Eagle quarterback comes off the bench to direct Eastern on six touchdown drives, including game-winning 94-yarder to help EWU clinch the Big Sky title
What he accomplished in in a bowl game in 2009, Eastern Washington University transfer quarterback Kyle Padron did again last Saturday (Nov. 17) in Portland, Ore.
The junior from Southlake, Texas, has been selected as the Big Sky Conference co-Offensive Player of the Week after coming off the bench to lead the Eagles to a 41-34 win at Portland State on Nov. 17 and clinch a share of the Big Sky championship for EWU. He is a 2009 graduate of Southlake Carroll High School and transferred to Eastern from Southern Methodist University, where he was the Hawaii Bowl MVP in leading his team to the title.
Padron led Eastern on an eight-play, 94-yard drive to break a 34-all tie with 1:25 remaining in a steady downpour in Portland. Padron completed 26-of-38 passes for 381 yards and two touchdowns, and also rushed for one, as Eastern rallied from season-high deficits of 13 and 12 points.
Padron led Eastern on touchdown drives of 42, 62, 76, 49 and 78 yards prior to the game-winning 94-yard drive, in which he was 5-of-5 for 73 yards.
“Kyle was a stud,” said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin after the game. “I knew there was a chance he could play a little more in this game based on certain things they were doing. It’s a unique situation being able to play guys based on a match-up. It worked out and he played really well. The receivers made plays. We dialed-up the right protections to give him time, and when all was said and done, we made enough plays to win.”
Padron had touchdown passes of 36 and 18 yards to 2011 All-American Nicholas Edwards, and 2010 All-American Brandon Kaufman had nine catches for 161 yards. Senior Greg Herd added seven catches for 108 yards, and Edwards added four for 77 yards and his two scores.
Padron is the only Eastern player in school history to be MVP in a bowl game, let alone play in one. In 2009 while at SMU, he was MVP of the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl after passing for a school-record 460 yards and two TDs in SMU's 45-10 win over Nevada. Current Portland State head coach Nigel Burton was the defensive coordinator for Nevada in that game.
For the season, Padron has started twice and come off the bench in six games. He has completed 57.8 percent of his passes for a team-leading 1,689 yards, 10 touchdowns and four interceptions. Freshman Vernon Adams ranks eighth in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision in passing efficiency (152.15), and in nine games as a starter and one as a sub, he has completed 62.4 percent of his passes for 1,586 yards, 14 touchdowns and six interceptions.
Now, Padron and his teammates set their sights on winning the NCAA Division I title. In 2010, with another SMU transfer under center for EWU – Bo Levi Mitchell – the Eagles won the championship with a come-from-behind 20-19 victory over Delaware. Mitchell, who now plays for the Calgary Stampeders, was the player Padron replaced as a starter during the 2009 season at SMU.
Southlake is located near Dallas, and is just 30 miles from Frisco, Texas, where the title game takes place in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision. That game will be played on Jan. 5, 2013, at 10 a.m. Pacific time on ESPN2.
“Being at a Conference USA school, I never really had a chance to think about that,” Padron said of winning a national title. “Coming here, that was definitely one of the goals. My teammates have made that a dream for me with the way we’ve played all year. It’s an honor to be a part of this team and we are excited about our chances.”
But Padron also knows his team needs to take it one game at a time, starting Dec. 1 when the Eagles host either Colgate or Wagner at 3 p.m. Pacific time at Roos Field in Cheney, Wash.
“In the playoffs, the better we play the better chances we have of playing an extra game,” Padron said. “You have to be 1-0 every week. That’s what it comes down to.”
Eastern is 5-0 at home this season, but those victories include a pair by three points and another by six.
“The Inferno speaks for itself,” he added of clinching the No. 2 seed and guaranteeing home games throughout the playoffs. “Our fans have been great all year. There is excitement around campus and everything is buzzing. It will be fun to get out there and play in front of our fans.”