It’s Still Huge as No. 7 Eagles Host No. 16 Cal Poly
Although both teams are coming off Big Sky losses, non-conference game will give the winner an inside track toward a FCS Playoff berth
Eastern Washington Univ. “Eagles”
Cal Poly “Mustangs”
Saturday, Nov. 3, 2012 • 1:35 p.m.
Roos Field (8,600) • Cheney, Wash.
EWU Coach: Beau Baldwin (Central Washington
School Record: 39-18/28-10 Big Sky Conference (5th Season)
Career Record: 49-21 (6th Season -- was 10-3 at CWU in 2007, 6-5 at EWU in 2008, 8-4 at EWU in 2009, 13-2 in 2010, 6-5 in 2011)
2012: 6-2/5-1 Big Sky Conference
2011: 6-5/5-3 Big Sky Conference
Last Game: Southern Utah 30, Eastern 27 (Oct. 27 in Cedar City, Utah)
TV: Televised in Eastern Washington by SWX - SWX Digital 6.2 in Spokane, 25.3 in the Tri-Cities & 23.3 in the Yakima area; Comcast 115; Davis Cable 514/81.2/12; Time Warner 306; Charter 287, Cable One 466; Northland Cable 115 (Greg Heister, Bill Ames)
Radio: 700-AM ESPN in Spokane. Larry Weir returns for his 22nd season calling the play-by-play, with analysis handled by Paul Sorensen and sideline commentary by Keith Osso. Osso will also serve as host of the Eagle Tailgate Show, starting 1 1/2 hours prior to kickoff.
Internet Radio: www.700espn.com or www.tunein.com
Radio iPhone App: Search for “Spokane Radio” and download app. An app is also available for tunein radio.
Live Stats: ewulive.statb.us (web) or ewustats.com (mobile phones)
Weekly Coaches Show: Mondays 6 p.m. at the Q Sports Bar and Restaurant at Northern Quest Resort & Casino. . . 700-AM ESPN, www.700espn.com & via iphone app. (search for “Spokane Radio” and download app).
It went from “big” to perhaps “bigger.”
Although both teams are coming off losses and it’s a non-conference tilt, this week’s marquee match-up between seventh-ranked Eastern Washington and 16th-ranked Cal Poly at Roos Field in Cheney, Wash., will give the winner an inside track toward a berth in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs. The loser, however, starts to sweat.
Kickoff is 1:35 p.m. Pacific time Saturday (Nov. 3) at “The Inferno.” The game is televised live by SWX (SWX Digital 6.2 in Spokane, 25.3 in the Tri-Cities & 23.3 in the Yakima area; Comcast 115; Davis Cable 514/81.2/12; Time Warner 306; Charter 287, Cable One 466; Northland Cable 115) and via webcast at www.bigskytv.org.
The radio broadcast of this week’s game, featuring Larry Weir, Paul Sorensen and Keith Osso, starts 1 1/2 hours prior to kickoff with the Eagle Tailgate Show. It may be heard on 700-AM ESPN, via the web at www.700espn.com and via iPhone application (search for “700 ESPN” and download the free app). The broadcast is also available via www.tunein.com and tunein’s mobile phone app.
Eastern lost its No. 1 ranking in FCS after a frustrating 30-27 loss at Southern Utah on Oct. 27, then later that day, the Mustangs were upended at Sacramento State 35-29. Eastern fell to 6-2 overall and 5-1 in the Big Sky with the loss, while Cal Poly suffered its first defeat of the season after seven-straight wins overall and five in the league.
“We just have to play sharper,” said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin, whose team scored on five-straight possessions in the middle of the game, but was empty on its first four and last three. “We’ll be at home, and we just need to come out and start the game cleaner. We didn’t execute as well as we would have liked. That’s the challenge -- we are all up against that.”
As a result of last week’s losses by EWU and Cal Poly, 12th-ranked Northern Arizona controls its own destiny toward the Big Sky title, with league games remaining at Idaho State and home versus Southern Utah and Cal Poly. The Lumberjacks, who edged Northern Colorado 12-10 on the road last week, are now 7-1 overall and 5-0 in the league.
In last week’s loss, five key starters didn’t play because of injuries -- Zach Johnson (33 career starts), Andru Pulu (7), Jeff Minnerly (21), Zack Gehring (18) and Jordan Talley (9). Besides their 88 career starts, they have a combined total of 121 games played. Eastern has now lost a league game by three points, won a pair by three and came out on top in a pair of six-point victories, thus making the injuries a key factor in the fine line between victory and defeat in the Big Sky.
“It’s very close,” said Baldwin of the league race. “It’s been close all year and it will continue to be close all the way to the end. We have to find a way to do some things better during the week and respond to (the loss at Southern Utah).”
Thus, Eastern’s hopes for a sixth Big Sky title come down to winning its final two games -- at home versus UC Davis (Nov. 10) and on the road at Portland State (Nov. 17) – and hoping for a tie for the league title. A possible scenario, if NAU falls to Cal Poly on Nov. 17, is a four-way tie for the title at 7-1 between EWU, Cal Poly, NAU and Montana State.
Tiebreakers only come into play for the league’s automatic berth in the FCS Playoffs, and the EWU-Cal Poly game would only be used in the event of an unlikely head-to-head Eagle-Mustang tie for the Big Sky title.
Regardless, those four teams – plus Sacramento State – are in prime position to capture berths in the 20-team FCS Playoffs. Eastern will be seeking its ninth berth, and first since winning the NCAA Division I title in 2010. The first round of teams seeded 13-20 play on Nov. 24, with eight games in the round of 16 played on Dec. 1. The quarterfinals are Dec. 7-8, the semifinals are Dec. 14-15 and the championship game is Jan. 5 in Frisco, Texas.
Eastern fell from first to seventh in The Sports Network NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Top 25 poll, with a 27-24 victory over then second-ranked Montana State on Oct. 13 catapulting the Eagles from sixth to the top spot for two weeks. It’s the third-straight year Eastern has been ranked No. 1 at one point in the season. Cal Poly fell from 11th to 16th this week, while MSU jumped one spot to third and NAU rose one position to 12th.
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College Football Performance Awards – http://www.collegefootballperformance.com
* Eastern fell from its perch as the top-ranked team in this week’s Sports Network NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Top 25 Poll as selected by a national panel of sportswriters, broadcasters and sports information directors. A 30-27 loss by the Eagles at Southern Utah dropped EWU to No. 7 and allowed defending champion North Dakota State to take over the top spot. In the coaches poll this week, the Eagles are ranked eighth after a No. 1 ranking two weeks in a row. Other Big Sky Conference schools in the top 25 include Montana State (3rd TSN, 3rd coaches), Northern Arizona (12th TSN, 12th coaches) and Cal Poly (16th TSN, 16th coaches). Eastern’s 27-24 victory over Montana State on Oct. 13, as well as losses by the top three ranked teams, catapulted EWU to the top of the rankings. This is the third-straight season EWU has been ranked No. 1. Eastern ended the 2010 regular season with its first No. 1 ranking in school history, and remained in that position after winning the NCAA Division I Championship. The Eagles were also ranked first in the 2011 preseason poll, as well as after the Eagles narrowly lost its opener last season at Washington, 30-27. The Eagles were also No. 1 for two weeks in rankings released by College Sports Journal and College Sports Madness.
* In the last two weeks, the Eagles have fallen from a season-high second to seventh among FCS schools in the Jeff Sagarin computer ratings. North Dakota State is first, followed by Indiana State, Sam Houston State, Georgia Southern and Eastern’s Big Sky rivals Montana State and Cal Poly. Eastern is 89th overall in the ratings, with Cal Poly ranking 88th and MSU 86th. Other highly ranked Big Sky schools include Northern Arizona (12/103), Portland State (31/141), Southern Utah (34/144), Montana (41/152), North Dakota (42/154), Sacramento State (44/158) and UC Davis (47/167).
* Since 2010, EWU is 20-2 after Oct. 1, including an 11-0 mark two years ago, 6-1 last year and 3-1 this season. The lone losses were a 43-26 home setback in 2011 versus Portland State and a 30-27 road setback at Southern Utah on Oct. 27, 2012. In November and beyond, Eastern is 8-0 since 2010 and 17-3 since 2007.
* Starting defensive end Jerry Ceja remains fourth in FCS and leads the league with an average of 1.12 sacks per game (total of nine). Ceja has had eight of his sacks in EWU’s last five games, including two each versus Montana State on Oct. 13, North Dakota on Oct. 6 and Weber State on Sept. 22. As a team, the Eagles are third in the league and eighth nationally with an average of 3.00 per game.
* With a 6-5 record in 2011, Eastern fell a victory shy of its sixth playoff berth since 2004. Although the Eagles came up short, EWU is one of just seven schools among the 120 in FCS to have advanced to the playoffs five times in the last eight seasons (2004, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2010).
* Since current Tennessee Titan Michael Roos became an offensive lineman as a sophomore at Eastern Washington University in 2002, he started every football game he played from 2002-12 as a collegian or professional until an appendicitis attack and subsequent surgery ended his streak on Sunday (Oct. 28). Here’s the math: 35 starts at EWU (3 seasons, 2002-04) + 34 preseason NFL Games (8 seasons, 2005-12) + 119 regular season NFL Games (7 1/2 seasons, 2005-11) + 2 NFL Playoff Games (2007 & 2008) +1 NFL Pro Bowl Game (February 2009) = 191-Straight Starts (through 10/21/12)
More Game Notes
* Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin coached in his 100th Eastern game when the Eagles rallied to beat Montana 32-26. He is now 39-18 in four-plus seasons as a head coach (2008-12), and was 25-22 as EWU assistant coach for four seasons (2003-06), for a collective total of 64-40. His .737 winning percentage in Big Sky Conference games (28-10) is the best-ever by an Eastern head coach and currently ranks 10th in the 50-year history of the Big Sky Conference. His .684 percentage overall is 11th.
* Junior Brandon Kaufman has 46 catches for 903 yards (19.6 per catch) and eight touchdowns thus far, including career highs of 10 catches for 192 yards versus Southern Utah on Oct. 27. Kaufman has gone over the 100-yard mark six times this season and 14 times in his career. The 2010 All-American leads the Big Sky and ranks eighth in FCS in receiving yards per game (112.9). Because of hand and knee injuries requiring surgery, Kaufman received an injury redshirt in the 2011 season after playing in the first four games of the year. Kaufman, who is from Denver, Colo., and is a 2009 graduate of Heritage HS, now has 174 career catches (fifth in school history) for 2,784 yards (fourth) and 25 touchdowns (sixth).
* Following its 404-yard effort at Southern Utah on Oct. 27, the Eagles are now third in the league and 14th in FCS in passing offense (285.9 per game). Vernon Adams ranks 11th in FCS in passing efficiency (150.45). In six games as a starter and one as a sub, he has completed 63.2 percent of his passes for 1,074 yards, 11 touchdowns and five interceptions. Kyle Padron, who started the first two games and has played four others as a sub, has completed 54 percent of his passes for 1,201 yards, seven TDs and four interceptions. The Eagles are sixth in the Big Sky and 24th in FCS in total offense (425.4), 38th in passing efficiency (134.56) and 30th in scoring offense (30.5).
* The Eagles, an early leader in the Big Sky Conference in scoring defense, are now third in the league. They have allowed 22.3 points per game, which ranks 39th in FCS.
* Eastern is now 50th in FCS in rushing defense (147.6), having given up only 336 rushing yards total in its first three games and just 70 versus Montana State. Eastern is also 66th in total defense (379.6). Before Montana rushed for 407 yards against EWU on Sept. 29, the Eagles ranked 25th in FCS and third in the league in rushing defense (112.0 yards per game). A year ago, Eastern was 101st out of 120 FCS schools in total defense (411.9) and 110th in rushing defense (213.2).
* An impressive 13-of-14 on the season, senior kicker Jimmy Pavel ranks fourth in FCS with an average of 1.62 field goals per game. He is just three behind the school record of 16, and EWU as a team is just two behind the team record of 16. Pavel made kicks of 45 and 23 yards against Southern Utah on Oct. 27 to improve to 13-of-13 on the year, but missed his first attempt of the season on a 37-yarder that would have broken a 27-27 tie with 2:51 left in the game. Pavel, who handled kickoff duties a year ago, took over this season for Mike Jarrett, who made a school-record 16 field goals in just 18 attempts as a senior in 2011. Pavel missed his only attempt, a 52-yarder, in the 2011 season and was
* Freshman Shaquille Hill, who had a 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against North Dakota on Sept. 6, ranks 21st in FCS with an average of 26.27 yards per kickoff return. Eastern is fifth in FCS with a 25.7 average. Leading the Big Sky in kickoff returns is Cal Poly’s Chris Nicholls (26.33), who ranks 19th in FCS.
* In other national rankings, Eastern is 34th in turnover margin (+0.50 per game). Eastern’s Jake Miller is 10th in punting (43.53).
* This week the Eagles face a Cal Poly team leads the Big Sky and ranks third in FCS in rushing offense (323.4), as well as ranking 20th nationally in total offense (430.1) and 12th in scoring offense (36.9). A year ago, Cal Poly rushed for 405 yards versus the Eagles. The Mustangs are also 16th in turnover margin (+0.88 per game) and second in passing efficiency (168.67). Individually, Deonte Williams leads the Big Sky and is sixth in rushing (136.8).
* The 2012 season was the first time the Eagles have started the Big Sky Conference season 4-0, and the Eagles bettered that with a 5-0 start. The last time EWU was 3-0 in conference play was in 2009, joining 2004, 1996 and 1992 as the only teams to accomplish that feat. Only in 1992 and 2004 did EWU go on to win the Big Sky Conference title, sharing those championships with Idaho and Montana, respectively.
* Overall, since becoming a member of FCS in 1984, Eastern has started the season 5-1 in 1997, 1996 and 1985. However, the only time the Eagles have gone 6-1 until this season came in 1997 when the Eagles were 12-1 before losing to Youngstown State 25-14 in the semifinals of the FCS Playoffs.
* Eastern has perhaps the top wide receiver trio in all of FCS, with three players who have all earned All-America accolades and have 1,000-yard seasons in their careers -- Nicholas Edwards, Greg Herd and Brandon Kaufman. They have combined for 121 games worth of experience (88 starts), and have collective totals of 504 catches for 7,057 yards and 69 touchdowns. Edwards and Herd are seniors and Kaufman is a junior after he received an injury redshirt in 2011. Junior Ashton Clark, who had a career-high 11 catches versus Southern Utah on Oct. 27, has 66 catches for 804 yards and seven touchdowns in his career.
* The Eagles have a quartet of linebackers who have combined for 141 games of experience (89 starts) in their careers, with a collective total of 811 tackles. Zach Johnson (33 games played/33 starts) has 274 tackles, Tyler Washburn (45/30) has 229, Ronnie Hamlin (19/16) has 167 and Grant Williams (44/10) has 141. In addition, Cody McCarthy (13/5, 66 tackles) and J.C. Agen (24/4, 46 tackles) have seen significant action for EWU since last season.
* Junior cornerback T.J. Lee has piled up some impressive statistics already this season, including nine tackles and a sack versus Southern Utah on Oct. 27, and eight tackles, a pass broken up and a forced fumble on a sack that he also recovered versus Weber State on Sept. 22. One game earlier against Washington State, he had six tackles and an interception, as the Eagle defense pitched a shutout in the second half and kept the Eagles in the game. His interception in the fourth quarter came at the Eastern 7-yard line and helped thwart one of two potential scoring drives for the Cougars late in the game. A first team All-Big Sky selection a year ago, Lee now has 108 tackles, three interceptions, six passes broken up and 2 1/2 sacks in his 28-game career (15 starts).
* A part of Eastern’s Ferris High School connection in the secondary, redshirt freshman Jordan Tonani has made his mark as an injury replacement for safety Jeff Minnerly, who suffered a broken collarbone against Montana on Sept. 29. Most notably, with EWU clinging to a 20-17 lead over Montana State, Tonani stepped in front of a MSU receiver on an out route for an interception he returned 21 yards for a touchdown with 11:15 to play, becoming the winning points in a 27-24 victory over the second-ranked Bobcats. He also had eight tackles, and as a result, was selected as the College Sports Madness National FCS Defensive Player of the Week, as well as their same honor for the Big Sky Conference. One game earlier in his first collegiate start, Tonani had 11 tackles as the Eagles held North Dakota scoreless in the second half of a 55-17 win. Entering the game, UND had 37 plays of 20 or more yards on offense this season, and EWU’s goal was to hold North Dakota to three or less. The Eagles did better than that, holding UND to just one – a 24-yard pass play in the third quarter after EWU had already opened a 34-17 lead. Interestingly, Tonani and Minnerly are from the same high school in Spokane, Wash. Tonani graduated from Ferris in 2011; Minnerly graduated in 2008, along with EWU backup safety McKenzie Murphy. Murphy broke his thumb against North Dakota, and despite wearing a padded cast, had an interception Oct. 27 against Southern Utah after missing the Montana State and Sacramento State games. Minnerly, who is also out indefinitely, was also Eastern’s leading tackler in his first career start, finishing with eight tackles in a 49-24 loss at Nevada on Sept. 2, 2010.
* Although it took a week off against Southern Utah, Eastern’s fourth quarter magic dating back to 2010 is alive and well. In the last three seasons (2010-12), the Eagles have had 10 victories when they’ve trailed or been tied in the final stanza. In a 27-24 victory over second-ranked Montana State on Oct. 13, the sixth-ranked Eagles trailed 17-13 in the fourth quarter before scoring two non-offensive touchdowns within a span of 59 seconds. The Eagles blocked a punt (Dylan Zylstra) and recovered it for a touchdown (Evan Day), then returned an interception for a score (Jordan Tonani). On Sept. 29, Eastern scored two touchdowns in the final 2:19 as the No. 7 Eagles rallied for a 32-26 victory over the 21st-ranked Montana Grizzlies. A year ago, a touchdown pass by wide receiver Greg Herd sparked Eastern to scores on four consecutive plays (two touchdowns and two conversions) in the second and third overtimes as the Eagles prevailed 53-51 over Cal Poly on Nov. 12. Eastern sent the game into overtime with a 10-play, 80-yard drive to score with 1:51 to play. Just two games earlier, Eastern rallied from a 15-point deficit to defeat Sacramento State 42-35 in overtime Oct. 22 at Hornet Stadium. The victory kept EWU perfect in 11 tries versus the Hornets in Sacramento. In 2010, Eastern was no stranger to narrow victories, with six victories when trailing in the fourth quarter. In fact, nine of its 13 wins during the national championship season were nail-biters -- 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 over Delaware in the national championship game when the Eagles rallied from a 19-0 deficit to score three touchdowns in the final 16:48.
* Eastern’s running game is much-improved in 2012, with the Eagles ranking 67th in FCS with an average of 139.5 yards per game. A year ago, Eastern ranked 112th out of 120 FCS teams with an average of 79.0 per game. Only once last year did Eastern have more than 139 yards rushing in a single game and EWU already has performances of 290 (North Dakota), 206 (Weber State) and 162 (Idaho). The 290 yards versus UND are Eastern’s most since it had 307 versus Montana-Western in 2007, and the most versus an FCS opponent since running for 295 against Weber State in 2004.
* This is the first time in school history all 11 Eastern games will be played on artificial surfaces. Eastern played on grass just once in 2010 (Weber State) and 2011 (Cal Poly). Prior to having red Sprinturf installed in 2010, Eastern’s Roos Field (formerly Woodward Field) was a grass surface.
* A quartet of Eagle seniors have been selected as Eastern’s co-captains for the 2012 season. They include defensive end Paul Ena, linebacker Zach Johnson, wide receiver Nicholas Edwards and offensive tackle Will Post. Johnson was a senior captain last year before an injury cut short his season, but he was granted a sixth year by the NCAA to complete four years of eligibility. Featured on the school’s schedule poster and in other publications, all four have suffered injuries already this season. Injuries to Edwards (knee) and Ena (hand) caused them to miss the first games of their careers, and Johnson (hamstring) is a sixth-year senior who has now missed 24 games because of an injury-plagued career. Post (high ankle sprain) was injured in practice the week of the North Dakota game, but was able to start versus UND.
* Eastern led the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision in passing offense in 2011, averaging 368.5 yards per game. In Beau Baldwin’s four years as Eastern’s head coach, the Eagles have ranked in the top 10 in FCS in passing offense three times and total offense twice. In EWU’s last eight seasons (1994-2011), including seven with Baldwin on the coaching staff, EWU has ranked in the top 10 in passing six times and total offense on five occasions.
* The weekly Gridiron Power Rankings are released every Tuesday by College Sporting News (www.collegesportingnews.com), and last week the top six teams were North Dakota State, Georgia Southern, Eastern Washington, Cal Poly, Sam Houston State, Montana State and Northern Arizona. This week’s ratings should be released by Oct. 31.
* Despite coming off a 6-5 season, the Eastern Washington University football team has been picked to finish second in the Big Sky Conference. Two-time defending co-champion Montana State has been selected first by the media and the coaches in the polls. MSU, which has finished 7-1 in the conference in each of the past two seasons and advanced to the playoffs, earned seven first-place votes in the coaches poll and a total of 136 points. In the media poll, the Bobcats received 30 of 40 first-place votes and 502 total points. Eastern garnered four first-place votes and 131 total points from the coaches. In the media poll, the Eagles earned three first-place votes and 453 total points. A year ago, the Eagles were picked to win the league title after they had won the 2010 Big Sky championship and went on to win the NCAA Division I title. But an 0-4 start and a rash of injuries led to a 6-5 finish overall and 5-3 mark in the Big Sky in 2011.
* Starting defensive tackle Andru Pulu missed the Southern Utah game with an ankle injury suffered against Sacramento State and is probable for this week. Linebacker Cody McCarthy is also probable after missing the Sacramento State and Southern Utah games with a knee injury. He originally hurt the knee in practice and missed the Montana game, but returned to play the next week versus North Dakota. Starting tight end Zack Gehring (shoulder) missed the SUU game, and is questionable. Starting running back Jordan Talley (concussion) is out, having missed the Southern Utah, North Dakota and Montana State games already. Linebacker Zach Johnson (hamstring) remains questionable this week. He played in just EWU’s first defensive series against Weber State before he had to sit out the rest of the game, and has missed the last four games (total of 24 in his career). His backup, J.C. Agen, who started in 2011 after Johnson was lost for the season with a knee injury, will be out the rest of the season. He missed the first two EWU games with a torn pectoral muscle, but made his season debut in limited action versus Weber State. However, he has missed every game since and will undergo surgery soon. Backup safety McKenzie Murphy broke his thumb against North Dakota and subsequently had surgery, and missed the Montana State and Sacramento State games. He returned to play against Southern Utah, and had an interception despite wearing a padded cast. Senior safety Jeff Minnerly suffered a fractured collarbone suffered against Montana and remains out. Minnerly and Murphy are both 2008 graduates of Ferris High School in Spokane, Wash. Starting offensive tackle Clay DeBord missed the Sacramento State game with an ankle injury, but returned to play at Southern Utah. Wide receiver Nicholas Edwards returned to play against Montana State after missing two games because of a knee sprain on a pass reception on EWU’s first offensive play of the game at Weber State. Defensive end Paul Ena returned to start versus Montana after a wrist injury in the first half against Washington State sidelined him for the rest of that game, as well as Weber State. Ena, the lone returning starter on the defensive line, started against Idaho on Aug. 30 despite suffering an elbow injury in practice about a week earlier. Wide receiver Greg Herd played against Weber State after suffering a concussion versus Washington State, but probably wouldn’t have played if Eastern would have had a game on Sept. 15. Running back Demitrius Bronson missed the first two games with an injured hamstring, but returned to carry the ball twice versus Weber State.
* Eastern is 3-2 against Cal Poly, with the home team winning four of the five games. Eastern beat the Mustangs 61-7 in the first-ever NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (then known as I-AA) game for Cal Poly to open the 1994 season. That game was also the head coaching debut of former Eagle Mike Kramer, who is now head coach at Idaho State. Eastern was blasted 52-35 in San Luis Obispo to end the 1995 season, but two years later the Eagles finished 12-2 and advanced to the semifinals of the FCS Playoffs. Eastern defeated the Mustangs in Cheney by a 38-21 score in 2004, when Cal Poly entered the game ranked 11th nationally and EWU was 21st. The Eagles eventually received an at-large playoff berth in 2004 while the Mustangs stayed home with a 9-2 mark. Eastern lost at Cal Poly 40-35 in 2005 in a game matching the 11th-ranked Eagles and the 18th-ranked Mustangs. A year ago, the Eagles scored on four consecutive plays (two touchdowns and two conversions) in the second and third overtimes as the Eagles prevailed 53-51 in San Luis Obispo.
* Current Eastern student assistant coach Erik Meyer passed for 417 yards and four touchdowns, and Eric Kimble caught nine passes for 151 yards and three of the scores, the last time EWU faced the Mustangs in Cheney. The 21st-ranked Eagles upset 11th-ranked Cal Poly 38-21 in winning for the seventh time in eight games. Eastern handed the Mustangs their second-straight loss after a 7-0 start that had them ranked fifth in the country two weeks earlier. The performance by Meyer was then the fifth-best in school history as he finished with 431 yards of offense despite getting sacked six times. He completed 21-of-32 passes with one interception, and scrambled for 48 yards of gains while getting sacked for 34 yards of losses. Eastern piled-up a season-high 573 yards of total offense as it had 417 passing and 156 rushing. Defensively, Eastern held Cal Poly to 343 yards of offense, including just two yards rushing.
* In last year’s heart-stopping victory, a touchdown pass by wide receiver Greg Herd sparked Eastern Washington to scores on four consecutive plays (two touchdowns and two conversions) in the second and third overtimes as the Eagles prevailed 53-51 at Alex G. Spanos Stadium. Coming on what appeared to be a designed reverse, Herd’s 25-yard TD toss to fellow wide receiver Nicholas Edwards helped send the game into a third overtime. After a game-tying point after conversion by Mike Jarrett, Bo Levi Mitchell passed 25 yards to Herd on the very next play for the go-ahead score to begin the third OT. Mitchell then scrambled his way into the end zone for the all-important two-point conversion. Cal Poly scored on the next possession, but Alden Gibbs broke up a pass on the two-point conversion to preserve Eastern’s victory. A trade of field goals – including a school-record 15th on the season by Jarrett – opened the overtime. Eastern sent the game into overtime with a 10-play, 80-yard drive to score with 1:51 to play on a 22-yard pass play from Mitchell to his older brother Cory Mitchell, who finished the game with a career-high seven catches for 132 yards.
* In last year’s meeting, Eastern couldn’t stop Cal Poly from running the ball and the Mustangs couldn’t stop the Eagle passing game. The Mustangs rushed for 405 yards on 95 carries and scored three-straight touchdowns late in the game to rally from a 28-14 deficit. Eastern, which passed for 461 yards in the game, converted 8-of-10 third downs in building a 28-14 lead in the third quarter. But three-straight empty possessions helped the Mustangs rally with scoring drives of 71, 80 and 77 yards. Mitchell, the leader in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision with an average of 352.9 passing yards per game, completed 34-of-50 passes for 436 yards and five touchdowns. Edwards caught 10 passes for 136 yards and two touchdowns. Six Eagles had double figures in tackles, as Cal Poly had 107 total offensive plays compared to 73 for the Eagles. Linebacker Grant Williams finished with a career-high 19 tackles (seventh in school history), and linebacker Ronnie Hamlin had a career-high 16. Linebacker Tyler Washburn had 12 and Allen Brown had 10, with Paul Ena (7) and Bo Schuetzle (3) also finishing with season highs for tackles.
Eagle-Cal Poly Connections
* Cal Poly has two players from the state of Washington on its roster. Sophomore linebacker Nick Moyer and sophomore offensive lineman Sam Kenney both attended Bellevue High School. Eastern senior linebacker Rusty Haehl also attended Bellevue, but graduated two years ahead of Moyer and Kenney. Of the 109 players on Cal Poly’s roster, only six are not from California.
* Eastern cornerbacks coach Cherokee Valeria spent the 2010 season as Director of Football Operations at Cal Poly. He was that school’s pro liaison, and also worked with the defensive staff for the 7-4 Mustangs, who ranked 14th in FCS in rushing defense. Valeria also started the Mustang Pride program, helping Cal Poly football players reach out to the local community.
* Wide receiver Brandon Kaufman has 174 catches in his career to rank fifth in school history, and now is chasing teammate Nicholas Edwards (196) for fourth. Kaufman is fourth all-time in EWU history with 2,784 reception yards, and is now 229 yards away from third (Tony Brooks, 1990-93, 3,013). Kaufman’s 25 touchdown catches are sixth, four away from the No. 3 position of 29 held by Aaron Boyce (2006-09) and five behind the No. 2 position held by teammate Nicholas Edwards (30).
* Wide receiver Nicholas Edwards is just 23 receiving yards away from moving into seventh all-time in Eastern history (he currently has 2,421), and is four points away from moving into eighth in points scored (currently he has 182). Just four receptions from the 200 catch mark, his 196 career catches ranks fourth in school history (No. 3 has 213) and his 30 TD receptions are second (the record is 46). Greg Herd (134 catches for 1,852 yards and 14 touchdowns) should also be among EWU’s career leaders before the season has concluded.
* The 43.9 career punting average of sophomore Jake Miller currently ranks ahead of the school record. Jesse Nicassio had a 42.3 average in two seasons from 2002-03. Miller had a school-record 74-yard punt versus Washington State on Sept. 8, breaking the previous record of 71 set in 2006 by Ryan Donckers.
* Linebacker Zach Johnson has 274 tackles in his career, just 14 from moving into eighth all-time at Eastern. He is 67 from ranking fifth and equaling the total of 341 by his twin brother Matt Johnson, who now plays for the Dallas Cowboys.
* Senior linebacker Tyler Washburn is now in the top 20 in career tackles in Eastern history, currently ranking 17th with 229. He is two from ranking 16th all-time, six from the No. 15 position and seven from No. 14.
* Defensive end Paul Ena recovered a fumble and returned it 40 yards against Montana State on Oct. 13, equaling the school record for career fumble recoveries. He shares the school record of eight with Nicholas Ramos (2006-09) and Steve Mattson (1994-97). Ramos, in fact, was at the MSU game and was a guest on EWU’s pre-game radio show.
* Senior defensive end Jerry Ceja is ninth all-time in career sacks with 20 1/2, and needs only a half-sack from moving into eighth and 1 1/2 from seventh. Ceja also has five forced fumbles in his career, just one behind the school record of six shared by four players. The players who own the record are Matt Johnson (2008-11), Renard Williams (2008-11), J.C. Sherritt (2007-10) and Chris Scott (1994-97).
Recent Game Summary
* In an old-fashioned Big Sky Conference shootout, Southern Utah scored the final 10 points of the game to upset Eastern Washington University in a league football clash Oct. 27 at Eccles Coliseum in Cedar City, Utah. In a game that featured five lead changes and no lead of more than seven points, both teams finished with nearly 500 yards of offense. But a missed Eastern field goal with 2:51 left and a made SUU field goal with three seconds remaining was the difference as the Eagles fell from their perch as the No. 1 team in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision.
* On a day when Eastern managed only 91 rushing yards, quarterbacks Kyle Padron and Vernon Adams combined to pass for 404 yards. Adams started both halves and finished 11-of-15 for 181 yards and a score, and Padron relieved him and was 24-of-35 for 223 yards. Junior receiver Brandon Kaufman finished with a career-high 10 catches for a career-high 192 yards. He has gone over the 100-yard mark five times this season and 13 times in his career. Junior Ashton Clark had a career-high 11 catches for 86 yards and a touchdown, with his catch total ranking 12th in school history. Junior Ronnie Hamlin had 13 tackles to lead the Eagle defense, and T.J. Lee added nine with a sack. Senior Jerry Ceja had his ninth sack of the season.
Quoting Coach Beau Baldwin
On Loss to Southern Utah: “A lot of things happen during the course of the game and that’s just football. You have to find a way to regroup and come back. We have to clean-up some of the little things that got us today.”
On Big Sky Race: “Everybody in the Big Sky has been playing close games all year – it’s a tough conference. Every team has 63 scholarships and it is hard to win every week. If you are a little off and the other team makes a few more plays, you can be in trouble.”
Defense (255 starts by 20 players): Zach Johnson 33, Paul Ena 31, Tyler Washburn 30, Evan Cook 22, Jeff Minnerly 21, Allen Brown 20, Ronnie Hamlin 16, T.J. Lee 15, David Gaylord 13, Grant Williams 10 (includes one start on offense in 2009), Ronald Baines 9, Jerry Ceja 8, Andru Pulu 7, Cody McCarthy 5, Jordan Tonani 4, J.C. Agen 4, Evan Day 3, Will Katoa 2, Dylan Zylstra 1, Rusty Haehl 1.
Offense (252 starts by 23 players): Nicholas Edwards 41, Brandon Kaufman 30, Will Post 30, Steven Forgette 25, Zack Gehring 18, Greg Herd 17, Brandon Murphy 17, Ashton Miller 9, Jordan Talley 9, Drew Reynolds 8, Clay DeBord 7, Quincy Forte 6, Vernon Adams 6, Mario Brown 5, Ashton Clark 5, Ryan Seto 4, Jake Withnell 2, Cody Humphrey 2, Kyle Padron 2, Demitrius Bronson 3, Daniel Johnson 2, Jase Butorac 2, Cory Mitchell 1, T.J. Boatright 1.
* Four Eagles made starting debuts against Idaho on Aug. 30. On defense, Washington transfer Andru Pulu made his first start at defensive tackle and had one tackle, and sophomore Evan Day had 1 1/2 sacks in his starting debut at an end position. On offense, SMU transfer Kyle Padron completed 13-of-33 passes for 260 yards and a touchdown in his Eagle debut, but previously started 21 games at the NCAA FBS level at Southern Methodist. Also making his starting debut was left offensive tackle Clay DeBord.
* The only other starting debuts since the opener have been made by quarterback Vernon Adams at Weber State on Sept. 22, Jake Withnell against Montana on Sept. 29, Jordan Tonani against North Dakota on Oct. 6, offensive tackle T.J. Boatright against Sacramento State on Oct. 20 and defensive tackle Dylan Zylstra versus Southern Utah on Oct. 27. In an unannounced and surprise start, Adams used his arm and his feet to lead EWU to a 20-3 halftime lead versus Weber State. The redshirt freshman led Eastern to scores on four of five drives in the first half, including a 75-yard touchdown mark on his first drive as an Eagle. He finished the game 7-of-12 for 75 yards, and ran five times for 62 yards, but missed most of the second half with cramping. Of his five rushes, four were for first downs; of his seven completions, four more resulted in EWU first downs. Tonani, starting because of broken collarbone suffered by Jeff Minnerly, had 11 tackles in his starting debut, then had eight with an interception return for a touchdown the next game in a 27-21 win over second-seeded Montana State. Boatright started as an injury replacement for Clay DeBord (ankle) and Zylstra started in place of an injured Andru Pulu (ankle).