Showdown in Bozeman Between Big Sky Unbeatens
Sixth-ranked Eastern tries to reverse a two-game trend against second-ranked Montana State, which has defeated the Eagles soundly the last two seasons
Eastern Washington Univ. “Eagles”
Montana State University "Bobcats"
Saturday, Oct. 13, 2012 • 12:40 p.m.
Bobcat Stadium (17,777) • Bozeman, Mont.
EWU Coach: Beau Baldwin (Central Washington
School Record: 37-17/26-9 Big Sky Conference (5th Season)
Career Record: 47-20 (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: 4-1/3-0 Big Sky Conference
2011: 6-5/5-3 Big Sky Conference
Last Game: Eastern 55, North Dakota 17 (Oct. 6 in Cheney, Wash.)
TV: Root Sports/DirectTV’s Audience Network (Tom Glasgow/Jason Stiles/Jen Mueller)
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: http://www.statbroadcast.com/events/statmonitr.php?gid=mnst
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).
Watch Parties: All road games will be available to watch at the Q Sports Bar and Restaurant at Northern Quest Resort & Casino in Airway Heights, the Swinging Doors in North Spokane and the Eagles Pub in Cheney.
In its quest for its first-ever 4-0 Big Sky Conference start, the only motivation the Eastern Washington University football team needs this week is 66-28 and 26-7.
That’s the collective score and second half score, respectively, in the last two meetings between the Eagles and Montana State, who clash this Saturday (Oct. 13) in Bozeman, Mont. Kickoff between sixth-ranked EWU and second-ranked MSU is 12:40 p.m. Pacific time at Bobcat Stadium in a game regionally televised by Root Sports.
Ranked sixth in this week’s Sports Network NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Top 25 poll, Eastern enters the game 4-1 overall and 3-0 in the Big Sky Conference, with its lone loss a narrow 24-20 setback at Washington State on Sept. 8. The Bobcats, ranked second behind defending NCAA Division I champion North Dakota State, are a perfect 6-0 overall and 3-0 in the league.
The radio broadcast of this week’s game, featuring Larry Weir, Paul Sorensen and Dennis Patchin, 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.
“This game is huge -- I can’t wait,” said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin following last week’s 55-17 romp over North Dakota. “I love these big games, and our players do too. We’ll enjoy the North Dakota win for a day, but believe me, I’m already thinking about Montana State because they are the real deal. They are a great team and we know that, but it’s going to be an exciting opportunity for our program.”
Two years ago, Eastern fell to 2-2 when 17th-ranked Montana State out-scored ninth-ranked EWU 10-0 in the second half in a 30-7 win, and out-gained EWU in total offense 439-382. However, EWU would go on to win its next 11 games and bring home the NCAA Division I title.
In the rematch last year between the No. 4 Bobcats and No. 21 Eagles, Montana State out-scored Eastern 26-7 over the final 35:08 of the game for a 36-21 win and drop EWU to 0-4 on the season. The offensive battle was won by MSU 416-371, but again, the Eagles responded well from that loss to win six of their next seven games and finish the season 6-5.
Prior to the last two losses, the Eagles have dominated the all-time series with MSU, winning 25 of the first 33 meetings. Eastern’s seven-game winning streak in the series was snapped in 2010.
But for Eastern to reverse the recent trend, it will have to find a way to stop Bobcat quarterback DeNarius McGee. Of the 855 yards MSU has accumulated the last two years, he has accounted for 545 of them. In 2010, he was 15-of-24 passing for 283 yards, and added 24 rushing. He was just 12-of-26 for 161 yards a year ago, but also rushed for 77 yards.
McGhee is 10th in FCS in total offense, averaging 288.3 yards per game, and as a team the Bobcats are 19th (433.8). Eastern, meanwhile, is 16th in total offense (448.6), providing a match-up Saturday of two of the top 20 offenses in FCS. The Eagles rushed for 290 yards in last week’s win over North Dakota, but EWU will be tested by a Bobcat defense which is seventh in FCS in rushing defense (70.8).
Following this week’s game, Eastern returns home to face Sacramento State (Oct. 20) for Homecoming at EWU on Sept. 20, starting at 4:05 p.m. at Roos Field. That game will be televised live by SWX (SWX Digital 6.2 in Spokane, 25.3 in the Tri-Cities & 23.3 in the Yakima area; Comcast 115; Time Warner 306; Charter 287, Cable One 466; Davis Cable 514; Northland Cable 115) and via webcast at www.bigskytv.org. Eastern then plays at Southern Utah (Oct. 27), home versus Cal Poly (Nov. 3), home against UC Davis (Nov. 10) and away at Portland State (Nov. 17).
PDF Link to Fact Book
The complete version of the 2012 EWU football fact book may be
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/2012-13/news
EWU Season Outlook - http://www.goeags.com/sports/m-footbl/2012-13/Releases/12fbSEASONOUTLOOK1
Link to Football Ticket & RV Parking Information: http://goeags.com/tickets/ewas-fbticketcentral.html
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
700 ESPN – http://700espn.com
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 (2012) - http://web1.ncaa.org/mfb/mainpage.jsp?year=2012
NCAA Statistics (2011) - http://web1.ncaa.org/mfb/mainpage.jsp?year=2011
College Sporting News - http://www.collegesportingnews.com
College Sports Journal - http://www.college-sports-journal.com
College Football Performance Awards – http://www.collegefootballperformance.com
* Eastern moved up one spot to sixth 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. The Eagles had been ranked seventh the past two weeks, but moved up after previously third-ranked Youngstown State was pounded by top-ranked North Dakota State 45-7. In the coaches poll, the Eagles are also sixth, after ranking seventh and ninth the previous two weeks. Other Big Sky Conference schools in the top 25 include Montana State (second TSN, second coaches), Cal Poly (15th TSN, 14th coaches) and Northern Arizona (16th TSN, 18th coaches).
* Thanks to a win versus a NCAA Football Bowl Division opponent (20-3 over Idaho on Aug. 30) and a near-miss against a Pac-12 Conference member (24-20 loss to Washington State on Sept. 8), the Eagles are a season-high second behind North Dakota State in the Jeff Sagarin computer ratings. Eastern is 79th overall, with Cal Poly ranking as the next-highest Big Sky school (fifth in FCS, 86th overall). Other highly ranked Big Sky schools include Montana (11/108), Montana State (13/111), Northern Arizona (16/115), North Dakota (30/144), UC Davis (35/149), Southern Utah (38/153), Portland State (41/156) and Sacramento State (44/159).
* Eastern leads FCS with a perfect 18-of-18 performance thus far in the red zone. Eastern has scored six rushing touchdowns, five passing TDs and has kicked seven field goals this season when it has reached inside the opponent 20-yard line. Western Illinois (12-of-12) and South Dakota (11-of-11) are also perfect this season.
* The Eagles have never started the Big Sky Conference season 4-0. 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.
* Eastern’s three nominees for Root Sports Players of the Week, as awarded by the Big Sky Conference, were all redshirt freshmen. Quarterback Vernon Adams was nominated on offense, safety Jordan Tonani on defense and Shaquille Hill on special teams after their performances in EWU’s 55-17 romp past North Dakota.
* Redshirt freshman Shaquille Hill had a 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to spark Eastern to a 34-point first-half outburst in a 55-17 Big Sky Conference football victory over North Dakota. As a result, he was this week’s Root Sports Special Teams Player of the Week as selected by the Big Sky Conference, and he was also the National Kickoff Returner of the Week in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision by College Football Performance Awards. After UND scored on its first possession of the game, Eastern went on a 27-3 scoring run in a span of just over 15 minutes. Hill’s touchdown return – Eastern’s first since 2010 – gave EWU a 20-10 lead. After a North Dakota TD with 1:29 left in the first half cut the lead to 27-17, Hill struck again with a 41-yard kickoff return to set-up a Vernon Adams-to-Greg Herd TD pass with 13 ticks of the clock left. Because of his returns, Hill is now third in FCS with a league-leading average of 37.33 yards per kickoff return, with EWU leading FCS with a 31.80 average. It was the second week in a row that Hill was nominated after he recovered an onside kick with 2:19 left to play, which led to the winning score for Eastern in its 32-26 come-from-behind win over Montana. After that touchdown with 53 seconds to play, Hill had the tackle on the ensuing kickoff return at the Montana 18-yard line. That became a key stop, as the Grizzlies drove 62 yards on five plays, but ran out of time to complete its own rally. Hill also had the first kickoff returns of his Eastern career, returning four for 84 yards and a touchdown. Eastern’s normal kickoff returner is All-America wide receiver Greg Herd. But with a knee injury keeping fellow All-America wide receiver Nicholas Edwards out of action, the Eagles elected to have Hill return kickoffs, instead of risking injury to Herd, who already suffered a concussion Sept. 8 versus Washington State.
* With an off-the-charts efficiency rating of 252.6 in just his third career start, redshirt freshman quarterback Vernon Adams earned College Sports Madness Big Sky Offensive Player of the Week in EWU’s 55-17 win over North Dakota. He completed 12-of-15 passes for 151 yards and four touchdowns in just over a half of work. He also had a net 38 yards rushing (long of 23), which included three sacks for a loss of 12 yards. Eastern finished with 458 yards of offense overall. Adams is now fifth in FCS in passing efficiency with a league-leading rating of 167.26, which is also the best among all freshmen in FCS. He has completed 64.7 percent of his passes for 579 yards, seven touchdowns and just one interception, and is also Eastern’s third-leading rusher with 156 yards (6.8 per carry).
* One trend the Eagles hope continues is its win-loss record in October and beyond. Since 2010, EWU is 18-1 after Oct. 1, including an 11-0 mark two years ago, 6-1 last year and 1-0 this season. The lone loss was a 43-26 home setback in 2011 versus Portland State.
* Eastern’s 38-point winning margin in a 55-17 win over North Dakota on Oct. 6 was its best since a 52-13 win over Montana-Western on Aug. 31, 2007, and the largest versus a NCAA Football Championship Subdivision opponent since a 51-7 win over Weber State on Oct. 23, 2004. The 55 points the Eagles scored were their most since a 56-30 win at Sacramento State in 2009.
* 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).
More Game Notes
* Redshirt freshman Jordan Tonani had a team-leading 11 tackles in his first start as an Eagle as an injury replacement for safety Jeff Minnerly (broken collarbone) against North Dakota. He had three solo stops and eight assists as the Eagles held North Dakota scoreless in the second half. 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 MacKenzie Murphy. Minnerly, who is 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.
* Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin coached in his 100th Eastern game when the Eagles rallied to beat Montana 32-26. He is now 37-17 in four-plus seasons as a head coach (2008-12), and was 25-22 as an EWU assistant coach for four seasons (2003-06), for a collective total of 62-39.
* Although his streak of five-straight 100-yard receiving performances was snapped versus North Dakota on Oct. 6, wide receiver Brandon Kaufman already has 29 catches for 606 yards and seven touchdowns. Although he only caught five passes for 47 yards against UND, two were for touchdowns. Kaufman has gone over the 100-yard mark four times this season and 12 times in his career. The 2010 All-American leads the Big Sky and ranks fourth in FCS in receiving yards per game (120.2), and is 27th in FCS in catches per game (5.8). 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 157 career catches (eighth in school history) for 2,487 yards (sixth) and 24 touchdowns (sixth).
* Eastern is now 82nd in FCS in rushing defense (177.2), having given up only 336 rushing yards total in its first three games. Eastern is also 68th in total defense (378.4). 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).
* The Eagles are second in the league and 10th in FCS in passing offense (280.2 per game), with junior Kyle Padron ranking 48th nationally (201.3). New starter Vernon Adams is fifth in FCS in passing efficiency (167.26), completing 64.7 percent of his passes for 579 yards, seven touchdowns and one interception. The Eagles are third in the Big Sky and 16th in FCS in total offense (448.6), and as a team are 34th in passing efficiency (136.98).
* Starting defensive end Jerry Ceja is seventh in FCS and ranks second in the league with an average of 1.0 sacks per game (total of five). Ceja had two versus North Dakota on Oct. 6 and two against Weber State on Sept. 22. Evan Day, a sophomore who started the first three games for EWU, had 1 1/2 sacks in his starting debut versus Idaho. That gives EWU 6 1/2 sacks from the right end position this year – the rest of the team has 5 1/2.
* In other national rankings, Eastern’s Jake Miller is ranked 10th in FCS in punting (43.54 average) and kicker Jimmy Pavel is 25th in field goals (1.2 per game, with six for the season). As a team, Eastern is 12th in net punting (38.84 per punt, including opponent returns) and 22th in scoring defense (19.2), 29th in scoring offense (31.8) and 12th in turnover margin (+1.2 per game).
* 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 112 games worth of experience (81 starts), and have collective totals of 460 catches for 6,417 yards and 65 touchdowns. Edwards and Herd are seniors and Kaufman is a junior after he received an injury redshirt in 2011.
* The Eagles have a quartet of linebackers who have combined for 132 games of experience (80 starts) in their careers, with a collective total of 736 tackles. Zach Johnson (33 games played/33 starts) has 274 tackles, Tyler Washburn (42/27) has 211, Ronnie Hamlin (16/13) has 131 and Grant Williams (41/7) has 120. In addition, Cody McCarthy (12/5, 62 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 eight tackles (six unassisted), a pass broken up and a forced fumble on a sack that he also recovered to lead to a field goal 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 88 tackles, three interceptions and six passes broken up in his 25-game career.
* Eastern’s running game is much-improved in 2012, with the Eagles ranking 45th in FCS with an average of 168.4 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. Four players have rushed for at least 127 yards thus far, including sophomore Quincy Forte with a team-leading 258 yards and a touchdown. Sophomore starter Jordan Talley, despite missing the North Dakota game with a concussion, has rushed for 221 and three touchdowns. They are now augmented by the additional running threat of quarterback Vernon Adams, who scrambled his way to 62 yards in his starting debut versus Weber State and another 54 versus Montana on Sept. 29. He has 156 for the season (6.8 per carry). Junior Demitrius Bronson, who missed EWU’s first two games with a hamstring injury and carried just five times in his first two games of the season, rushed 13 times for a career-high 113 yards and a TD against North Dakota. That was also a season-high for an Eagle running back.
* 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.
* Eastern’s comeback magic – dating back to 2010 -- is alive and well. In the last three seasons (2010-12), the Eagles have had nine victories when they’ve trailed or been tied in the final stanza. On Sept. 29, Eastern scored two touchdowns in the final 2:19 as the No. 7 Eagles rallied for a 32-26 victory over 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.
* 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 already missed 21 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.
* 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 running back Jordan Talley missed the North Dakota game with a concussion suffered in practice, and is questionable this week pending evaluation. Linebacker Zach Johnson (hamstring) is 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 two games. His backup, J.C. Agen, who started in 2011 after Johnson was lost for the season with a knee injury, is also doubtful this week. He missed the first two EWU games with a pectoral injury, but made his season debut in limited action versus Weber State. However, he has missed the two games since. Wide receiver Nicholas Edwards has been upgraded to questionable after missing EWU’s last two games. He suffered a knee sprain on a pass reception on EWU’s first offensive play of the game at Weber State, and missed the rest of that game. Senior safety Jeff Minnerly suffered a fractured collarbone suffered against Montana, which will keep him out an indefinite amount of time. 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.
* Although the Eagles have lost the last two meetings, recent history is on the side of the Eagles in a series that has seen EWU come out on top in 25 of 35 meetings. Until a 30-7 setback in Bozeman in 2010, Eastern had won the last seven meetings and 16 of the last 19. Last year’s 36-21 loss in 2011 snapped a seven-game winning streak for EWU versus MSU at Roos Field, dating back to a 28-25 double-overtime victory by the Bobcats in 1990. Since 1990, EWU’s only losses to the Bobcats from 1991-2009 came in 1997 (17-7 in Bozeman), 2001 (48-38 in Spokane) and 2002 (25-14 in Bozeman). Eastern is now 9-2 all-time in Cheney, 2-2 in Spokane, 13-6 in Bozeman and 1-0 at neutral sites. Mike Kramer (now head coach at Idaho State) was head coach in 13 of the matchups, going 5-1 as EWU’s head coach (1994-99) and 2-5 versus EWU as MSU’s head coach (2000-2006).
* In 2010, both teams finished 7-1 to share the Big Sky Conference title, but the Bobcats earned the league’s automatic berth in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs with a 30-7 win over the Eagles. Eastern, however, won every game after that – 11 in a row -- to win the NCAA Division I title.
* In the 2010 meeting, Montana State redshirt freshman quarterback Denarius McGhee passed for 283 yards and the No. 17 Bobcats used big plays to hand the ninth-ranked Eagles a 30-7 loss Sept. 25, 2010, at Bobcat Stadium in Bozeman, Mont. Montana State had a 439-382 advantage in total offense, but also scored touchdowns on an interception return and a fake field goal. Eastern All-America running back Taiwan Jones was limited to 65 rushing yards in the first half and 63 in the game in 2010 as he missed most of the second half with an injury. He finished with a total of just 93 all-purpose yards after entering the game averaging 287.3 to lead the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision, and 151.7 rushing yards to rank fourth. Eastern managed only 110 yards rushing as junior quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell completed 24-of-49 passes for 272 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Sophomore Brandon Kaufman caught a team-high six passes for 83 yards.
* In the 2011 meeting, fourth-ranked Montana State out-gained No. 21 Eastern Washington University 129-56 in the fourth quarter and defeated the Eagles 36-21 at sold-out Roos Field in Cheney, Wash. Eastern was behind by just five points early in the fourth quarter, but the Bobcats put together a pair of time-consuming drives to spoil Eastern’s comeback hopes. Eastern played much of the game without All-America center Chris Powers (knee), who became the fifth Eastern starting offensive lineman to miss action in EWU’s first four games because of injuries. Senior quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell, who entered the game ranked third in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision with an average of 359.7 yards per game, passed for 263 yards. He completed 18-of-29 passes with one interception and one touchdown, while receiver Brandon Kaufman caught six passes for 140 yards and his first touchdown of the season. However, he suffered a broken bone in his hand that game, and subsequently redshirted the season after undergoing surgery on both his hand and his knee. Jordan Talley rushed for 108 yards and two touchdowns versus the Bobcats in the first start of his Eastern career. Eastern was just 3-of-10 on third downs while the Bobcats were 11-of-18.
Eagle-Montana State Connections
* Junior Adams, a former All-America wide receiver at Montana State, is in his fourth season as coach of Eastern’s talented and highly-productive corp of wide receivers. Adams originally attended and played at Oregon State, and then transferred to Montana State where he made an immediate impact for head coach Mike Kramer, who was head coach at Eastern from 1994-98. In 2001, Adams earned second team All-Big Sky Conference honors as both a wide receiver and return specialist. He averaged 19.0 yards per punt return, with three touchdowns in a total of 20 returns. One of his touchdowns was an 84-yard return against Eastern in a 48-38 victory over the Eagles at Albi Stadium in Spokane on Oct. 6, 2001. He caught 40 passes for 652 yards and six touchdowns for the 5-6 Bobcats. As a senior in 2002, he caught 66 passes for 983 yards and eight touchdowns to earn All-America honors. He broke a Big Sky Conference record when he averaged 60.5 yards per reception (two catches for 121 yards) against Weber State. He helped MSU to a 7-5 overall record as the Bobcats finished 5-2 in the Big Sky Conference to earn a piece of the league title. He scored the winning touchdown in a 10-7 victory over rival Montana at Washington-Grizzly Stadium in Missoula that ended MSU’s 16-game losing streak versus the Grizzlies. Earlier in the season, he caught 11 passes for 181 yards in a 45-28 loss at Washington State. Adams remained at MSU to serve as a wide receivers and returns coach under Kramer from 2003-2006.
* Eastern has no players from Montana on its roster, but the Bobcats have four from the state of Washington.
* Wide receiver Brandon Kaufman has 157 catches in his career to rank eighth in school history, and is just nine grabs away from moving into seventh. He is sixth all-time in EWU history with 2,487 reception yards, and is only 37 yards away from fifth and 79 from fourth. Kaufman’s 24 touchdown catches are sixth, five away from the No. 2 position of 29 held by teammate Nicholas Edwards and Aaron Boyce (2006-09).
* Wide receiver Nicholas Edwards is just 51 receiving yards away from moving into eighth all-time in Eastern history (he currently has 2,322), and is three points away from moving into eighth in points scored (currently he has 176). His 185 career catches ranks fourth in school history (No. 3 has 213) and his 29 TD receptions are second (the record is 46). Greg Herd (118 catches for 1,608 yards and 12 touchdowns) should also be among EWU’s career leaders before the season has concluded.
* The 44.0 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 25 in career tackles in Eastern history, currently ranking 24th with 211. He is two from 23rd, four from 21st and 11 from ranking 20th all-time.
* Senior defensive end Jerry Ceja 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). Ceja is also 12th all-time in career sacks with 16 1/2, and needs only one to move into 11th, two to move into 10th and 2 1/2 to move into ninth all-time in school history.
* The next fumble that defensive end Paul Ena recovers will equal the school record of eight shared by Nicholas Ramos (2006-09) and Steve Mattson (1994-97).
Recent Game Summary
* A 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Shaquille Hill sparked Eastern Washington University to a 34-point first-half outburst in a 55-17 Big Sky Conference football victory over North Dakota Oct. 6 at Roos Field. Eastern’s 38-point winning margin was its best since a 52-13 win over Montana-Western on Aug. 31, 2007, and the largest versus a NCAA Football Championship Subdivision opponent since a 51-7 win over Weber State on Oct. 23, 2004. The 55 points the Eagles scored were their most since a 56-30 win at Sacramento State in 2009.
* Eastern won the total offense battle 458-325, but that didn’t matter as much as EWU’s short TD drives of 24 and 57 yards to open a 34-17 lead at halftime, despite having one yard less on offense than UND. Eastern had a 236-102 advantage in offense in the second half
* The Eagles rushed for 290 yards, despite starter Jordan Talley missing the game with a concussion. Starter Quincy Forte finished with 72 yards and Demitrius Bronson came off the bench to register his first 100-yard outing as an Eagle with 118 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries.
* Redshirt freshman quarterback Vernon Adams had an efficient and productive outing, completing 12-of-15 passes for 151 yards and four touchdowns in his third career start. His passing efficiency rating was an off-the-charts 252.6. Backup Kyle Padron relieved him and was 3-of-4 with a touchdown.
* Receiver Brandon Kaufman finished with five catches for 47 yards and a pair of touchdowns. The first two catches of the day for Greg Herd were also touchdowns, as he finished with three grabs for 56 yards. Those were the first TDs of the season for the Eagle senior All-American.
* Defensively, redshirt freshman Jordan Tonani had a team-leading 11 tackles in his first start as an Eagle as an injury replacement for safety Jeff Minnerly (broken collarbone). Junior Allen Brown added 10 tackles and senior defensive end Jerry Ceja had a pair of sacks.
Quoting Coach Beau Baldwin
On North Dakota Win: “That was obviously the most complete game we’ve played up to this point. You’re talking about a North Dakota team coming in here with some good ball games under their belt. North Dakota is a good team. I’m just proud of our team in all areas. Every unit made a ton of plays.”
On Greg Herd’s Two Touchdowns Versus UND: “Greg Herd was someone who was going to explode at some point. Sometimes that’s the nature of the receiver position. You can only control what you can control, and Coach (Junior) Adams always talks about how you have to always play a game within a game. Even if you are not getting balls thrown to you, how are you running your routes each week? What are you doing? It was a matter of time before he was able to come out and make some big plays, so it didn’t surprise me. It’s four or five games in a year sometimes before a guy explodes.”
On Getting Chance to Clear His Bench in Win: “They are all here for each other. They are close in the offseason, they are close in the summer, and they get excited. They get more excited seeing someone who doesn’t get a lot of action out there getting some carries or making some plays than they do for themselves. That is part of what makes this group so special. It’s part of being a great team. You have to have a group that is for each other and these guys are.”
On Falling Behind to UND 7-0: “Sometimes you are going to have that -- football is a long game. You can never get too high when you come out and jump on a team early because they’ll make a run. And you can never get too low if they come down and get something on you. Coach (John) Graham and the staff did a great job after that first drive of making adjustments.”
On Montana Win: “It was a wild finish and our guys just kept believing. We have been in similar situations -- and a lot of guys out there on the field have been in similar situations. You have to keep believing. Montana was taking it to us in the second half. Absolutely taking it to us.”
On Vernon Adams Versus Montana: “He’s a freshman playing football for the first time in college -- you are going to go through highs and lows. I see sophomore, junior, even senior quarterbacks sometimes go through low and high moments. That’s the way football works. The best thing he did was when he came to the sideline, he didn’t pout or slam his helmet. He just kept saying we are going to get another shot. Even if we had come up short, the guys carried the same attitude the entire time. That always gives you a shot. One of our mottos is ‘panic will always end in defeat,’ but as long as you don’t panic, you give yourself a shot.”
On Brandon Kaufman and Other Receivers: “Kaufman is an amazing player. He is one of those guys who will open up opportunities for other players on the team at times, which he was able to do. When he was in those one-on-one situations, he made plays. It was exciting. Obviously Brandon was great, but a number of players made a lot of huge plays. For Ashton (Clark) to go catch the game winner against Montana off Vernon’s scramble is fitting. He works really hard and he sometimes does not get a lot of attention, but he doesn’t care. He is not that way, but he deserves it. He is a good one and he is a hard worker.”
On His Team: “Our team is resilient. Sometimes you lose quarters, sometimes you lose a quarter and a half, but you just have to know that until the clock strikes zero, you keep fighting. Our guys did that against Montana and made some plays. I am proud of them and truly happy for our team.”
On Vernon Adams and Kyle Padron: “It’s a situation where we have two great quarterbacks, and they are both incredible team players and people of character. Our whole team believes in both of them. I am proud of Vernon and I am proud of how Kyle Padron handles himself with true character and like a true man. He was a big reason why Vernon’s’ head stays up and he stays in the game, because of what Padron says on the sideline. It is a good problem to have. It’s always tough on the other guy, but having a lot of players throughout the course of the year is something we know we need. It’s always a tough situation when you have two great quarterbacks, but when you have two of them with the attitude and character of those two young men, it makes it a little bit easier in those tough situations.”
Defense (222 starts by 19 players): Zach Johnson 33, Paul Ena 28, Tyler Washburn 27, Jeff Minnerly 21, Evan Cook 19, Allen Brown 17, David Gaylord 13, Ronnie Hamlin 13, T.J. Lee 12, Grant Williams 7 (includes one start on offense in 2009), Ronald Baines 6, Jerry Ceja 5, Andru Pulu 5, Cody McCarthy 5, J.C. Agen 4, Evan Day 3, Will Katoa 2, Rusty Haehl 1, Jordan Tonani 1.
Offense (219 starts by 22 players): Nicholas Edwards 40, Brandon Kaufman 27, Will Post 27, Steven Forgette 22, Zack Gehring 17, Greg Herd 14, Brandon Murphy 14, Jordan Talley 9, Drew Reynolds 8, Mario Brown 5, Ashton Miller 6, Clay DeBord 5, Ashton Clark 4, Quincy Forte 4, Vernon Adams 3, Ryan Seto 3, Cody Humphrey 2, Kyle Padron 2, Demitrius Bronson 2, Jase Butorac 2, Cory Mitchell 1, Daniel Johnson 1, Jake Withnell 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 and Jordan Tonani against North Dakota on Oct. 6. 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.
Eagles to Watch For
* A starter the first two games and a backup the last three, transfer quarterback Kyle Padron has passed for 810 yards and five touchdowns in four games played as an Eagle. Padron, Eastern’s second-straight transfer from Southern Methodist University, had his first touchdown pass as an Eagle with 3-yard touchdown strike to redshirt freshman Jake Withnell in the second quarter against Idaho. Eastern’s previous SMU transfer, Bo Levi Mitchell, led the Eagles to the 2010 NCAA Division I Championship and won the 2011 Walter Payton Award given to the top player in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision. Padron (pronounced “puh-DRONE”) passed for 5,902 yards and 41 touchdowns in his 24-game career at SMU, including 21 as a starter (12-9 record). He was 5-1 as a freshman, as SMU’s late-season surge helped it beat Nevada 45-10 in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl. Padron passed for a school-record 460 yards and two touchdowns to earn Hawaii Bowl MVP honors, then started all 14 games as a record-breaking sophomore (7-7 record). Mitchell was injured in the 2009 season at SMU and transferred to EWU after Padron secured the starting job mid-way through his freshman season. The same thing happened in 2011 to Padron, who suffered ankle and back injuries and was replaced in the lineup by J.J. McDermott for the final 11 games of the year.
* Although injured (knee) and out an indefinite period of time, All-America wide receiver Nicholas Edwards has caught seven passes for 124 yards thus far to move into ninth on Eastern’s all-time receiving yards list with a current total of 2,322 (on 185 catches with 29 touchdowns). The 6-3, 200-pound Edwards is by far the most decorated Eastern player returning, having earned first team NCAA Football Championship Subdivision All-America accolades on seven different teams in 2011 -- American Football Coaches Association, The Sports Network, College Sporting News “Fabulous Fifty”, Walter Camp Football Foundation, Phil Steele Publications, Beyond Sports College Network and College Sports Journal. He also earned second team accolades from Associated Press and Collegesportsmadness.com after catching a school-record 95 passes for 1,250 yards and 19 touchdowns to lead FCS. Fellow receiver Greg Herd earned Beyond Sports College Network honorable mention All-America recognition, having caught 67 passes for 1,022 yards and seven scores. He was a second team All-Big Sky Conference selection.
* Among the injured players returning were five lost for the year early in the 2011 season – All-America wide receiver Brandon Kaufman (knee/hand), guard Ashton Miller (Achilles), guard Steven Forgette (broken fibula), guard Jase Butorac (knee) and linebacker Zach Johnson (knee). All but Butorac started in Eastern’s 2012 opener versus Idaho.
* Eastern regained the services of linebacker Zach Johnson, who was injured as a senior in 2011 and was granted a sixth year by the NCAA to complete four years of eligibility. Johnson had 19 games wiped out, including the entire 2009 season, because of the same knee injury. He 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.
* Brandon Kaufman redshirted the 2011 season as an injury hardship case, but in 2010 was a first team All-America selection by the College Sporting News and fourth team from Phil Steele Publications. He was a first team All-Big Sky selection with 76 catches for 1,214 yards and 15 touchdowns as a sophomore when he helped lead the Eagles to the NCAA Division I title.
* Eastern also has lots of experience at tight end, with junior Zack Gehring returning as a starter, sophomore Ryan Seto back after a redshirt season and junior Cody Humphrey getting lots of action in 2011 after moving from the offensive line. Gehring led the tight ends by catching six passes for 63 yards in 2011, and had 12 catches for 173 yards and two scores in 2010.
* Eastern’s top offensive lineman returning is 6-foot-6, 310-pound senior tackle Will Post, who earned honorable mention All-Big Sky Conference honors a year ago. He has started 27 games – the most among Eastern’s offensive linemen and fourth-most overall on the team.
* In the secondary, Eastern is replacing a starting cornerback (Alden Gibbs) and one of three players who shared the starting safety positions last year (Matt Johnson, now with the Dallas Cowboys). Cornerback T.J. Lee III and safeties Jeff Minnerly and Allen Brown return to starting positions. The newcomer, cornerback Ronald Baines, had an interception against Idaho in EWU’s opener to set-up an Eagle field goal. Lee was a first team All-Big Sky selection a year ago, finishing the season with 48 tackles, a pair of interceptions and one pass broken up.
* Running back is another area where the Eagles have plenty of experience, with four players sharing the load last year. That group includes no seniors, and each of the four players – Demitrius Bronson, Mario Brown, Quincy Forte and Jordan Talley -- started at least one game. Talley started six games and rushed for a team-high 413 yards and five touchdowns. Bronson, who has overcome a rash of injuries to claim the starting position heading into 2012, rushed for just 21 yards in 2011. Forte had 270 yards rushing and 215 receiving as a true freshman, while Brown added 141 yards on the ground. Brown is redshirting the 2012 season.
* Jake Miller, after nearly setting a school record with a 44.2 average per punt, was named to the College Sports Journal All-Freshman All-America Team in 2011. He also earned honorable mention All-Big Sky accolades.
* Safety Jeff Minnerly had an honor-filled career as a 4.0 student at nearby Ferris High School in Spokane, Wash., and he has followed that with a variety of athletic and academic awards at Eastern. In 2011, he repeated as a honorable mention All-Big Sky Conference selection and was selected to the Capital One Academic All-District VIII squad for the second-straight year as well. In the 2010 season, Minnerly 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. He has a 3.78 grade point average as a finance major. In his 35-game Eastern career – 21 as a starter – he has 142 total tackles with five interceptions, nine passes broken up, two forced fumbles and 10 tackles for loss. Minnerly started eight of 11 EWU games in 2011, and ranked second on the team with 77 tackles.
* Eastern’s defensive line returns honorable mention All-Big Sky Conference end Paul Ena, who finished his junior campaign in 2011 with 48 tackles and three sacks. Another end, senior Jerry Ceja, had a team-leading 5 1/2 sacks and finished with 21 tackles total.
* Senior linebacker Tyler Washburn battled a knee injury and had only 20 tackles in 2011, but he finished his sophomore season with 54 and had 41 as a freshman in 2009. Ronnie Hamlin, who was unable to play as a redshirt freshman because of a knee injury, had a team-leading 85 tackles as a sophomore in 2011. Among Eastern’s other linebackers in 2011, Grant Williams added 61 tackles, Cody McCarthy had 41 as a true freshman, and J.C. Agen and Zach Johnson each had 30.
* At kicker, Eastern lost senior Mike Jarrett after he broke EWU’s career record for kick scoring (236) and the single season record for field goals (16). An impressive 16-of-18 (88.9 percent) kicking field goals in the 2011 season, Jarrett has been replaced by senior Jimmy Pavel and junior Kevin Miller. Pavel handled kickoff duties for the Eagles in 2011, and Miller held the job the two previous seasons when he also made 2-of-3 field goals. Thus far this season, Pavel is handling placekicking duties and Miller is kicking off.
* Eastern also returns one of the league’s premier long snappers in senior Jake Potter. Potter is inconspicuous, which means he’s good, laughs Baldwin. “It’s kind of nice when you forget about your long snapper, because that means they are so consistently good that you don’t notice them,” he said. “When you aren’t thinking about them, that’s usually a good thing.”
* Three of Eastern’s top four safeties on the depth chart are all graduates of Ferris High School in Spokane, Wash. Senior Jeff Minnerly is a three-year starter, and he is joined this season by redshirt freshman Jordan Tonani and senior McKenzie Murphy. Murphy, who graduated from Ferris with Minnerly in 2008, played his freshman season at Western Washington in 2008 before it dropped its football program, and remained in school there until transferring last spring to EWU.
* A total of 12 Eastern players received preseason accolades as chosen by a variety of publications, websites and organizations that cover the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision and the Big Sky Conference. Senior wide receiver Nicholas Edwards is among the seven Eagles honored with preseason All-America honors, as he earned recognition on 10 different teams. Eight of the accolades he received were as a first team selection. He was also selected to the Senior Bowl Watch List, a collection of 309 seniors from NCAA FBS and FCS schools. The other preseason All-Americans are junior wide receiver Brandon Kaufman, senior wide receiver Greg Herd, junior cornerback T.J. Lee and sophomore punter Jake Miller, and recent additions in senior offensive tackle Will Post and senior safety Jeff Minnerly.
More Eagle Season Notes
* Despite an interception and a fumble in the fourth quarter, redshirt freshman quarterback Vernon Adams had two touchdown passes in the in the final 2:19 as the No. 7 Eagles rallied for a 32-26 victory over 21st-ranked Montana Grizzlies Sept. 29 at Roos Field in Cheney, Wash. As a result, Adams was selected as the Sports Network co-Freshman of the Week in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision, the College Sports Journal co-Freshman of the Week and the Root Sports Offensive Player of the Week awarded by the Big Sky Conference. Eastern put together an 82-yard scoring drive to pull within two points with 2:19 remaining on a 30-yard touchdown pass from Adams to Brandon Kaufman. After EWU successfully recovered an onside kick, Eastern scored again on a 20-yard TD pass from Adams to Ashton Clark with 53 seconds to play. Adams completed 25-of-41 passes for 353 yards and three touchdowns in his second career start for EWU, and also added a team-leading 54 yards rushing. He accounted for 407 of EWU’s 447 yards of total offense. In the final quarter alone, Adams was 13-of-21 for 171 yards and a pair of scores. Eastern scored the first time it had the ball on an eight-play, 75-yard scoring drive, then led 14-7 in the second quarter on Kaufman’s 36-yard TD reception from Adams.
* Senior Brandon Kaufman had eight catches for 138 yards and two TDs against Montana on Sept. 29, earning him College Sports Madness Big Sky Offensive Player of the Week accolades and honorable mention Performer of the Week accolades in FCS by College Football Performance Awards.
* Junior linebacker Ronnie Hamlin had 14 tackles versus Montana, coming two from his career high of 16 set last year versus Cal Poly. Four Eagles finished in double figures in tackles, as Montana had 78 total offensive plays, including 61 rush attempts. The Eagles allowed 407 rushing yards against Montana, and at one point in the second half had 169 total yards compared to a minus-4 for EWU. But with the Eagle offense scoring on drives on its final two possessions, and EWU recovering an onside kick, Montana had the ball for just eight plays in the final 8:26.
* A fractured collarbone suffered by senior safety Jeff Minnerly against Montana proved to be more costly than just his presence in the secondary. He has been Eastern’s holder on placekicks since his freshman season, and was holding exclusively for Jimmy Pavel this season, while Vernon Adams was holding exclusively for left-footed backup Kevin Miller, who is handling kickoff duties for EWU. After Minnerly’s injury, the Eagles decided to let Miller take over the placekicking chores for the rest of the game, and he made two extra points and a 19-yard field goal. Pavel, who was a perfect 6-of-6 kicking field goals in EWU’s first three games, did get a chance to take over for Miller late in the game, and his perfectly placed onside kickoff was recovered by Shaquille Hill and led to EWU’s winning score. Minnerly, meanwhile, is out indefinitely after he had three tackles on EWU’s first six defensive plays against UM. He had tackles on the first two plays, sat out three plays, then returned for one more play before leaving for good on the 142nd tackle of his EWU career. He also has five interceptions, nine passes broken up, two forced fumbles and 10 tackles for loss in his 35-game EWU career.
* Punter Jake Miller averaged 46.0 yards on four punts with a long of 53 versus Montana on Sept. 29 to earn honorable mention Performer of the Week accolades in FCS by College Football Performance Awards.
* Eastern proved twice in a six-game span that you can win for losing. The Eagles gave up 407 rushing yards on Sept. 29 versus Montana, yet prevailed 32-26 by scoring two touchdowns in the last 2:19. Last Nov. 12, the Eagles allowed Cal Poly to rush for 405, but EWU prevailed in a triple-overtime thriller, 53-51. The last time Eastern allowed that many rushing yards came on Nov. 21, 1998, when Southern Utah rushed for 535. Eastern wasn’t so lucky in that one, however, getting thumped 43-21.
* Eastern has now won seven of its last eight Big Sky Conference openers, with the lone loss coming last year in a 17-14 setback on the road at Montana.
* Since 1999, the Eagles have lost just twice in their home opener for a 12-2 record in that span. Eastern fell 21-14 to Central Washington in 2006 and 36-21 in 2011 to Montana State. In opening its 2012 home schedule Sept. 29 versus Montana, it was the latest home start for Eastern since 1981 when EWU hosted British Columbia on Oct. 3.
* Only four times in school history – 1938, 1955, 2011, 2012 – has Eastern opened the season with three-straight road games. In those 12 games, EWU is a respectable 5-6-1.
* Featuring an early-season schedule with a familiar feel to it, Eastern opened the 2012 season with three road games and a bye. The Eagles began the 2012 season at former Big Sky Conference rival Idaho, then returned to the Palouse a week later to face Washington State and new head coach Mike Leach. After a bye in the schedule, Eastern opened Big Sky Conference play at Weber State against former EWU assistant coach Jody Sears. Finally, on Sept. 29, the Eagles played their home opener versus Montana at Roos Field in Cheney, Wash. Two years ago, in the debut of EWU’s red Sprinturf surface in the first game at the re-named field (it was formerly Woodward Field), the Eagles knocked off the Grizzlies 36-27. A year ago, Eastern opened the season with road losses to Washington and South Dakota, then began league play with a loss at Montana and a home setback to Montana State.
* Senior defensive end Jerry Ceja had a game-clinching sack and forced fumble with 34 seconds left in EWU’s 32-26 win at Weber State on Sept. 22. Now with five forced fumbles in his career – one behind the school record of six shared by four players – Ceja has had three game-changing forced fumbles on sacks in his career. A Colorado native, Ceja made the first start of his career at Northern Colorado (10/16/10) and 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 Montana (9/18/10) in the first game on EWU’s new red Sprinturf surface at Roos Field.
* Jimmy Pavel made all four of his field goals – 25, 19, 29 and 27 yards – in Eastern’s 32-26 victory over Weber State, making him a perfect 6-of-6 for the year. His effort earned him honorable mention Performer of the Week accolades in FCS by College Football Performance Awards. Pavel ranks first in the Big Sky and third in FCS with an average of 2.0 field goals per game. In his first game as EWU’s placekicker at Idaho on Aug. 30, Pavel made both of his field goal attempts and was selected as the Root Sports Big Sky Conference Special Teams Player of the Week. Pavel, who handled kickoff duties a year ago, takes over for Mike Jarrett, who was 16-of-18 kicking field goals as a senior in 2011.
* In what one sportswriter called “déjà EWU,” Eastern used a late fumble on a sack to hold-off Weber State in the final minute for the second-straight season. Eastern took a 20-3 lead on Sept. 22 in Ogden, only to have the Wildcats rally to pull within six. Eastern clinched the 32-26 win when Jerry Ceja had a sack and forced fumble with 34 seconds left, and it was recovered at midfield by Utah native Will Katoa. In the 2011 meeting in Cheney, Weber State rallied from a 24-7 halftime deficit, but Eastern sealed it when Charles Moetului forced a fumble with 21 seconds left that was recovered by teammate Anthony Larry after the Wildcats had driven to the EWU 17-yard line.
* In an unannounced and surprise start, redshirt freshman quarterback Vernon Adams used his arm and his feet to lead EWU to a 20-3 halftime lead at Weber State in the first start of his career on Sept. 22. Adams led Eastern to scores on four of five drives in the first half, including a 75-yard touchdown march 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.
* For the second-straight year, a pass in the end zone in the final seconds against a Pac-12 Conference opponent didn’t result in an Eagle touchdown, and the Eagles fell to Washington State 24-20 Sept. 8 at Martin Stadium in Pullman, Wash. A 12-play, 99 yard drive pulled Eastern to within three with 2:17 to play on the second of two Kyle Padron to Brandon Kaufman touchdown passes on the day. Eastern got the ball back with 1:29 left and converted a pair of fourth-down conversions, but Padron, who finished with 379 yards passing, had his final desperation pass batted away in the end zone. A year ago, in a 30-27 loss to Washington in Seattle, a similar pass intended for Kaufman was intercepted by the Huskies with 29 ticks left on the clock. Eastern out-gained WSU in total offense 469-355. A sell-out crowd of 33,598 witnessed the game, only the third time the two teams have met and the first time since 1908.
* Junior wide receiver Brandon Kaufman received honorable mention Performer of the Week accolades in FCS by College Football Performance Awards for his performance at Washington State on Sept. 8. He finished with five catches for 142 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Kyle Padron’s 93-yard TD to Kaufman in the first quarter knotted the score at seven, and it equaled the fourth-longest pass play in school history.
* After setting a school record versus Washington State, sophomore punter Jake Miller received honorable mention Performer of the Week accolades in FCS by College Football Performance Awards. Miller averaged 46.3 yards on seven punts, including a school-record 74-yard punt on his first effort of the day against the Cougars. He broke the previous record of 71 yards set in 2006 by Ryan Donckers. His 44.4 average on 52 career punts currently ranks as the school record, placing him ahead of the 42.3 average of Jesse Nicassio (2002-03). Miller, who transferred from WSU and graduated in 2010 from Spokane’s Central Valley High School, averaged 44.3 yards a year ago.
* Only time will tell if EWU’s season-opening, 20-3 victory over Idaho was a renewal of a formerly intense rivalry, or just a mere happenstance meeting as it has been for more than a decade. Eastern defeated its former Big Sky Conference rival for the second-straight time, having also won 8-5 in 2003 in the Kibbie Dome. The two teams played at least once for 17-straight seasons from 1983-1999, but only twice since then. The Vandals left the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (then known as I-AA) for the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly I-A) beginning in the 1998 season. After the dust cleared in the conference shakeups in FBS recently, Idaho has announced it will return to the Big Sky Conference in all sports but football, but will remain a FBS independent at least for the time being.
* After beating Idaho 20-3, Eastern has won seven of its last eight games in domes, with the lone loss in that span a 30-17 loss in the 2011 season at South Dakota. Eastern is 4-8 all-time in the Kibbie Dome, with victories in 1985 (42-38), 1991 (34-31 in two overtimes), 2003 (8-5) and now 2012.
* Wide receiver Brandon Kaufman had five catches for 148 yards in EWU’s 20-3 win over Idaho. That performance, which included grabs of 58, 35 and 33 yards, earned Kaufman FCS National Wide Receiver Performer of the Week accolades from College Football Performance Awards. He earned the same honor from College Sports Madness. His receptions helped set-up an Eastern field goal and touchdown.
* Linebacker Ronnie Hamlin led the way for the Eagle defense in the victory over Idaho with eight tackles and a pass broken up for the Eagles. As a result, he was selected as the Root Sports Big Sky Conference Defensive Player of the Week. Eastern held Idaho to a long rush of 7 yards, forced Idaho to punt nine times and held the Vandals to a 2-of-15 performance on third down. Eastern’s defense allowed just 237 yards, with 66 of that coming through the air on a defensive breakdown by EWU in the first quarter. It was the fewest points allowed by the Eagles since beating Idaho State 38-3 in the 2009 season and Northern Colorado 16-0 two weeks earlier that year.
* Eastern was selected 12th in The Sports Network NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Top 25 preseason football poll as selected by a national panel of sportswriters, broadcasters and sports information directors. In the preseason coaches poll, the Eagles were ranked 15th, and EWU was picked as high as seventh nationally by other preseason publications and websites heading into the 2012 season. The Eagles, who won the 2010 FCS title, were ranked No. 1 in the first two polls of the 2011 season, but were not ranked at the end of the year after finishing 6-5 overall.
* Expecting to be in the hunt for the Big Sky Conference title and yet another playoff berth in the NCAA Championship Subdivision, Eastern is hoping for big things from an experienced team that features eight returning starters on offense and seven on defense, with a total of 48 returning letterwinners. And the last time Eastern had a rash of injuries like they did last season, the Eagles parlayed that experience for younger players into the NCAA Division I title in 2010.
* Among the players lost to graduation were Walter Payton Award-winning quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell, as well as All-Americans Chris Powers (center), Renard Williams (defensive tackle) and Matt Johnson (safety).
* In all, a total of 14 starters – seven on each side of the ball – suffered injuries that kept them out of the lineup in 2011, including seven players lost for the season. Eastern stumbled to a 0-4 start, but the Eagles adjusted well to the injury epidemic and won six of their final seven games to finish with the school’s 14th winning season in the last 16 years.
* Eastern started 46 different players in the 2011 season – 24 on offense and 22 on defense – with only five players starting all 11 games. A total of 21 players made starting debuts during the season, and most of those return for the 2012 campaign.
* 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).
* Although ravaged by injuries in 2011, there is definitely room for improvement on defense, as well as the running game on offense. The Eagles ranked 101st out of 120 FCS schools in total defense, surrendering an average of 411.9 yards per game. Eastern allowed 213.2 yards rushing per game, and only 10 schools in FCS allowed more. On offense, Eastern led FCS in passing offense (368.5 yards per game), but was 112th in rushing with an average of 79.0 per game.