Monday, February 2, 2015

Monday Morning Placekicker: What the hell happened last night?

Posted By on Mon, Feb 2, 2015 at 11:53 AM

Second down. One-yard line. Twenty-six seconds left. Down by four.

It's not going to be easy to forget what happened. It will haunt me for a long, long while. There will be a day in June when I'm mowing the lawn and the play will pop up in my mind and I'll utter a few obscenities and continue on with my life until it creeps back the next time. I am one of those people who lets silly games ruin their lives.

It will take a few years for history to determine the severity of the boondoggle that cost the Seahawks a Super Bowl, but right now, the decision to throw the goddamn ball when you have a timeout and the league's best running back feels like something just short of Bill Buckner and the Ground Ball.

If you somehow haven't heard or are wondering why people are sleeping at their desks today in your office, the Seahawks lost to the Patriots in last night's Super Bowl in perhaps the most dream-crushing fashion possible. The sadness permeating through the Northwest is so strong as to cast a fog across the entire region. It was supposed to be sunny today, actually.

Sportswriters and civilians alike are trying to make sense of Pete Carroll's decision (or, more likely, offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell's decision) to throw a slant pass to Ricardo Lockette instead of letting Marshawn Lynch bulldoze his way to victory. Some have contended that Lockette was actually somewhat open and the Patriots' Malcolm Butler actually made an incredible play. Still the decision to throw in this situation was confounding to the point of feeling somehow diabolical. And, of course, there are some conspiracy theories floating around that the Seahawks needed Russell Wilson to throw the winning pass and be the hero, rather than Lynch. It's mostly nonsense, but can you imagine Roger Goodell (who was roundly booed when he took the stage) presenting the MVP trophy to Beast Mode?

Sadly, that play call and the ultimate ending to the game just about erased from the collective memory of Jermaine Kearse's otherworldly catch, which may have been the greatest grab in Super Bowl history.

OK, that's just about all I can type about this game without becoming physically ill.

Allow the Inland Northwest to now sew its sporting hopes squarely on the shoulders of Gonzaga basketball now that the Super Bowl is over. The Zags are getting into position for a number one seed in the NCAA tournament and are now the No. 2-ranked team in the nation, jumping up a notch after Virginia lost to Duke on Saturday night.

Gonzaga looked like a top-tier team on Saturday when they easily dispatched a visiting Memphis squad. Sure, Memphis is not having its best year and is a shadow of the program it was under John Calipari, but the Zags 82-64 win over the Tigers was a clinic in efficiency. The Zags spread the scoring around and shot better than 55 percent as a team and 50 percent from 3-point land.

I was out at Eastern on Saturday afternoon to witness the most unbelievable comeback I'd ever encountered when EWU took down Idaho in overtime.

Eastern was down by 11 with 90 seconds left in the game and somehow managed to tie the contest and take it to overtime, where they scored 12 points and snuck away with a 98-95 win over a hot-shooting Vandals team. And EWU did it without Tyler Harvey, the nation's leading scorer, who went out of the game midway through the second half with a bruised thigh.

Thankfully, Drew Brandon was around to come just a rebound away from a triple-double, capped by a length-of-the-floor drive to tie things up at the end of regulation.

As we've said in this column just about every week, you should jump on the Eagles' bandwagon. The tickets are cheap and the basketball is as exciting as anything you'll find in the nation

You never know what you're going to get from this year's WSU squad, but they got what might have been their most impressive win of the season by edging Stanford 89-88 on Saturday. 
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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Local UFC athletes celebrate a weekend victory, prep for upcoming bouts

Posted By on Wed, Jan 28, 2015 at 3:03 PM


She's back! 

Spokane's own Julianna Pena — the fiery mixed martial artist who's become a fan favorite since landing a contract in 2013 with the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) as champion of its 18th consecutive The Ultimate Fighter competition series — is getting back into the cage this spring.

The classically beautiful and deeply motivated athlete hasn't been able to compete since that November 2013 victory. Pena sustained a devastating knee injury one year ago while training at her Spokane gym, Sikjitsu, and initial predictions were that she might never return to the sport. Those sentiments, however, only made the relentlessly determined Pena — one of a small percentage of women in a sport dominated by male athletes and fans — push herself even harder to make a full recovery and return.

And just yesterday, the UFC announced Pena is indeed scheduled to return to the ring on April 4, against a recent UFC newcomer, Russian fighter Milana Dudieva. What's remarkable about that matchup, however, is that Dudieva most recently fought Pena's teammate and training partner, Elizabeth Phillips, at a hotly contested matchup in Macau, China, last summer. (Read our feature on Phillips and Pena written just before that event.)

Continue reading »

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Monday, January 26, 2015

Calling all 12s! Fresh Brewed Tees rolls through Spokane tonight

Posted By on Mon, Jan 26, 2015 at 12:40 PM

This Fresh Brewed Tees apparel truck rolls through Spokane as part of its #TwelveTour to the Super Bowl.
  • This Fresh Brewed Tees apparel truck rolls through Spokane as part of its #TwelveTour to the Super Bowl.

You could head over to the Grocery Outlet parking lot on West Third for some knockoff Seahawks Super Bowl swag, OR you could meet up with the Fresh Brewed Tees Seattle truck this evening. The producer of super soft and sassy (licensed) sports-themed T-shirts is stopping in Spokane from 5 to 7 pm at the Swinging Doors in its blue and green apparel truck — the whole idea being to rally the 12th Mans together before heading to Super Bowl XLIX.

“Anytime the 12s are gathered, it’s going to be a party,” says Fresh Brewed Tees partner Jamie Munson, who runs the Seattle branch.

Boutique trucks aren’t a new thing, as reported on earlier this year, but one 

that’s road-tripping through the country en route to the Super Bowl is certainly different. The six-city tour kicked off in Seattle this morning and continues through Spokane, Boise, Salt Lake City and Las Vegas before arriving in Phoenix on Friday just in time to gear up for the big game — where the Seahawks are set to deflate the Patriots’ huge-ass egos and repeat sweet victory.

Originally from Cleveland, a city that’s had its unfair share of sports heartbreak (although Mariners fans may beg to differ), Fresh Brewed Tees started a Seattle branch after owner Tony Madalone experienced last year’s NFC Championships, when the Hawks beat the 49ers.

“Tony was blown away by the city of Seattle and its fans,” explains Munson, while stopped at a Jack in the Box to eat before taking on Snoqualmie Pass in the company van. “He decided he wanted to expand the company to the Seattle market too.”

A recent (slightly trippy) Fresh Brewed Tee design.
  • A recent (slightly trippy) Fresh Brewed Tee design.
Finding Munson, a Seattle native, on Twitter, the Madalone's company has successfully expanded. This week, the Fresh Brewed Tees caravan includes Munson and Madalone as well as five other people and one other vehicle. They don’t have Super Bowl tickets yet, but are still open to going if anyone is offering.

Tonight, expect various drawings, $100 worth of giveaways and no Patriots gear. While there won’t be any tees not already offered online, there will be shirts autographed by Seahawks cornerback Jeremy Lane. 

And if the Cleveland Browns ever met the Seahawks in the Super Bowl? 

"We'd root for our respective teams," Munson says with a laugh. "Our company would be able to handle it." 
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MONDAY MORNING PLACEKICKER: Eagles go crazy, Zags dominate and DEFLATEGATE!

Posted By on Mon, Jan 26, 2015 at 11:27 AM

Let's face it, the week between the end of the NFL playoffs and the Super Bowl is always brutally dull, as the withdrawal for football fans gets its start before we even get to enjoy that last game. Sure, there was that utterly meaningless and impossible-to watch-Pro Bowl Sunday night, but for the most part, it's better to focus on hoops. That's what we did here at Monday Morning Placekicker, our weekly crash course to get you up to speed on the weekend's sports happening. 

The MMPK team dropped by Cheney on Saturday to witness the Eastern Washington Eagles take on North Dakota. It was my first trip to Reese Court, and I can't lie — I was mostly there just to see the nation's leading scorer, Tyler Harvey, do his thing. Read all about Harvey's journey to ass-kicking point machine in our current issue. 
EWU's Drew Brandon. - EWU ATHLETICS
  • EWU Athletics
  • EWU's Drew Brandon.

Harvey got his, dropping 26 points, but they were a pretty quiet 26. The team, though, was loud as hell in overcoming a 41-35 halftime deficit by dropping bombs from all over the damn gym in the second half, to the tune of 67 points. 67 points! In a half! NBA teams don't even do that anymore, and their halves are 20 percent longer than college ball! The final score was 102-80, and fans should really get a free chalupa at Taco Bell or something when a college team goes over 100. 

The team shot 74 percent in the second half, which is utterly insane, and were led by a freshman named Bogdan Bliznyuk, who had a career-high 25 points on 8-for-16 shooting—and he missed about five lay-ups and short shots in the first half. He was 6-for-7 from the line, had 7 boards, and basically made us all forget that Eastern was missing Venky Jois, arguably their second-best player. 

Three Big Sky teams are packed at the top of the standings with one loss: EWU, Sacramento St. and Montana. Eastern's next game is Saturday against Idaho. 

Gonzaga ripped through its two home games last week, first pummeling St. Mary's in a matchup of the conference's two top teams on Thursday. Then on Saturday, they took down Pacific in short order, rolling out to an 18-point halftime lead before ultimately winning by 31, 91-60. It was a thoroughly dominating, and pretty boring to watch other than the fact Kevin Pangos tied the GU record for lifetime three-pointers, and had a couple of shots to break it before getting pulled from the game. He'll get to break the record at home when the Zags play Portland on Thursday night. 

The Gonzaga women's team also kept their roll going strong, seeing their own win streak reach 10 with a win at Pacific on Saturday. 

Earlier this month, we were pleasantly surprised by the unexpected success of the WSU men's team, ripping off three wins in a row against Cal, Washington and Oregon. Um, never mind. After Saturday's loss at Colorado, the Cougars have now lost three straight — none of them by less than 15 points. Hoo boy. The team is now in 9th place in the Pac 12. 

This stupid "scandal" involving the Patriots footballs is nothing more than proof that we need to get rid of the bye week between the conference championship games and the Super Bowl. But at least it inspired this: 

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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Cut me, Mick!: A champion boxer answers our Rocky-inspired questions

Posted By on Wed, Jan 21, 2015 at 12:21 PM


For someone who could easily kick my ass despite my being roughly twice her size, Tiara Brown doesn’t look all that intimidating. It might be the smile, or the easy laugh when she talks.

She’s an engaging personality, to be sure, and probably uses that to her advantage when she’s pummeling foes in the boxing ring. Brown is a featherweight who won a world championship in 2012 and followed up with a USA national championship in 2014 right here in Spokane. Brown ended the year with a bronze finish at the 2014 world championships, her strength sapped by an illness that hit in Korea just as the tournament started. Bronze is great for some, but not for someone defending the title and aiming for the Olympics. “I was so disappointed,” Brown said during a visit to the Inlander office, “because when I’m not, I’m on it.”

She’ll look to be on it this week at the USA Boxing National Championships, fighting in preliminary rounds at The Hub in Liberty Lake before most likely reaching the semi-finals and finals at Northern Quest Resort and Casino Friday and Saturday.

During her visit to Inlander central, Brown agreed to answer some questions — all of them inspired by a Rocky marathon I watched days before we met:

Inlander: Have you ever eaten raw eggs for training?
Brown: Ewwww! No! I’ve thought of doing that to see what it’s like, but I can’t stomach it. The first thing I think is , I might get salmonella. If there’s a chance I met get it, uh-uh. 

Have you ever chased a chicken around to get your speed up?

Check this out! When I went home (Ft. Myers, Florida) for Christmas, I actually did chase a chicken! But it wasn’t for training or anything like that. The chicken got loose from its den and it found its way down the block from this lady’s house. Me and my cousin were walking and heard “cockle-doodle-doo!” And this lady asked us to get him. I didn’t catch it! He ran away and I was like, “I can’t catch this chicken!”

To train for fighting Ivan Drago (in Rocky IV), Rocky runs up a mountain and throws logs around. What’s the most extreme thing you’ve done for endurance?
We have this drill in our gym called the playstation. We take a treadmill and put it on the highest incline. Then we take this water weight and put in on our back, and we have to climb up that treadmill for three minutes straight. And there are different stations we do for an hour straight with no break. Then we go to the next treadmill and it will be cranked to like 13 mph with no incline. Then there’s the dip machine. All of them for three minutes, with no break. My favorite thing is the tire. We flip that thing every day.

Own any pets like Rocky’s turtles or his dog Butkus?
I have a greyhound. She’s down at home with my mom. That’s my baby. She’s 10 and still thinks she’s a little puppy. She’s so lazy. When the doorbell rings, I’m looking for a bark. Nope. Freedom Brown is her name

If you could have any musician perform in the ring before you fight, ala James Brown in Rocky IV, who would it be?
Right now I’m on this new band The Script, I’m really digging them. My favorite band is the Kings of Leon. I love watching them on YouTube. They give it all.

When you’ve been out training, have you ever had a bunch of kids start following you or running with you?
Yeah. In the summer I’m actually in charge of a summer camp for boxing. Our boxing gym is attached to a rec center, and when I start running with our kids, the kids next door come out and want to run a lap with us. I’ll be doing like four miles, and to have the little babies come out and run with me, that’s fun.

Have you ever become friends with someone you’ve beaten in the ring, an old foe?
Sofya (Ochigava), she’s No. 2 in entire world, won silver in the Olympics back when I went up to 132 in 2010 to go to the Olympics. I fought her. She’s from Russia. When she fought everyone else, she wanted to destroy them. But when me and her fought, she wasn’t like that. We ‘ve been friends ever since 2010. We Skype every other weekend. Facebook. Instagram. The friends I’ve made. I never imagined.

The USA Boxing National Championships host the semi-finals on Friday and finals on Saturday at Northern Quest Resort & Casino in Airway Heights.  
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Monday, January 19, 2015

Fair-weather fans are worth cheering for

Posted By on Mon, Jan 19, 2015 at 1:36 PM


Right now, life is pretty sunny for fair-weather fans of the Seahawks.

But life is always pretty good for the fair-weather fan. That’s the entire point. If it’s sunny, they bask in it. And when it starts raining, they do the sensible thing and go inside and curl up with some hot chocolate. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

Yes, if you leave a game before it’s over to beat traffic, you deserve to be mocked when your team improbably turns it around in the final quarter. Yes, it’s fine to make fun of my grandpa, who turned off the Apple Cup in disgust in 2012, only to miss one of the Cougars’ greatest comebacks.Yes, there’s a Quixotic sort of heroism to those shivering in the rain in empty stadiums, keeping vigil over a string of heart-breaking defeats. There is a nobility to the doomed sports fan, loyally manning the Helms Deep parapets as he sees his team slaughtered year after a year.

So yes, the diehards earn the right to brag when their team turns it around, to hold their head a little higher, to brag about how they were there man before their team was cool.

But it’s not immoral or shameful to be a fair-weather fan. It’s rational.

Sports, it sometimes helps to be reminded, are make-believe.

Nothing inherently changes in the world if the Seahawks win the Super Bowl, or the Mariners win the pennant, or the North Central High School distance runners win Nike Cross Nationals. But that surge of jump-up-and-down excitement you get when you win, that swagger and strut that follows, that’s real. So is the feeling of devastation when you lose, the sickness in your stomach that leaves you scowling, snapping at your wife, yelling at your kids.

Rooting for the team most likely to leave you smiling instead of brooding is just a wise mental health choice. 

Jump on the bandwagon. The bandwagon is a magical place, where we feel a genuine camaraderie that can supersede race, class, nationality, religion, politics, and all that destructive stuff of division. The bandwagon is packed and warm, and people are drinking, singing, and waving their foam fingers. 

And when it gets colder, when the singing stops, and the foam fingers start wilting, feel free to jump off, stick your thumb out on the roadside, and hitch on the ride on the next packed bandwagon to drive by.

Remember: The stuff of sports — the tackles and fouls and half-court shots and volleys and baton passes — are all put there for your entertainment.

If a sitcom jumps the shark, you stop watching. If Michael Bay’s last three movies have been painful to sit through, you stop shelling out for tickets. And if the Seahawks start sucking next year, it makes sense to pack up your 12th Man banner and find something else to root for. There’s so much to do in life, so many TV shows to binge through on Netflix, so many good albums to discover, so many books to read, articles to skim, video games to play through that won’t leave you depressed.

Even die-hard fans complain about the way that, in some sports, swaps, trades, and coaching turnover makes it feel more like you’re rooting for a stadium or a mascot more than any truly contiguous team. So why bother with loyalty?

There’s no karmic punishment, no angry sports God, no execution for treason, no dishonor upon your family if you abandon your team for a better one. There’s no sense in being more loyal to a team than that team’s athletes are to their wives.

It’s fun to watch sports.

It’s much more fun to watch sports when you’re winning.

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MONDAY MORNING PLACEKICKER: The Seahawks miracle is the only thing anyone will be talking about today

Posted By on Mon, Jan 19, 2015 at 11:43 AM


Hopefully you aren't working today because it's Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. But if you are at the office, it's likely that the first hour (or two) of the work day featured very little real work and a whole hell of a lot of people standing around trying to collectively process what happened in Seattle yesterday afternoon.

Even non-fans know what I'm talking about, because of TV or Twitter or the fact that the neighbor you've never met came to your door screaming that the Seahawks were going to the Super Bowl.

Seattle took down the Green Bay Packers in overtime by a score of 28-22. The score of was 19-7 Green Bay with just five minutes left in the game, making this one of the most ridiculous comebacks in NFL history. I know I've never seen anything like it.

But let's try to piece it all back together and remember all the outrageous plays that had to happen for the Seahawks to pull this off on a day when the typically reliable hunk of Jesus-loving muscle Russell Wilson threw four interceptions.

I'm a believer in the Seahawks since birth, but there was a part of me beginning to navigate through the stages of grief about halfway through the third quarter. The Hawks offense couldn't do anything and Wilson looked like he'd forgotten where he was half the time. It was all very sad. Then there was some light and the offense creeped down the field...only to stall in the red zone. Hell, we'll settle for a field goal, I thought. The following happened next:
So many unlikely things have to happen here and without this play, I think the game is pretty much over. First Jon Ryan, a punter whose also the holder (and a Canadian), has to make it to the corner and then has to throw a ball to a guy who's never made a catch in the NFL. And yes, all those things happened.

Then, the Seahawks had to play their best defense against a Packers team that was trying to backpedal their way into the Super Bowl with an ultra-conservative string of play calls. The Hawks got the ball back and Wilson threw a gem to Marshawn Lynch, who would take it inside the 10 yard line, setting up an easy run for Wilson.

Which brings us to the onside kick — one of the most exciting, but typically deflating plays in football — which yesterday changed the course of Seahawks history. You have to feel for the Packers player who let the ball bounce off his head and into the arms of Seahawks reserve receiver Chris Matthews (I'd never heard of him, either), but whatever, we'll take it.
Marshawn Lynch was playing like a man out for blood the entire second half. Maybe he was pissed that the NFL wouldn't let him wear his gold (as in made with actual gold) cleats, or maybe the guy just exists to punish would-be tacklers. He took the ball and did this, which, of course, included the obligatory nut-grab.
OK, so now the Seahawks have a 20-19 lead, which would be fine if they weren't facing Aaron Rodgers, a quarterback who can use the remaining minute and change on the clock to easily get his team within field goal range (which he did on the drive that followed). So, they needed a 2-point conversion, which they accomplished with a game of Flyer's Up. Here's how it sounded from inside the packed Century Link.
After Green Bay's far-too-easy drive for a field goal, the game headed to overtime. And any longtime fan who saw the Seahawks and Packers standing at mid field for an overtime coin flip was immediately haunted by this unfortunate Matt Hasselbeck moment from 2003. But thankfully the Seahawks kept their mouths shut when the coin flipped their way — which was also one of the biggest strokes of luck for Seattle on a day when they were already absurdly lucky.

So what the hell, first and ten just across midfield? Let's chuck this thing to Jermaine Kearse, the guy who hadn't caught a ball all day, and actually seen all the balls thrown his way get intercepted. Touchdown, game over. Seahawks are going back to the Super Bowl and I'm lying in front of my television set trying to figure out what the hell just happened.

There were other sporty things that happened this weekend, too, but no one will ever remember them, so we'll just leave you with this image of Seahawks defensive lineman Michael Bennet riding a police officer's bicycle. 
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Friday, January 16, 2015

Gonzaga learns about L.A. traffic and why free throws matter

Posted By on Fri, Jan 16, 2015 at 4:02 PM


You didn't think it was going to be easy, did you?

While Gonzaga is the No. 3 team in the land (at least according to the polls), the notion that the Zags were just going to steamroll through the WCC schedule is some silly thinking, my friend. The target on the back of the perennial league leaders is as big and bright as ever this season and the WCC has some teams that can surprise you.

And then there are nights like last night at Pepperdine, which can pop out of nowhere, throwing rankings and statistical certainties into the Pacific Ocean. Long story short, the Zags won 78-76 in one of the weirder contest in recent memory.

The Zags found themselves sitting on their bus on the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH to the denizens of Southern California) thanks to a traffic jam caused by a driver slamming into a light poll. TV announcers said the team was staying in Marina Del Rey and the drive up to Malibu (which is about 20 miles away) took them nearly two and a half hours, meaning they got off the bus less than 45 minutes before the scheduled tip off. Coach Mark Few gives a major hat tip to Pepperdine coach Marty Wilson, who agreed to start the game just after 8 pm, rather than the scheduled 7:30 pm tip time. Yeah, the late start made our local broadcast of the game nudge into one of the last ever episodes of Parenthood, but was a game that didn't skimp on the entertainment.

Did the traffic jam effect the outcome of the game? Probably. College athletes are used to routines. Everything is timed out on game days — when they eat, study, get on the bus, sleep, tweet — and a disruption to that formula doesn't bode well, especially when you're more than a thousand miles from home.

Now, does the traffic jam (or just "driving" as they call it in LA) explain why Gonzaga missed 19 free throws? It's the only logical explanation for how a team that has been averaging 70 percent from the free throw line (not amazing, but good enough) on the season could go so cold (14 of 33). It's even weirder because the Zags shot the lights out from the field (almost 57 percent, which is very, very good). Let's say the Zags shot their standard 70 percent last night — they would have made 23 free throws, giving them an easy 11 point win.

More likely, the reason behind the close game is that Pepperdine is good this season, a statement that no one has uttered for about a decade (the Waves haven't taken down Gonzaga since 2002). That doesn't explain the free throws, but it's the reason Pepperdine was able to come storming back in the second half, getting the shoebox-sized Firestone Fieldhouse roaring at times. The Waves Jett Raines (winner, best first name category) had 22 points and the beastly Stacy Davis had 21 of his own for a team that's going to be a pain in the ass for whoever faces them in the WCC tourney come March. Also, keep that in mind Pepperdine beat BYU in Provo last week

Or, maybe the free throw mystery was a result of Kevin Pangos' new hairdo, a Rick Springfield-esque blow dry number that our web editor Dan Nailen speculated about.
    One guy who doesn't need to worry about hair, because he keeps his Marine-short, is Kyle Wiltjer (who once had awesome hair of his own), who wasn't bothered by traffic or anything else, scoring 24 points, many of them on a second half tear when the dude couldn't miss. It was some Larry Bird and Michael Jordan eating Big Macs sort of stuff at times

But the Zags pulled out the win on what was, again, a weird night. You can count on a few other weird nights in the Weird Coast Conference as we head toward March. The Zags are still in LA, where they'll play Loyola Marymount (who are coming off their first WCC win of the season), which is only two miles from their hotel. So, in traffic, that's like only a 45-minute drive.

Because the Zags game was delayed, it overlapped with what was a dynamite Pac-12 matchup down in Pullman that you probably didn't see. In a college basketball season that's been marked by low scoring and sloooow styles of play, the up-and-down shoot-out between WSU and Oregon was easily one of the most fun games I've tuned into this season. The final score? 108-99 — those are some late 1980s sorts of numbers.

The game was tied 94-94 going into overtime in Ernie Kent's first time coaching against his former team, and then the Cougars, thanks to three 20-point performances, including 26 points from surprise star Josh Hawkinson pulled away to secure their third win of the Pac-12 schedule. 
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Monday, January 12, 2015

MONDAY MORNING PLACEKICKER: Seahawks one win from Super Bowl, Zags jump to #3, and the best shot you've ever seen

Posted By on Mon, Jan 12, 2015 at 11:01 AM

If you find yourself surrounded by chatting coworkers, family and friends, and don't have the time to keep up with the weekend's sportsball, we've got your back at Monday Morning Placekicker. Here's everything you need to know on Monday: 


Move over, Marshawn, the Seahawks D has a beast of its own. A whole squad of them really, given how Seattle's defense performed the second half of the season. But on Sunday against the Carolina Panthers, safety Kam Chancellor was a freak. When he wasn't doing this: 
He was doing this: 
As Richard Sherman aptly put it, Chancellor doesn't just play football, he "damages people's souls." The game was tight at the half, and surprisingly high-scoring, but the end was never really in doubt. When Russell Wilson wants to go pretty much perfect on third-down passes — he was 8-for-8 on third down for 199 yards and three TDs — the Seahawks are impossible to beat. The final score was 31-17, and the original Beast Mode didn't really have to do much. He's probably saving it up for the NFC Championship on Sunday in Seattle at noon. 

The Seahawks will be playing the Green Bay Packers, the team they vanquished by 20 points the first week of the season. The Packers beat Dallas for the honor of facing Chancellor and Co. 

In the AFC, the Patriots will host the championship game Sunday afternoon after holding off the upset bid by Baltimore in a back-and-forth contest that had a lot of big hits, a lot of scoring (it ended up 35-31), and a lot of vacant stares by Joe Flacco. The Pats will play the Indianapolis Colts, who showed their decision to ditch Peyton "Noodle Neck" Manning in favor of Andrew Luck was a wise one by taking down the Papa John's pimp on his home field Sunday afternoon. 

Stop me if you've heard this one before during the Bulldogs 2014-15 march. An undermanned-but-plucky opponent keeps it close for a while, then the deep, talented Zags muscle them inside with their big men, start hitting outside shots and end up pulling away for a comfortable lead. It happened Thursday against San Francisco, and again Saturday against Santa Clara. Przemek Karnowski and Kyle Wiltjer led the way, but it was another well-rounded effort.

This morning the Zags got the news that their efforts had been rewarded with a No. 3 national ranking. This is the highest mark since they were, of course, No. 1 back in 2013. The jump is attributed to losses by Duke, Wisconsin and Louisville in one of the crazier weeks in college hoops so far this season. 

They play again Thursday at Pepperdine in a game that could be close. The Waves — who've been very bad for almost a decade — beat BYU in Provo on Thursday and have a 4-1 WCC record going into their meeting with the Zags. 

A few weeks ago, it was unimaginable that Washington State would travel to Seattle and take down the then-ranked UW Huskies. While UW has shit the bed since Pac-12 play started, the Cougars find themselves a genuine threat, going 2-1 to open conference play, and they've yet to play a home game. On Saturday, they beat the Huskies 80-77 behind DaVonte Lacy's clutch free-throw shooting

Elswhere, EWU took out Idaho and hit 11 three-pointers, and now sits in first place in the Big Sky Conference. Gonzaga's women's team is undefeated in conference play after beating Santa Clara on the road Saturday. 

Shot of the year? Decade? Century? 

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Monday, January 5, 2015

MONDAY AFTERNOON PLACEKICKER: Eagles prevail, Cougs win on the road and a happy bye week

Posted By on Mon, Jan 5, 2015 at 3:02 PM

This week's edition of the Monday Morning Placekicker is coming at you in the afternoon, because, well, the holidays are over and it's all foggy and wet out and, ya know, other excuses. But in case you spent the weekend in a post-holiday coma, here's what happened in the sports world, in case anyone asks.

I've been rather upfront about my reckless jump aboard the Eastern Washington men's basketball bandwagon and on Saturday the bandwagon took me out to Cheney for the Eagles second Big Sky Conference game. They had taken a win the previous Thursday from Weber State behind 39 points from Tyler Harvey and on Saturday faced Idaho State, a three-win team that had traveled all the way from Pocatello (aka God's Armpit) on a bus for the game.

There's this thing about Eastern that will drive my fellow bandwagon fans bonkers: they really play to the level of their opponent. This is good when they knocked off Indiana and nearly did the same to Washington and Cal, but then they struggle with a non-Division I squad like Lewis and Clark and then, on Saturday, let Idaho State hang around with just minutes left in the game.

Thanks to some great effort off the bench (Bogdan Bliznyuk had 17 points after Drew Brandon left with back spasms) and a string of forced turnovers, the Eagles prevailed 65-57. Venky Jois had 16 points, as did Harvey — who we should mention is the nation's leading scorer. If you needed another reason to get on the bandwagon, you shouldn't need a reason other than Tyler Harvey.

For the first time in 15 tries, the Washington State Cougars men's squad won a road conference game. They went all of last season without winning on the road, if you can believe that.

But Ernie Kent's maybe-better-than-we-thought Cougars won down in Berkeley, beating Cal 69-66. They are currently the only Pac-12 team to win on the road this season, after a number of surprising scores for the first weekend of conference play. For example, Washington lost to Stanford on Sunday, after having lost to these same Cal Bears on Friday. Needless to say, the Huskies are no longer ranked in either poll, despite flirting with the top 10 just a few weeks ago.

Speaking of rankings, Gonzaga saw their ranking go up to No. 6 in the AP poll, their highest spot since heading into the 2013 NCAA Tournament at the top of the polls.

Apparently, sports writers were impressed with the Zags two road wins last week: a gritty, kinda sloppy meeting with San Diego a week ago and Saturday night's closer-than-expected win in the always-tough Chiles Center at the University of Portland.

Against Portland, Kevin Pangos dropped in 21 points, as did big man Prezemek Karnowski, which was good to see.

Don't make the mistake of making conversation by asking people if they saw the Seahawks game this weekend, because the Seahawks didn't play. They didn't have to play, because the best damn team in the NFC isn't required to do so on the Wild Card Weekend. The Hawks will play Carolina in Seattle on Saturday at 5:15 pm. 

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