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TV Take: Masks, fake fan noise and cardboard cutouts. welcome to Pac-12 football in 2020

By Vince Grippi For The Spokesman-Review

Everything is different about 2020. Even Pacific-12 Conference football. On television.

For those watching Washington State’s season-opening (and Nick-Rolovich-era- inaugurating) 38-28 win over Oregon State in Corvallis, Oregon, they saw freshman Jayden de Laura throw for 227 yards, Deon McIntosh run for another 147 and the Cougar defense play solid most of the night.

That all seems pretty normal, right? OK, not the past decade. And how those watching on Fox Sports 1 consumed the game was different as well. The announcers? Like Beaver fans, they weren’t in Corvallis. They watched the game just like the rest of us, on televisions.

It was noticeable, but not overwhelmingly so. That’s a tribute to Alex Faust and Petros Papadakis, the Fox announcing crew that was enjoying the action from Los Angeles. Where it was about 10 degrees warmer.

And didn’t include having to deal the audio problems some people experienced at home. Many Cougar fans took to social media to wonder what the issue was, though the sound mixing problems mentioned didn’t seem bad where we were watching the game.

• Can we can the canned noise please?

Just wondering. Whether it’s being injected by the broadcaster or from the speakers at the stadium, it distracts from the game.

We get it. The stadium is empty. There is a pandemic (no matter what the folks storming the field in South Bend, Indiana, think). Why try to inject artificial noise, a football equivalent of a laugh track, to the proceedings? It just makes it harder to hear what the broadcast booth is trying to share.

• If you were keeping score at home, and we were, both head coaches did a great job of wearing coronavirus masks.

Rolovich and OSU’s Jonathan Smith were properly attired every time they were caught on camera. After one-third of the conference’s game were canceled this weekend, it was probably a good idea as to avoid the conference office’s wrath.

• Papadakis isn’t everyone’s cup of Pike Place Roast. The former USC running back has his detractors. We’re not among them. Though sometimes his player comparisons are a bit dated.

His equivalent for de Laura was Steve DeBerg. OK, except the last time DeBerg actually threw a pass in the NFL occurred in 1998. That means no one attending either of the schools playing – or many schools, for that matter – ever saw DeBerg play.

There has to be someone a bit younger, right, than a quarterback who is eligible to draw Social Security?

• Here’s a simple question: What good does bringing a former official into the booth to explain questionable calls, when they are often at odds with what ends up occurring?

Miss often enough, like, say, Mike Carey not too long ago on NFL broadcasts, and you become an internet meme.

That’s not something to which Dean Blandino wants to aspire, but he did so early in the second quarter while explaining a third-down targeting call on Justus Rogers – although referee Steve Strimling interjected some Pac-12 normalcy by announcing the wrong number to the cardboard cutout crowd.

Faust pointed that out quickly, before allowing Papadakis and Blandino to chat about how the video showed, yes, Rogers had targeted.

“(It) certainly looks like targeting,” Blandino said as three replays showed to the viewers and, presumably, the replay booth. “(Rogers) initiates the contact with the crown of his helmet.”

It was enough, Blandino said, for the replay booth to affirm the targeting ejection. He had barely finished when Strimling was heard saying “fourth down.” Turns out the replay official did not agree and Rogers played on. There wasn’t even a personal foul penalty.

Later in the quarter, on a tip-toe sideline catch by Jamire Calvin, Papadakis admitted to be “a little gun-shy when it comes to making predictions,” as the play was being reviewed.

But those weren’t the only perplexing replay reviews.

“Interesting reviews here tonight,” Papadakis said after the booth saw something on a 3-yard scoring pass from de Laura to Calvin Jackson Jr. that resulted in the play changed to an incompletion.

• There were two Pac-12 games canceled this week, and more than a few key players not playing. Some due to COVID-19 issues, others, like the Cougars’ star running back Max Borghi, to other reasons.

Maybe that was also Fox’s issue with some small hiccups.

The most notable came on the bottom-of-the screen crawl early in the second half. If you didn’t know, Stanford quarterback Davis Mills and receiver Connor Wedington weren’t going to play against Oregon.

Great information, except that game was over by the time the crawl appeared. Oregon won 35-14.

And one has to wonder if Fox has to use the “BREAKING NEWS” red headline on the crawl at least a dozen times. Maybe it’s because it related to Notre Dame’s 47-40 double overtime victory over top-ranked Clemson.