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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Grip on Sports: Saturday was near-perfect thanks to college football, college hoop and the hope of a winning Sunday

A GRIP ON SPORTS • It was a near-perfect Saturday. With Washington State playing Friday night, we had all day to do what we wanted. And that included watching a bunch of college football and taking in a college basketball game. Plus, we got to shop for today’s Seahawks game in Los Angeles.


• Wait, what? It’s snowing outside our window? We knew it was supposed to rain today but snow? C’mon man. Can we wait until after Thanksgiving? Guess not.

OK, back to the sports world.

One fun fact. Saturday featured five Pac-12 football games. Five. And four times the visitors won. That’s not normal, is it? At least it shouldn’t be.

Yes, the one home team that won, Arizona, also played the role of hottest-team-in-the-conference, non-Oregon division. And the rout of M*A*S*H-unit Utah means the Wildcats still have a shot at playing in the final Pac-12 title game. Now enlighten us. Is Arizona a football or basketball school?

Anyhow, there was really only one game that mattered, at least nationally. USC losing the Victory Bell to UCLA on its home turf resonated in the L.A. Basin, sure. And Cal chopping down the Trees and taking home the Axe is a big deal in the Bay. Nowhere else, though.

Washington trying to get to 11-0 and stay in the CFP race? Now that’s a big deal in Tallahassee and Tuscaloosa and Ann Arbor and elsewhere.

It came about a half-foot from not happening. That’s the distance one punt snap was too high in the pouring rain and the difference between whether Oregon State’s dominating second half would have enough steam to get to the mountain top.

Well, not really. The difference in Corvallis? The Huskies have a top-of-the-line quarterback. The Beavers do not. And that’s the true distance between success and failure so often in college football.

Michael Penix Jr.’s first couple throws showed his ability. His last one, a game-settling fourth-quarter conversion, showcased it. The dart to Rome Odunzo was perfect. Delivered to the only place it could be. Miss by six inches, heck, two inches, and the ball is knocked down and the Beavers get one last shot.

Instead, it was over.

Oregon State battled. Ground the Huskies into the turf with a 10-minute third-quarter possession. But DJ Uiagalelei just isn’t at that level. Or at a level good enough to win games like this consistently with his arm. It showed in Pullman. It showed again last night.

The position was the difference.

• What will be the difference in L.A. today? Not sure. All we know is the Hawks need to win. The schedule the next month is a killer. A win today gives them some leeway.

Welcoming in San Francisco (on Thanksgiving), at Dallas (on the next Thursday), at San Francisco and hosting Philadelphia would test anyone.

Geno Smith needs to be at the top of his game. The defense needs to tackle in space. Heck, the special teams need to step up. Play better than they did the first week of the season in every phase and the Seahawks should be OK.

• By the way, we’re having homemade In-N-Out burgers and Original Tops onion rings for dinner. Hopefully it won’t be after the Rams hand Seattle its lunch.


WSU: As Greg Woods leads with, the win over Colorado, a Senior Night rout, was much-needed in Pullman. And probably much-appreciated all over Cougar Fansville. … Before we move on, we thought we better offer you the reaction from Colorado. As one might expect, it wasn’t good. Things may turn a bit nasty in Boulder and beyond. … There was a high-profile sporting event Saturday. The Cougar men were opening Feast Week in Connecticut, playing Mississippi State. They lost, 76-64. Greg has the coverage. … One last story with a WSU connection. It’s about DJ Rodman. … Elsewhere in the Pac-12 and the nation, the news about the Pac-2 doesn’t take a day off. Jon Wilner has this story outlining how the NCAA has approved WSU’s and OSU’s interpretation of the bylaws. They can keep the Pac-12 alive a couple years as a two-team power conference. That’s a big deal. … Wilner also has his Saturday Night Five in the Mercury News. … The day was not special in terms of upsets but it might be a big deal for the CFP. Florida State lost its quarterback to injury with a rivalry game and the ACC title game yet to play. … No one, however, looks better than Georgia. … In basketball news, it’s a great week ahead. Here’s a look at all the tournaments. … The Oregon State men were walloped by Nebraska. … It is strange USC has two players on its roster with heart issues. … Kelly Graves suffered his worst loss as Oregon’s coach. … Colorado just keeps on winning. … Stanford has an emerging star.

In Pac-12 football games Saturday …

• No. 19 Arizona 42, No. 16 Utah 18: The Utes were beat up, losing more starters prior to the game. The Wildcats were on a roll. The result was predictable. What wasn’t, however, is the idea Arizona could still play in the conference title game. No matter what, Jedd Fisch is the coach of the year in the school’s last season as part of the Pac-12.

• UCLA 38, USC 20: We have two important people in our life on opposite sides of this rivalry. That isn’t unusual. What is? That the Bruins scored 38 points. Oh, wait. It was against USC’s defense. What an eyesore. Anyhow, Chip Kelly put ice on his chair and Lincoln Riley has a heating pad on his. Plus, Riley probably won’t have Caleb Williams around next season.

• No. 6 Oregon 49, Arizona State 13: Is anyone in the nation playing better than the Ducks? No, not really. The Sun Devils had no chance, not as long as Bo Nix was given time – he was – and the UO receivers were getting open – they did. Now comes a Friday night absolute war of a game in Eugene versus a downtrodden Oregon State and then, if successful, a chance for revenge against UW in the Pac-12 title game.

• California 27, Stanford 15: We don’t expect the ACC to be impressed by much concerning these two schools, other than the academics and The Big Game. No one in the Bay Area cares about college football except for one Saturday in November. The Bears are streaking in the series but Stanford, under Troy Taylor, looks to be on the rise.

• No. 5 Washington 22, No. 10 Oregon State 20: A special teams mistake when the rain was pelting the field kept the Huskies’ playoff hopes alive. That and what we described above. Quarterback play means so much in college football. Now comes an Apple Cup for the ages. Well, for the aged, as the young people won’t have it, at least at the end of each Pac-12 season. If the Huskies win the Apple Cup, Kalen DeBoer is the conference’s coach of the year. And yes, we also said that about Jedd Fisch. We are torn.

Gonzaga: We were in the Kennel as the Gonzaga women wore down visiting Wyoming, winning 80-64. So was Greg Lee, who has this game story. There are almost two dozen photographs with the game story as well. … The men are in Hawaii, where they will play second-ranked Purdue on Monday afternoon, in what Jim Meehan found is considered the most-loaded Maui Invitational field ever. … Theo Lawson looks back on some the Zags’ most memorable moments in the tournament.

EWU: It’s a familiar story, especially recently. Eastern gives up too many points. And doesn’t score enough. In the end, there are too many losses, at least for the past two years. The seventh one this season occurred Saturday in Cheney, a 49-42 Senior Day defeat to Northern Arizona. Dan Thompson was at Roos Field and has this game story. … Elsewhere in the Big Sky, Montana has won the conference title, taking it home with a 37-7 rout at home against fumble-prone Montana State. … UC Davis won its rivalry matchup with Sacramento State 31-21 and might have earned a playoff spot. … Weber State rolled over host Cal Poly 48-21. … In basketball news, Weber State defeated a good Yale team in overtime. … Finally, Northern Arizona’s cross country teams each finished second in the NCAA finals.

Idaho: What a weekend of offense on the Palouse. Friday night WSU hangs 56 on visiting Colorado and Saturday the Idaho Vandals matched that in the first half – without their star quarterback. The eased-off 63-21 win over Idaho State should serve UI well when the FCS playoff bracket is announced today. Colton Clark covers it all in this story.

Whitworth: Speaking of the playoffs, the Pirates won their rematch with Chapman 42-28 in the NCAA Division III tournament Saturday. The win pushed their record to 10-0 and sends them to Iowa for next week’s second-round game. Ethan Myers has the game story and Jesse Tinsley the photo gallery from the packed Pine Bowl.

Preps: And just like that, high school football season is over. At least among the larger schools. In our area. We start in Idaho, where Coeur d’Alene fell in the State 5A title game 35-28 to Highland. … In Washington, Gonzaga Prep matched up with undefeated and top-ranked Graham-Kapowsin in the 4A quarterfinals. Despite jumping out to an early lead, the Bullpups fell 20-14. … There is also a roundup of the rest of the football playoff action locally. … Mead won another 3A volleyball title yesterday, rolling over Lake Washington in the finals. … West Valley’s quest for a perfect season and a 2A soccer title ended in the finals. In penalty kicks. The Eagles fell 3-2 to Ridgefield.

Seahawks: Jason Peters will finish the season with Seattle.

Kraken: Though its penalty kill unit is in a slump, Seattle found a way to do something no one else in the NHL has done this season. The Kraken defeated Vancouver in regulation on the Canucks’ ice.


• At least its stopped snowing. It better warm up some. We’re not allowed to shovel snow. We can, however, stand outside and give encouragement to whomever is doing the task. They also serve who stand and wait, right? Until later …