Eagles Searching for Rare Two-Game Winning Streak Versus Grizzlies
For the 10th time in the last 16 meetings, No. 10 Eastern and No. 12 Montana will enter showdown nationally ranked
Eastern Washington Univ. “Eagles”
Univ. of Montana “Grizzlies”
Saturday, Sept. 17 • 12:05 p.m.
Washington-Grizzly Stadium (25,217) • Missoula
EWU Coach: Beau Baldwin (Central Washington ‘96)
School Record: 27-13/18-6 Big Sky Conference (4th Season)
Career Record: 37-16 (5th Season -- was 10-3 at CWU in 2007, 6-5 at EWU in 2008, 8-4 at EWU in 2009, 13-2 at EWU in 2010)
2010: 13-2 (NCAA Division I Champions)/7-1 BSC (co-champions)
2011: 0-1/0-0 Big Sky Conference
Last Game: South Dakota 30, EWU 17 (Sept. 10 in Vermillion, S.D.)
TV: Televised in the Spokane area by 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, Cable One 466) and in Montana by KPAX TV.
Radio: 700-AM ESPN “The Ticket” in Spokane. Larry Weir returns for his 21st season calling the play-by-play, with analysis handled by Paul Sorensen.
Internet Radio: www.espnnorthwest.com
Radio iPhone App: Search for “Spokane Radio” and download app
Weekly Coaches Show: Mondays 6 p.m. at the Q Sports Bar and Restaurant at Northern Quest Resort & Casino. . . 700-AM ESPN “The Ticket”, www.espnnorthwest.com & via iphone app. (search for “Spokane Radio” and download app).
The Eagles like their Grizzlies rare. Rare as in a two-game winning streak in the series, rare as in a win at Washington-Grizzly Stadium and rare as in any kind of win against the perennial NCAA Football Championship Subdivision powerhouse.
That – and a chance for the Eagles to win their first game of the season -- will be on the line this Saturday (Sept. 17) in Missoula, Mont., as Eastern Washington University takes on Montana in the Big Sky Conference opener for both schools. Kickoff at Washington-Grizzly Stadium is 12:05 p.m. Pacific time between the 10th-ranked Eagles and the 12th-ranked Grizzlies.
The game will be televised in the Spokane area and throughout Eastern Washington on 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, Cable One 466). It will also be televised in Montana by KPAX TV.
The radio broadcast of the game, featuring play-by-play announcer Larry Weir, may be heard on 700-AM ESPN "The Ticket", via the web at www.espnnorthwest.com and via iPhone application (search for “Spokane Radio” and download the free app).
Following a disappointing 30-17 loss at South Dakota last Saturday (Sept. 10), EWU enters the game 0-2. Eastern also plummeted to 10th in The Sports Network/Fathead.com FCS Top 25 poll after holding the No. 1 position for the first two weeks of 2011, as well as the polls at the end of the 2010 regular season and postseason. The Eagles won their final 11 games last season, including a 20-19 come-from-behind victory over Delaware in the NCAA Division I Championship Game.
“I don’t know if you need to use the loss as motivation – no matter what our record is we better be motivated for Big Sky football,” said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin following the USD loss. “The conference season starts and we will be motivated for the Montana Grizzlies.
“Everybody who is a competitor is going to want to fight back,” he continued. “This is a tough spot we’re in – it’s never easy to dig out of a 0-2 hole. But the only possible chance we have is to grind it out a practice at a time and a game at a time. All our energy needs to go toward playing Montana.”
A week after out-gaining Washington 504-250 in total offense, Eastern had a 380-324 edge versus South Dakota. However, the Coyotes rushed for a back-breaking 230 yards, compared to a paltry 11 yards for EWU, which was equally back-breaking.
“We need to go out there with a workmanlike attitude during the week,” stated Baldwin. “I know there are some adjustments we all need to make and that I definitely need to make. But I don’t want to get away from that and hit a panic button. We need to tweak some things, but mainly we just need to step it up.”
Montana, meanwhile, is 1-1 on the season after a convincing 37-23 home victory over Cal Poly, a team Eastern will face on the road on Nov. 12. Last year, Montana finished 7-4 overall and 5-3 in the Big Sky, and failed to advance to the FCS Playoffs for the first time since 1993. The Grizzlies also had their 12-year run of winning or sharing the Big Sky title snapped when the Eagles and Montana State were co-champions.
Eastern pulled out a dramatic 36-27 victory over the Grizzlies last Sept. 18 in the debut of Eastern’s new red Sprinturf surface at the “Inferno” at newly-renamed Roos Field. But that was only EWU’s 11th win in 37 all-time games versus the Grizzlies, who had won 14 of the previous 17 meetings until that Eagle victory. Eastern hasn’t had a two-game winning streak versus Montana since 1990-92 when the Eagles won three-straight.
Moreover, Montana has won 89 percent of its games at Washington-Grizzly Stadium – an impressive record of 164-21 -- since it opened in 1987. Eastern has won four of the 11 meetings there, with victories in 2005, 1997, 1992 and 1990.
This will be the 10th time in the last 16 meetings that both teams enter nationally ranked, but the first time in those 10 meetings that Eastern is rated higher than UM. In the FCS Coaches Poll, Eastern is ranked 10th and Montana is 11th.
“We want to make it a special week and get a special win,” stated Baldwin. “That will be our mindset and goal.”
After this week’s game – the third-straight on the road to begin the season for the Eagles – EWU plays its home opener Sept. 24 at 4:05 p.m. Pacific time against fellow defending league co-champion Montana State. The Bobcats are also 1-1, having easily defeated UC Davis at home last week, 38-14. Montana State is ranked fifth by The Sports Network and fourth by the coaches this week, and host 0-3 Minot State prior to coming to Cheney.
A fourth Big Sky school – Sacramento State – is ranked 20th by TSN and 24th by the coaches. After slaying the Eagles, South Dakota is ranked 24th and 23rd, respectively, in the two polls.
Eastern returns 15 starters from last year’s team that finished with a school-record 13 wins and just two losses. Twelve Eagle players garnered preseason honors, including seven who received All-America honors at the NCAA FCS level. Those players include quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell, wide receiver Brandon Kaufman, center Chris Powers and tackle Gabriel Jackson on offense, and safety Matt Johnson, linebacker Zach Johnson and tackle Renard Williams on defense.
PDF Link to Fact Book
The complete version of the 2011 EWU football fact book may be
Football Links and Headlines
EWU Football Web Page - http://goeags.com/sports/m-footbl/index
EWU Football News & Notes - http://www.goeags.com/sports/m-footbl/2011-12/news
Big Sky Conference Football - http://www.bigskyconf.com/index.aspx?tab=football&path=football
Spokane Spokesman-Review EWU Football Page - http://www.spokesman.com/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/DivisionIFCS.aspx
NCAA Statistics - http://web1.ncaa.org/mfb/mainpage.jsp?year=2011
College Sporting News - http://www.collegesportingnews.com
Championship Subdivision News - http://www.championshipsubdivisionnews.com
2010 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 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 the 2010 season. 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 won or shared every league title from 1998-2009. 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. Montana’s streak of league titles ended at 12 as EWU and MSU shared the 2010 title.
Nine recent games in the series have been decided by margins of 10 points or less. 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 Roos Field (formerly 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:
2011 - #10 Eastern Washington versus #12 Montana (in Missoula, Mont.)
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.)
Mitchell and Edwards are Early Leaders in NCAA Statistics
Eastern quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell and wide receiver Nicholas Edwards are early individual leaders in NCAA Statistics, thanks in part to two telling statistics. The Eagles are ranked third in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision in passing offense (421.0 yards per game), but are also just 108th out of 121 FCS teams in rushing offense (21.0). Eastern is 18th overall in total offense (442.0) and 60th in scoring (22.0).
Mitchell leads in passing yards (421.0) and total offense (413.5) per game, and Edwards leads in receptions per game (12.5 with a total of 25). Receiver Brandon Kaufman is seventh in receiving (9.0 with 18 total), and Edwards and Kaufman are sixth and 18th, respectively, in receiving yards per game (123.0 and 103.0).
Defensively, Eastern is 23rd in FCS in total defense, allowing an average of 287.0 yards per game. Eastern is sixth in passing defense (114.0), 69th in rushing defense (173.0) and 71st in scoring defense (30.0). The Eagles, however, are just 103rd in turnover margin (-2.5 per game) after ranking 17th in FCS last year and sixth in 2009.
Montana’s top team rankings on offense and defense thus far are 34th in passing (237.5), as quarterback Jordan Johnson ranks 21st in total offense (262.0) and 28th in passing offense (233.0). Linebacker Caleb McSurdy is second in tackles (15.0 per game with 30 total) and Sean Wren ranks fourth in punting (47.2 yards per punt).
No Winning Rallies Yet For Eagles
Already 0-2, Eastern hasn’t been able to produce the magic that propelled the Eagles to the NCAA Division I title. Eastern came an interception with 29 seconds left from upsetting Washington on Sept. 3, then a week later failed to rally from a 21-0 deficit in a 30-17 loss to South Dakota. Eastern trailed by 10 against the Coyotes and was driving for a score in the fourth quarter, but an interception and 66-yard return was the big blow in squelching that EWU comeback attempt.
A year ago, Eastern was no stranger to narrow victories. In nine of their wins last season, 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. Included was a 20-19 victory in the national championship game when the Eagles rallied from a 19-0 deficit to score three touchdowns in the final 16:48.
Eastern out-gained Washington 504-250 in total offense, but lost the turnover battle 4-0 and narrowly lost to the Huskies 30-27 in front of 58,088 fans at Husky Stadium in Seattle, Wash. The Eagles had a chance to win the game, but Washington’s Desmond Trufant – the younger brother of former Eagle Isaiah Trufant – intercepted a pass in the end zone with 29 seconds left to ruin Eastern’s upset bid. The loss spoiled a remarkable performance by senior quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell, who had the second-most passing yards in school history with 473.
A week later, Eastern had a 380-324 edge versus South Dakota. However, the Coyotes rushed for a back-breaking 230 yards, compared to a paltry 11 yards for EWU, which proved to be equally back-breaking. Eastern attempted 60 passes versus South Dakota after attempting 69 versus Washington. The Eagles also lost the turnover battle 2-1.
EWU Plays in Front of Fourth-Largest Crowd in School History at UW
The 55,088 on hand for Eastern’s 30-27 loss at Washington on Sept. 3, 2011, ranks as the fourth-largest crowd EWU has played against. Seven of the eight largest crowds Eastern has ever played in front of have now occurred since 2006.
Eastern's 2007 game at BYU in sold-out LaVell Edwards Stadium broke the year-old record for the largest crowd the Eagles have ever played in front of. Strong winds, rain, snow and temperatures ranging from 37-45 degrees didn't keep many fans at home as the announced crowd of 64,522 was even larger than the stadium's listed capacity of 64,045.
Eastern's 2006 game versus West Virginia at sold-out Milan Puskar Stadium was attended by 59,504 fans – at the time, that was the largest crowd by nearly 20,000 fans the Eagles had ever played against. The previous record was 39,581 set at Arizona State in 2002. Eastern's game at California in 2009 was the third-largest at 58,083. Below is a list of the 19 crowds in excess of 20,000 the Eagles have ever played against.
Attendance - Opponent - Date - Result
64,522 - at Brigham Young - Oct. 20, 2007 - L, 7-42
59,504 - at West Virginia - Sept. 9, 2006 - L, 3-52
58,083 - at California - Sept. 12, 2009 - L, 7-59
55,088 - at Washington - Sept. 3, 2011 - L, 27-30
49,887 - at Texas Tech - Aug. 30, 2008 - L, 24-49
46,417 - at Colorado - Sept. 6, 2008 - L, 24-31
39,581 - at Arizona State - Aug. 31, 2002 - L, 2-38
38,071 - at Oregon State - Aug. 31, 2006 - L, 17-56
34,389 - at Air Force - Sept. 11, 2004 - L, 20-42
30,782 - at Oregon State - Sept. 2, 2000 - L, 19-21
27,323 - at U.S. International - Oct. 28, 1967 - W, 44-19
25,751 - at Montana - Oct. 17, 2009 - L, 34-41
25,493 - at Boise State - Oct. 14, 2000 - L, 23-41
23,739 - at Montana - Oct. 15, 2005 - W, 34-20
23,329 - at Montana - Nov. 15, 2003 - L, 10-41
23,226 - at Montana - Oct. 6, 2007 - L, 23-24
21,981 - at Boise State - Oct. 9, 1999 - L, 7-41
21.487 - at Boise State - Sept. 21, 1991 - L, 17-31
21,145 - at San Diego State - Aug. 30, 2003 - L, 9-19
2010 All-America Recap
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 30 Players With Combined 335 Starts
The Eagles return 30 players with a combined 335 starts between them entering the 2011 season. Of Eastern’s 19 letter winners lost, 13 combined for 191 starts -- including 22 by Taiwan Jones, who left EWU early to declare himself eligible for the NFL Draft.
There are 15 players with starting experience returning on both offense and defense, with 168 total starts on defense and 167 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 2011 roster.
Defense (190 starts by 20 players): Matt Johnson 40, Renard Williams 31, Zach Johnson 28, Tyler Washburn 19, Paul Ena 15, Evan Cook 13, Jeff Minnerly 10, David Gaylord 9, Allen Brown 6, Grant Williams 3 (includes one start on offense in 2009), Jerry Ceja 3, Anthony Larry 2, Charles Moetului 2, Bobby Gentry 2, Jeremy Chaten 1, Alden Gibbs 2, T.J. Lee 1, Will Katoa 1, Rusty Haehl 1, Brandon Murphy 1 (includes one start on offense in 2010).
Offense (189 starts by 17 players): Chris Powers 29, Gabriel Jackson 28, Nicholas Edwards 28, Brandon Kaufman 21, Steven Forgette 16, Bo Levi Mitchell 16, Will Post 13, David Miles 10 (includes eight career starts on defense), Zack Gehring 8, Mario Brown 5, Darriell Beaumonte 3, Tyler Hart 3, Greg Herd 3, Caleb Worthington 2, Jase Butorac 1, Ashton Miller 1, Nick Gauthier 1, Ryan Seto 1.
Six Eagles Make Starting Debuts Versus Huskies
Six Eagles made the first starts of their careers versus Washington on Sept. 3, including just two on offense and four on defense.
On offense, sophomore Ashton Miller started at right guard, but his debut had a horrible finish. As he was helping Eastern toward a convincing 504-250 advantage in total offense, he suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon that will sideline him for the rest of the season. He is from Vancouver, Wash., and graduated from Evergreen High School in 2009.
The other starting debut on offense was by offensive tackle Caleb Worthington, who was an injury replacement for injured starter Will Post. He is a sophomore from Boise, Idaho, and graduated from Mountain View High School in 2007. All other offensive players have made at least one start in their careers.
On defense, a pair of senior cornerbacks made their starting debuts – Jeremy Chaten and Alden Gibbs. Chaten is a 2007 graduate of Seattle’s Franklin High School, and Gibbs is a former Eastern basketball player in just his second season of collegiate football. He is from Brooklyn, N.Y.
Senior Charles Moetului started at defensive tackle in his first start in the 30th collegiate game of his career. Senior Bobby Gentry played in his 36th career game, and made the first start of his career at weak-side outside linebacker. Moetului is a 2007 graduate of Mount Si High School and is from North Bend, Wash., while Gentry is a 2007 graduate of Seattle’s Kennedy HS. Eastern’s strong-side linebacker position was manned by junior Grant Williams, who started once before as a fullback in 2009 but made his first start on defense versus UW. He is a 2008 graduate of Rogers High School in Puyallup, Wash.
Against South Dakota on Sept. 10, cornerback T.J. Lee and offensive guard Jase Butorac made their first career starts. Lee is a 2009 graduate of West Seattle High School. Butorac and defensive linemen Evan Day are both 2010 graduates of Skyline High School in Sammamish. Day had his first career sack and forced fumble versus the Huskies, and had another sack the following week versus South Dakota.
Washington transfer Demitrius Bronson made his Eagle debut after playing previously for the Huskies. Washington State transfer Jake Miller and Boise State transfer Jimmy Pavel saw their first action as Eastern’s punter and kickoff specialist, respectively. Backup linebacker Ronnie Hamlin, who missed his redshirt freshman season with a knee injury, had a team-leading eight tackles in his collegiate debut versus the Huskies, then added four more against South Dakota.
Turnovers a Key to Eagle Success
Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin has continually preached the importance of turnover margin, and the Eagles took it to heart in the 2009 and 2010 seasons.
But this year, so far, the Eagles are down 6-1 in that and have given up 27 points off turnovers. Eastern is just 103rd in turnover margin (-2.5 per game) after ranking 17th in FCS last year and sixth in 2009. Eastern dominated Washington in total offense 504-250, but lost the turnover battle 4-0 as the Huskies capitalized with two short touchdown drives coming after turnovers by EWU’s punt return unit. An interception also led to a Husky field goal, and UW clinched the win with an interception in the end zone with 29 seconds left. South Dakota returned an interception for a touchdown, then turned another interception into a 66-yard return and eventually a field goal that gave the Coyotes a 13-point lead.
In 2010, 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 2010 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).
“It’s right there in front of you,” said Baldwin. “When you start getting into the playoffs and look at the teams that made it that far, you see what they all have in common are really good turnover margins. That is still the statistic that means the most to us, and it’s what we stress the most to the team. It determines your win-loss record more than any other statistic. It’s something we emphasize on both sides of the ball, and we’ll hit upon it in the spring and again in the fall. You have to try to simulate it and mentally get it into your head during practices. You have to work on drills, but as much as anything, it has to be such a focus mentally that you believe you are going to win that battle week-after-week.”
The Eagles also averaged more than two giveaways per game in the 2010 season – 19 fumbles and 16 interceptions for a total of 35.
“Even though we won the national title, we lacked in some areas,” Baldwin explained. “One of them was our ball security. We ended with a really good turnover margin, but that was because we led the nation in interceptions and takeaways. But the giveaway part on offense and special teams is something we need to improve on.”
Eastern sophomore Ashton Miller won the starting job at right offensive guard in the preseason, but suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon against Washington on Sept. 3 that will sideline him for the rest of the season. Miller is a 2009 graduate of Evergreen High School in Vancouver, Wash., and was making his first-ever start for the Eagles in the game versus the Huskies, in which EWU outgained UW in total offense 504-250.
Receiver Tyler Hart continues to nurse a knee injury that kept him out of the Washington and South Dakota games. He is also expected to be Eastern’s punt returner this year, and his absence versus the Huskies hurt Eastern. Eastern’s punt return unit had two turnovers and a mental error late in the game.
Also not playing against Washington and South Dakota was starting right tackle Will Post, who aggravated an ankle injury originally suffered this summer.
True freshman linebacker Cody McCarthy had arthroscopic knee surgery during the preseason and is expected to return soon, then a determination will be made whether or not he will redshirt.
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 an 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
Eastern Enters 2011 Season 8-0 at the “Inferno”
Finishing 8-0 at home in the 2010 season, the Eagles are the first Eastern team to go undefeated at Roos Field (formerly Woodward Field) since 1999 when EWU was 4-0. But it wasn’t easy -- in two games the Eagles trailed in the fourth quarter (Sacramento State, North Dakota State), in two they were tied in the final stanza (Montana and Southern Utah) and in another game the Eagles were scoreless in the fourth (Northern Arizona). They capped the unbeaten season with a 41-31 victory over Villanova on Dec. 17 in the semifinals of the FCS Playoffs.
“We feel like we had a home field advantage in the 2010 season, and our goal was to go undefeated at home,” said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin.
Other years Eastern was unbeaten at its current stadium site in Cheney came in 1997 (6-0), 1979 (5-0), 1974 (3-0) and 1967 (4-0). The 1985 team was 4-0 and the 1984 squad was 5-0 when all of EWU’s home games were played at Albi Stadium in Spokane. In 1982, Eastern was 5-0 at home -- 3-0 in Cheney and 2-0 in Spokane. In 1966, the year before Roos Field (formerly Woodward Field) opened for the first time, Eastern was 4-0-1 at Albi.
Eastern had 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 against the 12-time defending league champions.
Eastern followed that with a 21-14 victory over Northern Arizona three weeks later on Oct. 9, needing a huge defensive effort in the fourth quarter to hold-off the Lumberjacks. The Eagles had five turnovers in the game and NAU had 30 more offensive plays and a 10-minute edge in time of possession, but EWU stopped NAU three times on downs in its final three possessions of the game. Those drives ended at the Eastern 36, 3 and 38 yard lines, with 17:45, 11:33 and 3:37 left in the game.
The third victory was just as suspenseful, as Eastern led 21-0 early in the second quarter against Sacramento State on Oct. 23, but was out-scored 24-0 to fall behind mid-way through the fourth quarter. But the Eagles responded with a key defensive stop that was highlighted by a third down sack by sophomore defensive end Paul Ena followed by a 35-yard scoring drive that was capped by a Brandon Kaufman 6-yard touchdown catch from Bo Levi Mitchell with 33 seconds to play.
The fourth win was also a great escape, this time by a 31-24 score over Southern Utah on Nov. 13. Eastern was out-gained in total offense 484-366, and was shredded for 434 passing yards. But Eastern survived to win thanks to a pair of scoring plays of at least 62 yards, two huge touchdown catches by Brandon Kaufman, two interceptions in the last six minutes by Jesse Hoffman and a 4-1 advantage in the turnover department. Kaufman scored the winning points with 3:39 to play.
Finally, the Eagles had a breather against Idaho State in a 34-7 win. Tied at seven early in the second quarter, Eastern scored three touchdowns in the last 12:01 of the quarter -- all on touchdown passes from Bo Levi Mitchell. The Eagles led 28-7 at halftime and added a pair of field goals in the second half while holding the Bengals scoreless.
In the playoffs, a 37-17 win over Southeast Missouri State saw the Eagles out-score the Redhawks 20-0 in the second half after the game was tied 17-all at halftime. Against North Dakota State in the quarterfinals, the Eagles had to put together a 90-yard drive to tie the game with 23 seconds left, then won it in overtime with a 25-yard touchdown pass on the first play. A Bison fumble at EWU’s 1-yard line ended the game. The Eagles scored 20 unanswered points to take a 20-7 lead versus Villanova in the semifinals on Dec. 17, and they never trailed or were tied after that.
“It’s only the beginning, but we’re very happy to have it,” said Baldwin of EWU’s home-field advantage. “It’s something that our players have really grabbed onto as their own. It’s their home and they take pride in it.”
Eastern finished just off the pace to set the single season attendance record, with an average of 6,473 fans per game that ranks sixth in school history. Included was a Roos Field record crowd of 11,702 against Montana on Sept. 18. That crowd broke the previous school record of 11,583 set in a 2006 game versus the Grizzlies, helping the Eagles to an average that ranks just behind the record of 7,116 fans per game set in 2006.
Nine Former Eagles Currently in the NFL or CFL
Eastern has three former players currently playing in the National Football League and another six currently in the Canadian Football League.
A newcomer in the NFL is running back Taiwan Jones (Oakland Raiders), who rushed for 81 yards and a touchdown in his debut in a preseason game on Aug. 28 against New Orleans. The other current Eastern professional in the NFL is offensive tackle Michael Roos (Tennessee Titans), who now has 164 consecutive starts (through 9/11/11) dating back to his 2002 season at EWU. The third is cornerback Isaiah Trufant, who is back with the New York Jets -- a team he started his NFL career with in 2009.
After being waived by the Philadelphia Eagles on Aug. 30, Trufant flew home to the Seattle area, but was then signed by the Jets. Though he made the Jets’ initial 53-man roster after final cuts, he was waived Sept. 4 before being signed to the practice squad the following day. He was activated to the 53-man roster 24 hours before NBC’s Sunday night national telecast of New York’s season opener versus Dallas on Sept. 11. He had two tackles, and returned a blocked punt 18 yards for a touchdown that knotted the score at 24 with 5:08 left in the 27-24 Jets win. Trufant’s older brother, Marcus, plays for the Seattle Seahawks and his younger brother, Desmond, plays for Washington. Desmond had the victory-clinching interception in the end zone with 29 seconds left in EWU’s 30-27 loss to the Huskies.
The week prior to the EWU-Washington game on Sept. 3 was particularly tough for a pair of other former Eagles. Cornerback Jesse Hoffman was with the Seattle Seahawks before being cut on Aug. 29, just four days before Seattle hosted Jones and Oakland (and the night before Eastern played Washington). Tight end Nathan Overbay (Tampa Bay Buccaneers) was also cut that week.
Current Eastern professionals in the CFL include linebacker J.C. Sherritt (Edmonton Eskimos), who had 11 tackles in his regular season debut and has been among the league leaders in tackles as a rookie. Through 10 games, he had 58 tackles to rank second in the CFL. He is teammates at Edmonton with quarterback Matt Nichols and defensive end Greg Peach, who won the Buck Buchanan Award for Eastern in 2008 – two years before Sherritt won the same award. Also in the CFL are veteran defensive lineman Dario Romero (Saskatchewan Roughriders) and veteran defensive back Ryan Phillips (British Columbia Lions), as well as linebacker Shea Emry (Montreal Alouettes).
Former Eagle Tony Brooks on Commercial for State Farm Insurance
Former Eastern all-time leading receiver Tony Brooks is a State Farm Insurance agent, and he plays one in a popular television commercial for State Farm. In it, he is credited for buying a couple a live falcon because he saved the family so much on insurance. The video may be viewed at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i7ZpWFTUz34
Brooks lettered for Eastern from 1990-93 and is from Tacoma, Wash., and Mount Tahoma High School. He was a third team NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (then known as I-AA) All-American in 1993. He finished his career with a record 167 receptions (now fifth) for 3,013 yards and 26 touchdowns. He played on Eastern’s 1992 squad that shared the Big Sky Conference title with Idaho and advanced to the FCS Playoffs. He signed a contract with Winnipeg of the CFL in 1994 before going into the insurance business. Eastern selected him to its “100 for 100” All-Time Team in 2008. In 1999, Dick Zornes selected him to the "Z" Team consisting of 36 players that he felt were the best players and made the largest contributions toward the 158 games Eastern won in Zornes' 26-year association with Eagle Football.
Five Eagles Named as Co-Captains for 2011 Season
Five seniors who all earned preseason All-America honors have been selected by their teammates as Eastern Washington University’s co-captains for the 2011 football season, head coach Beau Baldwin has announced.
The players include one returning captain, quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell from Katy, Texas. The other two offensive captains include center Chris Powers and tackle Gabriel Jackson. Powers is from Black Diamond, Wash., and graduated from Tahoma High School in 2007. Jackson is from Tacoma, Wash., and graduated in 2007 from Mount Tahoma HS.
Captains on defense are twins Matt and Zach Johnson, who both graduated from Tumwater (Wash.) High School in 2007. Matt is a four-year starter at strong safety and Zach Johnson is a three-year starter at linebacker, with his entire 2009 season wiped out with a blood clot in his leg.
“This team is full of a lot of good leaders,” said Baldwin. “As we get into the early part of the season, we know there are going to be some tough moments. Our goal in each game on our schedule is to be focused and win, but even during great weeks you are going to have a lot of moments of adversity and when things are not going right. I think our good leaders are going to develop into great leaders when we have to battle through some things. I’m excited to see who emerges.”
All five players earned preseason All-America honors as selected by various news services as they entered the season with a combined 131 starts in their careers. Matt Johnson led the way with 38 starts, followed by Powers with 27, Jackson and Zach Johnson with 26 apiece, and Mitchell with 14 in his first season after transferring from SMU. The Johnson twins have started every game they have played as Eagles.
Powers and Matt Johnson were both All-Americans last season when they helped lead Eastern to the NCAA Division I Championship. Mitchell was named as the Outstanding Player in the title game when Eastern rallied for a 20-19 victory over Delaware.
Four Eagles on Watch Lists for Top Honors
Eagle senior quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell and junior wide receiver Brandon Kaufman were selected during the summer as two of the 20 players on the “Watch List” for the 2011 Walter Payton Award given annually by The Sports Network to the top player in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision.
A week later, safety Matt Johnson and defensive tackle Renard Williams were named to the 20-player preseason watch list for the 2011 Buck Buchanan Award given by The Sports Network to the top defensive player in FCS. The Buchanan Award was won last year by Eagle J.C.Sherritt, and two years before that by his former Eagle teammate and current Edmonton Eskimos teammate, Greg Peach.
Both awards are sponsored by Fathead.com.
The Payton Award will celebrate its 25th anniversary this season and be presented at The Sports Network National Awards Banquet on Jan. 6 in Frisco, Texas, on the eve of the NCAA Division I Championship Game. Last season, Eastern won the title in Frisco with a come-from-behind 20-19 victory over Delaware. The Buchanan Award is in its 17th season and will also be presented at TSN’s national awards banquet on Jan. 6 in Frisco, Texas.
Both watch lists will undergo revision during the 2011 season. Ballots will be sent to a panel of about 200 sports information and media relations directors, broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries after the regular season on Nov. 21. Three finalists will be announced on Dec. 1 and invited to The Sports Network/Fathead FCS Awards Presentation.
The Sports Network also presents the Jerry Rice and Eddie Robinson awards which are sponsored by Fathead.com. The Robinson Award (FCS coach of the year) is also celebrating its 25th anniversary, while the Rice Award (FCS freshman of the year) is in its inaugural season.
Former Eagle Erik Meyer, who is now the starting quarterback for the Spokane Shock in the Arena Football League, won the Payton Award in 2005. Jesse Chatman (2001), Matt Nichols (2009) and Taiwan Jones (2010) all finished fourth in the voting for the prestigious award.
Mitchell and Kaufman hooked-up nine times for 120 yards and two touchdowns in the FCS Championship Game, including the game-winning TD with 2:47 left. Kaufman finished the 2010 season with 76 receptions for 1,214 yards and 15 scores, and all but one of his grabs (a non-scoring 11-yard completion) came from Mitchell.
Kaufman received All-America accolades on the College Sporting News “Sweet 63” All-America Team and on the Phil Steele Publications All-America fourth team, as well as earning first-team All-Big Sky Conference accolades. Kaufman, who had 23 receptions for 294 yards and a touchdown as a freshman in 2009, was selected as the NCAA Championship Subdivision Playoffs MVP by College Sporting News.
Both Kaufman and Mitchell received Big Sky All-Academic accolades in 2010, and Mitchell was an All-Big Sky Conference honorable-mention selection. He then had a triumphant return to his home state when he passed for 302 yards and three touchdowns to earn Most Outstanding Player in the FCS Championship Game.
Mitchell transferred to Eastern from Southern Methodist in spring 2010, and quickly won the starting job. He completed 59 percent of his passes to finish with 3,496 yards, a school-record 37 touchdown passes and 15 interceptions as a junior.
Mitchell was 13-2 as a starter in 2010, and six times Eastern rallied for victories when trailing or tied in the fourth quarter. And most of the time, it was Mitchell who led the Eagles back from the depths of despair. In addition, Eastern was 3-0 in games when All-America running back Taiwan Jones did not play, and Mitchell had 11 touchdowns and 932 total passing yards in those games, with 11 touchdown drives of at least 63 yards.
Johnson, a 6-foot-2, 220-pounder who graduated from Tumwater (Wash.) High School in 2007, entered the 2011 season with the most starting experience on EWU’s entire roster with 38 career starts. He entered his senior season with 289 tackles, 15 interceptions and 13 passes broken up in his career, including 105 tackles, five interceptions and eight passes broken up in 2010.
A year ago, Johnson was selected to the College Sporting News “Sweet 63” All-America Team, and was a second-team selection on the Phil Steele Publications All-America squad and a third-team pick on The Sports Network’s A-A team. He also earned first-team All-Big Sky Conference honors after starting all 15 Eastern games at safety.
Williams also earned All-America honors from College Sporting News in 2010 and is a two-time first team All-Big Sky Conference selection. He had 54 total tackles with 6 1/2 sacks and four forced fumbles, as a junior after finishing with 9 1/2 sacks as a sophomore.
Featuring his signature celebratory salute following a big play he makes for Eastern, Williams entered the 2011 season with 18 sacks in his career to rank 10th in school history. Constantly drawing double teams from opposing teams, he entered his senior campaign with 116 tackles in his 38-game career (29 as a starter), including 40 for losses totaling 204 yards.
Kaufman Gathers In Trio of Game-Winners in 2010
Brandon Kaufman proved to be Eastern’s go-to receiver as a sophomore 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.
In his career, Kaufman has 117 receptions for 1,714 yards and 16 touchdowns, and is nearing Eastern’s top 10 all-time lists in all three categories.
He had caught a pass in 18-straight games before his streak was broken versus North Dakota State on Dec. 11, 2010, 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 Produced Big Numbers During 2010 Winning Streak
Safety Matt Johnson and his twin brother Zach Johnson, a starting 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 40 and Zach now with 28. Matt now ranks fourth in school history in interceptions with 16, and he is just two 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 300 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 246 career tackles to rank 11th all-time at Eastern, and his average of 8.9 tackles per game is slightly better than the 7.5 average for his brother.
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).
Despite playing just two seasons at Eastern, Mitchell already ranks ninth in school history for career passing yards (4,338), and is also sixth in touchdown passes (42), sixth in completions (377), seventh in attempts (634) and sixth in passing efficiency rating (132.8).
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,
Williams Up to 18 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 18 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 40 for losses totaling 204 yards.
Mike Jarrett Nearing Extra Point Records
Senior kicker Mike Jarrett is nearing school records for extra points made and attempted, as he ranks second in school history in both categories. He is 110-of-116 in his career, ranking only behind the 120-of-126 performance by Troy Griggs from 1999-01. Jarrett has scored 164 points to rank 14th all-time at EWU, including 18 field goals (eighth) and 32 field goals attempted (sixth).
His brother, Bryan, was an All-Big Sky Conference safety for the Eagles in 2005 and 2007 after transferring from Western Washington University.
A Year Later, Wager Continues Between Minnerly and Hamlin
A friendly wager between teammates is now in year two, but with one less competitor. Safety Jeff Minnerly, linebacker Ronnie Hamlin and linebacker Zach Johnson challenged each other to see who could go the longest without cutting their hair.
After the season ended, Zach cut his hair -- a short-cropped haircut like his twin brother Matt Johnson -- and dropped out of the competition, leaving Minnerly and Hamlin to determine a winner. A year later, neither seems ready to give in, and both have grown hair to their shoulders. Minnerly has also sported a “Grizzly Adams” full beard at times in the last year, although facial hair was not included in the wager.
Initially, the wager helped make it easier for people to tell the identical twins apart in the 2010 season. While Zach grew his hair out during the 2010 season, Matt continued to sport a short-cropped haircut as both players had for their entire careers to that point. 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 and 2011 seasons, with Matt wearing No. 5 and Zach utilizing No. 10.
Gibbs First to Letter in Both Football and Basketball Since Bob Picard in 1973
After lettering in basketball for Eastern Washington in the 2009-10 season, Alden Gibbs switched to football and lettered on special teams for the Eagles in 2010. Now a starting cornerback, Gibbs is the first Eagle to letter in both sports since Bob Picard in the early 1970’s.
Picard lettered in football in 1968, 1969, 1971 and 1972, and also lettered in basketball in the 1972-73 season. Picard held Eastern’s career receiving record for 21 years with 166 catches (now sixth) that were good for 2,373 yards and 19 touchdowns. His receiving record was broken by Tony Brooks in 1993. Picard had his No. 84 jersey retired, was inducted into the Eastern Athletics Hall of Fame in 2003 and was selected to the "100 for 100" All-Time Football Team in 2008 to help commemorate the 100th year of football at Eastern. In 27 career basketball games, Picard averaged 3.0 points, 3.4 rebounds and 1.6 assists. He went on to play three seasons (54 career games) in the National Football League for the Philadelphia Eagles, and ended his career at the first training camp of the expansion Seattle Seahawks in 1976.
Several other Eagles have played both football and basketball since Picard, but none have lettered in both. Wide receiver Jerrold Jackson lettered in football from 1993-96, and played one minute for the hoop squad in the 1995-96 season. All-America quarterback Harry Leons lettered in football for three seasons from 1995-97, and was also on the basketball roster for a short time but did not play. Henry Bekkering lettered in basketball for Eastern in the 2004-05 and 2005-06 seasons, and was also on the football roster in 2003. He played in four football games that season as a non-lettering squad member, and averaged 56.5 yards on 27 kickoffs, while routinely kicking the ball into the end zone.
Ena Enters Second Full Season at 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. 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 an offensive lineman for Northern Colorado,
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.
Notes On Other Eagles
Head Coach Beau Baldwin: Baldwin is in 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 28 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 junior 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 2010 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 3.83 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.
Kicker Kevin Miller: The Eagles hope to redshirt the strong-legged Miller, who 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 true freshman in 2009, he averaged 63.0 yard per kick with 14 touchbacks on 47 kickoffs.
Last Year in Cheney -- Jones and Late Scores Lift No. 18 Eagles Past No. 6 Grizzlies 36-27 in Red Turf Debut
The first football game on Eastern’s new red Sprinturf surface was a huge success as the 18th-ranked Eagles knocked off No. 6 Montana 36-27 on Sept. 18, 2010, in the Big Sky Conference opener for both schools at Roos Field in Cheney, Wash.
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. Junior kicker 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.
It was Eastern’s first victory over Montana since 2005, and the first in Cheney, Wash., since 1991.
“It feels amazing,” said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin. “And more than anything, I love it for the players. These seniors have never been a part of beating Montana. For these seniors it was huge, and that’s who I am most happy for. The players deserve it because they are the ones who came out and made the plays when we needed them. I’m happy for the team.”
It was the ninth time in the last 15 meetings both teams enter the game nationally ranked. 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 was hoping the change of turf and change of name altered its success in Cheney where the Eagles had a six-game losing streak.
“Obviously it was a huge game and we couldn’t have drawn it up any better in a lot of ways by winning,” said Baldwin. “But it’s still one game.”
The sold-out stadium featured a crowd of 11,702 as it set a new Roos stadium record. The previous record of 11,583 was set on Oct. 7, 2006 versus Montana. Eastern also set a new record for student attendance of 3,105, as the previous high was 2,218 in a 2008 game versus Montana.
That student crowd -- and other Eagle fans -- swarmed the field following the win. And they did it twice.
Eastern rallied from a 14-0 deficit and overcame three turnovers and a 2-of-15 performance on third down to pull out the win. A 12-play, 56-yard drive resulted in Jarrett’s go-ahead field goal with four seconds to play, then Montana tried several laterals on the ensuing kickoff before fumbling and recovering.
Fans thought the game had concluded and stormed the field, but officials assessed a penalty on Eastern and gave Montana one last untimed down. Ceja’s sack and the return by Williams clinched the victory, and once again, fans stormed the field.
Eastern improved to 2-1 while the Grizzlies fell to 1-2 for the first time since 1992 -- the last time Montana failed to reach the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs. Eastern, which has been to the playoffs four of the last five seasons, handed Montana its first regular season two-game losing streak since 2002, and snapped Montana’s 15-game winning streak in Big Sky games.
A candidate for the Walter Payton Award given to the top player in FCS, Jones scored on a 72-yard run in the second quarter and also had a 45-yard pass reception. He now has eight plays of at least 70 yards in his career, and 27 of at least 32 yards.
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.
Eastern junior quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell completed 17-of-37 passes for 234 yards and a touchdown, but was intercepted twice with one resulting in a 53-yard interception return for a touchdown. Sophomore Brandon Kaufman had five catches for a career-best 119 yards, including a diving 32-yard touchdown grab from Mitchell (he also had a diving 47-yarder earlier in the game).
Senior J.C. Sherritt paced the EWU defense with 12 tackles, and sophomore free safety Jeff Minnerly and junior linebacker Zach Johnson each had 10. Junior strong safety Matt Johnson chipped in eight tackles and a pair of interceptions -- giving him 12 in his career to rank fourth in school history -- and Jolley had a sack.
Jarrett was short on his first field goal attempt from 41 yards out, but made a pair of 20-yarders before his clutch kick at the end of the game.
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.”
Montana finished the game with six turnovers -- four fumbles and a pair of interceptions. Eastern, which ranked sixth in FCS in turnover margin a year ago, hadn’t forced six turnovers in a single game since 1997 against Portland State. Eastern’s defense also held Montana to a 3-of-15 performance on third down.
Two Years Ago in Missoula -- No. 21 Eagles edged by No. 3 Grizzlies 41-34
Eastern Washington tied the score with a late touchdown drive in the fourth quarter, but Montana responded with a touchdown drive of its own as the No. 3 ranked and unbeaten Montana Grizzlies edged the No. 21 Eagles 41-34 in a Big Sky Conference football showdown Oct. 17, 2009, at Washington-Grizzly Stadium in Missoula, Mont.
After falling behind by 14 points in the third quarter, Eastern rallied to knot the score at 27 and 34, with the last tie coming with just 4:58 left. But the Grizzlies went on an 11-play, 55-yard drive to score the winning points with 1:18 remaining.
Penalties (10 for 104 yards) and four failed fourth-down attempts also hurt the Eagles, who had 489 yards of total offense to Montana’s 353.
Senior quarterback Matt Nichols completed 32-of-49 passes for 312 yards and three touchdowns. In the process, he broke EWU’s career total offense record after breaking the career passing record a week earlier. Seniors Aaron Boyce and Tony Davis combined for 15 catches for 173 yards, with Boyce catching seven for 114 yards and a touchdown, and Davis finishing with eight grabs for 59 yards. Boyce, however, was lost late in the game with an injury to his left Achilles tendon. Sophomore running back Taiwan Jones also had a productive day, rushing 17 times for 145 yards. He had 241 yards of all-purpose yards, including 78 on kickoff returns and 18 more on three receptions.
Junior linebacker J.C. Sherritt had 17 tackles against the Grizzlies. Sophomore safety Matt Johnson added 14 stops against the Grizzlies and senior linebacker Makai Borden had 12.