Mitchell Brothers Provide Offensive Spark; Zach Johnson Provides the Same on Defense
Eagles conclude third week of spring practices with 64-play scrimmage highlighted by big plays on both sides of the ball
With the Mitchell brothers providing most of the fireworks, big plays were abundant during Eastern Washington University's 68-play football scrimmage Saturday (April 23) at Roos Field in Cheney, Wash.
Quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell passed for two touchdowns, including one to his older brother, Cory Mitchell, who finished with six receptions for 148 yards. But with middle linebacker Zach Johnson (pictured) playing in his first scrimmage of the spring, the defense came up with some big plays of its own, as EWU wrapped up its third week of spring practices.
"We have a good, happy medium of plays being made on both sides," said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin, whose defending NCAA Division I champions will open the 2011 season at Washington on Sept. 3. "We still have a lot to get better, but I definitely think there were some improvements in the areas we hit upon this last week."
Eastern's defensive units held the offense to 71 yards rushing on 28 carries, including sacks recorded by Johnson, defensive end Jerry Ceja and All-America defensive tackle Renard Williams. Eastern's quarterbacks combined to complete 18-of-36 passes for 231 yards, but the 50 percent completion rate was considerably less than the 73 percent they completed (38-of-52) in EWU's first two scrimmages of the spring.
Starting cornerback candidates Alden Gibbs and Jeremy Chaten had three of the team's seven passes broken up, including a pair by Gibbs. Chandler Gayton had an interception on the final play of the scrimmage after a pass broken up b by quarterback-turned-safety Scott Burgett. Gibbs, cornerback T.J. Lee and linebacker John Goldwire each had four tackles.
"We flew around and there was good energy, and there was some hitting going on," Baldwin said of the defense. "One of the things we wanted to improve upon as a defense was tackle better. Compared to our last scrimmage, I thought we tackled a lot better, so I was really impressed with that."
Johnson, a senior who earned second team All-Big Sky Conference honors a year ago, played in his first scrimmage while nursing knee and hamstring injuries. His twin brother, All-America safety Matt Johnson, hasn't played in a scrimmage yet. Zach added two tackles to go along with his sack as he took over the middle linebacker position after playing on the outside a year ago.
"Zach Johnson, if he's healthy, is always going to be a presence," said Baldwin. "I talked him right after the scrimmage and he said he felt a little slow at first and a little off. But once he got going he was there and making plays. We expect him to make a ton of plays next year for us."
Bo Levi Mitchell completed six of his last eight passes to finish 6-of-12 for 100 yards. He led the offense on a seven-play, 45-yard touchdown drive, capped by a 10-yard touchdown pass to David Miles. He later led a four-play, 70-yard scoring drive, capped by a 23-yard TD pass to Cory Mitchell, who also had a 46-yard catch from his brother on the drive.
Cory added catches of 27 and 42 yards in the scrimmage, giving him 13 grabs for 221 yards and three touchdowns in three spring scrimmages thus far.
"Obviously, it's fun for them," said Baldwin. "Cory has been playing really well. We have some young wide receivers who have played a lot football, but after our top four, we have another three or four that haven't played much. The good thing is that it hasn't been just one scrimmage -- he's been consistent in a lot of live situations in practices and scrimmages. He's made plays and has been productive, and I'm excited to see that out of Cory."
Sophomore Mario Brown led Eastern's running game with 28 yards on four carries, and another sophomore, University of Washington transfer Demitrius Bronson, added 19 yards on seven rushes. Ashton Clark caught three passes for 22 yards.
The Eagles have practices Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday this next week before ending spring drills with the annual Red-White game at 2 p.m. on April 30 that will be televised live regionally by SWX. SWX (SWX Digital 6.2 in Spokane, 25.3 in the Tri-Cities & 23.3 in the Yakima area; Comcast 115; Time Warner 306; Charter 287), will also re-broadcast five of EWU's 2010 games next week at 2 p.m. Pacific time. Here is the schedule of showings:
Monday (April 25) - EWU versus Northern Arizona (21-14 win on 10/9/10)
Tuesday (April 26) - EWU versus Southern Utah (31-24 win on 11/13/10)
Wednesday (April 27) - EWU versus Idaho State (34-7 win on 11/20/10)
Thursday (April 28) - EWU versus Montana (36-27 win on 9/18/10)
Friday (April 29) - EWU versus Southeast Missouri State (37-17 win on 12/4/10)
Rushing: Mario Brown 4-28, Demitrius Bronson 7-19, Bo Levi Mitchell 3-12, Gauthier 1-10, Tyler Hart 1-7, Darriell Beaumonte 5-6, Marquise Moses 3-5, Nick Washburn 1-minus-5, Nick Anthony Vitto 3-minus-11, Totals 28-71.
Passing: Bo Levi Mitchell 6-12-0 100, Anthony Vitto 4-11-0 50, Greg Panelli 4-8-0 25, Nick Gauthier 4-5-1 56, Totals 18-36-1 231.
Receiving: Cory Mitchell 6-148, Ashton Clark 3-22, Greg Herd 2-13, David Miles 1-10, Marquise Moses 1-9, Alante Wright 1-6, Nicholas Edwards 1-6, Tyler Hart 1-6, Daniel Johnson 1-6, Zack Gehring 1-5, Totals.
Interceptions: Chandler Gayton 1.
Passes Broken Up: Alden Gibbs 2, Chandler Gayton 1, Jeremy Chaten 1, Scott Burgett 1, Renard Williams 1, Dylan Zylstra 1.
Sacks: Renard Williams1, Jerry Ceja 1, Zach Johnson 1.