Eagle Backups Again Take Center Stage in Final Scrimmage
Eastern ends second week of preseason practices with 59-play scrimmage and now sets sights on opener at home Sept. 5 against Western Oregon
Even the playing field was held out for precautionary reasons.
Backups again saw the majority of action as the Eastern Washington University football team concluded its second week of preseason practices Saturday (Aug. 29) with a 59-play scrimmage at the EWU Sports and Recreation Center practice fields. It was originally going to take place at Woodward Field in Cheney, Wash., but overnight rain caused coaches to decide to use the practice fields instead of risking damage to the stadium's grass surface.
The scrimmage was EWU's final tune-up before the 18th-ranked Eagles officially start the season Sept. 5 against Western Oregon in a game that begins at 12:05 p.m. Pacific time at Woodward Field. The following week on Sept. 12, the Eagles face their stiffest challenge when they visit California of the Pacific 10 Conference.
"We wanted our younger players, including our quarterbacks, to get game-like experience," said Eagle head coach Beau Baldwin, echoing his comments from Eastern's first scrimmage a week ago. "And we definitely accomplished that -- and there is still some competition out there. We'll go back and evaluate the video to come up with our depth chart for this week and eventually our travel squad for the next week."
Baldwin held out about five starters on each side of the ball, most for precautionary reasons and not as much injury-related. The lone exception is at linebacker, where two of the three starters are battling injuries that will most likely keep both out of EWU's opener.
"Scrimmages don't always tell the whole tale because we are holding some players out," explained Baldwin. "I won't always hold out starters, but in this situation we're holding out starters who have played a lot of football. If they were starters coming out of spring without a lot of games, it probably wouldn't be like that. We want to be smart about what we are doing with them, so sometimes our scrimmages haven't been as good as our entire camp has gone.
"As long as we're healthy coming out of camp, I feel better than if anybody got hurt in a scrimmage situation," he added.
Eastern's offensive squads, featuring backup quarterbacks Jeff Minnerly and Scott Burgett, finished with 187 yards of total offense. Minnerly completed 7-of-13 passes for 41 yards, and also had 21 yards on four rushes. The 2008 graduate of Ferris High School in Spokane, Wash., had a 2-yard scoring run that was set-up by a 28-yard pass to freshman redshirt Nicholas Edwards.
Burgett was 2-of-7 for 35 yards, and had a pass intercepted by senior cornerback Brett Igbinoba, a local favorite who graduated in 2005 from Cheney (Wash.) High School. Burgett had a 15-yard touchdown pass to senior Brynsen Brown.
"Both Jeff and Scott were able to operate better and move the chains, and we were less sloppy in some areas," said Baldwin of the battle for the backup position. "I was definitely impressed with that side of the ball."
Four-year senior starter Matt Nichols was among the starters who did not play in either scrimmage.
Reserve running back Chase King led Eastern on the ground with 27 rushing yards on eight carries. Not including 25 yards of losses from a sack by Levi Reynolds and three poor center snaps in shotgun formation, the offense rushed for a total of 106 yards.
Eight players caught passes, including three for 12 yards by King. Running back Darriell Beaumonte added three catches for seven yards and 16 rushing yards on five carries.
Freshman redshirt linebacker Tyler Washburn led the defense with five tackles, and should see significant action this week as a backup at both inside linebacker positions. The defense also had four passes broken up and a pair of quarterback hurries.
"We're battling some injuries, especially at the linebacker position, but guys are stepping up," said Baldwin. "As a whole, we are definitely tackling better and assignment-wise we are in better position at the snap of the ball and post-snap than we were at this time of the year last year. I don't think we are as susceptible to big plays -- our players know what they are doing and are a year older in this system. They are putting themselves in position to make plays and are finishing with great tackles."
The defense allowed just 3.2 yards per play, with a long of 28 yards. Besides the two touchdowns -- one in a red zone drill -- the offense also scored on field goals of 20 and 35 yards by starting kicker Mike Jarrett. Minnerly's scoring drive was a seven-play, 65-yard drive, and another he directed was a 10-play, 22-yard drive that ended with one of Jarrett's field goals.
"The defense is making it tough on an offense," said Baldwin. "If you have drives that take 10 or 12 plays, it's hard to score a lot of points."
Tentative Schedule of EWU Practices
(practices usually last for two hours. Media interviews take place after practice or 1/2 hour before the time listed)
Sunday, Aug. 30 - Off
Monday, Aug. 31 - 3 p.m. (conditioning)
Tuesday, Sept. 1 - 3 p.m.
Wednesday, Sept. 2 - 3 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 3 - 3 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 4 - 3 p.m. walk-through
Saturday, Sept. 5 - EWU hosts Western Oregon at Woodward Field in Cheney, Wash., 12:05 p.m.
Sunday, Sept. 6 - 1:30 p.m. (conditioning)
Monday, Sept. 7 - Off
Tuesday, Sept. 8 - 3 p.m.
Wednesday, Sept. 9 - 3 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 10 - 3 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 11 - Travel Day
Saturday, Sept. 12 - EWU at California, 2:35 p.m.
Sunday, Sept. 13 - 4 p.m. (conditioning)
Monday, Sept. 14 - Off
Tuesday, Sept. 15 - 3 p.m.
Wednesday, Sept. 16 - 3 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 17 - 3 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 18 - 3 p.m. walk-through
Saturday, Sept. 19 - EWU hosts Northern Colorado at Woodward Field in Cheney, Wash., 1:05 p.m.
Sunday, Sept. 20 - 1:30 p.m. (conditioning)
Monday, Sept. 21 - Off
Tuesday, Sept. 22 - 3 p.m.
Wednesday, Sept. 23 - 3:45 p.m. (EWU Classes Begin)
Thursday, Sept. 24 - 3:45 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 25 - Travel Day
Saturday, Sept. 26 - EWU at Sacramento State, 6:05 p.m.
Sunday, Sept. 27 - 7 p.m. (conditioning)
Monday, Sept. 28 - Off
Tuesday, Sept. 29 - 4:30 p.m.
Wednesday, Sept. 30 - 3:45 p.m.
Thursday, Oct. 1 - 3:45 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 2 - Travel Day
Saturday, Oct. 3 - EWU at Idaho State, 2:35 p.m.