School and Big Sky Conference records fall as Eastern advances to host Sam Houston State in semifinals of FCS Playoffs
Fortunately, the Eastern Washington University football team had a dab more ebb and flow.
The Eagles had scoring runs of 28 and 14 unanswered points – and withstood an 18-point Redbird onslaught -- to defeat Illinois State 51-35 in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs Saturday (Dec. 8) at Roos Field in Cheney, Wash.
Junior quarterback Kyle Padron passed for 358 yards and a school-record six touchdown passes, including three to junior wide receiver Brandon Kaufman, who finished with nine receptions for a 191 yards. In the process, Kaufman broke the EWU and Big Sky single season records for reception yards with a current total of 1,635 yards.
“Their talent is obvious,” said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin. “You can see the talent in both these two guys. More than anything, they have guts and heart. That’s what means the most.”
The win advances Eastern to the semifinals and the Eagles will host Sam Houston State at Roos Field next Saturday (Dec. 15) at 1 p.m. Pacific time. The game will be televised on ESPNU/ESPN Gameplan.
Tickets will go on sale starting Monday (Dec. 10) at 10 a.m. For fans who agreed to purchase tickets to all three playoff games, the cost is $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) The cost will be $5 more per ticket for first-time buyers. Tickets may be purchased via www.ticketswest.com or 1-800-325-Seat.
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 trailed in the second quarter 17-10, but was able to take a 24-17 lead at halftime with a touchdown with 10 seconds left. Taking advantage of a Redbird interception in the third quarter by Eastern junior Ronnie Hamlin, Kaufman then caught TD passes of 47 and 17 yards within 15 seconds of each other to give EWU a 38-17 lead.
But after Illinois State scored 18 unanswered points to pull within 38-35, Kaufman struck again with a 76-yard TD reception. Padron added a 10-yard TD pass to Ashton Clark with 7:42 left to close out the scoring.
“I am just so proud of the guys for how hard they fought and how they kept responding. When you get down to the final eight in the country, you know there are going to be some highs and lows in a football game. That game had a lot of emotion, momentum swings and things that happened. Our guys found ways to make plays whenever it felt like we were losing the momentum. No one panicked on the sideline.
Kaufman had just three catches for 20 yards in the first half, then exploded with six grabs for 171 yards in the second half. His 191 yards ranks as the 12th most in school history. Averaging 19.5 yards per catch with 13 TDs this season, he broke the previous EWU season school record of 1,453 yards held by Eric Kimble in 2004, and the previous Big Sky record of 1,525 yards set by Tim Toone in 2008.
It was Kaufman’s 18th career game with 100 yards or more receiving, including his 10th this season.
Padron completed 19-of-33 passes, and his six touchdowns tied the EWU single-game previous record held by Matt Nichols (8/31/07 vs. Montana-Western) and Rob James (11/1/86 vs. Weber State).
“It’s going to come down to guts, heart and mental toughness when things are on the line,” Baldwin added of his dynamic duo. “When we needed it the most they stepped up and made those types of plays. They took shots to the face, broke tackles, and did whatever they have to do.
“They will be the first to say they are not the only two,” he continued. “It took a total team effort. It took all sorts of guys on both sides of the football and special teams to get this done. These two guys were great in terms of their guts and mental toughness.”
Sophomore running back Quincy Forte added 116 yards on just seven carries (16.6 per carry), including a 57-yarder. Senior Greg Herd added four catches for 74 yards, and Clark, tight end Zack Gehring and Daniel Johnson also had touchdown catches from Padron.
Hamlin finished with 10 tackles to go along with his interception, and junior safety Allen Brown had nine stops. Junior cornerback T.J. Lee had eight tackles, a forced fumble and two passes broken up. Eastern’s defensive line also recorded a pair of sacks and the Eagles finished with seven quarterback hurries. Senior defensive end Jerry Ceja had three of the hurries and a sack.
MORE GAME NOTES
At 8:45 in the first quarter, junior wide receiver Daniel Johnson put Eastern on the board with his first TD catch of the season, and the first of his career. He now has five catches on the season for 81 yards.
With his 20-yd field goal in the first quarter, Jimmy Pavel set the EWU school record for single-season field goals at 17. The previous record of 16 was set last year by Mike Jarrett.
Kaufman also moved into second in the EWU all-time career record book with 3,350 reception yards. He surpassed Aaron Boyce’s (2006-09) total of 3,330 career reception yards. Kaufman also moved into the No. 3 position in EWU history for career TD catches, now with 29. He is three behind the No. 2 position, held by teammate Nicholas Edwards (32).
Eastern defensive end Jerry Ceja moves into fourth in the EWU single season record book for sacks, now with 12.5 in 2012 campaign.
With Eastern’s 51-35 win against Illinois State in the quarterfinals of the 2012 FCS Playoffs, the Eagles improve to 11-2 on the season, marking just the third time in school history EWU has had 10 or more wins in a single season. Eastern finished the 2010 national championship season at 13-2, and the 1997 season at 12-2.
In November and beyond, Eastern is now 13-0 since 2010, and 22-3 since 2007.
Eastern’s victory over Illinois State was the 11th FCS Playoff win for EWU since its first postseason appearance as a Division I school in 1985.
Illinois State quarterback Matt Brown set his school’s single season school records for completions (254), yards (3,137) and touchdowns passes (26).
With 148 yards, Illinois State wide receiver Tyrone Walker had his seventh 100-yard receiving game of the season.
Quotes from Coach Beau Baldwin
On Illinois State: “My hat is off to Illinois State, they are an incredible football team. They did what they did in their conference -- going down and beating Appalachian State. It was not by accident. They are a great football team. It took every one of our guys on every unit to get this win today.”
On Long Kickoff Returns: “Sometimes those things happen. Games are different. I tell guys I don’t worry if we find a way to win 17-14 or if we find a way to win 51-35. It doesn’t matter. Every game is different no matter how good your offensive line or defensive line is -- you sometimes get in different types of ball games. This was one where there were some explosive things happening. I think we had three times as many possessions in this game opposed to last week. Last week felt like it went by so fast. This week it felt like there were a number of possessions going back and forth. It was unique, especially the third quarter where there was a lot of explosion, and they made plays. Again, when it came down to make sure we make a play and not give up a lead, we were able to do that.”
On Worrying About Close Games: “They asked me two years ago if it was going to catch up with us. I don’t really worry about it. I really don’t -- you can’t worry about it. You could say it caught up with us against Southern Utah because we didn’t win that game. That’s just football. I tell our guys we are in a tough conference and now we are in the playoffs, which is tough. So you are not going to go out blow people out. You’re not. No one is around the country. North Dakota State, the No. 1 team in the country, won 14-7. I would rather be the type of team that finds more ways to win in those tough types of ball games than the type of team where in five different games were five points away from a winning record. I don’t worry about whenever it catches up with us. We are just going to come back next week, go to work and try to find a way to win more of those than we lose.”
On Going to Kaufman More in Second Half: “Our offense is not necessarily built to say we are going to get the ball to Brandon – he would be the first to tell you that. We have Nick Edwards, Greg Herd, Aston Clark and we found a play for Daniel Johnson early. We have a lot of guys that can make plays. Our offense is about taking certain things that they give us. If they get in situations where they are leaving a guy like Brandon or any of our guys single covered, we are going to go after them. We are going to take those shots. That’s why you saw some drives in my opinion, especially in the second half, where it seemed like a sputter three and out, but also some big plays because they were playing that style at that point. They were putting all their chips in. When you run into that sometimes they are going to stuff some things down, and they are going to stuff you. They were not in a bend don’t break mode, they we were in a more of a ‘we are coming after you’ mode. Sometimes you are going to get stuffed. We were talking to Kyle on the sideline when it was 38-35. We had gone through a couple three and outs, and they had sacked us one time. I said we are going to hit a couple big more plays. They are coming again; we just have to think that way. I think it was them adjusting some of the stuff they were doing that said to us, ‘okay, we are going to take that matchup’ -- as opposed to the first half where they were still playing off and keeping things in front of them.”
On Eastern Defense: “There were huge stops. You cannot get caught up looking at the total points. Every game is different. You are going to get in certain games where it was like this. You have to remember there were a couple of special teams plays (that changed field position), so you cannot get caught up in the 35 points as being an offensive shootout. There were plays being made all over, and the defense definitely made some stops. We made some huge plays in terms of turnovers. We again had some key stops in the red zone and some key fourth down stops late. There were a lot of good things being done. We need to remember this is a team that just put 38 points up against Appalachian State at their place a week ago. They have a tremendous offense. I was so proud of our guys on defense for the opportune times they made plays. Again, there will be things we need to correct on film, but I love correcting stuff on film when there are only four teams left in the country.”
On Momentum Swings: “No matter what side of the ball is struggling, it is the job of the other side to pick them up. We have had plenty of that. You do not have to go back too far to one of our biggest wins of the year, Montana State, to see that. You saw our defense and special teams pick up the offense. It sometimes goes the other way -- the defense is struggling and the offense will go answer. (Illinois State) had scored some quick ones, but we also were putting them back on the field quickly too. Part of that is credited to Illinois State and what they were doing. You were able to feel that momentum get grabbed again. You were able to feel that and they feel that. You feed off that -- you are human. (Our offense) fed of that and went back out there and extended that lead a little bit more. We kept getting those key stops at the end. If they score one more touchdown and make a two pointer they are down by eight. They were never able to get that because of the key stops late.”
On Hill Dropping Ball Short of Goal Line and TD: “It’s a learning lesson. I can tell him what everyone else can tell him -- run across the end line with the ball. He knows that. It was just one of those heat-in-the-moment deals where he was excited and he dropped it early. He knows it -- I know it. I just told him be ready to hand it to the ref the next time you are in the end zone. We try to not make that a big deal, but it’s not that it isn’t something you use to teach. There is no point in screaming at him at that point, you just grab him off to the side. I bet he will never do that again. I bet he will go high and tight whenever he goes to the end zone. Sometimes you learn from things like that when those things happen."
Quotes from EWU Player Brandon Kaufman
On Play in Playoffs: “Obviously, I think it is an overall team effort. Balls are being thrown in the right places. I just have a fight that I did not necessarily know that I have. I am just working as hard as I can for these seniors. I am working as hard as I can for Nick Edwards, as hard as I can for Greg Herd, and as hard as I can for this university. They have given me everything. I am just trying to dig deep and give everything I have.”
On Difference in the Two Halves: “When it comes down to the playoffs, you don’t see the team during the year that you play. The first half is a struggle to try to get going and trying to get a real groove going. You might have some big plays here and there, but you do not necessarily know exactly what they are doing until you take a step back around halftime or the second quarter. Once we realized that what we were getting was different from what we saw on film, we were able to settle down, get our play calls ready and convert them.”
On Setting School and Big Sky Records: “I did not realize it was happening until I caught the second touchdown. (On the sideline) some reporters told me I only needed one more yard to break it. All the credit goes to someone like Kyle, the line and our other receivers. They open me up as much as they can -- them being the threats they are. Like I said earlier, this university has given me so much I just want to pay it back.”
Quotes from EWU Player Kyle Padron
On Kaufman’s play: “He is definitely a special receiver -- one of the best I have had the opportunity to play with. He’s one of those guys that if you put it in his area he will come down with it. I think it takes a mentality. It says something about him and the drive it has. He does not just show up on Saturday -- it’s throughout the week. You see the work he puts in and it speaks a lot about him.”
On Hard Hit On 76-Yard TD Pass: “It was a little underthrown. He is a 6-5 and he went out and got it, shook a couple guys off, and ran for about forty yards. I didn’t do a whole lot. I watched from about sixty yards away. It made my job a lot easier. He (the defensive player) got me pretty good on that one.”
On Six Touchdown Passes: “That’s the first time I’ve thrown six touchdowns. One yard or eight yards, I did not do a whole lot on those. It’s more praise to them (the receivers) than me.”
On Converting Third and 17 Play in Third Quarter: “It was huge for us. Obviously it would have been a lot bigger if we had come out and scored right away at the beginning of the second half. It was huge for us to take the momentum into the locker room and make the adjustments that we can. Coach B (Baldwin) made some calls tonight that took a lot of guts. I am thankful to be in this offense where you take shots on third downs. He gives me the freedom to make some checks too.”
Quotes from Illinois State Head Coach Brock Spack
Opening Statement: “First of all, congratulations to Coach Baldwin, his staff and his team. They did a great job, they’re a great football team and I wish them all the best. We played hard, but we didn’t play well at times and made too many mistakes in a game of this magnitude. It was all phases of the game. We just made too many errors to put ourselves in a position to win this game. I’m very proud of our players. They kept battling and stayed in the game, but in the end we made too many errors.”
On making remarkable comeback after being down 21 points: “Our kids have great character. We’re very proud of them for that. We just ran out of time. It was one of those games where you match points for points when you make an error, which we had in all phases of the game. We put our defense in short fields with the kicking game and a turnover. They ran by us on a fade past two defensive backs for a touchdown in the early part of the third quarter that should have been covered. We just made way too many errors. We were in position to make plays on the ball and couldn’t capitalize.”
On seniors including QB Matt Brown and LB Mike Zimmer: “We’re proud of our team. They’ve been great kids to coach and they worked really hard and they’ve come a long way in the four years we’ve had them. I’m real proud of these two guys next to me who have been tremendous leaders and have never flinched. They bought into our philosophy and took us to the quarterfinals.”
On Eastern’s running game: “Technically, we made some mistakes in the running game we haven’t made all year. We jumped out of our angles to the football and some of our fire zones really hurt us and you can’t do that in those defensive pressures.”
On Brandon Kaufman’s explosion in second half: “I think it came down to technique and poor defensive execution. That’s probably the biggest issue we had. You can’t make mistakes like that against a player at this level. The passing game was too good. They have big wideouts who can really hurt you. We just made too many errors that were fundamentals of defensive football within our system that we haven’t made all year and we made a lot of them tonight. You have to give them credit too, their guys played very well and we didn’t at times. That explains the 51 points.”
On explanation of fumbled kick return: “The whistle had blown. Had it not, the ball would have remained live. Had the ball gone through the end zone or out of bounds, it would have been our ball at the 20-yard line. The only option was to put the ball at the 1 1/2 yard line. To our credit, we held them to a field goal there, but the ball should have never gotten down there. Since the ball stopped dead in the end zone, it cost us a turnover.”
On the program’s achievements the last four years: “I told these kids in the locker room that we have a lot to be proud of. We had one of the winningest group of seniors in school history. It was the first time we had four winning seasons in a row since 1945. You can put that on them because we were very demanding and asked a lot of them. These guys hung in there and they bought into our philosophy and system and made us into a playoff caliber team. We’re very grateful and proud of these seniors helping us get to the quarterfinals.”
Quotes from Illinois State Quarterback Matt Brown
On Emotions of Second Half: “That’s just the game of football. It’s just a microcosm really of what the game is all about. You’re going to have the ups and downs. You just got to be able to take it. When you have the momentum you have to keep it, and when you don’t you have to fight to get it back. It’s something we all signed up for and what we knew football was all about. It’s something we’ve grown accustomed to as football players -- just taking it in stride and moving forward.”
On interception thrown to LB Ronnie Hamlin: “I looked over to my left and saw Darrelynn (Dunn) in the flat and Phil (Dudley) right there. As soon as I threw it, it was one of those things where you knew exactly what you were doing and then all of a sudden you don’t. I didn’t get a good look at the defensive coverage and they did a good job all day trying to mix things up and trying to confuse us in the second half.”
On satisfaction of making playoffs during senior year: “Definitely. It’s something we were all working for. This senior class came together and one of our main goals was to get into the playoffs. We’re just happy that we were able to do that. We’re obviously disappointed that we didn’t get the win, but you just have to keep your head high and be proud of what you’ve done.”
On achievements the last four years for Illinois State: “Right now, it’s kind of hard to see that because we lost. We’ll get over this and be able to look at achievements later, but right now it kind of stinks.”
Quotes from Illinois State Linebacker Mike Zimmer
On big plays being allowed: “They have some great players and when you’re out of position and not playing defense correctly, you’ll give up big plays. When you get to a game of this magnitude, you can’t spot a team that good with that many big plays.”
On Eastern’s running game: “We were out of position too much. We had the opportunity to make plays, we just did it incorrectly.”