Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Gonzaga's Kyle Wiltjer is CBS's preseason player of the year

Posted By on Tue, Oct 6, 2015 at 3:08 PM


You probably didn't know it, but college basketball players are already practicing, even as you're just getting settled into the football season. Well, Spokane, it looks like you can start cranking up the Gonzaga Hype Machine a little bit early this year because some sort of insane news just rolled into town.

Gonzaga forward Kyle Wiltjer has been named not just to CBS Sports' preseason All-American team, but they took it a step further and he is the official Preseason National Player of the Year. In other words, the talking heads over at CBS think the best player in college basketball for the 2015-16 season resides in Spokane. This is somewhat of a surprise, but hey, Wiltjer is probably going to light it up this year, right?

And just think, only a few months ago, there were rumors swirling that Wiltjer, who scored 16.8 points a game last year, but was known to explode at times for a lot more than that, was going to leave for the NBA Draft. Some GU student even said he'd cleaned out his apartment and everything and was all but a distant memory for the Zags. Well, thankfully, Wiltjer decided he was OK sticking around Gonzaga for his senior season.

If that loss to Duke to end the Zags memorable Elite Eight run last year has clouded your memory as to who the Zags still have in addition to Wiltjer, just know this: Przemek Karnowski and Domantas Sabonis will still be down on the post, and the Zags still have plenty of post-Pangos/Bell guard power in Kyle Dranginis and Josh Perkins.

Yes, it's only October 6, but let the Zag mania creep into your life now that you know they have the Best Player in Basketball. 
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Monday, October 5, 2015

Monday Morning Place Kicker: Mondays are better with Seahawk games, Cougars struggle, Mariners finally stop playing baseball

Posted By on Mon, Oct 5, 2015 at 12:03 PM


So if you're like me, you don't like Mondays, mostly because of their far-off proximity to the weekend and also because Garfield told you at a young age that Mondays suck.

But isn't it nice on this particular Monday to realize that the day is capped off with a Seahawks game? In case you didn't know, the Seahawks play the Lions on Monday Night Football (ESPN, 5:30 pm) and that's why I started my day by putting out my 12th Man flag, eating a hearty game day breakfast and preparing mentally for the Hawks battle over in Seattle this evening. Oh, and mentally preparing for a productive work day, too, of course.

This got me really pumped up, and it should do the same for you.
Seattle hasn't done so great in prime-time games as of late. There was the Sunday night loss in Green Bay a couple weeks ago and then that whole, uh, Super Bowl thing back in February. But you can take comfort in knowing that the Seahawks are very good when playing on Monday Night Football. In fact, no other NFL team is better than the Hawks on Mondays, not by a long shot. The franchise is 21-8 on MNF, good for a .724 winning percentage — the next winningest record is San Francisco at just .642.

So that's a good sign of how things will shake out at CenturyLink Field tonight. Also good for the Hawks is the fact that they're playing the Detroit Lions who have been very much like the Detroit Lions of old this season, starting out at 0-3. The Lions, though, are not a pushover, despite that record. They have receivers Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate, the latter of whom will make his first return to Seattle since leaving the team after the 2013 season. If Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford finds those guys for big plays — of which the Hawks have given up a few, especially in their first two losses — Detroit could hang in there.

Stafford won't have to deal with Seahawks defensive lineman and terrorizing pass rusher Brandon Mebane, though. Mebane is ruled out for the contest with a strained groin. Also on the injury front, there will be no Beast Mode tonight. Marshawn Lynch has an issue with his hamstring and is going to sit out tonight. As a Beast Mode devotee, I find myself strangely OK with this. First off, Marshawn hasn't looked full-speed out there as of late and clearly he needs to rest. Secondly, I don't mind backup running back Thomas Rawls. Sure, he's a rookie from Central Michigan, but he went for 105 yards last week and is a gritty runner.

The Seahawks will need Rawls to be productive in order to set up with passing game, which seemed to finally come to life in the second half of their 26-0 beating of Chicago last week. Hopefully Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse will finally get going. And Jimmy Graham will get the goddamn ball. Don't worry about it, OK?

Hopefully you're in appropriate Seahawks gear at your place of employment today. Kinda like this dude.
Moving on to the college game, Washington State could not pull off the win down in Berkeley on Saturday afternoon, losing to Cal 34-28. It was a frustrating loss for the Cougs, mostly because they had a chance to win against the 24th ranked team in the country. In fact, they had a lot of chances, thanks to some Cal miscues, but Luke Falk and company could not punch it in on a pair of fourth quarter drives that could have put them ahead.

Something to note in this one: Yes, the Cougars are a passing team. Ya know, Air Raid and all that. But holy crap, they only ran for 14 yards in this game. And that was on 25 attempts. So they actually tried to run the ball and that's what they got.

It was the Cougars' 28th loss in their last 29 games against ranked opponents. They head to Eugene on Saturday to visit a struggling Oregon team that is not great on covering the pass — so that could be an upset to keep an eye on.

Idaho went to the deep South — which is where they'll about every other week for the rest of the season, due to their inexplicable membership in a conference of Southern teams — and did not win. The Vandals lost to Arkansas State 49-35 to fall to 1-4 on the season. They tried a new quarterback, Jake Luton, but that didn't help change Idaho's fortune. He threw three interceptions.

They'll try to get their first win against an FCS opponent next week when they head back south to face Troy.

The Seattle Mariners' grand experiment in disappointment came to an end yesterday with a meaningless 3-2 win over the hapless Oakland A's. The win brought their final record for the season to 76-86, which is about 25 wins shy of where a lot of us thought the M's would end up this year.

Can you believe this is the same team that not just hopeful fans like myself, but real live experts thought would make it to the World Series? It looked like they finally had the offense to make it somewhere, but unfortunately Robbie Cano and others forgot how to hit for the first half of the season and their bullpen was like something out of a Roland Emmerich movie. Even King Felix wasn't always that kingly.

Finally, though, the Mariners can no longer hurt us on a daily basis with their improbable extra-innings losses. As for next season? Who the hell knows. They've got a new GM and should have their stars back, but after this year, I have no hope in anything anymore. 
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Monday, September 28, 2015

Monday Morning Place Kicker: Seahawks off the schneid, Kupp sets TD record for Eagles, Mariners find a GM?

Posted By on Mon, Sep 28, 2015 at 12:22 PM

Jimmy Graham got his first TD for the Seahawks in Sunday's romp. - SEAHAWKS.COM
  • Jimmy Graham got his first TD for the Seahawks in Sunday's romp.

There is joy across the land today as the Seahawks' season-opening two-game losing streak was dispatched with aplomb Sunday, as most of us figured it would be thanks to the team 1. finally playing a home game, and 2. facing a dismal Chicago Bears team that was starting a backup quarterback — and a backup to sad sack Jay Cutler at that. 

I know there was panic among the 12s as everyone fretted over Kam Chancellor's holdout, wondered why new tight end Jimmy Graham wasn't catching TDs every quarter and imagined Russell Wilson's miracle water somehow wasn't working properly. On Sunday, in pitching a 26-0 shutout at the Bears in a game that included the returned Chancellor, and a Graham TD reception, and Wilson doing his typical thing (throwing for 235 yards and a TD, running for 28 more), the Seahawks put everything right with the world, at least for a week. 

Suffice to say, that's not the case on every team. Have you seen what went down at Sunday's Washington Nationals game? 
I don't know who to root for, both Papelbon and Bryce Harper seem like such, um, cool guys

But I digress, we were talking about football. Besides getting Graham going with his first TD reception of the season (and seven catches for 83 yards overall), the Seahawks got a pleasant surprise in the running of Thomas Rawls, who dropped 104 yards on the Bears subbing in for a knicked up Beast Mode, who didn't play a whole lot. Oh, and Tyler Lockett returned another kick for a touchdown, making him arguably one of the Seahawks' best offensive weapons, even when he's more than 100 yards away from the end zone: 

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Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Catching up with Spokane UFC fighter Julianna Peña ahead of her Oct. 3 bout

Posted By on Wed, Sep 23, 2015 at 9:32 AM


In just 11 days, Spokane-based Ultimate Fighting Championship athlete Julianna Peña will step into the octagon in Houston, Texas, to take on sixth-ranked women's bantamweight Jessica Eye. It'll be Pena's second match since she returned to the division earlier this year after taking more than a year off to recover from a devastating knee injury. In January of last year, Pena tore three of the joint's major ligaments during a practice session at her Spokane gym, Sik-Jitsu.

Peña has been openly vocal about getting a chance at taking down women's bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey, who's annihilated recent opponents in seconds. Many fans, MMA commentators and Peña herself believe the upcoming matchup against Eye is a proving ground, and that the UFC is setting her up to face off with Rousey in the near future.

A few days before she'll board her flight to Houston, Peña wraps her padded UFC gloves around her wrists and jumps into a grappling session with training partner and Sik-Jitsu teammate Marcos Lopez. Her movements on the mat appear effortless, even if it is just a practice round. In one swift movement, Peña slips a long leg under Lopez's knee and has him to the ground. She flips onto her back, finds his neck and quickly has him in a choke hold.

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Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Spokane Chiefs offer free tickets to wildfire victims for season opener

Posted By on Tue, Sep 22, 2015 at 4:14 PM


On Saturday night, the Spokane Chiefs will open the 2015-2016 season at home for the first time in over a decade, facing off against the Tri-City Americans at 7:05 pm. It will be a special night at the Spokane Arena, as the Chiefs have invited all firefighters, families and relief workers affected by the wildfires this summer to attend the game for free.

There will be opening night festivities outside the arena from 4 to 6:30 pm, including live music from the band Whiskey Rebellion, a beer garden, food trucks and kids activities, including an obstacle course. The festivities will be followed by a pre-game ceremony on the ice honoring the firefighters who put themselves in harm's way to help tame the fires that ravaged the Inland Northwest this summer. 

According to Chiefs' Vice President of Ticket Sales Nate Hopkins, the team wants to give back to the community that has been so loyal to the organization over the years. 

“We are very fortunate to have such a strong fan base not only in Spokane, but also in surrounding areas all over eastern Washington and Idaho, even into Montana. Offering tickets to those affected is just the smallest of gestures, but we hope it will provide some relief and an opportunity to have some fun,” said Hopkins.

The promotion is available to anyone affected by the wildfires, as the Chiefs are looking to host not only a great night of hockey, but a great night of community as well. Hopkins and the Chiefs hope to see as much of the Spokane and Inland Northwest community as possible, encouraging all to attend.

“It’s important to us to recognize how much impact this summer’s fires had on our community,” said Hopkins. “We’d like to invite anyone affected by the wildfires to join us on Saturday as we kick off the regular season at home for the first time in over a decade.”

If you or anybody that you know has been affected by the fires, you can contact a Ticket Account Executive at 509-535-PUCK (7825) or visit the box office at the southeast corner of the Spokane Arena. If you can't make it to the game, you can still support those affected by the wildfires by donating to the relief efforts.
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Monday, September 21, 2015

Monday Morning Place Kicker: Something is really wrong with the Seahawks, you guys, but let's calm down

Posted By on Mon, Sep 21, 2015 at 3:40 PM


If you were anything like me, you spent the minutes following the Seahawks' loss last night staring at the ceiling. You'd just realized that Seattle has lost two games, which is the maximum possible amount of games they could have lost at this point. It's mid-September and it felt like that ceiling is already falling down on your team's season. What in the hell are you going to do every Sunday for the rest of the calendar year?

The Green Bay Packers were at times dominant (and weirdly non-dominant at other moments) in a 27-17 win out in Wisconsin last night on a night when things just didn't look right for the Seahawks. You were probably wondering about certain things, like...

• What the hell is wrong with Michael Bennett? The dude jumped offsides twice on big downs that gave the Aaron Rodgers and his mustache "free plays" to bomb it down the field into the Seahawks secondary...speaking of which...

• What the hell is up with our secondary? Yes, Kam Chancellor continues his ill-advised quest to not make any money this season, but even the fire-proof Richard Sherman got burned a couple of times.

• Where is Beast Mode? We got a few whiffs of Beast last night, but he only amassed 41 rushing yards. That might have more to do with the Hawks offensive line than Marshawn, though. He had guys in his face before he ever got the handoff on several occasions. He does have a funny new Pepsi commercial out now, so that's a plus.

• They know they paid a lot of money for Jimmy Graham, right? The towering tight end only caught one ball last night on two targets.

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Thursday, September 17, 2015

Need another reason to hate Tom Brady? He loves Donald Trump

Posted By on Thu, Sep 17, 2015 at 10:29 AM

Just in case you needed another reason to hate Tom Brady beyond Deflategate, his beautiful Brazilian supermodel wife, the Patriots win over the Seahawks in the Super Bowl and his being really, really ridiculously good-looking, there's this: 

Tom Brady wants to see Donald Trump in the White House. And not just as entertainment, he means actually residing there as president, according to The Guardian. 

Asked about the potential for The Donald to survive the rigors of the campaign and win next November during his weekly locker-room press conference, Brady said (as one of Trump's patented "Make America Great Again" hats was on full display in his locker for the media to see): 

“I hope so, that would be great,” Brady said. “There’d be a putting green on the White House lawn. I'm sure of that.”

Apparently brainiac Brady is unaware that that is already the case, and has been since 1954. Nice University of Michigan education, Tom!

Our new Miss America knows what's up with Brady: 

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Monday, September 14, 2015

Monday Morning Placekicker: Cougs don't Coug it, but Seahawks do; Eags scuffle, Vandals earn their paycheck

Posted By on Mon, Sep 14, 2015 at 2:30 PM

WSU quarterback Luke Falk tore it up in New Jersey on Saturday - WSU ATHLETICS
  • WSU Athletics
  • WSU quarterback Luke Falk tore it up in New Jersey on Saturday

For the most part, this weekend in Inland Northwest football fandom was largely forgettable, as we'll elucidate below in the first new edition of Monday Morning Placekicker of the 2015 season. But despite the fact the 12s had to suffer a somewhat inexplicable loss, EWU traveled and suffered a painful loss (and potentially a devastating one) and the Idaho Vandals couldn't cover a 43-point spread, there is reason to rejoice on the Palouse because...

A week after losing what should have been a gimme game against the Big Sky doormat Portland State (who actually might be better than they get credit for), Washington State roared to a come-from-behind win at Rutgers on Saturday, with QB Luke Falk tossing the game-winning touchdown with just 13 seconds left:
Oh, they TRIED to Coug It, giving up a couple touchdowns on returns, including one that gave Rutgers the lead with less than two minutes to go. But thanks to Falk, who had a monster day with nearly 500 yards passing and four touchdowns, questions about Coach Mike Leach's future and whether or not the Cougars will win any games in 2015 can be put on hold. At least for another week. They play Wyoming on Saturday. 

There is nothing wrong with going on the road against Northern Iowa and coming away with a loss. The Eagles have actually done that several times — they are now 0-6 at UNI's "UNI-Dome" after losing a barn-burner 38-35 on Saturday. While it might be frustrating to lose a game in which quarterbacks Jordan West and Reilly Hennessy combine to chuck the rock for more than 500 yards, when a team can only run for 26 yards, that's a problem. The Eagles will need to find some offensive balance moving forward into Big Sky play, starting Saturday against Montana State. 

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Friday, September 4, 2015

Idaho's charming (and sad) season-opening loss

Posted By on Fri, Sep 4, 2015 at 1:04 PM

The kickoff of the Vandals' 2015 season. - MIKE BOOKEY
  • Mike Bookey
  • The kickoff of the Vandals' 2015 season.

Idaho did not win their opener last night, which was the opening night for all Inland Northwest football teams. I will get that out of the way. They very much lost by a score of 45-28 to Ohio University (which is not the same thing as the Ohio State) and that score only looks as bad as it does because of a late score.

It wasn't pretty, but the Vandals, who, as I hate reminding folks, have only won five games in the last four seasons, didn't get blown out. There were a few signs, here and there, that Idaho will not suffer as much as they have in the past few seasons. That may be wishful thinking, but I know what I saw.

I'll get to those upward looking signs in a second and all the nuts and bolts, but first you need to know about these Idaho football games. There might not be anything like it in all of the FBS ranks. It's a small town affair that's both delightful and at times sort of sad, but totally worth the $15 that almost all fans paid to get into the concrete confines of the Kibbie Dome.

In the parking lot before the game, tailgate parties peppered the grounds and the school's new fan center — featuring a bouncy thing for kids, a bar for adults and ample televisions for people who wanted to see that North Carolina vs. South Carolina game — seemed to be a hit. At the tailgates, beers were consumed, as they should be before any football game on the planet, and the scent of grilled meat was everywhere. For a Thursday afternoon, this wasn't a bad showing for a fan base that has seen such little success in so long.

There was some hope in the air, even if some folks were still smarting from the football program's couple weeks of very bad off-the-field press. Everyone was in black and from a distance you'd think this was a prefunk for a Metallica concert, until upon further inspection the belt buckles and gray hair became apparent. In the landscape of FBS football, this is about as small-town as it gets, and it's hard not to find this utterly charming.

The student body came out in force, especially considering it was the Thursday before a three-day weekend and the kids could have easily skipped town a day early. These youngsters, faces ruddy from Fireball shots and the warm temperatures of the indoor stadium, carried with them the giddy buzz of a new school year and a season that maybe, just maybe, would bring them more than just the one win they've seen in each of the past two seasons. It was hard not to want a win for those kids.

But they didn't get a win. In fact, they saw a lot of losing ways right off the bat when Ohio sped to a 21-0 lead on some deep passes through the middle of a porous Vandals secondary and an interception thrown by Idaho's sophomore quarterback Matt Linehan that went for a touchdown. Idaho's workhorse running back Elijaah Penny plunged into the endzone midway through the second quarter to make it 21-10. Ohio countered with a four-play drive for 79 yards and a touchdown before Idaho's All-American kicker/punter (and Spokane native) Austin Rehkow added his second field goal of the half to make it 28-13 at the break.

The second half featured a Vandals passing attack — highlighted by senior receiver Dezmon Epps' 15 catches and 163 yards — that looked markedly better than in the opening two quarters. When the game seemed out of reach, Linehan scampered for a couple first downs and converted some nice throws on fourth down, which led to a couple touchdowns to make it 38-28 with less than three minutes to play. The offense looked as good as it has during the Paul Petrino era, which isn't saying much, but it's something.

The problem, though, was the Vandals' defense, which was bulldozed in the closing minutes during which Ohio scored with ease. Ohio's two-quarterback attack went 20-25 for 284 yards and they racked up another 205 yards on the ground. That's a problem.

So it was another loss for a school that's seen a hell of a lot of losses. In all, 11,587 Vandal fans packed into the Kibbie Dome, which only holds 16,000. This was not, however, the smallest crowd for Thursday's slate of games. Ball State only brought 10,473 fans to its contest against VMI. So, the Vandals had that going for them.
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Wednesday, September 2, 2015

This guy is serious about the Cougar-Husky rivalry

Posted By on Wed, Sep 2, 2015 at 4:29 PM


Football season is coming. In fact, it's coming tomorrow afternoon when a slate of games appear on national television and, locally, Idaho takes on Ohio University down in Moscow.

You should be excited about your team, and clearly this individual is stoked on the Cougars. We've blurred out the license plate number as to keep any diehard Husky fans from tracking down this person who wants to remind you that one of the most notorious serial killers of all time went to the University of Washington.

This is true, Bundy did, in fact, graduate from Washington in 1972. He also attended the University of Utah's law school, so if WSU ever develops a rivalry with the Utes, the driver of this dusty Mazda may need a bumper sticker or something to supplement this — let's admit — over-the-top taunt.

Mr. Mazda can likely be found down in Pullman on Saturday when the Cougs take on Portland State.
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