Tuesday, November 24, 2015

UW and Gonzaga finally meet the 9 in the morning

Posted By on Tue, Nov 24, 2015 at 3:29 PM

You won't like Sabonis when he's angry.
  • You won't like Sabonis when he's angry.

In December of 2006, Gonzaga played Washington for what they knew would be the last time in quite a while, and they made the most of it. The Zags, in their first post-Morrison campaign, slaughtered then then 13th-ranked Huskies 97-77 in Spokane.

The rivalry went cold after that, with the schools putting the annual matchup on an infinite hold. There had been a lot of beef about Gonzaga and UW going after the same recruits and rumors of other squabbles between the coaching staffs and athletic departments.

Since then, the Zags and Huskies haven't squared off, which is a shame because in some of those years, both schools had very good clubs. People really wanted to see them play again and state Rep. Michael Baumgartner even introduced a bill that would require the cross-state rivals to take the floor once a year

But without any legislative help, the UW-Gonzaga series is returning next season and will alternate between Spokane and Seattle going forward. That said, the party is getting started early tomorrow thanks to the scheduling committee at the Battle 4 Atlantis, an elite, swanky, slightly futuristic basketball tournament tipping off in the Bahamas tomorrow.

Gonzaga and Washington are set to face off in the opening round of the tournament, which also includes Texas, Texas A&M, Michigan, Syracuse, UConn and Charlotte. It's an impressive field, to say the least.

As if it wasn't odd enough that teams separated by less than 300 miles would travel to foreign soil to do battle, there are a few other weird things about tomorrow's game. First off, it's being played at 9 am Pacific time, which is not exactly when college athletes are at their most lively and active. Also, the game comes just two weeks after both schools played games in Asia and are likely a little air weary. Gonzaga went to Japan to play one half against Pitt before the court became a slippery deathtrap and the contest was called off. Washington, on the other hand, went to China and defeated Texas in a game made most memorable by 23 points from Husky guard Andrew Andrews and the verbal insanity that rolled out of color commentator Bill Walton's mouth on the television broadcast. Adding to the weirdness, Washington would play Texas again, should both the Huskies and Longhorns emerge victorious tomorrow.

So how do they measure up? Well, all the aforementioned variables could play a part, as will the fact that this is a rivalry game...although played in front of likely very, very few students in what looks more like a Barry Manilow concert set up than a college basketball arena. The Huskies are very, very young — Andrews is the lone senior and there's only a pair of juniors on the roster. But freshman Marquese Chriss and Noah Dickerson have played very well. Chriss scored 29 points against Mt. Saint Mary's in the Huskies' 100-67 win.

Gonzaga also took on Mt. Saint Mary's on Saturday, and with similar results, a 101-56 win. Like pretty much every other team, the Huskies are going to have trouble with Gonzaga's size and will hope to contain Domantas Sabonis, who is getting insane open looks this season, which is why he's made 19 of 23 shots in the Zags' two blow-out wins. Expect the Huskies to try to run up and down the court in the sort of up-tempo style Romar has featured at UW for the last decade-plus. They might look to do that to counter the Zags' size, but remember, Gonzaga has four very fast guards who can hang with anybody. Oh, and Kyle Wiltjer. They have Kyle Wiltjer...

Again, the game is at 9 am PST and you can watch it on ESPN because your boss has probably already left for Thanksgiving.
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Monday, November 23, 2015

Monday Morning Place Kicker: EWU done, WSU streaking and Seahawks maybe ready to roll?

Posted By on Mon, Nov 23, 2015 at 10:35 AM

Yes, college hoops is off and running, but we're going to focus on football, as this week marked the end of the season for the four-time defending Big Sky champs at Eastern Washington, the potential end of a legendary career, a scary victory for the Cougars in Pullman, and the potential starting point for the Seahawks second-half fun to the playoffs. Let's do this. 

Eags complete late-season collapse
Cooper Kupp has a big decision to make regarding entering the NFL draft. - EWU ATHLETICS
  • EWU Athletics
  • Cooper Kupp has a big decision to make regarding entering the NFL draft.

Even dynasties have years when things don't quite come together, when dominant teams take a step back to reload for another championship run. All season long, even as they won a series of squeakers against their Big Sky foes, the Eastern Washington Eagles didn't quite look like the class of the conference that the program has become over the past decade or so. Sure, receiver Cooper Kupp seemed to set records every game, but none of the quarterbacks who played were quite up to the level of departed Vernon Adams, Jr., (and with good reason — Adams is now tearing it up at Oregon since he's gotten healthy). And the defense, never great, got lit up by some teams to the point that the offense was under serious stress to keep the team in some games. 

Saturday at Roos Field was the team's last hurrah for 2015. A victory over Portland State might have gotten the Eagles an at-large bid to the FCS playoffs. Instead, they lost a close one 34-31, and will miss the playoffs for the first time since 2011. Southern Utah, Portland State and Montana will represent the Big Sky this year. 

While Coach Beau Baldwin gets to work on next season, Kupp has to figure out whether or not he'll enter the NFL draft. Chances are he will

Cougs continue rolling; Falk might miss Apple Cup
QB Luke Falk was hurt in the Colorado game, and he could miss the Apple Cup game Friday. - WSU ATHLETICS
  • WSU Athletics
  • QB Luke Falk was hurt in the Colorado game, and he could miss the Apple Cup game Friday.

First, the good news. WSU continued its run through the Pac-12 with a dominant win over Colorado. The team rose in the AP poll to No. 20, and a win in the Apple Cup on Friday against rivals UW will give them a 9-3 regular season record and probably a great bowl game. 

The bad news: Luke Falk was taken from the field on a stretcher, and he might not be through the concussion protocol in time to play against UW. Payton Bender, the freshman backup QB who came in to finish the game, is a fine player, but doesn't have the experience or ice-filled veins of Falk. The Huskies are an unpredictable team, so the Apple Cup could be far more exciting than it would have been with Falk behind center. The game is at noon on Friday, so wake up from your turkey coma in time for some Friday pigskin. 

Seahawks surging
Thomas Rawls filled in for Marshawn Lynch, and racked up more than 200 yards on the day. - SEAHAWKS.COM
  • Thomas Rawls filled in for Marshawn Lynch, and racked up more than 200 yards on the day.

Granted, the Niners aren't exactly the same team that made for a great rival for Seattle when Harbaugh was stalking the sidelines in his dad pants. In fact, they pretty much suck. But it was still nice to see the Seahawks have a dominant performance for a change. No fourth quarter meltdowns. No closer-than-it-should-have-been final score. Just a whooping led by Beast Mode's backup, Thomas Rawls, who had a record-breaking day. 

Russell Wilson threw for three TDs, Rawls ran for 209 yards and got 46 more receiving, and the defense didn't allow Blaine Gabbert to do much of anything. 

What does it mean? Well, at 5-5 the Seahawks are in the thick of the NFC Wild Card race. There are a whole lot of 4-6 teams in their rearview mirror, and the only other team at 5-5 is Tampa Bay. Anyone else think Seattle is likely to finish ahead of Jameis Winston and Co.? The Seahawks are three games behind in the division, but the Wild Card is out there for them. 

The schedule ahead isn't crazy-daunting. Pittsburgh at home this weekend and the Cardinals on the road the final week are the two toughest matchups. The other four games? The upstart Vikings, who are getting ready to swoon, the QB-less Rams at home in a revenge game, the Ravens who just lost their starting QB and RB for the season, and the Browns at home. A 9-7 final record is easy to imagine, and that should be good enough to get to the playoffs. And no one will want to be matched up with the Seahawks come January. 

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Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Cougars won last night, but may have lost Luke Falk

Posted By on Sun, Nov 22, 2015 at 11:37 AM


Washington State’s extended stay in college football’s nether regions has taken some of the juice out of recent Apple Cups. The prospect of the nation’s leading passer coming to Husky Stadium with the revived Cougars would certainly heighten interest in the annual grudge match with Washington, but it remains to be seen if Luke Falk will be on hand for Friday’s game.

WSU’s workmanlike, 27-3 victory over Colorado was marred Saturday night when Falk was slammed to the artificial turf midway through the third quarter. Falk lay face down and motionless at midfield for some time. After several minutes, Falk was placed on a stretcher and taken off the court on a cart while raising both thumbs to the cheering crowd at Martin Stadium.

“Luke’s an awesome player,” said Peyton Bender, the redshirt freshman who filled in for Falk the rest of the game. “He’s had a great year.
“I don’t know what happened (Falk’s injury). Hopefully, he’s all right and he can get back to playing for us.”

Bender has displayed a strong arm, considerable potential and the usual signs of inexperience during limited action this season. Saturday, in his most extensive action, Bender completed 13 of 22 passes for 133 yards, one touchdown and one interception in temperatures in the 20s.

“When we were in fall camp, we didn’t know who (Falk or Bender) was going to be the starting quarterback,” wide receiver Gabe Marks said. “It was tight all the way.”

“It came down to the wire,” Bender agreed. “I thought I was going to be the one, but I wasn’t, unfortunately.
“It’s all right. The season has been great.”

Marks added to the great season of the Cougars as a whole and himself as an individual when he caught a school-record 14th touchdown pass in one season. It was Bender’s second TD pass of the season, his first coming last week when Falk was shaken up against UCLA and temporarily left the game for concussion tests that he passed.

The Cougars (8-3, 6-2 Pac-12 Conference) have dropped two straight Apple Cups, and five of the past six. Washington (5-6, 3-5) needs to win the regular-season finale for both teams to reach normal standards for bowl eligibility, although it’s technically possible a five-win team may someday qualify for a bowl, since 80 of the 127 Football Bowl Subdivision teams now go to bowls.

Marks, one of the greatest receivers in WSU history, lightened the mood in the press room when he playfully responded to a reporter’s claim that he’s not all that well known in Seattle.

“They don’t know about me?” Marks asked, properly incredulous. Marks then went for the kill. “The people here know about me, so that’s cool. I mean, that’s what matters. I don’t really care what people from Seattle think about me. There’s a school over there we don’t really care for.”

Marks also had some fun with his good friend Taylor Taliulu, WSU’s senior strong safety. After 44 games and 33 starts at WSU, Taliulu finally recorded his first interception in the fourth quarter. He returned the pick 42 yards.

“You got nervous (on the return),” Marks told Taliulu.

“Yeah, I did get nervous,” Taliulu admitted.

“I saw you, you tightened up,” Marks said.

“I did tighten up a little bit,” Taliulu said. “I was running down the sideline and I was like, ‘I don’t know if I can cut back.’”

“No burst,” Marks deadpanned.

“No burst,” Taliulu agreed. “But hey, it was really exciting.”

Taliulu joked that he was “just waiting for Senior Night” to make his first interception. Taliulu and WSU’s 15 other seniors – including star left offensive tackle Joe Dahl, who wore a protective boot on his left foot when the seniors were introduced prior to the game – helped the Cougars dominate the injury-riddled Buffaloes on both sides of the ball.
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Saturday, November 21, 2015

EWU's defense not enough to stop Portland State on Senior Night

Posted By on Sat, Nov 21, 2015 at 8:28 PM

Redshirt junior QB Jordan West exits Roos Field for the last time in 2015. West did not play on Saturday. - MAX CARTER
  • Max Carter
  • Redshirt junior QB Jordan West exits Roos Field for the last time in 2015. West did not play on Saturday.

It was a bad start to a bad day for the Eastern Washington Eagles, as their season most likely came to an end Saturday in Cheney with a 34-31 loss to the Portland State Vikings

The loss, the third consecutive for an EWU team that's struggled as of late, is quite likely to keep the Eagles out of the FCS tournament. That would mark the first time since 2011 that the Eags have stayed home the playoffs.  

Still licking their wounds from last weekend's devastating 57-16 loss to Montana, things didn't look good for Beau Baldwin's Eagles after redshirt freshman Simba Webster muffed the opening kick, immediately surrendering possession to the Vikings. That was certainly not the start EWU was looking for in a must-win game, and Portland State quickly found the end zone to go up 6-0 after a missed PAT.

While the Eagles have certainly had their struggles this season, one thing they have done well is fight to stay in games until the final play, and they did just that on Saturday night.
Redshirt junior WR Cooper Kupp elevates after catching a 78 yard touchdown pass in the second quarter, his 56th career touchdown reception. - MAX CARTER
  • Max Carter
  • Redshirt junior WR Cooper Kupp elevates after catching a 78 yard touchdown pass in the second quarter, his 56th career touchdown reception.

Fueled by a 63-yard touchdown run from junior receiver Kendrick Bourne on a reverse pitch, and a 78-yard touchdown reception from FCS insta-legend and redshirt junior receiver Cooper Kupp, the Eagles took a 17-13 lead to the locker room at half time. In addition to the touchdown catch, Kupp hauled in eight receptions for 136 yards. Number 10 is now fourth all-time in the FCS with 310 receptions and sits only two touchdowns behind David Ball's FCS record of 58 career touchdown receptions.

Despite the absurd compilation of receptions, yards and touchdowns amassed by Kupp during his career at Eastern, he remains humble. Following the game, it wasn't the touchdowns or the 200 yard games that was on the Yakima native's mind, but the memories he has made with his senior teammates.

"On senior night, being able to have the opportunity to play with these guys and do what we did, it's been an honor," said Kupp.

Although Kupp was the offensive centerpiece for Baldwin's Eagles in 2015, the efforts of Kendrick Bourne cannot be overlooked. Dwarfed by Kupp's numbers, Bourne quietly had a fantastic season, catching 73 passes for 998 yards and 8 touchdowns. The Portland, Ore., product also ran the ball twice for 75 yards and a touchdown. 

Leading 20-17 early in the second half after a quick seven-play, 79 yard scoring drive, Portland State faced a third and 25 after a couple of untimely penalties, giving the Eagles — and their season — a window of hope. That hope was quickly crushed, as junior quarterback Alex Kuresa completed a pass down the middle of the field for a first down. One could basically feel the wind blow out of the sails of the Eagles' defense.

76.5% — That is the rate at which the Eagles' defense allowed Kuresa and the Portland State offense 
The future of Eastern's offense will likely land in the hands of one of the Eagles' two redshirt freshman QBs, Gage Gubrud (15) and Reilly Hennessey (12). - MAX CARTER
  • Max Carter
  • The future of Eastern's offense will likely land in the hands of one of the Eagles' two redshirt freshman QBs, Gage Gubrud (15) and Reilly Hennessey (12).
to convert on third down. In the four games leading up to Portland State, the EWU defense allowed opposing offenses to gain a first down on 52 percent of their third down attempts, a horrific number.

The only thing preventing this game from becoming a blowout was the turnovers surrendered by Portland State throughout the game. At the end of the second half, as the Vikings drove deep into Eastern territory, Kuresa's pass was deflected at the line and intercepted by redshirt freshman defensive back Josh Lewis, keeping at least three points off the board. Then, with the Eagles' chances of victory looking slim-to-none following a fantastic touchdown catch by Portland State junior receiver Darnell Adams, the EWU defense made one last stab at glory.

Finishing off a strong, yet injury-filled career at Eastern, redshirt senior defensive back Todd Raynes will now begin focusing on his goal of becoming a Navy SEAL. But not before getting in the end zone for the third time in his career. 

With 5:48 left in the game and his team down 34-24 on senior night, Raynes saw the whole thing as sophomore defensive lineman Jay-Tee Tiuli forced the football onto the red turf. Raynes closed on the exposed football, corralled it up and sprinted for the end zone with some blocking help from fellow defensive back, redshirt junior Zach Bruce. 

"It was indescribable. I mean, senior night against Portland State, in front of my whole family, in front of all these fans who have been here for me the last five years," shared Raynes. "In a close game like this, like I said, it was indescribable."

As the Eagles head in to the off-season, Baldwin plans to spend a lot of time focusing on the details that are vital in finishing off victories.

"We just have to be more on point, I think that's the biggest thing," said Baldwin. "That starts with me, and that starts with what we do in the off-season, and that starts with all the little things and discipline. And we are going to get there."

As Baldwin and his coaching staff begin preparing for the 2016 season, there are a lot of questions that need to be answered, the most significant of which is at the quarterback position. After establishing himself as one of the best quarterbacks in the FCS in the first half of 2015, redshirt junior quarterback Jordan West saw his playing time surrendered to a pair of redshirt freshman in the second half of the season, beginning with Eastern's 52-30 home loss to Northern Arizona. West did not play a single snap against Portland State, as redshirt freshman Reilly Hennessey threw all 27 of Eastern's passes.

After a disappointing season for a usually successful Eastern Washington football program, Beau Baldwin will have his work cut out for him to produce a championship caliber team in 2016. Ranked as high as fourth in the nation on November 7, the Eagles have to be wondering what exactly happened.

The good news is, with their season ending earlier than planned, they will have plenty of time to think.

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Friday, November 20, 2015

The dream or the team: Should EWU's Cooper Kupp stay in school or spread his wings in the NFL?

Posted By on Fri, Nov 20, 2015 at 3:00 PM

On Saturday the 18th-ranked Eastern Washington Eagles (6-4, 5-2 Big Sky) will host the 11th-ranked Portland State Vikings (8-2, 5-2 Big Sky) with their playoff hopes on the line. After a devastating 57-16 blowout loss on the road to the now 17th-ranked Montana Grizzlies last weekend, the Eagles have fallen from fourth in the nation to their current ranking, while watching their hopes of a fourth consecutive Big Sky Conference title vaporize.

EWU Eagles head coach Beau Baldwin takes a timeout during the Homecoming game on November 7 against Northern Arizona. - RON SWARDS
  • Ron Swards
  • EWU Eagles head coach Beau Baldwin takes a timeout during the Homecoming game on November 7 against Northern Arizona.
That being said, despite the tough losses and nail-biting victories, the Beau Baldwin-led Eagles still have a shot at making the FCS playoffs. Consisting of 24 total teams, (11 automatic bids for conference champs and 13 at-large bids) the FCS has been using a playoff system for years. Since EWU lost to Northern Arizona at the beginning of November, the Eagles' statistical hopes of winning the conference outright have been eliminated. Translation: Saturday's game is a must win for Eastern if they hope to get one of the at-large selections.

It has been an up-and-down season for the Eagles, who won six in a row after starting the season 0-2 against Oregon and Northern Illinois. While the season has been unpredictable for Baldwin's team, one thing has been as consistent as ever—Cooper Kupp.

Since Kupp set the EWU record for single-season touchdown receptions as a redshirt freshman in 2013, everybody that knows anything about Eagles football has known that this kid is special. Whisperings of the receiver's potential in the NFL draft—even the second or third round—have been circulating around the football world ever since. But FCS prospects are almost never valued as much as FBS players, and FCS stars often go overlooked in the NFL draft. 

So, should Cooper Kupp be taken seriously as an NFL receiving prospect? His performance against Oregon should be enough to answer that question. 

Kupp, widely considered to be an excellent teammate, has a few things to consider in his decision. On top of the money, fame and potentially unbreakable records that the 22-year-old has to mull, his little brother, freshman linebacker Ketner Kupp, also plays football for Eastern. 

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Monday, November 16, 2015

Monday Morning Place Kicker: The Good (WSU), Bad (the damn Seahawks), Ugly (EWU blow-out), & Weird (Zags half-game)

Posted By on Mon, Nov 16, 2015 at 12:20 PM


This is a tough time for us sports fans. We have a lot on our plate right now, what with college football moving into high gear, college hoops tippings off, the NFL continuing to dominate the world and NBA games apparently happening somewhere. And if you're into soccer, that's probably happening, too. This makes for weekends like this past one, the results of which leave you staring at the wall on Monday morning, trying to remember everything you watched.

And this past weekend was just about as insane for Northwest sports fans as any weekend in recent memory. Let's break it down, starting with the positives — because there are some serious negatives here, too.

If it seems like it's been forever since Washington State football was relevant on a national scale, that's because it has. A dozen years, in fact. But if you woke up this morning and realized that the coaches poll has deemed WSU the 23rd best team in college football, you realized that this Cougars team is for real.

In year four of the Mike Leach Experience, Presented by Uncle Bonzo's Hair Tonic, the Cougars are a verifiable college football power, thanks to a stunning last-second 31-27 win over then-19th-ranked UCLA down in Pasadena late on Saturday night. The game was true to the Leach-era story in that the Cougars gave up an interception with three minutes left that allowed the Bruins to march down the field for a score.

But Luke Falk, who got his bell rung in the first half yet somehow returned to action, then did the impossible with just 1:10 left in the game: he took the Cougars the length of the field, connecting with Gabe Marks with just three second left. The unbelievable highlights are right here.

The Cougars are in Pullman to face Colorado on Saturday. After that, it's off to Seattle for a Black Friday Apple Cup date (game time was just announced as 12:30 pm, by the way) with Washington. And in a weekend when Oregon toppled Stanford, there's a statistical possibility that the Apple Cup could get the Cougars into the Pac-12 championship game.

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Friday, November 13, 2015

The Zags experiment with time travel (and regular travel) tonight; EWU heads to the South

Posted By on Fri, Nov 13, 2015 at 1:54 PM


College basketball season is here, and not in some lame, exhibition-against-a-school-you-had-to-Google sort of way. There are real, count-for-real games happening as you read this and for some of us, this is right up there with the first day of the NCAA tournament, which itself is better than Christmas. So, today is like, I don't know, maybe on par with Christmas (but not better than a got-a-new-bike Christmas, just to clarify).

Locally, Opening Day lives up to the hype with Gonzaga having crossed the entirety of the Pacific Ocean to appear in this afternoon's matchup against Pittsburgh as part of the Armed Forces Classic on a military base in Japan. Technically, the game which has been delayed to a 4:30 PST tipoff, actually takes place tomorrow. That's right, it's being played on Saturday morning local time in Okinawa. This marks the first time that Gonzaga has played a game in the future.

If your head is wrapped around the flux capacitorishness of all that, I'll continue to say that although this Zags team is as stacked as any GU squad, this matchup against Pitt is a tough way to start your season. The Zags only had one cupcake exhibition against Eastern Oregon, which they dominated, and are immediately met with an ACC foe, granted one that's picked to finish at the bottom of that talent-heavy conference.

Pitt isn't as big as the Zags — because, really, no one is — but they have some experienced big guys like Michael Young who will be able to compete. And Jamie Dixon always puts a tough team on the court, you can count on that.

But the other variable is that Gonzaga is playing 6,000 miles from home on a portable court inside a field house. A lot of things could be different for them. Not to say the trip wasn't worthwhile, because they got to do some cool stuff, like this.
Also, sophomore Domantas Sabonis banged up his back in that Eastern Oregon game. He made the trip and has reportedly practiced, but no word on how much time he'll see.

Regardless, you have to be excited to see what Kyle Wiltjer is going to do for his opening night performance as the Assumed Best Player in College Basketball. No Zag has ever received those sort of pre-season accolades, to which was recently added the distinction of top vote-getter in preseason AP All American voting, so the expectations are high. I don't foresee a Morrison-in-Hawaii sort of performance, but who knows.

Also, let's get a look at Mark Few's backcourt already. No Pangos, no Bell, no Wesley? No friggin' problem, tough guy, because the Zags have more than enough feisty and fast talent at guard. Josh Perkins has his jaw fixed. Silas Melson is a deep threat. Kyle Dranginis can create points out of the ether. And I once saw McCllelan beat a speeding train in a race through downtown Spokane.

Again. The game has been delayed to 4:40 pm. Sorry, you're going to have to work the rest of the day.

It's hardly an international trip, but the EWU Eagles men's squad is doing a little traveling of their own. The new look Eags and their fearless coach (I wrote a bunch about him last week) take on Mississippi State tonight down in the deep South. The game is at 6 pm on the SEC Network.

What will this year's Eagles look like? It's really damn hard to say. They've got only one returning starter — Australian dunk machine Venky Jois — and filled in a roster with transfers, redshirts and dudes who didn't see much time last year.

Will all that said, EWU is still going to be aggressive and shoot the lights out down at MSU. Those two things are certain. Look for a fully healthy Sir Washington (best name in Inland Northwest basketball) to provide a spark fans didn't get to see much last season and senior graduate transfer Austin McBroom to give an experienced edge at the point.

As for three pointers, Felix Von Hofe and Bogdan Bliznyuk will have you covered. Both can stroke it.
I organized this preview in geographic proximity to downtown Spokane, so no slight to the Cougars. But they take on Northern Arizona tonight down in Pullman at 5:30 pm. If you can't head south, check it out on Pac-12 Network.

If you've been watching TV or listening to the radio lately, you may have heard the voice of effervescent Cougs head coach Ernie Kent promising that the Cougars are going to play fast down in Pullman this season. This is their first test and it comes against a middle of the pack Big Sky team. 

The Cougars have seven new players on a lineup that doesn't feature DaVonte Lacy for the first time in what seems like forever. But they do return Josh Hawkinson, the breakout big man who had 14.7 points per game and more than 10 rebounds last year for the Cougars. He's going to be vital to the Cougars return to relevancy in the Pac-12.

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Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Today's viral stupidity: Watch ex-Gonzaga star Kelly Olynyk eating a giant burrito in four bites

Posted By on Tue, Nov 10, 2015 at 10:46 AM


The early weeks of the NBA season are slow for teams and fans alike. And we all know nothing matters in the NBA until the playoffs arrive in May and June. 

Yet, the teams insist on playing in November, and the players have to find ways to amuse themselves on road trips. Apparently one way the Boston Celtics do that is by daring ex-Gonzaga star Kelly Olynyk to take down a massive burrito in four bites — and filming the action for the Internet's amusement.

Today I've seen this Olynyk video pop up on Deadspin, Sports Illustrated, SBNation, USA Today and myriad other websites. Each had their own #hottake on Olynyk's gastronomic abilities (I particularly liked the SB Nation effort to replicate it), but nothing topped the totally Not Safe For Work commentary of the big man's Celtics teammate Amir Johnson, who filmed the episode and posted it to the world. 

Here's the NSFW video, so plug in your headphones or turn down the volume if you're near anyone who might be offended by a couple f-bombs — the visual itself is impressive on its own: 

A couple of takeaways: 
1. It's good to see Olynyk drinking water along with that burrito. Gotta stay hydrated when you play in the NBA. 
2. "Eat it like you eat the booty" should be part of the advertising campaign for whatever burrito joint supplied that thing.
3. Takeout burritos, really? These dudes make more money than most of us can even imagine, and they still eat like college students? Maybe the Celtics need to hire a team nutritionist. 

Olynyk, by the way, is averaging 7.5 points and 4.5 boards so far this season. 
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Monday, November 9, 2015

Monday Morning Place Kicker: Cougs bowling, EWU Big Sky streak and Russell Wilson's bye-week vacation photos

Posted By on Mon, Nov 9, 2015 at 10:36 AM

  • WSU Athletics

Party on the Palouse
A big weekend in Pullman for the Cougar faithful, as Washington State took out Arizona State after falling behind early. The win, the team's sixth of the season, makes the Cougars bowl-eligible, and leaves them with a chance to end up 9-3 (best case scenario) and at worst 6-6. 

We have a complete recap of the big win over the Sun Devils right here, and it's worth noting that the Cougars will more than likely be favored in two of their last three games. The upcoming schedule is only somewhat daunting, with a tough trip to UCLA up next, followed by a home game against Colorado and the Apple Cup in Seattle the day after Thanksgiving. 

Homecoming spoiled in Cheney
  • EWU Athletics

The EWU Eagles have been playing a series of crazy-close games for much of the season, and still found themselves undefeated and in their usual position atop the Big Sky standings heading into their homecoming game Saturday against Northern Arizona. 

Things changed on Saturday, and not for the better. 

Northern Arizona came into The Inferno and ended the Eags 19-game home regular-season winning streak, and the team's 19-game November winning streak — and it wasn't close. The Eags got pummeled 52-30 — read our complete recap of the game here — and now find themselves in second place in the Big Sky, behind undefeated Southern Utah, and just one game ahead of Northern Arizona, Montana and Portland State. Upcoming games at Montana and at home against Portland State will go a long way toward determining if the Eags will be the playoffs this year, and what their seed will be. On the upside, five other Top 10 teams in the FCS lost on Saturday, too, so the Eagles' seeding probably didn't take a huge hit. 

Remember when the Vandals had that two-game winning streak?
Idaho will have to go undefeated to end up at .500 and be bowl-eligible, and that would require beating both Appalachian State and Auburn, so, you know, not bloody likely!

The Vandals lost to South Alabama in a close one, 52-45, and now find themselves with a two-game losing streak. 

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Sunday, November 8, 2015

EWU can't pull off another big comeback, lose to Northern Arizona

Posted By on Sun, Nov 8, 2015 at 11:20 AM

The Eagles hosted Northern Arizona Saturday night for their homecoming and military/veteran appreciation night. - MAX CARTER
  • Max Carter
  • The Eagles hosted Northern Arizona Saturday night for their homecoming and military/veteran appreciation night.

Building on a dramatic 2015 campaign, the Eastern Washington Eagles welcomed the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks to Cheney on Saturday looking to avenge last year's final-second loss in Arizona. 

Celebrating homecoming and military/veteran appreciation night, the Eagles rocked their American flag jerseys, matching the bright red turf at The Inferno. On another sold out night at Roos Field, the Eastern faithful were as strong as ever, led by a raucous student section. Unfortunately, the fan support couldn't stop the streaking Lumberjacks, who defeated the Eagles 52-30.

After starting the game with two strong defensive series', the Eagles quickly fell to a 14-0 deficit fueled by two unlikely fumbles from redshirt junior running back Jalen Moore and record-breaking redshirt junior receiver Cooper Kupp. Then, with the second quarter moving along briskly and a goose egg still on the board for Eastern, Kupp began to make amends for his untimely muffed punt return.

Redshirt junior quarterback Jordan West polished off an 11 play, 75-yard drive with a beautifully lofted pass to Kupp in the back of the end zone. The touchdown was Kupp's 55th career touchdown reception, leaving him only three behind David Ball for the FCS career record. 
Junior defensive lineman Matthew Sommer (94) hoists the football in victory after an important fumble recovery. - MAX CARTER
  • Max Carter
  • Junior defensive lineman Matthew Sommer (94) hoists the football in victory after an important fumble recovery.

Northern Arizona responded to the score by driving in to Eastern's red zone, but the Eagles defense came up clutch on a 4th and 1 with a crucial sack of NAU freshman quarterback Case Cookus. West and company then drove the ball in to field goal range for Jordan Dascalo, but facing another windy night, Dascalo's kick missed left, sending the Eagles to the locker room trailing 14-7.

It didn't take long for NAU to extend their lead to 14 points, scoring on a one-yard pass from Cookus to sophomore receiver Emmanuel Butler only two minutes and 46 seconds in to the half. Despite the deficit, nobody wearing red at Roos Field had started panicking yet, as six of the Eagles' seven victories have been by only one score. And with the clock ticking away in the third quarter, EWU once again found a way to swing momentum back in their direction.

With the Lumberjacks driving at midfield and holding a 21-7 lead, the Eagles finally got on the other side of the turnover battle, as NAU's Cookus put the football on the turf. Eagles' junior defensive lineman Matthew Sommer fell on the football, holding it up in victory, seemingly telling everyone in Cheney that the game wasn't yet over.

Getting takeaways is important, but what really matters is what the offense does with it. One of the huge factors that has allowed EWU to be 6-2 this year has been capitalizing on opportunities, and that was no different on Saturday night. With 7:51 left in the third quarter, West hit sophomore receiver Terrence Grady for an 11-yard touchdown to bring the Eags within one score and keep their hopes alive.
Redshirt senior tight end Terry Jackson (89) congratulates sophomore receiver Terrence Grady (88) after his third quarter touchdown catch. - MAX CARTER
  • Max Carter
  • Redshirt senior tight end Terry Jackson (89) congratulates sophomore receiver Terrence Grady (88) after his third quarter touchdown catch.

But Northern Arizona was merciful and quickly put that hope out of its misery, responding with ten unanswered points highlighted by a 70-yard interception return for a touchdown by senior corner Marcus Alford. The pass from EWU's Jordan West was tipped by senior safety Darius Lewis, allowing Alford to snatch it and take it to the house. Then things got rarely out of hand for the Eagles.

On the ensuing kick-off, redshirt freshman receiver Simba Webster surrendered the third fumble of the game by Eastern and their fourth turnover of the game. The Lumberjacks weren't messing around, quickly scoring on a two-yard run from sophomore running back Corbin Jountti. Trailing at that point 38-14, with the chances of a victory all but gone, Beau Baldwin decided to surrender the offensive reins to redshirt freshman quarterback Reilly Hennessey.

Despite an efficient scoring drive from the Hennessey-led offense to bring the score to 38-22, the Eagles couldn't muster another comeback victory this time.

Northern Arizona scored on the following drive, plunging the dagger deeper with another touchdown from Jountti, making it 45-22 Lumberjacks. Jountti later recorded another rushing touchdown, giving him his third of the night and sealing the victory even tighter for NAU.

This was the third Eastern Washington Eagles football game that I have attended in 2015. I can honestly say that the first two were the two strangest football games that I've ever watched.

First, the Eagles pulled off a victory against Cal Poly despite allowing over 500 rushing yards to the Mustangs. Then, EWU defeated Weber State 14-13 while possessing the football for an unbelievable 18 and a half minutes. But when you turn the football over four times, it is pretty difficult to win games, and the Eagles learned that the hard way on Saturday night.

With 1:01 left and the game all but over, Hennessey ran in to the end zone for a touchdown and some garbage points, bringing the final score to 52-30. Beau Baldwin and his Eastern Washington football team will look to rebound next week in Montana against the Grizzlies.
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