September 7, 2009

No. 18 Eagles Face Tremendous Challenge at Cal

Although both are nationally ranked in their respective divisions, California's résumé grows even larger with 52-13 thumping of Maryland

COMPLETE RELEASE IN .PDF FORMAT


Eastern Washington Univ. "Eagles"

versus

California "Golden Bears"

Saturday, Sept. 12 • 2:35 p.m. Pacific
Memorial Stadium (71,799) • Berkeley, Calif.  

EWU Coach: Beau Baldwin (Central Washington ‘96)
School Record: 7-5/5-3 Big Sky (2nd Season)
Career Record: 17-8 (3rd Season -- was 10-3 at CWU in 2007 and 6-5 at EWU in 2008)
2009: 1-0
Last Game: #18 Eastern Washington 35, Western Oregon 14 (Sept. 5 in Cheney, Wash.)
2008: 6-5/5-3 in Big Sky Conference (3rd)
TV: Comcast SportsNet California
Radio: 1510-AM in Spokane & www.teamline.cc
Webcast: None 


Eastern Washington University is proud of its football résumé. But this week, the Eagles play a powerful, star-studded team with an ever-growing list of recent conquests.

Led by Heisman Trophy candidate Jahvid Best, Pacific 10 Conference foe California hosts EWU this Saturday (Sept. 12) at Memorial Stadium in Berkeley, Calif. Kickoff is 2:35 p.m. in a game televised live on Comcast SportsNet California. Eastern's radio broadcast is available in the Eastern Washington area on KGA 1510-AM and via the web at www.teamline.cc.

Eastern is a NCAA Football Championship Subdivision team ranked 18th in this week's Sports Network FCS poll. Cal, meanwhile, was ranked 12th in the Associated Press preseason poll in the NCAA Football Bowl Division.

Last week, a few hours after Eastern scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns to surge past Western Oregon 35-14, the Golden Bears topped that with a 52-13 thrashing of Maryland. Late last week, Cal and Best were featured in Sports Illustrated as a team that could challenge power USC for the Pac 10 title.

"It's going to be a huge challenge, but we're excited for it," said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin. "I'm confident that our veterans aren't necessarily going to be in awe by the situation, which is sometimes what you worry about. But as far as the talent level of Cal and the challenge it's going to be, they are the real deal."

Most Eastern players were on the team last year when the Eagles nearly upset Colorado before falling 31-24. That came a week after losing to 12th-ranked Texas Tech 49-24. Two years ago, Eastern lost to Brigham Young (42-7), and in 2006 when Eastern's senior class were freshmen, Eastern lost to Oregon State (56-17) and West Virginia (52-3).

"We've played in a lot of big stadiums against nationally-ranked FBS teams, so I don't think nerves will be an issue," Baldwin said. "But the bottom line is that Cal is a tremendous football team. We're excited for the opportunity and we'll go down there fighting hard.

"Last year we went into games with the approach that we're going to win these ballgames," he added. "We'll take that approach even though I know we're underdogs,. Our mindset will be to go down there and put ourselves in a position to win. We'll see where we are at the end."

Last week's season-opening score wasn't the only one-upping that Cal did last week.

Eastern sophomore running back Taiwan Jones had an 87-yard touchdown run on his first college carry and the team's first offensive play of the game, and finished with 122 yards on 12 carries and a pair of scores. Best had a 73-yard score on his first carry and also Cal's first play, and finished with 137 yards and two scores on 10 carries. He ranked third in FBS last year with an average of 131.7 yards per game, finishing with a total of 1,580 yards, a gaudy 8.1 average per rush and 15 touchdowns.

Eagle senior quarterback Matt Nichols completed 20-of-32 passes for 286 yards and three touchdowns against WOU, while Kevin Riley had 298 yards and four touchdowns with a 17-of-26 performance versus Maryland.

While Eastern out-gained Western Oregon by 125 yards (446-321), Cal owned a commanding 239-yard advantage over Maryland (542-303).

And although Eastern has had three FCS playoff berths in the last five years (2004, 2005 and 2006), the Golden Bears are riding a four-game bowl winning streak. Last year, Cal defeated Miami 24-17 in the Emerald Bowl to finish the season 9-4 and ranked 25th in the final USA Today coaches poll.

Last season versus Colorado, the Buffaloes scored twice in a 21-second span in the final 2:05 of the game to pull out the win. The Eagles opened a 21-7 lead in the second quarter and had led 24-17 with 3:52 to play.

"You don't' get that many opportunities," said Baldwin of EWU's 25th all-time matchup versus an FBS foe. "The Colorado game ended with heartbreak last year, but I wouldn't change anything in the world for what we were able to do. That was as fun an experience as I've been in as a coach -- just fighting and scrapping with those guys to the end."

The Eagles are coming off a 6-5 finish in 2008 that included a 5-3 record in the Big Sky Conference, but EWU ended the season with a three-game winning streak. Eastern returned 38 letter winners from that team, including 17 back on offense and 21 on defense. A total of 15 starters returned, featuring eight on offense and seven on defense.

Eastern is led by Nichols, a four-year starter who should break EWU's career passing and total offense records in 2009. In fact, the starting debut for the 34-game starter came in 2006 when Eastern played at 12th-ranked West Virginia.

Nichols is now three pass completions, 1,189 passing yards and 1,281 yards of total offense from setting school records in those categories. 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 FCS.

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.

 

Game Promotions/Tickets -- Eastern's next home game is Sept. 19 for "Welcome Back Weekend" when the Eagles host Northern Colorado in the Big Sky Conference opener for both teams. The game sponsor is Rockwood Clinic, and they will be giving hand sanitizer to fans who attend the game. It will also be Youth Football Day, Special Olympics Day and Inland NW Council Boy Scout Day. Ticket information is available at http://goeags.com/tickets/ewas-ticketcentral.html or by calling 1-866-4GO-EAGS.

 

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 -- Until school begins on Sept. 23, two-hour practices take place Tuesday at 3 p.m., Wednesday at 2 p.m. and Thursday at 2 p.m. on the EWU Sports and Recreation Center practice fields. Media interviews take place after practice or 1/2 hour before the time listed.

 

Eagles to Watch -- 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). Boyce caught 63 passes for 917 yards and 10 touchdowns last season and now has 189 catches for 2,822 yards and 24 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 . .  . 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. A 2009 Walter Payton Award candidate, he has passed for 9,072 yards and 66 touchdowns in his career, having opened his senior season with 286 yards and three touchdowns versus Western Oregon. He already owns EWU's school record with 1,180 career pass attempts, and is just three completions from breaking that record as well. Later in the season, he should break EWU's career passing yards and total offense records . . . Talented sophomore Taiwan Jones (Antioch, Calif.) moved to running back to help replace four departed seniors at that position, and had an 87-yard touchdown on his first career carry in EWU's 35-14 victory over Western Oregon on Sept. 5. It 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. The school record is 95 set by John Ditz against Lewis & Clark in 1954 . . . Jones missed the early part of the 2008 season with a broken fibula, but returned to start four games at cornerback for the Eagles . . . Senior free safety Kevin Hatch (Spokane, Wash. - Freeman HS '05) had a pair of interceptions, two passes broken up and six total tackles against  WOU. 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 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 linebacker J.C. Sherritt (Pullman, Wash. - Pullman, HS '06 equaled his career high with 15 tackles against WOU. He also had 15 a year ago versus Montana . . . 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). Twin brothers Matt and Zach Johnson (Tumwater, Wash. - Tumwater HS '07) return after stellar debut seasons. They combined for 179 tackles to rank 1-2 on the team, with Zach finishing with 96 and a team-high seven passes broken up, and Matt closing the year with 83 tackles and a team-leading four interceptions. Both players earned honorable mention All-Big Sky accolades in 2008. Zach, however, is lost until at least October after a blood clot in his leg was diagnosed following knee surgery this summer and hasn't yet dissipated completely.

 

Eagles Versus Football Bowl Subdivision Members -- Since 1982 when it became a member of the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision, Eastern is now 7-17 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 #12 California

 

EWU Plays in Front of Largest Crowds in School History in 2006-2008 -- Four of the six largest crowds Eastern has ever played in front of have come in the last three seasons. The 49,887 on hand in Lubbock, Texas, for EWU's 2008 game versus Texas Tech was third in history and the 46,417 one week later in Boulder, Colo., for the EWU-Colorado game ranks fourth.

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 sixth-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

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

25,493 - 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 Saturday (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."

The 5-foot-9, 180-pound Hatch has 156 tackles, seven interceptions and nine passes broken up in his career. He 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 .

Boyce, a 6-foot-3, 210-pound high school basketball teammate of Detroit Pistons point guard and former Eagle Rodney Stuckey, has 189 catches for 2,822 yards and 24 touchdowns in his career. He now ranks second in school history in all three categories, trailing only Eric Kimble (2002-05), who has records of 253 catches, 4,140 reception yards and 46 touchdowns.

 

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 was 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 20-game 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.

Also making debuts 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.

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 (119 starts by 16 players) -- Kevin Hatch 25, Makai Borden 20, Lonnie Hosley 14, Matt Johnson 12, Zach Johnson 11, J.C. Sherritt 9, Renard Williams 7, Tyler Jolley 6, Josh Jacobson 5, Kyle Wilkins 3, Jacob Kragt 2, Will Edge 1, David Miles 1, Evan Cook 1, Rusty Haehl 1, Jesse Hoffman 1.

Offense (184 starts by 16 players) -- Matt Nichols 34, Aaron Boyce 33, Brynsen Brown 29, Tony Davis 19, Chris Thomas 19, Nathan Overbay 12, Ryan Forney 12, Brice Leahy 11, Taiwan Jones 5 (includes four on defense in 2008), Matt Martin 3, Gabriel Jackson 2, Nicholas Ramos 1, Ashton Gant 1, Nicholas Edwards 1, Chris Powers 1, Nikolai Myers 1.

 

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.

 

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.

 

Career Records Watch -- Senior quarterback Matt Nichols is chasing school career passing records held by the player he replaced, 2005 Walter Payton Award winner Erik Meyer (2002-05). Nichols has 9,072 yards passing, 9,661 yards of total offense and 66 touchdown passes in his career. Meyer holds school records with 10,261 passing yards (1,189 more than Nichols), 10,942 yards of total offense (1,281 more) and 84 touchdowns (18 more). Nichols also has 589 career rushing yards, trailing Meyer by just 92 yards for the school record of 681 by an Eastern quarterback. Nichols already holds the school record with 1,180 passing attempts, and is only three completions from the record of 721 set by Meyer. Wide receiver Aaron Boyce, already second in school history with 189 receptions, has an outside shot of catching Eric Kimble (2002-05) for the record of 253. Tony Davis (140) is now 10th on Eastern's top 10 list, and Brynsen Brown (137) is 13th.  Boyce also has 2,822 reception yards, trailing only Kimble's 4,140.

 

Injury Report -- 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 is out until mid-October after a blood clot in his leg was diagnosed following knee surgery this summer and hasn't yet dissipated 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. In fact, Eastern is 13-4 in the last two seasons with Borden in the starting lineup and 2-5 without him in it. He may return to the lineup as early as the Cal game, but most likely the week after when EWU opens the league season at home versus Northern Colorado on Sept. 19.

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 on and broken fibula during a spring scrimmage on April 11, returned earlier than expected and 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 Eastern Washington University's career records for passing and 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 34-game 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 currently includes Weber State quarterback Cameron Higgins, Montana running back Chase Reynolds and Weber State running back Trevyn Smith.

The watch list will be revised in October and 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.

 

NCAA Postseason Ban Update -- To return to the FCS Playoffs this year, the Eagles will not only have to win more, but hope they eventually receive good news from the NCAA as well. Eastern appealed a postseason ban levied by the NCAA after a two-year review of activities involving the EWU football team from 2003-07 was released in February.

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. No timetable for a decision on the appeal has been provided by the NCAA.

Whether or not the appeal is denied, head coach Beau Baldwin has said since February that the Eagles are taking the approach that the postseason ban won't be a penalty unless Eastern takes care of business on the field in the 2009 season.

 

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

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
September 3, 2009 - Eagle Coaches Luncheons Move to Northern Quest Starting Sept. 8
August 31, 2009 - Eagles Open at Home Versus Western Oregon
August 29, 2009 - Eagle Backups Again Take Center Stage in Final Scrimmage
August 27, 2009 - Nationally-Ranked Eagles Scrimmage Saturday
August 22, 2009 - No Winners, No Losers in EWU's Opening Scrimmage
August 21, 2009 - Newcomers Catching Baldwin's Eye
August 20, 2009 - WSU Quarterback J.T. Levenseller Transfers to Eastern
August 19, 2009 - Thomas Nominated for ‘Good Works' Team
August 17, 2009 - Baldwin Impressed Thus Far With Tempo and Fitness

 

BEAU BALDWIN COMMENTS

On Taiwan Jones & 87-Yard Score  -- "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."

 

On Defense Versus Western Oregon -- "Obviously, there were lots of things on both sides of the ball that we'll have to get better at. Our defense was put in a lot of tough positions. They were in a tough spot, but they held their own -- especially in the red zone -- and I was really impressed with that."

 

On 2009 Schedule -- "Cal is obviously a great football team and a tremendous challenge for us, but the rest of our schedule is a good fit for us. Our focus needs to be on our first game on Sept. 5, and then we'll worry about the next one. It's natural to look at your entire schedule to see what you have. It's only a great schedule if you take care of business each week, but we're excited about it."

 

On Playing Portland State in Seattle at Qwest Field -- "I think it's great for the program and for the many student-athletes we have who come from that area. Even if they aren't from that area, it's a great opportunity to play in that environment and in that stadium. It's nice to be connected to the West side, and we're hoping there will be a lot of fans at that ballgame that may not get over to Cheney to see a football game. Maybe that can be a way for fans to be more involved and excited with our program. It's a great opportunity for everybody involved and we're excited about it."

 

On Looking Good on Paper With 38 Letter Winners and 15 Starters Back -- "I've seen years where on paper you're set-up to achieve certain things and you don't. And I've seen years where you are aren't expected to do much and you do. It comes down to whether the coaches and players are willing to do all the things to put us in a position to have a successful season. In my opinion, it's going to come down to the little things."

 

On Resiliency of Players in Wake of NCAA Penalties -- "I've been extremely impressed with how resilient our players are -- they have a tough mindset to them.  A lot was thrown their way, and people can say what they want on whether or not it was fair. The bottom line is that as a group, all of our players are going in the same direction."

 

On Quarterback Matt Nichols in the Off-Season -- "In my opinion, he's had the best winter that I've seen him have. He's been working hard in the weight room and in speed and agility drills to help change his body. This is the best winter I've seen out of him and one of best I've ever seen out of a quarterback."

 

2009 NOTES

WSU Quarterback J.T. Levenseller Transfers to Eastern -- Sophomore quarterback J.T. Levenseller has transferred from Washington State University to Eastern Washington University and will play football for the Eagles, Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin announced Aug. 20.

Baldwin said the 6-foot-1, 190-pound Levenseller has been admitted and enrolled at EWU after receiving his official release to transfer from WSU where he played for former Eastern head coach Paul Wulff. The 2007 graduate of Pullman (Wash.) High School is eligible to play this season, and has three years of eligibility plus a redshirt season remaining.

Baldwin said Levenseller would become Eastern's sixth quarterback in the program, and later said he will probably redshirt the 2009 season.

As a true freshman at WSU last season, Levenseller saw action in four games and completed 17-of-34 passes for 134 yards with two interceptions and no touchdowns.

Levenseller will be among familiar company at EWU as he and two current Eagles helped lead Pullman to the State 2A football title in fall 2005. Eagle linebacker J.C. Sherritt ('06), wide receiver Ashton Gant ('06) and Levenseller led Pullman to a perfect 14-0 record that season. Former Eagle Marcus Walker helped Pullman finish 11-3 and advance to the 2A title game in 2003. Walker, whose father also coached at WSU, graduated in 2004 from Pullman.

 

Eagles Release Schedule With a Seattle Twist -- The Eastern Washington University football team will play five home games in the 2009 season, and one of them will take place across the Cascade Mountains on Halloween Day.

The Eagles will host Portland State on Oct. 31 in a Big Sky Conference game that begins at 1 p.m. at Qwest Field in Seattle. It's believed to be the first time in Eastern's 100-year football history that it has played a game in Seattle. The Eagles will play their first game in the Puget Sound area since Oct. 30, 1982, when Eastern won at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma.

Eastern will also play home games against Western Oregon (Sept. 5), Northern Colorado (Sept. 19), Weber State (Oct. 10) and Montana State (Oct. 24) at Woodward Field in Cheney, Wash.

There are nearly 11,000 Eastern alumni who reside in the Puget Sound area in King, Snohomish and Pierce counties. More than 16,000 reside west of the Cascade Mountains. Among current Eastern students, nearly 1,500 are from King, Snohomish and Pierce counties, and a total of nearly 2,500 are from cities west of the Cascade Mountains.

 "We are excited to be able to bring Eagle football to Seattle where we have a tremendous alumni base," said Eastern athletic director Bill Chaves. "The game will also afford our team the opportunity to play in an NFL stadium."

 

Eastern Appeals Football Postseason Ban -- Eastern Washington University officially submitted its appeal in March to the 2009 postseason ban imposed on the EWU football team by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). 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. No timetable for a decision on the appeal has been provided by the NCAA

Eastern athletic director Bill Chaves said Eastern is appealing 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 released its findings that day from a two-year review of activities involving the EWU football team from 2003-07.

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 current 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.

 

Twin Stat Lines Commonplace for Johnson Twins -- Since the first game of their careers against Texas Tech in August, twin brothers Zach Johnson and Matt Johnson produced some incredible defensive numbers as redshirt freshmen in 2008.

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.

 "There was no question Zach had a huge pick against Northern Colorado," said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin of the 2006 graduates of Tumwater, Wash., High School. "He did a great job and is a great player. Both of the Johnson twins are great players. At different times they were a little banged up because they played a lot of snaps, but those guys kept coming to play."

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.

 "They are great players and have bought right in," said Baldwin after the Texas Tech game. "They're coachable, they can run, they can tackle -- they have all the tools to be great defensive players in this league. They left it on the field and went hard. There was no question that a lot of young players stepped up against Texas Tech."

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).

 

Nichols Has Six 300-Yard Passing Games -- Senior quarterback Matt Nichols had six 300-yard passing games in 2008, giving him a total of 12 in his 35-game career thus far. He had at least 300 yards of total offense in seven games in 2008 (14 in his career), including a season-ending 313-yard effort against Weber State (242 passing, 71 rushing).

He also had a 346-yard passing performance against Northern Arizona (11/15/08) and had 418 against Portland State (10/4/08) to rank as the third-best in his career and 10th-best in school history. A week before the PSU game, he had 382 and five touchdowns against Idaho State (9/27/08) as he earned Big Sky Conference Offensive Player of the Week honors.

On Eastern's single season passing lists, Nichols finished the 2008 season with the second-most attempts (451), completions (3,293) and average passing yards per game (299.4); the fifth-most passing yards (3,293); the ninth-most touchdown passes (21); and the fifth-most total offensive yards (3,376).

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

 

300-Yard Passing Games for Nichols (total of 12)

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)

382 - 26x40, 5td - Idaho State - 9/27/08 (#18 in school history)

363 - 29x43, 1td - Sacramento State - 11/1/08 (#27 in school history)

363 - 19x30, 2td - Portland State - 9/29/07 (#27 in school history)

346 - 25x42, 2td - Northern Arizona - 11/15/08 (#37 in school history)

335 - 36x61, 1td - Texas Tech - 8/30/08 (#42 in school history)

329 - 21x42, 1td - Sacramento State - 9/30/06

328 - 20x29, 3td - Sacramento State - 10/27/07

316 - 17x22, 5td - Northern Arizona - 11/10/07

303 - 32x51, 1td - Colorado - 9/6/08

 

300-Yard Total Offense Games for Nichols (total of 14)

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

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

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 Ahead of Previous Quartet -- Eastern's receiving corps in 2009 includes three seniors - Tony Davis, Brynsen Brown and Aaron Boyce - who have started since they were freshmen in 2006. In their careers, that trio has already combined for 466 catches for 6,490 yards and 44 touchdowns in 101 games worth of experience (81 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 44 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

135 (9 catches, 3 TD) - Idaho State - 9/27/08

135 (9 catches, 1 TD) - Brigham Young - 10/20/07

126 (5 catches, 0 TD) - Montana State - 10/13/07

119 (6 catches, 1 TD) - Portland State - 9/29/07

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 (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 (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.

 

  

2008 SEASON RECAP & NOTES

Thanks to a three-game winning streak to end the 2008 season -- including a season-ending victory over eighth-ranked and Big Sky Conference champion Weber State -- the Eastern Washington University football team salvaged the 2008 season with its 11th winning season in the last 13 years.

"You always want to play good at the end of the year," said head coach Beau Baldwin after his first season as a head coach ended with the 33-26 victory over the playoff-bound Wildcats. "I don't care if you have playoff implications or not, there is always meaning to peaking at the end of the year. Whether it means it is good carryover to the off-season or it's sending the seniors out right, there is always the need for momentum.

The Eagles ended the regular season with a victory for the 10th time in the last 12 seasons. Eastern opened November with a 15-13 home loss to Sacramento State to fall to 3-5 for the season, but rallied for wins at Northern Colorado (31-16), at home versus Northern Arizona (28-13) and Weber State.

"It showed what we were able to do when we finally came together," said Baldwin. "We had a new coaching staff and had a lot of new things to learn. In some games we all struggled, but we learned from that and got better. We played our best football at the end of the season, and that gives us momentum as we head into the off-season. Hopefully we can continue that right through to next season when practices start in August."

The Eagles had entered the year as the seventh-ranked team in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision and had hopes of qualifying for the FCS Playoffs for the fourth time in five seasons. But three losses in a four-game stretch from Oct. 4 to Nov. 1 spoiled those hopes.

"I give so much of the credit to these players -- they really stuck with it," said Baldwin. "There were certain expectations and things didn't go exactly right. It says a lot about this team to win not only the Weber State game against one of the top Big Sky teams I've ever seen, but the last three games of the season with two of them coming on the road.

"We had to fight back to achieve that this season after digging ourselves a little bit of a hole," he added. "That's big in recruiting. We showed that we were capable of playing with any team in this conference. That goes a long way with recruits."

Weber State had entered the game having already clinched at least a share of the Big Sky title and assured itself of the league's automatic berth in the NCAA Football FCS Playoffs. But the loss to EWU, coupled with Montana's victory over Montana State, also gave the Grizzlies a share of the league title. It was the 11th-straight season UM has won or shared the Big Sky title, and they went on to defeat Weber State in the quarterfinals of the playoffs after both schools picked up first-round wins.

"It was a great way to end the season for the players coming back, but it was also great to see the seniors close out with three-straight wins and a huge win in Ogden," said Baldwin of the season-ending triumph.

"It fell into place nicely for the seniors," he continued. "How fitting for Greg Peach in his last collegiate play to fall on a fumble and seal the win? But it was still hard. We came off that great win and were so ecstatic, but then you look around and see how hard it was for the seniors to even take off their pads. They know that once they take them off, that's it."

Montana and Weber State both finished with a 7-1 Big Sky record, with fifth-ranked Montana entering the FCS Playoffs 11-1 and the Wildcats entering 9-3 overall. The Eagles finished their season 6-5 overall and 5-3 in the Big Sky to finish third.

"I said before the season I thought we were the best team (in the Big Sky) and I still think we're the best," said senior running back Alexis Alexander after he helped Eastern jump out to a 33-7 lead over the Wildcats before holding on for the victory. "We had our ups and downs this season, but it feels good to finish strong. We had so much fun and our team came together in such a great way at the end of the season."

For 18 Eastern seniors, including 11 four-year letter winners, the Weber State game was their final hurrah. Several of those players were in the program since 2004 and had been a part of two Big Sky championships (2004, 2005), three playoff berths (2004, 2005, 2007) and 34 total victories.

"We've had incredible adversity and it was a gut-check for our team," said Baldwin, whose team also suffered through several ill-timed injuries that contributed to its downfalls. "They stayed together through tough times and the seniors kept battling. It's hard to play at the end of the year when you know you are approaching the finish rather than playing for something."

 

-- More Season-Ending Notes -- In 12 seasons starting in 1997, only twice has EWU failed to end the regular season with a victory (1998 and 2003). Eastern has now ended the regular season with a victory the last five seasons -- as well as nine of the last 10. Included is a 40-6 win over Idaho State to end the 2006 campaign and a 38-16 victory over Weber State in 2007 to wrap-up a playoff berth for the Eagles. Eastern finished 3-8 in 2006 before rebounding for a 9-4 finish in 2007.

Eastern's defense was superb in the second half of the season, holding five-straight opponents from Oct. 11 to Nov. 15 to 19 points or fewer. That is something that EWU has never done since becoming a member of the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision in 1984.

And Eastern did it with a defense that was ranked 118th and last in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision in passing defense, allowing an average of 336.5 yards per game. But Eastern overcame that by ranking 11th in rushing defense (93.5), fifth in sacks (3.1 per game) and ninth in total tackles for loss (7.9).

Offensively, Eastern ranked seventh nationally in passing (299.9 per game) and 24th in total offense (398.5). Individually, national awards candidates Greg Peach and Matt Nichols led the way. Peach, who won the Buchanan Award given to the top defensive player in FCS, led the nation in sacks (1.64) and tackles for loss (2.1). Nichols, a Payton Award candidate given to the top offensive player, ranked fifth in total offense (306.9) and sixth in passing offense (299.4).

Entering 2009, the Eagles have not allowed a kickoff return for a touchdown since the 1999 season -- a total of 485 touchdown-less returns. The last kickoff return for a score the Eagles surrendered came on Sept. 25, 1999 when Terrence Jones from Cal State Northridge had an 86-yard return for a TD. In the last 675 returns (13 years from 1996-2008) the Eagles have allowed just a pair of kickoff returns for scores, with both of those coming in 1999. In that same span, Eastern has returned 14 kickoffs for touchdowns.

 

-- EWU in 2008 National Statistics -- The Eagles finished with the seventh-best passing offense in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (299.9 yards per game) and were also 24th in total offense (398.5), 98th in rushing offense (98.5) and 35th in scoring offense (29.4).

Defensively, Eastern was last among 118 teams in FCS in passing defense (336.5), 106th in total defense (429.9) and 72nd in scoring defense (26.8). Oddly enough, Eastern was an impressive 11th in rushing defense (93.5), fifth in sacks (3.09 per game) and ninth nationally in tackles for loss (7.9 per game). The Eagles were also 12th in kickoff returns (22.9 per return).

However, the most important statistic during the season might have been turnover margin, and Eastern was 74th in FCS with a negative 0.18 turnovers per game. In Eastern's six wins the Eagles were a plus seven in turnover margin (nine giveaways and 16 takeaways), but in their losses EWU was a negative nine in turnover margin (15 giveaways and six takeaways).

 

-- EWU Individual Leaders -- National awards candidates Greg Peach and Matt Nichols ranked high in NCAA Football Championship Subdivision statistics.

Peach led FCS in both sacks (1.64 per game) and tackles for loss (2.1 per game), and was 16th in the Big Sky in tackles (6.45). He had 14 of his 18 sacks in a five-game stretch from Sept. 20 to Oct. 18. He had four in the Montana game on Oct. 11 and three against Western Washington, Idaho State and Montana State. Although he had none versus Sacramento State, he had two at Northern Colorado on Nov. 8 and a pair the week after that against Northern Arizona. He A junior on the Walter Payton Award watch list, Nichols had six 300-yard passing performances, and finished sixth in FCS in passing offense (299.4). He was also fifth nationally in total offense (306.9) and 40th in passing efficiency (131.5).

Receiver Aaron Boyce, with 22 catches for 316 yards and four touchdowns in back-to-back games earlier in the season against PSU and Idaho State, was 31st in FCS in receptions per game (5.7). He was also 27th nationally in reception yards per game (83.4). Brynsen Brown, with career bests of 11 catches for 147 yards against Sacramento State, was 39th in receptions per game (5.6) and 30th in receiving yards (81.4) after missing the last two games of the season with a shoulder injury. Although he missed the Portland State game on Oct. 4 with a sprained ankle, receiver Tony Davis caught 53 passes after a shoulder injury held him to 35 all of the 2007 season. Davis was 47th nationally in receptions per game (5.3) and 79th in receiving yards (57.9). Davis also averaged 10.3 yards per punt return to rank 27th in FCS.

In addition, kicker Felipe Macias had field goals of 55 and 52 yards to his credit -- the only player to have made a 50-yarder in the first two weeks of the season. He finished with two of the six longest field goals in FCS and one of only two players with two of 50-plus yards.

Punter Fritz Brayton was also impressive on special teams, averaging 42.33 yards per kick to rank 12th in FCS. His season average ranks fourth in school history and his 41.0 career average ranks third.

Defensively, twins Matt Johnson and Zach Johnson, a pair of redshirt freshmen, combined 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).

Ryan Kelley had three interceptions -- all in back-to-back games against Montana State and Sacramento State -- and was 15th in the league in tackles (6.7). Defensive end Jason Belford had six total sacks to rank 49th in FCS and eighth in the league (0.55 per game).

 

-- Defense Has Best Five-Game Roll Since Becoming FCS Member -- Having allowed point totals in the teens of 19, 17, 15, 16 and 13 in a five-game stretch from Oct. 11 to Nov. 15, Eastern's defense had never had such a stingy stretch in 25 seasons as a member of the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision. Eastern had a four-game stretch of allowing fewer than 20 points in 1997 when EWU finished with a school-record 12 victories, but that was the only time it has occurred since moving to FCS in 1984.

Eastern's defense gave up 623 passing yards and 597 total yards in a 47-36 loss at Portland State on Oct. 4. But in the six games after that, the Eagles surrendered just 106 points (17.7 per game), 1,594 passing yards (265.7), 640 rushing yards (106.7) and 2,234 total yards (372.3).

"The defense has done a great job," said Baldwin during his first season as head coach along with first-year defensive coordinator John Graham. "They've found a way to get better and better. It takes time sometimes. It was the same players but it's a new system and new terminology. It's a group coming together and understanding what their roles are in each situation."

"Our defense has made some good adjustments since the Portland State game," added defensive end Greg Peach. "We have a lot of young guys playing well. The season hasn't gone quite as we expected, but we're playing hard and we'll keep playing hard."

 

-- Boyce and Davis Have Second-Best Receiving Performances in School History -- Receiver Tony Davis, who missed four games in 2007 with a shoulder injury, led the Eagles with 13 catches for 114 yards and a touchdown in Eastern's 49-24 loss to Texas Tech on Aug. 30. His catch total equaled the second most in school history, ranking only behind the 17 teammate Aaron Boyce had in 2007 against Montana. Davis, a 2005 graduate of Capital High School in Olympia, Wash., had 126 yards and a touchdown on six catches versus Western Washington on Sept. 20.

Aaron Boyce, meanwhile, duplicated the 13-catch feat against Portland State on Oct. 13. He finished with 181 receiving yards to rank as the 14th-most in school history. The 2007 All-American caught just 13 passes for 123 yards and one touchdown in his first three games of the 2008 season, but in his next two he caught 22 for 316 yards and four scores.

Not to be outdone, Brynsen Brown had his own double-digit receiving performance on Nov. 1 against Sacramento State. He had 11 catches to rank ninth in school history and his 147 yards receiving were a career high.

 

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