Bo Levi Mitchell clinches win with 90-yard drive in Red's final possession of the game
Ronald Baines and Shane Stagg each returned first-half interceptions for touchdowns, and quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell led his team to a game-clinching 90-yard drive, and the Red defeated the White 28-14 Saturday (April 30) in Eastern Washington University's annual Red-White Game at Roos Field in Cheney, Wash.
The game ended spring practices for the Eagles, who finished the 2010 season 13-2 and won the NCAA Division I title with a come-from-behind 20-19 victory over Delaware last Jan. 7. Eastern opens its 2011 season on Sept. 3 versus Washington of the Pacific 10 Conference.
With big plays being made on both sides of the ball, it was hard to tell if the Eagle defensive units were most successful, or the offense. The defense finished with three interceptions, six sacks and 10 passes broken up.
The two offensive units combined for 507 yards of offense, including 371 through the air and 136 on the ground. Senior running back Darriell Beaumonte (pictured) rushed 11 times for 110 yards for the White, including a 63-yard TD run.
"In a scrimmage like this, it's sort of a double-edge sword," said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin, who let his assistants do the coaching in the game. "As a head coach I never lose one of these."
"We'll take each play one at a time and grade it out," he added. "So we have to go back and watch video to have a better idea."
Mitchell and his Red teammates had the luxury of an early 14-0 lead. Baines intercepted White quarterback Anthony Vitto in the first quarter and returned it 40 yards for a score, then Stagg intercepted Greg Panelli and returned it 60 yards for another TD.
The White rallied to pull within seven on two occasions, but then Mitchell went to work late in the third quarter. Because the game would end after three quarters if a team had a nine-point lead or more, the 15-play, 90-yard drive was the game-winner as it took 3:47 off the clock and ended on Mario Brown's 2-yard run with 1:06 to play.
"It was a really competitive environment," Baldwin said of the way the game ended. "We had players competing right down to the finish trying to win that game. I'd rather break-up the starting lineups and play this type of game, and not have the potential of a 35-0 game by playing starters versus backups."
Mitchell was selected as the Most Outstanding Player of the national championship game when he directed EWU to three TD drives in the final 16:48. He finished the Red-White Game 9-of-20 for 95 yards, and his completions included a 20-yard pass to Greg Herd on a fourth-and-10 play on the game-clinching drive.
Mitchell's backup, Nick Gauthier, was 5-of-9 for 104 yards, with a 70-yard touchdown strike to Daniel Johnson. Brown was the Red's leading receiver with five catches for 54 yards and also rushed for 30 yards.
For the White, Vitto was 8-of-18 for 85 yards and two interceptions, and Panelli finished 8-of-13 for 87 yards, an interception and a 9-yard TD pass to Nicholas Edwards. Edwards led all receivers with eight catches for 69 yards, and Ashton Clark added five grabs for 70 yards.
"We want to be able to use the field both vertically and horizontal," Baldwin said of his team's passing game. "We want to be able to throw from the hash out to the sideline, and then to push it downfield when we need to. That's always been the base of our offensive philosophy, especially at the quarterback position. The No. 1 thing we want in a player is to be able to make every throw, and we have a lot of different types of throws in our offense. He needs to have physical strength to be able to do that, and we're developing that in our quarterbacks."
For the White, Grant Williams had eight tackles, with Alden Gibbs, Zach Johnson and Allen Brown each finishing with six. Brown and defensive end Jerry Ceja each broke-up two passes as the White finished with eight as a team. Renard Williams and Ashton Boothroyd each had sacks.
"Yes, there appeared to be some quote, un-quote, mistakes made," Baldwin said of the offense versus defense conundrum. "But sometimes the play is made by the defense too and so they weren't necessarily mistakes. We would like to clean-up some of the things, but on the defensive side, I like to see us get as many picks as we can like we did last year. We were a ball-hawking defense a year ago and I want to be like that again."
Overall, Baldwin was pleased with how the team's month-long spring practice session went. It started on March 30 and ended on April 30.
"Overall, I was pleased with how we progressed with each scrimmage this spring," he said. "But May is a challenging month. We finish spring practice but we still have five weeks of school left. That's a good challenge for our players to take care of business in the classroom and then begin off-season work.
"They will spend three months with strength and conditioning coach Nate Brookreson, and it's an incredibly important three months," added Baldwin of the off-season. "And, they have to be self-motivated because what they do this summer is on them. The best teams I've ever had have always had great leaders who did great things with the rest of the team over the summer."