November 23, 2009

No. 13 Eagles Open Playoffs at No. 12 Stephen F. Austin

There were bumps in the road, but Eastern overcomes them to qualify for the FCS Playoffs for the fourth time in six years

COMPLETE RELEASE IN .PDF FORMAT 


NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs

Eastern Washington Univ. "Eagles"

at

Stephen F. Austin Univ. "Lumberjacks"

Saturday, November 28 • Noon Pacific
Homer Bryce Stadium (14,575) • Nacogdoches, Texas 

EWU Coach: Beau Baldwin (Central Washington ‘96)
School Record: 14-8/11-5 Big Sky (2nd Season)
Career Record: 24-11 (3rd Season -- was 10-3 at CWU in 2007 and 6-5 at EWU in 2008)
2009:
8-3/6-2 Big Sky Conference
Last Game: #18 Eastern Washington 49, Northern Arizona 45 (Nov. 21 in Flagstaff, Ariz.)
TV: None
Radio: 1510-AM in Spokane & www.teamline.cc
Webcast: http://sfajacks.cstv.com (there is a charge)
Watch Party: Q Sports Bar and Restaurant at Northern Quest Resort & Casino Call 509-242-7000 for reservations.
Weekly Coaches Luncheon: Tuesday, Noon at the Q Sports Bar and Restaurant at Northern Quest Resort & Casino, cost $12
Twitter: http://twitter.com/EWUAthletics


The Eagles could have packed it in last February when the road started to become a little bumpy. Instead, the Eagles overcame that to find themselves as one of the 16 best teams in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision.

Overcoming several distractions, including a postseason ban by the NCAA that was later overturned, the 13th-ranked Eastern Washington University football team will make its fourth appearance in the FCS Playoffs in six years when it plays Saturday (Nov. 28) at No. 12 Stephen F. Austin. Kickoff has been set for noon Pacific time at Homer Bryce Stadium in Nacogdoches, Texas.

"It was a special year," said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin. "This senior class dealt with more than any other senior crew has had to overcome. There were off-the-field distractions that were out of their control. And they still overcame that to keep fighting every day."

On Oct. 27, the NCAA Division I Infractions Appeals Committee overturned the 2009 postseason ban for Eastern's football program, allowing the Eagles to regain eligibility for the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs. That penalty was appealed by EWU shortly after the NCAA released its penalties in February from findings from a two-year review of activities involving the EWU football team from 2003-07.

Besides that, Eastern lost an All-Big Sky Conference offensive lineman (Bryce Leahy) before the season even started because of a non football-related injury and another (middle linebacker Zach Johnson) because of a blood clot that developed after summer knee surgery. During the year, the school lost a pair of senior starters for the season to injuries (wide receiver Aaron Boyce and middle linebacker Kyle Wilkins), and is now playing with a converted defensive end/true freshman at middle linebacker.

Baldwin credits a class of 17 seniors for keeping the entire team focused in the wake of the distractions.

"I go all the way back to the off-season as being the most important time, because when you start the season it's a little easier," Baldwin explained. "And if you don't have a good base of good leaders, that can really have an effect on how hard you work from February and March all the way to August. They did a great job leading the team, and the whole team followed to prepare themselves for having a great season no matter what the end result was of the sanctions."

The Eagles finished the regular season 8-3, and clinched the berth by scoring with 3:30 left last Saturday (Nov. 21) to defeat Northern Arizona 49-45. The Eagles closed the year with a four-game winning streak, winning those by a combined 172-107 margin.

The final regular season Sports Network FCS poll was released prior to the announcement of the pairings, and the Eagles leaped to a season-high 13th after being ranked 18th the previous week. Stephen F. Austin is 12th, while McNeese State is eighth. Other Big Sky Conference schools ranked include Montana at No. 3 and Weber State at No. 15.

Before achieving its highest ranking of the season this week, the Eagles were ranked as high as 15th in the Sports Network poll before losing 31-13 to then 21st-ranked Weber State (now ranked 15th) and fell to 21st prior to losing 41-34 to the No. 3 Grizzlies (now third).

Eastern finished the league season 6-2 in a second-place tie with Weber State, which also earned a playoff berth with a 7-4 record and earlier win over the Eagles. Montana won the league title and automatic berth with an 8-0 record, and is the No. 1 seed in the playoffs.

The last time Eastern qualified for the playoffs in 2007, they defeated McNeese State 44-15 in the first round before losing to eventual champion Appalachian State in the quarterfinals.

 

Game Features Two of The Top Four Passing Offenses in FCS: The Eagles are ranked in the top 10 in three offensive categories in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision, including passing (4th, 308.6), total offense (4th, 450.1) and scoring (9th, 33.7). In addition, the Eagles lead FCS in passing efficiency (161.59), completing 66 percent of their passes for 30 touchdowns and just five interceptions.

Stephen F. Austin leads FCS in passing (346.1) and scoring offense (37.2), and is third in total offense (477.6). The Lumberjacks have the fifth-best passing efficiency rating in FCS (152.76), having completed 68 percent of their passes for 40 touchdowns and14 interceptions.

Last week, Eastern faced a Northern Arizona team that entered the game averaging 282.0 passing yards per game to rank eighth in FCS. The Lumberjacks finished with 574 yards through the air and 173 rushing for a total of 747, while the Eagles finished with 408 passing yards and 486 total.

"Each game is its own and you don't know how they are going to go," said EWU head coach Beau Baldwin. "We got into a shootout against NAU, but we've been involved in other games where it's been more of a grind. You just want to make sure that no matter what kind of game you are involved with, that the offense, defense and special teams are sticking together and making plays and pick each other up when things don't go right. We've done a good job all year when we've been in those situations, and hopefully we continue with that mindset."

 

Honored Nationally, Matt Nichols 53 Yards From Big Sky Passing Record -- Senior quarterback Matt Nichols was named as one of four National All-Stars by College Sporting News and was the Big Sky Conference co-Offensive Player of the Week as he continued his assault on the EWU, Big Sky and NCAA record books. Nichols now has the 46-year-old league's career total offense record to his credit and is just 53 yards from adding the league's passing record. His BSC honor was his third this season and the seventh in his career.

After throwing for 408 yards at Northern Arizona on Nov. 21, Nichols has 12,155 passing yards in his career to move into seventh in NCAA Football Championship history. He needs 53 yards to break the career passing record in the 46-year-old Big Sky Conference of 12,207 held by Weber State's Jamie Martin (1989-92).

Nichols has 12,830 yards of total offense in his career to rank sixth in FCS history (the division was created in 1978). With a 455-yard effort at Southern Utah on Nov. 14, he broke the league's 17-year-old total offense record of 12,287 yards held by Martin. For his efforts, he was selected as Big Sky Conference Offensive Player of the Week.

In his last five games alone, Nichols has completed 68 percent of his passes for an average of 368.0 yards per game (1,840 total), 20 touchdowns, no interceptions and a passing efficiency rating of 183.0. He was 22-of-33 against NAU.

"It just shows his toughness and longevity," said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin. "A record like that shows a lot of things. A lot of players have talent but get hurt along the way, or this or that, but Matt has just been constant and one of those guys week-in and week-out who just brings it. He deserves the records -- he has worked hard to get that and I am really proud of him."

Besides Martin, Nichols ranks ahead of such Big Sky legends as Montana's Dave Dickenson, NAU's Greg Wyatt, Idaho's John Friesz and Ken Hobart, and Eastern's own Erik Meyer. Meyer (2005), Dickenson (1995), Nussmeier (1993), Martin (1991) and Friesz (1989) have all won the Payton Award presented by the Sports Network to the top player in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision. Nichols is on the watch list for that award this year.

Big Sky Total Offense Yardage Leaders
1. Matt Nichols, Eastern Washington (2006-2009) - 46 games - 12,830 (6th in FCS)
2. Jamie Martin, Weber State (1989-92) - 41 games - 12,287 (8th in FCS)
3. Travis Lulay, Montana State (2002-05) - 47 games - 12,205 (9th in FCS)
4. Doug Nussmeier, Idaho (1990-93) - 39 games - 12,027 (10th in FCS)
5. Dave Dickenson, Montana (1992-95) - 35 games - 11,513
6. Travis Brown, Northern Arizona (1996-99) - 41 games - 11,400
7. Ken Hobart, Idaho (1980-83) - 44 games - 11,126
8. Erik Meyer, Eastern Washington (2002-05) - 42 games - 10,942

Big Sky Passing Yardage Leaders
1. Jamie Martin, Weber State (1989-92) - 41 games - 12,207 (6th in FCS)
2. Matt Nichols, Eastern Washington (2006-2009) - 46 games - 12,155 (7th in FCS)
3. Travis Brown, Northern Arizona (1996-99) - 41 games - 11,400 (11th in FCS)
4. Dave Dickenson, Montana (1992-95) - 35 games - 11,080 (12th in FCS)
5. Doug Nussmeier, Idaho (1990-93) - 39 games - 10,824
6. Travis Lulay, Montana State (2002-05) - 47 games - 10,746
7. Jason Murrietta, Northern Arizona (2003-06) - 46 games - 10,726
T8. John Friesz, Idaho (1986-89) - 35 games - 10,697
T8. Greg Wyatt, Northern Arizona (1986-89) - 42 games - 10,697
10. Erik Meyer, Eastern Washington (2002-05) - 42 games - 10,261

Practices -- This week, two-hour practices take place Tuesday at 4 p.m., and Wednesday and Thursday at times to be determined. Practices will take place on-campus either on the practice fields, Woodward Field or Thorpe Fieldhouse, but Eastern is hoping to practice Wednesday at Gonzaga Prep in Spokane. Media interviews take place after practice or 1/2 hour before the time listed (Tuesday and Wednesday only, please).

 

PDF Link to Fact Book -- The complete version of the 2009 EWU football fact book may be found at: http://goeags.com/trads/ewas-factbooks.html.

More Eagle Football Links and Headlines --
EWU Football Web Page - http://goeags.com/sports/m-footbl/index
Big Sky Conference Football - http://www.bigskyconf.com/sport.asp?path=football&tab=mens
Spokane Spokesman-Review EWU Football Page - http://www.spokesman.com/sections/eagles/
The Sports Network (FCS Football) - http://www.sportsnetwork.com/merge/tsnform.aspx?c=sportsnetwork&page=cfoot2/indexpic.htm
NCAA FCS Football - http://www.ncaafootball.com/index.php?s=&url_channel_id=36&change_well_id=1
NCAA Statistics - http://web1.ncaa.org/mfb/mainpage.jsp?year=2009
College Sporting News - http://www.championshipsubdivisionnews.com/index.php?blog=5

RECENT EWU FOOTBALL HEADLINES
November 21, 2009 - Matt Nichols Rallies No. 18 Eastern Late for 49-45 Win
November 14, 2009 - Nichols Breaks Big Sky Total Offense Record in 41-28 Victory
November 13, 2009 - Fans Can Help Michael Roos Return to the Pro Bowl
November 5, 2009 - Matt Nichols Nears Big Sky Conference Record as Milestones Accumulate
November 2, 2009 - Matt Johnson is National and Big Sky Player of the Week
October 31, 2009 - Eagles Down Vikings 47-10 on Record-Tying Day for Matts
October 29, 2009 - Q and A: Football Player Aaron Boyce
October 27, 2009 - NCAA Reverses Eastern's Postseason Ban
October 26, 2009 - After Comeback, Matt Nichols Earns National & Big Sky Accolades
October 24, 2009 - Eagles Rally For 35-24 Victory Over Montana State
October 22, 2009 - Q and A: Football Player Tony Davis
October 17, 2009 - No. 21 Eagles edged by No. 3 Grizzlies 41-34
October 15, 2009 - Sherritt Added to Buchanan Watch List
October 15, 2009 - Q and A: Football player Matt Nichols
October 10, 2009 - Weber State Knocks off Eagles 31-13
October 8, 2009 - Q and A: Football Player Nicholas Ramos
October 6, 2009 - Eagles to Play Washington Huskies in 2011
October 3, 2009 - Trio Leads Eagle Offense as No. 17 Eastern Beats Idaho State 38-3
September 30, 2009 - Blood Clot Forces Zach Johnson to Miss Entire Season
September 28, 2009 - Taiwan Jones Earns National Player of the Week Honors
September 26, 2009 - Taiwan Jones Has 279 Total Yards to Lead No. 19 Eagles
September 21, 2009 - Sherritt, Zuber Earn Big Sky Player of the Week Honors
September 19, 2009 - Eastern Registers 16-0 Shutout in Big Sky Opener
September 12, 2009 - No. 10 California Downs No. 18 Eagles 59-7
September 9, 2009 - Q & A: Football Player Taiwan Jones
September 7, 2009 - Hatch, Boyce Win Big Sky Player of the Week Awards
September 5, 2009 - Eastern Pulls Away from Western Oregon For 35-14 Win
August 19, 2009 - Thomas Nominated for ‘Good Works' Team

 

GAME NOTES

More About Stephen F. Austin:  Stephen F. Austin is 9-2 and won a share of the Southland Conference title by edging Northwestern State 19-10 last Saturday. The Lumberjacks defeated co-champion McNeese State 16-13 back on Oct. 10 to break the tie and earn them the league's automatic berth.

"If you are one of the 16 teams in this playoff, you're good," said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin. "Every team is going to be a little bit different, but we know they are a very good team and play in a very good league. I know it will be a challenge for us."

Stephen F. Austin's most productive players are junior quarterback Jeremy Moses and senior wide receiver Duane Brooks. Moses ranks second in FCS in passing offense (317.1) fourth in total offense (322.1) and 16th in passing efficiency (148.5). Brooks is third in receptions per game (8.64) and 21st in receiving yards (81.6 per game).

On defense, the Lumberjacks feature the nation's leader in sacks, with senior defensive end Tim Knicky finishing the regular season with 12 (1.2 per game). As a team, the Lumberjacks ranked fifth nationally is sacks (3.45 per game) and were also 16th in passing efficiency defense (106.63).

Included in the team's wins this season was a 92-0 drubbing of Texas College, a NAIA school in Tyler, Texas. The Lumberjacks also defeated North Dakota 65-31 and had two other victories by at least 31 points. Their lone losses were on the road at SMU (31-23) and Texas State (28-7). The Lumberjacks are 5-0 at home, out-scoring opponents 246-74 -- an average score of 49-15.

Stephen F. Austin is making its first appearance in the FCS playoffs since 1995 and third overall. The Lumberjacks also qualified in 1988, 1989 and 1993, and are 6-4 on the field in those appearances. However, its 3-1 record in the 1989 playoffs, including a championship game loss to Georgia Southern, was vacated by action of the NCAA Committee on Infractions.

 

Eagles Successful When They Win Turnover Battle -- Eastern is now 6-0 this season when it wins the turnover battle, with a 22-4 advantage in those six games. Since having a season-high five in a loss to Weber State on Oct. 10, Eastern has had just two turnovers -- both fumbles -- as quarterback Matt Nichols now has a streak of 207 attempts without an interception. In a 49-45 victory over Northern Arizona to end the regular season, Eastern was out-gained in total offense 747-486. Eastern is 0-2 when it has lost the turnover battle and 2-1 when it has been tied.

 

History Repeats Itself -- The Eagles will be making their seventh appearance overall in the FCS Playoffs with previous berths in 1985, 1992, 1997, 2004, 2005 and 2007. Eastern's only other football postseason berth came in 1967 when they advanced to the NAIA Championship game.

In both 2004 and 2007, Eastern ended the season with an 8-3 record and received an at-large berth. Both times the Eagles ended the season with four-game winning streaks, then began the playoffs with impressive first-round victories.

In 2004, EWU won its final four regular season games before knocking off Southern Illinois 35-31 in the playoffs. Three years later, another four-game winning streak led to a 44-15 first-round win over McNeese State.

Since the Big Sky was given an automatic berth in the NCAA Playoffs in 1980, only Idaho (8-3 in 1983, 9-3 in 1994) has not been given an at-large berth in the playoffs with a record of 8-3 or better. That compares to 27 at-large berths that were given to league teams 8-3 or better, as well as EWU's 1992 team which was 7-3.

 

Eagles in the Playoffs -- This is Eastern's seventh appearance in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs. It is also the fourth in a six-year span as EWU's appearances in 2004 and 2005 were the first time the Eagles had ever made back-to-back appearances. Eastern has now advanced past the first round four times (1985, 1997, 2004, 2007) and has a 5-6 record in six playoff appearances.

In 2007, the Eagles handed second-seeded and No. 3 ranked McNeese State its first loss of the year in a 44-15 first-round victory. Eastern then lost in the quarterfinals at two-time defending champion Appalachian State. In 2004, Eastern defeated No. 1 ranked and top-seeded Southern Illinois 35-31 in the first round and then lost 35-34 to Sam Houston State in the quarterfinal round in EWU's first-ever playoff game at Woodward Field in Cheney, Wash. In both 2004 and 2007, Eastern entered the playoffs ranked 14th nationally.

Until 2004, Eastern hadn't appeared in the FCS playoffs since 1997 when the Eagles advanced to the semifinals where it lost to Youngstown State 25-14 at Albi Stadium in Spokane, Wash. Eastern played two early-round games at Albi, defeating Northwestern State 40-10 and Western Kentucky 38-21.

Eastern also participated in the playoffs in 1985 (won at Idaho 42-38 and lost at Northern Iowa 17-14) and 1992 (lost at Northern Iowa 17-14). The school's only other post-season experience came in 1967 when Eastern advanced to the NAIA Championship game where it lost to Fairmont State 28-21.

Here is a complete list of EWU's playoff games:
2007 - at Appalachian State - L, 35-38 (Quarterfinals)
2007 - at McNeese State - W, 44-15 (First Round)
2005 - at Northern Iowa - L, 38-41 (First Round)
2004 - Sam Houston State - L, 34-35 (Quarterfinals/Cheney)
2004 - at Southern Illinois - W, 35-31 (First Round)
1997 - Youngstown State - L, 14-25 (Semifinals/Spokane)
1997 - Western Kentucky - W, 38-21 (Quarterfinals/Spokane)
1997 - Northwestern State - W, 40-10 (First Round/Spokane)
1992 - at Northern Iowa - L, 14-17 (First Round)
1985 - at Northern Iowa - L, 14-17 (Quarterfinals)
1985 - at Idaho - W, 42-38 (First Round)

 

EWU Versus The Southland Conference: Eastern is 5-4 all-time against current members of the Southland, including a 1-2 record versus Stephen F. Austin. The two teams played each other three-straight seasons from 1987-89, with the first two in Nacogdoches. Eastern won 3-0 the first year, then lost the next two seasons 48-10 and 42-36.
2007 - McNeese State - W, 44-15 (FCS Playoffs/First Round)
2006 - Sam Houston State - L, 34-35 (FCS Playoffs/Quarterfinals)
2004 - at Nicholls State - L, 14-37
1997 - Northwestern State - W, 40-10 (FCS Playoffs/First Round)
1996 - #Southwest Texas - W, 38-7
1995 - at #Southwest Texas - W, 34-16
1989 - Stephen F. Austin - L, 36-42
1988 - at Stephen F. Austin - L, 10-48
1987 - at Stephen F. Austin - W, 3-0
#Now Texas State.

 

Senior Class Features 339 Starts Between Them -- Eastern honored its 17 seniors in pre-game ceremonies Oct. 31 at Qwest Field in Seattle, Wash., where Eastern hosted Portland State. These seniors have combined for 339 starts in their careers and include 14 players who will become four-year letter winners at Eastern. Eastern has won 26 games in their four years, and these players have won numerous All-America, All-Big Sky and academic honors. These seniors were sophomores in leading Eastern to a playoff berth in 2007, and are in the midst of a stretch run to a possible berth in 2009.


2009 EASTERN SENIORS
#83 - Brynsen Brown - DL/WR - 6-2 - 210 - Sr. - 3L* - Puyallup, Wash. (Emerald Ridge HS '05)
#20 - Tony Davis - WR - 5-9 - 185 - Sr. - 3L* - Olympia, Wash. (Capital HS '05)
#70 - Ryan Forney - OL - 6-3 - 295 - Sr. - 2L* - Silverdale, Wash. (Central Kitsap HS '05)
#15 - Kevin Hatch - DB - 5-9 - 180 - Sr. - 3L* - Spokane, Wash. (Freeman HS '05)
#1 - Lonnie Hosley - DB - 5-8 - 160 - Sr. - 3L* - Vancouver, Wash. (Evergreen HS '05)
#26 - Brett Igbinoba - DB - 6-0 - 200 - Sr. - 3L* - Cheney, Wash. (Cheney HS '05)
#90 - Josh Jacobson - DL - 6-1 - 280 - Sr. - 3L* - Puyallup, Wash. (Rogers HS '05)
#99 - Jacob Kragt - DL - 6-3 - 235 - Sr. - 3L* - Ritzville, Wash. (Ritzville HS '05)
#24 - J.T. Leggin - DB - 6-1 - 190 - Sr. - 1L - Tacoma, Wash. (Stadium HS '05 & Sacramento City College)
#19 - Nathan Overbay - TE - 6-5 - 270 - Sr. - 3L* - Chehalis, Wash. (W.F. West HS '05)
#21 - Nicholas Ramos - WR - 5-8 - 165 - Sr. - 3L* - Winters, Calif. (Winters HS '05)
#73 - John Rice - OL - 6-7 - 295 - Sr. - 2L* - Buckley, Wash. (White River HS '05)
#71 - Chris Thomas - OL - 6-5 - 300 - Sr. - 3L* - Sumner, Wash. (Sumner HS '05)
#7 - Kyle Wilkins - LB - 5-9 - 210 - Sr. - 3L* - Monroe, Wash. (Archbishop Murphy HS '05)

Senior Co-Captains . . .
#
27 - Makai Borden - LB - 5-11 - 215 - Sr. - 3L* - Puyallup, Wash. (Puyallup HS '05)
#16 - Matt Nichols - QB - 6-3 - 220 - Sr. - 3L* - Cottonwood, Calif. (West Valley HS '05)
#9 - Aaron Boyce - WR - 6-3 - 210 - Sr. - 3L* - Kent, Wash. (Kentwood HS '05)

 

Eastern FCS Leaders -- The Eagles are ranked in the top 10 in three offensive categories in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision, including passing (4th, 308.6), total offense (4th, 450.1) and scoring (9th, 33.7). Individually, Eastern's Taiwan Jones is ranked high in rushing (11th, 99.6), scoring (4th, 9.8) and all-purpose yards (2nd, 195.0), with Matt Nichols ranking in passing efficiency (4th, 164.1), passing (4th, 306.3) and total offense (5th, 314.0). Tony Davis is ranked in receptions per game (25th, 6.1), and Eastern's J.C. Sherritt is leading FCS in tackles (14.0) and Matt Johnson is ninth in interceptions (0.55 per game, six total).

 

PLAYER NOTES

Sherritt Maintains National Lead in Tackles -- Junior linebacker J.C. Sherritt (Pullman, Wash. - Pullman HS '06) remains the leader in NCAA Football Championship Subdivision statistics with an average of 14.0 tackles per game. He has a total of 154 stops this season to break the school record of 151 set by Greg Belzer in 2000. A school-record 24 tackles versus Weber State on Oct. 10, 17 more against Montana on Oct. 17 and 18 against Montana State on Oct. 24 helped move him into the national lead.

Sherritt finished the Weber State game with seven solo stops and 17 assists, breaking the previous school record of 23 set by Belzer against Portland State on Sept. 12, 1998. Two of his tackles against Weber State were for losses and he also had a 36-yard interception return for a touchdown. Besides his 154 tackles and interception, Sherritt has 14 tackles for loss, four passes broken up, three forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries in 11 games this season.

Sherritt earned Big Sky Conference Defensive Player of the Week honors for the second-straight week when he had 15 tackles, with 2 1/2 for loss, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery in EWU's 56-30 victory over Sacramento State on Sept. 26.

The previous week, he had 15 versus Northern Colorado on Sept. 19 to earn BSC Defensive Player of the Week accolades for his efforts. Sherritt was also selected as one of four National All-Stars by College Sporting News for his performance against the Bears. Three of the tackles were for losses, including one on a third down play that forced the Bears to punt. He also recovered a fumble, one of four turnovers the Eagles forced in the 16-0 shutout.

Sherritt was among four players who were added to the Buck Buchanan Award Watch List Oct. 15 by the Sports Network.  The Buchanan Award, which is in its 15th year, is given to the top defensive player in the Football Championship Subdivision. Last year the award was won by Eastern defensive end Greg Peach, now with the Edmonton Eskimos in the Canadian Football League.

There are currently 20 players on that watch list, as well as 20 on the list for the Walter Payton Award given to the top player in FCS. Eastern quarterback Matt Nichols remains a candidate on the Payton Watch List.

 

Taiwan Jones Joins 1,000-Yard Club -- Sophomore running back Taiwan Jones (Antioch, Calif. - Deer Valley HS '07) had 115 rushing yards against Northern Arizona on Nov. 21 to record the 14th 1,000-yard performance for an Eastern running back in a single season. His current total of 1,095 ranks as the 10th-most in school history.

Jones finished with a season-high 274 all-purpose yards against NAU, including 82 receiving and 77 on kickoff returns, scoring once on a 71-yard run and another time on an 80-yard pass. One game earlier, he had 77 rushing yards and a touchdown at Southern Utah on Nov. 14, part of a 222-yard all-purpose yardage day that also included 75 yards and a TD on four receptions. In addition, he had 70 yards on two kickoff returns, including a 50-yarder on the game's opening kickoff to set-up EWU's first touchdown.

He has had five 100-yard rushing performances this season, and five times he has had at least 222 all-purpose yards (rushing, receiving, returns). Before the NAU game, his previous season high for all purpose yards was 264 in EWU's victory over Montana State on Oct. 24 when he had 149 receiving yards and two touchdowns on six receptions.

For the season, he has 1,095 rushing yards and is averaging a lofty 7.4 yards per rush in an average of 13.4 carries per game. Jones has 2,145 all-purpose yards and 18 touchdowns in 206 total touches for averages of 195.0 yards per game and 10.4 per touch. He is averaging a touchdown every 11.5 times he touches the ball. His average of 99.5 yards rushing is third in the Big Sky and ranks 11th in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision, and he is also fourth nationally in scoring (9.82 per game) and second nationally in all-purpose yards per game (195.0).

In nine of the last 14 seasons (1995-2008), Eastern has had a 1,000-yard rusher, including six different players. Dale Morris came close with 930 in 2007, but Eastern hadn't had a 1,000-yard rusher since Darius Washington had 1,127 in 2004.

Jones rushed for 168 yards and three touchdowns on just 12 carries in EWU's 38-3 victory over Idaho State on Oct. 3. He had 190 yards and four TDs a week earlier against Sacramento State, giving him 358 yards, seven touchdowns and an impressive 12.3 average per rush in those two games.

His yards versus ISU included a school-record 96-yard rush for a score in the third quarter that ranks as the fourth-longest in Big Sky history. He broke the previous school record of 95 yards set by John Ditz against Lewis & Clark in 1954. He had an 87-yard touchdown on his first career carry in EWU's 35-14 victory over Western Oregon on Sept. 5. That equaled EWU's fifth-longest rush in school history, and was the longest for the Eagles since 1997. It also equaled the longest in the Big Sky since 1989 when Eastern's Dominic Corr had a 92-yard scamper versus Idaho State.

Following his performance against Sac State on Sept. 26 in the 56-30 win, Jones was Sports Network co-Offensive Player of the Week and earned the same honor from the Big Sky Conference as he shared the honor with two other players. Playing in just his fourth game as a collegiate running back, his yardage total was the 29th-most in school history, and the best by an Eagle since Dezmon Cole had 199 versus Weber State on Oct. 23, 2004. Coupled with 69 yards on three kickoff returns and a pass reception for 20 yards, Jones finished with 279 all-purpose yards. He averaged 12.7 yards per rush, and 14.7 yards the 19 times he touched the ball.

Jones had 164 all-purpose yards versus Northern Colorado on Sept. 19, including 95 yards rushing on 18 carries. He also caught a pass for 16 yards, returned a punt for one yard and returned a kickoff 52 yards. His kickoff return would have been an 85-yard touchdown, but a penalty nullified it. Last season, Jones had a 93-yard return for a touchdown versus the Bears. That return helped convince the coaching staff to move him to running back in 2009 to help replace four departed seniors at that position.

Jones missed the early part of the 2008 season with a broken fibula, but returned to start four games at cornerback for the Eagles.

 

Eagles Looking for 1,000 -- Always proud of its running game with outstanding running backs and offensive linemen, Eastern has now had a 1,000-yard rusher for 10 of the last 15 seasons from 1995-2009, including seven different players. Eastern had eight-straight seasons with a 1,000-yard rusher from 1995-2002.

Before Taiwan Jones in 2009, the last time it happened came in 2004 when Darius Washington finished with 1,127 yards in 12 games. Because of a shoulder injury, he had just 16 yards in his last two regular season games, but had 257 yards in a pair of playoff games. The Eagles came up short in 2003 as Reggie Witherspoon finished with 766 after Washington's season came to a premature end with a knee injury in Eastern's second game of the season.

Joe Sewell started the string of 1,000-yard rushers with 1,025 in 1995, then had 1,094 in 1996. In 1997, Rex Prescott rushed for what was then a school-record 1,793 and Mike MacKenzie accumulated 1,058 in 1997 and 1,396 in 1998. Jovan Griffith finished with 1,275 in 1999, and Jesse Chatman had 1,188 in 2000 and a remarkable 2,096 in the 2001 season that surpassed Prescott's single season school record. The eighth-straight performance was by Griffith with 1,130 yards as he went over the 1,000-yard mark with a 199-yard performance in Eastern's season-ending 30-21 victory over No. 1 ranked Montana on Nov. 16, 2002. In Eastern's first 86 years of football, only three 1,000-yard performances had been recorded - 1,238 by Mel Stanton in 1965, 1,049 by Meriel Michelson in 1950 and 1,114 by Jamie Townsend in 1985.

 

Overbay Establishes New Standards for Eastern Tight Ends -- Senior tight end Nathan Overbay (Chehalis, Wash. - W. F. West HS '05) has 12 touchdown receptions this year to equal the fourth-most in school history and easily the most by a tight end in school history. His single season and career catch and yardage totals also rank favorably with the top tight ends all-time at Eastern.

 With 43 catches (the most ever for an EWU tight end) for 488 yards this season, he is averaging a TD every 3.6 catches. The 6-foot-5, 270-pound senior scored all three touchdowns as EWU took a 21-0 lead over Southern Utah on Nov. 14 en route to a 41-28 victory. In his 42-game career, he has caught 85 passes for 1,089 yards and a school-record for a tight end with 18 touchdown receptions (ninth overall).

Eastern's best-ever marks for a tight end are owned by Scott Garske, who caught 106 passes for 1,477 yards from 1971-73, and he had the previous record for touchdown receptions for a tight end with 13. Garske also owned the previous single season receptions record for a tight end with 42 catches in 1972, and the touchdown record with five. His 595 yards in 1972 remains a record. Garske caught three touchdown passes in a 48-45 victory over Eastern Oregon in 1973.

Since Eastern became a member of the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision in 1983, the top single season performances by a tight end were by Eric Riley with 39 catches for 543 yards and five touchdowns in 1985. Tim Calhoun also had five touchdowns in 2002. Riley (1983-84-85-86) finished with career totals of 81 catches for 1,102 yards and 12 touchdowns. His catches and yardage totals were topped by Tony Lenseigne (1988-89-90-91) when he had 104 catches for 1,399 yards and eight touchdowns in his career. Jesse Hardt (1992-93-94-95) came close to those totals with 103 catches, 1,327 yards and 10 scores.

Overbay, who is the nephew of Toronto Blue Jays major league baseball player Lyle Overbay, is considered to be one of Eastern's top pro prospects this year. Garske was drafted in the seventh round (179th pick overall) by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1974, but a slow-healing and painful hairline fracture in his heel essentially ended his playing career. Riley and Lenseigne also signed with NFL teams and had short pro careers, as did Dan Curley (1998-1999-2000-2002), who finished his injury-plagued EWU career with 58 catches for 721 yards and seven scores.

Garske was a NAIA All-America selection in both 1973 (first team) and 1972 (second team). At the FCS level, the school's only All-Americans have been Hardt (second team in 1995 and honorable mention in 1994) and Curley (honorable mention in 2002).

 

Ena Moves Back to Linebacker -- Paul Ena, who has played this season as a backup defensive end as a true freshman, started at middle linebacker against Northern Arizona and finished with a team-high 16 tackles. He is Eastern's fourth player to be on EWU's depth chart at that position this season. Returning starter Zach Johnson has not played because of a blood clot that developed following knee surgery last summer, then Kyle Wilkins suffered a season-ending knee injury. Freshman redshirt Tyler Washburn started four games until he also suffered a knee injury and is out indefinitely.

Ena was a linebacker at Inglemoor High School in Seattle, finishing his senior season in fall 2008 with 162 total tackles (65 solo, 97 assisted) and two sacks. His father Tali Ena was a standout running back at Washington State University and went on to play for the Seattle Seahawks.

 

More on Matt Nichols: So far this season, Nichols has thrown for 3,369 yards and 30 touchdowns, and has completed 67 percent of his passes to give him a passing efficiency rating of 164.1 to rank fourth in FCS (as a team, Eastern leads the nation in efficiency at 161.59). He is fifth in total offense (314.0 per game) and fourth in passing offense (306.3).

Nichols has just five interceptions, and had a streak of 151 attempts without a pick ended against Weber State on Oct. 10. He hasn't had an interception since then as his current interception-less streak stands at 207.

"He's having a great year," said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin. "Because we are running the ball more, some of his numbers might be down from a total yards standpoint. But he's doing a great job taking care of the football with his touchdown-to-interception ratio. And besides those things, he's leading and he's guiding our young group of receivers. The talent has been there for a few years, but now he is progressing as a true leader in this offense."

Three of the four best days in his career efficiency-wise have come in the last three games, including a 220.5 rating against Northern Arizona on Nov. 21 when he completed 22-of-33 passes for 408 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions. Before he completed 28-of-38 passes for a 192.42 efficiency rating versus Southern Utah, Nichols was coming off his second-most efficient game of his career on Oct. 31 in EWU's 47-10 thumping of Portland State. Nichols completed 21-of-30 passes for a season-high 413 yards and four touchdowns. He completed passes to eight different receivers, with six catching at least three passes.

His passing efficiency rating of 229.64 in that game was his best of the season, and second-best in his career behind his 272.93 rating versus Northern Arizona as a sophomore in 2007 (17-of-22, 316 yards, 5 TD). Nichols helped Eastern to a 545-278 advantage in total offense versus PSU as EWU snapped a three-game losing streak in the series versus the Vikings.

He is from Cottonwood, Calif., and is a 2005 graduate of West Valley High School., and has led the Eagles to a 8-3 record overall and 6-2 league mark thus far. In the win over PSU, Nichols tied the school's career touchdown passes record of 84 -- a record previously held by the quarterback he replaced, Meyer.

Nichols has five 400-yard passing performance in 46 career games. Nichols now has 18 career games with at least 300 passing yards, and 20 with at least 300 yards of total offense (four games with at least 400 yards).

A four-year starter, he broke EWU's career total offense and passing yardage records in October, and before that, broke the school's completions and attempts records. He is now 953-of-1,532 (62 percent) for 12,155 yards and 93 touchdowns in his 46-game career.

Meyer previously held the school record for career passing yards with 10,261 from 2002-05, and also owned the career total offense record of 10,942. Nichols also has 675 career rushing yards, just ahead of the former record by an Eastern quarterback of 681 held by Meyer. He actually moved ahead of Meyer on Nov. 14, but slipped back to second the following week with a negative 18 yards versus NAU.

The starting debut for the 44-game starter came in 2006 when Eastern played at 12th-ranked West Virginia. For the second-straight year he is on the watch list for the Walter Payton Award presented by the Sports Network to the top player in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision.

Nichols led Eastern to nine victories as a sophomore in 2007 when he passed for 3,744 yards and 34 touchdowns, and had another 392 yards on the ground. As a junior, his numbers (in two less games) slipped to 3,293 yards and 21 touchdowns passing, and 83 yards rushing.

Nichols had his first 300-yard passing performance of the 2009 season with 354 against Weber State on Oct. 10. He then had 312 at Montana on Oct. 17, 327 versus Montana State on Oct. 24, 413 against Portland State on Oct. 31 and 380 versus Southern Utah on Nov. 14, giving him a total of 18 in his career thus far. He has now had at least 300 yards of total offense in 20 games in his career.

Below is a complete list of his 300-yard outings:


300-Yard Passing Games for Nichols (total of 18)
451 - 37x59, 2td - Montana - 10/6/07 (#3 in school history)
434 - 34x44, 2td - McNeese State - 11/24/07 (#6 in school history)
418 - 34x55, 2td - Portland State - 10/4/08 (#10 in school history)
413 - 21x30, 4td - Portland State - 10/31/09 (#12 in school history)
408 - 22x33, 5td - Northern Arizona - 11/21/09 (#13 in school history)
382 - 26x40, 5td - Idaho State - 9/27/08 (#20 in school history)
380 - 28x38, 4td - Southern Utah - 10/14/09 (#21 in school history)
363 - 29x43, 1td - Sacramento State - 11/1/08 (#30 in school history)
363 - 19x30, 2td - Portland State - 9/29/07 (#31 in school history)
354 - 24x39, 1td - Weber State - 10/10/09 (#36 in school history)
346 - 25x42, 2td - Northern Arizona - 11/15/08 (#41 in school history)
335 - 36x61, 1td - Texas Tech - 8/30/08 (#46 in school history)
329 - 21x42, 1td - Sacramento State - 9/30/06
328 - 20x29, 3td - Sacramento State - 10/27/07
327 - 26x41, 4td - Montana State - 10/24/09
316 - 17x22, 5td - Northern Arizona - 11/10/07
312 - 32x49, 3td - Montana - 10/17/09
303 - 32x51, 1td - Colorado - 9/6/08


300-Yard Total Offense Games for Nichols (total of 20)
478 - 451 passing, 27 rushing - Montana - 10/6/07
459 - 434 passing. 25 rushing - McNeese State - 11/24/07
455 - 380 passing, 75 rushing - Southern Utah - 10/14/09
435 - 418 passing, 17 rushing - Portland State - 10/4/08
397 - 413 passing, -16 rushing - Portland State - 10/31/09
390 - 408 passing, -18 rushing - Northern Arizona - 11/21/09
376 - 382 passing, -6 rushing - Idaho State - 9/27/08
375 - 426 passing, 29 rushing - Northern Arizona - 11/15/08
370 - 363 passing, 7 rushing - Portland State - 9/29/07
359 - 256 passing, 103 rushing - Weber State - 11/17/07
359 - 329 passing, 30 rushing - Sacramento State - 9/30/06
364 - 316 passing, 48 rushing - Northern Arizona - 11/10/07
355 - 328 passing, 27 rushing - Sacramento State - 10/27/07
348 - 312 passing, 36 rushing - Montana 10/17/09
344 - 354 passing, -10 rushing - Weber State - 10/10/09
327 - 32 passing. 0 rushing - Montana State - 10/24/09
322 - 335 passing, -13 rushing - Texas Tech - 8/30/08
320 - 363 passing, -43 rushing - Sacramento State - 11/1/08
314 - 303 passing, 11 rushing - Colorado - 9/6/08
313 - 242 passing, 71 rushing - Weber State - 11/22/08

 

More Eagles to Watch -- Sophomore running back Tyler Hart (Friday Harbor, Wash. - Friday Harbor HS '07) has had a pair of performances with at least 100 all-purpose yards, including 107 in EWU's win versus Portland State on Oct. 31 when he caught a pair of touchdown passes. Said Eagle head coach Beau Baldwin: "Tyler Hart is a great player. He is obviously behind one of the best running backs maybe in the country, so he doesn't get a lot of attention. He's a really smart player and he understands things out of the backfield. You can put him in a lot of different situations -- he could probably go out and function just fine as a slot receiver, that's how good of an all-around player he is on offense.". . . First-year kicker Mike Jarrett (Puyallup, Wash. - Puyallup HS '07) kicked field goals of 39 and 48 yards in EWU's loss to Montana on Oct. 17. He is now 4-of-8 on the season, with a 49-yarder to his credit. His brother Bryan Jarrett (2005-07) was a two-time All-Big Sky Conference safety for the Eagles . . . Despite never playing on defense, special teams standout and wide receiver Nicholas Ramos (Winters, Calif. - Winters HS '05) has tied the school's fumble recoveries record. His eighth was a recovery on a fumbled punt return by Northern Colorado on Sept. 19 in EWU's 16-0 victory. He tied the record originally set by defensive end Steve Mattson (1994-97). Ramos, who earned honorable mention All-Big Sky honors as a junior in 2008, had four of his fumble recoveries as a sophomore in 2007 . . . Senior linebacker Makai Borden (Puyallup, Wash. - Puyallup HS '05) has tallied 77 tackles this season in 10 games, but his mere presence on the field has been important the past three seasons for the Eagles. Eastern is now 20-7 in the last two-plus seasons (2007-09) with Borden in the starting lineup and 3-5 without him in it. He has 200 tackles, four interceptions (including an 85-yard return for a touchdown on Nov. 21 against Northern Arizona) and six passes broken up in 40 career games, and EWU is 21-9 in his 30 games as a starter . . . Junior punter Cameron Zuber (Chehalis, Wash. - W.F. West HS '06) had an impressive outing versus Northern Colorado on Sept. 19 to earn Big Sky Conference Special Teams Player of the Week honors. He punted seven times for a 39.1 average, with five downed inside the 20. His 64-yard punt equaled the eighth-longest in school history and the average field position for the Bears after six of his punts was their own 19. On his seventh punt, Eastern forced a fumble on the return and took over at the UNC 6-yard line before scoring for a 13-0 lead. For the season, he is averaging 39.9 yards on 37 punts, with 12 of them downed inside the 20. Zuber has been attending EWU since he graduated in 2006 from W.F. West High School in Chehalis, Wash., but this is his first season as an Eagle football player. He originally walked-on in spring 2007 but did not make the team. He then returned this fall through the recommendation of Eastern tight end Nathan Overbay, who is 2005 graduate of W.F. West . . . A total of 12 players return who earned All-Big Sky Conference honors a year ago, including a pair of wide receivers selected to the second team last year as juniors -- Aaron Boyce (Kent, Wash. - Kentwood HS '05) and Brynsen Brown (Puyallup, Wash. - Emerald Ridge HS '05). Brown, however, has since moved over to a defensive end position after freshman redshirt Nicholas Edwards (Tacoma, Wash. - Foss HS '08) earned a starting position in the off-season. Edwards went the entire season without a touchdown catch, but ended the regular season with three touchdown grabs Nov. 21 against Northern Arizona. Boyce, who is lost for the season with an injury, caught 63 passes for 917 yards and 10 touchdowns last season and now has 222 catches for 3,330 yards and 29 touchdowns in his career. Boyce began his senior season with six catches for 126 yards versus Western Oregon on Sept. 5, including a 53-yard touchdown catch, to help him earn Big Sky Conference Offensive Player of the Week honors . .  . Senior quarterback Matt Nichols (Cottonwood, Calif.) is one of 10 players returning who earned honorable mention All-Big Sky honors in 2008 after earning the league's Offensive Player of the Year award as a sophomore . . . Senior free safety Kevin Hatch (Spokane, Wash. - Freeman HS '05) had a pair of interceptions, two passes broken up and six total tackles against Western Oregon on Sept. 5 to earn Big Sky Conference Defensive Player of the Week honors. Besides the two touchdowns they scored, the Wolves had the ball inside the Eastern 20 three other times and came away empty. One was ended on an interception by Hatch in the end zone at the end of the first half with EWU clinging to a 14-7 lead. Hatch's other interception led to a touchdown that gave EWU some breathing room at 28-14. He added an interception against Northern Colorado on Sept. 19, giving him eight in his career to go along with a current total of 207 tackles. Hatch ended his junior season with a 73-yard interception return for a touchdown in EWU's upset 33-26 victory over eighth-ranked and regular season Big Sky champion Weber State . . . Junior cornerback Jesse Hoffman (Seattle, Wash. - Shorecrest HS '06) had 10 tackles versus WOU in his first-ever start as an Eagle cornerback. He played previously at EWU as a safety (2008) and running back (2006). Hoffman, however, suffered a high ankle/knee sprain during EWU's practice the day before the Northern Colorado game, and he missed EWU's next three games before returning to play sparingly against Weber State on Oct. 10 . . . Offensive lineman Ray Falelaulii (University Place, Wash. - Curtis HS '07) has been utilized as a fullback along with Grant Williams (Puyallup, Wash. - Rogers HS '08). Falelaulii could wear jersey numbers 96 and/or 75 depending on how he is utilized.

 

Seven Eagles Make Starting Debuts Against WOU -- Seven Eagles, including a pair each on the defensive line and offensive line, made their Eastern starting debuts against Western Oregon on Sept. 5.

Three of Eastern's starting defensive linemen were seniors in 2008, so freshman redshirt Evan Cook made his debut at strong end and sophomore David Miles made his starting debut at tackle. Miles is backed up by 2008 seven-game starter Renard Williams. Senior Jacob Kragt made the second start of his career at the other end position as he and Cook helped replace record-breaking Buck Buchanan Award winner and Big Sky Conference Defensive Player of the Year Greg Peach.

The only other starting debuts made on defense were made by junior cornerback Jesse Hoffman and freshman redshirt weak-side outside linebacker Rusty Haehl. Hoffman is a former running back (2006) and safety (2008) who moved to cornerback last spring. Haehl earned a starting spot after senior starter Makai Borden suffered a hamstring injury early in preseason practices.

The lone starting debuts on offense were made by freshman redshirt wide receiver Nicholas Edwards, sophomore center Chris Powers and junior right guard Nikolai Myers. Sophomore tackle Gabe Jackson made his second start after playing previously as a backup behind injured starter Brice Leahy. And sophomore Taiwan Jones, a four-game starter at cornerback in 2008, made his starting debut as a running back and had an 87-yard touchdown run on his first career rush.

Also making debuts against Western Oregon were sophomore kicker Mike Jarrett and junior punter Cameron Zuber. Jarrett was a non-lettering squad member last season, and Zuber is punting for the first time since 2005 when he was a high school senior at W.F. West High School in Chehalis, Wash.

Freshman redshirt fullback Grant Williams made the first start of his career against California at tailback. He took the majority of snaps in practice during the week leading up to the game as a trio of Eagle running backs nursed minor injuries. Cornerback Dante Calcote made the first start of his career as an injury replacement for Jesse Hoffman when Eastern played Northern Colorado. Also, Tyler Hart made the first start of his career at running back against Sacramento State on Sept. 26, finishing with 46 yards rushing and 40 receiving. Senior Brett Igbinoba made his first career start at cornerback on Oct. 3. Freshman redshirt Tyler Washburn started his first career game on Oct. 17 against Montana. Two more players made their starting debuts on offense on Oct. 24 against Montana State -- true freshman wide receiver Brandon Kaufman and senior offensive tackle John Rice. In the team's 11th game of the year, true freshman Paul Ena moved from a backup defensive end position to a starting position at middle linebacker against Northern Arizona.

A total of 25 players with starting experience returned for the 2009 season. Here are the current number of career starts by Eastern players currently on the 2009 roster:

Defense (229 starts by 20 players) -- Kevin Hatch 35, Makai Borden 30, Lonnie Hosley 23, Matt Johnson 22, J.C. Sherritt 19, Tyler Jolley 15, Renard Williams 13, Jacob Kragt 12, Zach Johnson 11, Evan Cook 10, Kyle Wilkins 8, Josh Jacobson 7, Brett Igbinoba 7, David Miles 4, Tyler Washburn 4, Dante Calcote 3, Jesse Hoffman 2, Paul Ena 1, Will Edge 1, Rusty Haehl 1, Brynsen Brown 1.

Offense (294 starts by 21 players) -- Matt Nichols 44, Aaron Boyce 39, Brynsen Brown 29, Chris Thomas 29, Tony Davis 27, Nathan Overbay 21, Ryan Forney 22, Taiwan Jones 12 (includes four on defense in 2008), Brice Leahy 11, Chris Powers 11, Nikolai Myers 11, Gabriel Jackson 10, Nicholas Edwards 10, Matt Martin 5, Brandon Kaufman 4, Nicholas Ramos 2, Ashton Gant 2, John Rice 2, Tyler Hart 2, Grant Williams 1.

 

More Career Records -- Wide receiver Aaron Boyce is second in school history with 222 receptions, and will finish his career trailing only Eric Kimble (2002-05) with a record 253 grabs. Tony Davis (203) is now third behind Boyce and Kimble on Eastern's top 10 list, and Brynsen Brown (141) is 11th. Boyce also has 3,330 reception yards to trailing only Kimble's Big Sky record 4,140 yards, and Davis has 2,451 to rank fifth. Boyce's 29 touchdown catches is second behind Kimble's 46, and Nathan Overbay has 18 to rank ninth.

Sophomore safety Matt Johnson already has 10 career interceptions -- six this season and four as a freshman -- to already rank eighth in school history. Senior safety Kevin Hatch now has eight interceptions in his career, and needs just one more to join six other former Eagles with nine to rank 10th on EWU's leaders list.  Hatch also has 207 career tackles to rank 23rd all-time at EWU. Junior linebacker J.C. Sherritt has 240 tackles to rank 11th in school history, and Makai Borden has 200 to rank 27th.

Despite never playing on defense, special teams standout and wide receiver Nicholas Ramos has tied the school's fumble recoveries record. His eighth was a recovery on a fumbled punt return by Northern Colorado on Sept. 19 in EWU's 16-0 victory. He tied the record originally set by defensive end Steve Mattson (1994-97). Ramos, who earned honorable mention All-Big Sky honors as a junior in 2008, had four of his fumble recoveries as a sophomore in 2007.

 

Aaron Boyce Lost for the Season -- A devastating blow came on Eastern's final touchdown of the game against Montana on Nov. 17 when senior wide receiver Aaron Boyce crumpled to the ground with an Achilles tendon injury. The 2005 graduate of Kentwood High School in Kent, Wash., had surgery on Oct. 20 in Seattle and will be lost for the season. His ends his career ranked second all-time in receptions (222), reception yards (3,330) and touchdown receptions (29).

"Our hearts go out to him -- you never want to see something like that happen, especially to a person like Aaron," said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin of one of his team's four co-captains. "He has done so many great things on the field and has been a great leader. He worked as hard as anyone from December to August preparing for his final year, and was on his way to finishing a great senior season.

"I know he'll fight back, and it will be important for him to stay right with our team and help our young receivers along," added Baldwin. "I know it will mean a lot to them to have him there, and I know he'll do a great job helping them."

Ironically, Eastern's record holder in all three categories had his professional career derailed with an Achilles tendon injury while attending a Miami Dolphins mini-camp as a rookie in spring 2006. Eric Kimble had 253 receptions for 4,140 yards and 46 touchdowns from 2002-05.

 

Injury Report -- Just three days after senior wide receiver Aaron Boyce was lost for the season, middle linebacker Kyle Wilkins was lost for the season with a knee injury suffered in practice. Boyce injured his Achilles tendon in EWU's 41-34 loss to Montana on Oct. 17, and had surgery the same day Wilkins was injured (Oct. 20).

In the game against the Grizzlies, receiver Ashton Gant (ankle/hamstring) returned after missing a pair of games, and had a 14-yard touchdown catch. Running back Tyler Hart (shoulder) and defensive back Domonic Sheppard (shoulder) missed Eastern's games against Idaho State on Oct. 3 and Weber State on Oct. 10. Hart, as well as middle linebacker Tyler Washburn (knee) missed Eastern's final regular season game against Northern Arizona (Nov. 21).

Starting cornerback Jesse Hoffman missed three games after suffering a high ankle/knee sprain in practice the day before EWU played Northern Colorado on Sept. 19. His replacement, Dante Calcote, injured his foot against Sacramento State and missed the following game on Oct. 3 versus Idaho State. Both returned to play against Weber State on Oct. 10.

Special teams standout and backup wide receiver Nicholas Ramos (hamstring) missed the Sacramento State game, and Jason Harris (clavicle) was injured in that game and was lost for the season after undergoing surgery. Ramos also missed games on Oct. 17 and Oct. 24 because of his nagging hamstring injury.

Starting linebackers Zach Johnson and Makai Borden both missed most of Eastern's preseason practices because of injuries and sat out the Western Oregon game. Johnson was eventually lost for the season because a blood clot in his leg that was diagnosed following knee surgery this summer and didn't dissipate completely. Borden suffered a hamstring injury in the opening days of practice, adding to ankle, foot and toe injuries he's suffered the past two seasons. Borden returned to the lineup against California and had a team-high nine tackles.

Eastern was also forced to adjust along the offensive line after starting right tackle Brice Leahy was lost for the season with a knee injury suffered in a non-football related accident in June. But Eastern did have a dose of good news during preseason practices. Safety Will Edge, who suffered a dislocated left ankle and broken fibula during a spring scrimmage on April 11, returned earlier than expected. He played in EWU's second preseason scrimmage on Aug. 29 and played in EWU's opener against Western Oregon on Sept. 5.

 

Nichols Selected To Payton Watch List Again -- On the cusp of breaking the Big Sky Conference career record for total offense, senior quarterback Matt Nichols has been selected by The Sports Network as a preseason candidate for the Walter Payton Award given to the top player in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision.

A four-year starter for the Eagles, Nichols was named to the Payton Watch List for the second-straight season after earning All-America honors and Big Sky Conference Offensive MVP accolades as a sophomore in 2007. The 2005 graduate of West Valley High School in Cottonwood, Calif., earned honorable mention All-Big Sky honors a year ago.

Nichols passed for 3,293 yards and 21 touchdowns as a junior, and his average of 306 yards of total offense per game ranked fifth in FCS. He led the Eagles to the quarterfinals of the FCS Playoffs as a sophomore when he passed for 3,734 yards and a school-record 34 touchdowns.

A year ago, Eastern's Greg Peach won the Buck Buchanan Award presented by TSN to the top defensive player in FCS. In 2005, Eastern's Erik Meyer -- the player Nichols replaced and is chasing in the school record books -- won the Payton Award. Meyer (2002-05) holds school records with 10,261 passing yards, 10,942 yards of total offense and 84 touchdowns.

A total of 20 players have been named to the watch list, including last year's winner, quarterback Armanti Edwards from Appalachian State. Besides Nichols and Edwards, the list includes Weber State quarterback Cameron Higgins, Montana running back Chase Reynolds and Weber State running back Trevyn Smith.

Voting from a panel of FCS sports information directors, writers, broadcasters and other football experts will be conducted after the regular season ends. Three finalists will be announced on Nov. 30 and will be invited to the 23rd annual Sports Network Awards banquet on Dec. 17 in Chattanooga, Tenn., the night prior to the FCS championship game. The Eddie Robinson Award (top FCS Coach) and Buck Buchanan Award (top FCS Defensive Player) will also be presented that night.

 

Wide Receiver Trio Similar to Previous Quartet -- Eastern's receiving corps in 2009 includes two seniors - Tony Davis and Aaron Boyce - who started when they were freshmen in 2006. A third, current defensive lineman Brynsen Brown, started for the Eagles at receiver from 2006-2008.

In their careers, that trio has combined for 567 catches for 7,758 yards and 50 touchdowns in 120 games worth of experience as receivers (95 starts). In 2008, they combined for 166 passes for 2,229 yards and 17 touchdowns. They combined for 118 catches for 1,539 yards and eight touchdowns as redshirt freshmen in 2006, then combined for 172 catches for 2,561 yards and 18 scores in 13 games in 2007.

In 2008, Boyce equaled his 2007 performance with 10 touchdown catches to rank eighth in school history, and his 63 catches also rank eighth. Interestingly, all of Boyce's touchdown catches have come from Matt Nichols. Of the 49 total touchdowns Boyce, Brown and Davis have caught, all but two of them have come from Nichols (Brown and Davis each caught a TD pass from Chris Peerboom in 2006).

That trio is a reminder of a recent quartet of players that began playing with quarterback Erik Meyer in 2002. Eric Kimble, Raul Vijil, Richmond Sanders and Craig McIntyre had career totals of 503 catches for 7,858 yards and 74 touchdowns in 156 games worth of experience (74 starts). In 2005, Meyer and his teammates won their second-straight Big Sky Conference title and appeared in the playoffs for the second-straight season. Meyer would go on to win the Walter Payton Award in 2005 as the top player in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision.


100-Yard Receiving Games for Aaron Boyce
232 (*17 catches, 1 TD) - Montana - 10/6/07 (#2 in school history)
186 (9 catches, 2 TD) - Sacramento State - 10/27/07 (#10 in school history)
181 (&13 catches, 1 TD) - Portland State - 10/4/08 (#14 in school history)
157 (5 catches, 0 TD) - Northern Arizona - 10/15/08
149 (10 catches, 2 TD - Idaho State - 10/3/09
135 (9 catches, 3 TD) - Idaho State - 9/27/08
135 (9 catches, 1 TD) - Brigham Young - 10/20/07
126 (6 catches, 1 TD) - Western Oregon - 9/5/09
126 (5 catches, 0 TD) - Montana State - 10/13/07
119 (6 catches, 1 TD) - Portland State - 9/29/07
114 (7 catches, 1 TD) - Montana - 10/17/09
108 (6 catches, 2 TD) - Weber State - 11/22/08
107 (9 catches, 0 TD) - UC Davis - 9/15/07
*School record. &Second in school history.


100-Yard Receiving Games for Tony Davis
150 (6 catches, 0 TD) - Idaho State - 9/22/07
132 (7 catches, 0 TD) - Northern Arizona - 11/21/09
131 (6 catches, 0 TD) - Weber State - 10/10/09
131 (8 catches, 1 TD) - McNeese State - 11/24/07
126 (6 catches, 1 TD) - Western Washington - 9/20/08
114 (^13 catches, 1 TD) - Texas Tech - 8/30/08
112 (3 catches, 1 TD) - Portland State - 10/31/09
112 (6 catches, 0 TD) - Central Washington - 9/16/06
106 (8 catches, 0 TD) - Southern Utah - 10/14/09
^Second in school history behind Aaron Boyce.


100-Yard Receiving Games Brynsen Brown
147 (%11 catches, 1 TD) - Sacramento State - 11/1/08
139 (5 catches, 0 TD) - Portland State - 9/29/07
138 (9 catches, 2 TD) - Northern Arizona - 10/28/06
104 (4 catches, 1 TD) - Idaho State - 9/27/08
104 (7 catches, 0 TD) - McNeese State - 11/24/07
104 (5 catches, 0 TD) - Sacramento State - 9/3/06
99 (6 catches, 1 TD) - Weber State - 11/17/07
%Ninth in school history.

 

Fans Can Help Michael Roos Return to the Pro Bowl -- Already the first former Eastern Washington University football player to be selected to the NFL Pro Bowl, Tennessee Titans offensive tackle Michael Roos hopes Eagle football fans can help earn him a repeat appearance in 2010.

Fan voting is currently taking place at http://www.nfl.com/probowl/ballot. Roos is a left offensive tackle and wears jersey No. 71 for the Titans.

Roos has started every game in five seasons as a Titan after earning NCAA Football Championship Subdivision All-America honors and Lineman of the Year accolades as an Eagle senior in 2004. Last season, he not only was a starter in the Pro Bowl, but he was selected to the NFL All-Pro team as well.

Fans may vote for any or all positions on the ballot and can vote as many times as they want. The 40th Pro Bowl takes place Jan. 31, 2010, at 4:30 p.m. Pacific time at Land Shark Stadium in Miami, Fla.

Roos returned to Eastern on Oct. 24, 2009, to have his No. 71 jersey retired at EWU. Including 35 starts to end his EWU career, through Nov. 15 Roos has made 131 consecutive starts as an offensive tackle. His last 96 starts have come as a Titan (two AFC playoff games, 73 regular season games and 21 pre-season contests). He was even a starter in his first-ever Pro Bowl on Feb.  8.

Among the many former Eagles who have played in the NFL, none have ever been invited to the Pro Bowl or earned All-Pro honors until Roos was selected. However, Kurt Schulz (Buffalo Bills) was an alternate in 2001 and both he and Ed Simmons (Washington Redskins) earned all-division accolades during their 10- and 11-year NFL careers, respectively.

More on Michael Roos and the Michael Roos Foundation may be found at:
http://www.titansonline.com/team/roster/Michael-Roos/d7b2107c-3833-4706-a818-e64ded597f9c
http://michaelroosfoundation.org/Home.php

 

BEAU BALDWIN COMMENTS

On Career-Ending Injuries to Seniors Aaron Boyce and Kyle Wilkins: "When you get to your senior year you've played a lot of football, and sometimes things don't go your way as far as injuries. Aaron and Kyle were fortunate to stay healthy, and it just so happened they were injured in their senior year. Those were injuries we had to overcome and our younger players had to step up. Aaron and Kyle have been great leaders even after their injuries, and they are a big part of this as well."

On Playing at Qwest Field in Seattle -- "I just loved the atmosphere. Our players got to play in an NFL stadium -- that is something they don't get every day. It's fun, but once the game gets going you don't notice too much. Because such a large number of our players are from this area, you see large groups of gatherings here. That was neat to see."

On Reversal of Postseason Ban: "I was happy for our players more than anything, and our seniors. They have the same opportunity that every other player has in this conference at the start of the year. Obviously you have to make the most of it. You don't know how it's all going to play out, but at least that's there. The NCAA in my opinion did the right thing."

On Shutout Versus Northern Colorado -- "Our defense played an incredible game and we did some good things on special teams too. You have to find a way to win these games -- maybe it's 16-0 or later in the season it may be 35-34. The offense wasn't playing great, but the defense kept stopping them and finding a way to win. It's nice when one side of the ball can lift up the other. The reality is that you might get into games where a team is moving the ball on you and you have to be able to answer as an offense. This was one of those games where it was a low-scoring defensive battle. Our defense continually forced turnovers and stopped them on third and fourth down. We prevailed, and to come away with a shutout is awesome."

On Taiwan Jones & 87-Yard Score Versus Western Oregon -- "He can do that at any time, and that's a dimension to our offense we didn't have last year. Our running backs were good players last year, but we really didn't have that home run ability. That can make a huge difference because it's hard to consistently go on 10 or 12 play drives and score a lot of points. In the long run, you have to have some big plays made. On top of that, he's a good running back. Sometimes his speed is what people talk about, but between the tackles he runs hard and he is tough. He showed that down on the goal line."

 

MORE 2009 NOTES

Eagles to Play Washington in 2011 -- Continuing its recent trend of scheduling Pacific 10 Conference opponents, the Eastern Washington University football team has agreed to play the University of Washington on Sept. 3, 2011, in Seattle, Wash. In addition, the Eagles will play next season at Oregon State on Sept. 4, 2010.

The Eagles and Huskies have never met, with Washington beginning its football program in 1889. Eastern is in its 101st season dating back to 1901. Washington is a member of the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS), while Eastern is a member of the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) after competing as a member of the NAIA for most of its history.

"We truly appreciate the opportunity to play the University of Washington in 2011," said Eastern's Athletic Director Bill Chaves. "During these challenging economic times, we have looked to reduce expenses wherever possible and by playing one of our non-conference games in-state will no doubt help to achieve that objective. In addition, coach (Steve) Sarkisian, (UW Athletic Director) Scott Woodward and (Senior Associate A.D.) O.D. Vincent should be commended for their willingness to keep guarantee revenues within the state."

Eastern's game against Oregon State will be the third meeting between the two schools, with the Beavers winning 21-19 in 2000 and 56-17 in 2006. The 2000 meeting was the first game of the head coaching career of Paul Wulff, who is now head coach at Washington State University.

Following a 59-7 loss earlier this season to then 10th-ranked California, Eastern is now 0-4 versus members of the Pacific 10 Conference. The Eagles are 7-18 all-time versus FBS teams.


2010 EWU Tentative Schedule
9/4 - at Oregon State
9/11 - Open
9/18 - Montana
9/25 - at Montana State
10/2 - at Weber State
10/9 - Northern Arizona
10/16 - at Northern Colorado
10/23 - Sacramento State
10/30 - at Portland State
11/6 - Open
11/13 - Southern Utah
11/20 - Idaho State

 

NCAA Reverses Eastern's Postseason Ban -- The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I Infractions Appeals Committee has overturned the 2009 postseason ban for Eastern Washington University's football program, the NCAA announced on Oct. 27.

The move allows Eastern to regain eligibility for the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs, which would begin in late November. That penalty was appealed by EWU shortly after the NCAA released its penalties in February from findings from a two-year review of activities involving the EWU football team from 2003-07.

Eastern finished the season 8-3 overall and 6-2 in the Big Sky Conference to gain consideration for the FCS Playoffs. In any event, the NCAA's decision was a victory in the eyes of Eastern athletic director Bill Chaves and head coach Beau Baldwin.

"We are pleased with the appeals committee's decision to reverse the 2009 postseason ban penalty," said Chaves. "The release from the NCAA speaks for itself, but we are grateful that our student-athletes, especially our senior class, will have the opportunity to potentially play for a post-season berth."

 "It gives our players hope," said Baldwin. "But we do have to take care of business to give us an opportunity to possibly be selected. The scenario we are in is the same as it was in 2004 and 2007 when we had teams that had to win their last four games to get in."

Eastern submitted its appeal in March to the 2009 postseason ban imposed by the NCAA Committee on Infractions. As part of the appeal process, Eastern athletic director Bill Chaves, EWU President Dr. Rodolfo Arévalo and other administrators met with the appeals committee in Indianapolis, Ind., on Aug. 17.

 Eastern appealed just the postseason ban and not the other penalties -- most of those were self-imposed previously -- that were released by the NCAA on Feb. 11. The NCAA looked into a series of secondary rule violations, which, taken in total, led to a major infractions case. The university originally self-reported the violations to the NCAA in February 2007.

In its report, the NCAA's Committee on Infractions accepted self-imposed measures the university already implemented. Those measures began at the start of the 2008-09 academic year and will be continually improved and assessed. In addition, the NCAA levied a penalty on the football team which prohibits postseason play during the 2009 football season and placed EWU on three years of probation, from 2009-2012. During the probationary period, EWU will be required to file additional compliance reports with the NCAA.

After the arrival of EWU President Rodolfo Arévalo and Chaves, who came to Eastern in September of 2007, several new monitoring systems and resources for coaches were put in place to reflect Eastern's commitment to properly-managed athletic programs. At the time of the violations, many of those resources were not in place, including checks and balances that may have helped avoid the violations from occurring.

"We do realize the work that still needs to be done day-in and day-out with our football program, both on and off the field," added Chaves. "But I am tremendously confident in our coaching staff, administrative staff and the procedures that we have implemented."

 

Thomas and Kragt Repeat on All-District VIII Team -- Eastern Washington University football biology/pre-med majors Chris Thomas and Jacob Kragt have been honored again on the ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District VIII squad as selected by members of the College Sports Information Directors Association (CoSIDA). Their names are now forwarded to the national ballot for Academic All-America honors.

Kragt, a 2005 graduate of Ritzville (Wash.) High School, was also selected in both 2007 and 2008. Thomas was chosen to the squad last season and is a 2005 graduate of Sumner (Wash.) High School. Both players will be selected to the Big Sky Conference All-Academic team for a fourth-straight time this fall.

Kragt has a 3.89 grade point average and will attend Palmer College of Chiropractic in Iowa as he plans on becoming the ninth family member, spanning three generations, to become a chiropractor. Thomas has a 3.78 grade point average and is currently applying to medical schools, but is also hoping to get an opportunity to play professional football.

Having started all 11 games this season at defensive end, Kragt has 24 total tackles this season with 4 1/2 sacks, three fumble recoveries and six quarterback hurries. He has started 12 career games, and has 67 total tackles with six sacks in his 43-game Eagle career.

Thomas, a 6-foot-5, 300-pound offensive lineman, has started 29 of the 38 EWU games he's played at Eastern. He earned honorable mention All-Big Sky honors as a junior and was given EWU's "Triple-Threat Citizen" award for academics and community service in spring 2008.

Eastern football players have been honored 50 times since 1989 on the All-District VIII squad, and six players have gone on to win eight Academic All-America honors.

The qualifying standards include having a minimum 3.3 grade point average at Eastern and being a significant contributor to the team.

The District VIII university division includes all NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) and Bowl Subdivision (FBS) teams from nine western states, including Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Utah and Washington.

Here are EWU's 2009 nominees (only one Eastern player per position was nominated among those who met the criteria):
WR - Tony Davis - Interdisciplinary Studies - 3.414 - 5-9 - 185 - Sr. - 3L* - Olympia, Wash. (Capital HS '05)
OL - Chris Thomas - Biology/Pre-Med - 3.782 - 6-5 - 300 - Sr. - 3L* - Sumner, Wash. (Sumner HS '05)
DL - Jacob Kragt - Biology/Pre-Med - 3.888 - 6-3 - 235 - Sr. - 3L* - Ritzville, Wash. (Ritzville HS '05)
LB - J.C. Sherritt - Health & Fitness - 3.346 - 5-10 - 220 - Jr. - 2L* - Pullman, Wash. (Pullman HS '06)
TE - Matt Martin - Communication Studies - 3.795 - 6-2 - 240 - Jr. - 2L* - La Crosse, Wash. (La Crosse-Washtucna HS '06)

 

 

National and Big Sky Player of the Week Matt Johnson Ties Big Sky Record with Four Interceptions -- Sophomore strong safety Matt Johnson intercepted four passes on Oct. 31 versus Portland State, tying the Big Sky Conference record shared by two other players. As a result, he was selected as the Sports Network National Defensive Player of the Week, a College Sporting News National All-Star and was the Big Sky Defensive Player of the Week after leading Eastern to a commanding 33-4 halftime lead.

Three other Eagles have been honored nationally this season -- quarterback Matt Nichols, linebacker J.C. Sherritt and running back Taiwan Jones.

 "His interceptions were what sparked us," said Eagle head coach Beau Baldwin of the 2007 graduate of Tumwater (Wash.) High School. "Sometimes you are just looking for that spark to get you going and he provided it with his three interceptions in the first half. A year ago they were throwing it all over the field against us and we weren't able to make those plays. But Matt made them and he made them early, and that was huge."

The four picks were the most interceptions in a game by a Big Sky player in 20 years and the most by an Eagle in 23. But Johnson's performance wasn't a school record as he came one pick short of EWU's school record of five set in 1986 by Mark Cordes against Boise State -- a year before Eastern became a league member. Cordes is a graduate of Spokane's Shadle Park High School.

Johnson helped Eastern's defense hold PSU without a touchdown as Eastern had a 545-278 advantage in total offense. Last season in a 47-36 Portland State win, the Vikings passed for 623 yards and five touchdowns.

"The biggest thing is that we didn't give up the big play and we kept things in front of us," said Baldwin. "We were able to rally to the football and make tackles for a 5-yard gain instead of a missed tackle that leads to a big gain. When you make an offense work for everything and don't give up the big plays, it's going to be tough on offenses to put up a lot of points."

Johnson now has six interceptions this season to rank sixth in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision with an average of .67 per game. His total ranks sixth on EWU's single season leaders list, and coupled with four interceptions as a freshman, he already ranks eighth on the career list. Eastern's career record is 18 set by Mike Richter (1971-75).

He also had a productive day against Montana State on Oct. 24, although EWU surrendered 592 yards of total offense. He had 14 tackles (10 unassisted), including a sack, an interception and a fumble recovery he returned 14 yards. He was a huge factor in the first half, with his sack early in the game helping lead to a MSU turnover on downs. His interception came at EWU's 8-yard line in the first quarter to squelch a MSU threat. Late in the half, he recovered a MSU fumble to set-up a 15-yard touchdown pass with 32 seconds left.

He is wearing the No. 10 jersey in honor of his twin brother Zach Johnson, who is out for the season because of a blood clot that developed before the start of preseason practices in August.

 

After Comeback, Matt Nichols Earns National and Big Sky Player of the Week Accolades -- For all the football games and records set by Matt Nichols, there was one thing that was missing for the Eastern Washington University senior quarterback -- a comeback victory.

For his efforts in a 35-24 victory over Montana Oct. 24, Nichols earned national player of the week accolades as one of four College Sporting News National All-Stars. He was also the Big Sky Conference Offensive Player of the Week, earning his first such honor this season and fifth of his career.

Nichols completed 26-of-41 passes for 327 yards and four touchdowns against the Bobcats, including catch-and-run scoring plays to Taiwan Jones of 20 and 38 yards in the fourth quarter. Nichols helped Eastern scored 21 points in the final 12:20 as EWU rallied for a 35-24 victory. His other two touchdown passes were 16 and 15 yards to senior tight end Nathan Overbay, both in the final 53 seconds of the first half.

"Matt played great," praised Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin. "I think there was one ball that I look back on that he forced, but in 41 attempts he took care of the football and was taking hits. He's playing with a lot of young receivers on the outside, with Tony (Davis) and Nate inside. It was great to see Matt finish his career at Woodward with a win."

Eastern clinched the victory with a 12-play, 96-yard drive that took 5:53 off the clock and gave EWU a 35-24 lead with 1:49 remaining. That came after a MSU fourth down touchdown pass was ruled an incompletion with 7:42 to play.

"(Matt) talked about it the other day that he's never really had a comeback," Baldwin said of his senior quarterback, who has nearly 11,000 passing yards in his career. "He won a lot of games in high school without a lot of close games, and here he really never had a comeback. To be down 10 late in the game and to not have (injured wide receiver) Aaron Boyce, he stood up big-time and made some huge plays to bring us back."

 

All-Pro Michael Roos Returned to Eastern on Oct. 24 to Have His No. 71 Jersey Retired -- Former Eastern Washington University All-American and current Tennessee Titans All-Pro offensive tackle Michael Roos had his jersey retired at EWU's Homecoming game on Oct. 24 versus Montana State.

"Having my jersey retired is obviously a huge thrill for me," said Roos. "It's something you never think is going to happen, so when I was told about it, I was definitely ecstatic. It's an honor that not many players achieve at any level, so I feel extremely honored that Eastern has decided to retire mine."

The 6-foot-7, 315-pound Roos is quick to credit his former coaches at Eastern - offensive line coach Aaron Best and head coach Paul Wulff - for his accomplishments along the way. Best is currently offensive line coach and offensive coordinator at EWU, while Wulff has since moved on to become head coach at Washington State University.

"I was very lucky to have the best offensive line coach possible in Aaron Best," praised Roos. "He taught all of us the meaning of hard work and perseverance. Also, I was fortunate that Paul Wulff took a chance on me out of high school and gave me the opportunity.

"Most importantly, I owe the most to my wife Katherine," he added. "She has put her life on hold since the day the NFL was a faint possibility, and she has supported me 100 percent every step of the way."

Including 35 starts to end his EWU career, Roos entered the 2009 season having made 117 consecutive starts as an offensive tackle. His last 82 starts have come as a Titan (two AFC playoff games, 64 regular season games and 16 pre-season contests). He was even a starter in his first-ever Pro Bowl on Feb.  8.

 

A Taste of the Eagle-Grizzly Rivalry -- In a series full of drama, this year's meeting between Eastern and Montana was the eighth time in the last 14 meetings that both teams have entered the game nationally ranked.

Montana leads the series 25-10-1 with a four-game winning streak dating back to EWU's 34-20 victory in Missoula in 2005. The Grizzlies have won six of the last seven meetings, including victories the last three times Eastern hosted the Grizzlies at Woodward Field (31-28 in 2004, 33-17 in 2006 and 19-3 in 2008).

Since winning three-straight over Montana from 1990-92, Eastern has won just three times -- 40-35 in 1997, 30-21 in 2002 and 34-20 in 2005 -- in the last 17 meetings. Overall, Eastern is 4-13-1 in Missoula, 5-11 in home games and 1-1 in games played at neutral sites.

The Eagles shared the 2004 and 2005 Big Sky titles with Montana, but the Grizzlies have won or shared every league title since 1998. Eastern is the last Big Sky school other than Montana to win the outright title, with that coming in 1997 when the Eagles advanced to the semifinals of the FCS Playoffs.

Eastern has not defeated the Grizzlies at Woodward Field since 1991. The 2008 setback was EWU's sixth-straight loss to Montana in Cheney, however, the Eagles did defeat Montana at Albi Stadium in Spokane in 2002.

Eight recent games in the series that have been decided by margins of 10 points or less are the exclamation points in a rivalry that has seen the Grizzlies come out on top 25 times in 36 meetings. The winner has usually piled up points and yardage by the ton as evidenced by Eastern's 697 yards of total offense in 1986, 658 yards in 1997 in a 40-35 win, 564 in a 24-23 loss in 2007 and 541 yards by the Eagles in a 34-20 win in Missoula in 2005. In fact, in the last 24 meetings the winning team has averaged 33.6 points. In seven of those 24 games the two teams have combined for at least 70 points, including a 41-34 Grizzly win in Missoula in 2009.

As for suspense, that one's covered too. In 2009, Eastern knotted the score at 34 with 4:58 to play, only to have the Grizz

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