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Somebody knows score even if participants don’t

The Choking Dogs go against the Padres and ace Jake Peavy in San Diego on Saturday, while the Idaho Vandals will take on USC in the Coliseum.

Who scores more, the Dogs or the Vandals?

Does either team score?

“Oh, yeah,” Manager Grady Little said, and for the record he didn’t specify who.

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“Depends if David Wells is pitching,” said USC Coach Pete Carroll, obviously aware of Wells’ bunting skills and his ability to ignite the Dogs’ offense.

Now I know how Little approaches most games, his eyes closed and rosary beads nearby when Mark Hendrickson pitches, but I’m not familiar with the work of Idaho’s Robb Akey because he will be working as a head coach for the first time -- obviously beginning his career 0-1.

“Be nice,” said a USC publicist when the hypocrite handed me the phone to talk to Akey as if there’s any chance of the Trojans doing the same.

“How do you approach a game where you have no chance to win and most likely no chance to score?” I began gently, throwing a “most likely” in there for Akey when everyone knows the Vandals will be nothing more than Trojans road kill.

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The Vandals were outscored by more than 200 points a year ago and are 20-61 over seven straight losing seasons. Idaho is going with a redshirt freshman quarterback, who started for North Platte High (Neb.) against Lincoln in his last game two years ago in the middle of nowhere.

“You want us to go out there and take a knee?” Akey asked, and what’s the big deal -- the Dogs did that at the trading deadline and no one seemed all that upset.

Akey talked about a bunch of numbers he wrote on a board earlier this year when he got together with his team. He put a “113" up there “because that’s where all the experts have Idaho finishing” among the 121 Division 1-A schools playing football.

I guess he was trying to show his players they haven’t hit rock bottom yet.

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He also put a “9" on the board because “the geniuses in the media,” as he described the folks who write regularly about the WAC, picked Idaho to finish ninth in the nine-team league.

I wish some of the coaches around here listened more to the geniuses in the media.

Then he wrote a “29" on the board, advising his players that’s how many practices they have to prepare to play USC. I can only imagine the whimpering, and shrieks of horror that must have come from that room. “Only 29 practices!”

I didn’t get the chance to ask if he had written “62" and “0" on the board, predicting Saturday’s final score, because he interrupted to ask the assembled media, “any of you guys wanna play in the game? I’ll suit you up at quarterback.”

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Not a good sign when a coach wants to replace his players before the season begins with a bunch of old men, but then he dismissed 17 players after taking over the program because he didn’t think they were worthy of playing for his team.

Idaho’s third-string quarterback, by the way, just received a citation for marijuana possession and has been suspended for the USC game. No word if he waved to the police so that he was caught.

“It’s going to be fun for both teams” Carroll said, and that’s when I raised my hand, wanting to know how Idaho was going to have any fun in this game?

“About as much fun as you can have playing in the Coliseum,” he said, and when your team has won 33 straight home games, I guess you just take it for granted that everyone is having a great time every Saturday.

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As for Akey, he gets the fun of playing USC this week -- “I thought it was important to have a warm-up game,” joked Akey in an earlier interview with the Idaho Press, before returning home to take on Cal Poly.

One week USC, and the next Cal Poly, and so when Akey says things are really looking up for Idaho, it’s hard to argue.

SHEA HILLENBRAND has two hits and just made a diving catch. As they say, every Dog has his day.

AS FOR the rest of the Choking Dogs, they’ve struggled against the Nationals, which makes you wonder how they will fare against the Red Sox in the World Series.

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Their best player over the last two games has been Jeff Kent, who reported to work with a queasy stomach and headache, the lingering effects from being beaned Sunday in New York.

If Kent doesn’t play or has all his faculties, the Dogs probably fall to the Nationals -- in effect ending the season.

BASEBALL COMMISSIONER Bud Selig will be a guest on the father/daughter morning radio show on 570 today with Roggin.

I’d like to put in a good word for Wells, who is facing a seven-game suspension, but I’m not sure yet if a good word means urging Selig to reduce it or extend the suspension.

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Thursday’s guest will be Charles Barkley, and I suspect the Kobester’s name will come up.

BY THE end of the week, Andy LaRoche will probably join the Dogs’ roster, and while obviously being groomed to be the team’s third baseman next season, I wanted to know if Little thought Nomar Garciaparra had anything left?

“Absolutely,” he said, while adding, “that’s 100% the truth.”

I find it’s helpful when a manager lets you know when he’s telling the truth rather than having to guess.

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LAST WEEK Ervin Santana told a Times’ reporter he was “happy in triple A.” This week he pitched like someone who deserves the chance to be happy again.

TODAY’S LAST word comes in e-mail from Peter C. Jones:

“Being a Nebraska native, and a former journalist for the AP, your writing concerning Nebraska left my jaw on my desk. I now own a high-end landscape company in Colorado. I decided to leave journalism. In fact, it was exactly the influx of people like you which prompted me to quit.”

Sometimes this job is thankless, so it’s nice to hear a story for a change with a happy ending.

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T.J. Simers can be reached at t.j.simers@latimes.com. To read previous columns by Simers, go to latimes.com/simers.


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