September 5, 2011

Still No. 1 in Nation, Season-Opening Road Stretch Continues at South Dakota

Following difficult loss to swallow in 30-27 setback at Washington, Eastern plays its first-ever meeting with the Coyotes

 Click here for a complete .pdf version of this week's release


Eastern Washington Univ. “Eagles”
at
Univ. of South Dakota “Coyotes"

Saturday, Sept. 10 • 2 p.m. Pacific
DakotaDome (10,000) • Vermillion, S.D.

EWU Coach: Beau Baldwin (Central Washington ‘96)
School Record: 27-12/18-6 Big Sky Conference (4th Season)
Career Record: 37-15 (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: Washington 30, EWU 27 (Sept. 3 in Seattle, Wash.)
TV: Televised regionally by the Midco Sports Network
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).

 



For all the good karma that followed Eastern Washington University to the NCAA Division I Football Championship in 2010, the Eagles needed just a tad bit more last week. This Saturday, it will be all about living up to expectations for top-ranked EWU.

One big play short of being 1-0, the Eagles play fellow 0-1 NCAA Football Championship Subdivision foe South Dakota this Saturday at the DakotaDome in Vermillion, N.D. Kickoff is 2 p.m. Pacific time in a game televised regionally on the Midco Sports Network.

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).

Eastern out-gained Washington 504-250 in total offense, but lost the turnover battle 4-0 and narrowly lost to the Huskies 30-27 last Saturday (Sept. 3) 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.

 “We are 0-1 and we’ve got to just dig back,” said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin, whose team retained the No. 1 ranking in The Sports Network/Fathead.com FCS Top 25 poll despite the loss. “We don’t like the taste of being 0-1, but we’re going to find a way to fight and do the things we need to do in practice to come back. We need to do everything we can to get a win against South Dakota.”

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.

This week’s foe, however, is no stranger to the huge upset in games versus members of the NCAA Football Bowl Division. The Coyotes defeated Minnesota 41-38 on Sept. 11 last year, but ended up finishing just 4-7 overall and 1-3 in the Great West Conference.

Eastern will try to avoid Minnesota’s fate this Saturday in the first-ever meeting between the Eagles and Coyotes. Last week, South Dakota gave up an 80-yard reverse on the game’s first offensive play and fell behind Air Force 37-7. The Coyotes scored late twice in the 37-20 defeat.

The Eagles lived up their No. 1 ranking in the FCS preseason polls by dominating the Huskies on offense and defense, but they will have to do the same thing this week versus the Coyotes. With a huge target on its back after last year’s title run, EWU is in the midst of a murderous schedule.

After this week’s game, Eastern opens the Big Sky Conference season at perennial FCS power Montana (Sept. 17), then plays its home opener Sept. 24 against fellow defending league co-champion Montana State.

“We have to clean up some things -- we obviously made some mistakes in spots where they were able to score on short fields,” explained Baldwin of his team’s performance last week, including two turnovers by EWU’s punt return unit. “So those are the areas we need to come back and clean-up, but you know it’s just tough to be that close and lose. It’s tough when you’re in that spot and you have a shot to win at the end. But at the same time, I’m extremely pleased with the fight of our squad.”

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 found at:
http://goeags.com/trads/ewas-factbooks.html.

 

More Eagle 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


 

GAME NOTES

 

Near-Miss Versus Huskies Helps Eastern Increase Votes in Sports Network Poll

Despite coming one play away from an upset of epic proportions, the Eastern Washington University football team still increased its respect by voters and maintained its No. 1 ranking in The Sports Network/Fathead.com FCS Top 25 released on Monday (Sept. 5). Eastern lost to Washington of the Pac-12 Conference 30-27 on Sept. 3 despite a dominating 504-250 advantage in total offense.

The defending NCAA Division I Champions received 111 of the 150 first-place votes cast to retain its No. 1 ranking in the poll of NCAA Football Championship Subdivision teams. That 74 percent rate is actually an increase of 10 percent over the 64 percent of No. 1 votes Eastern received in the preseason poll when the Eagles were No. 1 on 90 of the 140 ballots cast.

Eastern’s 3,653 total votes (97 percent of the highest possible votes they could receive) is a slightly better percentage than the 3,377 the Eagles received in the preseason poll (96 percent). The Eagles are 184 total votes ahead of second-ranked Georgia Southern, which received 29 first-place votes after winning its Southern Conference opener against Samford, 31-17.

Eastern plays the remainder of its schedule versus FCS schools, starting this Saturday (Sept. 10) when the Eagles go on the road to play their first-ever game against South Dakota.

Big Sky Conference rival Sacramento State made a huge jump in the Sports Network poll after its 29-28 overtime upset of Oregon State. The Hornets jumped from 24th to 12th and received three first-place votes. Montana State is ranked sixth and Montana is 15th in this week’s poll after losses to FBS schools.

In its first-ever meeting against in-state rival Washington from the Pac-12 Conference and the NCAA Football Bowl Championship Subdivision, Eastern dominated the Huskies in total offense 504-250. But four turnovers led to the narrow victory by the Huskies, who clinched the win with an interception in the end zone with 29 ticks of the clock remaining and Eastern at the UW 25-yard line. The interception was recorded by Desmond Trufant, the younger brother of former Eagle Isaiah Trufant, who was a standout for EWU from 2002-05 and was recently released by the Philadelphia Eagles of the NFL. Their older brother, Marcus, starred at Washington State and now plays for the Seattle Seahawks.

 

Mitchell and Receivers Have Game for the Record Books

He not only was a completion away from a huge victory, but a school record for passing yardage as well.

En route to a dominating 504-250 advantage in total offense, Eastern senior quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell finished with the second-most yards all-time at EWU with 473 yards in a 30-27 loss to Washington on Sept. 3. He came just 13 yards from the record, as he also had the second-most pass attempts (69) and completions (39) in school history.

Mitchell’s performance ranks only behind the 486 yards Todd Bernett had in 1994 against Montana. Bernett was at the EWU-UW game and is now head coach of Vancouver College Prep in Vancouver, B.C. Had Bernett completed his final pass of the game from the 25-yard line, he would have broken the record and most likely given EWU one of its biggest victories in school history. Instead, his pass from the 25-yard line into the end zone with 29 seconds left was intercepted, sealing the victory for the Huskies.

Nicknamed the “Gunslinger,” Mitchell’s completions and attempts rank only behind the 43-of-76 performance Matt Nichols had in 2009 in a NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Playoff loss to Stephen F. Austin. Despite playing just 16 career games, Mitchell already ranks sixth in school history in career touchdown passes (40), eighth in completions (339), ninth in attempts (574) and is just 107 yards from cracking the top 10 list in yards (3,969). His current career average of 248.1 yards per game currently ranks third in school history.

Mitchell had three touchdown passes against Washington – all of them to different receivers. Junior All-America receiver Brandon Kaufman had 10 catches for 140 yards, Nicholas Edwards had 12 grabs for 108 yards and a touchdown and Greg Herd had seven catches for 87 yards and a TD. Each player had career highs for receptions and yards in the game. Sophomore Ashton Clark added four grabs for 73 yards and a touchdown after entering the game with just one career catch.

 

After Loads of Big Plays for the Eagles, Another Trufant Spoils Upset Bid

 Isaiah Trufant spent four seasons from 2002-2005 making an abundance of big plays for Eastern. On Sept. 3, his brother Desmond made a huge one against the Eagles.

With the Eagles at the Washington 25-yard line and poised to score the go-ahead touchdown, Desmond out-positioned Eastern All-America receiver Brandon Kaufman for a game-clinching interception for UW with 29 seconds to play. He also finished with 11 tackles, a pass broken up and a forced fumble as he almost single-handedly kept Eastern from one of its biggest victories in school history.

Earlier in the week, Isaiah was released by the Philadelphia Eagles of the National Football League. Philadelphia was one of numerous teams and leagues Isaiah has played for since he exhausted his eligibility at Eastern in 2005. Their older brother, Marcus, starred at Washington State and now plays for the Seattle Seahawks.

While at EWU, Isaiah was a first-team All-Big Sky Conference selection as a junior in 2004 before missing several games with an injury as a senior. He finished with 11 interceptions in his career to finish ranked sixth in school history. He had career totals of 133 tackles and 24 passes broken up, which ranked sixth in school history. His total of 35 passes defensed (including interceptions and passes broken up) ranked seventh in FCS history. Eastern selected him to its “100 for 100” All-Time Team in 2008 and a public vote selected him as the top defensive back in school history (along with Kurt Schulz).

 

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 (179 starts by 19 players): Matt Johnson 39, Renard Williams 30, Zach Johnson 27, Tyler Washburn 19, Evan Cook 13, Paul Ena 14, Jeff Minnerly 10, David Gaylord 8, Allen Brown 5, Jerry Ceja 3, Anthony Larry 2, Will Katoa 1, Rusty Haehl 1, Grant Williams 2 (includes one start on offense in 2009), Charles Moetului 1, Bobby Gentry 1, Jeremy Chaten 1, Alden Gibbs 1, Brandon Murphy 1 (includes one start on offense in 2010).

Offense (178 starts by 17 players): Chris Powers 28, Gabriel Jackson 27, Nicholas Edwards 27, Brandon Kaufman 20, Steven Forgette 15, Bo Levi Mitchell 15, Will Post 13, David Miles 9 (includes eight career starts on defense), Zack Gehring 7, Mario Brown 4, Darriell Beaumonte 3, Tyler Hart 3, Greg Herd 3, Caleb Worthington 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 an Achilles tendon injury that will most likely 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.

Several other Eagles listed as backups at their respective positions saw the first action of their careers against the Huskies. Linemen Evan Day and Jase Butorac, both 2010 graduates of Skyline High School in Sammamish, saw action for the defense and offense, respectively. On the same play, Day had his first career sack and forced fumble versus the Huskies. 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.

Sophomore T.J. Lee III  would have started at cornerback versus UW, but was late for a meeting. The 2009 graduate of West Seattle High School is expected to make his first career start this week against South Dakota. Butorac is also slated to start this week because of Miller’s injury.

 

Former Husky Demitrius Bronson Makes Eagle Debut Versus Former Team

Eastern running back Demitrius Bronson rushed five times for five yards, and caught a pass for five yards, against his former team on Sept. 3. He did not play in 2010, but spent the 2009 season as a backup tailback at Washington. He saw action in a total of seven games as a true freshman, rushing 19 times for 89 yards.

He carried the ball eight times for 39 yards against Oregon, including a long run of 18. He rushed three times for 31 yards in a 42-10 win over No. 19 California and carried the ball four times for 16 yards in a 30-0 blanking of Washington State. He originally was a part of the fall 2008 recruiting class, but delayed enrollment until January 2009 and entered the 2009 season as a true freshman.

A 2008 graduate of Kentwood High School in Kent, Wash., he finished his high school career with 3,810 rushing yards, and was averaging more than 200 yards per game as a senior before suffering an ankle injury.

Eagle newcomer Jason Boyce (’11) also attended Kentwood, as did Boyce’s brother Aaron Boyce. Aaron was an All-America wide receiver for Eastern in 2007 and finished his career (2006-09) with 222 receptions for 3,330 yards and 29 touchdowns to rank second in Eastern history in all three categories. He was a 2005 graduate of Kentwood High School where he played basketball on the same team as former Eagle and current Detroit Piston Rodney Stuckey.

Bronson’s  older brother, John, was a standout defensive lineman at Kent-Meridian before playing college ball at Penn State and in the NFL with the Arizona Cardinals (2005-06).

 

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 4-0 in that department and have given up 17 points off turnovers. 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.

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.”

 

Injury Report

Eastern sophomore Ashton Miller won the starting job at right offensive guard in the preseason, but suffered an Achilles tendon injury against Washington on Sept. 3 that will probably 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 game. 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 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 will be out a few more weeks, 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 in 1982.

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.

 

Eagles 3-0 in 2010 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.

 

Eight Former Eagles Currently in the NFL or CFL

Eastern has two 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 enters the 2011 regular season with 163 consecutive starts dating back to his 2002 season at EWU.

The week prior to the EWU-Washington game on Sept. 3 was particularly tough for three 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) and cornerback Isaiah Trufant (Philadelphia Eagles) were also cut that week. 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.

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 eight games, he had 45 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.

 

Former UW Standout and EWU Head Football Coach Passes Away

Brent Wooten, a standout football player for the University of Washington who went on to become head coach at Eastern Washington University, passed away on Aug. 29. He was 72.

A celebration of his life will take place on Friday, Sept. 9 from 2-6 p.m. at the Holiday Inn Express in Cheney, Wash.

“The entire Eastern Washington University family is saddened to hear of Brent’s passing,” Eastern athletic director Bill Chaves said. “He has deep roots in this state, including the University of Washington and Eastern, and we are proud of the legacy he leaves. Our thoughts are with his family and friends, including all of his former teammates, players and classmates.”

After serving five seasons as an assistant coach at Eastern, he was the school’s head football coach for three seasons from 1968-70, compiling an 11-18 record as a member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA). His teams were 10-9 in the Evergreen Conference, including a 4-2 record in 1969.

One of the players he coached was Dick Zornes, who went on to spend 26 years at Eastern as a player, coach and administrator. Zornes was head coach for 15 seasons from 1979-93, and Wooten was a volunteer assistant the first two years.

“He was a player-oriented coach,” praised Zornes. “He formed a tight bond with his players and was very good to us. He helped us in a lot of ways – not only football but academically and away from the field.

“After I started coaching, he was somebody I sought out for advice and assistance,” he continued. “He volunteered to help me coach and was a real asset to helping us develop our program as we transitioned to NCAA Division I. We welcomed his ability to coach and his knowledge of the game.”

Wooten was a three-sport athlete at Walla Walla (Wash.) High School where he played for his father, Boots Wooten. As a senior running back/defensive back in 1957, Walla Walla finished 8-0 and was recognized as the State Champion in the final Associated Press poll. Wooten earned All-State honors in football, basketball and track and field, and later was inducted into the Walla Walla High School Hall of Fame.

He would go on the letter three seasons at the University of Washington, where he was a halfback and defensive back on the school’s back-to-back 10-1 seasons in 1959 and 1960. Washington played in the Rose Bowl following both seasons, starting with a 44-8 victory over Wisconsin in Jan. 1, 1960. The next year, he caught a touchdown pass in a 17-7 victory over No. 1 ranked Minnesota in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1, 1961. That victory helped the Huskies win the national championship trophy presented by the Helms Foundation. Washington’s 1959 squad was later inducted into the University of Washington Athletics Hall of Fame.

He received his bachelor’s degree in physical education from Washington, and later returned to obtain his master’s degree.

Prior to coming to Eastern, he was an assistant coach at Columbia Basin Community College in Pasco, Wash., for teams that were a collective 17-0-1 in the regular season. The 1962 team lost 20-0 to Santa Ana in the Junior Rose Bowl.

He first came to Eastern to serve as an assistant football coach under Dave Holmes for five seasons from 1963-67, helping the Savages go 34-13-1. In 1967, Eastern advanced to the NAIA championship game and finished with an 11-1 record.

Wooten originally coached in the offensive backfield in 1963, coached defensive backs in 1964, then returned to offense in 1965. He was in charge of the defense in 1966 and 1967.

He also served as athletic director at Eastern in the 1968-69 and 1969-70 school years. In addition, Wooten was wrestling coach for five seasons from 1963-68 and the school’s swimming coach for one season in 1972-73.

Following his tenure in the athletic department, he continued to teach at Eastern, where he spent more than 30 years as a professor in the Eastern Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Athletics (HPERA) department.

“He was a good friend and I had a lot of respect for him,” Zornes added. “He was very intelligent and helped a lot of people through football and education. He was an excellent faculty member and for years ran our intramurals program by himself. He will be missed by a lot of people.”

 
 
 
 

RETURNING PLAYER NOTES

 

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. 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 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 39 and Zach now with 27. 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 293 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 238 career tackles to rank 13th all-time at Eastern, and his average of 9.2 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).

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 108-of-114 in his career, ranking only behind the 120-of-126 performance by Troy Griggs from 1999-01. Jarrett has scored 159 points to rank 15th all-time at EWU, including 17 field goals (eighth) and 31 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,

 

Blocking Beaumonte

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 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 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.

 

 

 

MORE NOTES

 

Eagles Schedule Another Game Versus UW for 2014

The Eagles are making up for lost time.

Eastern Washington University has scheduled a second football game against the University of Washington, giving the Eagles games in both 2011 and 2014 versus the Huskies of the Pac-12 Conference. The announcement of the agreement was made jointly by EWU and UW on Sept. 15, 2010.

Eastern opened the 2011 season at Husky Stadium on Sept. 3, and will return on Sept. 6, 2014. The Eagles will play at Washington State in 2012 and Oregon State in 2013, giving Eastern four-straight games against Pac-12 opponents. Besides games in 1907 and 1908 against Washington State, Eastern’s only other games versus Pac-12 opponents have been against Oregon State (2000 and 2006), Arizona State (2002) and California (2009). Eastern has also played recent Pac-12 recruit Colorado (2008).

Eastern has never played Washington until 2011.

“We are extremely excited about scheduling Washington again in 2014,” said Eastern athletic director Bill Chaves. “Given the roster makeup of our team, those two games against the Huskies affords the many student-athletes we have from the west side of the state the opportunity to play at ‘home’ against Washington. That will no doubt be a memorable experience and thrill for not only our players and coaches, but our fans and alumni as well.”

Eastern was a member of the National Association for Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) for most of its history before becoming a member of FCS in 1984. But despite playing 26 games against NCAA Football Bowl Division members from 1983-2009 -- including four against the Pac-12 Conference -- the Eagles did not play Washington State or Washington during that time span.

The Eagles are scheduled to make the short 90-mile trek to Pullman, Wash., on Sept. 8, 2012, to face Washington State University in the first varsity meeting between the two schools in more than 100 years. Eastern lost to the Cougars in 1907 (46-0) and 1908 (73-0), and were 8-10-1 from 1921-46 against WSU’s junior varsity or freshman teams.

Washington State is coached by Paul Wulff, who was 53-40 with three NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Playoff berths as Eastern’s head coach for eight seasons (2000-2007). He spent a total of 15 seasons at EWU as a coach, and several members of his staff are former Eagle coaches.

Chaves also said the Eagles are scheduled to play at Idaho -- also located about 90 miles from EWU’s campus -- in Moscow, Idaho, on Sept. 1, 2012. The last time Eastern played Idaho was in 2003 when Eastern won 8-5 in the Kibbie Dome. Eastern is 5-15 all-time against its former Big Sky Conference rival, and 2-3 since the Vandals moved to FBS in 1996.

 

Eagles Versus The Pac-12 Conference & FBS

Since the early 1980’s when it began the move to become a member of the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (in 1984), Eastern is now 7-20 all-time versus Football Bowl Subdivision teams. A 35-17 win over Connecticut on Sept. 8, 2001, snapped a five-game losing streak versus FBS foes. Against current Pac-12 Conference members, EWU is 0-6. Here is Eastern's complete list of games versus FBS members since 1983.

 

Year - Opponent - Result
1983 - Cal State-Long Beach - W, 20-17
1985 - at Cal State-Long Beach - W, 30-23
1986 - at Cal State-Long Beach - L, 34-35
1990 - at #10 Houston - L, 21-84
1994 - at Utah State - W, 49-31
1996 - at Boise State - W, 27-21
1996 - at Idaho - L, 27-37
1997 - Idaho - W, 24-21
1998 - at Idaho - L, 14-31
1999 - Idaho - L, 21-48
1999 - at Boise State - L, 7-41
2000 - at Oregon State - L, 19-21
2000 - at Boise State - L, 23-41
2001 - at Connecticut - W, 35-17
2002 - at Arizona State - L, 2-38
2003 - at San Diego State - L, 9-19
2003 - at Idaho - W, 8-5
2004 - at Air Force - L, 20-42
2005 - at San Jose State - L, 21-35
2006 - at Oregon State - L, 17-56
2006 - at #6 West Virginia - L, 3-52
2007 - at Brigham Young - L, 7-42
2008 - at #12 Texas Tech - L, 24-49
2008 - at Colorado - L, 24-31
2009 - at #10 California - L, 7-59

2010 - at Nevada - L, 24-49
2011 - at Washington - L, 27-30

 

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

 

Eagles Ranked No. 1 Nationally in The Sports Network Preseason Poll

The Eastern Washington University football program started the 2011 season the way it ended the 2010 campaign as the No. 1-ranked football team in the NCAA Championship Subdivision.

But staying there will be a difficult task.

The Eagles were installed as a prohibitive No. 1 by voters in The Sports Network/Fathead.com FCS Preseason Top 25 released Aug. 15. They gained 90 of the 140 first-place votes and 3,377 points in the poll, which is selected by a national panel of sports information and media relations directors, broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries.

Eastern Washington won its final 11 games of the 2010 season to win the 2010 NCAA Division I title, and was ranked No. 1 in polls at the conclusion of the regular season and the playoffs. Eastern opens its 2011 season Sept. 3 at Washington of the Pac-12 Conference, before playing two more road games at South Dakota (Sept. 10) and Montana (Sept. 17). The Eagles, who return 15 starters plus their two kickers from last season's 13-2 squad, play their home opener Sept. 24 versus Montana State.

The Bobcats and Eagles shared the Big Sky Conference title a year ago, and MSU was ranked sixth in the preseason poll. Perennial national powerhouse Montana, which won or shared the previous 12 league titles before last year, entered the 2011 season ranked 12th.

During the regular season, the Top 25 will be released every Monday afternoon, except for the final weekend of the regular season, when it will be released Sunday morning, Nov. 20, due to its use as an official tool by the NCAA Division I Football Committee in selecting the 20-team playoff field.

The Sports Network and Fathead.com will release a final Top 25 following the FCS championship game, which will be held Jan. 7 at Pizza Hut Park in Frisco, Texas.

 

FCS Coaches Like Eagles as No. 1 Team Too Entering Season

When the final preseason rankings were announced, the Eastern Washington University football program was ready to start working on next year’s preseason rankings.

The Eagles received 23 of the 28 first-place votes to earn 687 points overall and have been ranked first in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Preseason Coaches Poll released on Aug. 22. A week earlier, the Eagles were ranked No. 1 in The Sports Network/Fathead.com FCS Preseason Top 25, gaining 90 of the 140 first-place votes.

“Next year at this time I would like to see us up near the top again,” explained Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin, whose team finished No. 1 in both polls last season after winning the 2010 NCAA Division I title. “It means you’ve done good things the year before. We love the fact we are No. 1 and appreciate the recognition.”

Appalachian State, which finished the 2010 season at No. 4, earned one first-place vote and a total of 617 points, placing the Mountaineers in the No. 2 spot.  Georgia Southern received three first-place votes after making a run to the national semifinals and begins the 2011 season at No. 3. William & Mary is fourth and Delaware, which Eastern defeated 20-19 in the national championship game, rounds out the top five.

Big Sky Conference rival Montana State was No. 6 and Montana was 12th. Eastern plays those two teams on Sept. 24 and Sept. 17, respectively, to open league play for the Eagles. Other Big Sky schools receiving votes in the poll included Sacramento State (66), Northern Arizona (3) and Weber State (3). Non-conference foe Cal Poly received 71 votes.

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.

“I don’t mention it at all to our team, but it’s a great thing for our program and it’s what we’ve set as our vision,” added Baldwin of the preseason rankings. “We’ve been successful for a lot of years, but we’re always trying to take our success to another level. If you are truly going after that level of success, you are going to have preseason rankings to live up to and, quote, unquote, have pressure to live up to it. That comes with the territory.”

 

Offseason Strength and Conditioning a Priority

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 January 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.”

Because most of the team stayed in Cheney for voluntary summer workouts, many of Eastern’s players went through what essentially was a three-month preseason camp, and that came after winter strength and conditioning and a month-long spring practice session.

“More than anything, it kind of levels their excitement,” Baldwin said of finally playing a game. “Preseason camp can become a drag, and what people may forget is that these players have been working hard since our season ended.”

 “I hear the old adage that ‘your players don’t know what two-a-day practices are – 20 years ago two-a-days were every day.’ But at the same time, most of those players didn’t stay on campus to work-out on their own during the summer. They had two months off and came back and got in shape during those two-a-days. Our players volunteered on their own to work almost every day in June and July with our strength coaches. Camp becomes sort of a drag because it’s three months when you don’t get to play a game. We are ready for a game and ready to play somebody else.”

 

 
 
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