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A Grip on Sports: The margin was a little surprising, but WSU win wasn’t a huge shock if you’ve been watching Jake Dickert work

Washington State interim head coach Jake Dickert and his team celebrate a missed field goal by Arizona State during the first half of a Pac-12 game Saturday, Oct 30 in Tempe, Ariz.  (Associated Press)
Washington State interim head coach Jake Dickert and his team celebrate a missed field goal by Arizona State during the first half of a Pac-12 game Saturday, Oct 30 in Tempe, Ariz. (Associated Press)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • The NFL is on today. And we suspect the Seahawks will actually win a game without Russell Wilson. They better. Heck, if Washington State can play as well as they did yesterday, considering what’s gone on in Pullman, then the Hawks can rally around Geno Smith and pound woeful Jacksonville.

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• We were not surprised by the Cougars’ win yesterday. After all, we sort of guaranteed it in this space on Friday and Saturday. At the very least we expected WSU to cover the more than two-touchdown spread (we saw ASU by 15½ during the week though it was as high as 17 points in some spots).

The most? Well, it certainly wasn’t taking away the ball five times, jumping ahead by four touchdowns and cruising to a 34-21 victory that wasn’t that close. As we said in out TV Take, who can predict turnovers in bunches like that?

Maybe we should start figuring them, however. Remember that one year when Alex Grinch was the young phenom defensive coordinator for Mike Leach, mainly because the Cougars were taking the ball away with regularity? For a while folks were touting Grinch as WSU next head coach, though the Cougars came down to earth after a while – as did Grinch’s reputation while at Ohio State and now at Oklahoma.

Dickert’s star is still in ascendance, as well it should be. You know those “40-under-40” lists that are all the rage on the Net? In college football circles, Dickert might just be No. 1 in that category. And it’s not just his work as a defensive coordinator, though that is stellar considering how undersized Washington State is on that side of the ball.

Nope, the 38-year-old Dickert’s poise and control as WSU’s interim head coach belies his age. He seems well-suited for the spotlight. Or maybe he’s just the right person for what Washington State needs right now. Either way, he and his players have experienced success.

A success that might just continue for a while. The Cougars are off for a week, their late-season bye giving them an opportunity to heal before the final stretch. With five wins, and winless Arizona on the home schedule, they are perfectly positioned to earn a bowl berth even before the usual Apple Cup stress.

And is a road win over Oregon happens following the bye? The Pac-12 North would be in their grasp.

Isn’t that something?

• As poor as Jacksonville is, today’s contest would, most years, be considered a way for Seattle to fine tune their game before the second half of the season. But the 2-5 Hawks have more at stake this afternoon. They can’t afford any more defeats, at least not any to a 1-5 team that has been outscored by 54 points.

We don’t give Seattle much of a chance to turn its season around but for it to happen, the Seahawks have to win today.

Why? Their next two opponents are Green Bay and Arizona, the two best teams in the NFC. A loss today and Seattle is looking at 2-8 and John Schneider is trying to determine an inexpensive way to ease Pete Carroll out the door. Heck, if they lose against the Jags, Carroll might not survive the upcoming bye week.

If Schneider were to make an in-season change, the bye would be the time to do it.

•••

WSU: Colton Clark had nearly as a busy of a day in Tempe as the Cougar defense. Not only did he have the game story, he followed up with a story on the defense, his usual difference makers and a pregame piece on Deon McIntosh’s return. … John Blanchette had a column on Washington State’s performance. … The guys in the office kept track of the highlights in this recap. … We chipped in with a TV Take after watching from home. … On the Nick Rolovich front, Shawn Vestal shares some background information about one of the fired assistant coach’s attorney. … The Sun Devils looked listless. Has Arizona State, with its NCAA issues and early season losses, quit on coach Herm Edwards? … Jon Wilner believes Washington State’s play is the best story in the conference. He has more in his usual Saturday night Mercury News column. … Elsewhere in the Pac-12 and college football, we stayed up late to watch Washington rally with a last-second touchdown – the Huskies first of the game – and get past Stanford 20-13. Maybe this will turn UW around. … Oregon’s offense ran all over Colorado but in a weird changeup, the Buffaloes’ offense pretty much did the same to the Ducks. It almost seems as if Oregon was focused on playing its youngsters. … California has found the on-switch lately. The Bears shut off Oregon State’s usual potent running game and rolled to a 39-25 home win over the Beavers. … USC had more trouble than expected against winless Arizona but part of that might be explained by a first-half injury. Star receiver Drake London’s season is probably over after he was carted off following a touchdown that gave the Trojans a 21-7 lead. They won 41-34. … Utah dominated UCLA at home 44-24 but the Bruins were playing without their starting quarterback. The Utes now control the South. … In basketball news, the conference attracted a bunch of transfers this season. … Arizona expects to run more. And the Wildcats lured transfers as well. … Colorado has a charity exhibition against Nebraska on the schedule.

Gonzaga: The men hit the court for the first time, though it is an exhibition. Jim Meehan has this preview of today’s afternoon matchup with Eastern Oregon. Assistant coach Brian Michelson, who I saw coming out of the supermarket yesterday, will be in charge as Mark Few continues to serve his suspension. … Around the WCC, Pepperdine opened its exhibition season with a loss at Point Loma, coached by former Whitworth coach Matt Logie.

Idaho: The Vandals led early but a key play late helped visiting Northern Arizona earn a 38-31 win in Moscow. Peter Harriman has the story. … Around the Big Sky, Montana barely held on to defeat Southern Utah 20-19 at home. … Weber State pulled away from host Idaho State and won 40-17. … Portland State got back to .500 with a 42-21 win over visiting Cal Poly. … Sacramento State is still undefeated after edging Northern Colorado 27-24. The Bears are playing better.

Whitworth: The Pirates’ road trip across the state led to a dominating 68-14 rout of winless Puget Sound. Jason Shoot has the story.

NIC: The Cardinals’ wrestling program said goodbye, for now, to coach Michael Sebaaly, who will take over as the school’s interim president. Greg Mason covered Saturday’s dual won by North Idaho.

Preps: As the fall seasons wind down, we will have busy weekends like this one. Dave Nichols drove across Washington to cover the State slowpitch tournaments, dominated by Spokane schools. … Dave also put together a roundup from playoff soccer as well as his Friday Night (High)Lights of the football action. … Keenan Gray chipped in with this story on District 8 cross country championships.

Chiefs: Everett came into the Arena and handed undermanned Spokane a 4-1 loss. Kevin Dudley has the game coverage. … NHL commissioner Gary Bettman met yesterday with former Chief Kyle Beach, whose sexual assault allegations from more than a decade ago are finally leading to some resolution.

Seahawks: The Hawks won’t be at full strength for Jacksonville but will it matter? … Mike Holmgren had an interesting career. … Jacob Eason will be the backup quarterback today.

Mariners: A 3-2 victory means Atlanta is one win from a World Series title. If the Braves do not get it tonight, it will be harder in Houston.

Kraken: Seattle coach Dave Hakstol has taken a long road to where he is today.

•••       

• We finished “Only Murders in the Building” last night, allowing for a relaxing end to a stressful week. Or as relaxing as a murder mystery/comedy can be. It seemed the perfect compliment to Halloween weekend. Until later …

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