Close wins, close losses and a Big Sky Championship are the highlights of another highly-successful EWU season
There was no repeat of the national championship magic of 2010, but winning the Big Sky Conference Championship was an incredibly difficult task in its own right for the Eastern Washington University football team in 2012.
Eastern’s season ended with a 45-42 loss to Sam Houston State in the semifinals of the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs, denying the Eagles a repeat trip to Texas to play for the NCAA Division I title. Eastern, which ranked fourth in the final regular season Sports Network Top-25 poll and was seeded second in the playoffs, finished the 2012 season 11-3. It was the fourth 10+ win in school history (joining the 2010, 1997 and 1967 squads), and came on the heels of EWU’s sixth Big Sky Conference Championship in football.
“This team was an incredible group, and we will keep moving forward,” said head coach Beau Baldwin, who is now 44-19 in five seasons as EWU’s head coach. “I had a blast this season, an absolute blast.”
Eastern captured a share of the Big Sky Conference title and the league’s automatic playoff berth with a 7-1 league record. Of Eastern’s seven Big Sky wins, six came by a combined margin of 28 points – one by seven points, two six-point wins and a trio by just three points. On the other side of the coin, the Eagles were only 10 points from an unbeaten season, having last-possession chances to pull out wins in their first two losses and then having a furious rally and 42-point second half against Sam Houston State result in a three-point setback.
“Our goals were, and they will be next year, to take games one at a time,” said Baldwin, whose team has regular season games scheduled against Oregon State, Toledo and Sam Houston State in the 2013 season. “Winning the Big Sky is first, but we are still going to think in terms of winning the whole thing. We always will. If you are not thinking that way, then why are you doing it? That’s my approach, and that’s my opinion. I know our players would say the same.
“Yes, they exceeded my expectations on how we carried ourselves, and what we were,” he added of a team that was just 6-5 the year before. “But we were in it with the idea that we would win the whole thing. It’s hard when you don’t because you put so much time and work into it.”
Sam Houston State went on to lose to 39-13 in the championship game in Frisco, Texas, the second-straight season the Bearkats lost to the Bison in the title game. Eastern played and won in the championship game in 2010 when the Eagles scored all of their points in the last 16:48 to defeat Delaware 20-19.
Behind the arm of freshman redshirt Vernon Adams, the Eagles rallied from a 35-0 deficit to nearly knock-off Sam Houston State in the semifinals. Adams came off the bench to throw six touchdown passes in the second half, but EWU couldn’t complete what would have been their seventh victory in the 2012 season when trailing in the third quarter.
“This was probably as tough a comeback (in Eastern’s
history). It was definitely one which took a lot of guts,
said Baldwin. “The comeback didn’t shock me, and I mean that as a compliment. I see how they respond, I see how they carry themselves, and I see how there is no finger pointing. There is no stress (on the field).
“If you come up a little short, you come up a little short, but at least you know you laid it out there, and you put it on the line,” he added. “It is tough to be that one team in the country who ends the playoffs with a win. As we reflect on a year of hard work, we feel very proud about a lot of things we have done on this football team. We are very hungry to come back and to keep working. It is fun, and it’s exciting.”
Eastern has now made nine playoff appearances (1985, 1992, 1997, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2012), and is one of only five schools among 121 in FCS to have sixth berths in the past nine seasons. Eastern’s success in recent years is a reflection of a group of 16 Eastern seniors in 2012, which represent Baldwin’s first recruiting class in February 2008. Since then, Eastern has added a red Sprinturf surface and a new videoboard/scoreboard at Roos Field, and came up a game shy of a repeat trip to the FCS title game.
“When you think about it, those seniors paved the way towards this,” said Baldwin. “They were playing on a grass field with an older scoreboard when their careers started here. When you see what they have gone through and how much they have put into our program, you feel for them because they care so much. They have nothing to hang their heads about, but should be proud of all that they have accomplished.”
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* For the fourth time in school history, Eastern ended the season with a top four ranking, as the Eagles were picked fourth in a pair of final NCAA Football Championship Subdivision polls. The Eagles finished fourth in The Sports Network Top 25 Poll of sports information and media relations directors, broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries. In the Coaches Poll, Eastern was also fourth. Eastern ended the 2010 season as the No. 1 team in FCS after winning the NCAA Division I title. In 1997, Eastern finished fourth in The Sports Network poll as well as the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll. In both 1997 and 2012, Eastern advanced to the semifinals of the FCS Playoffs. Overall, this is the 10th time Eastern has finished the season nationally ranked, including six times since 2004. The other seasons were in 1985, 1992, 1993, 1997, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2009 and 2010. Eastern has now been ranked No. 1 in three-straight seasons, having begun the 2011 season at No. 1 and earning the top spot for two weeks in 2012.
* After falling to Sam Houston State 45-42 in the semifinals of the FCS Playoffs, the Eagles finished 7-1 at Roos Field. The Eagles are now 17-3 at The Inferno since 2010 when the red turf was installed and the stadium was renamed to Roos Field (formerly Woodward Field). Eastern was 8-0 at home during the debut year when EWU won the NCAA Division I title.
* In all, Eastern won six games in the 2012 season when trailing in the third quarter (Montana, Montana State, Sacramento State, UC Davis, Portland State, Wagner). Since 2010, Eastern has won 11 games when they’ve trailed or been tied in the fourth quarter, including three in 2012 (Montana, Montana State, UC Davis).
* Eastern captured a share of the Big Sky Conference title and the league’s automatic playoff berth with a 7-1 league record. Of Eastern’s seven Big Sky wins, six came by a combined margin of 28 points – one by seven points, two six-point wins and a trio by just three points.
* With Eastern’s 51-35 win against Illinois State in the quarterfinals of the 2012 FCS Playoffs, the Eagles won their 11th game, marking just the third time in school history EWU has had 10 or more wins in a single season. Eastern finished the 2010 National Championship season at 13-2, and the 1997 season at 12-2.
* In November and beyond, Eastern is 13-1 since 2010 and 22-4 since 2007. Since 2010, EWU is 25-3 after Oct. 1, including an 11-0 mark two years ago, 6-1 in 2011 and 8-2 in 2012. The lone losses were a 43-26 home loss in 2011 versus Portland State, a 30-27 road setback at Southern Utah on Oct. 27, 2012 and a 45-42 playoff loss to Sam Houston State.
* In the final 2012 Jeff Sagarin computer ratings, Eastern was fifth overall in FCS (88th overall). North Dakota State was first among FCS schools, followed by Sam Houston State, Georgia Southern, South Dakota State, EWU and Montana State (90th overall). Other Big Sky schools included Cal Poly (12/99), Northern Arizona (21/120), Southern Utah (33/144), North Dakota (34/149), Montana (36/151), Sacramento State (37/152), UC Davis (42/160), Portland State (44/164), Northern Colorado (48/171), Weber State (54/179) and Idaho State (100/225). The Eagles were a season-high second nationally among FCS schools at one point in the 2012 season.
* A pair of Eagles with eligibility remaining -- two-time All-America wide receiver Brandon Kaufman and quarterback Kyle Padron -- decided not to return to EWU for their senior seasons in 2013 and will pursue opportunities to play professional football. Kaufman and Padron are the second and third EWU players in the past three years to depart early for the pro ranks. Running back Taiwan Jones left after his junior season in 2010 and was a fourth-round draft choice by the Oakland Raiders. A fourth, former Eagle running back Jesse Chatman, also left early after the 2001 season and spent seven seasons in the NFL with three teams as an undrafted free agent. Chatman was a NCAA non-qualifier out of high school, but was on track toward completing his degree to enable him to receive a fourth year of collegiate eligibility.
* Six Eagles received All-America accolades in the 2012 season, plus three redshirt freshmen were honored for their outstanding debut seasons at EWU. First team All-America honors were won by junior wide receiver Brandon Kaufman, senior offensive tackle Will Post, senior kicker Jimmy Pavel and junior cornerback T.J. Lee. Senior defensive end Jerry Ceja earned second team accolades and junior linebacker Ronnie Hamlin was an fourth team pick. Post was honored by the American Football Coaches Association (first team), Associated Press (first team) and Beyond Sports College Network (second team), and was also on the College Sporting News “Fabulous 50” squad. Kaufman was selected to All-America teams picked by College Sports Journal (first team), College Sports Madness (first team), Beyond Sports College Network (first team), Phil Steele Publications (first team), The Sports Network (second team) and Associated Press (second team), and was also on CSN’s “Fabulous 50” team. Pavel was also a “Fabulous 50” pick by CSN, and earned additional All-America honors from College Sports Journal (first team), Beyond Sports College Network (first team), Phil Steele Publications (first team), The Sports Network (second team), Associated Press (third team) and College Sports Madness (third team). Lee was honored by The Sports Network (second team) and was on the College Sporting News “Fabulous 50” squad. Ceja was on the College Sports Madness All-America squad (second team) and Hamlin was honored by Phil Steele Publications (fourth team). In addition, College Sporting News included quarterback Vernon Adams as FCS Freshman of the Year on its “Fabulous 50” list. The College Sports Journal also selected a Freshman All-America team, and Adams was joined on that squad by safety Jordan Tonani and return specialist Shaquille Hill. There were eight All-America teams announced in 2012, and Eastern had players on seven of them. The All-America teams include the AFCA, The Sports Network, Associated Press, the Walter Camp Football Foundation, College Sporting News, College Sports Journal, Beyond Sports College Network and College Sports Madness.
* As he prepares for the NFL Draft in April, Brandon Kaufman will train in Orlando, Fla., along with fellow Eagle wide receiver Greg Herd, who was a senior in 2012. Kaufman is just 20 credits shy of graduating from EWU, and will continue to take classes this winter online. Kaufman and Herd are being represented by Cameron Foster and the Foster Easley Sports Management Group of Seattle. Kaufman, who is from Denver, Colo., and is a 2009 graduate of Heritage HS, finished his 42-game career with 221 catches (third in school history, seventh in Big Sky history) for 3,731 yards (second all-time at EWU, fourth in the Big Sky and 19th in FCS) and 33 touchdowns (second in school history). He earned the 2012 FCS Wide Receiver Award from College Football Performance Awards (CFPA), and was selected to All-America teams picked by College Sports Journal (first team), College Sports Madness (first team), Beyond Sports College Network (first team), Phil Steele Publications (first team), The Sports Network (second team) and Associated Press (second team), as well as the College Sporting News “Fabulous 50” A-A squad. An All-American in 2010 as well, Kaufman was a first team All-Big Sky Conference selection in both 2012 and 2010. Kaufman broke the FCS record for single season receiving yards in EWU’s 45-42 loss in the FCS Playoffs to Sam Houston State on Dec. 15. He finished the season with 1,850 yards (93 receptions and 16 TD) to break the record of 1,712 previously held by Eddie Conti of Delaware in 1998. Kaufman averaged 19.9 yards per catch with a long of 93 yards, and ranked second in FCS in receiving yards per game (132.1) in 2012. Kaufman finished the Sam Houston State game with nine catches for a career-high 215 yards and three touchdowns, with his yardage ranking fifth in school history. A week earlier, Kaufman broke the Big Sky Conference record for single season receiving yards during EWU’s 51-35 victory over Illinois State. He finished with nine catches for 191 yards and three touchdowns, and his 17-yard TD catch in the third quarter gave EWU a 38-17 lead and broke the previous Big Sky record of 1,525 set by Weber State’s Tim Toone in 2008. Earlier in the game, Kaufman broke the school record of 1,453 set by Eric Kimble in 2004. On single season lists, Kaufman’s 93 catches ranks second in school history (behind the school-record 95 that teammate Nicholas Edwards had in 2011), fifth in the Big Sky and 28th in FCS. His 16 touchdowns are third all-time at EWU and his average of 19.9 yards per catch was fifth in EWU history. In his last four games of the season, Kaufman had 37 catches for 741 yards (20.0 per catch) with six scores. Kaufman went over the 100-yard mark 11 times in the 2012 season and 19 times in his career. 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. He caught 76 passes for 1,214 yards and 15 touchdowns as a sophomore in 2010 to help EWU to a 13-2 record and the NCAA Division I Championship.
* Junior cornerback T.J. Lee earned All-America honors in 2012 from The Sports Network (second team), and was also honored on the College Sporting News “Fabulous 50” All-America squad. He piled up some impressive statistics in 2012, ranking third on the team with 90 tackles and finishing with 11 passes broken up to rank 10th in school history. The two-time first team All-Big Sky selection also 2 1/2 sacks, nine total tackles for loss, an interception, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. In the quarterfinals of the FCS Playoffs against Illinois State on Dec. 8, Lee had eight tackles, a forced fumble and two passes broken up. Versus Portland State on Nov. 17, he had eight tackles (one for loss) and broke-up three passes. He had nine tackles and a sack versus Southern Utah on Oct. 27, and eight tackles, a pass broken up and a forced fumble on a sack that he also recovered versus Weber State on Sept. 22. One game earlier against Washington State, he had six tackles and an interception, as the Eagle defense pitched a shutout in the second half and kept the Eagles in the game. His interception in the fourth quarter came at the Eastern 7-yard line and helped thwart one of two potential scoring drives for the Cougars late in the game. Lee now has 140 tackles, three interceptions, 14 passes broken up and 2 1/2 sacks in his 34-game career (20 starts). As a sophomore in 2011, Lee was a first team All-Big Sky selection, finishing the season with 48 tackles, a pair of interceptions and one pass broken up.
* Eastern senior offensive tackle Will Post earned four All-America honors in 2012, receiving recognition from the American Football Coaches Association (first team), Associated Press (first team) and Beyond Sports College Network (second team), as well as the College Sporting News “Fabulous 50” A-A squad. The Eagles have now had 19 offensive linemen earn All-America accolades in the last 20 years (1993-2012) while winning 21 first team All-Big Sky Conference honors (1993-2012), including Post in 2012. Post started every game at right offensive tackle in 2012, with a total of 36 career starts in 45 games played. The first team All-Big Sky selection and team co-captain allowed just one sack in the regular season (opponents had a total of 24). He consistently graded out in the high 80’s and low 90's according to offensive line coach Aaron Best. The Eagles had a season-best 542 total yards versus Cal Poly on Nov. 3 and finished third in the Big Sky and 14th in FCS in total offense (442.0), seventh in FCS in passing offense (318.9 per game) and 17th in scoring offense (33.7). The 6-foot-6, 315-pound Post is from Portland, Ore., and graduated from Southridge High School in 2008.
* Junior linebacker Ronnie Hamlin earned All-American honors from Phil Steele Publications (fourth team) and was a first team All-Big Sky Conference selection. He had 136 tackles in 2012 to rank fifth in school history, and his average of 9.71 per game ranked 31st in FCS and fourth in the Big Sky. He had had four performances of at least 11 tackles, including 15 in Eastern’s 27-24 win at Big Sky co-champion Montana State on Oct. 13. He also had a key interception in that game to earn Root Sports Defensive Player of the Week as selected by the Big Sky and national FCS recognition as one of four College Sporting News National All Stars. Hamlin was also honored by the Big Sky as player of the week after finishing with eight tackles and a pass broken up in a season-opening 20-3 victory over Idaho. A 20-game starter for the Eagles, Hamlin has 221 tackles already in his 24-game EWU career to rank 22nd in school history. After having his first two seasons (2009 and 2010) wiped out because of knee injuries, Hamlin will eventually apply to the NCAA to receive his sixth year. In anticipation of that appeal, he will be listed as a junior again on EWU’s roster in the 2013 season.
* Senior safety and hometown product Jeff Minnerly became the eighth EWU player in school history since 1989 to be honored on the Capital One Academic All-America Division I football team as selected by the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA). He earned the honor after advancing to the national ballot following his third All-District VIII honor announced earlier in the 2012 season. Minnerly, who currently has a 3.79 grade point average with a double major in finance and electrical engineering, was selected to the second team. Minnerly joins a group of high-achieving Eagle football players which include previous recipients Jeff Ogden, Steve Mattson, Kyler Randall, Jacob Kragt, Kurt Schulz, Mike MacKenzie and Lance Ballew. Along with Minnerly, they have combined to win 10 Academic All-America honors (Mattson and Randall were two-time winners). Kragt, a defensive end from Ritzville, was EWU’s most recent recipient in 2009. Minnerly broke his collarbone against Montana on Sept. 29, and didn’t return until Senior Day versus UC Davis on Nov. 10. He started 24 of 40 games he played in his career, with career totals of 162 tackles, five interceptions, nine passes broken up and two forced fumbles. He finished his senior season with 35 tackles, an interception and a pass broken up. Minnerly had an honor-filled career as a 4.0 student at Ferris High School in Spokane, Wash., and he has followed that with a variety of athletic and academic awards at Eastern. He earned his fourth Big Sky Conference All-Academic award in 2012, and in 2011, he repeated as an honorable mention All-Big Sky Conference selection and was chosen to the NCAA Championship Subdivision Athletic Directors Academic All-Star Team. 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. His long hair was a trademark of his, as a friendly wager between teammates lasted three years. During the 2010 season, Minnerly and linebacker Ronnie Hamlin challenged each other to see who could go the longest without cutting their hair. Linebacker Zach Johnson was also in on the wager, but dropped out after EWU won the NCAA Division I title. Minnerly eventually cut his hair two days after the 2012 season concluded on Dec. 17, and donated the hair to Locks of Love.
* The Eagles finished second in the league and seventh in FCS in passing offense (318.9 per game), as quarterbacks Vernon Adams and Padron combined to lead EWU to the school record for passing yards. The Eagles finished with 4,469 yards, breaking the previous record of 4,102 yards in 2005. Both quarterbacks averaged at least 191.9 yards of total offense per game (Padron 229.8 and Adams 191.9). Adams ranked fourth in FCS in passing efficiency (160.80), and was the only freshman in the top 24 of the rankings. His efficiency rating also ranked fourth all-time in school history. In nine games as a starter and three as a sub, he completed 60.9 percent of his passes for 1,961 yards, 20 touchdowns and eight interceptions. Padron started the other five games and played six others as a sub, and completed 59.1 percent of his passes for a team-leading 2,491 yards, 17 TDs and seven interceptions, and ranked 29th in FCS in passing yards per game (226.5). In back-to-back games in the FCS Playoffs, each had a school-record six touchdown passes -- Padron versus Illinois State in the quarterfinals and Adams against Sam Houston State in the semifinals. Adams completed 14-of-26 passes for 364 yards – all after intermission --- as EWU scored 42 points in the second half to rally from a 35-0 halftime deficit and nearly pull off an improbable rally. Besides being selected as the Freshman of the Year on the College Sporting News “Fabulous 50” All-America team, Adams was on the College Sports Journal Freshman All-America squad. Adams was also one of 20 players on the ballot for the Jerry Rice Award, given to the top freshman in FCS by The Sports Network (he finished sixth in the voting, which occurred prior to the playoffs). His incredible scramble and touchdown throw against Sacramento State on Oct. 20 was also one of eight finalists for the GEICO Play of the Year. Adams made his first career start in EWU’s 32-26 victory at Weber State on Sept. 22, 2012, and used his arm and his feet to lead EWU to a 20-3 halftime lead. 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. One game later in his home starting debut, Adams atoned for a fourth-quarter fumble and interception by throwing 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 at Roos Field. 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. Later in the year, Adams repeated as ROOT Sports Offensive Player of the Week after accounting for 356 yards of offense in seventh-ranked EWU’s 34-17 win versus No. 16 Cal Poly on Nov. 3. Adams completed 19-of-29 passes for 288 yards and had three touchdown tosses, and also rushed for 68 yards against the Mustangs. Eastern’s scoring drives in the game were of 81, 66, 74, 69, 41 and 83 yards.
* Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin and freshman quarterback Vernon Adams were finalists for national awards presented by The Sports Network in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision. Baldwin was one of 20 coaches on the voting list for the Eddie Robinson Award, given to the national coach of the year in FCS. He finished fifth in the voting. Adams was one of 20 players on the ballot for the Jerry Rice Award, given to the top freshman in FCS. Adams, who was sixth in the voting, finished ranked fourth in FCS in passing efficiency (160.61), and was the only freshman in the top 24 of the rankings. The Jerry Rice Award, in its second year, is named for legendary wide receiver Jerry Rice, who was a two-time first-team All-American in the FCS (then Division I-AA) at Mississippi Valley State. The Robinson award is named for Eddie Robinson, the College Football Hall of Fame coach, who retired in 1997 after 56 years at Grambling State University. Both awards – as well as the Walter Payton Award (top player in FCS) and the Buck Buchanan Award (top defensive player) -- were voted on by a national panel of about 160 sports information and media relations directors, broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries. The awards were presented at the FCS Awards Banquet and Presentation on Dec. 17 in Philadelphia.
* A total of 22 Eastern football players were selected to the All-Big Sky Conference team as selected by the league’s head coaches. The first team selections include junior wide receiver Brandon Kaufman, junior cornerback T.J. Lee senior kicker Jimmy Pavel, inside linebacker Ronnie Hamlin and senior offensive tackle Will Post.
* After directing Eastern to a 9-2 regular season record and its sixth Big Sky Conference title in school history, head coach Beau Baldwin was selected as the league’s co-Coach of the Year in a vote of the Big Sky’s fellow head coaches. Baldwin was also one of 20 coaches on the voting list for the Eddie Robinson Award (he finished fifth), given to the national coach of the year in FCS. Baldwin coached in his 100th Eastern game when the Eagles rallied to beat Montana 32-26 earlier in the 2012 season. He is now 44-19 in four-plus seasons as a head coach (2008-12), and was 25-22 as EWU assistant coach for four seasons (2003-06), for a collective total of 69-41. His .750 winning percentage in Big Sky Conference games (30-10) is the best-ever by an Eastern head coach and currently ranks eighth in the 50-year history of the Big Sky Conference. His .698 percentage overall is 11th.
* Eastern transfer quarterback Kyle Padron passed for 1,066 yards (355.3 per game) in a three-game stretch in which the Eagles wrapped up the Big Sky Conference title with a win over Portland State and registered victories in the FCS Playoffs over Wagner and Illinois State. He had a completion rate of 66 percent, nine touchdown passes and two interceptions. In a 51-35 victory over Illinois State on Dec. 8 in the quarterfinals of the FCS Playoffs, he passed for 358 yards and a school-record six touchdown passes. He completed 19-of-33 passes, and his six touchdowns tied the EWU previous single-game record held by Matt Nichols (8/31/07 vs. Montana-Western) and Rob James (11/1/86 vs. Weber State).One game earlier, he had 327 yards and a touchdown in EWU’s 29-19 victory over Wagner on Dec. 1. He directed EWU on touchdown drives of 80 and 75 yards in the first half, then scoring marches of 75 and 73 in the second half as the Eagles rallied from a 19-14 deficit. Making just his third start of the season and first since EWU’s second game of the season, Padron completed 26-of-36 (72.2 percent) of his passes with one touchdown. No stranger to big games, Padron came off the bench to lead the Eagles to a 41-34 win at Portland State on Nov. 17 and clinch a share of the Big Sky title for EWU. As a result, Padron was Root Sports Offensive Player of the Week as selected by the league, joining Vernon Adams as a winner of that award in the 2012 season. Eastern scored the winning points on an eight-play, 94-yard drive to break a 34-all tie with 1:25 remaining in a steady downpour. Padron passed for 380 yards and a pair of touchdowns as Eastern rallied from season-high deficits of 13 and 12 points. A junior who transferred in 2012 from Southern Methodist, he completed 26-of-38 passes for 381 yards and two touchdowns, and also rushed for one. He led Eastern on touchdown drives of 42, 62, 76, 49 and 78 yards prior to the game-winning 94-yard drive, in which he was 5-of-5 for 73 yards. Padron is the only Eastern player in school history to be MVP in a bowl game, let alone play in one. In 2009 while at SMU, he was MVP of the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl after passing for a school-record 460 yards and two TDs in SMU's 45-10 win over Nevada. Current Portland State head coach Nigel Burton was the defensive coordinator for Nevada in that game. For the season, Padron started five times and came off the bench in six games, and was a 21-game starter at SMU. He completed 59.1 percent of his passes for a team-leading 2,491 yards, 17 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Until a third-quarter interception versus Wagner on Dec. 1, Padron hadn’t thrown an interception in 121 attempts dating back to Sept. 22 against Weber State.
* Despite missing much of the season with a nagging hamstring injury, senior linebacker Zach Johnson earned second team All-Big Sky honors in 2012. The sixth-year senior was also a second team choice in 2010 and honorable mention as a freshman in 2008. Johnson started every game he played in his Eastern career – 39 – and had 64 tackles in nine games played in 2012. Johnson, who missed 24 total games in his career because of injuries, finished with 324 tackles, five interceptions, 14 passes broken up and 6 1/2 sacks as an Eagle. He finished seventh all-time in tackles at Eastern, and was 17 away from the total of 341 by his twin brother Matt Johnson, who now plays for the Dallas Cowboys. Matt Johnson was a fourth round draft choice by the Dallas Cowboys in 2011 and also started every Eastern game he played – 45. Zach Johnson missed five games and most of a sixth with a hamstring injury in 2012, but returned against Cal Poly on Nov. 3 to finish with seven tackles, a pass broken up and a key third down tackle in the third quarter with the Mustangs at the EWU 1-yard line. After returning to the lineup, Johnson has 50 tackles, two interceptions and a pair of pass deflections in his final six games as an Eagle. He had 12 tackles in his finale versus Sam Houston State – the 15th of his career with at least 10 stops -- seven against Illinois State, and 11 in EWU’s 29-19 win over Wagner. One game earlier, he had a pair of interceptions in the fourth quarter to help preserve Eastern’s come-from-behind 41-34 victory over Portland State on Nov. 17. He also had three tackles in the game, which clinched a share of the Big Sky title for the Eagles. The Johnson twins both graduated in 2007 from Tumwater (Wash.) High School.
.* An All-American and second team All-Big Sky selection, starting defensive end Jerry Ceja was on the College Sports Madness All-America squad (second team) and was a second team All-Big Sky selection in 2012. He finished 10th in FCS and third in the league with an average of 0.86 sacks per game (total of 12 to rank fifth in school history). He had 47 total tackles in the 2012 season with 17 for loss, and also had nine quarterback hurries, two passes broken up and a pair of forced fumbles. He is sixth all-time at EWU in career sacks with 23 1/2. Ceja finished with six forced fumbles in his career, equaling the school record shared by Matt Johnson (2008-11), Renard Williams (2008-11), J.C. Sherritt (2007-10) and Chris Scott (1994-97). Ceja had three sacks and five quarterback hurries in EWU’s first two playoff games in 2012, including a sack and three hurries versus Illinois State and two sacks and a hurry against Wagner. Ceja had two sacks versus Wagner on Dec. 1, Montana State on Oct. 13, North Dakota on Oct. 6 and Weber State on Sept. 22.
* An incredible scramble and touchdown throw by Vernon Adams against Sacramento State on Oct. 20 was a finalist for the GEICO Play of the Year. For eight weeks, fans voted for the GEICO Play of the Year, and Adams won the Play of the Year voting for Week 8. The eight weekly winners were shown on GEICO Best of College Football 2012 on CBS on Nov. 23. The winner of the GEICO Play of the Year was a one-handed catch by Ohio State’s Devin Smith.
* Thanks to a high-percentage senior season, Pavel earned All-America honors from Beyond Sports College Network (first team), The Sports Network (second team), Associated Press (third team) and College Sports Madness (third team). He also earned first team All-Big Sky Conference honors.
* Senior kicker Jimmy Pavel was selected to six All-America teams in 2012 after earning first team All-Big Sky Conference accolades. He was a “Fabulous 50” pick by College Sporting News, and earned additional All-America honors from College Sports Journal (first team), Beyond Sports College Network (first team), Phil Steele Publications (first team), The Sports Network (second team), Associated Press (third team) and College Sports Madness (third team). An impressive 17-of-19 kicking field goals in the 2012 season, Pavel ranked 25th in FCS with an average of 1.21 field goals per game. His .895 percentage was the best in FCS among kickers with at least 14 attempts. He made a 20-yard field goal against Illinois State on Dec. 8 to earn sole possession of EWU’s single season school record with 17 for the season. His 45-yard field goal against UC Davis on Nov. 10 equaled the record of 16 set one season earlier by Mike Jarrett. Pavel made kicks of 45 and 23 yards against Southern Utah on Oct. 27 to improve to 13-of-13 on the year, but missed his first attempt of the season on a 37-yarder that would have broken a 27-27 tie with 2:51 left in the game. His other miss was a 32-yarder in the semifinals of the FCS Playoffs against Sam Houston State on Dec. 15. Pavel, who handled kickoff duties in 2011 after transferring from Boise State University, took over placekicking duties from Jarrett, who made a school-record 16 field goals in just 18 attempts as a senior in 2011. Pavel missed his only attempt in the 2011 season, a 52-yarder. Thus, including a field goal Kevin Miller made earlier in the 2012 season, the Eagles have made 34 of 39 field goal attempts the last two seasons for 87.2 percent. Pavel, who is from Molalla, Ore., and graduated from Central Catholic High School in 2008, also assumed part of EWU’s punting duties the final four games. He finished with a 41.2 average on 20 punts with three downed inside the opponent 20-yard line.
Eagles in the Playoffs
* For the third time in school history, the 2012 Eagles advanced to the semifinals of the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs. Eastern defeated Wagner (29-19) and #16 Illinois State (51-35) in the first two rounds, then fell to #5 Sam Houston State (45-42) to finish 11-3 on the season. Eastern hosted all three games at Roos Field in Cheney, Wash., and also hosted three games in 2010 (Roos Field) and 1997 (Albi Stadium in Spokane). The Eagles received the No. 2 seed in the playoffs, with eventual champion North Dakota State getting the top seed, followed by EWU, Montana State, Old Dominion and Georgia Southern. The top five teams are seeded 1-5, and are guaranteed home games as long as they are the higher-seeded team in their match-up and have met NCAA guidelines to host. In 2010, Eastern was the No. 5 seed, and because of higher-seeded teams losing in the early rounds, hosted three games at Roos Field.
* Eastern has now advanced to the semifinals in the FCS Playoffs three times (1997, 2010, 2012), and has won its opener six times (1985, 1997, 2004, 2007, 2010, 2012). The Eagles have an 11-8 record in nine playoff appearances (1985, 1992, 1997, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2012). Only 15 teams have made more playoff appearances than the Eagles. The 2012 season marked EWU’s sixth appearance in the quarterfinals, and 2010 was EWU’s first appearance in the championship game.
* Eastern made its ninth appearance in the playoffs in 2012, ranking the Eagles among a select group of 20 schools with at least that many berths. The other appearances for the Eagles came in 1985, 1992, 1997, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2009 and 2010. With a 6-5 record during an injury-ravaged season in 2011, Eastern fell a victory shy of making its first back-to-back-to-back appearances.
* Eastern has had six playoff berths in a nine-year span, ranking the Eagles as one of only five schools among 121 in FCS to accomplish that feat. The only other four teams to have qualified six of the last nine years are Appalachian State (2005-06-07-08-09-10-11-12), Montana (2004-05-06-07-08-09-11), New Hampshire (2004-05-06-07-08-09-10-11-12) and Southern Illinois (2004-05-06-07-08-09).
* Seeded fifth, Eastern won four-straight games to win the 2010 NCAA Division I National Championship. The top-ranked Eagles defeated #9 Southeast Missouri State (37-17), #25 North Dakota State (38-31 in overtime) and defending champion #10 Villanova (41-31) in three home playoff games, then defeated #5 Delaware (20-19) in the championship game on Jan. 7, 2011, in Frisco, Texas. Quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell was selected as the game’s Most Outstanding Player after throwing three touchdowns passes in the final 16:48 as EWU rallied from a 19-0 deficit.
* In 2009, the 13th-ranked Eagles lost at No. 12 Stephen F. Austin 44-33 in the first round. In 2007, the Eagles handed second-seeded and No. 3 ranked McNeese State its first loss of the year in a 44-15 first-round victory. Eastern then lost in the quarterfinals at two-time defending champion Appalachian State. In 2004, Eastern defeated No. 1 ranked and top-seeded Southern Illinois 35-31 in the first round and then lost 35-34 to Sam Houston State in the quarterfinal round in EWU’s first-ever playoff game at Roos Field (formerly Woodward Field) in Cheney, Wash. In both 2004 and 2007, Eastern entered the playoffs ranked 14th nationally.
* Until 2004, Eastern hadn’t appeared in the FCS playoffs since 1997 when the Eagles advanced to the semifinals where it lost to Youngstown State 25-14 at Albi Stadium in Spokane, Wash. Eastern played two early-round games at Albi, defeating Northwestern State 40-10 and Western Kentucky 38-21. Western Kentucky was coached by Jack Harbaugh, whose sons Jim and John are the first pair of brothers to serve as NFL head coaches and face off in a Super Bowl (XLVII on Feb. 3, 2013)
* Eastern also participated in the playoffs in 1985 (won at Idaho 42-38 and lost at Northern Iowa 17-14) and 1992 (lost at Northern Iowa 17-14). The school’s only other postseason experience came in 1967 when Eastern advanced to the NAIA Championship game where it lost to Fairmont State 28-21. Eastern has won three previous national titles, but none in head-to-head competition or at the NCAA Division I level. Eastern won the 1977 NAIA wrestling title, the 1982 NCAA Division II men’s cross country championship and the 1970 Class II national championship for women’s collegiate gymnastics programs.
Here is a complete list of EWU’s FCS playoff games (EWU
received a first-round bye in 2010, the first year the playoffs
were expanded to 20 teams):
2012 – Sam Houston State – L, 42-45 (Semifinals/Cheney)
2012 – Illinois State – W, 51-35 (Quarterfinals/Cheney)
2012 – Wagner – W, 29-19 (Second Round/Cheney)
2010 - Delaware - W, 20-19 (Championship/Frisco, Texas)
2010 - Villanova - W, 41-31 (Semifinals/Cheney)
2010 - North Dakota State - W, 38-31 in OT (Quarterfinals/Cheney)
2010 - Southeast Missouri State - W, 37-17 (Second Round/Cheney)
2009 - at Stephen F. Austin - L, 33-44 (First Round)
2007 - at Appalachian State - L, 35-38 (Quarterfinals)
2007 - at McNeese State - W, 44-15 (First Round)
2005 - at Northern Iowa - L, 38-41 (First Round)
2004 - Sam Houston State - L, 34-35 (Quarterfinals/Cheney)
2004 - at Southern Illinois - W, 35-31 (First Round)
1997 - Youngstown State - L, 14-25 (Semifinals/Spokane)
1997 - Western Kentucky - W, 38-21 (Quarterfinals/Spokane)
1997 - Northwestern State - W, 40-10 (First Round/Spokane)
1992 - at Northern Iowa - L, 14-17 (First Round)
1985 - at Northern Iowa - L, 14-17 (Quarterfinals)
1985 - at Idaho - W, 42-38 (First Round)
The Senior Class
* Eastern’s 2012 roster included 16 seniors, with 10
starting at least five games in 2012 for the Eagles (three on
offense, seven on defense). The list also included the team’s
starting long-snapper and kicker. Those 16 seniors combined for 617
games worth of experience, and had 292 starts between them. A total
of 12 finished their careers as four-year letterwinners. More
importantly, they helped Eastern win 25-of-32 Big Sky Conference
games and 38 overall the last four seasons, and 14 were a part of
EWU’s NCAA Division I Championship in 2010. The senior class
represents the first recruiting class for head coach Beau Baldwin
in February of 2008. Below is the complete list with the number of
games played/started listed at the end of each player’s
13 - Scott Burgett - Linebacker - 6-2 - 210 - Sr. - 3L* - Peoria, Ariz. (Centennial HS ’08) - 7/0
^91 - Jerry Ceja – Defensive End - 6-3 - 220 - Sr. - 3L - Aurora, Colo. (Grandview HS ’09) - 48/14
^56 - Evan Cook – Defensive Tackle - 6-3 - 280 - Sr. - 3L* - Federal Way, Wash. (Todd Beamer HS ’08) - 40/28
^11 - Nicholas Edwards – Wide Receiver - 6-3 - 200 - Sr. - 3L* - Tacoma, Wash. (Foss HS ’08) - 50/45
^44 - Paul Ena – Defensive End - 6-2 - 240 - Sr. - 3L - Kenmore, Wash. (Inglemoor HS ’09) - 51/37
43 - Rusty Haehl - Linebacker - 5-11 - 215 - Sr. - 3L* - Bellevue, Wash. (Bellevue HS ’08) - 46/1
^3 - Greg Herd – Wide Receiver - 6-3 - 200 - Sr. - 3L - Tacoma, Wash. (Steilacoom HS ’09) - 47/22
^10 - Zach Johnson - Linebacker - 6-1 - 225 - Sr. - 3L* - Tumwater, Wash. (Tumwater HS ’07) – 39/39
32 - Chase King - Linebacker - 6-1 - 215 - Sr. - 1L* - Federal Way, Wash. (Decatur HS ’08) - 24/0
^7 - Jeff Minnerly – Safety - 6-1 - 200 - Sr. - 3L* - Spokane, Wash. (Ferris HS ’08) - 40/24
27 - McKenzie Murphy - Safety - 5-9 - 190 - Sr. - TR* - Spokane, Wash. (Ferris HS ’08 / Western Washington) - 12/0
99 - Jimmy Pavel – Kicker - 5-11 - 195 - Sr. - 1L* - Molalla, Ore. (Central Catholic HS ’08 / Boise State) – 24
^76 - Will Post – Offensive Tackle - 6-6 - 310 - Sr. - 3L* - Portland, Ore. (Southridge HS ’08) - 45/36
54 - Jake Potter – Long Snapper - 6-2 - 200 - Sr. - 2L* - Kennewick, Wash. (Kamiakin HS ’08) – 43
^55 - Tyler Washburn - Linebacker - 6-1 - 230 - Sr. - 3L* - Sammamish, Wash. (Skyline HS ’08) – 51/36
^18 - Grant Williams - Linebacker - 6-1 - 225 - Sr. - 3L* - Puyallup, Wash. (Rogers HS ’08) – 50/10
^Has started at least five games in 2012.
* Big Sky Conference Coach of the Year Beau Baldwin has now been a part of four Big Sky Conference championships as either an Eastern assistant coach (2004, 2005) or head coach (2010, 2012). In addition, he has been a part of five FCS Playoff berths – two as an assistant (2004, 2005) and three in four seasons as head coach (2009, 2010, 2012). In receiving the Big Sky Coach of the Year honor for the first time, Baldwin is the fourth coach in school history to win the award. His predecessor, Paul Wulff, won in 2001, 2004 and 2005. Current Idaho State head coach Mike Kramer won in 1997 and Dick Zornes was Eastern’s first in 1992. The Eagles won league titles and advanced to the playoffs in all of those years except for 2001.
* The Eagles finished second in the league and seventh in FCS in passing offense (318.9 per game), as quarterbacks Vernon Adams and Kyle Padron combined to lead EWU to the school record for passing yards. The Eagles finished with 4,469 yards, breaking the previous record of 4,102 yards in 2005. Both quarterbacks averaged at least 191.9 yards of total offense per game (Padron 229.8 and Adams 191.9). Padron, who started five games and played six others as a sub, completed 59.1 percent of his passes for a team-leading 2,491 yards, 17 TDs and seven interceptions, and ranked 29th in FCS in passing yards per game (226.5). Adams ranked fourth in FCS in passing efficiency (160.80), and was the only freshman in the top 24 of the rankings. In nine games as a starter and three as a sub, he completed 60.9 percent of his passes for 1,961 yards, 20 touchdowns and eight interceptions. In back-to-back games in the FCS Playoffs, each had a school-record six touchdown passes -- Padron versus Illinois State in the quarterfinals and Adams against Sam Houston State in the semifinals. Adams rushed for 342 yards and averaged 191.9 yards of total offense per game, and Padron had 37 rushing and averaged 229.8 yards of offense. The Eagles had a season-best 542 total yards versus Cal Poly on Nov. 3 and finished third in the Big Sky and 14th in FCS in total offense (442.0). Eastern was also 14th in passing efficiency (149.74) and 17th in scoring offense (33.7).
* The Eagles, an early leader in the Big Sky Conference in scoring defense, finished fourth in the league. They allowed 25.4 points per game, which ranked 54th in FCS.
* Eastern finished 77th in FCS in rushing defense (176.8), having given up only 336 rushing yards total in its first three games and just 70 versus Montana State. Eastern was also 81st in total defense (401.9). 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).
* Redshirt freshman Shaquille Hill, who had a 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against North Dakota on Sept. 6, finished ranked 17th in FCS with an average of 26.8 yards per kickoff return. He would have had another TD in the FCS Playoffs against Illinois State, but the video replay official determined he dropped the ball a yard shy of the end zone and it became a non-scoring 93-yard return. He earned honorable mention All-Big Sky Conference honors. As a team, Eastern was 14th in FCS with a 23.5 average, as Cory Mitchell added a non-scoring 67-yard return in the Illinois State game.
* Eastern had 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 combined for 139 games worth of experience (103 starts), and had collective totals of 601 catches for 8,713 yards and 83 touchdowns. Edwards and Herd are seniors and Kaufman is a junior after he received an injury redshirt in 2011. Junior Ashton Clark, who had a career-high 11 catches versus Southern Utah on Oct. 27, has 83 catches for 1,091 yards and nine touchdowns in his career.
* The Eagles had a quartet of linebackers who have combined for 165 games of experience (107 starts) in their careers, with a collective total of 960 tackles. Senior Zach Johnson (39 games played/39 starts) had 324 tackles in his career, and fellow senior Tyler Washburn (51/36) had 259. Junior Ronnie Hamlin (25/22) has 221 in his career thus far, and senior Grant Williams (50/10) had 156. In addition, sophomore Cody McCarthy (19/5, 88 tackles) has seen significant action for EWU since he played as a true freshman in 2011.
* Eastern’s running game was much-improved in 2012, with the Eagles ranking 90th in FCS with an average of 123.1 yards per game. In 2011, Eastern ranked 112th out of 120 FCS teams with an average of 79.0 per game. Only once in 2011 did Eastern have more than 139 yards rushing in a single game, but in 2012 EWU had performances of 290 (North Dakota), 254 (Cal Poly), 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.
* Eastern, Montana State and Cal Poly all finished 7-1 in the Big Sky Conference to share the league title. The Eagles won the tiebreaker to determine the automatic berth in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs. Montana State and EWU both defeated Sacramento State, and Cal Poly lost to Sac State, thus eliminating Cal Poly from the tie. EWU won the automatic berth because of its head-to-head win over MSU, but EWU also defeated Cal Poly in a non-conference game that wasn’t utilized in the tiebreaker.
* Besides sending the seniors out with a victory on Senior Day on Nov. 10, Eastern finished the regular season 5-0 at home at Roos Field. The Eagles then improved to 7-0 at “The Inferno” with a 29-19 victory over Wagner in the second round of the FCS Playoffs and a 51-35 triumph over Illinois State in the quarterfinals. A loss in the semifinals to Sam Houston State snapped the seven-game winning streak. Since the red Sprinturf surface was installed in 2010, Eastern is now 17-3 at “The Inferno,” with one of the losses a 43-26 setback to PSU on Senior Day in the 2011 season. Eastern’s Nov. 3, 2012, game versus 16th-ranked Cal Poly was sold out, with an announced attendance of 8,644 – the seventh-largest non-Montana crowd in Roos Field history. A sold-out crowd of 7,512 was on hand for the Illinois State playoff game on Dec. 8.
* Eastern ranked fourth in the final regular season Sports Network NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Top 25 poll, with fellow Big Sky co-leaders MSU (2nd), Cal Poly (12th) and NAU (20th) also ranking in the top 25. Sam Houston State ranked fifth in the final regular season poll. After losing 30-27 to Southern Utah on Oct. 27, Eastern fell from first to seventh. Previously, a 27-24 victory over then second-ranked Montana State on Oct. 13 catapulted the Eagles from sixth to the top spot for two weeks. It was the third-straight year Eastern has been ranked No. 1 at one point in the season. Eastern ended the 2010 regular season with its first No. 1 ranking in school history, and remained in that position after winning the NCAA Division I Championship. The Eagles were also ranked first in the 2011 preseason poll, as well as after the Eagles narrowly lost its 2011 opener at Washington, 30-27. The Eagles were also No. 1 for two weeks in the coaches poll and in rankings released by College Sports Journal and College Sports Madness.
* In the final regular season coaches poll, the Eagles moved up one spot to fourth, after ranking No. 5, No. 6, No. 8 and No. 1 the previous four weeks. Other Big Sky Conference schools in the coaches top 25 included Montana State (2nd), Cal Poly (12th) and Northern Arizona (19th). Sam Houston State was ranked fifth.
* The 2012 season was the first time in school history all Eastern games have been 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 led the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision in passing offense in 2011, averaging 368.5 yards per game. In 2012, the Eagles ranked seventh (318.9). In Beau Baldwin’s five seasons as Eastern’s head coach, the Eagles have ranked in the top 10 in FCS in passing offense four times and total offense twice. In EWU’s last nine seasons (2004-2012), including eight with Baldwin on the coaching staff, EWU has ranked in the top 10 in passing seven times and total offense on five occasions.
* Eastern’s fourth quarter magic dating back to 2010 was alive and well in 2012. In the last three seasons (2010-12), the Eagles have had 11 victories when they’ve trailed or been tied in the final stanza, and that doesn’t include a 41-34 victory over Portland State on Nov. 17 when EWU rallied from season-high deficits of 13 (first half) and 12 points (second half). In the next game versus Wagner, Eastern trailed by five heading into the final play of the third quarter before winning 29-19. The latest fourth quarter comeback came on Nov. 10, 2012, when EWU trailed by 11 at halftime and four entering the final quarter, but rallied to beat UC Davis 31-28. Vernon Adams scored the go-ahead points with 8:13 left in the game, then David Gaylord blocked a field goal with 41 ticks of the clock remaining to preserve EWU’s victory. In a 27-24 victory over second-ranked Montana State on Oct. 13, 2012, the sixth-ranked Eagles trailed 17-13 in the fourth quarter before scoring two non-offensive touchdowns within a span of 59 seconds. The Eagles blocked a punt (Dylan Zylstra) and recovered it for a touchdown (Evan Day), then returned an interception for a score (Jordan Tonani). On Sept. 29, 2012, Eastern scored two touchdowns in the final 2:19 as the No. 7 Eagles rallied for a 32-26 victory over the 21st-ranked Montana Grizzlies. In 2011, 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, 2011. 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, 2011, 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 nailbiters -- the Eagles trailed or were tied in the fourth quarter of six of them, in one they trailed in the third quarter and in the other two they were scoreless in the final stanza. Included was a 20-19 victory over Delaware in the national championship game when the Eagles rallied from a 19-0 deficit to score three touchdowns in the final 16:48. Eastern nearly pulled off the mother of all comebacks on Dec. 15, 2012, in the semifinals of the FCS Playoffs. Eastern scored 42 second-half points to rally from a 35-0 deficit against Sam Houston State before losing 45-42.
* 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. 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. A year ago, in a 30-27 loss to Washington in Seattle, a pass into the end zone intended for Kaufman was intercepted by the Huskies with 29 ticks left on the clock.
* Besides 1997 when it entered the postseason 10-1, the only other times Eastern has won nine games in the regular season came in 2010 (9-2 before finishing 13-2). Since becoming a member of FCS in 1984, Eastern has started the season 5-1 in 1997, 1996 and 1985. However, the only time the Eagles have gone 6-1 until the 2012 season came in 1997 when the Eagles were 12-1 before losing to Youngstown State 25-14 in the semifinals of the FCS Playoffs.
* Since current Tennessee Titan Michael Roos became an offensive lineman as a sophomore at Eastern Washington University in 2002, he started every football game he played from 2002-12 as a collegian or professional until an appendicitis attack and subsequent surgery ended his streak on Oct. 28. Here’s the math: 35 starts at EWU (3 seasons, 2002-04) + 34 preseason NFL Games (8 seasons, 2005-12) + 119 regular season NFL Games (7 1/2 seasons, 2005-11) + 2 NFL Playoff Games (2007 & 2008) +1 NFL Pro Bowl Game (February 2009) = 191-Straight Starts (through 10/21/12)
More Player Notes
* Despite standing just 5-foot-10, 170 pounds, junior Allen Brown finished second on the team with 91 tackles in 2012 to help him earn second team All-Big Sky honors. He was also second on the team with seven passes broken up to go along with a pair of forced fumbles. He has started 26 of the 39 games he has played in his career, with totals of 181 tackles, two interceptions and 12 passes broken up.
* A part of Eastern’s Ferris High School connection in the secondary, redshirt freshman Jordan Tonani made his mark as an injury replacement for safety Jeff Minnerly, who suffered a broken collarbone against Montana on Sept. 29. Tonani was an honorable mention All-Big Sky pick and member of the College Sports Journal Freshman All-America squad. Tonani started seven games and finished the year sixth on the team with 68 tackles, and also had a team-leading three interceptions with five passes broken up and a fumble recovery. In one of many impressive performances, Tonani finished with seven tackles, his third interception of the season and a pass broken up in EWU’s come-from-behind 31-28 victory over UC Davis on Nov. 10. One game earlier, he had a pick and eight tackles versus Cal Poly, earning College Sports Madness Big Sky Defensive Player of the Week accolades. On Oct. 13, with EWU clinging to a 20-17 lead over Montana State, Tonani stepped in front of a MSU receiver on an out route for an interception he returned 21 yards for a touchdown with 11:15 to play, becoming the winning points in a 27-24 victory over the second-ranked Bobcats. He also had eight tackles, and as a result, was selected as the College Sports Madness National FCS Defensive Player of the Week, as well as their same honor for the Big Sky Conference. One game earlier in his first collegiate start, Tonani had a team-leading 11 tackles as the Eagles held North Dakota scoreless in the second half of a 55-17 win. Entering the game, UND had 37 plays of 20 or more yards on offense, and EWU’s goal was to hold North Dakota to three or less. The Eagles did better than that, holding UND to just one – a 24-yard pass play in the third quarter after EWU had already opened a 34-17 lead. Interestingly, Tonani and Minnerly are from the same high school in Spokane, Wash. Tonani graduated from Ferris in 2011; Minnerly graduated in 2008, along with EWU backup safety McKenzie Murphy. Minnerly, who returned to start against UC Davis on Nov. 10, 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.
* A quartet of Eagle seniors served 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 in 2011 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 suffered injuries early in the 2012 season. Injuries to Edwards (knee) and Ena (hand) caused them to miss the first games of their careers, and Johnson (hamstring) was a sixth-year senior who missed 24 games because of an injury-plagued career. Post (high ankle sprain) was injured in practice the week of the North Dakota game, but was able to start versus UND.
* Eastern senior safety Jeff Minnerly has “three-peated” on the Capital One Academic All-District VIII squad, joining teammates Ashton Miller and Jordan Talley on the team selected by members of the College Sports Information Directors Association (CoSIDA). Minnerly currently has a 3.78 grade point average with a double major in finance and electrical engineering. Miller, a junior offensive center, has a 3.74 GPA and is majoring in management. Talley is a sophomore running back, and is a pre-medicine major with a 3.46 GPA. Eastern football players have now been honored 56 times since 1989 on the All-District VIII squad, and eight players have gone on to win 10 Academic All-America honors. The District VIII university division includes all NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) and Bowl Subdivision (FBS) teams from nine western states, including Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Utah and Washington.
All-Big Sky Team
* Returning to his 2010 form after a pair of injuries sidelined him a year ago, junior wide receiver Brandon Kaufman headlined a group of 22 Eastern Washington University football players who were selected to the All-Big Sky Conference team as selected by the league’s head coaches. Kaufman, Eastern’s nominee as the league’s Big Sky Offensive Player of the Year, was a unanimous choice on the first team. He was an injury redshirt in the 2011 season following a spectacular 2010 season when he earned All-America and first team All-Big Sky honors in helping lead EWU to the NCAA Division I Championship.
* Kaufman was joined on the first team by junior cornerback T.J. Lee, a repeat first team selection from 2011. The others on the first team in 2012 were senior kicker Jimmy Pavel, inside linebacker Ronnie Hamlin and senior offensive tackle Will Post, who earned honorable mention in 2011.
* Second team selections included sixth-year outside linebacker Zach Johnson, who was a second team choice in 2010 and honorable mention as a freshman in 2008. Junior offensive guard Steven Forgette, an honorable mention selection a year ago, also earned second team honors in 2012, as well as senior defensive end Jerry Ceja and safety Allen Brown.
* Earning honorable mention on offense were junior running back Demitrius Bronson, junior center Ashton Miller and senior wide receivers Nicholas Edwards and Greg Herd. Edwards was a first team choice in 2011, and Herd earned second-team All-BSC honors in 2011. Seven players on defense earned honorable mention, including senior defensive end Paul Ena, who was a repeat selection from a year ago. Also on the squad were senior inside linebacker Tyler Washburn, senior outside linebacker Grant Williams, junior defensive tackle Andru Pulu, junior cornerback Ronald Baines, sophomore defensive tackle Dylan Zylstra and redshirt freshman safety Jordan Tonani. Also selected to the honorable mention list were senior special teams standout Chase King and redshirt freshman return specialist Shaquille Hill.
* Starting running back Jordan Talley (concussions) missed nine total games in the 2012 season, and is able to apply for a medical hardship and get the season back. Backup offensive tackle T.J. Boatright (knee) missed EWU’s last six games. A concussion suffered by backup safety McKenzie Murphy kept him from playing versus Portland State on Nov. 17, but he returned for the playoffs. Senior safety Jeff Minnerly suffered a fractured collarbone against Montana, but returned to start on Senior Day against UC Davis on Nov. 10. Linebacker Zach Johnson (hamstring) returned against Cal Poly and kept his streak of starting every game he’s played alive (he finished his career with 39). He played in just EWU’s first defensive series against Weber State before he had to sit out the rest of the game, and missed five full games (total of 24 in his career). Starting defensive tackle Andru Pulu (ankle) and starting tight end Zack Gehring (shoulder) missed the Southern Utah game because of injuries suffered against Sacramento State, but returned to play versus Cal Poly. Linebacker Cody McCarthy also played versus the Mustangs after missing the Sacramento State and Southern Utah games with a knee injury. He originally hurt the knee in practice and missed the Montana game, but returned to play the next week versus North Dakota. J.C. Agen, who started in 2011 after Johnson was lost for the season with a knee injury, was lost for the year after playing in just one game. He missed the first two EWU games with a torn pectoral muscle, but made his season debut in limited action versus Weber State. However, the injury required surgery and he missed every game after that. Murphy also broke his thumb against North Dakota and subsequently had surgery, and missed the Montana State and Sacramento State games. He returned to play against Southern Utah, and had an interception despite wearing a padded cast. Minnerly and Murphy are both 2008 graduates of Ferris High School in Spokane, Wash. Starting offensive tackle Clay DeBord missed the Sacramento State game with an ankle injury, but returned to play at Southern Utah. Wide receiver Nicholas Edwards returned to play against Montana State after missing two games because of a knee sprain on a pass reception on EWU’s first offensive play of the game at Weber State. Defensive end Paul Ena returned to start versus Montana after a wrist injury in the first half against Washington State sidelined him for the rest of that game, as well as Weber State. Ena, the lone returning starter on the defensive line, started against Idaho on Aug. 30 despite suffering an elbow injury in practice about a week earlier. Despite his injury issues as a senior, Ena tied the school record with 51 career games played. 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.
* With 1,850 receiving yards in 2012, junior Brandon Kaufman broke FCS, Big Sky Conference and EWU records. The previous FCS record was 1,712 yards set in 1998 by Delaware’s Eddie Conti, the old Big Sky mark was 1,525 set by Weber State’s Tim Toone in 2008 and the previous EWU record was 1,453 by Eric Kimble in 2004. On single season lists, Kaufman’s 93 catches ranks second in school history (behind the school-record 95 teammate Nicholas Edwards had in 2011), fifth in the Big Sky and 28th in FCS; his 16 touchdowns are third all-time at EWU; and his average of 19.9 yards per catch was fifth in EWU history. He now has 221 career catches (third in school history, seventh in Big Sky history) for 3,731 yards (second all-time at EWU, fourth in the Big Sky and 19th in FCS) and 33 touchdowns (second in school history).
* Senior Jimmy Pavel, an All-American and first team All-Big Sky pick, made a 20-yard field goal against Illinois State on Dec. 8 to earn sole possession of EWU’s single season school record with 17 for the season. His 45-yard field goal against UC Davis on Nov. 10 equaled the record of 16 set in 2011 by Mike Jarrett. But because of Eastern’s offensive efficiency in ending drives with nine touchdowns, Pavel didn’t attempt a field goal in his next two games. The Eagles had 18 field goals as a team for the season, breaking the previous team record of 16 set in 2011.
* Linebacker Ronnie Hamlin finished with 136 tackles in the 2012 season to rank fifth in school history. Hamlin’s 221 career tackles are 22nd.
* Senior defensive end Jerry Ceja ranks fifth in school history with 12 sacks in 2012, and is also sixth all-time in career sacks with 23 1/2. Ceja finished with six forced fumbles in his career, equaling the school record shared by Matt Johnson (2008-11), Renard Williams (2008-11), J.C. Sherritt (2007-10) and Chris Scott (1994-97).
* Wide receiver Nicholas Edwards finished fifth all-time in Eastern history in receiving yards with 2,634, and was sixth in points scored with 202. His 215 career catches ranks fourth in school history and his 33 TD receptions were second (the record is 46).
* Senior wide receiver Greg Herd moved onto EWU’s all-time leaders list for career catches, finishing with 165 to rank ninth. His catches were good for 2,348 yards to rank 11th in school history, and he also had 17 touchdown (13th). His 66 catches in 2012 rank as the 12th-most in school history.
* The 43.8 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. Miller’s average of 43.3 yards per punt in 2012 ranks third all-time in EWU history.
* Linebacker Zach Johnson finished with 324 tackles in his career to rank fifth all-time at Eastern. He was just 17 away from the total of 341 by his twin brother Matt Johnson, who now plays for the Dallas Cowboys.
* Senior linebacker Tyler Washburn finished in the top 20 in career tackles in Eastern history, ranking 11th with 259. He also tied EWU’s school record with 51 total games played, a mark shared with former tight end Matt Martin (2007-10) and 2012 EWU teammate Paul Ena.
* Defensive end Paul Ena recovered a fumble and returned it 40 yards against Montana State on Oct. 13, equaling the school record for career fumble recoveries. He shares the school record of eight with Nicholas Ramos (2006-09) and Steve Mattson (1994-97). Ramos, in fact, was at the MSU game and was a guest on EWU’s pre-game radio show. Ena finished with 213 tackles in his career to rank 25th in school history. He also tied EWU’s school record with 51 total games played, a mark shared with former tight end Matt Martin (2007-10) and 2012 EWU teammate Tyler Washburn.
* Junior quarterback Kyle Padron had six touchdown passes against Illinois State on Dec. 8 and tied the EWU previous single-game record held by Matt Nichols (8/31/07 vs. Montana-Western) and Rob James (11/1/86 vs. Weber State). One game later against Sam Houston State on Dec. 15, Vernon Adams came off the bench to match the record.
* Other 2012 performances ranking on EWU’s single season statistical leaders lists include Kyle Padron in passing yards (15th, 2,491); Vernon Adams in passing efficiency (fourth, 160.80); Brandon Kaufman in all-purpose yards (sixth, 1,850); Shaquille Hill in kickoff returns (third, 34), kickoff return yards (second, 912) and kickoff return average (10th, 26.8); Jimmy Pavel in scoring (ninth, 101) and extra points made (sixth, 50); and T.J. Lee in passes broken up (10th, 11).
Quoting Coach Beau Baldwin
On Team Expectations: “This team exceeded my expectations in terms on how they handled things, how they carried themselves, and how much I had fun with them on a day-to-day basis. We do not wear our rings around from two years ago because it’s bigger than that. So yes, this team exceeded my expectations just in terms of day-to-day enjoyment I got to spend with this group. One of the hardest things is not being able to go back on the football field for practice with this team.”
On Sam Houston State Loss: “It was obviously a tale of two halves when you look at the game. When you get down to four teams in the country, you are going to end up in a good ball game. Last night you saw a great ballgame, and today you saw a great ballgame. My hat goes off to Sam Houston. They played a very good football game. We are not into any moral victories no matter who we are playing. I told our guys in the locker room I was really, really proud of our guys to be where we were at 35-0, and to not just fight back with what you saw on the field, but to fight back with their attitude in the locker room, and their attitude coming out of halftime and to stay together. That allowed us to have an opportunity to still have a shot to win a game when no one expected us to. I am very proud of that. I am hurting right now for the seniors. It hurts to lose, but this one hurts even more because they meant so much to this program.”
On Halftime Message in SHSU Game: “More than anything, (I told them) take it one play at a time. I know that is cliché, but it’s true. If you read the scoreboard it can look too overwhelming, but if you focus on a play and a drive (it’s manageable). We said if we could get a score, and then another score, we can creep back into this game. We have been there before, just not quite that deep in terms of points. Obviously we still believed, and that showed up (in the game) because it showed with our guys. They (the players) did believe, and they took each play one at a time. They knew we would have to make some quick scores. It created an onside kick situation which allowed us to score a third touchdown in the third quarter, which obviously was big. We went down in the fourth quarter down two touchdowns instead of three. That’s a big difference. It was not a magical speech by any stretch -- these guys do not need that. They just needed to be reminded that it’s a 60 minute game -- which they know. They need to take it one play at a time and lay it on the line for the next 30 minutes -- which they did. They should hold their heads up high. It hurts right now I know, but they have nothing to hang their heads about in that regard.”
On Vernon Adams Against SHSU: “It’s extremely impressive, but not shocking. I talked to the group of quarterbacks the other day, and it’s a special group with Anthony Vitto in that mix too. They are a special group that is always ready, but always supportive of whoever is out there. You’ve seen that with Kyle and Vernon all year long. It did not shock me at all to see Vernon go in there (and do so well). We joked about it last year when he was on the scout team. He is one of those guys that would count down the shot clock in his head when he was young when he was shooting baskets. He visualized big moments. He does that in practice. He puts himself in those moments, and he gets excited about those moments. It was awesome to see him out there doing it, but it was not shocking at all. We have high expectations, and I know how great a quarterback he is. You are going to go through freshman highs and lows, and that’s okay. You are going to go through highs and lows as a sophomore or junior. It happens at the (quarterback) position. I know what he has there, and he knows it too. He is confident, and when he is called upon he is ready to do it. It was exciting. Like I said, it was one of those games it is hard. No matter what team ends up on the losing end, it’s a hard one. We have been on the winning end of those too, but today we were just a few short.”
On Chase to National Title: “You don’t go to the bottom of Mount Rainier and say you are going to take it one step at a time – you go to climb to the top of it. That’s my mindset -- I am going to climb to the top of the mountain, but the question is how are we going to get to the top? It’s the team that takes care of each step. You have your eye on that prize, but you have to understand the process.”
On Kaufman and Padron Versus Illinois State: “Their talent is obvious. You can see the talent in both these two guys. More than anything, they have guts and heart. That’s what means the most. It’s going to come down to guts, heart and mental toughness when things are on the line. When we needed it the most they stepped up and made those types of plays. They took shots to the face, broke tackles, and did whatever they had to do. They will be the first to say they are not the only two. It took a total team effort. It took all sorts of guys on both sides of the football and special teams to get this done. These two guys were great in terms of their guts and mental toughness.”
On Winning After Giving Up 18-Straight Second-Half Points: “I am just so proud of the guys for how hard they fought and how they kept responding. When you get down to the final eight in the country, you know there are going to be some highs and lows in a football game. That game had a lot of emotion, momentum swings and things that happened. Our guys found ways to make plays whenever it felt like we were losing the momentum. No one panicked on the sideline.”
On Wagner Win: “I’m really proud of our guys. I’m probably most proud of the fact that we weathered a much early storm. When I say early, I mean early in the third quarter. It was a type of storm in terms of things not going right. A lot of times you can find you are on the wrong end of the ballgame because of it. Our defense showed resilience. The biggest difference was our red zone defense -- we had a blocked field goal early and then we were able to hold them to field goals rather than touchdowns. They did what they do. I set my mind to the fact that we were going to win the turnover battle, but instead we lost it 3-0. Our guys were able to weather that storm. You don’t win too many games when you lose the turnover battle 3-0. They are a very disciplined team and a very physical team. They just understand exactly who they are and do a great job of it. It was a battle for our guys all night long.”
On Team Responding: “We just respond - that’s our word. We talk about it all the time -- respond, respond, respond. We don’t jerk react to things. We don’t panic, we don’t think. We just think in terms of responding. You always have to be ready to respond. I think if you are doing a bunch of screaming and yelling on Saturday, you have not done a good job during the week -- that’s my opinion. You have to prepare, not just with the plays and that, but also mentally on how they are going to handle those types of situations because they are coming. I put signs up in the locker room – ‘adversity is coming this weekend.’ It is about how are we going to handle it, and our team continues to handle it in a mature fashion. It doesn’t mean you are going to win every one. I thought we handled the adversity in both our losses well too -- against Southern Utah and WSU. We came up short, but you never felt like we were panicking or we were out of it. It does not mean you are automatically going to win – you’ve heard me say it a hundred times. The defense could have felt like, ‘woe is me what is going on we have to go back on the field.’ But instead, they felt like, ‘let’s go -- this is an opportunity. This is an opportunity to make a big play and have a sudden change.’ One of our mottos is ‘no victims.’ Basically by that we are never going to act like a victim no matter what happened and no matter who is injured.”
On Seeing Former Players Back: “It means (a lot) to me that those guys (come back). That’s what we talk about. All our seniors want this to go as long as we can take it. When their time is done they are always going to be Eagles. I tell those guys that. You are always Eagles, and I want you back at practice. Bo Levi (Mitchell) was out at our practice the other day and brought them up and talked to the team a little bit. I love that. That’s what it’s about. It’s not just about the four or five years you are here. It’s not. It’s about a lifetime. When you are able to see those guys, guys get excited. Our players and coaches have so much respect for those guys and what they did. They are a big reason and part of why we are where we are today with everything -- facilities, success and all that stuff. You just appreciate what they did to help put us where we are today. They are definitely part of that. Our players see those guys when they come back and they want to show them something special. It means something to us.”
On Similarities to 2010 Team: “It’s different. In a weird way there are certain parts of this season that are more gratifying because two years ago we went out saying we were the hunters. This year, we felt like we were being hunted – we were getting everyone’s best shot. That’s part of it and we embrace that – we want that. That’s the type of program we want to be. I do not do too much comparing very often, but there were parts of this season that were even more gratifying than the first time. They are each their own.”
On Winning Close Games: “Every time you go through more of those moments you keep building a belief that it’s going to be okay. No matter what just happened we are going to move forward, we are going to pick each other up and we are going to stay together. We have had that type of motto all the time around here. I think more often than not it breeds success.”
On Being in the Spotlight After National Title: “They love it, but they are pretty low-key though. You see very few of them wearing their ring from two years ago. They appreciate it and love it, but at the same time, they are just about going day-to-day and enjoying the process. We don’t get caught up in it -- if we do good things and the attention comes our way that’s great, but that is not the most important thing.”
On All-Big Sky Team: “A lot of our players were recognized, which is exciting and deserving because I know how much hard work they put in. I know how many great players there are in this conference, so to be recognized at any level says a lot about the success they had on the field. And adding four more teams to the league makes it that much bigger of an award. It’s an honor to be nominated, let alone win first team honors like five of our players received.”
On Winning Big Sky Title: “It feels great, knowing that a lot of work goes into this. Winning the Big Sky title is what we talk about. It’s a big deal, and it’s not easy to do. You lose track of that because of what happened two years ago (in winning the national title). (Winning the Big Sky title) was still was the goal for us and it’s tough to do, but we were able to get it done. They are rare. We want to make them the norm, but it’s not easy. When you win a Big Sky title it’s special and you feel good about it.”
On Winning on Senior Day: “It means a lot and these players have helped pave our way. I joked earlier that every one of those guys played on a grass field which was sometimes sloppy with a small scoreboard – that wasn’t that long ago. Now, all of a sudden, look where we are. Every young player needs to recognize that the benefits they are reaping – including the red turf -- were all paved by those seniors. They did some great things in ‘09 and helped us spring into ’10 with the red turf, a national championship and now the new videoboard. I am so appreciative of that group for what they have done to help us and help our program. They are a group of great young men. On the field they have been amazing, and hopefully we can see how far we can go with them. They’ve been amazing off the field too, carrying a 3.0 grade point average as a team. They have paved the way for what it is to be an Eastern football player. And this Senior Day means a little bit more because it was our first signing class. They are all special, but this one just that much more.”
Defense (321 starts by 22 players): Zach Johnson 39, Paul Ena 37, Tyler Washburn 36, Evan Cook 28, Allen Brown 26, Jeff Minnerly 24, Ronnie Hamlin 22, T.J. Lee 20, Ronald Baines 14, Jerry Ceja 14, Andru Pulu 13, David Gaylord 13, Grant Williams 10 (includes one start on offense in 2009), Jordan Tonani 7, Cody McCarthy 5, J.C. Agen 4, Evan Day 3, Will Katoa 2, Dylan Zylstra 1, Rusty Haehl 1, Miles Weatheroy 1, Christian Hudnell 1.
Offense (318 starts by 23 players): Nicholas Edwards 45, Brandon Kaufman 36, Will Post 36, Steven Forgette 31, Brandon Murphy 23, Greg Herd 22, Zack Gehring 21, Ashton Miller 15, Clay DeBord 13, Demitrius Bronson 9, Jordan Talley 9, Vernon Adams 9, Drew Reynolds 8, Ashton Clark 7, Ryan Seto 7, Quincy Forte 6, Kyle Padron 5, Mario Brown 5, Jake Withnell 3, Cody Humphrey 2, Daniel Johnson 2, Jase Butorac 2, Cory Mitchell 1, T.J. Boatright 1.
* Four Eagles made starting debuts against Idaho on Aug. 30. On defense, Washington transfer Andru Pulu made his first start at defensive tackle and had one tackle, and sophomore Evan Day had 1 1/2 sacks in his starting debut at an end position. On offense, SMU transfer Kyle Padron completed 13-of-33 passes for 260 yards and a touchdown in his Eagle debut, but previously started 21 games at the NCAA FBS level at Southern Methodist. Also making his starting debut was left offensive tackle Clay DeBord.
* The only other starting debuts since the opener have been made by quarterback Vernon Adams at Weber State on Sept. 22, Jake Withnell against Montana on Sept. 29, Jordan Tonani against North Dakota on Oct. 6, offensive tackle T.J. Boatright against Sacramento State on Oct. 20, defensive tackle Dylan Zylstra versus Southern Utah on Oct. 27 and cornerbacks Miles Weatheroy and Christian Hudnell against Cal Poly on Nov. 3. In an unannounced and surprise start, Adams used his arm and his feet to lead EWU to a 20-3 halftime lead versus Weber State. The redshirt freshman led Eastern to scores on four of five drives in the first half, including a 75-yard touchdown mark on his first drive as an Eagle. He finished the game 7-of-12 for 75 yards, and ran five times for 62 yards, but missed most of the second half with cramping. Of his five rushes, four were for first downs; of his seven completions, four more resulted in EWU first downs. Tonani, starting because of broken collarbone suffered by Jeff Minnerly, had 11 tackles in his starting debut, then had eight with an interception return for a touchdown the next game in a 27-21 win over second-seeded Montana State. Boatright started as an injury replacement for Clay DeBord (ankle) and Zylstra started in place of an injured Andru Pulu (ankle). Weatheroy and Hudnell started when three other cornerbacks had to miss the first series against the Mustangs for being late for a weightlifting session earlier in the week.