Eastern Advances in Playoffs With 29-19 Win Over Wagner
Kyle Padron and Brandon Kaufman Lead Eagles on Four Long TD Drives as Eagles will next host Illinois State next Saturday in quarterfinals
Aside from a third-quarter burp, the Eastern Washington University passing offense was at its usual best.
Junior Kyle Padron passed for 327 yards and junior Brandon Kaufman caught 10 passes for 174 yards Saturday (Dec. 1) to defeat Wagner 29-19 in a second-round game in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs at Roos Field in Cheney, Wash.
Eastern advances to the quarterfinals, and will host Illinois State at "The Inferno" on Saturday, Dec. 8 at 3 p.m. Pacific time. The game will be broadcast on ESPN3. The Redbirds defeated Appalachian State 38-37 in overtime earlier Saturday in another second-round game. Eastern lost 31-14 in 1987 at Albi Stadium in Spokane, Wash., in the only other meeting between EWU and ISU.
Tickets will go on sale at 10 a.m. Monday (Dec. 3), and cost $20 for premium seating in sections C&D, $15 for sections A/B/E&F, $15 for end zone and $10 for east side seating (behind visitor bench). Tickets may be purchased via www.ticketswest.com or 1-800-325-Seat. Season ticket holders and fans who indicated to the ticket office that they wanted their tickets automatically renewed do not need to call the Eastern ticket office, but will have their tickets left at will-call.
A limited number of free student tickets will be available starting Monday at 10 a.m. at the EWU Bookstore in Cheney. A valid student ID is required to obtain the tickets, which are underwritten by the Associated Students of EWU.
Eastern overcame two third-quarter turnovers that cost EWU its hard-earned 14-6 halftime lead. Padron led Eastern on TD drives of 80 and 75 yards in the first half, then scoring marches of 75 and 73 in the second half as EWU snapped the nine-game winning streak of the Seahawks.
With a penchant for pulling out victories, the Eagles will enter the quarterfinals with a 10-2 record. Eastern captured a share of the Big Sky Conference title and the league’s automatic playoff berth with a 7-1 league record. Of Eastern’s seven Big Sky wins this season, six came by a combined margin of 28 points – one by seven points, two six-point wins and a trio by just three points. On the other side of the coin, the Eagles are only seven points from an unbeaten season, having last-possession chances to pull out wins in both of their losses.
Wagner, coming off a 31-20 win over Colgate in the first round of the playoffs, finished its season 9-4.
Padron, making just his third start of the season and first since EWU’s second game of the season, completed 26-of-36 passes. Besides Kaufman’s 10 grabs, senior Greg Herd had five catches for 51 yards and senior Nicholas Edwards had five grabs for 48 yards.
Running back Demitrius Bronson added 76 yards rushing and a pair of short touchdown runs. Senior linebacker Zach Johnson led the defense with 11 tackles and a pass broken up, and junior linebacker Ronnie Hamlin added 10 tackles and broke-up a pair of passes.
Eastern lost the turnover battle 3-0, but out-gained Wagner 411-296 in total offense.
After a scoreless first quarter, Eastern responded after a Wagner field goal by driving 80 yards in nine plays to take the lead at 7-6. Padron passed 21 yards for a touchdown to sophomore tight end Ryan Seto, his first of the season and second of his career.
Late in the quarter, Eastern scored again on an 11-play, 75-yard drive, with Bronson scoring on a 1-yard run. But the 14-6 halftime lead didn’t hold up for long.
A rare interception by Padron led to a short 18-yard TD drive and pulled the Seahawks to within 14-13. Padron hadn’t thrown an interception in 121 attempts dating back to Sept. 22 against Weber State.
After an Eastern punt, Wagner kicked a field goal to take a 16-14 lead. Then, after an EWU fumble on the ensuing kickoff, another Seahawk field goal gave them a 19-14 lead with 2:59 left.
But Padron and Kaufman followed with a 75-yard TD march in seven plays, capped by a 3-yard run by Quincy Forte. The key play was a sensational 47-yard grab by Kaufman, who caught also caught a pass on the two-point conversion to give EWU the lead back at 22-19 entering the final quarter.
Wagner punted on its next drive, then EWU used a time-consuming 15-play, 73-yard drive to make it a two-possession game. The drive consumed 7:27 as Bronson ended the drive with a 2-yard TD run.
- With Eastern’s win against Wagner, the Eagles improve to 10-2 on the season, marking just the third time in school history EWU has eclipsed the 10-win mark. Eastern finished the 2010 national championship season at 13-2, and the 1997 season at 12-2.
- In November and beyond, Eastern is now 12-0 since 2010, and 21-3 since 2007.
- Eastern’s victory over Wagner was the 10th FCS Playoff win for EWU since its first postseason appearance as a Division I school in 1985.
- Junior wide receiver Brandon Kaufman moved into second place (surpassing Aaron Boyce, Jeff Ogden and Eric Kimble) on Eastern’s single-season reception yards list. With 1,444 in 2012, he is just 7 yards from the record of 1,453, currently held by Eric Kimble in the 2004 season.
- Junior wide receiver Brandon Kaufman has 174 receiving yards ageist Wagner, which is the second-most single-game receiving yards of his career, while his 10 catches ties a career-high. He has reached the 100-yard mark for the ninth time this season and 17th time in his career.
- With 2 sacks in the game, senior Jerry Ceja improved his career total to 22 1/2, which moves the defensive end into sixth place (tied with Renard Williams) on Eastern’s all-time career sacks list.
- Sophomore tight end Ryan Seto caught his first touchdown pass of the season, and the second of his career, to give Eastern its first score of the game at 8:42 in the second quarter.
- With four tackles against the Seahawks, senior Tyler Washburn moved into 12th on EWU’s career tackles list with 245 in his tenure.
- With a team-leading 11 tackles, Zach Johnson recorded his 14th game of double-digit tackles in his career.
- Senior wide receiver Greg Herd caught his 157th pass to move into ninth on Eastern’s all-time career receptions list.
- Senior wide receiver Nicholas Edwards is now tied with Tony Davis for third in the EWU record book for career catches with 213.
- Until Saturday, Eastern had never played Wagner – a member of FCS since 1992 -- or a team from the Northeast Conference. The Seahawks are led by NEC Coach of the Year Walt Hameline, a veteran of 32 seasons as head coach at Wagner. He led Wagner to the 1987 NCAA Division III Championship and has won a total 213 games in his career (213-127-2).
- Junior quarterback Kyle Padron was picked off in the third quarter, snapping a streak of 121 passes without an interception. Padron had not thrown an interception since Sept. 22 at Weber State.
QUOTES FROM EASTERN HEAD COACH BEAU BALDWIN
“I’m really proud of our guys. I’m probably most proud of the fact that we weathered a much early storm. When I say early, I mean early in the third quarter. It was a type of storm in terms of things not going right. A lot of times you can find you are on the wrong end of the ballgame because of it. Our defense showed resilience. The biggest difference was our red zone defense -- we had a blocked field goal early and then we were able to hold them to field goals rather than touchdowns. They did what they do. I set my mind to the fact that we were going to win the turnover battle, but instead we lost it 3-0. Our guys were able to weather that storm. You don’t win too many games when you lose the turnover battle 3-0. They are a very disciplined team and a very physical team. They just understand exactly who they are and do a great job of it. It was a battle for our guys all night long.”
On Defense in Red Zone: “It gets tighter down there and we were tackling well in that area of the field. I’d have to watch film, but I thought our tackling took another step up from where it’d been the last couple weeks against a quarterback that has some shiftiness, and the running back is a very good player. The tackling got a lot better down there. I just thought we understood our concepts and what we were doing. Everyone was doing their jobs. You saw the quarterback have to hang on to the ball, hang on to the ball. We were doing a good job of not letting guys get behind him, and not opening up big zones and forcing him to really hang on to it. I have to go back and watch film to make sure of that. We did a good job of taking away his options down there when they did get to throwing it.”
On Kyle Padron Starting and Playing Entire Game: “It was a combination of a lot of things. A combination of not just his performance at Portland State, but probably his performance in practice this second half of the year. That is not taking anything away from Vernon (Adams). Their numbers in the last five games are almost identical. It’s unbelievable to see how close the numbers are between the both of them. That does make it tricky sometimes. I felt like Kyle had a lot of momentum coming off the Portland State game. Considering the conditions, he performed well anyway, but he performed incredibly well against a very good Portland State defense in bad conditions. I felt like some of that momentum could continue in this ballgame. I had plans to play Vernon -- I really did. I think we only had four possessions in the first half so it was halftime before you knew it. When you get into the second half, sometimes you wonder -- he’s been standing around since three o’clock. Would I be putting Vernon in a tough spot when our team is in a tough spot? We will see going forward. The whole year -- but especially the second half of the year – both have improved their game so much. People also forget Kyle never went through a spring ball. Some of the things he is doing in practice and maturing within our offense are at a higher level than Bo Levi Mitchell or other guys who had spring ball as the start of our camp. It was like Kyle was still in a fall camp mode as we got into the season, so he’s still figuring out the offense, figuring out the nuances, feeling it out. You were able to see him progressively get better throughout the year.”
On Kaufman Standing Out: “It is a
combination of things. In all fairness, I think all receivers came
up with big catches at different times -- especially late in that
ballgame. There were big catches made all over the field. I think
sometimes it was not necessarily a matchup because they played
almost all zone coverage. They were sometimes clouding his side of
the zone, but it’s the other guys too that help open him up.
We were not necessarily calling things out for Brandon -- it was
other guys screaming down the field grabbing safeties. It was Nick
(Edwards) grabbing the safety on the one Brandon juggled going
towards the scoreboard, when he caught it on the two or three where
before we took the lead by three. It’s a group effort to open
up a guy like Brandon. You go back and watch film you will see Nick
grabbed a safety. Like a lot of our guys -- and you’ve seen
it over the years -- in those crunch time moments he just has it --
he has it. The lights are on and it’s time to make a huge
play. He will make it time in and time out.”
QUOTES FROM WAGNER HEAD COACH WALT HAMELINE
Opening Comments: “Coming into the game we knew we were playing a good football team and we did what we have done all year. We knew we had to control the football and we said if we could control the ball and get into the fourth quarter and have a shot, we’d feel pretty good about it. We had some opportunities where we missed a field goal in the first half. And then a couple times (in the second half) we didn’t get it in and had to kick field goals – that made a big difference. They’re obviously a good and explosive football team with their receivers and quarterbacks. We got into the fourth quarter and felt pretty good about it, but at the end of the day we fell short.”
On EWU’s Quarterbacks: “You know they’re both two good kids and they both can throw the ball, so we felt either way it didn’t make a heck of a lot of difference. So we were prepared for either one of them.”
On EWU’s Running Game: “I think as we progressed I thought we were pretty good, we were stopping the run. Later in the game they ran the ball a little bit against us, but we felt pretty good about where we were going into that fourth quarter -- that’s where we wanted to get. We knew they were going to complete some passes, the one thing we didn’t want to do was give up a big one, which we did. That sort of put us behind the eight-ball.”
On Roos Field Environment: “When we came out Thursday, all the people here were fantastic, so I think we were fine when it came to making adjustments with the travel and so forth. Our kids were ready to play and well rested, so I don’t think that was really a factor. The red turf -- I don’t know, these guys could probably tell you better than I can -- it was 100 yards and we played fourth quarters of football.”
On Quarterback Nick Doscher and Linebacker C.O. Prime: “They are two of our seniors, and two guys that when you look at your season and keep it in perspective, they had a great year and gave us great leadership. We rolled off nine wins and got by the first round. We came here and played a darn good football team today and I know that they played right to the end. So we can look each other in the eyes and keep going.”
On EWU’s Brandon Kaufman & Receiver Corp: “Coming in we knew all of them were good receivers, but he is a heck of a receiver. You look at tonight, he ended up with over 100 yards I’m sure. He just made plays and it comes down to that in a game when you look back. Players have to make plays and he made a ton of them. They weren’t trying to trick you -- the quarterback knew where to throw the ball. We had some pressure on him and he came out a few times and went to (Kaufman). He’s one heck of a football player.”
On Eastern Defense Controlling Wagner Running Game: “Yeah I think so. They did. Coming in we knew we’d have to mix it up a little bit. Just like we said, we had to get close and we didn’t put up enough points on the board. We came away with field goals and you always like to at least come away with points. But yes, they did a good job defending us.”
On EWU: “They’re a darn good football team. I think any time you get past the second round and you’re into a tournament type of scenario, anything can happen. There’s a history here of them winning football games -- they’re a good team and they’re on a roll. I think anything can happen but they’re an excellent football team. Some of the other teams we’ve played have been good, but I’d probably say they’re more talented than most of the teams we played.”