Big Sky Conference Play Begins for No. 9 Eastern

Coming off a bye week, Eagles play at Weber State in match-up of former EWU offensive and defensive coordinators from 2003-06

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Eastern Washington Univ. “Eagles”
Weber State University “Wildcats”

Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012 • 5:05 p.m. Pacific
Elizabeth Dee Shaw Stewart Stadium (17,500) • Ogden, Utah

EWU Coach: Beau Baldwin (Central Washington ‘96)
School Record: 34-17/23-9 Big Sky Conference (5th Season)
Career Record: 44-20 (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: 1-1/0-0 Big Sky Conference
2011: 6-5/5-3 Big Sky Conference
Last Game: Washington State 24, Eastern 20 (Sept. 8 in Pullman, Wash.)
TV: None
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: or
Radio iPhone App: Search for “Spokane Radio” and download app. An app is also available for tunein radio.
Live Stats:
Weekly Coaches Show: Mondays 6 p.m. at the Q Sports Bar and Restaurant at Northern Quest Resort & Casino. . . 700-AM ESPN, & via iphone app. (search for “Spokane Radio” and download app).

Offensive mastermind Beau Baldwin and defensive guru Jody Sears matched wits against one another on the football field for four seasons from 2003-06.

The only difference is that they were on the same team back then.

The two coordinators from a pair of Eastern Washington University championship football teams will square off this week as head coaches of their respective schools when the Eagles open Big Sky Conference play at Weber State in Ogden, Utah. Kickoff this Saturday (Sept. 22) at Elizabeth Dee Shaw Stewart Stadium is 5:05 p.m. Pacific time.

The Eagles, coached by Baldwin and ranked ninth in this week’s Sports Network NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Top 25 poll, are 1-1 after a split of two games versus NCAA Football Bowl Division foes. The Wildcats, in their first season under Sears, are 0-3, including a pair of losses to FBS teams and last week’s 35-21 loss to No. 19 McNeese State.

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 and via iPhone application (search for “700 ESPN” and download the free app). The broadcast is also available via and tunein’s mobile phone app.

Baldwin and Sears spent four seasons together at EWU working as coordinators under former Eastern head coach Paul Wulff. The Eagles were a collective 25-22 in those four seasons, including Big Sky titles and FCS Playoff berths in 2004 and 2005.

“We’ve had plenty of scrimmages and two-minute sessions against each other,” said Baldwin. “It will be fun. He’s such a great guy and I’m excited for him – just not the week we play.”

The quarterback from those title teams, Erik Meyer, is currently on Eastern’s staff, and a former Eagle defensive end, Jason Belford, is now a Weber State coach. Current EWU offensive coordinator/line coach Aaron Best and safeties coach Jeff Schmedding were also at Eastern back when Baldwin and Sears were coordinators.

Sears, a 1991 graduate of Washington State, didn’t intentionally get the Wildcats’ head coaching job. He was on Wulff’s staff at Washington State which was let go after the 2011 season, then Sears was hired by new Weber State head coach John L. Smith. But Smith bolted for Arkansas before even coaching a game in Ogden, and Sears was hired to fill the role as interim head coach.

Sears also serves as defensive coordinator at Weber State, so Baldwin sees his influence in the Wildcat defense. Likewise, the EWU head coach is still involved with play-calling for EWU’s offense, so Baldwin knows there is a familiarity that goes both ways.

“You definitely see the traces on the defensive side,” Baldwin said of watching Weber State video compared to Sears’ defenses at EWU. “He’s made some changes so I wouldn’t say it’s exact, much in the same way I’m sure he sees the changes we’ve made on offense compared to exactly what we did from 2003-06. We’re in similar boats that way. He spent four years with me and I spent four years with him, so you see some similar things, there’s no question.”


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Quick Hits

* Eastern is ranked ninth 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 week ago before EWU’s bye, Eastern was 10th after falling just one spot following a 24-20 loss at Washington State on Sept. 8. In the coaches poll, the Eagles are ninth, up two spots from last week’s ranking of 11th (for the second week in a row). Other Big Sky Conference schools in the top 25 include Montana State (second TSN, second coaches) and Montana (14th TSN, 11th 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 the fifth-highest FCS team in the Jeff Sagarin computer ratings. Eastern is 87th overall, with Cal Poly ranking as the next-highest Big Sky school (12th in FCS, 113th overall).

* Eastern has won five of its last six Big Sky Conference openers, with the lone loss coming last year in a 17-14 setback at Montana. The Eagles and Wildcats met in EWU’s league opener on Sept. 27, 2003, in Cheney, and WSU prevailed 35-23.

* The Eagles will open their home schedule Sept. 29 versus Montana, marking the latest home start for Eastern since 1981 when EWU hosted British Columbia on Oct. 3.

* Eastern is coming off a bye week in which the Eagles practiced three times, but just once in pads. That practice culminated in Eastern’s annual match-up of freshmen playing against fellow freshmen in the team’s “Rookie Bowl.”

* In its most recent game, Eastern came a Hail Mary pass away from a victory before falling 24-20 at Pac-12 Conference member Washington State on Sept. 8. Eastern out-gained WSU in total offense 469-355. 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.

* Playing his first games in 11 months, wide receiver Brandon Kaufman already has 10 catches for 290 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He leads the Big Sky and ranks fifth in FCS in receiving yards per game (145.0). Kaufman received an injury redshirt in the 2011 season after playing in the first four games of the year.

* Eastern is the early-season Big Sky leader in scoring defense, allowing just 13.5 points per game (13th in FCS). The Eagles are second in the league and ninth in FCS in passing offense (319.5 per game), with junior Kyle Padron also ranking second in the league and fifth nationally with the same average.

* This week’s game will feature two of the top six punters thus far in FCS, as Weber State’s Tony Epperson enters No. 1 at 48.0 per punt. Eastern’s Jake Miller is sixth at 44.7.

* Weber State’s difficult early-season schedule, featuring the likes of Fresno State, BYU and McNeese State, has resulted in some lowly national rankings for the Wildcats. Weber State is 118th out of 121 FCS teams in total defense (534.7 yards per game), and is 103rd in total offense (261.7). The Wildcats have allowed 4.3 sacks per game to rank 114th.

* Eastern rushed for 152 yards in the opener against Idaho and another 90 versus WSU, giving EWU an average of 126.0 thus far to rank 77th in FCS. Eastern generated the yardage despite the fact starting running back Demitrius Bronson missed both games with a strained hamstring. 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. Eastern’s 40 rushing attempts versus Idaho were the most since the 2010 season. Quincy Forte finished with a team-leading 66 yards on 17 carries against Idaho, and Jordan Talley added 63 yards on 18 carries in that game and another 71 versus Washington State. Both players are sophomores who played as true freshmen in 2011.

* 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. For the second time in as many games this season – and for the 10th time in his career – Kaufman went over 100 yards in receiving, finishing 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. Kaufman, who is from Denver, Colo., and is a 2009 graduate of Heritage HS, now has 138 career catches (14th in school history) for 2,171 yards (10th) and 19 touchdowns (ninth).

* 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 and thus far has a 44.7 average on 13 boots.

* Junior cornerback T.J. Lee had six tackles (five unassisted) and an interception in EWU’s loss at WSU, 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. One of his tackles was for a loss of two yards. A first team All-Big Sky selection a year ago, Lee now has 70 tackles, three interceptions and four passes broken up in his 22-game career.

* 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.

* Featuring an early-season schedule with a familiar feel to it, the Eastern Washington University football team are opening 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 opens Big Sky Conference play at Weber State against former EWU assistant coach Jody Sears. Finally, on Sept. 29, the Eagles will play 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.


Injury Report

* Defensive end Paul Ena suffered a wrist injury in the first half against Washington State and missed the rest of the game. He is listed as doubtful for 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 is probable for the game against the Wildcats after suffering a concussion versus WSU. Linebacker J.C. Agen, who started in 2011 after Zach Johnson was lost for the season, missed the first two games with a pectoral injury, but is probable for Weber State. Running back Demitrius Bronson, whose injured hamstring has kept him out of EWU’s first two games, is also probable.


Series Notes

* Eastern leads the all-time series 16-14, with victories the last two times the teams have met. The Eagles pulled out a 27-21 victory at home in 2011, and the year before beat the Wildcats in Ogden 35-24. The longest winning streak for either team has been four, by the Eagles from 1999-2002.

* Eastern is 8-8 in Ogden, including victories five of the last six times the Eagles and Wildcats have met there. Eastern is 6-5 against Weber State in Cheney, but has dropped two of the last four meetings there (31-13 in 2009 and 28-23 in 2005). Eastern is also 2-1 versus WSU in games played at Albi Stadium in Spokane

* In the most recent meeting in Ogden in 2010, Eastern scored 21-straight second-half points to surge past the Wildcats 35-24.  Bo Levi Mitchell passed for 337 yards and four touchdowns and the defense had three interceptions that led to scores. Brandon Kaufman caught five passes for 138 yards and Tyler Washburn had an interception for the Eagles. Eastern finished with 465 yards of offense, and Weber State finished with 459 after having just 150 in the first half. But most importantly for the Eagles, Eastern had leads after all four quarters -- including an 11-point winning margin.

* In last year’s meeting on Oct. 1, 2011, in Cheney, Eastern notched its first victory of the season by holding off Weber State 27-21. 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. Linebacker Ronnie Hamlin had 11 tackles and a pass broken up to lead the way on defense, with fellow backers J.C. Agen and Cody McCarthy adding eight and seven tackles, respectively. Nicholas Edwards caught 10 passes for 115 yards, and Greg Herd had 92 yards on three grabs.

* In 2008, Eastern ended the season with a 33-26 victory over the playoff-bound Wildcats, keeping them from being the first team other than Montana to win the outright Big Sky title since EWU did it in 1997. It enabled Montana to share the league title -- its 11th-straight in a streak that ended at 12 when MSU and EWU shared the 2010 championship.


Eagle-Wildcat Connections

* Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin was offensive coordinator at Eastern from 2003-06, the same years Weber State head coach Jody Sears was defensive coordinator for the Eagles. Current EWU offensive coordinator/line coach Aaron Best and safeties coach Jeff Schmedding  were also at Eastern back when Baldwin and Sears were coordinators. The quarterback from EWU’s teams from 2003-05, Erik Meyer, is currently on Eastern’s staff.

* Weber State defensive line coach Jason Belford was a defensive end for the Eagles from 2005-08. He started in 36 of 38 career games for EWU, and finished his career with 17 sacks to rank 11th in school history. As a senior in 2008, he earned second team All-Big Sky Conference honors and served as the team’s defensive co-captain.

* As a senior at Montana State in 2002, Eastern wide receivers coach Junior Adams broke a Big Sky Conference record when he averaged 60.5 yards per reception (two catches for 121 yards) against the Wildcats.

* Eastern has one player from Utah on its roster – defensive lineman Will Katoa. He is a 2009 graduate of Judge Memorial High School in Salt Lake City, Utah. Weber State has only one player from Washington – kicker Tyler McNannay from Colfax, Wash., who redshirted in 2011 at Washington State.


Eagles to Watch For

* Transfer quarterback Kyle Padron has already passed for 639 yards and three touchdowns in two games 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.

* All-American wide receiver Nicholas Edwards has caught six passes for 116 yards thus far to move into eighth on Eastern’s all-time receiving yards list with a current total of 2,314 (on 184 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 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.

* Eastern led the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision in passing offense in 2012, 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.

* 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 only 67 from ranking fifth and equaling the total of 341 by his twin brother Matt Johnson, who now plays for the Dallas Cowboys.

* 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 105 games worth of experience (75 starts), and have collective totals of 420 catches for 5,966 yards and 58 touchdowns. Edwards and Herd are seniors and Kaufman is a junior after he received an injury redshirt in 2011.

* 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 24 games – the most among Eastern’s offensive linemen and third most overall.

* 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 expected to redshirt 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 32-game Eastern career – 19 as a starter – he has 133 total tackles with four 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. First-year starter Evan Day, a sophomore, had 1 1/2 sacks in his starting debut versus Idaho.

* 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.

* At kicker, Eastern loses 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 will be 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 Notes

* 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.

* The first half versus Idaho was punctuated by mistakes by the Eagles, despite a 223-135 advantage in total offense. At one point, Eastern had 66 yards to a minus-1 by Idaho. In the first half, the Eagles were whistled for seven penalties for 40 yards; had a holding penalty on an Idaho punt that led to the lone points of the day for the Vandals; gave up a 66-yard pass to a wide-open Idaho receiver on a third-and-long play; and Idaho intercepted a pass that went through the hands of an Eastern receiver.

* 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.

* In his first game as EWU’s placekicker, Jimmy Pavel made both of his field goal attempts and was selected as the Root Sports Big Sky Conference Special Teams Player of the Week. He made a 23-yard field goal in the third quarter and had a 34-yarder in the first quarter in Eastern’s win over Idaho, and also made both of his extra points. 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.

* 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.

* 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 after 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.

* 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.


Records Watch

* Wide receiver Nicholas Edwards is just 59 receiving yards away from moving into seventh all-time in Eastern history (he currently has 2,314), and is three points away from moving into eighth in points scored (currently he has 176). His 184 career catches ranks fourth in school history (No. 3 has 213) and his 29 TD receptions are second (the record is 46).

* Wide receiver Brandon Kaufman has 138 catches in his career to rank 14th in school history, and is just two grabs away from moving into 12th. He is 10th with 2,171 reception yards, and needs only 67 yards to move up a notch. His 19 touchdown catches are ninth, and his next one will move him in a four-way tie for sixth. Greg Herd (107 catches for 1,481 yards and 10 touchdowns) should also be among EWU’s career leaders before the season has concluded.

* The 44.4 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 only 67 from ranking fifth and equaling the total of 341 by his twin brother Matt Johnson, who now plays for the Dallas Cowboys.

* 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

* 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. The Eagles are now 8-21 all-time versus members of the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision, with two victories in the last 15 tries – both coming against Idaho.

* The Cougar game essentially came down to Eastern mistakes, and the ninth-ranked Eagles allowed the Cougars to take advantage. Included was a critical blocked extra point after EWU’s final TD. Eastern was at the WSU 32-yard line on the game’s final play, meaning a 49-yard field goal could have tied it and sent the game into overtime. With the game knotted in the second quarter, Eastern had two costly interceptions that both led to scores and gave WSU a 24-14 lead at halftime. Eventually, the turnover margin ended up tied at two apiece and both teams combined for 18 penalties for 173 yards. Eastern had 10 for 93.

* Eastern quarterback Kyle Padron was troubled by a twisted ankle, but managed to complete 26-of-54 passes for 379 yards and two touchdowns. He completed passes to eight different receivers. Junior wide receiver Brandon Kaufman finished with five receptions for 142 yards. 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. Sophomore running Jordan Talley chipped in 71 yards on 14 carries. Defensively, the Eagles pitched a shutout in the second half. Linebacker Cody McCarthy led Eastern with 11 tackles, and senior linebacker Zach Johnson had eight and forced a fumble. Safety Allen Brown had seven tackles and a fumble recovery, and cornerback T.J. Lee had six tackles and an interception. Eastern sophomore punter Jake Miller, who transferred from WSU, averaged 46.3 yards on seven punts, including a school-record 74-yard punt on his first effort of the day. He broke the previous record of 71 yards set in 2006 by Ryan Donckers.

*



Quoting Coach Beau Baldwin

On Bye Week: “More than anything our focus was to stay on our feet, practice at a great tempo and really focus on us. That was the motto all week – we really didn’t talk about Weber State. It does no good to do our scheming for two weeks when we still aren’t where we need to be after two weeks. We’re 1-1 and that’s average. No matter how many times people tell us we did a great job and almost won against Washington State, we’re still 1-1. We want to be a lot better than average, so we wanted to focus on us during the bye week. We worked on fundamentals and tried to clean up some things from the first two games.”

On Getting Additional Playing Time for Backup Quarterback Vernon Adams: “It depends on how he progresses in practice, and we want to see what he can do. But he has talent. He plays the position of quarterback ahead of his years too. He’s handled situations in camp better than most redshirt freshmen, including players who turned out to be pretty darn good quarterbacks for us. He’s even ahead of the curve with some things mentally. We’re going to keep watching him and see how things go. Adams and Anthony Vitto both got an amazing amount of reps during spring ball – we’ve never had just two quarterbacks in the spring like we did. There was a lot of growth. It’s one thing to get reps, but it’s another thing to be able to learn something after just one rep. Vernon is very sharp about being able to progress quickly.”

On WSU Loss: “We fought back and competed, and that’s what I like to see. Obviously, there are a lot of things we have to clean up. We need to play a lot better. We put our defense in a couple of tough situations and we have to play with a little bit more rhythm on offense. But there was no lack of effort, lack of heart or lack of competitiveness. We’ll just keep working on the little things.”

On Defense Versus WSU: “They’ve fought for two-straight weeks and put us in a position to win both games. Against Idaho we were able to do that, and against WSU we were right there at the wire again. To us there are no moral victories – we go into every game with the expectation to win. Certainly, had a lot of disappointed players based on the fact we weren’t able to get that done – myself included.”

On Turnovers Versus WSU: “Turnovers are always a key. We were able to get a couple back in the second half, but there are a lot of key plays in a game. I credit Coach Leach and his staff. They executed very well a number of times. Even though they weren’t scoring, they were able to control field position. That’s football – sometimes the game comes down to a play here or there.”



Career Starts

Defense (189 starts by 18 players): Zach Johnson 32, Paul Ena 26, Tyler Washburn 24, Jeff Minnerly 19, Evan Cook 16, Allen Brown 14, David Gaylord 12, Ronnie Hamlin 10, T.J. Lee 9, Cody McCarthy 5, Grant Williams 5 (includes one start on offense in 2009), J.C. Agen 4, Jerry Ceja 3, Will Katoa 2, Ronald Baines 3, Rusty Haehl 1, Andru Pulu 2, Evan Day 2.

Offense (186 starts by 21 players): Nicholas Edwards 39, Brandon Kaufman 25, Will Post 24, Steven Forgette 19, Zack Gehring 14, Greg Herd 11, Brandon Murphy 11, Drew Reynolds 8, Jordan Talley 7, Mario Brown 5, Ashton Clark 4, Quincy Forte 3, Ashton Miller 3, Clay DeBord 2, Kyle Padron 2, Demitrius Bronson 2, Jase Butorac 2, Cody Humphrey 2, Cory Mitchell 1, Daniel Johnson 1, Ryan Seto 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.

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