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Gonzaga is the top dog in Washington

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© Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Gonzaga is the top dog in Washington

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Nearly 12 years to the day from the last time the Gonzaga Bulldogs took the court on the Washington Huskies’ home floor, there was a palpable tension in the air. Having played each other the last two seasons, there was something different about this matchup. The Huskies, coming off a win over #2 Kansas, had a renewed sense of optimism. Fans had suddenly been reminded that yes, their Dawgs had in-fact started the basketball season and yes, Mike Hopkins may have turned this program around much sooner than anticipated.  Another key ingredient to this Sunday night game is the large contingent of Zags alumni and fans in Seattle. Having navigated UW’s tricky requirements of purchasing five-game plans just to get in the door, a couple thousand Zag-faithful decked in blue and red showed up, hoping to witness the Zags first win at Hec-Ed Pavilion since 2003.  Look down towards the court to see Adam Morrison (Zags radio color commentator) with a headset on, and flashbacks to his 2005 43-point performance spoiled in a 95-93 loss come rushing back to any Zag.

Was the perfect storm brewing in Seattle for the Huskies to top the Zags? A small but faithful UW student section, highlighted by frat-boys with “H-O-P-K-I-N-S” painted on their chests, seemed confident. David Crisp appeared calm, as he mingled with fans five minutes before the game, choosing to dap-up those sitting courtside before clanking a long three off the front iron.  Husky students invaded a good chunk of the Zags’ side during warmups, as they prepared for some sort of high-five tunnel that you may see at an 8u soccer game. Gonzaga’s basketballs would bounce over to students, only for the UW faithful take it upon themselves to shoot and miss ugly-looking jumpers.

If the UW season ticket holders sitting near the court looked up, however, they would see a dark cloud looming in their arena. A sleeper-cell among Husky Five-Game Ticket Package holders had been born, and tonight was their coming out party.  It would only take an electric play by the Zags before everyone in the arena would know just what they were in for. It only took four minutes, as Zach Norvell Jr. grabbed a steal, went coast-to-coast, and packed a dunk with his left hand that not many knew he was capable of. Norvell proved he was more than just a three-point threat, as he was undercut by a Husky defender, dunked with authority, and went spilling onto the floor for the and-one. The arena went nuts, with Norvell motioning to the crowd as you would expect he would if the game were in Spokane.  It was over from there, as the Zags out-rebounded, out-hustled, and out-played the Huskies all night long.

This 97-70 blowout by the Zags made a few things evident:

  1. Gonzaga is here to stay. It’s a national brand that is now too big to fail under Mark Few. Gone are the days of wondering if this is going to be an up or down season for the Zags. “Who did we lose from last season?” is no longer all that important of a question. Few and co. are attracting players from all over the country and world, have mastered the art of the redshirt season (Olynyk, Wiltjer, Goss, Williams, Norvell), and are unbelievably consistent year-in and year-out. The last three seasons have seen an Elite 8, Sweet 16, and Championship Game despite nearly complete starting-five turnover each season. It’s clear that the Zags are more similar to programs like Duke, Michigan State, and Villanova than they are St. Mary’s or Butler. Their fans travel like an annual Final Four contender and they play like it. UW better not bank on Gonzaga being a little mid-major that may give them some trouble from time to time. The Zags are a barometer that UW will have to try and measure themselves against for a long, long time.

 

  1. UW is going to take a couple years to rebuild. Riding high off their upset over Kansas (I mean, who isn’t beating Kansas these days?), Husky fans decided to start paying attention to basketball this week. Their football season is on pause, as a month passes by between games, and the 7-2 basketball team has grabbed their attention. #TougherTogether was splattered all over video boards and social media announcements throughout the game. Ultimately, true colors came through for the fair-weathered fans in attendance, as streams of people poured out of the stadium with eight minutes left in the game. If UW is going to be #TougherTogether at home, more than roughly 1/100th of their students are going to need to show up. The shirtless H-O-P-K-I-N-S crew in the front row does deserve some respect, as they stuck it out the whole game, even if the P, K, and N were on their phones for most of the second half. As for the UW students on the court, UW has a few good pieces. Dickerson is a monster down low and Nowell is a stud freshman that loves to taunt defenders when he makes buckets to close the gap from 20 to 18. UW does not play any senior significant minutes, which could be good or bad, depending on how you look at it. On one hand, Hopkins will have an experienced team next year. On the other, he will have trouble freeing up any scholarships to begin bringing his own recruits in, unless he cuts a few players. The question remains- is Hopkins here to stay, or will he use UW as a springboard for his head coaching career? When Boeheim does retire, will Hopkins be on the first flight to Syracuse? It certainly seems like a possibility, and whether Husky fans totally buy into this program could depend on whether the Hopkins family is buying or renting their house.

 

  1. Hec-Ed (Alaska Airlines Arena) needs a face-lift. I hope Mike Hopkins put this into his contract, as this facility is not on-par with those of premier programs. With a listed seating capacity of 10,000, this arena should only be comfortably seating 8,500. This way, they could sell-out without the help of a couple thousand fans from the opponent. The upper bleachers are just that- bleachers with no backs. The lower bowl has bleachers as well. The band is cornered on an awkward second level walkway. Bathrooms saw lines 50 feet out the door, clogging up the concourse during halftime. Access was limited to four lines total, creating a log-jam outside along Montlake Ave. There are some great features to Hec-Ed, such as the classic windows and brick exterior. However, if fans are expected to pack this gym, they deserve an experience more similar to what’s currently available at the football stadium across the parking lot.

Portland Winterhawks’ Losing Streak To Five, But Still Sees Fur Fly On Teddy Bear Toss Night

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Portland Winterhawks’ Losing Streak To Five, But Still Sees Fur Fly On Teddy Bear Toss Night

BY 

After dropping two tough battles to Vancouver and Everett earlier in the week, it seemed only fitting for the Portland Winterhawks to attempt revenge in return matches this weekend. The games at Veterans Memorial Coliseum were played almost playoff style: tough defense, stellar goaltending and physical play. The score would reflect that style of game.

Just prior to the game against the Vancouver Giants, there came word that goaltender Cole Kehler had just signed a three-year entry level deal with the Los Angeles Kings. Kehler, who was the backstop on the Central Swing winning run, has played 24 of the team’s 30 games thus far, winning 17 of them with a goals-against-average of just over 2 per game.

The Hawks also dropped two spots in the CHL poll, which now has them slotted fourth overall, but remain one of three teams in all weeks of this year’s poll and the only WHL team to do so.

Against Vancouver, the Hawks dominated the game in all ways except the most important location, the scoreboard. Portland tallied 37 shots to Vancouver’s 18 and neither team scored on the powerplay, despite eight chances split between them. It was a goaltenders’ duel that gave both Cole Kehler and Giants’ netminder David Tendeck stars of the game with heroic saves, but it would be the Giants with the only goal of the game by Brendan Semchuk midway through the third period that held up as the winner. It was the Hawks’ third shutout loss and second in a week as it seemed at times the sticks were clenched too tightly in.

Portland would have little time to worry about that game as the following night, it was a matchup with the Everett Silvertips. It was also Teddy Bear Toss night, a function at the game to collect bears and other stuffed plush for a slew of charities throughout the Portland Metro area. This was a game Portland came of the chute flying. They got initial rushes and shot attempts, but got stymied by a tough defense and goaltending of Carter Hart. In the second half of the period, the Hawks get a bit too aggressive and found themselves shorthanded for six minutes and allowed Everett shots on net, but Cole Kehler was there to answer them all.

To the second period, where the Hawks started strong, but gave way to a penalty to Alex Overhardt for kneeing that allowed Everett to finally cash in. Connor Dewar finished off a play in the Hawks zone to give Everett the lead just six minutes into the period. The ink was barely dry on the scoresheet when Bryce Kindopp scored just 22 seconds later, causing many Hawks fans concern that they’d look to another shutout and no place for the fur to fly.

Just past the seven-minute mark, a highly spirited battle between Portland’s John Ludvig and Everett’s Montana Onyebuchi gave the fans something to cheer for as Ludvig tagged Onyebuchi with several shots before the linesmen broke them up and Onyebuchi was banished from the game.

The Hawks pressed harder than ever in the third, owning the shot clock 20-4 and on one continued pressure, Mason Mannek found the puck free at the side of the net. He passed up to Alex Overhardt who looked and saw John Ludvig open at the other side of the net which gave Ludvig the Hawks Teddy Bear goal. The fur went flying as nearly 11,000 critters found their way to the ice. For that goal, Ludvig was named first star of the game. Alex Overhardt was named third star, in part for his unselfish act to get Ludvig the goal, but also his presence during the entire game. Carter Hart was named second star of the game, though, that snuffed out any further goals from the Hawks as he stopped 42 of 43 shots to win 2-1. Kehler stopped 23 of 25 in the loss, the Hawks’ fifth straight with three games remaining before the Christmas break. Portland and Everett combined for eight powerplays, with Everett netting one goal and Portland being blanked.

The Hawks will look to bounce back on Tuesday in Spokane as they face the Chiefs, who they will face again in Portland on Saturday. A quick road trip to Everett on Sunday will complete the three-game set and will then give Portland eight days off for the players to head home to visit family.

Following Christmas, the Hawks play four games in five nights with a home and home series with Tri-City Americans and a home and home set with the Seattle Thunderbirds including the New Year’s Eve Battle with Seattle at the Moda Center.

The Seahawks' gift to the NFC is a playoff contest

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© Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

The Seahawks' gift to the NFC is a playoff contest

By 

They’re givers, the Seattle Seahawks. ‘Tis the season of giving and give they shall. Call it the gift of interest, for those interested in the NFC playoff contests.

Continuing their December magic in the Pete Carroll era (22–9), the blue birds of the Pacific Northwest gave the top-heavy NFC a tumble by taking down the previous conference leader, the (now) 10–2 Philadelphia Eagles on Dec. 3, 24–10. By bolstering their record to 8–4, and thanks to Sunday losses by the faltering Atlanta Falcons and up-and-down Carolina Panthers, the Seahawks vaulted from out of the playoffs to the conference’s No. 5 seed.

So yes, they gave a gift to themselves, first off, but gave a gift to the rest of the conference hopefuls by taking down the top dog and making every other remaining division leader (New Orleans Saints, Los Angeles Rams and Minnesota Vikings) legitimate hope they can snare the top spot, or at the very least the other penultimately important second seed and its accompanying first-round bye.

Heck, the blue birds might even have a shot at a bye themselves if they can continue their December magic against next Sunday’s (playoff-bound) opponent, the 8–4 Jacksonville Jaguars and again at home the following week against the NFC West-leading Rams.

Look what we got

Apart from doing themselves a solid, let’s examine who else benefited from the Seahawks’ surprising win against the Eagles.

Minnesota Vikings

Easily the jolliest of gift recipients, the surprising Vikings are now the conference’s No. 1 seed — tied with the Eagles, but nudged ahead for now with a tiebreaker (strength of schedule). The unexpected, magical season of the Vikings got its latest boost from the Seahawks the same weekend the Vikings enjoyed a listless outing in Atlanta from the faltering Falcons.

It all seems to be lining up purple right now. Despite losing yet another starting quarterback (Sam Bradford, injured reserve) and their starting rooking running back (Dalvin Cook), the Vikings have quietly cobbled together a credible offense with journeyman Case Keenum having a career year, to go along with the NFL’s second-stingiest defense in terms of both yards allowed and points.

It gets even better, if you’re feeling purplish: The Vikings, now with the inside track to the conference’s No. 1 seed, are the NFL’s greatest threat to be able to play the Super Bowl in their own stadium on Feb. 4 at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. Without Seattle’s December magic, they’d still have a shot, just not the best shot.

New Orleans Saints

One of the NFL’s other major surprises of 2017, the Saints have made mincemeat of their division opponents (3–0 so far) and have been on an absolute tear since staring the season 0–2. Their only loss since week three was to the also 9–3 Rams, and they did lose to the Vikings in week one. Homefield is almost certainly not in the cards for the Saints, but a possible first-round bye is reasonable now that they’re only one game out.

The Saints get the faltering Falcons twice, the faltering Buccaneers in Tampa and a home date against the also surprising, but middling, New York Jets. They can win out and possibly get the No. 2 seed, thanks to the Seahawks.

Los Angeles Rams

Like the Saints, the Rams are one game out of a round one bye. All they have to do is not be their traditional selves, which includes a number of late season swoons (2016 ended with seven straight defeats). Nothing the Rams have put on record this year suggests this is the same old Rams.

The Rams have won six of their last seven since losing to the Seahawks on Oct. 8. They will face three straight playoff-caliber teams in the Eagles, Seahawks and Tennessee Titans, so their work is cut out for them. They are one game out of the top spot, and can make a strong case for themselves if they take care of business at home against the Eagles and make a winning statement in Seattle on Dec. 17. They could also play themselves totally out of the playoffs. But having trimmed the top off the NFC, the Rams can thank the Seahawks for their extra incentive.

Thanks for nothing

The NFC teams that did not smile at the Seahawks’ most recent win include the 6–6 Green Bay Packers, who have only an outside shot at the playoffs and would prefer to be able to use their week one victory over Seattle as a tiebreaker, if needed. That’s no longer likely. The 8–4 Panthers are neck-and-neck with the Seahawks and currently behind in the tiebreaker criteria, so they would have preferred the Eagles won while they trail the Saints in their division—whom they can’t catch due to being swept. It’s Wild Card or nothing for the Panthers.

The Falcons can still make a run at a Wild Card, particularly since they have a head-to-head victory over the Seahawks, but they’ll need Seattle’s help, not more of the blue birds’ usual December magic. The 6–6 Dallas Cowboys also have no shot in their division, so they’re not happy to have to try to catch Seattle, now two games ahead. Ditto for the 6–6 Detroit Lions, who, like the Cowboys and Packers, are hoping for some serious losing streaks by Carolina, Seattle and Atlanta.

Of course, the Seahawks could still win the NFC West. If they’re going to, it starts Sunday in Jacksonville, on the road against the NFL’s stoutest defense (14.8 ppg) and perhaps a more surprising seventh-highest scoring offense in the NFL (24.9 ppg). Will the Seahawks continue their giving tradition this holiday season? They’re underdogs in this one, but that didn’t matter last week. It’s December, after all.

Glass Nabs Top Award In The CHL, Portland Winterhawks Gets Bladed

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Glass Nabs Top Award In The CHL, Portland Winterhawks Gets Bladed

BY: STUART KEMP

The road trip from Alberta ended with the Portland Winterhawks nabbing eleven of twelve points and provided a solid cushion atop the US Division standings and got them within nipping distance of the Moose Jaw Warriors for the overall lead as the Warriors played a few extra games to keep their now very slim lead.

As the Hawks approached home, there came word of Cody Glass receiving the CHL Player of the Month award. Glass, who had been drafted sixth overall in the 2017 NHL draft and signed shortly thereafter, amassed 26 points in 12 games including a 5-game point streak toward the end of November and recorded points in all 12 games played in November. He was announced as the CHL winner after capturing the WHL On the Run Player of the Week ending in November.

The Hawks, after battling a tough Central Swing tour of six games in nine nights, came home to start a whirlwind five game in nine night run with three games at home and two back to back away games. Portland would start it off at home with a game against the Saskatoon Blades, who had been winless in their US Division swing thus far. On the same night, the Hawks welcomed the Les Schwab Fox 12 Toy Drive as they looked to collect a number of toys for the drive ending in mid-December.

The best part of the night was the over 2,000 toys collected at the Moda Center which will go to a variety of local area charities for Christmas. Either Saskatoon was very good on this night, or Portland took them way too lightly. Shane Farkas made the start in net for Portland and held the Blades scoreless in the first period; the same could be said for Nolan Maier in the Saskatoon net. The second period appeared to be the undoing for the Hawks as a costly penalty to John Ludvig gave the Blades their only powerplay goal of the game and the only goal the Blades really needed.

Things got a bit rough for the Hawks as two scraps resulted in Portland’s top line scorers Sklyer McKenzie being off the ice for 17 minutes and Keiffer Bellows getting ejected from the game for a separate scrap. Without the two, the burden fell to other members of the Hawks, who despite a 48-42 shots on goal difference, couldn’t find the back of the net. Oddly, that would be the end of the penalties with the Blades going 1 for 2 and Portland unable to convert on their three chances. Saskatoon would add their second goal of the game late in the second period and add another late in the third to take a commanding lead. Portland tried to add strength up front as they pulled Farkas for the extra attacker with just under two minutes left in the game, but couldn’t convert and allowed Saskatoon an empty net goal with about thirty seconds left to close the scoring and hand the Hawks only their second shutout defeat of the season.

The Hawks will have no time to dwell on the loss as they hit the road for games Tuesday in Vancouver, BC and Wednesday in Everett before returning to Portland to play in order the same two teams Friday and Saturday. The Saturday game will be the annual Teddy Bear Toss where thousands of plush toys will hit the ice following Portland’s first goal. Once that game is over, the Hawks will play just three more games as they head to the Christmas break. They will feature a home and home series with the Spokane Chiefs and an away game versus the Everett Silvertips.

Predictions for the NFC West with only five weeks left

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© Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Predictions for the NFC West with only five weeks left

By 

LA Rams 8-3

Remaining schedule: At Arizona, vs Philadelphia, at Seattle, at Tennessee, vs San Francisco

Projection: 12-4 record, NFC west champion, NFC #2

The Rams are guaranteed at least a .500 record, and could challenge for home field advantage if the Eagles give up a game or two down the stretch. What a turnaround this year has been for Sean McVay and Jared Goff, and we could be experiencing déjà vu from the 1999 season. The Jaguars were the Rams’ offensive equals that year (if there was such a thing), but this year it would have to be the Eagles, and we all get treated to a late season showdown before the playoffs with the hope that these two juggernauts face each other again in the conference championship. How great would it be to see the Rams or Eagles take on the Patriots or Steelers in the Super Bowl? You really couldn’t miss with any of those potential matchups. Games against the Eagles and Seahawks could be losses, but the Rams should coast to an 11 win season, and have the chance to do better than that if they can go 4-1 or better the rest of the way. Goff and RB Todd Gurley are looking like superstars, and while Robert Woods’ injury hurts, they can fill the gaps with Sammy Watkins the way they originally intended to use him.  What they really need is for their defense to play at a 2015 Denver Broncos level, and they would be virtually unstoppable. If their defense continues to give up big plays, they could be forced to win shootouts, which they are definitely capable of in the SoCal sunshine. If they have to travel to the east coast with a Super Bowl on the line, the potentially bad weather, running game, and strong defense could play to their favor as well. Against so many odds, they are in the drivers’ seat and just need to stay healthy and continue to play smart and they should have a great shot at their first deep playoff run since 2001.

Seattle Seahawks 7-4

Remaining schedule: vs Philadelphia, at Jacksonville, vs LA Rams, at Dallas, vs Arizona

Projection: 11-5, NFC #6

Looking at their remaining five games, Seattle has a real shot to make the playoffs, but they will need some help even if they go 4-1 over a potentially brutal finish. It’s equally possible they could go 3-2 or 2-3 and not have a shot at all. Other than shooting themselves in the foot, the one team that could ruin the Seahawks’ chances at a playoff berth just by matching their record is the same team that knocked them out last year – Atlanta. With identical records and a head to head win, Atlanta could do something no one has done while Russell Wilson has been under center in Seattle – keep them out of the postseason. Wilson has led the Seahawks to a division crown or wild card berth in each of his five seasons, but this year could be the outlier if things don’t go their way down the stretch.  Minus Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor, a serviceable running game, and a banged up team pretty much across the board, it will be impressive to see them make the playoffs, but given the amount of times they have been bitten by the injury bug, I’m not sure how much damage they can do if they make it. They are good enough to knock around with the league’s elite, but they just haven’t been the same since 2014 and their track record going on the road in the postseason is ok but not strong (2-3). They almost need a losing season to reload in the draft with some high picks, but as it stands they may be doomed to NFL purgatory while their once proud running game and defense continues to age and fizzle to the point of being unrecognizable.

Arizona Cardinals 5-6

Remaining schedule: vs LA Rams, vs Tennessee, at Washington, vs NY Giants, at Seattle

Projection: 6-10

To be blunt, Arizona has been a in a slow-motion season-long nose-dive since they lost David Johnson in week one. They tried to survive without DJ, and thought their season was looking up after trading for Adrian Peterson. One week later, Carson Palmer broke his arm and they are now starting Blaine Gabbert after Drew Stanton hurt his knee. Ouch town – population YOU, bro. Their remaining slate appears to have one winnable game on it (Giants), but the rest are most likely going to help them get a better draft pick next year. It might be in the best interest of the team to let Palmer and Peterson retire after yet another lost season. It’s never a good time to jump start a rebuild, but aging veterans who can’t stay healthy are not a long-term solution and AP was going to be expendable next year with DJ coming back. They might as well see Palmer, AP, and Larry Fitzgerald ride off in to the sunset, while the front office pulls the trigger on the era of players TBD.

San Francisco 49ers 1-10

Remaining schedule: at Chicago, at Houston, vs Tennessee, vs Jacksonville, at LA Rams

Projection: 1-15, potential top draft pick

Even if the 49ers wanted to win one of their remaining games, I’m not sure it’s in their best interest or that they are capable of beating any of their opponents. Their lone win is against a 2-9 team (Giants) who this week unceremoniously benched their long time QB in favor of Geno Smith (not a mis-print), and their end of the season slate has just one winnable game (Bears). With one win they could still be vying for the top pick with the Browns with a potential franchise QB (Jimmy Garoppolo) already in their pocket, which means they can be just as creative with their draft as they were in 2017, whereas the Browns are desperate for a QB. The 49ers don’t need wholesale changes, but they do need to improve at receiver, offensive line, tight end, linebacker, cornerback, and safety before they can even think about a winning season. It would benefit the team and the franchise if they just played their inexperienced players the rest of the way, but no one likes to see obvious tanking, so we will most likely see their first string players out on the field until games get out of hand, and then a lot of guys you’ve never heard of handling mop-up duty. This being year three of the post-Harbaugh rebuild, and just year one of the new Lynch-Shanahan regime, we’re likely to see at least one more year of bad football before they turn the corner.

Smith was the right pick for rebuilding the Beavers football program

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© Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

Smith was the right pick for rebuilding the Beavers football program

By 

If there’s one thing that the PAC-12 is known for, it’s quarterbacks. Nearly every team is manned by a quarterback with regional recognition like Jake Browning at the University of Washington, or Justin Herbert at Oregon. Other teams have quarterbacks with national recognition like Josh Rosen of UCLA or Sam Darnold at USC.

Realizing that the PAC-12 is the conference of quarterbacks, Oregon State’s new coaching hire of former UW co-offensive coordinator and QB coach, Jonathan Smith, is a grand slam. It’s understandable that fans can have reservations over hiring former players or coaches, but Smith’s resumé suggests a deep commitment to offense and the quarterback. These factors are desperate needs for rebuilding programs.

Smith played for Oregon State at the end of the nineties as a quarterback. He notched a huge win for the program against Notre Dame at the end of his career there, going 11-1 during the 2001 season. He then became a graduate assistant for the OSU football team.

Afterwards, he held stints as QB coach at the University of Idaho and the University of Montana, showcasing his understanding of the position as he contributed to nationally ranked offensive success at both schools.

Smith’s career took off when he landed at Boise State in 2012. There, he’d met with former Boise State coach Chris Petersen and subsequently coached quarterbacks for two seasons. This tandem led an extremely efficient system, as their quarterbacks averaged a 150 QB rating for two years. The Boise State team only threw 18 interceptions in two seasons.

Petersen left Boise State and brought Jonathan Smith along with him to the University of Washington. This time, Smith would also be handed responsibility of co-offensive coordinator of the Husky football team.

Besides contributing to the College Football Playoff appearance last year, Smith displayed the ability to shift the offense this year from a high-flying machine to a focus on the ground game. The Huskies were decimated by injuries on the offensive side of the football this past year, but Smith still able to put up enough points to get past Utah and Washington State to finish the season strong.

Coach Smith heads back to Oregon State, a program near rock-bottom. Smith brings a well coached offensive style befitting needs of a rebuilding program.

Plenty of questions remain. It’s important to keep an eye on the recruiting platform, and whether currently committed quarterbacks decide to stay or leave. For the most part, fans shouldn’t expect a huge shake-up in just this first year. Recruiting is difficult and the process gets a little murky when a new coach arrives.

It’ll be interesting to see how this coaching staff ties out as well. Smith is younger, so his football network is still a little thin, but there’s never a perfect time to become a new head coach, right? Fans should expect a fun football system run by coaches who’ll like to keep things open and loose.

On paper, there were definitely better coaches out there. Beau Baldwin from California was widely expected to be pursued, as well as Jim McElwain. Their records are respectable and both candidates actually notched big wins over PAC-12 opponents.

Rest assured, fans wouldn’t have been satisfied with these hires. Baldwin has only been coaching in the PAC-12 as a coordinator for about a year, while McElwain was just fired from Florida. Neither bring quite the sense of excitement that a young quarterback guru like Smith potentially brings.

Next year, Oregon State comes to Seattle on November 17th, pitting a match between student and teacher. Smith has a very long year ahead of him, but the future looks bright as the Oregon State program looks to rebound from a tough year.

Oregon State Beavers Hit Home Run With Jonathan Smith Hire

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Oregon State Beavers Hit Home Run With Jonathan Smith Hire

BY JARREAU BROWN

The dark cloud continued over the program in Corvallis after getting stomped by rival Oregon on Saturday. What many thought would be a year to build on after a solid close to the 2016 season, the Beavers have taken a giant step back. Opening the year with a blowout and struggle to beat FCS Portland State was the proverbial writing on the wall for what was to come. Next was the departure of head coach Gary Andersen following their 38-10 drubbing at the hands of USC. As bizarre as it may sound, at that point it was their most narrow margin of defeat at the time. However, help is on the way! (or at least we hope.)

[NBC Sports Gold “Blazers Pass” 15-game Blazers package for fans without NBC Sports Northwest $34.99 – click to learn more and buy]

So, who do the Beavers go after? A hot shot OC to bring fireworks to the rainy weather? Defensive hard-nosed coached to instill physicality? My thought is they need a program leader. One that can establish a true culture and identity.

With that being said, we introduce Jonathan Smith.

Smith was previously the co-offensive coordinator and quarterback coach at the University of Washington. He checks many of the boxes alumni would want, starting with being a Beaver from 1998-2001. He was originally a walk-on, which should bring somewhat of a lunch pail mentality to a team lacking toughness. Remember the last time Oregon State finished ranked in the top 10? Me neither. However, Smith was a part of the #4 ranked Beavers team that won a Fiesta Bowl and Championed an 11-1 record as the game’s MVP. The 2006 season, which saw them go 10-4, has been the best since. He’s had stops at Idaho, Montana and Boise State prior to Washington—all as an OC and QB coach.

One of the top things you can expect from a team coached by Smith will be a solid run game. Jay Ajayi was his featured back at Boise State and his current UW offense ranks in the top 40 in the nation. Don’t smile too hard, Ryan Nall. In the three years at UW, Smith’s offenses have averaged 28, 29, 41 and 34 points per game—a slight upgrade from the 19.4 by this year’s team.

The next step is hiring a staff. It’ll be interesting to see who he hires to run his defense, but with him having such strong ties to the offense, I’d expect a complete coordinator. One who may have some previous head coaching experience.

Are The Seattle Seahawks … Mediocre?

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Are The Seattle Seahawks … Mediocre?

BY JULIAN ROGERS

3 reasons why they are and 1 reason why they aren’t

Meh. Middling. Also-runs. Is that what we’re seeing from the current Seattle Seahawks as they prepare for their week 13 Sunday Night Football contest at home against the Philadelphia Eagles — 2017’s league darlings? If there ever were a contrast between a team on the rise and a formerly great team on the decline, this Sunday night’s game is the showcase.

Reason #1: Playoffs? We’re talking playoffs?

Let’s start there. As the Eagles attempt to hold on to the NFC’s No. 1 seed, the Seahawks are currently on the outside looking in in the NFC Playoffs standings. ESPN estimates the Seahawks’ chances of making the postseason at 47.4 percent.

True, they’re tied with the also 7–4 Atlanta Falcons, but they lose the head-to-head tiebreaker. The blue birds’ best path to the postseason is probably to overtake the NFC’s No. 2 darling team, the 8–3 Los Angeles Rams, whom they did manage to defeat earlier in the year. The also 8–3 Carolina Panthers are the other NFC team a single game ahead of the Seahawks, but they will not play each other in the remainder of the regular season. The Seahawks will get a shot at sweeping the Rams on Dec. 17, should their playoff goose not already be cooked.

[NBC Sports Gold “Blazers Pass” 15-game Blazers package for fans without NBC Sports Northwest $34.99 – click to learn more and buy]

This makes the Eagles game loom ever larger. There no longer is any wiggle room for the Seahawks if they are to be considered a playoff-caliber team. Oh, and winning out? As of now, the Seahawks are favored in only three of their remaining five games. Merely meeting those expectations probably won’t get a playoff invitation.

Reason #2: The Legion of Whom

Well. That escalated quickly. The formerly fearsome foursome known as the Legion of Boom suddenly is the unit of yesteryear.

Previously felled by you-can’t-pay-everyone contract-itis, (safety Kam Chancellor’s 2015 holdout, that rotating #2 cornerback spot of the past several seasons), now the Seahawks’ former foremost position of strength has seen the likely last of stalwarts Chancellor (neck, out for the season) and cornerback Richard Sherman (Achilles’ heel, out for the season). Not only are they out for the rest of the year, they’re almost certainly out of Seattle entirely in the coming years, due to increased injury, age & cost factors.

To make matters worse, Earl Thomas may not be long for the unit, as well. Thomas’ devastating, season-ending (there’s that phrase again) broken leg of last year nearly caused him to call it a career. He’s bounced back nicely this season, but the remnants of the LOB are now resting too heavily on his repaired legs. Leg injuries knocked him out of weeks 9 and 10. He has one year remaining on his 2014 blockbuster deal ($8.5M) after this season, and will be hard-pressed to resign as an increasingly oft-injured, aging player.

For now, it’s Thomas and the best duct tape Seahawks defensive backs coach Andre Curtis can find. He found some, apparently in former LOBer Byron Maxwell and almost-former LOBer Jeremy Lane.

The Legion of Boom is now the Legion of retreads, don’t want ‘ems, and who-dat young guys. Plus Earl.

Meh.

Reason #3: The Seahawks offense, Russell Wilson, excepted

We don’t need to hammer on the Seahawks’ offensive line any further. They’d almost certainly break. Equally inept at pass protection and run-blocking, the Seahawks’ revolving door of injured linemen has become less of an excuse for the just general, ongoing ineffectiveness of the five guys that get the offense started.

OK, I guess I could pile on a bit more.

The Seahawks’ tried and true formula of running the ball like in the Beast Mode era never got off the ground this season. Plug in anyone: A supposedly revitalized and healthy Thomas Rawls (a healthy scratch two weeks ago; one play from scrimmage against the San Francisco 49ers), a supposedly revitalized and healthy Eddie Lacy, a promising rookie upstart in Chris Carson (injured reserve) and a (yes, we’re getting repetitive again) supposedly revitalized and healthy C.J. Prosise (injured reserve, again) … it’s just gone like that.

The Seahawks did make Mike Davis a real roster player and quickly received dividends. He’s now injured, of course.

The Seahawks’ seventh-ranked passing game outpaces the Seahawks’ rushing game by a wide margin (20th). When you consider that the blue birds’ top rusher is quarterback Russell Wilson with 401 yards on 65 attempts, you can hardly be surprised when I tell you that the team has no rushing touchdowns by a regular running back yet this year. Hybrid runner/receiver J.D. McKissic has one rushing TD and Wilson has the other three.

“Mediocre” might be kind. However …

Reason why the Seahawks are not mediocre

Russell Wilson has proven to be a once-in-a-generation talent. Not only has he been required to be the sometimes only playmaker, he’s accounted for more yards from scrimmage than anyone else in the league.

From ESPN: “Pete Carroll says of how much the Seahawks’ offense has relied on Russell Wilson this season, ‘I don’t know how you could carry it much more numbers-wise.’ Wilson has accounted for almost 86 percent of Seattle’s scrimmage yards. Per the NFL, that would be the highest percentage for any player in the Super Bowl era.”

Enough said.

Wilson’s 3,029 passing yards outpace Sunday’s opponent, wunderkind Carson Wentz (2,657), but he trails Wentz in touchdown passes to date: 23 to 28. Wilson’s best buddies on offense are his receiving corps, which has seen Jimmy Graham come on of late (49 receptions, 447 yards, 8 TDs), and a solid 58 receptions, 698 yards and 4 TDs from No. 1 receiver Doug Baldwin. Speedster Paul Richardson has finally shown promise with a stellar 16.7 yards per catch average and 5 TDs. Tyler Lockett has not been much of a factor from scrimmage.

Is it enough help for Russell Wilson? The biggest test of the year comes this Sunday night. It’s make-or-break time for the middling Seahawks.

Rumble At The Roseland 95 And Submission Underground 6 Set For Weekend Doubleheader

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Rumble At The Roseland 95 And Submission Underground 6 Set For Weekend Doubleheader

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The weekend is fast approaching and your holiday hangover is nearly cleared up. What’s left to do? Get ready for a weekend full of live mixed martial arts and aggressive submission grappling, that’s what! Rumble at the Roseland 95 and Submission Underground 6 (SUG) will be taking place at the Roseland Theater this Saturday and Sunday. With SUG coming back to the Roseland that means not only will fans have some of the best amateur fighters on the west coast they can watch, but some of the best MMA fighters in the world as well.

For a mixed martial arts fan attending this weekend’s shows, it is truly a unique and inviting experience. These back-to-back events allow you up close access to the fighters of the future and a chance to meet and talk to current UFC stars and even former UFC champions. Between the two events there are 42 matchups (that is not a typo there really are 42 total matchups) for the fans to get excited about so let’s take a closer look at a few that could be especially interesting.

Rumble a the Roseland 95

Sean Kalinoski vs Keaneo Moyer

Saturday night’s main event for the 125-pound title is certainly the fight most people are talking about. Keaneo “Young Gunz” Moyer is the most vocal champion in recent memory in the Full Contact Fighting Federation (FCFF) and he has been just as loud inside the cage as out. While “Young Gunz” has been dominant in the FCFF cage, he hasn’t done it without controversy. His contentious relationship with former FCFF champion Cris “Sunshine” Williams has certainly helped Moyer look the part of the bad guy in some circles. Love him or hate him, he is a captivating champion with finishing power, rare speed, and great confidence. On Saturday, Moyer will be facing his toughest test to date as he steps into the cage against Sean Kalinoski. Kalinoski has nearly three times the experience in the cage as Moyer and has more than twice as many wins. Beyond that, Kalinoski is a natural bantamweight with the height and length to give most flyweights trouble. He has a big advantage on the ground and will be where he looks to take the fight. This should be a great headlining bout.

Chance Marsteiner vs DJ Nuttall

This matchup is likely the last amateur fight for local fighter and standout prospect, DJ Nuttall. Nuttall has become one of the top amateur prospects on the west coast and with this lightweight title fight being his last as an amateur, it is one that fans of the Oregon fight scene won’t want to miss. Nuttall is the heavy favorite here; his top game is strong and his submissions have proven to be the real deal. His opponent, Chance Marsteiner, had suffered two losses in a row prior to a big head kick-TKO victory at Rumble at the Roseland 94. With the highlight reel finish fresh in his mind, expect him to come into the fight looking to build on that moment and a victory over the highly touted Nuttall would be a huge feather in his cap.

Submission Underground

Tim Sylvia vs Fabiano Scherner

Former UFC heavyweight Champion Tim Sylvia will be making his SUG debut on Sunday against Gracie Barra Portland head coach and one time SUG winner, Fabiano Scherner. Sylvia is a very interesting personality in the world of mixed martial arts. The once loved UFC Champion had a precipitous fall from grace and eventually found himself on the outside looking in. Even with a series of wins out the UFC, Sylvia was never able to find his way back to the top of the sport. While his fighting career has ended, he has become one of the brutally honest personalities in the world of MMA and his desire complete has clearly never waned. Many remember him as an aggressive striker but his love for the ground game has always been clear to those who were true fans of the former champ. Famously, he out-grappled submission expert Jeff Monson at UFC 65; he was looking for a submission the whole time. As far as submission expertise is concerned, Sylvia will be at a severe disadvantage against Scherner, but it will be incredibly exciting to see him inside the cage walls for the first time in years.

Vagner Rocha vs Jesse Taylor

Vagner Rocha is on a hell of a run in 2017. Rocha has two 2nd place finishes at the Eddie Bravo Invitational and became the first Combat Jiu Jitsu Champion earlier this month. Rocha has taken on some of the top grapplers in the country and has proven he is one of the best in the world. Fans will not want to miss the chance at seeing him live; he is aggressive, strong, and relentless on the mat. He will be going up against recent Ultimate Fighter winner, Jesse Taylor. Taylor has been a true comeback story on his run through The Ultimate Fighter: Redemption season. He took the longest road possible to make it to the UFC having once been removed from The Ultimate Fighter Finale and floundering out of the promotion after just one fight. However, with his life seemingly on track and winning TUF earlier this year, Taylor was flagged by USADA for a potential anti-doping violation. It would seem that this competition would serve as a way to keep competing while he continues to work with USADA and the UFC in making his first official return to the Octagon. All that aside, Taylor is a ferocious wrestler and his nearly 50-fight MMA career will give him a good bit of experience to fall back on when the cage door closes behind he and Rocha. With these two highly aggressive grapplers in the SUG cage, this match is sure to be one of the most physical of the night.

Winterhawks increase winning streak to ten games

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Winterhawks increase winning streak to ten games

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Before leaving Portland, the Winterhawks had amassed a six-game winning streak, one that saw the power of the Kieffer Bellows, Cody Glass and Skyler McKenzie line. The three combined for most of the points during the string of wins and Cole Kehler shut the door on the opposition while in net for the Hawks.

Despite being hundreds of miles from their home base in Portland, the swing allowed many families of the players to visit with their sons as many are Canadian based. The six-game swing has been broken up into three two game segments with four of those occurring in five nights. Starting off in Cranbrook, British Columbia, the Kootenay Ice were ready to give the Hawks a good run. Portland’s Skyler McKenzie opened the scoring midway through the first period and had to wait until early in the second to increase their lead by Layne Gilliss. Kottney made it close midway through the period, but Brenden DeJong would add a powerplay goal seconds before the period ended to restore the two-goal lead. Kieffer Bellows and Skyler McKenzie would add third period goals to put it away. Kootenay would add a single, but it wasn’t enough as the 55 shots put on the Kootenay net resulted in a 5-2 win. Portland cashed in on one of two powerplays while Kootenay failed to connect on their six powerplays.

The next night, after a five-hour drive to Calgary, it was a battle with the Calgary Hitmen. Portland had trounced them 9-2 last season in Portland, but hadn’t experienced the same fate last time two years ago in Cowtown. However, the Hitman hadn’t seen the Hawks top line either and they would see it in droves. In the first thirteen minutes of the game, Kieffer Bellows had pocketed two goals and Jake Gricius had added another to give the visitors a strong lead. Cody Glass would add another to the Hawks tally early in the second on the powerplay before Calgary potted two of their own to make the game a two-goal differential. Skyler McKenzie and Joachim Blichfeld on the powerplay and Bronson Sharp would add goals late in the second to give the Hawks a commanding lead. Midway through the third, Calgary would add the only tally of the period to end the score at 7-3. Portland outshot Calgary 37-29 and crushed Calgary with three of five powerplay chances going in while the Hitmen would go scoreless on three opportunities. Portland’s Matthew Quigley was assessed a minor penalty for boarding late in the third period, however, the Hitmen submitted the tape of the incident to the league where they assessed a two-game suspension to Quigley, meaning he would miss the Red Deer and Edmonton games.

With a day break in between, the Hawks would get some rest as they prepared for the Red Deer Rebels. Against the Rebels, Shane Farkas would get his first start since October 21, and he would have to come up big. Cody Glass opened the scoring with a shorthanded goal midway through the first period only to be answered by Kristian Reichel for Red Deer to end the first period deadlocked. For the first time on the trip, the home team took the lead as Red Deer’s Mason McCarty was able to blow one past Farkas. However, that lead lasted all of fifteen seconds as Cody Glass would find a loose puck in front of the Red Deer net to equal the score. Then it was the Joachim Blichfeld show. With two goals in the second period and one in the third, one of each period coming on the powerplay and a marker by John Ludvig, the Hawks blew past the Rebels 6-2. The game featured nine powerplays for each team with Portland scoring on two, while Red Deer had just one. Red Deer did get a penalty shot opportunity which Farkas came up big on a save. The Rebels spent much of the third period in the penalty box with as many as four members in the box at one time, making it impossible to mount any sort of comeback. Each team had 40 shots on goal and Farkas was rewarded with the third star of the game.

Heading just ninety minutes north, the Hawks would face a troubled Edmonton Oil Kings team that had gone winless in their last ten games. Edmonton started Travis Child in net, an overage goaltender who was going to face a very potent offense. Portland outshot Edmonton 10-4 in the first period, but came away with no goals in a scoreless first period. Early into the second period, after a stop by Cole Kehler and a pass to Henri Jokiharju, Cody Glass would end the run with a powerplay goal to open the scoring just under three minutes into the period. Glass would add another powerplay goal midway through the second period as the Hawks continued their dominance in shots on goal. The third period saw Edmonton try to make a comeback, leading the period in shots on goal, but couldn’t find the back of the net. Right off the faceoff in the Hawks zone, Keoni Texeira found Cody Glass streaking down the right side and his pass to Skyler McKenzie on the opposite side allowed him to bag the empty net goal with just a minute and a half remaining in the game. Kehler added another star to his total this month and his ninth straight win while the Hawks worked up to their tenth straight win and unbeaten so far in the month of November.

Having a couple days off allowed the Hawks a chance to practice on an outdoor rink in Edmonton, Alberta. Donned in practice jerseys, toques and skates, the Hawks got to test out their skills the way hockey used to be played a hundred years ago.

With a 19-4 record, Portland is one point behind Moose Jaw (19-5-0-1) with two games in hand and one point up on Victoria (18-8-1) with four games in hand. The Hawks were ranked fourth overall in the CHL poll this past week with Sarnia Sting of the OHL leading the way at 21-4-1 and Sault Ste Marie at 20-3-2 with 11 straight wins, close behind. The Blainville-Boisbriand Armada (17-4- 2) and Quebec Ramparts (17-9-1) round out the top teams in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. With Portland having the third best winning percentage in the CHL as of now, they could move up yet another spot in the poll this week.

With two games left both on the swing and the month of November, the Hawks could be on a record setting pace at the third of the way point of the season. Coming up on the Winterhawks calendar for December is the Toy Drive which will take place Sunday, December 3 at the Moda Center versus the Saskatoon Blades. Toys will be collected for the FOX 12 / Les Schwab Toy Drive and people can also buy toys at the game to donate. Less than a week later, the Teddy Bear Toss will take place at the Memorial Coliseum with the plush heading to various local charities. Well over 10,000 bears and assorted plush will hit the ice with Portland’s first goal of the game on Saturday, December 9.