Total of 54 letter winners from 13-2 season return as Eagles start spring drills, although it seems as though EWU has already had an offseason practice session
In a sense, Eastern Washington University head football coach Beau Baldwin believes his team has already benefitted from an offseason practice session -- a bonus one for the 2010 NCAA Division I champions.
The quest for another title begins on Friday, April 1 when the Eagles open spring practices for the 2011 season. The Eagles will get all of their allotted 15 practices in during the month of April, with the annual Red-White Game taking place on Saturday, April 30 at 2 p.m. at Roos Field.
During its march to the national title and 13-2 record in the 2010 season, the Eagles were able to practice in late November, the entire month of December and early January -- long after most other teams had turned in their uniforms for the season.
"That's the thing about playing in the playoffs -- it's like an extra spring ball because of how deep we went," said Baldwin. "We saw a lot of young players get better and better in practices even though they didn't play on Saturday as much."
Baldwin, who enters his fourth season at the helm, is expecting to have about 75 players participating this spring, including 54 returning letter winners. Among the returning letter winners are eight offensive starters and another seven on defense.
"We want to see if we can be better than what we've been before, and that's our goal going into spring practices," Baldwin said. "We are going to make some changes and we're going to make some tweaks. We are not going to just sit back and think we have it all figured out because we certainly don't. There are definitely improvements we are looking to make as we hit spring ball compared to where we were in April 2010."
As usual, the Eagles will concentrate on the basics during spring practices.
"Our philosophy has always been to focus on fundamentals during spring ball," explained Baldwin. "We want to work on the little things and lay the groundwork for the 2011 season through a lot of individual work. We don't necessarily get super complicated in terms of our playbook -- we are more concerned about doing the basics well."
Baldwin said subtle changes will also be on display starting April 1, but a fast pace and more live hitting might be the noticeable details.
"We might change our practice structure a little bit," he said. "We want to continue to practice at a fast pace. We may even add a few more live drills than what we had last year. Last year, we had more live tackling drills than we probably ever had before -- even if it's 10 or 15 minutes here and there. As coaches you get a little afraid to do that, but for us, it's going to only help us in those game-like situations."
Although the 2010 season lasted all the way until Jan. 7 when the Eagles defeated Delaware 20-19 in the NCAA Division I Championship game, Baldwin's team has been as focused as ever in offseason strength and conditioning sessions. Baldwin preached early and often a year ago about the process of the 2010 season and concentrating on doing the little things right. And it paid off in the long run.
"A lot of players are hungry to work hard and hungry to do that between now and August," he said. "They realize that some of the things we did last year that were different, better and were tough along the way, ended up paying off in the end. That doesn't mean it always pays off with a national championship -- those are tough to come by. But if you want the opportunity, then you really have to put forth the effort.
"You have to want to do all the little things between January and August to have that chance to play late into the season," he continued. "The national title helped justify the hard work we did in the offseason, and hopefully it triggers our players this year. That's what it took last year, and it will take even a little bit more this year."
Spring Practice Schedule
Practices take place various days through April 30. Most practices are scheduled to start at 4 p.m. (media interviews at approximately 3:45 p.m. or after practice at about 6 p.m.). All practices take place either at Roos Field or on the EWU Sports and Recreation Center practice fields. Scrimmages also take place on the red Sprinturf surface at the "Inferno" in Cheney, Wash.
April 1 - Practice (no pads), 4 p.m.
April 2 - Practice (no pads), 10 a.m.
April 5 - Practice, 4 p.m.
April 7 - Practice, 4 p.m.
April 8 - Scrimmage, approx. 4 p.m., Roos Field
April 12 - Practice, 4 p.m.
April 14 - Practice, 4 p.m.
April 16 - Scrimmage, approx. 10 a.m., Roos Field
April 19 - Practice, 4 p.m.
April 21 - Practice, 4 p.m.
April 23 - Scrimmage, approx. 10 a.m., Roos Field
April 26 - Practice, 4 p.m.
April 27 - Practice, 4 p.m.
April 28 - Practice, 4 p.m.
April 30 - Red-White Spring Game, 2 p.m., Roos Field
Eastern is scheduled to scrimmage on Friday, April 8 (approximately 4 p.m.), Saturday, April 16 (approximately 10 a.m.) and Saturday, April 23 (approximately 10 a.m.) at Roos Field in Cheney, Wash. The annual Red-White Game will take place on Saturday, April 30 at 2 p.m. at Roos Field in conjunction with Killin Weekend at EWU.
SPRING PRACTICE NOTES
Players not expected to take part in spring practices because of injuries suffered in the 2010 season include returning starting middle linebacker Tyler Washburn (right knee), backup defensive end Anthony Larry (right knee), reserve running back Chase King (right knee) and backup cornerback Bo Schuetzle (left hip). Other players who will be limited in the spring include All-America wide receiver Brandon Kaufman (right shoulder) and former starting defensive lineman Evan Cook (left shoulder). All six had off-season surgeries to repair their injuries.
Orland Killin Weekend, which is presented by the Michael Roos Foundation, includes the already sold-out Coaches Golf Tournament on April 29 and the annual Killin Dinner, Dance and Auction following the Red-White Game on April 30.
The golf tournament takes place at the Fairways Golf Course near Cheney, Wash., at noon on April 29. The following day features an EWU volleyball scrimmage at 11 a.m. and a soccer scrimmage at noon, followed by the Red-White Game at 2 p.m. The Killin Dinner, Dance and Auction starts at 4:30 p.m. at the EWU Sports and Recreation Center with a social hour and silent auction.
All scrimmages are free and open to the public. Tickets for Killin are $75 each or $500 for a table of eight. More information and on-line ordering is available at: http://goeags.com/trads/ewas-killin.html.
Six Eagles earned All-America honors in 2010, including four who will return in the 2011 season. Junior wide receiver Brandon Kaufman was honored as a sophomore, while center Chris Powers, safety Matt Johnson and defensive lineman Renard Williams earned All-America accolades as juniors.
Kaufman was selected to the College Sports News "Sweet 63" All-America Team and the Phil Steele Publications All-America fourth team. Johnson was also on the "Sweet 63" squad, and earned second-team honors from Phil Steele and third team accolades from the Sports Network. Powers was a first-team choice by the Sports Network and picked to the Phil Steele third team. Williams, a two-time first-team All-Big Sky Conference selection, was selected to the "Sweet 63" squad.
In addition, quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell was selected as the Most Outstanding Player in the NCAA Division I Championship game, and Kaufman was chosen by the College Sporting News as its playoffs MVP.
Head coach Beau Baldwin received numerous national accolades as well, including the College Sporting News Coach of the Year and the same honor from the American Football Monthly. He was on the voting list for the 2010 Eddie Robinson Award presented by The Sports Network, and was a finalist for the Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year award.
The only two departed All-Americans were running back Taiwan Jones and linebacker J.C. Sherritt, who won the 2010 Buck Buchanan Award presented by The Sports Network to the top defensive player in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision. Sherritt was also selected to six different All-America teams as a first-team selection, and was the College Sporting News Defensive Player of the Year and the Big Sky Defensive MVP.
Jones, who had a year of eligibility remaining but declared himself eligible for the NFL Draft, finished fourth in the voting for the 2010 Walter Payton Award presented by The Sports Network to the top offensive player in the FCS. He was also selected to five different All-America teams as a first-team selection, and was the Phil Steele Publications FCS Offensive Player of the Year, the College Football Performance Awards Running Back of the Year and the Big Sky Offensive MVP.
In addition, the Inland Northwest Sportswriters and Broadcasters (SWABS) selected Eastern as its Team of the Year, Baldwin as its Coach of the Year and Sherritt as the Male Amateur Athlete of the Year.
More Players to Watch
A total of 10 players return who earned All-Big Sky Conference honors a year ago, including two-time All-Big Sky Conference first-team defensive tackle Renard Williams. Also receiving first-team accolades and back for the 2011 season are junior wide receiver Brandon Kaufman, senior center Chris Powers, senior safety Matt Johnson and senior special teams standout Darriell Beaumonte.
Johnson's twin brother, senior linebacker Zach Johnson, was a second-team selection, as was returning senior offensive tackle Gabriel Jackson. Eastern's honorable mention selections back for the 2011 season include sophomore offensive guard Steven Forgette, senior quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell and junior safety Jeff Minnerly.
A total of 19 players were honored, including eight seniors. Entering the 2010 season, only five players returned who had earned All-Big Sky honors the year before.
Eastern Returns 32 Players With Combined 337 Starts
The Eagles return 32 players with a combined 337 starts between them entering the 2011 season. Of Eastern's 14 letter winners lost, 11 combined for 189 starts -- including 22 by Taiwan Jones, who left EWU early to declare for the NFL Draft.
There are 16 players with starting experience returning on both offense and defense, with 176 total starts on defense and 161 on offense. By contrast, 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, with players not returning marked out.
Defense (277 starts by 21 players): Matt Johnson 38, J.C. Sherritt 35, Tyler Jolley 30, Renard Williams 29, Zach Johnson 26, Tyler Washburn 19, Dante Calcote 18, Jesse Hoffman 16, Evan Cook 13, Paul Ena 13, Jeff Minnerly 9, David Miles 8, David Gaylord 7, Allen Brown 5, Jerry Ceja 3, Anthony Larry 2, Will Edge 2, Will Katoa 1, Artise Gauldin 1, Rusty Haehl 1, Grant Williams 1 (includes one start on offense in 2009).
Offense (249 starts by 22 players): Chris Powers 27, Nikolai Myers 26, Gabriel Jackson 26, Nicholas Edwards 26, Taiwan Jones 22 (includes four on defense in 2008), Matt Martin 19, Brandon Kaufman 19, Brice Leahy 12, Steven Forgette 14, Bo Levi Mitchell 14, Will Post 13, Ashton Gant 7, Zack Gehring 6, Darriell Beaumonte 3, Tyler Hart 3, Mario Brown 3, Clint Moquist 2, Greg Herd 3, Brandon Murphy 1, Nick Gauthier 1, Josh Antonson 1, Ryan Seto 1.
Eagles 3-0 Without Jones as Mitchell Throws for 11 Touchdowns and 931 Total Yards
Yes, there is life without Taiwan Jones, Eastern's uuber-talented running back who had a year of eligibility remaining but declared himself eligible for the NFL Draft. The junior rushed for 1,742 yards and scored 17 total touchdowns in 10 full games played and parts of two others in 2010. But a foot injury ended his season against North Dakota State in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs, causing Jones to miss the last two games of EWU's championship run.
Eastern was 3-0 in the 2010 season when it was forced to play without its two-time All-American. Eastern junior quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell was impressive in all three of those games, completing a combined 68 percent of his passes (79-of-117) in those three games for a passing efficiency rating of 162.0. Most importantly, in those games he directed Eastern on 11 touchdown drives of at least 63 yards.
Included in the wins without Jones was EWU's 41-31 semifinal victory over Villanova on Dec. 17 when true freshman Mario Brown rushed for a career-high 104 yards on 26 carries in his absence. Brown's 104 rushing yards marked the 10th individual 100+ rushing yard game of the season for Eastern Washington, and eighth in a row. Jones had all of the previous nine 100-yard performances, and Brown's previous career high was 54 yards in a 37-17 second round victory over Southeast Missouri State on Dec. 4.
Mitchell had three touchdown passes in the final 16:48 in the FCS title game to rally the Eagles to a 20-19 victory and earn the game's Most Outstanding Player honor. He completed 29-of-43 passes for 302 yards and one interception, and directed EWU on scoring drives of 80 (5 plays), 89 (14 plays) and 63 yards (8 plays). One game earlier, he completed 27-of-38 passes for 292 yards, no interceptions and four touchdowns in the win over Villanova. He led Eastern on touchdown drives of 63 yards (5 plays), 43 yards (8 plays), 80 (2 plays) and 63 yards (12 plays).
Earlier in the season without Jones, Eastern scored 21-straight second-half points after falling behind 17-14 to surge past Weber State 35-24 in a crucial Big Sky Conference football game. Mitchell passed for a career-high 337 yards and four touchdowns and the defense had three interceptions that led to scores. He directed Eastern on touchdown drives of 66 yards (9 plays), 65 yards (13 plays), 80 yards (6 plays), 68 yards (9 plays) and 67 yards (4 plays). Mitchell was 23-of-36 as he helped the team to leads after all four quarters.
As Jones' backup in 2010, Brown rushed for 341 yards on 100 carries for an average of 3.4 yards per rush with one touchdown. Junior Darriell Beaumonte added 219 yards on 81 carries for a 2.7 average per rush and two scores. They also combined for 28 catches for 208 yards and two more TDs. By contrast, Jones rushed for 1,742 yards in the 2010 season on 221 carries with a 7.9 average per rush and 14 scores on the ground. He also caught 24 passes for 342 yards and three touchdowns.
Turnovers a Key to Eagle Success
Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin has continually preached the importance of turnover margin, and the Eastern defense apparently took it to heart. The Eagles ranked first nationally in interceptions (total of 26) and turnovers gained (47), and finished 17th nationally in turnover margin (.80 less turnovers per game than its opponents) after ranking sixth in 2009 (1.25 less).
In the last two years, Eastern is 14-0 when it has fewer turnovers than its opponent. In 2010, the Eagles were 8-0 (11-0 including ties in turnovers with Sacramento State, Portland State and Delaware) after going 6-0 in 2009 when it won the turnover battle. In those 14 games, Eastern has had a 55-19 advantage in turnovers (33-15 in 2010 and 22-4 in 2009).
To illustrate its importance, in four-straight games in the FCS Playoffs, Eastern played a team ranked in the top seven nationally in turnover margin and significantly higher than the Eagles. Yet, Eastern forced more turnovers in those four games (13) than it committed (10).
Delaware entered the championship game ranked third in turnover margin (1.21 less per game), and was sixth in takeaways (31) and third in interceptions (20). The Blue Hens were also 10th in fewest giveaways with only 14 on the season -- including a FCS-low of three interceptions. In the end, each team had one interception as the lone turnovers in the game.
Villanova had entered the Dec. 17 meeting with Eastern ranked seventh in turnover margin in the FCS (1.00 less per game), with rankings of 10th in turnovers gained (29), 12th in interceptions (17) and 21st in turnovers lost (16). The Eagles won the turnover battle against the Wildcats 6-2.
Eastern's opponent the previous week, North Dakota State, entered the game sixth in turnover margin in the FCS (1.00 less per game), with rankings of fifth in turnovers gained (32), 14th in interceptions (16) and 46th in turnovers lost (19). The Bison won the turnover battle 5-3.
In the second round of the playoffs, Southeast Missouri entered the game second in turnover margin in the FCS (1.36 less per game), with rankings of sixth in turnovers lost (12), 14th in turnovers gained (27) and third in interceptions (19). Eastern forced four turnovers (two fumbles, two interceptions) and had just two itself (one fumble, one interception).
2011 Schedule for National Champs is Challenging
Putting together the 2011 Eastern Washington University football schedule was nearly as difficult as it will be to play it this fall for the national champions.
For the Eagles to defend their 2010 NCAA Division I Football Championship, Eastern will have to play games at Washington, South Dakota and Cal Poly. Those three teams were a collective 18-17 in 2009.
Although EWU is only playing four home games, those games are impressive -- including a match-up with fellow 2010 Big Sky Conference co-champion Montana State on Sept. 24 at Roos Field (formerly Woodward Field) in Cheney, Wash. Weber State visits the following week on Oct. 1 for Hall of Fame Weekend at EWU.
Eastern hosts Homecoming against Northern Colorado on Oct. 15, then ends its home schedule on Oct. 29 versus Portland State for Senior Day. Season tickets are now on sale at: http://goeags.com/tickets/ewas-fbticketcentral.html
"We have four tremendously entertaining home games, beginning the weekend when our students return to campus," said Eastern athletic director Bill Chaves. "All four games come within a span of a little over a month, so it should be great."
Washington is a member of the NCAA Football Bowl Division Subdivision (FBS), and defeated Nebraska 19-7 in the Holiday Bowl to finish 7-6 on the season. Eastern also plays NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Members Cal Poly and South Dakota State.
Although Cal Poly did not earn a berth in the FCS Playoffs, the Mustangs finished 7-4 and ranked 24th in The Sports Network/Fathead.com Top 25 poll. The school, located in San Luis Obispo, Calif., is currently a member of the soon-to-be-disbanding Great West Conference, but will join the Big Sky Conference in 2012.
South Dakota, located in Vermillion, S.D., was 4-7, but early in the year won at FBS foe Minnesota 41-38. The Coyotes are also a member of the Great West Conference and will join the Missouri Valley Football Conference in 2012.
Without being able to schedule an additional home game on Sept. 10 at Roos Field -- where Eastern was 8-0 in 2010 on the new red Sprinturf surface at the "Inferno" -- the Eagles were left with a string of three-straight road games to start the season. Included is a Sept. 17 matchup with Big Sky and FCS powerhouse Montana in Missoula.
"We really like the composition of playing 10 FCS schools and one FBS game," said Chaves. "If there was one thing I wish could have happened was that we had five home games and not four, but sometimes that is just what occurs in the scheduling process – it is inexact science. It took some time to complete the schedule given the challenges in the west from a FCS standpoint."
Eastern's schedule includes just four home games for the first time since 1981. However, Eastern has previously played just four games in Cheney in 2009 (plus one home game in Seattle), and 2008, 2000, 1999, 1998 and 1990 (with at least one additional home game each of those seasons in Spokane). Eastern utilized Albi Stadium in Spokane as the school's main home field from 1983-89, and played two home games in Spokane and three in Cheney in 1982.
Date - Opponent - Site - Tentative Time
Saturday, Sept. 3 - at Washington - Seattle, Wash.
Saturday, Sept. 10 - at South Dakota - Vermillion, S.D.
Saturday, Sept. 17 - at *Montana - Missoula, Mont.
Saturday, Sept. 24 - *Montana State - Cheney, Wash. - 4:05 p.m. (tentative)
Saturday, Oct. 1 - *%Weber State - Cheney, Wash. - 1:05 p.m. (tentative)
Saturday, Oct. 8 - at *Northern Arizona - Flagstaff, Ariz.
Saturday, Oct. 15 - *#Northern Colorado - Cheney, Wash. - 4:05 p.m. (tentative)
Saturday, Oct. 22 - at *Sacramento State - Sacramento, Calif.
Saturday, Oct. 29 - *Portland State - Cheney, Wash. - 1:05 p.m. - (tentative)
Saturday, Nov. 5 - Bye
Saturday, Nov. 12 - at Cal Poly - San Luis Obispo, Calif.
Saturday, Nov. 19 - at *Idaho State - Pocatello, Idaho
All Times Pacific. TIMES ARE TENTATIVE AND SUBJECT TO CHANGE CALL 509-359-6334 or 1-800-648-7697 FOR CHANGES
*Big Sky Conference Game. #Homecoming. %Eastern Athletics Hall of Fame Day.
Home Football Games in Cheney Take Place at Roos Field (formerly Woodward Field) on the EWU campus.
RETURNING PLAYER NOTES
Kaufman Gathers In Trio of Game-Winners
Sophomore Brandon Kaufman proved to be Eastern's go-to receiver in the 2010 season, catching a team-leading 76 passes to rank as the fifth-most in school history. His catches were good for 1,214 yards (fifth in EWU history) and 15 touchdowns (second behind the school-record of 19 set by Eric Kimble in 2004). His TD total was the second-most in the FCS as he caught a TD pass in 11 of 15 games in the 2010 season, including EWU's last seven regular season games. He had caught a pass in 18-straight games before his streak was broken versus North Dakota State, as the last time he failed to catch a pass was on Oct. 10, 2009, in the third game of his career. In addition, he had fourth-quarter game-winners against Northern Arizona, Southern Utah and Delaware, and had a game-tying catch with 3:08 left in EWU's come-from-behind win over Northern Colorado.
Kaufman was selected as the FCS Playoffs MVP by College Sporting News, thanks in part to his nine catches for 120 yards and two touchdowns in a 20-19 win over Delaware in the championship game, in which EWU rallied from a 19-0 deficit. He had a 22-yard TD catch with 16:48 left in the game for EWU's first score, then had a championship-clinching 11-yard scoring grab with 2:47 remaining. He caught eight passes for 135 yards against Villanova in the semifinals of the FCS Playoffs, including a 76-yard touchdown catch from Bo Levi Mitchell in the third quarter. Their 76-yard connection equaled the 30th-longest pass play in school history. He also had four receptions for 37 yards in the second-round triumph over Southeast Missouri State.
He finished his sophomore season ranked 25th in the FCS in receiving yards per game (80.9), was 45th in receptions per game (5.1) and his 15 touchdown catches were the second-most in the FCS. Kaufman had six 100-yard receiving performances in 2010, with those coming against Montana on Sept. 18 (five catches for 119 yards), Weber State on Oct. 2 (five catches for 138 yards), Northern Arizona on Oct. 9 (five catches for 117 yards), Southern Utah on Nov. 13 (nine catches for 129 yards), Villanova on Dec. 17 (eight catches for 135 yards) and Delaware on Jan. 7 (nine catches for 120 yards)
Against Southern Utah on Nov. 13, he caught a career-high nine passes for 129 yards with a long of 43, and had touchdown catches of 25 and 24 yards that were of the "how did he make that catch?" variety. His latter TD catch came with 3:39 left and provided the winning points in Eastern's 31-24 victory. In the next game against Idaho State, he scored EWU's first two touchdowns in the 34-7 victory with TD catches of 10 and 30 yards.
Among his three catches at Portland State on Oct. 30 was a 15-yard touchdown grab. He had just four catches for 34 yards against Sacramento State on Oct. 23, but he had a 17-yard touchdown to start the scoring and a game-winning 6-yard scoring grab with 33 seconds to go in the game. One game prior, he had a five-catch, 94-yard performance against Northern Colorado, which included a 4-yard touchdown pass with 3:08 left that knotted the score at 28. He is a 2009 graduate of Heritage High School in the Denver, Colo., area, just a short distance from the game played in Greeley. His family was at the game in force, reportedly purchasing 80 tickets for the game.
Having Started Every Game in Their Careers, Twins Keep Producing Big Numbers in Victories
Junior strong safety Matt Johnson and his twin brother Zach Johnson, a starting weak-side linebacker, had big performances in the last 11 games of the 2010 season. In those 11 contests -- all victories -- they combined for 189 tackles, five interceptions and 11 passes broken up. In the NCAA Division I Championship game, Zach Johnson had 15 tackles with a pair of sacks, and Matt Johnson added nine tackles and a pass broken up.
They have started every game they have played in their careers, with Matt up to 38 and Zach now with 25. Matt now ranks fourth in school history in interceptions with 15, and he is just three 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), who both have 17 each.
Matt has 289 tackles in his career to move into seventh all-time at Eastern, and had five interceptions in 2010 to help Eastern lead the FCS with 26. He had 105 tackles (19th in school history), eight passes broken up, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery in the 2010 season.
Zach Johnson finished second on the team with 134 tackles (sixth in school history), and also had 3 1/2 sacks, five passes broken up, two fumble recoveries and a forced fumble. Zach currently has 230 career tackles to rank 16th all-time at Eastern, and his average of 9.2 tackles per game is slightly better than the 7.8 average for his brother.
They combined for 14 tackles in EWU's semifinal victory in the FCS Playoffs over Villanova, with Matt leading the way with nine tackles, an interception, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. One week earlier, they combined for 22 tackles in Eastern's 38-31 overtime victory over North Dakota State. Zach also had a pair of passes broken up and had the fumble recovery on the game's final play that secured EWU's win.
Zach had a career-best 18 tackles in Eastern's 34-21 victory over Southern Utah in which he also had a sack and a pass broken up. Matt chipped in five stops.
Matt was selected as the Big Sky Conference Defensive Player of the Week for the second time in the 2010 season and third time in his career following EWU's 28-24 win over Sacramento State on Oct. 23. He finished with nine tackles, an interception and had three passes broken up for the Eagles. Matt returned his first-quarter interception 42 yards to set-up EWU's first score en route to a 21-0 lead. Later in the quarter, he broke-up a pass on third down that led to Sac State turning the ball over on downs. His third pass broken up came on a Hail Mary pass on the final play of the day, a play that he could have secured for his 15th career interception but instead, safely batted the ball to the ground to end the game.
Zach had 12 tackles and a pair of passes broken up in the win over Sac State. Zach had 13 tackles and an interception in a 35-28 victory over Northern Colorado on Oct. 16, while Matt finished with nine stops. In a 21-14 win over Northern Arizona on Oct. 9, Zach helped make a stop on a fourth-and-12 play at the EWU 38-yard line with 3:37 to play to help preserve EWU's victory. Zach finished with 11 tackles and a pair of tackles for loss and Matt added nine tackles and a pass broken up.
In Eastern's 35-24 victory over Weber State, Matt had the 13th interception of his career that led to a first-quarter scoring drive for the Eagles. Matt also had six tackles versus Weber State and Zach finished with 10 tackles.
Matt also was huge 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. Matt earned his first Big Sky Conference Defensive Player of the Week honor after tying the Big Sky Conference record with four interceptions in 47-10 win over Portland State on Oct. 31, 2009, in the "Showdown on the Sound" at Qwest Field in Seattle, Wash.
Mitchell Has Triumphant Return to Texas
Transfer Bo Levi Mitchell had a triumphant return to his home state, passing for 302 yards and three touchdowns to earn Most Outstanding Player accolades in leading Eastern to a come-from-behind 20-19 victory over Delaware in the NCAA Division I Championship Game on Jan. 7, 2011, in Frisco, Texas. Mitchell is from Katy, Texas, and transferred from Southern Methodist University following the 2009 season. SMU is located in Dallas, about 25 minutes from Frisco, while his hometown of Katy is about five hours away. He completed 29-of-43 passes and directed EWU on scoring drives of 80 (5 plays), 89 (14 plays) and 63 yards (8 plays).
His three touchdowns against Delaware gave him 37 for the season and helped him break the single-season school record of 34 set by Matt Nichols in 2007. Mitchell also broke school records for attempts (505) and completions (300).
For the season, Mitchell completed 59.4 percent of his passes for 3,496 yards (fifth in school history), a school-record 37 touchdowns, 15 interceptions and a passing efficiency rating of 135.8. In NCAA Football Championship Subdivision statistics, he finished ranked 20th in passing offense (233.1 yards per game), 26th in total offense (236.2) and 26th in efficiency (135.8).
Eastern was 3-0 in the 2010 season when it was forced to play without All-America running back Taiwan Jones, and Mitchell was impressive in all three games. He completed a combined 68 percent of his passes (79-of-117) in those three games for a passing efficiency rating of 162.0. Most importantly, in those games he led Eastern on 11 touchdown drives of at least 63 yards.
Besides the Delaware game when EWU had to play without Jones, one game earlier Mitchell completed 27-of-38 passes for 292 yards, no interceptions and four touchdowns in a semifinal win over Villanova on Dec. 17. He directed Eastern on touchdown drives of 63 yards (5 plays), 43 yards (8 plays), 80 (2 plays) and 63 yards (12 plays).
Earlier in the season without Jones, Eastern scored 21-straight second-half points after falling behind 17-14 to surge past Weber State 35-24 in a crucial Big Sky Conference football game. Mitchell passed for a career-high 337 yards and four touchdowns and the defense had three interceptions that led to scores. He led Eastern on touchdown drives of 66 yards (9 plays), 65 yards (13 plays), 80 yards (6 plays), 68 yards (9 plays) and 67 yards (4 plays). Mitchell was 23-of-36 as he helped the team to leads after all four quarters. His final three scoring drives came 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.
Mitchell had just 38 yards through 37 1/2 minutes of EWU's playoff victory over North Dakota State on Dec. 11. But he was 5-of-13 for 78 yards during a 13-play, 90-yard drive to knot the game with 23 seconds to play on a 4-yard touchdown pass to Nicholas Edwards. He converted two plays on fourth down on the drive and also had a 40-yard pass to Edwards. Mitchell, who was 13-of-32 for 141 yards, two interceptions and three touchdowns in the game, provided the game-winning points with a 25-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Hart on the first play of overtime,
A week prior, he had a 21-of-34 effort against Southeast Missouri State in which he had a pair of second half touchdowns and 178 total yards. One game earlier, Mitchell earned high praise after passing for 256 yards and four touchdowns in EWU's 34-7 win over Idaho State. Mitchell was 20-of-25 for 213 yards and four touchdowns in the first half alone as he directed the Eagles on scoring drives of 55, 63, 71 and 95 yards. He closed the game 26-of-38 (68.4 percent) for 256 yards and no interceptions.
In EWU's 31-24 win over Southern Utah, he was 21-of-34 for 211 yards and a pair of touchdowns, both to Brandon Kaufman. He led Eastern on a game-winning 55-yard drive, capped by Kaufman's 24-yard TD catch.
In EWU's 35-28 win over Northern Colorado on Oct. 16, Mitchell completed 16-of-25 passes for 172 yards, a touchdown and one interception, including an impressive 7-of-8 for 57 yards in EWU's game-tying drive late in the game in which he utilized five different receivers.
In games against Weber State on Oct. 2 and Northern Arizona on Oct. 9, he completed 69 percent of his passes (43-of-62) with seven touchdowns, three interceptions, an average of 312.5 yards per game and a passing efficiency rating of 181.61. In his first four games of the season, he completed 51.4 percent of his passes for six touchdowns, four interceptions (three returned for touchdowns), 236.8 yards per game and a passing efficiency rating of 113.07. Mitchell had a 20-of-26 performance for 288 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions against Northern Arizona.
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 Wins Quarterback Job in Spring 2010
Transfer Bo Levi Mitchell secured the starting quarterback position for the 2010 season 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.
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 had only 10 pass attempts between them as redshirt freshmen in 2009. In the 2010 season, Gauthier was a junior who transferred from Bakersfield College in California and Vitto was a freshman. The sixth quarterback 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 became Eastern's starter at free safety. Vitto and Gauthier became 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.
Ena Returns to End After 2009 Move to Linebacker
One of Eastern's most versatile players, sophomore defensive end Paul Ena made big plays early and often in EWU's 50-17 victory over Portland State on Oct. 30, 2010.
On PSU's first possession of the game, he had two quarterback hurries, then recovered a fumble on the ensuing third down play on one of six three-and-outs (plus a four-down turnover on downs) for the Eagles. Three of those three-and-outs came on PSU's opening three possessions as Eastern jumped out to a 14-0 lead, and at one point had a 183-5 advantage in total offense. Later in the half, he had a 13-yard tackle for loss that led to a punt and a 65-yard scoring run by Taiwan Jones that gave EWU a 28-3 advantage. Ena also combined with J.C. Sherritt for another tackle for loss on that possession, and finished with four tackles in the game, including 2 1/2 for loss.
After starting the season at linebacker, he began his second tour of duty at defensive end for the Eagles, and he started at that position against Weber State on Oct. 2. For the season, Ena had 55 tackles with 8 1/2 for loss including 2 1/2 sacks. He also had five quarterback hurries, an interception and four fumble recoveries. Two of his fumble recoveries came against Villanova on Dec. 17 in the semifinals of the FCS Playoffs.
As a true freshman in 2009, Ena played as a backup defensive end, 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.
Jerry Ceja Makes Dreams Come True for Defensive Tackles
Thanks to huge plays made by sophomore defensive end Jerry Ceja, Eastern defensive tackles have some great memories. And those plays helped the Eagles win two games during its trek to the national title.
A sophomore from Aurora, Colo., Ceja made the first start of his career at Northern Colorado on Oct. 16 and he had the team's defensive play of the game. He forced a fumble on a sack late in the game that was picked up by teammate Tyler Jolley and returned 17 yards. That gave EWU the ball 39 yards from the end zone and led to EWU's winning touchdown with 41 seconds to play in the 35-28 victory.
Earlier in the season, Ceja forced a fumble on a sack on the final play of the game that was returned 34 yards for a score by Renard Williams and secured EWU's 36-27 victory over the Grizzlies.
For the season, Ceja had 23 tackles with five sacks, three forced fumbles and three quarterback hurries. Two of his sacks and a hurry came in the semifinals of the FCS Playoffs against Villanova. He is a 2009 graduate of Grandview High School in Aurora, just a short distance from the Oct. 16 game played in Greeley, Colo. His older brother, Dominique Ceja, is a backup offensive tackle for Northern Colorado,
Williams Up to 17 1/2 Career Sacks
Eastern defensive tackle Renard Williams, who had nine sacks to earn first-team All-Big Sky Conference honors in 2009, finished with 6 1/2 in the 2010 season to repeat as an All-Big Sky selection and earn All-America honors in the process, as he was selected to the College Sports News "Sweet 63" All-America Team.
He had a two-sack effort against North Dakota State on Dec. 11 for the fourth multi-sack performance of his career. He now has 17 1/2 in his career to rank 10th in school history. Constantly drawing double teams from opposing teams, Williams has 116 tackles in his 38-game career, including 34 for losses totaling 201 yards.
Miller Boots Them Long
Strong-legged Kevin Miller finished 2-of-3 kicking field goals for the Eagles in the 2010 season and also handled kickoffs for EWU. He booted a 48-yarder in the third quarter of EWU's 34-7 win over Idaho State on Nov. 20 to equal the 23rd-longest in school history. He also made a 44-yarder at Portland State on Oct. 30 and had a 44-yarder blocked against North Dakota State on Dec. 11.
A 2009 graduate of Centennial High School in Portland, Ore., he also averaged 58.7 yards on six kickoffs against ISU and its prolific kickoff returner Tavoy Moore, who had five returns for 93 yards with a long of 38. ISU started possessions inside its own 20 four times, with an average field position of its own 24-yard line.
He finished the 2010 season averaging 64.2 yards on 81 kickoffs with 15 touchbacks. As a freshman in 2009, he averaged 63.0 yard per kick with 14 touchbacks on 47 kickoffs.
Eastern junior running back Darriell Beaumonte was once a blocking fullback in Eastern's offense. But the first-team All-Big Sky Conference special teams selection did a different kind of blocking in the 2010 season.
After leading 28-10 at intermission against Portland State on Oct. 30, the Eagles turned a blocked punt by Beaumonte into a recovery for a touchdown by T.J. Lee to increase the advantage to 18. Beaumonte, a 2007 graduate of Clover Park High School in Tacoma, Wash., also had a huge special teams play in EWU's 36-27 victory over Montana on Sept. 18. He blocked a punt that he returned himself six yards for a score to wipe out Montana's last lead of the day. It was EWU's first blocked punt returned for a TD since 2004.
Also a kickoff and punt coverage special teams standout, Beaumonte has been credited with 26 tackles in his career. He had three in 2008, eight in 2009 and 15 in 2010, as he earned first-team All-Big Sky Conference honors and was selected as the team's Special Teams Player of the Year.
He was a fullback in 2008 as a redshirt freshman, then proved to be more valuable with the ball in his hands and moved to running back the following season. As EWU's backup running back behind All-American Taiwan Jones, he rushed for 135 yards and a touchdown in 2009 and had 219 yards and a pair of rushing TDs in 2010. When Jones was sidelined because of an injury on Oct. 2 versus Weber State, he responded with a 78-yard rushing performance, scoring once on a rush and another on a TD reception in EWU's 35-24 win.
In his career, Beaumonte has rushed for 379 yards and three touchdowns, and has caught 16 passes for 132 yards and one more score.
Thanks to a Wager, Twins Easier to Tell Apart
A friendly wager between teammates helped make it easier for people to tell identical twins Zach and Matt Johnson apart in the 2010 season. Zach had a friendly wager with starting free safety Jeff Minnerly and redshirt Ronnie Hamlin as to who could go the longest without cutting their hair.
Although Minnerly also sported a "Grizzly Adams" full beard until the season concluded, facial hair was not included in the wager, because Zach admitted he couldn't grow any. Meanwhile, Zach's twin brother Matt Johnson continued to sport a short-cropped haircut as both players had for their careers until the 2010 season. Even their jersey numbers can be confusing, having changed their numbers in 2009 after wearing entirely different numbers as freshmen in 2008. Then, in the middle of the 2009 season, Matt moved from No. 5 to No. 10 as a tribute to his brother, who was lost for the season with a blood clot in his leg. They returned to their normal numbers in the 2010 season, with Matt wearing No. 5 and Zach utilizing No. 10.
After the season ended, Zach cut his hair -- a short-cropped haircut like his brother -- and dropped out of the competition, leaving Minnerly and Hamlin to determine a winner.
Notes On Other Eagles
Head Coach Beau Baldwin: Baldwin is entering his fourth season as Eastern Washington's head coach. After guiding the Eagles to a 6-5 record in 2008, he led EWU to the FCS Playoffs with an 8-4 record in 2009 and a 13-2 mark in the 2010 season that included a co-championship with Montana State in the Big Sky. Baldwin served as the head coach at Central Washington in 2007, leading the Wildcats to a 10-3 record and the NCAA Division II quarterfinals. He also was the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for EWU from 2003-06. In a short amount of time, Baldwin has taken a perennial playoff participant and honed it into a national champion. Ironically, many observers didn't even have EWU ranked as a top 25 team before the 2010 season began, but the Eagles finished both the regular season and playoffs ranked No. 1.
Center Chris Powers: Powers has started 27 career games -- the most among all Eastern players on offense. He represents the 17th time an EWU offensive lineman has earned All-America accolades in the last 18 years (1993-2010), with Eastern offensive linemen winning 19 first-team All-Big Sky honors in that same time period. Eastern finished the 2010 season ranked 22nd in the FCS in total offense (397.1 yards per game), as well as rankings of 26th in passing (241.0), 49th in rushing (156.1) and 18th in scoring (31.5).
Safety Jeff Minnerly: The sophomore free safety, a 2008 graduate of Ferris High School in Spokane, Wash., was awarded the "Elite 88" Award by the National Collegiate Athletic Association. He received the award for having the highest cumulative grade point average among the participants in the 2011 NCAA Division I Football Championship Game at Pizza Hut Park in Frisco, Texas. Eastern won that game 20-19, as Minnerly finished with two passes broken up and two tackles. Minnerly was a 4.0 student at Ferris where he excelled in football and basketball, and is currently a finance major at EWU with a 3.88 grade point average. Earlier in the 2010 season, Minnerly was honored as an honorable mention All-Big Sky Conference selection and was also chosen for the ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District VIII squad as selected by members of the College Sports Information Directors Association (CoSIDA). He was selected to the Big Sky Conference All-Academic team for the second time in 2010 and was selected as EWU's Scholar-Athlete for the month of December. He had 48 tackles, three interceptions and four passes broken up for the year.
2010 SEASON RECAP
2010 Championship Season Recap
After a season full of late-game rallies and gut-wrenching victories, Eastern Washington University football coach Beau Baldwin had a simple response following his team's 20-19 victory over Delaware in the NCAA Division I Football Championship Game Jan. 7, 2011, at Pizza Hut Park in Frisco, Texas.
"Why wouldn't we?"
That became the mantra of Baldwin and his team, long before the title game victory in which the Eagles scored three touchdowns in the final 16:48 of the game to rally from a 19-0 deficit and end their season with a school-record 11-game winning streak. Eastern won six games when it trailed or was tied in the fourth quarter. But the championship game victory was by far the largest deficit the Eagles faced in those six games, and the most gratifying.
Texas native Bo Levi Mitchell was selected as the game's Most Outstanding Player after passing for all three Eastern touchdowns in the comeback. He finished with 302 yards through the air, giving him a school-record 37 TD passes for the season. Defensively, Buck Buchanan Award Winner J.C. Sherritt had 18 tackles to equal the seventh-most in school history, as the Eagles held the Blue Hens scoreless on their last four possessions.
"This game wouldn't be right if that didn't happen -- if we didn't go down 19-0 and have to make a comeback," said Mitchell, who is formerly from Katy, Texas, and transferred from Southern Methodist University near Frisco. "And for these players -- especially J.C. -- to make a stop on defense to win this game, if it wasn't like that, it just wouldn't be right."
Baldwin's team found itself behind 19-0 mid-way through the third quarter and had been out-gained 337-98 at that point in total offense. Eastern dominated the rest of the game, owning a 229-90 advantage with touchdown drives of 80, 89 and 63 yards.
"In that type of ballgame against an incredibly talented and great Delaware team, it came down to those players on the field," said Baldwin of his team, which included just two senior starters on offense and four more on defense. "Our players just never quit fighting."
Besides finishing 8-0 on its new, red Sprinturf surface at Roos Field (formerly Woodward Field), Eastern was 3-0 without its All-America running back Taiwan Jones. The junior rushed for 1,742 yards and scored 17 total touchdowns in 10 full games played and parts of two others, but a foot injury ended his season against North Dakota State in the quarterfinals as he missed the last two games of the playoff run. Jones would later announce he was leaving EWU early to declare himself eligible for the NFL Draft.
In particular, the overtime victory against North Dakota State tested Eastern's mettle, as the Eagles had to go on a 13-play, 90-yard drive to knot the game with 23 seconds to play in regulation.
They were tested again against Delaware, scoring what would prove to be the game-winner with 2:47 left in the game. Mitchell had touchdown passes of 22 yards to Brandon Kaufman, 9 to Nicholas Edwards and 11 to Kaufman to end those three drives, then Eastern stopped Delaware on downs at the EWU 39-yard line with 47 ticks of the clock left to wrap-up the title.
Eastern was no stranger to narrow victories, with nine of Eastern's wins coming by an average of 6.2 points per game, including seven decided by seven points or less. Of those nine games, the Eagles trailed or were tied in the fourth quarter of six of them, in one they trailed in the third quarter and in the other two they were scoreless in the final stanza.
"Like Bo said, we've been through a lot of tough times," explained Sherritt after the title game. "And sometimes the offense can't get going, but when the national championship is on the line against the No. 1 defense in the country, it might take a while. And I've watched him have a bad game all the way up until two minutes left when the snow's coming down and he has to go 90 yards.
"And we've always had confidence in him," continued Sherritt, who finished his career with a school record 432 tackles. "Our defense doesn't panic, because we know they're going to get it going eventually, just like they did (against Delaware). When they had to come through, they did. Just like they have all year.
"And if we didn't believe that, we wouldn't be in the position that we are."
But playing in January -- after all but a handful of other colleges and most NFL teams have already concluded their seasons -- was strange to say the least. Despite the late-season loss of Jones, the Eagles were a confident bunch of players who relied on being loose through the direst of circumstances.
"Our crew, at times, had what I call a loose focus," Baldwin explained. "But honestly, I think that helped them in a lot of tough situations. They didn't get tight and worried or afraid to be in a challenging spot. To have the opportunity to practice and play this late in the season, they had a blast because you don't have those moments very often."
Making Believers Out of the Nation, Eagles finish No. 1 in The Sports Network Poll
The national champion Eastern Washington University football team made believers out of a nation.
The Eagles finished the year the way they ended the regular season as the No. 1-ranked team in The Sports Network/Fathead.com Top 25 NCAA Football Championship Subdivision final poll released Jan. 10.
It was the first time since 2006 that a FCS team finished No. 1 in both the final poll as well as the poll to end the regular season. Appalachian State did it that year after beating Massachusetts 28-17 for the FCS title.
But most importantly, Eastern's voting totals soared in the final poll as the Eagles received 121 of 122 first-place votes cast and 3,049 votes overall (out of a possible 3,050). To end the regular season, Eastern received 64 out of 129 first-place votes and 3,096 total votes (out of a possible 3,225) in the poll of sportswriters, broadcasters and sports information directors.
Interestingly, Eastern was picked as only a No. 5 seed by the NCAA FCS Football Championship Selection Committee entering the playoffs. However, Eastern defeated third-seeded Delaware 20-19 in the championship game, while the other three seeds were knocked out in higher rounds.
Top-seeded Appalachian State was defeated by Villanova 42-24, a week prior to Eastern knocking off the Wildcats 41-31 to advance to the title game. Second-seeded William & Mary lost 31-15 in its playoff opener to Georgia Southern, which advanced to the semifinals before losing to Delaware 27-10. And fourth-seeded Montana State lost to North Dakota State 42-17, a week before Eastern knocked off NDSU 38-31 in overtime in the quarterfinals.
"I'm so happy for all our players, and especially happy for the seniors, because you knew no matter what, it was going to be their last college football game," head coach Beau Baldwin said. "And with the hard work they've put in, they deserve to go out as champions, because they work like that. That's the character they have. It was fun to watch this team play."
Eagles No. 1 in Coaches Poll; Receive Vote in AP FBS Poll
Eastern also finished as the No. 1 team in the Football Championship Subdivision Coaches Poll as a unanimous choice for the top spot, receiving 25 first-place votes and 625 points overall in the poll announced Jan. 11. The Eagles even received a vote in the Associated Press poll for schools at the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) level.
The Eagles finished the final regular season poll in the top spot by both the coaches and TSN, but earned a No. 5 national seed in the FCS Playoffs. Eastern Washington, however, did maintain home field advantage until the championship matchup with Delaware in Frisco, Texas.
The FCS Coaches Poll is based exclusively on a voting panel of head coaches in the FCS under the cooperation of the Collegiate Commissioners Association (CCA) and the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) and is administered by the Southern Conference.
13 Seniors Depart
A total of 13 seniors, including seven four-year letter winners, were honored in pre-game ceremonies before the Idaho State game on Nov. 20.
In the last four seasons, Eastern has gone 36-15 with a 24-8 record in Big Sky Conference games in that span, but the class didn't win a Big Sky Conference title until the 2010 season. Of the seven four-year letter winners, Ashton Gant, J.C. Sherritt, Dante Calcote, Will Edge, Tyler Jolley and Matt Martin all redshirted the 2006 season after graduating from high school earlier that year. Only Jesse Hoffman, who redshirted in 2007, played as a true freshman in 2006 when Eastern finished 3-8 overall and 3-5 in the league. Eastern has had winning seasons ever since. Seven of the seniors were full-time starters in the 2010 season.
Interestingly, the 13 seniors in 2010 combined for 167 starts. By contrast, 17 seniors in 2009 combined for 350 starts in their careers and included 14 players who became four-year letter winners at Eastern. Eastern won 26 games in their four years. Here is a complete list of the seniors and the number of letters each has won (including the 2010 season; #indicates 2010 starter), as well as their career starts:
2 - Ashton Gant - WR - 5-10 - 180 - Sr. - 4L* - Pullman, Wash. (Pullman HS '06) - 7
4 - #J.C. Sherritt - LB - 5-10 - 220 - Sr. - 4L* - Pullman, Wash. (Pullman HS '06) - 35
18 - Jason Harris - TE - 6-1 - 215 - Sr. - 2L* - Sammamish, Wash. (Skyline HS '06)
21 - #Jesse Hoffman - DB - 6-2 - 210 - Sr. - 4L* - Seattle, Wash. (Shorecrest HS '06) - 16
28 - #Dante Calcote - DB - 5-8 - 160 - Sr. - 4L* - Seattle, Wash. (Renton HS '06) - 18
36 - Will Edge - DB - 6-0 - 180 - Sr. - 4L* - Tacoma, Wash. (Mount Tahoma HS '06) - 2
45 - Cameron Zuber - P - 6-0 - 180 - Sr. - 2L* - Chehalis, Wash. (W.F. West HS '06)
49 - #Tyler Jolley - DL - 6-3 - 285 - Sr. - 4L* - Nine Mile Falls, Wash. (East Valley HS '06) - 30
58 - Clint Moquist - OL - 6-3 - 280 - Sr. - 2L* - Spokane, Wash. (University HS '06) - 2
63 - Levi Reynolds - DL - 6-3 - 295 - Sr. - SQ* - Tacoma, Wash. (Foss HS '06)
72 - #Nikolai Myers - OL - 6-4 - 295 - Sr. - 3L* - Seattle, Wash. (Ingraham HS '06) - 26
79 - Brice Leahy - OL - 6-7 - 295 - Sr. - 3L* - Gig Harbor, Wash. (Gig Harbor HS '06) - 12
82 - #Matt Martin - TE - 6-2 - 240 - Sr. - 4L* - La Crosse, Wash. (La Crosse-Washtucna HS '06) - 19