Back in the Inferno, No. 13 Eastern Hosts No. 26 Northern Arizona
Winners in their debut game on the red turf three weeks ago, Eagles are hoping to establish a home field advantage when the Lumberjacks visit on Hall of Fame Day at EWU
Eastern Washington Univ. "Eagles"
Northern Arizona University "Lumberjacks"
Saturday, October 9 • 1:05 p.m. Pacific
Roos Field (8,600/Sprinturf) • Cheney, Wash.
EWU Coach: Beau Baldwin (Central Washington '96)
School Record: 17-11/13-6 Big Sky (3rd Season)
Career Record: 27-14 (4th Season -- was 10-3 at CWU in 2007, 6-5 at EWU in 2008, 8-4 at EWU in 2009)
2010: 3-2/2-1 Big Sky Conference
Last Game: EWU 35, Weber State 24 (Oct. 2 in Ogden, Utah)
2009: 8-4/6-2 Big Sky Conference
TV: Televised in the Spokane area by SWX TV
Radio: 700-AM ESPN "The Ticket" in Spokane. Larry Weir returns for his 20th season calling the play-by-play, with analysis handled by Paul Sorensen.
Internet Radio: www.espnnorthwest.com
Weekly Coaches Show: Mondays, 6 p.m. at the Q Sports Bar and Restaurant at Northern Quest Resort & Casino. . . 700-AM ESPN "The Ticket" in Spokane and www.espnnorthwest.com
Watch Parties: All road games will be available to watch at the Q Sports Bar and Restaurant at Northern Quest Resort & Casino.
Eastern Washington University won its debut on its new red Sprinturf surface at Roos Field in Cheney, Wash., winning 36-27 over a Montana team that advanced to the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision title game a year ago. Now the 13th-ranked Eagles seek to establish the new carpet -- nicknamed the "Inferno" -- as a home-field advantage.
After a split in a pair of road games, Eastern hosts 26th-ranked Northern Arizona this Saturday on Oct. 9 on Hall of Fame Day at Eastern. Kickoff is 1:05 p.m. at Roos Field in Cheney, Wash., and the first 1,500 fans will receive a commemorative Red Turf schedule poster.
Among the Hall of Fame inductees honored that day will be the 1950 Eastern football team and its coach, the late Albert Harold "Abe" Poffenroth. Others honored include former track and field standouts Curt Hisaw and Seville Broussard-Hering, as well as former women's basketball coach Bill Smithpeters.
In addition, Ernie Afaganis will be honored with the Eastern Athletics Hall of Fame Service and Contribution Award, an honor that was also given posthumously to Arthur C. Woodward on Sept. 16 at Roos Field dedication ceremonies. The stadium was named Woodward Field for 78 years before this year's change.
This week's game will be televised in the Spokane area, as well as Yakima and the Tri-Cities, on SWX TV. Eastern's radio broadcast of the game may be heard on 700-AM ESPN "The Ticket" and via the web at www.espnnorthwest.com. The game may also be viewed at www.bigskytv.org
Eastern enters the game 3-2 overall and 2-1 in the Big Sky Conference, with losses to Nevada (49-24) and Montana State (30-7). The Eagles are ranked 13th in this week's Sports Network/Fathead.com top 25 NCAA Football Championship Subdivision poll, up three spots from last week.
The Lumberjacks are 3-1 overall and 1-0 in the league, with their lone loss coming to Arizona State (41-20). Northern Arizona received enough votes in The Sports Network poll to rank 26th nationally, and is ranked 24th in the FCS coaches poll (EWU is 14th).
Both teams are coming off victories last week -- Eastern defeated Weber State 35-24 while NAU edged Southern Utah 26-23. This week's game features an Eastern offense ranked 14th in FCS in total offense (418.6 yards per game and a NAU defense ranked eighth (270.8). The Eagles have the nation's sixth-best rusher in Taiwan Jones (129.5 per game), but NAU's rush defense is sixth nationally (84.0).
In last year's 49-45 shootout won by the Eagles, Eastern was out-gained in total yards 747-487, but won the important turnover battle 4-0. Jones finished with 274 all-purpose yards, including 115 rushing. He scored Eastern's first touchdown on an 80-yard catch-and-run, then scored on a 71-yard run in the third quarter to give EWU a 42-27 lead.
The Eagles are nearing the end of a difficult early-season stretch that has that featured the top four picks -- not including EWU -- in the league's preseason predictions. Eastern was picked to finish second behind Montana, a team the Eagles knocked off 36-27 on Sept. 18 in the red turf debut. Eastern followed that with the loss to Montana State, a school picked to finish third in the league standings. Last week, Eastern scored 21-straight points in the second half to defeat a Weber State team picked to finish fourth, and now plays a home game against the No. 5 pick, Northern Arizona.
So, with the difficult schedule the Eagles have faced -- including a Nevada team that played in last year's Hawaii Bowl -- would head coach Beau Baldwin have been happy with a 3-2 mark at this juncture of the season had it been given to him before the year started?
"I'm never going to just take that -- I wanted to beat Nevada and Montana State," he said with a smile. "After a tough game against Montana State and then a win over Weber State, we have put ourselves in a good spot right now in the present. But we could be in a bad spot again if we don't take care of business at home. We have to prove we can come off an emotional win and follow that with a good performance. We didn't do that after an emotional win over Montana. Now we are coming off an emotional win over Weber State and we need to come back and protect our home field."
Before the MSU loss, Eastern was coming off a successful debut on its new red synthetic Sprinturf surface Sept. 18 in Cheney, Wash., defeating rival Montana 36-27 in the first game at Roos Field (formerly Woodward Field). Eastern scored the go-ahead points with four seconds left on a 31-yard field goal by Mike Jarrett, then added a fumble return for a touchdown on the final play to create bedlam after a record crowd of 11,702 attended the game.
The celebration after the huge win over the 12-time defending league champions was short-lived for Eastern as history repeated itself. Baldwin admitted he was worried about what he termed a "hangover," and he saw it happen again. He was an assistant coach in 2005 when Eastern followed a 34-20 road victory over Montana with a 28-23 home loss to Weber State.
2010 Hall of Fame Class to be Inducted Oct. 9: A three-time national champion in the pole vault and the highest-scoring female track and field athlete in school history are among those who will be inducted into the Eastern Athletics Hall of Fame in ceremonies that take place on Oct. 9, 2010, in Cheney, Wash.
The inductees will be honored with a breakfast and ceremony that starts at 9:30 a.m. on Oct. 9 at the Pence Union Building. The public is invited to attend (RSVP to 509-359-2463 or 1-800-648-7697) and the cost is $15 per person. Inductees will also be honored at halftime of EWU's football game against Northern Arizona that begins at 1:05 p.m. Pacific time.
The new inductees include the 1950 Football Team, which won Eastern's third-straight Evergreen Conference championship and finished the year with five-straight shutouts to finish 8-2. The coach from that team, Albert Harold "Abe" Poffenroth will be inducted posthumously.
Other individual inductees include track and field standouts Curt Hisaw and Seville Broussard-Hering, as well as former women's basketball coach Bill Smithpeters. Former Eastern golfer and legendary Canadian broadcaster Ernie Afaganis will receive the Eastern Athletics Hall of Fame Service and Contribution Award. The late Arthur C. Woodward was also honored with the Service and Contribution Award when Roos Field (formerly Woodward Field) was dedicated on Sept. 16.
Hisaw and Broussard-Hering both reside in Eastern's home of Cheney, Wash. Now retired, Hisaw and his wife, Joan, were both graduates of Spokane's East Valley High School and EWU, and were teachers, administrators and coaches in the Cheney School District.
Broussard-Hering is now a professor of communications studies at Eastern, and her husband, Todd, is the head track and field coach at Cheney High School and a teacher in the Cheney School District. She scored more than 100 points at Big Sky Conference championship meets from 1996-99, including a school record 54 indoors and another 55 outdoors.
Established in 1996, this year's inductees will bring the total number of individuals in the Hall of Fame to 53. Seven teams will have also been inducted, and Afaganis will be the fourth recipient of the Service and Contribution Award.
For more information, go to: http://goeags.com/genrel/releases/10HallofFameRelease
Coaches Show Moves to New Digs: The Eagle Coaches Show featuring head coach Beau Baldwin will now take place in the former broadcast room adjacent to the Q Sports Bar and Restaurant at Northern Quest Casino and Resort. Fans will be able to order food and beverages and listen to the show from that location. Starting Oct. 11, Baldwin will arrive early at 5:30 p.m. and show fans video from the previous week's game. The show, which is aired on 700-AM ESPN "The Ticket" and via the internet at www.espnnorthwest.com, takes place each Monday at 6 p.m. This week's show will include special guest Aaron Best (offensive coordinator and offensive line coach), as well as an interview with Eastern senior tight end Matt Martin. For more information on the show, go to: http://goeags.com/sports/m-footbl/2010-11/releases/10fbAug26Coaches_Show.doc
PDF Link to Fact Book: The complete version of
the 2010 EWU football fact book may be found at:
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/index.aspx?tab=football&path=football
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=2010
College Sporting News - http://www.collegesportingnews.com
Championship Subdivision News - http://www.championshipsubdivisionnews.com
RECENT EWU FOOTBALL HEADLINES:
October 2, 2010 - No. 16 Eastern Surge Past Wildcats 35-24
September 25, 2010 - No. 17 Bobcats Romp Past No. 9 Eagles 30-7
September 20, 2010 - Taiwan Jones Wins National Accolades as Eagles Climb to No. 9
September 18, 2010 - Late Scores Lift No. 18 Eagles Past No. 6 Grizzlies 36-27
September 16, 2010 - Q&A: Football Player Zach Johnson
September 15, 2010 - Pair of Events Help Inaugurate Red Turf
September 15, 2010 - Eagles Schedule Another Game Versus UW for 2014
September 13, 2010 - Red Turf Inaugurated as No. 18 Eastern hosts No. 6 Montana
September 11, 2010 - No. 17 Eagles Gear-Up for Red Turf Debut With 35-32 Victory
September 9, 2010 - Q and A: Football Coach Zak Hill
September 6, 2010 - Payton Award Candidate Wins First Award of 2010 Season
September 6, 2010 - Nathan Overbay Signed to Practice Squad by Dolphins
September 2, 2010 - Taiwan Jones Has Big Day, But Eastern Falls to Wolf Pack 49-24
September 1, 2010 - Eagles-Grizzlies Reserved Tickets Sell Out in 23 Minutes
August 27, 2010 - Eagles Open 2010 Season at Powerful Nevada
August 27, 2010 - Red Turf Gets Overwhelming Approval from Eagle Players
August 26, 2010 - Radio Show Featuring Baldwin Airs Live From Northern Quest
August 25, 2010 - EWU-PSU to Play for the Dam Cup
August 16, 2010 - Eagles 13th in The Sports Network Preseason Poll
August 13, 2010 - Red Turf is Exciting, But Eagles Have Lots of Work Ahead
August 3, 2010 - Red Sprinturf Arrives; Installation Probably Starts Wednesday
August 2, 2010 - Football Practices Begin Aug. 9
July 27, 2010 - Red Sprinturf Set to Arrive Aug. 3
July 26, 2010 - More Preseason Honors for Eagle Trio
July 21, 2010 - Buck Buchanan Watch List Includes Eastern J.C. Sherritt
July 20, 2010 - Eagles Picked to Finish Second Behind Grizzlies
July 19, 2010 - Sherritt is Big Sky's Choice as Preseason Defensive POW
July 13, 2010 - Taiwan Jones on Walter Payton Watch List
June 28, 2010 - Eastern Games to Air on 700 ESPN The Ticket
June 12, 2010 - "Turfbreaking" Begins Excavation Work for Red Turf Project
June 5, 2010 - 2009-10 Awards Presented to Eastern Student-Athletes at "EeeWoos"
May 20, 2010 - With Addition of New Turf, a New Name for Eastern's Football Field
Even Without Jones, Five Scoring Drives Help Eastern Knock Off Wildcats: Eastern had an offensive performance to be proud of in its 35-24 win at Weber State, especially considering the fact the Eagles didn't have Taiwan Jones available as he continued to nurse a pelvic contusion.
Eastern scored touchdowns on drives of 66, 65, 80, 68 and 67 yards, including the final three during a 21-0 scoring run in the second half that turned a 17-14 deficit into a 35-17 advantage. Junior quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell led Eastern's 465-yard offensive attack by completing 23-of-36 passes for 337 yards and four touchdowns. He nearly had a fifth, but was intercepted at the goal-line on a 68-yard Eagle drive in the first quarter.
The Eagles also received a 78-yard rushing performance by Jones' replacement, Darriell Beaumonte, who scored once on a rush and another on a TD reception. Receiver Brandon Kaufman caught five passes for 138 yards and Ashton Gant had career highs with four catches for 86 yards.
New Gunslinger Has First 300-Yard Performance Versus Wildcats: Southern Methodist University transfer Bo Levi Mitchell had his first 300-yard passing performance as an Eagle, completing 23-of-36 passes (64 percent) for 337 yards, four touchdowns and one interception in EWU's 35-24 victory at Weber State. He had entered the game completing just 51.4 percent of his passes with six touchdowns and four interceptions -- three of which had been returned for touchdowns -- and had a previous high of 272 yards.
He led the Eagles on scoring drives of 66, 65, 80, 68 and 67 yards, including the final three during a 21-0 scoring run in the second half that turned a 17-14 deficit into a 35-17 advantage. He completed 14-of-19 passes in the first half and 9-of-17 in the second half.
"He took each play one at a time and kept taking what they would give him," said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin. "He took underneath routes when they were there and led us to first downs. And when it was time to go over the top he put it in spots where our guys could catch it. I thought from the get-go all the way back to the spring that he has those tools. It takes time in a new system and time getting used to things. I'm really proud of him because what he did in practice carried over into the game. He did a great job."
So far this season, Mitchell has completed 53.8 percent of his passes for 1,284 yards, 10 touchdowns and five interceptions, and a passing efficiency rating of 124.92. In FCS statistics, he ranks 19th in total offense (263.2 yards per game) and 47th in efficiency.
In Eastern's opener against Nevada, he was a respectable 19-of-35 for 253 yards and two touchdowns. He followed that by going 16-of-27 for 188 yards and a pair of scores against Central Washington, and was 17-of-37 for 234 yards versus Montana. In EWU's loss versus Montana State, he was 24-of-49 for 272 yards as his 49 attempts equaled the 14th-most in school history.
Mitchell secured the starting quarterback position with outstanding performances in three spring scrimmages, and was named the starter on April 29 -- barely three weeks into spring drills.
Mitchell came to Eastern from Southern Methodist where he started all 19 of the games he played. In his career, the 6-foot-2, 210-pound Mitchell completed 385-of-676 passes (57.0 percent) for 4,590 yards (241.6 per game) with 36 touchdowns and 33 interceptions. He was also 29-1 as a high school starter at Katy (Texas) High School.
"He's performed extremely well considering he had to learn a new system," Baldwin said before the season began. "He has all the tools to be a great collegiate quarterback at any level. He can make every throw in our offense and do them all well -- and a lot of them are not easy."
Eastern had entered the spring taking a look at six players competing for the starting quarterback position. Returning letter winners Jeff Minnerly and Scott Burgett were in the mix, as well as 2009 redshirts Nick Gauthier and Anthony Vitto. Minnerly and Burgett are both sophomores, but had only 10 pass attempts between them as redshirt freshmen in 2009. Gauthier is a junior who transferred from Bakersfield College in California, and Vitto is a freshman. The sixth was Greg Panelli, a strong-armed, 6-foot-3, 225-pounder who passed for more than 5,000 yards and 56 touchdowns at Modesto Junior College and twice earned All-Golden Gate Conference honors.
Minnerly, however, was moved to safety during spring practice, and is now Eastern's starter at free safety. Vitto and Gauthier are the backups behind Mitchell on the depth chart.
In three spring scrimmages, Mitchell completed 24-of-36 passes (67 percent) for 352 yards and three touchdowns -- all to sophomore Nicholas Edwards -- with just one interception. He helped the White to a 20-0 victory over the Red in EWU's Spring Game, completing a pass for 61 yards to Greg Herd on the game's first play before scoring on an 8-yard scamper.
In his lone scrimmage of fall practices, Mitchell was 10-of-16 for 151 yards as he led the offense on two long touchdown drives. He capped a seven-play, 70-yard drive with a 10-yard touchdown run to open the scrimmage, then later ended a five-play, 70-yard drive with a 29-yard touchdown strike to Herd.
In six total scrimmages in the spring and fall, Vitto was 32-of-58 for 352 yards, one touchdown and had two interceptions. Gauthier was 33-of-63 for 304 yards, two TDs and four picks. Burgett and Panelli played in four scrimmages each, and Burgett was 12-of-20 for 214 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. Panelli was 8-of-13 for 91 yards and a touchdown.
Buck Buchanan Candidate Has 11 Tackles and Interception in Weber State Win: Buck Buchanan Award candidate J.C. Sherritt had an interception and 11 tackles to go over the 300-tackle mark in his career in Eastern's 35-14 victory over Weber State.
His interception against the Wildcats was one of three the Eagles had that their offense turned into touchdowns. Sherritt returned his pick at the goal line 33 yards to help lead to a 67-yard drive and a 35-17 advantage. Interestingly, on the previous possession middle linebacker Tyler Washburn also had an interception on the goal line that he returned 32 yards to set-up a 68-yard drive.
Sherritt is EWU's leading tackler thus far with 50 for the
season, an average of 10.0 per game that ranks 28th in FCS.
Besides his 11 tackles at Weber State, he had 11 against Montana State, 12 tackles in Eastern's 36-27 victory over sixth-ranked Montana, 11 tackles and a pass broken up versus Central Washington and he had five tackles and broke-up two passes in Eastern's opener against Nevada on Sept. 2.
The Eastern strong-side inside linebacker now has 306 tackles to rank sixth in school history, and four career interceptions to go along with 10 passes broken up. He needs 94 more tackles to break the school record of 399 held by Greg Belzer (1997-2000). He also set school and league records with 24 tackles against Weber State on Oct. 10, 2009,
A year after finishing second in the voting, Sherritt was selected to the 20-player watch list for the 2010 Buck Buchanan Award awarded by The Sports Network to the top defensive player in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision.
Sherritt, a 2006 graduate of Pullman (Wash.) High School, averaged 14.17 tackles per game (170 total) as a junior in 2009 to lead FCS and catapult him into contention for the Buchanan Award. Arthur Moats from James Madison won the award last year, and in 2008 the winner was Eastern's Greg Peach (now playing for the Edmonton Eskimos in the Canadian Football League).
Since 2000 when the Big Sky and FCS began keeping statistics as a record, Sherritt's total was a league record and the seventh-most in FCS, and his average of 14.17 was also a league record and 13th in FCS history. Besides his 170 tackles, Sherritt had 14 tackles for loss, four passes broken up, three forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries and an interception he returned for a touchdown.
Sponsored by Fathead.com, the Buchanan Award is in its 16th season and will be presented on Thursday, Jan. 6 in Frisco, Texas -- the night before the championship game of the FCS Playoffs.
Besides Sherritt, other finalists from 2009 on this year's watch list include Grambling State senior defensive end Christian Anthony (fourth), Appalachian State senior strong safety Mark LeGree (fifth) and Richmond senior defensive tackle Martin Parker (13th). Two other Big Sky Conference players are on the list -- defensive end Christian Clark of Sacramento State and Montana junior cornerback Trumaine Johnson.
The Buchanan Award Watch List will be updated on Oct. 4 and 25. Ballots will be sent to a panel of approximately 200 sports information and media relations directors, broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries after the regular season on Nov. 22.
The Sports Network also presents the Walter Payton and Eddie Robinson awards, which are also sponsored by Fathead. The Payton Award honors the FCS player of the year and the Robinson Award honors the FCS coach of the year. Those two awards, like the Buchanan, will be presented at the national awards banquet.
Jones Remains National Leader in All-Purpose Yards: Despite not playing against Weber State, junior running back Taiwan Jones continues to lead the NCAA Championship Subdivision in all-purpose yards per game.
A candidate for the Walter Payton Award given to the top player in FCS, Jones has an average of 238.8 yards (rushing, receiving, returns) per game, and is also sixth in rushing (129.5 per game) and 34th in scoring (7.5 per game with five total touchdowns).
Jones, who averaged an impressive 7.5 yards per carry as a sophomore, was named to the initial 2010 Walter Payton Award Watch List this past summer by The Sports Network. And so far, he's lived up to that billing with a current average of 7.8 yards per rush.
Jones has a career average of 154.6 all-purpose yards per game to currently rank as the school record, his 1,016 kickoff return yards are seventh and his average of 23.1 yards per kickoff return is 10th. His total all-purpose yardage of 3,555 ranks 10th, and by the end of the season he should be on Eastern's all-time lists for rushing yards (currently with 1,731), scoring (144) and touchdowns (25).
He now has eight plays in his career of 71 yards or more, 13 of at least 50 and 27 of at least 32 yards. Five have been for at least 80 yards, including a school-record 96-yard touchdown run versus Idaho State in 2009. Nine times in his career he has eclipsed the 200-yard mark in all-purpose yards and has eight rushing performances of at least 100 yards.
Jones earned Big Sky Conference and national accolades for his career-high 221-yard rushing performance in Eastern's 36-27 victory over Montana Sept. 18 in the inaugural game on EWU's new red synthetic Sprinturf surface at Roos Field (formerly Woodward Field).
Jones was honored nationally as one of five College Sporting News All-Stars for the week, and was also the FCS performer of the week at running back by College Football Performance Awards. In addition, he earned Big Sky Conference Offensive Player of the Week honors for the third time in his career and second time this season, having also won the award following EWU's game at Nevada on Sept. 2.
His total of 305 all-purpose yards against the Grizzlies (second-most in his career behind the 322 against Nevada) was his ninth career performance of at least 200 yards. His 27 carries were also a career high by nine as Eastern finished with 503 yards of total offense.
Jones scored on a 72-yard run in the second quarter and also had a 45-yard pass reception. But perhaps the biggest run of the day for Jones was a 13-yard run during Eastern's final scoring drive, including a brilliant spin move that got him the extra yards needed for an important first down. It was on a third-and-10 play, and was just Eastern's second third down conversion of the day in 14 attempts -- including a string of nine-straight misses to start the game. Jones accounted for 35 of the 56 yards on that 12-play drive.
"He's huge," praised Baldwin. "He comes up big in big games -- that's the type of player he is. At the same time, he's an amazing teammate. He cares about his teammates and his team first more than anything else. He never ceases to amaze me. You put him in that position and he's one of those guys who have talent but he also has a huge heart. He's not afraid of any situation."
En route to earning Big Sky Conference Offensive Player of the Week honors, Jones had a career-high 322 all-purpose yards (rushing, receiving and returns) in Eastern's season-opening 49-24 loss at Nevada on Sept. 2. His performance included an 82-yard touchdown reception and a non-scoring 74-yard run. Jones rushed 12 times for 145 yards, had another 92 yards on two receptions and 85 yards on four kickoff returns. His previous career high was 279 yards against Sacramento State on Sept. 26, 2009.
He added 235 yards and three touchdowns against Central Washington on Sept. 11. He finished the game with 14 rushes for 89 yards and two touchdowns, caught four passes for 63 yards (including a 46-yard score) and had 83 yards in returns.
Jones also received honorable mention nationally by College Football Performance Awards and was the team's offensive player of the week after the Nevada game.
"It's almost to a point where I'm not surprised, but he made a few more plays against Nevada that make you marvel at how he can make plays," praised Baldwin following the Nevada game. "Even when things aren't there he is able to make them. He has a toughness and grit to him -- he bangs it up in there so he's not just a fast guy. He's a special football player and obviously the big-play guy in our offense."
A cornerback as a freshman at Eastern in 2008, Jones scored on an 87-yard run on his first carry as an Eagle running back in 2009. Jones started and ended his season with a 100-yard game, finishing with a total of six for the season to earn first team All-Big Sky Conference honors. He was a third team selection on The Sports Network's FCS All-America Football Team, and was a third team choice as an all-purpose back on the Associated Press All-America squad.
Jones, who is from Antioch, Calif., and graduated from Deer Valley High School in 2007, finished with 1,213 rushing yards in 2009 to rank as the sixth-most in school history. He ranked in the top 10 in FCS in rushing (ninth, 101.1 per game), scoring (sixth, 9.50 per game) and all-purpose yards per game (second, 195.4). His 2,345 all-purpose yards (rushing, receiving, returns) were the second-most in school history, and his 19 touchdowns and 114 total points both rank fourth.
His talent has been augmented by the addition of a synthetic turf surface at Roos Field. Jones averaged 6.1 yards per carry at home on the grass surface of Woodward Field, but that was boosted to 8.2 in EWU's other eight games on fields that featured seven artificial surfaces as well as one grass field at Sacramento State with excellent footing.
The Walter Payton Award is given annually to the top offensive player in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision. Big Sky Conference players have captured the honor six times, most recently by Eastern Washington quarterback Erik Meyer in 2005. Eastern quarterback Matt Nichols finished fourth in the voting as a senior in 2009.
There are 20 players on the current Watch List, including five from the Big Sky Conference. Besides Jones, the list also includes Montana running back Chase Reynolds, Grizzly quarterback Andrew Selle, Northern Arizona quarterback Michael Herrick and Weber State quarterback Cameron Higgins.
This year's award is being sponsored by Fathead.com. The winner will be announced on the eve of the Division I National Championship game in Frisco, Texas.
Johnson Twins Produce Big Numbers Again in Victory Over Weber State: Junior strong safety Matt Johnson and his twin brother Zach Johnson, a starting weak-side linebacker, both had big games again in Eastern's 35-24 victory over Weber State.
Matt Johnson had the 13th interception of his career that led to a first-quarter scoring drive for the Eagles. He ranks fourth in school history, and he is now just five interceptions away from the school record of 18 set by Mike Richter from 1971-75. The only other players ahead of him are former NFL 10-year veteran Kurt Schulz (EWU letter winner 1988-91) and long-time Canadian Football League standout Jackie Kellogg (1990-93) with 17 each.
Johnson also had six tackles versus Weber State, giving him 219 in his career to rank 19th all-time at Eastern. He has three interceptions this season, an average of 0.60 per game that ranks 21st in FCS.
Zach Johnson finished with 10 tackles versus the Wildcats, the fifth time in his 16-game career that he has had double figures in tackles. So far this season, Matt is second on the team with 35 tackles and Zach is right behind with 31.
Matt Johnson also had a big game against Montana on Sept. 18, finishing with eight tackles and a pair of interceptions to earn Big Sky Conference Defensive Player of the Week honors for the second time in his career. His second interception versus Montana came with 7:31 left in the game after Montana had driven to Eastern's 27-yard line while trailing by three.
Zach also had a big game against Montana with 11 total tackles and a forced fumble on UM's final kickoff return of the game. The Johnson twins are both 2007 graduates of Tumwater, Wash., High School, but a blood clot in Zach's leg sidelined him for the entire 2009 season.
As freshmen in 2008, the brothers 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, and Matt repeated on that squad in 2009.
Zach currently has 21 tackles this season and 117 in his career.
Eagles Play Nine of 11 Games on Synthetic Turf: With the addition of its own red Sprinturf surface this fall, Eastern will play nine games on synthetic turf this fall. The only games on grass will be against Weber State on Oct. 2 and Northern Colorado on Oct. 16.
"We're going to practice on it every day we can," said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin. "We'll be on turf more than we ever have before we play a turf game. It will be an advantage when we get the chance to practice it on it all week heading into a game on turf."
Other Debuts: Besides quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell, just four other players made their starting debuts as Eagles against Nevada. The three players on offense were freshman redshirts Steven Forgette at left guard and Brandon Murphy at right tackle, as well as junior running back Darriell Beaumonte. On defense, sophomore Jeff Minnerly made his starting debut as a free safety after playing the last two seasons as a quarterback.
Five more players made starting debuts in Eastern's next game against Central Washington on Sept. 11 -- freshman Anthony Larry at defensive end, sophomore Will Post at right tackle, sophomore Artise Gauldin at cornerback, freshman redshirt Zack Gehring at tight end and Nick Gauthier at quarterback.
The lone starting debut in the Montana game was by sophomore Josh Antonson at fullback. Normally an offensive lineman, Antonson filled in for injured senior tight end/fullback Jason Harris (concussion). There were no new starters against Montana State, but David Gaylord made the first start of his career against Weber State at defensive end. Paul Ena also started at the other defensive end -- his starting debut at that position after starting a pair of games at middle linebacker to end the 2009 season.
Gauldin had a memorable starting debut for the Eagles with a sack, a forced fumble and nine total tackles. His forced fumble came following an Eastern punt as he timed his hit on the punt returner perfectly, and the fumble was recovered by EWU snapper Jake Potter at the CWU 12-yard line and led to an Eagle touchdown.
Several redshirt freshmen made their first EWU game appearances at Nevada. Most true freshman will redshirt, but running back Mario Brown will play this season and had four rushes for 18 yards and a kickoff return for 20 yards versus Nevada. In two fall scrimmages, he rushed for 86 yards on 21 carries. The other true freshman currently playing is freshman Ryan Seto.
A total of 24 players with starting experience (total of 196 starts) returned for the 2010 season. Here are the current number of career starts by Eastern players on the 2010 roster:
Defense (167 starts by 19 players): Matt Johnson 28, J.C. Sherritt 25, Tyler Jolley 21, Renard Williams 19, Zach Johnson 16, Evan Cook 13, Tyler Washburn 9, Dante Calcote 8, David Miles 8, Jesse Hoffman 6, Jeff Minnerly 5, Paul Ena 3, Artise Gauldin 1, David Gaylord 1, Anthony Larry 1, Will Edge 1, Rusty Haehl 1, Grant Williams 1 (includes one start on offense in 2009).
Offense (139 starts by 18 players): Chris Powers 17, Nikolai Myers 17, Gabriel Jackson 16, Nicholas Edwards 16, Taiwan Jones 15 (includes four on defense in 2008), Brice Leahy 11, Matt Martin 10, Brandon Kaufman 10, Ashton Gant 5, Steven Forgette 5, Bo Levi Mitchell 4, Will Post 4, Darriell Beaumonte 3, Tyler Hart 2, Zack Gehring 1, Brandon Murphy 1, Nick Gauthier 1, Josh Antonson 1.
Five Players Selected as Co-Captains: In voting conducted by members of this year's squad, five players have been selected as EWU's co-captains for the 2010 season. Senior captains on defense include tackle Tyler Jolley and linebacker J.C. Sherritt, who was also a captain in 2009. The players selected on offense were senior tight end Matt Martin, senior offensive guard Nikolai Myers and junior quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell.
Three of the captains are local products who graduated from state of Washington high schools in 2006 -- Jolley from Spokane's East Valley High School, Sherritt from Pullman HS and Martin from La Crosse-Washtucna HS. Myers is a 2006 graduate of Ingraham High School in Seattle, and Mitchell is a transfer from Southern Methodist University and a 2008 graduate of Katy, Texas, High School.
Williams Has First Sack of 2010 Season: Eastern defensive tackle Renard Williams, who had nine sacks to earn first team All-Big Sky Conference honors a year ago, had his first sack of the season against Weber State on Oct. 2. He now has 12 in his career as he nears Eastern's all-time leaders list. Currently 12th, with 15.5 sacks, is Brandon Moore (1999-02). Williams has 79 tackles in his 28-game career, including 24 1/2 for losses totaling 137 yards.
Zuber Has 50.0 Average in Seven Punts at Weber State: Senior punter Cameron Zuber averaged 50.0 yards in seven punts at Weber State on Oct. 2, including a long of 60 and one punt downed inside the Wildcat 20-yard line. He has a 41.5 average this season to rank 21st in FCS, with 10 of his 27 punts downed inside the 20. His 60-yard effort at WSU -- which equaled the 18th-longest in school history -- was the second-longest of his career behind the 64-yarder he had last year that ranks eighth all-time at EWU.
Zuber currently has a 40.5 career average, good enough to rank seventh in EWU history. Last year he had a 39.9 average with 14 of his 43 punts downed inside the 20.
A bad snap led to a 10-yard punt for senior on his first punt of this season at Nevada, but he averaged 48.8 yards on his next four punts. He finished with a 41.0 average on five punts, with a long of 51 and one punt downed at the Wolf Pack 4-yard line. He followed that with a 45.0 average on three punts against Central Washington Sept. 11, including a pair downed inside the 20.
Zuber had been attending EWU since he graduated in 2006 from W.F. West High School in Chehalis, Wash., but 2009 was his first season as an Eagle football player. He originally walked-on in spring 2007 but did not make the team. He then returned in fall 2009 through the recommendation of Eastern tight end Nathan Overbay, who was a 2005 graduate of W.F. West.
Ena Returns to End After 2009 Move to Linebacker: Continuing as one of Eastern's most versatile players, sophomore Paul Ena is back at defensive end for the Eagles, and started at that position against Weber State on Oct. 2. David Gaylord was another first-time starter at that position for the Eagles against the Wildcats. Their insertion into the starting lineup was partly due to the lingering knee injury of Anthony Larry, whose patella was dislocated against Central Washington on Sept. 11 and fluid continues to build up and needs to be drained.
Ena played in 2009 as a backup defensive end as a true freshman, then started at middle linebacker in the regular season finale against Northern Arizona (11/21/09) and finished with a team-high 16 tackles. He started again in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs against Stephen F. Austin (11/28/09) and had 20 tackles to rank as the sixth-most in recorded school history. He finished the season fifth on the team with a total of 63 tackles.
He was Eastern's fourth player to be on EWU's depth chart as a starter at middle linebacker in 2009. Returning starter Zach Johnson did not play because of a blood clot that developed following knee surgery during the summer, then Kyle Wilkins suffered a season-ending knee injury in practice before Eastern's seventh game. Freshman redshirt Tyler Washburn started four games until he also suffered a knee injury.
Ena was a linebacker at Inglemoor High School in Seattle, finishing his senior season in fall 2008 with 162 total tackles (65 solo, 97 assisted) and two sacks. His father Tali Ena was a standout running back at Washington State University and went on to play for the Seattle Seahawks.
Injury Report: Running back Taiwan Jones was held out of last week's game at Weber State because of pain from a pelvic contusion suffered in Eastern's 30-7 loss against Montana State on Sept. 25. After just one touch in the second half on a rushing attempt midway through the third quarter, he finally departed the game for good. He is questionable for this week, but, depending on his progress this week, may end up a game-time decision as he was last week.
Two games earlier, Jones sat out the final 11:39 of the game versus CWU after getting tackled during a 65-yard drive that ended when EWU came up empty on a fake field goal attempt. What was originally thought to be a minor concussion was actually dehydration from the game and being sick earlier in the day. "We wanted to be smart about it," said Baldwin of the injury to Jones. "He wanted to come right back in but at the time we thought it might have been a slight concussion. You don't mess with that, and we weren't going to put him back in with that kind of injury."
Freshman defensive end Anthony Larry, who made his first career start against Central Washington but suffered a dislocated patella early in the game, is back to being questionable this week after missing EWU's last three games. He was expected to be back for the Weber State game, but his knee continues to build up fluid and needs to be drained.
A trio of safeties -- all returning letter winners -- have missed every game so far, including Billy Lechtenburg (high ankle sprain), Ethen Robinson (knee) and Domonic Shepperd (knee). Lechtenburg, who played as a true freshman in 2009, will probably redshirt and Robinson isn't expected to return. Reserve tight end and fullback Jason Harris suffered a concussion against Nevada is not expected to play the remainder of the season. Backup running back Chase King, whose knee injury in the preseason turned out to be an injured anterior cruciate ligament, is also expected to be lost for the season with probable surgery.
Players who didn't take part in spring practices because of injuries include Matt Johnson (shoulder), Robinson (shoulder), Jakob Pugsley (knee) and Jakob Scott (collarbone). All-American Taiwan Jones, who had surgery in December to repair a sports hernia, saw limited action in the spring as he continued to build strength from injuries to both shoulders and a hand during his debut as a running back in 2009. Johnson and Zach Gehring (shoulder) also had surgeries following the season.
Series History: Eastern leads the 27-game series 17-10, including victories the last three times the schools have met and five of the last six. The lone loss for EWU in the last six games was a 44-36 home loss in 2006, but Eastern won 28-13 at home in 2008. Eastern is 7-3 all-time against NAU in Cheney, 2-1 in Spokane and 8-6 in Flagstaff.
Last Season . . . Matt Nichols Rallies No. 18 Eastern Late for 49-45 Win -- The Eastern Washington University football team let an 18-point lead slip through its grasp, but scored the winning touchdown with 3:30 left in the game to conclude the regular season with a 49-45 Big Sky Conference victory over Northern Arizona Nov. 21 at the Walkup Skydome in Flagstaff, Ariz.
Eastern was out-gained in total yards 747-487, but won the important turnover battle 4-0. The Eagles led 28-10 and 35-17 in the first half, and 42-27 late in the game, however, NAU scored three-straight times to take a 45-42 lead with 5:20 left.
But Eastern scored on a five-play, 74-yard drive, with senior quarterback Matt Nichols passing 13 yards to Nathan Overbay for the winning score -- Overbay's 12th TD catch of the season. The defense did the rest, stopping NAU on a fourth-and-three play at the EWU 32-yard line with 34 seconds to play.
Nichols completed 22-of-33 passes for 408 yards, no interceptions and five touchdowns as EWU wrapped-up a fourth-straight victory and a possible berth in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs. Nichols became only the second player in league history to pass for more than 12,000 career yards, and his current total of 12,155 is just 53 yards from the league record.
"It was a battle to the end," said Eagle head coach Beau Baldwin. "We were playing on a good surface and both offenses got on a roll. Sometimes you play them 16-0 and sometimes you get in shootouts, but I'm proud of our team for finding a way.
"In the second half it started getting away from us, but we kept fighting," he added. "But both sides of the ball won the game for us -- we went down and scored and then we got the final stop. Both were huge."
Northern Arizona finished with 574 yards through the air and 173 rushing, while the Eagles finished with 486 total yards. The Eagles, however, forced four turnovers, including an 85-yard interception return for a touchdown by Makai Borden.
"As a team we figured out a way to win it," said Baldwin. "I'm proud of everybody. It wasn't perfect, and a lot of times it's not perfect when you play a good opponent. They were a much better opponent than 5-5 coming into this game."
Nichols had plenty of help in leading the Eagles to the win. Running back Taiwan Jones finished with 274 all-purpose yards, including 115 rushing to go over the 1,000-yard mark for the season. He also caught a pair of passes for 82 yards and returned four kickoffs for 77 more.
Jones scored Eastern's first touchdown on an 80-yard catch-and-run from Nichols, then scored on a 71-yard run in the third quarter to give EWU a 42-27 lead.
Prior to that, Nichols had touchdown passes of 8, 10 and 18 yards to freshman redshirt Nicholas Edwards -- his first scores of the season. His third TD catch gave EWU a 35-17 lead with 54 seconds left in the second quarter.
Tony Davis led Eastern with seven catches for 132 yards, including a key 22-yard catch to start the game-winning drive.
True freshman Paul Ena, a defensive end until practice last week when he moved to middle linebacker as an injury replacement, had a game-high 16 tackles. Safety Matt Johnson and linebacker J.C. Sherritt -- the FCS leader in tackles with an average of 13.9 tackles per game -- each finished with 15. Sherritt upped his season total to 154 tackles, breaking the previous single season record of 151 set by Greg Belzer in 2000.
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 11 years, it's made winning on the field that much more difficult.
From 2000-2010, Eastern is 5-5 in the first game after school begins (includes one bye), including a 30-7 loss at Montana State on Sept. 25. But in the game after the first full week of school, Eastern is 4-7 since 2000, including EWU's 35-24 triumph over Weber State on Oct. 2.
In 2009 the Eagles avoided any start of school pratfalls. The 2009 fall quarter began on 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.
Special Teams Were Special Versus Griz: Led by the three field goals of junior kicker Mike Jarrett -- including the game-winner for all intents and purposes -- Eastern's special teams were special in Eastern's 36-27 victory over Montana on Sept. 18.
Jarrett was short on his first field goal attempt from 41 yards out, but made a pair of 20-yarders before his clutch 31-yard kick with four seconds to play in the game. His boot broke a 27-all tie, and Eastern added a touchdown on the game's final play to win by nine.
Last season Jarrett was 5-of-10 kicking field goals with a long of 49. A former walk-on, Jarrett's brother Bryan was an All-Big Sky Conference safety while playing for EWU from 2005-07.
"We were struggling a little bit with our red zone offense -- we couldn't punch it in there," said Baldwin. "But I'm so proud of Mike Jarrett for making three field goals, including the last one."
Junior Darriell Beaumonte also had a huge special teams play by blocking a punt and returning it six yards for a score -- EWU's first blocked punt returned for a TD since 2004. Matt Johnson also forced a fumble on a punt return that was recovered by sophomore Artise Gauldin, and freshman redshirt J.C. Agen recovered a fumble on yet another UM punt return.
"Special teams were huge," added Baldwin. "We've put an emphasis on special teams this year. We're giving out special teams awards and we're doing things like letting them eat first at team meals. We feel like we needed to improve on that, and that was an area in the past that I felt Montana had an edge on us. Based on what I saw live, I felt like we created it to be an advantage for us this year."
Griz-Eagle Matchup Lives Up to Hype: In a series full of drama, the 2010 meeting between Eastern and Montana was the ninth time in the last 15 meetings that both teams entered the game nationally ranked. And it went down to the wire as the Eagles pulled out a 36-27 victory.
The first football game on Eastern's new red Sprinturf surface was a huge success as the 18th-ranked Eagles knocked off the No. 6 Grizzlies in the Big Sky Conference opener for both schools on Sept. 18 at Roos Field in Cheney, Wash.
Junior Mike Jarrett nailed a 31-yard field goal with four seconds left to give Eastern a 30-27 lead, then the Eagles iced it on the final play of the game with a 34-yard fumble return for a touchdown by junior defensive tackle Renard Williams after a sack and forced fumble by sophomore end Jerry Ceja with additional pressure by senior Tyler Jolley. Junior All-America running back Taiwan Jones had 305 all-purpose yards -- including a career-high 221 rushing yards -- to lead EWU's 503-yard offensive output.
It was Eastern's first victory over Montana since 2005, giving Eastern's seniors their first win over the Grizzlies. Since 1990, Eastern has won four times on UM's home field in Missoula, but Eastern had won just twice at home in that span until this year. The lone win since then at Roos Field (formerly Woodward Field) came in 1991, and Eastern's change to a red synthetic Sprinturf surface and change of name altered its success in Cheney where the Eagles had a six-game losing streak.
Montana now leads the series 25-11-1, and has still won six of the last eight meetings. Since winning three-straight over Montana from 1990-92, Eastern has won just four times -- 40-35 in 1997 (in Missoula), 30-21 in 2002 (at Albi Stadium in Spokane), 34-20 in 2005 (in Missoula) and 36-27 in 2010 (in Cheney) -- in the last 18 meetings. Overall, Eastern is 4-13-1 in Missoula, 6-11 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.
Nine 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 37 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, 541 yards by the Eagles in a 34-20 win in Missoula in 2005 and 503 in a 2010 victory in Cheney. In fact, in the last 25 meetings the winning team has averaged 33.6 points. In seven of those 25 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. Besides the late-game heroics by the Eagles in 2010, Eastern knotted the 2009 meeting 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 were 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 at Albi Stadium in Spokane, 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:
2010 - #18 Eastern Washington 36, #6 Montana 27 (in Cheney, Wash.)
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, #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 40, #2 Montana 35 (in Missoula, Mont.)
1996 - #1 Montana 34, #20 Eastern Washington 30 (in Cheney, Wash.)
A QB Six Months Earlier, Minnerly Leads Eagles in Tackles in Opener: A quarterback last March when spring drills began for the Eagles, less than six months later Jeff Minnerly found himself as the team's leading tackler in Eastern's 49-24 loss at Nevada on Sept. 2.
He finished the game with eight tackles, including seven unassisted stops. A sophomore who graduated from Ferris High School in Spokane, Wash., in 2008, Minnerly made his first career start at free safety. After earning EWU's Offensive Scout Team Player of the Year while redshirting in 2008, Minnerly completed 4-of-8 passes for six yards in 2009 while serving as the backup to All-American and two-time Big Sky Conference Offensive Player of the Year Matt Nichols.
But he was caught in a logjam of quarterbacks last spring, including Southern Methodist transfer Bo Levi Mitchell. Minnerly's move to defense took place on April 13, and he had an interception in a scrimmage that very day. He is also EWU's holder on placekicks and Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin said the decision to move from quarterback was to enable the 6-foot-1, 190-pound sophomore a greater chance to use his athletic ability to contribute to the team.
"Few players are gifted enough physically and mentally to make a significant move like that," explained Baldwin. "We thought it would be the best thing for the team and Jeff to make this move, and we feel like he has all the tools to be an excellent safety. He still had a chance to compete for our quarterback position, but he has an even better opportunity to compete and earn playing time at the safety position."
Minnerly earned first team 4A All-State honors as a quarterback from WashingtonPreps.com, and was the Offensive Most Valuable Player in the Greater Spokane League after throwing for 27 touchdowns and just one interception as a senior. Also known for his scrambling ability, he was MVP for the East when he directed his team to a game-winning, 93-yard drive in the final 3:31 for a 17-14 victory in the 4A/3A East-West All-State Game.
Minnerly was also a starter for the two-time WIAA State 4A Champions in basketball, who were 29-0 both seasons. Ferris was the first 4A school to go unbeaten two consecutive seasons. He was a 4.0 student in high school and was his school's male recipient of the prestigious Greater Spokane League Scholar-Athlete award.
"Jeff is a great competitor," Baldwin added. "He's demonstrated his great football skills during agility drills in the winter, as well as his ability as a quarterback to cover ground and move. He'll bring leadership and intelligence to the safety position, and that will be huge."
Starting Over . . . Again: Eastern has been down this road before.
Much like 2005 when quarterback Erik Meyer graduated after winning the Walter Payton Award as the top player in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision, Eagle fans are wondering what Eagle Football will be like without 17 Eagle seniors who combined for 350 starts in their careers.
Most notably, the Eagles lose All-American and Big Sky Conference all-time passing leader Matt Nichols, who was the league's Offensive Player of the Year in both 2007 and 2009. Nichols replaced Meyer at quarterback in 2006 and helped the Eagles to 26 victories and a pair of FCS Playoff berths. In all, Nichols broke 14 school records and six Big Sky Conference marks.
"I still remember after the 2005 season that somebody said to me, 'we'll see what you're like in the post-Erik Meyer era,'" said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin, who concluded his second season as head coach and sixth overall at EWU. "It was tough for a year for sure, but Matt came along after that and proved to be pretty good. We'll get the same questions this year."
Interestingly, neither Meyer nor Nichols locked-up the starting quarterback position during the spring before their starting debuts. Meyer and Skyler Allen were locked in a tight competition in spring 2003, and it wasn't until the third game of the season that Meyer locked up the starting job. Nichols and Chris Peerboom shared snaps early in the 2006 season, and Peerboom started the team's opener before Nichols started the final 10 games that season and 45 of the 47 games he played in his career.
More Position Changes: A trio of returning Eagle letter winners changed positions in the spring, including defensive lineman-turned-linebacker Paul Ena. Ena took over at that position for the final two games of the 2009 season, and will stay there this season. Others making a move include Jason Harris from linebacker to tight end, Tyler Hart from running back to wide receiver and Grant Williams from fullback/running back to linebacker. In the fall, Daniel Johnson was moved from running back to receiver as well, and Allen Brown and Chandler Gayton shifted to safety from cornerback.
Hope Up Front: One of Eastern's hopes for the 2010 season is that a more experienced defensive unit up front will control the line of scrimmage more and, overall, the defensive side of the ball won't be on the field as much as they were in 2009. A productive running game will help Eastern toward that goal after Eastern's quick-strike offense in 2009 helped lead to an average of 76 plays per game for opponents. That was nearly six more per game than EWU, which had a half-minute deficit in time of possession despite out-gaining opponents 462-428 per game.
A year ago, Eastern finished sixth in FCS in turnover margin, averaging 1.25 less turnovers per game than its opponents. That will continue to be an emphasis after Eastern was 6-0 during the regular season when it won the turnover battle, with a 22-4 advantage in those six games.
"We obviously want to expand on that because we thought it was a huge part of our success in 2009," said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin.
Eagles Schedule Another Game Versus UW for 2014: The Eagles are making up for lost time.
Eastern Washington University has scheduled a second football game against the University of Washington, giving the Eagles games in both 2011 and 2014 versus the Huskies of the Pacific 10 Conference. The announcement of the agreement was made jointly by EWU and UW on Wednesday (Sept. 15).
Eastern will open the 2011 season at Husky Stadium on Sept. 3, then will return on Sept. 6, 2014. The Eagles will play at Washington State in 2012 and Oregon State in 2013, giving Eastern four-straight games against Pac 10 opponents. Besides games in 1907 and 1908 against Washington State, Eastern's only other games versus Pac 10 opponents have been against Oregon State (2000 and 2006), Arizona State (2002) and California (2009). Eastern has also played recent Pac 10 recruit Colorado (2008).
Eastern has never played Washington.
"We are extremely excited about scheduling Washington again in 2014," said Eastern athletic director Bill Chaves. "Given the roster makeup of our team, those two games against the Huskies affords the many student-athletes we have from the west side of the state the opportunity to play at 'home' against Washington. That will no doubt be a memorable experience and thrill for not only our players and coaches, but our fans and alumni as well."
Eastern was a member of the National Association for Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) for most of its history before becoming a member of FCS in 1984. But despite playing 26 games against NCAA Football Bowl Division members since 1983 -- including four against the Pacific 10 Conference -- the Eagles have not played Washington State or Washington during that time span.
The Eagles are scheduled to make the short 90-mile trek to Pullman, Wash., on Sept. 8, 2012, to face Washington State University in the first varsity meeting between the two schools in more than 100 years. Eastern lost to the Cougars in 1907 (46-0) and 1908 (73-0), and were 8-10-1 from 1921-46 against WSU's junior varsity or freshman teams.
Washington State is coached by Paul Wulff, who was 53-40 with three NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Playoff berths as Eastern's head coach for eight seasons (2000-2007). He spent a total of 15 seasons at EWU as a coach, and several members of his staff are former Eagle coaches.
Chaves also said the Eagles are scheduled to play at Idaho -- also located about 90 miles from EWU's campus -- in Moscow, Idaho, on Sept. 1, 2012.
The last time Eastern played Idaho was in 2003 when Eastern won
8-5 in the Kibbie Dome. Eastern is 5-15 all-time against its former
Big Sky Conference rival, and 2-3 since the Vandals moved to FBS in
2011 EWU Tentative Schedule -- 9/3 - at Washington; 9/10 - TBA; 9/17 - at Montana; 9/24 - Montana State; 10/1 - Weber State; 10/8 - at Northern Arizona; 10/15 - Northern Colorado; 10/22 - at Sacramento State; 10/29 - Portland State; 11/5 - Bye; 11/12 - at Cal Poly; 11/19 - at Idaho State.
2012 Schedule -- 9/1 - at Idaho; 9/8 - at Washington State; 9/15 - Idaho State; 9/22 - Sacramento State; 9/29 - at Portland State; 10/6 - Montana; 10/13 - at Montana State; 10/20 - at Northern Colorado; 10/27 - Northern Arizona; 11/3 - Cal Poly
11/10 - at Weber State; 11/17 - Bye.
2013 Schedule -- 8/31 - at Oregon State
2014 Schedule -- 9/6 - at Washington
Eagles Versus The Pacific 10 Conference -- Since the early 1980's when it began the move to become a member of the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (in 1984), Eastern is now 7-19 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. Against the Pacific 10 Conference, EWU is 0-4. 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
2010 - at Nevada - L, 24-49
Eagles in the Playoffs: Eastern's made its seventh appearance in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs in 2009 when the 13th-ranked Eagles lost at No. 12 Stephen F. Austin 44-33 in the first round. It was also the fourth berth in a six-year span as EWU's appearances in 2004 and 2005 were the first time the Eagles had ever made back-to-back appearances. Eastern has now advanced past the first round four times (1985, 1997, 2004, 2007) and has a 5-7 record in six playoff appearances.
In 2007, the Eagles handed second-seeded and No. 3 ranked McNeese State its first loss of the year in a 44-15 first-round victory. Eastern then lost in the quarterfinals at two-time defending champion Appalachian State. In 2004, Eastern defeated No. 1 ranked and top-seeded Southern Illinois 35-31 in the first round and then lost 35-34 to Sam Houston State in the quarterfinal round in EWU's first-ever playoff game at Woodward Field in Cheney, Wash. In both 2004 and 2007, Eastern entered the playoffs ranked 14th nationally.
Until 2004, Eastern hadn't appeared in the FCS playoffs since 1997 when the Eagles advanced to the semifinals where it lost to Youngstown State 25-14 at Albi Stadium in Spokane, Wash. Eastern played two early-round games at Albi, defeating Northwestern State 40-10 and Western Kentucky 38-21.
Eastern also participated in the playoffs in 1985 (won at Idaho 42-38 and lost at Northern Iowa 17-14) and 1992 (lost at Northern Iowa 17-14). The school's only other postseason experience came in 1967 when Eastern advanced to the NAIA Championship game where it lost to Fairmont State 28-21.
Here is a complete list of EWU's playoff games:
2009 - at Stephen F. Austin - L, 33-44 (First Round)
2007 - at Appalachian State - L, 35-38 (Quarterfinals)
2007 - at McNeese State - W, 44-15 (First Round)
2005 - at Northern Iowa - L, 38-41 (First Round)
2004 - Sam Houston State - L, 34-35 (Quarterfinals/Cheney)
2004 - at Southern Illinois - W, 35-31 (First Round)
1997 - Youngstown State - L, 14-25 (Semifinals/Spokane)
1997 - Western Kentucky - W, 38-21 (Quarterfinals/Spokane)
1997 - Northwestern State - W, 40-10 (First Round/Spokane)
1992 - at Northern Iowa - L, 14-17 (First Round)
1985 - at Northern Iowa - L, 14-17 (Quarterfinals)
1985 - at Idaho - W, 42-38 (First Round)
Nichols and Overbay Released, But Overbay Signed to Practice Squad by Dolphins: Former Eagle tight end Nathan Overbay was signed Sept. 6 to the Miami Dolphins practice squad after getting released by the Denver Broncos. Quarterback Matt Nichols was also released by the Dallas Cowboys on Aug. 19 before the 2010 regular season began.
Both had signed free agent contracts following the conclusion of their careers at EWU in 2009. Nichols completed 10-of-16 passes for 81 yards and two interceptions in two preseason games. Overbay played but did not catch any passes in the preseason for Denver. Another Eagle signed in the offseason was former San Diego Charger Keith Grennan by the Cleveland Browns. But he was cut in July before training camp began.
Eastern's only current active NFL player is sixth-year player Michael Roos, who started all four preseason games for the Titans. That gives him a total of 143 straight starts as an offensive tackle dating back to his sophomore season at Eastern in 2002. He started 35-straight games at EWU, and the other 108 have come as a Titan (25 preseason games, 80 regular season games, 2 playoff games and the Pro Bowl in February 2009).
Active professionals currently playing in the Canadian Football League are Greg Peach (Edmonton), Shea Emry (Montreal), Ryan Phillips (British Columbia), Luke Fritz (Winnipeg) and Dario Romero (Edmonton).
Less Than a Year in the Making, the Country's First-Ever Red Synthetic Turf Made Debut Sept. 18: In describing the spontaneity of fund-raising efforts for Eastern Washington University's Red Turf Project, Marc Hughes thinks of it as "gasoline on a fire."
If it wasn't for the incredibly generous $500,000 gift of Michael and Katherine Roos, the Eastern associate athletic director for development knows the entire project would have gone up in smoke before it even started. But that initial gift --gasoline on a fire if you will -- ignited the subsequent generous giving by other friends of Eastern and made the project a reality in time for the 2010 season.
"Without Michael and Kat, we aren't where we are today," Hughes admits. "That's a given."
Impressively, the project was less than a year in the making, with a cost of approximately $825,000. From the initial proposal presented to the Roos family to the conclusion of turf installation, the project lasted a mere 8 1/2 months.
Despite the quick turnaround, the results are simply astonishing.
On Sept. 18, the generosity of those Eagle fans and friends -- including a large group of former players -- came to fruition when the Eagles played their first football game on the new Sprinturf surface.
Before playing the first game on the turf, Eastern had a dedication and open house two days earlier as the name of the field officially became Roos Field. Dave Woodward and his wife, Gay, attended and participated as a plaque was unveiled commemorating the 78 years the field was named after his father, Arthur C. "Woody" Woodward. Michael and Katherine Roos were not able to attend because the Titans played at home that week, but were represented by his former offensive line coach at EWU, current Eastern offensive coordinator and line coach Aaron Best.