Postseason Hopes of No. 18 EWU Face Challenge at Southern Utah
Two of nation's top passing offenses will match-up in Cedar City, Utah, in difficult non-conference test for Eagles
Eastern Washington Univ. "Eagles"
Southern Utah Univ. "Thunderbirds"
Saturday, November 14 • Noon Pacific
Eccles Coliseum (8,500) • Cedar City, Utah
EWU Coach: Beau Baldwin (Central Washington
School Record: 12-8/10-5 Big Sky (2nd Season)
Career Record: 22-11 (3rd Season -- was 10-3 at CWU in 2007 and 6-5 at EWU in 2008)
2009: 6-3/5-2 Big Sky Conference
Last Game: #26 Eastern Washington 47, Portland State State 10 (Oct. 31 in Seattle, Wash.)
2008: 6-5/5-3 in Big Sky Conference (3rd)
Radio: 1510-AM in Spokane (may change to 1050am or 790am)
Weekly Coaches Luncheon: Tuesday, Noon at the Q Sports Bar and Restaurant at Northern Quest Resort & Casino, cost $12.
There is hope, but Eastern Washington University's football team will need to keep it alive on the road in the next two weeks.
Now 6-3 overall and 5-2 in the Big Sky Conference after a bye week, the 21st-ranked Eagles return to action this Saturday (Nov. 14) with a non-conference game against Southern Utah in the first of two road games to end the regular season. Kickoff at Eccles Coliseum in Cedar City, Utah, is noon Pacific time.
The following week on Nov. 21, Eastern plays its final Big Sky Conference game at Northern Arizona. The following day on Nov. 22, first-round pairings are announced for the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs.
"At 6-3 we still have life," said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin. "History would say that 8-3 in this conference gets you in quite often, but we really can't control that. All we can control is to take care of business (in our next game). Our goal is to be 7-3 and not even think about 8-3."
Ranked 18th in this week's Sports Network FCS poll after a bye week, the Eagles are coming off a 47-10 thumping of Portland State in the "Showdown on the Sound" on Oct. 31 at Qwest Field in Seattle, Wash. Southern Utah, meanwhile, is 4-5 after losing at South Dakota 45-21 on last Saturday (Nov. 7). That game concluded SUU's Great West Conference schedule as they finished 2-2.
However, the Eagles won't be deceived by Southern Utah's overall record. The Thunderbirds are 4-0 at home this season, including wins over Dixie State (36-7), Texas State (38-16), North Dakota (35-10) and UC Davis (56-35). Southern Utah is ranked 23rd among FCS schools in the Sagarin Computer Ratings, while EWU enters this week's game 10th.
Featuring the 12th-best passing offense in FCS at 270.9 yards per game, Southern Utah's losses included a 42-39 loss at Northern Arizona in SUU's lone game to this point against a Big Sky Conference member.
"They are a talented opponent and play in a tough conference," said Baldwin. "Even in some of the games they've lost they have been right there at the end with a chance to win. Their record is not indicative of how good their record could be -- they could easily be a team with six or seven wins.
"Obviously, they've shown the ability to defend their own turf," he added. "They are playing their best football at home which will make it that much more of a challenge for us. And they have put up some good numbers in passing and total offense, so they are going to be tough to defend."
Eastern also brings a vaunted passing attack into Saturday's game, with the Eagles ranked seventh in FCS with an average of 289.6 yards per game. In addition, the Eagles are ninth in total offense (428.6) and 21st in scoring offense (31.2), while the Thunderbirds are 23rd in total offense (391.1) and 13th in scoring (33.4).
After already putting himself at the top of the school's record book, Eastern senior Matt Nichols is just 303 yards from breaking the career total offense record in the 46-year-old Big Sky Conference. He has a current total of 11,985 yards, and needs just 43 to move into third, 221 to rank second and 303 to break the 17-year-old record of 12,287 held by Weber State's Jamie Martin (1989-92).
Following last week's games, Eastern is currently tied for second in the Big Sky with Weber State at 5-2, with Montana leading the way at 6-0. Montana State and Northern Arizona lurk right behind those teams with a 4-2 league mark. Besides EWU's season-ending game at NAU, other key upcoming matchups include Northern Arizona at Weber State this week, and Montana at Montana State on Nov. 21. Also this week, Sacramento State -- 4-3 in the league and winners of its last two games -- concludes its league season at Montana State.
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 19th) and fell to 21st prior to losing 41-34 to the No. 3 Grizzlies (now second). Eastern has won its last two games by a combined 82-34 margin, including a 35-24 Homecoming win over Montana State on Oct. 24.
Eastern is trying to duplicate the season-ending four-game winning streak Eastern had in both 2004 and 2007 when the Eagles also advanced to the FCS Playoffs and registered first-round upsets. 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 26 at-large berths that were given to league teams 8-3 or better, as well as EWU's 1992 team which was 7-3.
Senior Class Features 320 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 320 starts in their careers and include 14 players who will become four-year letter winners at Eastern. Eastern has won 24 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. (Lind-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)
Matt Nichols Nears Big Sky Conference Career Total Offense Record-- Only a bye last week for the Eastern Washington University football team has slowed the accumulation of milestones for senior quarterback Matt Nichols.
After already putting himself at the top of the school's record book, Nichols is just 303 yards from breaking the career total offense record in the 46-year-old Big Sky Conference. He'll have at least two games left to accomplish that feat -- Nov. 14 at Southern Utah and Nov. 21 at Northern Arizona.
Nichols has a current total of 11,985 yards, and needs just 43 to move past Idaho's Doug Nussmeier (1990-93) into third on the Big Sky's all-time list. He needs 221 to surpass the 12,205 of Montana State's Travis Lulay (2002-05) and 303 to break the 17-year-old record of 12,287 held by Weber State's Jamie Martin (1989-92).
With 11,367 career passing yards, Nichols ranks third in league history. Nichols is only 34 yards from moving past Northern Arizona's Travis Brown (1996-99) into second, but is still 840 from Martin's record of 12,207.
On NCAA Football Championship Subdivision lists, he ranks 10th all-time in both categories (the division was created in 1978).
The four-year starter already 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.
So far this season, Nichols has thrown for 2,581 yards and 21 touchdowns, and has completed 66 percent of his passes to give him a passing efficiency rating of 154.7 to rank ninth in FCS. He is eighth in total offense, averaging 289.9 per game.
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 136.
"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."
Nichols is coming off his second-most efficient game 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 6-3 record overall and 5-2 league mark thus far. In the win over PSU, Nichols tied the school's career touchdown passes record of 84 -- a record he now shares with the quarterback he replaced, Meyer.
"He got into a groove and he operated well," said Baldwin of the game that featured 40 rushes and 33 passes by the Eagles. "We slowed him down -- they were coming hard early-on and we needed to keep them off balance by mixing in some more runs. Finally, Taiwan (Jones) was able to get a little loose after a few carries. I thought our conditioning showed up and we were able to get into a rhythm, play fast and play some no-huddle."
Nichols had his fourth 400-yard passing performance in 44 career games. Nichols now has 16 career games with at least 300 passing yards, and 18 with at least 300 yards of total offense.
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 882-of-1,461 (62 percent) for 11,367 yards and 84 touchdowns in his 44-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 618 career rushing yards, trailing Meyer by just 63 yards for the school record of 681 by an Eastern quarterback.
The starting debut for the 42-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.
Big Sky Total Offense Yardage Leaders
1. Jamie Martin, Weber State (1989-92) - 41 games - 12,287 (7th in FCS)
2. Travis Lulay, Montana State (2002-05) - 47 games - 12,205 (8th in FCS)
3. Doug Nussmeier, Idaho (1990-93) - 39 games - 12,027 (9th in FCS)
4. Matt Nichols, Eastern Washington (2006-2009) - 44 games - 11,985 (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. Travis Brown, Northern Arizona (1996-99) - 41 games - 11,400 (10th in FCS)
3. Matt Nichols, Eastern Washington (2006-2009) - 44 games - 11,367 (10th in FCS)
4. Dave Dickenson, Montana (1992-95) - 35 games - 11,080 (11th 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
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.
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 already has 126 stops this season to rank sixth in school history, and at his current pace will finish the season with 154 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 Greg 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 119 tackles and interception, Sherritt has 12 tackles for loss, three passes broken up, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries in nine 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 Adds 100-Yard Receiving Performance to Four 100-Yard Rushing Games -- Sophomore running back Taiwan Jones (Antioch, Calif. - Deer Valley HS '07) had his fourth 100-yard performance of the season, gaining 145 in a 41-34 loss at Montana on Oct. 17. Three times he has had at least 240 all-purpose yards (rushing, receiving, returns), including 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 903 rushing yards and is averaging a lofty 7.7 yards per rush in an average of 13 carries per game. Jones has 1,649 all-purpose yards and 14 touchdowns in 162 total touches for averages of 183.2 yards per game and 10.2 per touch. He is averaging a touchdown every 12.2 times he touches the ball. His average of 100.3 yards rushing is second in the Big Sky and ranks 11th in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision, and he is also fifth nationally in scoring (9.3 per game) and third nationally in all-purpose yards per game (183.2).
At his current pace, Jones would finish with 1,103 rushing yards to rank as the 10th-most in school history. 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 hasn'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.
Eastern Now Ninth in Total Offense in FCS -- The Eagles are ranked in the top 53 in all offensive categories in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision, including rushing (53rd, 139.0), passing (7th, 289.6), total offense (9th, 428.6) and scoring (21st, 31.2). Individually, Eastern's Taiwan Jones is ranked high in rushing (11th, 100.3), scoring (5th, 9.3) and all-purpose yards (3rd, 183.2), with Matt Nichols ranking in passing efficiency (9th, 154.7) and total offense (8th, 289.9). Aaron Boyce ranks in receiving yards (12th, 90.6) and Tony Davis is ranked in receptions per game (33rd, 5.78) and average per punt return (22nd, 9.8). In addition, Eastern's J.C. Sherritt is leading FCS in tackles (14.0) and Matt Johnson is sixth in interceptions (0.67 per game, six total).
Southern Utah is 12th nationally in passing offense (270.9) to go along with rankings of 23rd in total offense (391.1) and 13th in scoring (33.4). The Thunderbirds lead the nation in net punting (44.21), and are fourth in punt returns (44.2). Individually, Tyson Poots is second in FCS in receptions per game (8.57) and reception yards per game (112.1), and is 18th in scoring (8.57). Quarterback Cade Cooper is 15th in total offense (271.9) with a passing efficiency rating of 138.48 to rank 31st. Fesi Sitake adds 6.67 receptions per game to rank 13th nationally, and Ryan Griffith is 18th in field goals per game (1.33).
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 is currently 6-3 overall and 5-2 in the Big Sky Conference, and would need to win its final two games to even 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 plays challenging road games at Southern Utah on Nov. 14 and Northern Arizona on Nov. 21 before the first-round playoff pairings are announced on Nov. 22. First-round games begin on Nov. 28 with the championship game taking place on Dec. 18. Eastern has appeared in the playoffs six times -- 1985, 1992, 1997, 2004, 2005 and 2007.
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 nine games this season at defensive end, Kragt has 18 total tackles this season with 4 1/2 sacks, three fumble recoveries and five quarterback hurries. He has started 10 career games, and has 61 total tackles with six sacks in his 41-game Eagle career.
Thomas, a 6-foot-5, 300-pound offensive lineman, has started 27 of the 36 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)
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.
Practices -- This week, two-hour practices take place Monday and Tuesday at 4 p.m. and Wednesday and Thursday at 3:45 p.m., all at Woodward Field. Media interviews take place after practice or 1/2 hour before the time listed (Tuesday and Wednesday only, please).
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-6 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 57 tackles this season in eight games, but his mere presence on the field has been important the past three seasons for the Eagles. Eastern is now 18-7 in the last two-plus seasons (2007-09) with Borden in the starting lineup and 3-5 without him in it. He has 180 tackles, three interceptions and six passes broken up in 38 career games, and EWU is 19-9 in his 28 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 39.3 yards on 30 punts, with 11 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. "He's getting better every day," said Baldwin of Zuber in the game versus UNC. "He's had a few really good kicks and is doing a great job. We consistently gave our defense great field position to work with, and when our punters do a good job of pinning them back there, it makes it hard on opponents to have to go 80-plus yards to score." . . . 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. Boyce 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 195 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.
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 (207 starts by 19 players) -- Kevin Hatch 33, Makai Borden 28, Lonnie Hosley 22, Matt Johnson 20, J.C. Sherritt 17, Tyler Jolley 13, Renard Williams 11, Zach Johnson 11, Jacob Kragt 10, Evan Cook 8, Kyle Wilkins 8, Josh Jacobson 7, Brett Igbinoba 5, David Miles 4, Tyler Washburn 3, Jesse Hoffman 2, Dante Calcote 2, Will Edge 1, Rusty Haehl 1, Brynsen Brown 1.
Offense (272 starts by 21 players) -- Matt Nichols 42, Aaron Boyce 39, Brynsen Brown 29, Chris Thomas 27, Tony Davis 25, Nathan Overbay 20, Ryan Forney 20, Brice Leahy 11, Taiwan Jones 11 (includes four on defense in 2008), Chris Powers 9, Nikolai Myers 9, Gabriel Jackson 8, Nicholas Edwards 8, Matt Martin 4, Nicholas Ramos 2, Ashton Gant 2, Brandon Kaufman 2, John Rice 2, Grant Williams 1, Tyler Hart 1.
Preseason Honors -- Quarterback Matt Nichols and wide receiver Aaron Boyce topped the list of preseason honors received by Eagle football players. Nichols is on the watch list for the Payton Award (Sports Network) and was an honorable mention All-America selection (College Sporting News). Boyce earned a pair of second team All-America honors (Sports Network, Consensus Draft Services) and joined offensive tackle Chris Thomas and linebacker Zach Johnson on the Big Sky Conference all-league team. Phil Steele Magazine selected Thomas as a first team selection on its preseason All-BSC squad, with Nichols, running back Taiwan Jones, wide receiver Brynsen Brown, tight end Nathan Overbay, strong safety Matt Johnson and injured offensive tackle Brice Leahy on the second team.
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 (188) 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 Boyce's 29 touchdown catches is second behind Kimble's 46.
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 195 career tackles and needs just five more to move into the top 26 in that category. Junior linebacker J.C. Sherritt now has 212 tackles to rank 20th in school history.
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. 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.
The watch list was revised October and will be again in November before the final ballot is announced. 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.
Nichols Has 16 300-Yard Passing Games in His Career -- Senior quarterback Matt Nichols had 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 and 413 against Portland State on Oct. 31, giving him a total of 16 in his career thus far. He has now had at least 300 yards of total offense in 18 games in his career.
Below is a complete list of his 300-yard outings:
300-Yard Passing Games for Nichols (total of 16)
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)
382 - 26x40, 5td - Idaho State - 9/27/08 (#19 in school history)
363 - 29x43, 1td - Sacramento State - 11/1/08 (#28 in school history)
363 - 19x30, 2td - Portland State - 9/29/07 (#28 in school history)
354 - 24x39, 1td - Weber State - 10/10/09 (#34 in school history)
346 - 25x42, 2td - Northern Arizona - 11/15/08 (#39 in school history)
335 - 36x61, 1td - Texas Tech - 8/30/08 (#44 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 18)
478 - 451 passing, 27 rushing - Montana - 10/6/07
459 - 434 passing. 25 rushing - McNeese State - 11/24/07
435 - 418 passing, 17 rushing - Portland State - 10/4/08
397 - 413 passing, -16 rushing - Portland State - 10/31/09
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
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 552 catches for 7,520 yards and 50 touchdowns in 118 games worth of experience as receivers (93 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
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
^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.
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
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 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
BEAU BALDWIN COMMENTS
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 Timing of Bye Week -- It's a great time for a bye -- our schedule couldn't have worked out any better I think," added Baldwin. "We'll get some guys healthy during the bye, then we'll see where that puts us with two games left. We want to stay fundamentally sound this week and avoid a lull during the bye week when you then feel like you are out of sync coming back the next week. So we want to do that but still stay away from the banging -- then put all of our energy into Southern Utah."
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."
RECENT GAME SUMMARY
Eagles Down Vikings 47-10 on Record-Tying Day for Matt Johnson and Matt Nichols -- Sophomore strong safety Matt Johnson and senior quarterback Matt Nichols each tied records as the Eastern Washington University football team rolled over Portland State 47-10 Saturday Oct. 31 in the "Showdown on the Sound" at Qwest Field in Seattle, Wash.
Johnson intercepted four passes, tying the Big Sky Conference record shared by two other players. The most recent was 1989 as Johnson 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.
Nichols completed 21-of-30 passes for a season-high 413 yards and four touchdowns as he tied the school's career touchdowns passes record of 84. He shares the record with the quarterback he replaced, Erik Meyer (2002-05).
Johnson helped Eastern's defense hold PSU without a touchdown, and Nichols helped Eastern to a 545-278 advantage in total offense. Last season in a 47-36 Portland State win, the Vikings passed for 623 yard and five touchdowns.
"It was a huge win," said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin. "Our defense did a great job and our coaching staff put together a great plan. Early on, our offense sputtered in our first couple of drives, so it was our defense that found a way to get turnovers and stop them. Once our offense started clicking and our defense kept playing solid throughout, I felt pretty good about the way we played as a team."
Nichols had his fourth 400-yard passing performance in 44 career games, and his 16th with at least 300 yards. He completed passes to eight different receivers, with six catching at least three passes. Tony Davis, one of 17 Eagle seniors honored in pre-game ceremonies, caught three passes for 112 yards and a touchdown. Senior tight end Nate Overbay had four catches and a touchdown and running back Tyler Hart caught three passes with a pair of scores.
In addition, Taiwan Jones rushed for 62 yards and two touchdowns, including a 47-yarder that gave EWU a 19-2 lead early in the second quarter. Eastern eventually led 33-4 at halftime and finished with 132 yards rushing and three touchdowns.
"Our goal every game is to be as balanced as we can," said Baldwin. "When we're mixing it up and spreading the ball around, that is when we are at our very best."
Johnson also had two tackles, and EWU's three linebackers combined for 24 stops. True freshman Tyler Washburn led the Eagles with nine and senior Makai Borden had eight, while J.C. Sherritt finished with seven. Sherritt entered the game as the leader in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision with an average of 14.9 tackles per game.
It was a happy homecoming for a total of 48 players on EWU's 90-man roster who are from the Puget Sound area, as well as another 10 from West of the Cascade Mountains. Eastern is in its 101st year of football, but this is believed to be the first time it has played a game in Seattle. The Eagles played their first game in the Puget Sound area since Oct. 30, 1982, when Eastern won at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma. Eastern is scheduled to return to Seattle in 2011 to play the Washington Huskies.
"It's awesome to play here -- I love it and the kids love it," said Baldwin of playing at Qwest. "And best of all, we played well."
None of EWU's current players had ever defeated the Vikings until this year's win. The Vikings won 34-0 in 2006, 28-21 in 2007 and 47-36 last year in Portland. Former NFL head coach and current PSU head coach Jerry Glanville was previously 2-0 versus the Eagles.
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 Grizzlies drive for the winning score with 1:18 left in a 41-34 victory. In 2007, Eastern kicked a go-ahead field goal with 2:20 to play before top-ranked Montana kicked the game-winner with 26 seconds to play after converting a fourth-and-10 play. Eastern wide receiver Aaron Boyce had the fourth-best receiving effort in Big Sky Conference history with a school-record 17 catches to earn NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Offensive Player of the Week honors from The Sports Network. His 232 receiving yards was the second-most in school history, and Eagle quarterback Matt Nichols passed for a career-high 451 yards to rank third all-time at EWU.
In 2004, Montana blocked a 28-yard field goal attempt by the Eagles with 18 seconds remaining as the 23rd-ranked Eagles fell to the fifth-ranked Grizzlies 31-28 in a showdown for first place in front of a Woodward Field record crowd of 10,754. In 2002, Eastern beat the No. 1 ranked and unbeaten Grizzlies 30-21, ending Montana's record-tying winning streak in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision at 24 games. It was the first Big Sky Conference loss for UM head coach Joe Glenn, and snapped Montana's record winning streaks of 25 Big Sky games in a row and 13 league road games in a row. And in the process, the Eagle victory opened the door for Montana State and Idaho State to share the conference title with the Grizzlies.
Here are the eight matchups in the last 14 seasons when both
squads have entered the game nationally ranked:
2009 - #3 Montana 41, #21 Eastern Washington 34 (in Missoula, Mont.)
2008 - #12 Montana 19, #23 Eastern Washington 3 (in Cheney, Wash.)
2005 - #12 Eastern Washington 34 at #2 Montana 20 (in Missoula, Mont.)
2004 - #5 Montana 31, #23 Eastern Washington 28 (in Cheney, Wash.)
2001 - #3 Montana 29, #15 Eastern Washington 26 (2 overtimes in Missoula, Mont.)
2000 - #9 Montana 41, #18 Eastern Washington 31 (in Spokane, Wash.)
1997 - #17 Eastern Washington 36, #2 Montana 35 (in Missoula, Mont.)
1996 - #1 Montana 34, #20 Eastern Washington 30 (in Cheney, Wash.)
Blood Clot Forces Zach Johnson to Miss Entire Season -- A blood clot that developed following knee surgery last summer has forced returning starter Zach Johnson to miss the entire 2009 season, and his twin brother Matt Johnson will now wear Zach's No. 10 jersey in honor of his fallen teammate, Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin announced on Sept. 30.
The blood clot developed before the start of preseason practices in August, and although he has been on blood thinners ever since, it didn't dissipate enough to allow the middle linebacker to practice or play during the first four games of the 2009 season for the 17th-ranked Eagles. A mid-October return date was originally expected for the preseason All-Big Sky Conference selection, but doctors and EWU athletic trainers determined this week that for precautionary reasons he should miss the entire season.
"They feel like because it's still there it's still too dangerous to allow him to practice or play," said Baldwin, indicating that six months recovery may be needed, which would push his return into December. "A blood clot is something you don't want to mess with."
"He's pretty bummed about it," Baldwin said. "The hard part is that Zach feels good and ready to play. It's one thing when you have a physical injury that doesn't allow you to play, but in this case he doesn't feel like there is anything wrong."
The 2006 graduates of Tumwater, Wash., High School were both starters for the Eagles last season as redshirt freshmen. Matt began the season wearing No. 5, but move to No. 10 starting Oct. 3 when EWU played at Idaho State. Last season, Matt wore No. 40 and Zach wore No. 41 before getting the jersey numbers they wanted as sophomores.
"Obviously they are close and care about each other, and wearing Zach's jersey was something Matt felt strongly about doing," explained Baldwin, who did not have Zach on the travel squad for last week's game in Sacramento. "They are close, and they've never not been together for a football game until the Sac State game. Even when one of them wasn't playing in a game, they have always been there together. That bond is reflected by Matt wanting to honor his brother and teammate in this way."
Since the first game of their careers against Texas Tech in August 2008, the twin brothers produced some incredible defensive numbers as redshirt freshmen.
They finished the season combining for 179 tackles to rank 1-2 on the team. Zach, whose 96 tackles ranks 20th in school history, was third in the Big Sky (8.7 per game) and 47th nationally. Matt had 83 total tackles and was eighth in the league (7.6). Zach also had seven passes broken up and ranked eighth in the league in tackles for loss (0.95 per game). Matt had four interceptions to rank 47th in FCS and sixth in the league (0.36 per game).
They combined for 22 tackles in EWU's 28-13 win over Northern Arizona on Nov. 15 and 27 a week earlier in a 31-16 victory over Northern Colorado. Versus NAU, Zach had 12 stops and Matt had nine, with each breaking up a pass. Versus UNC, Zach had 15 tackles and a key interception in the third quarter while Matt finished with 12 tackles.
Both had impressive collegiate debuts in Eastern's 49-24 loss at Texas Tech on Aug. 30. With Matt starting at strong safety and Zach at strong-side inside linebacker, the Johnson brothers finished with a combined 18 tackles, including eight tackles and three passes broken up by Zach. Matt had a team-high 10 tackles and a game-changing interception in the second quarter. The Eagles trailed 21-0 when Matt intercepted a pass and returned it 47 yards to the TTU 7-yard line. Two plays later, Alexis Alexander scored from one yard out to give EWU its first score.
Eagles Fall Short in Bid for First-Ever 4-0 Start -- Eastern's seniors, who had not been 2-0 in Big Sky Conference play in their three previous seasons in the program, accomplished that feat with a 56-30 victory over Sacramento State on Sept. 26. They bettered it with a 38-3 win over Idaho State on Oct. 3 to move to 3-0.
But with a 31-13 home loss to Weber State on Oct. 10, Eastern failed in its bid for its first-ever 4-0 start in 23 seasons as a member of the Big Sky Conference. Eastern has won its first three league games in its Big Sky championship seasons in 1992 and 2004, as well as 2009, but has never started 4-0.
A 16-0 win over Northern Colorado on Sept. 19 gave EWU a win in its season opener for the fourth-straight year. But in the previous three years, the Eagles had also opened league play with a victory, only to lose their next two league games.
Fisher Among Hall of Fame Inductees Honored on Oct. 10 -- Five former Eastern Washington University student-athletes and the school's 1989 volleyball team comprised the ninth class of inductees into the Eastern Athletics Hall of Fame as they were honored in ceremonies that took place on Oct. 10 in Cheney.
The new inductees included a quartet of former Eastern student-athletes who went on to illustrious coaching careers -- Curt Byrnes (football player and wrestling coach at Eastern), Ed Fisher (football/track athlete at Eastern), George Gablehouse (basketball player at Eastern) and Tracy Walters (track athlete at Eastern). The other individual inductee is national collegiate wrestling champion Mike Reed. The 1989 volleyball team was inducted on the 20th anniversary of its 25-7 finish that include a Big Sky Conference title and NCAA Tournament appearance. In addition, former Eastern baseball coach Jim Wasem Sr. received the Eastern Washington University Athletics Hall of Fame Service and Contribution Award.
Start of School Has Sometimes Translated to Setbacks for Eagles -- The start of classes in late September for EWU signals the end of the month-long, football-only period for the Eagles. And in the last nine years, it's made winning on the field that much more difficult.
From 2000-2008, Eastern was 4-4 in the first game after school begins (includes one bye). But in the game after the first full week of school, Eastern was just 2-7 in that same time span. The 2009 fall quarter began on Wednesday, Sept. 23, followed by EWU's 56-30 victory at Sacramento State. The Eagles followed that with an equally-convincing 38-3 win at Idaho State on Oct. 3 to improve to 3-0 in Big Sky Conference play.
Eagles Now 10-0 in Sacramento as Visiting Team Has Won Nine of Last 10 Meetings -- Hornet Stadium is definitely a home-away-from-home for the Eastern football team. Actually, home-field advantage hasn't meant much for either team in the past 10 years of the series.
The 19th-ranked Eagles scored 35 first-half points and went on to hold-off Sacramento State 56-30 Sept. 26 in sweltering heat at Hornet Stadium in Sacramento, Calif. The Eagles are now a perfect 10-0 against the Hornets in Sacramento, and lead the all-time series 14-4.
But even stranger than being perfect in Sacramento is the fact that in the last 10 meetings between EWU and Sac State, the home team has won only once (EWU 45-10 in 2004).
"I don't know, maybe we'll wear away jerseys next year against them," laughed Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin. "I just think it's a little bit of a fluke -- the outcomes of those games just worked out that way. But I do think our players do a good job of traveling -- I always thought that way back when I was an assistant. They are really mature and locked-in to what they are on the road to do, and I think it shows on the field."
Eastern's 2009 win over Sac State avenged a 15-13 home setback to the Hornets the previous year. In the 2008 meeting, the Eagles had 363 passing yards and 23 first downs, but had three turnovers, were 0-for-6 on third down and had minus 31 yards rushing. In 2009, Eastern had one turnover, were 10-of-14 on third down and had 283 yards rushing.
Offensive Line Helps Eagles Score Most Points Since 2001 -- Eastern's scoring output in a 56-30 victory on Sept. 26 against Sacramento State were the most points scored in the last 90 games by the Eagles since beating Cal State Northridge 63-35 on Oct. 27, 2001. But the milestones didn't stop there.
The Eagles also had 283 rushing yards, which was the most in a Big Sky Conference game since rushing for 295 against Weber State on Oct. 23, 2004. The 190 rushing yards Eagle sophomore Taiwan Jones had versus the Hornets were the 29th-most in school history, and the most since that same Weber State game when Dezmon Cole rushed for 199.
In addition, Eastern's 537 yards of total offense were the most since a 626-yard effort versus McNeese State in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs on Nov. 24, 2007.
"We did a great job of taking what they were giving us," said Eagle head coach Beau Baldwin. "And it all starts up front -- the offensive line allowed us to mix it up between run and pass. Taiwan had the biggest day, but Tyler Hart (46 yards on nine carries and four catches for 40 yards) was a huge factor as well. Because we ran the ball so well, the offensive line essentially was the reason it was easy for our receivers to get open downfield. We spread the field out and we spread the football around, and ultimately it came down to the performance by the players on the field. It's easy to draw the plays up, but they did a great job of executing what we practiced all week."
Baldwin was also impressed by senior quarterback Matt Nichols, who needed to attempt just 28 passes. He completed 18 for 255 yards, and passed for a touchdown and rushed for one.
"Matt knows the running back and the offensive line can be his best friends," Baldwin said after the game. "Until I look at the video, I can't think of a single mistake he made. He did all the right things and put us in the right situations. All that is important to this team is to get a win and be 2-0."
Shutout One to Savor -- Eastern's shutout Sept. 19 against Northern Colorado was one to savor, as the last shutout at Woodward Field came back in 1983. The Eagles have had six other shutouts since then either on the road or in Spokane, including a 34-0 win over UNC in 2006.
Big Sky Conference Defensive Player of the Week J.C. Sherritt led the way with 16 tackles, and he was selected as one of four National All-Stars by College Sporting News for his effort against the Bears. The Eagles recovered three fumbles and Kevin Hatch had his third interception of the young season. Eastern also held the Bears to a 0-of-4 performance on fourth down, 4-of-14 on third down and had four sacks.
Eagles Versus Football Bowl Subdivision Members -- Since 1982 when it became a member of the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision, Eastern is now 7-18 all-time versus Football Bowl Subdivision teams. A 35-17 win over Connecticut on Sept. 8, 2001, snapped a five-game losing streak versus FBS foes. Here is Eastern's complete list of games versus FBS members since 1983.
Year - Opponent - Result
1983 - Cal State-Long Beach - W, 20-17
1985 - at Cal State-Long Beach - W, 30-23
1986 - at Cal State-Long Beach - L, 34-35
1990 - at #10 Houston - L, 21-84
1994 - at Utah State - W, 49-31
1996 - at Boise State - W, 27-21
1996 - at Idaho - L, 27-37
1997 - Idaho - W, 24-21
1998 - at Idaho - L, 14-31
1999 - Idaho - L, 21-48
1999 - at Boise State - L, 7-41
2000 - at Oregon State - L, 19-21
2000 - at Boise State - L, 23-41
2001 - at Connecticut - W, 35-17
2002 - at Arizona State - L, 2-38
2003 - at San Diego State - L, 9-19
2003 - at Idaho - W, 8-5
2004 - at Air Force - L, 20-42
2005 - at San Jose State - L, 21-35
2006 - at Oregon State - L, 17-56
2006 - at #6 West Virginia - L, 3-52
2007 - at Brigham Young - L, 7-42
2008 - at #12 Texas Tech - L, 24-49
2008 - at Colorado - L, 24-31
2009 - at #10 California - L, 7-59
EWU Plays in Front of Largest Crowds in School History in 2006-2009 -- Six of the eight largest crowds Eastern has ever played in front of have come in the last four seasons. Eastern's 2009 game at California had 58,083 fans, ranking third on the list. A record crowd of 25,751 at Montana on Oct. 17 now ranks 11th. The 49,887 on hand in Lubbock, Texas, for EWU's 2008 game versus Texas Tech is now fourth in history and the 46,417 one week later in Boulder, Colo., for the EWU-Colorado game ranks fifth.
Eastern's 2007 game at BYU in sold-out LaVell Edwards Stadium broke the year-old record for the largest crowd the Eagles have ever played in front of. Strong winds, rain, snow and temperatures ranging from 37-45 degrees didn't keep many fans at home as the announced crowd of 64,522 was even larger than the stadium's listed capacity of 64,045.
Eastern's 2006 game versus West Virginia at sold-out Milan Puskar Stadium was attended by 59,504 fans -- the largest crowd by nearly 20,000 fans the Eagles have ever played against. The previous record was 39,581 set at Arizona State in 2002. Eastern's game at Oregon State in 2006 is now the seventh-largest at 38,071. Below is a list of the 16 crowds in excess of 20,000 the Eagles have ever played against.
Attendance - Opponent - Date - Result
64,522 - at Brigham Young - Oct. 20, 2007 - L, 7-42
59,504 - at West Virginia - Sept. 9, 2006 - L, 3-52
58,083 - at California - Sept. 12, 2009 - L, 7-59
49,887 - at Texas Tech - Aug. 30, 2008 - L, 24-49
46,417 - at Colorado - Sept. 6, 2008 - L, 24-31
39,581 - at Arizona State - Aug. 31, 2002 - L, 2-38
38,071 - at Oregon State - Aug. 31, 2006 - L, 17-56
34,389 - at Air Force - Sept. 11, 2004 - L, 20-42
30,782 - at Oregon State - Sept. 2, 2000 - L, 19-21
27,323 - at U.S. International - Oct. 28, 1967 - W, 44-19
25,751 - at Montana - Oct. 17, 2009 - L, 34-41
25,493 - at Boise State - Oct. 14, 2000 - L, 23-41
23,739 - at Montana - Oct. 15, 2005 - W, 34-20
23,329 - at Montana - Nov. 15, 2003 - L, 10-41
23,226 - at Montana - Oct. 6, 2007 - L, 23-24
21,981 - at Boise State - Oct. 9, 1999 - L, 7-41
21.487 - at Boise State - Sept. 21, 1991 - L, 17-31
21,145 - at San Diego State - Aug. 30, 2003 - L, 9-19
Hatch, Boyce Win Big Sky Player of the Week Awards -- Senior free safety Kevin Hatch and wide receiver Aaron Boyce have earned their first-ever Big Sky Conference player of the week awards for their performances in Eastern Washington University's season-opening 35-14 victory over Western Oregon on Sept. 5.
Hatch, a 2005 graduate of Freeman (Wash.) High School, had a pair of interceptions, two passes broken up and six total tackles against WOU. Boyce began his senior season with six catches for 126 yards, including a 53-yard touchdown catch. Boyce is from Kent, Wash., and graduated from Kentwood HS in 2005.
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.
"Hatch's play in the end zone was huge," said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin. "If that wasn't a pick, they had a chance to get three on the board. That was a great play he made, and then he had another later in the game. He's a senior and has played a lot of football. I was really impressed by the way he stepped up and made plays."
Preseason Rankings -- In the preseason, the Eagles were honored with rankings of 17th in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Coaches poll and 18th in the Sports Network poll of sportswriters, broadcasters and sports information directors. The AGS/anygivensaturday.com poll has the Eagles 19th, with several other preseason publications ranking EWU as high as 13th (Sporting News).
The Sports Network (preseason): 1. Appalachian State; 3. Montana; 9. Weber State; 18. Eastern Washington; 30. Montana State; 36. Northern Arizona.
FCS Coaches (preseason): 1. Appalachian State; 3. Montana; 9. Weber State; 17. Eastern Washington; 37. Northern Arizona; 38. Montana State.
AGS/anygivensaturday.com (preseason): 1. Richmond; 3. Montana; 9. Weber State; 19. Eastern Washington; 25. Montana State.
Lindy's Football Preview (preseason): 1. Appalachian State; 3. Montana; 9. Weber State; 17. Eastern Washington.
The Sporting News (preseason): 1. Richmond; 5. Montana; 7. Weber State; 13. Eastern Washington; 17. Montana State; 21. Northern Arizona.
Athlon (preseason): 1. Appalachian State; 6. Montana; 7. Weber State; 25. Eastern Washington.
Phil Steele's Football (preseason): 1. Appalachian State; 4. Montana; 15. Eastern Washington; 21. Weber State.
USA Today (preseason): 1. Richmond; 3. Montana; 9. Weber State; 17. Montana State; 23. Eastern Washington.