together his game analysis and covering the difference makers. He also touched on key players not in uniform. … John Blanchette was in Salt Lake City and has his thoughts about the game and the postgame in this column. … Tyler Tjomsland braved the wind and rain to get you photographs from the field. … I watched from home and put together a TV Take. … The guys in the office have their usual recap with highlights. … As always, there is coverage from other sources, including the view from Utah. Huntley's play was the focus of much of the postgame analysis. … Elsewhere in the Pac-12, the weekend was just another example of the conference feeding on itself. … The Huskies re-asserted themselves yesterday, overcoming their mistakes with the help of even more from USC and defeating the Trojans in Seattle. … Stanford rallied for a last-second field goal and a victory at Oregon State. The Beavers have a lot of work to do to become a winning program. … Arizona didn't have its best player and still found a way to defeat UCLA at home. The Bruins also lost their quarterback mid-game. … Colorado and Oregon had the day off. … Arizona State had an extra day to enjoy its win. … In basketball news, there are expectations in Boulder.

EWU: It was ugly outside. But that didn’t stop Ryan Collingwood from pulling together an in-depth game story and a notebook. … Jesse Tinsley stood in the cold, wet weather and captured all the images you would need. … Around the Big Sky, the key game occurred in California, where Montana, behind the play of quarterback Dalton Sneed, ran over host UC Davis. The Griz have the inside track in the standings. … Idaho State asserted itself at home against Portland State. … The Montana State Bobcats fell behind 21-0 but rallied at home to top Northern Arizona. … Fifth-ranked Weber State had little trouble with No. 9 Northern Iowa.

Idaho: The Vandals led 24-10 in the third quarter only to see Northern Colorado connect on a late field goal for a 27-24 win.

Preps: No roundups to pass along today. We just have our local briefs. Which include an honor for a local football coach.

Chiefs: Spokane’s first home game of the WHL regular season didn’t go all that well. Kevin Dudley has all the particulars of the 3-0 loss to Tri-City.

Seahawks: Settled down and watch the Hawks today. It should be worth it. Arizona likes to hit. And its quarterback is a younger version of Russell Wilson.

Mariners: Where have you heard this before? The M's best pitcher threw a gem, but the Mariners don't give him any run support. … Scott Servais is doing just fine, thanks.

Sounders: Seattle is in the playoffs. San Jose is still fighting for a berth.

•••       

• For the first time in my life – and you all know I'm not young – I can look out my back window in September and see measurable snow on the ground. Heck, my dad was born in 1925 and if he had ever lived in Spokane, he would have observed it just once. When he was one. What an odd weekend. Until later …

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