No. 3 Eastern Hosts No. 5 Towson in Match-Up of Payton Award Finalists
Standing in the way of another NCAA Division I championship game appearance for the third-seeded Eagles are the seventh-seeded Tigers and FCS rushing and scoring leader Terrance West
2013 Eagle Football – FCS Playoffs Semifinal Round
#3 Eastern Washington University “Eagles”
#5 Towson University “Tigers”
Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013 • 11:05 a.m.
Roos Field (8,600) • Cheney, Wash.
Gameday Central: www.goeags.com/gamedaycentral
EWU Coach: Beau Baldwin (Central Washington ‘96)
School Record: 56-21/38-10 Big Sky Conference (6th Season)
Career Record: 66-24 (7th Season -- was 10-3 at CWU in 2007, 6-5 at EWU in 2008, 8-4 in 2009, 13-2 in 2010, 6-5 in 2011, 11-3 in 2012)
2013: 12-2/8-0 Big Sky (OUTRIGHT CHAMPIONS; FCS Playoffs semifinals)
2012: 11-3/7-1 Big Sky Conference (co-champ; FCS Playoffs semifinals)
Last Game: #3 EWU 35, #20 Jacksonville State 24 (Dec. 14 in Cheney, Wash.)
TV: Televised live via ESPNU, with Mark Neely calling the play-by-play and Jay Walker serving as analyst.
Radio: 700-AM ESPN in Spokane. Larry Weir returns for his 23rd 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 Washington Trust Bank Tailgate Show, starting 1 1/2 hours prior to kickoff.
Internet Radio: www.700espn.com or www.tunein.com.
Radio iPhone App: Search for “700 ESPN” and download app. An app is also available for tunein radio.
Live Stats: www.ncaa.com
Weekly Coaches Show: Mondays 6 p.m. at “Epic” at Northern Quest Resort & Casino (formerly the “Q”) . . . 700-AM ESPN, www.700espn.com & via iphone app. (search for “Spokane Radio” and download app).
Watch Parties: Consult EWU social media outlets for details the Friday before games. Those who may carry EWU games include “Epic” at Northern Quest Casino and Resort in Airway Heights, the Swinging Doors in North Spokane and at Eagles Pub in Cheney.
First there was David Fluellen from Toledo, then Timothy Flanders from Sam Houston State, Cody Kirk from Montana State and D.J. Adams from Portland State, followed by Zach Zenner and DaMarcus James in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs.
But the most prolific running back of them all – and a team that has won 11-straight road games -- awaits the Eastern Washington University football team this Saturday (Dec. 21) at Roos Field in Cheney, Wash.
Standing in the way of another appearance in the NCAA Division I Championship Game for the third-seeded and No. 3 ranked Eagles are the Towson Tigers, who feature FCS rushing and scoring leader Terrance West. Kickoff in the semifinal matchup between teams with Walter Payton Award finalists is 11:05 a.m. Pacific time in a game televised live by ESPNU.
Information on tickets for the game at “The Inferno” – where EWU is 24-3 all-time – is available at: http://goeags.com/ticket/13playoffs. The game will also be broadcast live on internet-based ESPN3, and fans may also listen live regionally on 700-AM ESPN and via the web at www.700espn.com.
Towson upset second-seeded and No. 2 ranked Eastern Illinois 49-39 on Dec. 13, the night before EWU advanced to the semis with a 35-24 win over Jacksonville State. The seventh-seeded and fifth-ranked Tigers were led by West, who rushed for a FCS playoff record 354 yards and five touchdowns in Towson’s 11th-consecutive win on the road. Of the top 10 FCS teams ranked nationally in rushing offense, Towson will be the fourth EWU has faced this season (No. 1 Cal Poly, No. 3 Portland State, No. 6 Sam Houston, No. 10 Towson).
“They are a physical football team on both sides of the ball,” said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin, who has coached the Eagles to victories in eight of their last nine postseason games. “They are well-coached and know how to handle big games and win on the road. They are a tremendous challenge for us.”
With 2,295 rushing yards for the season, West needs only 32 to break the NCAA FCS single season record of 2,326 yards set by Jamal Branch of Colgate in 2003. West has already broken the FCS single season record for rushing touchdowns in a season with 38, and his 39 touchdowns overall has tied the FCS record. The Tigers are now 12-2 and finished 6-2 in CAA Football.
“After watching him, he’s as good as any running back I’ve ever seen in my career here at Eastern,” Baldwin said.
It will be EWU’s first-ever meeting with Towson, and Towson’s first-ever meeting against a team from the Big Sky Conference. The Eagles are 2-0 against CAA Football, and are 12-2 this season with a 10-game winning streak.
“You just have to find ways to win,” said Baldwin, whose team has outscored its first two playoff opponents 41-6 in the second half. “It is nice that we’ll have plenty of stuff we can come back, coach and correct even after a win going to the Final Four. The bottom line is you are doing everything you can to win so you get to this position. I am proud of our players for that.”
This is EWU’s second-straight year of advancing to the “Final Four,” and third in the last four years for the 2010 NCAA champions. The semifinal winners advance to the NCAA Division I Championship Game on Saturday, Jan. 4 at 11 a.m. Pacific time at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas. Two-time defending champion North Dakota State hosts New Hampshire on Friday (Dec. 20) in the other semifinal.
“That says a lot,” Baldwin said of making another trip to the semifinals, where EWU is 1-2 all-time (1997, 2010, 2012). “It is hard to do, and I am proud of everyone that is a part of it. To do something like that consistently you have to have a certain mindset, a certain attitude and a certain mentality. We have that in our locker room with our players, and it is exciting.”
Eastern enters this week’s game ranked fourth in FCS in total offense (530.1 per game) and sixth in scoring (40.1). Eastern quarterback Vernon Adams, who joins West as one of three finalists for the Payton Award given to the top player in FCS, is second in the nation in total offense (367.1 per game), with Big Sky record totals of 5,140 yards of offense (third in FCS history), 4,600 passing yards (fourth) and 53 touchdown passes (third). His passing efficiency rating of 185.7 leads the nation, ranks fourth all-time in FCS and is well ahead of EWU and Big Sky records.
Eastern has scored a Big Sky and school-record 561 points this season and has out-scored opponents by a 41-24 average score during its 10-game winning streak. Included is an incredible 141-17 advantage in the third quarter during the streak. The last loss for EWU was 49-34 at Sam Houston State on Sept. 28, and its other loss was 33-21 to NCAA Football Championship Subdivision foe Toledo.
Eastern has had seven playoff berths in a 10-year span (2004-13), ranking the Eagles as one of only four schools among 122 in FCS to accomplish that feat. The others are Montana, New Hampshire and Appalachian State. New Hampshire, North Dakota State and Appalachian State join the Eagles as the only teams to have qualified in four of the last five years. Eastern joins NDSU and Georgia Southern as the only schools who have advanced to the semifinals in three of the last four seasons.
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Season Milestones & Records
Vernon Adams Passing Efficiency (185.7/66%, 4,600 yards, 53 TD, 14 Int.) . . . Adams currently ranks fourth in FCS history, and is better than the current Big Sky record (175.2, Doug Nussmeier, Idaho, 1993/61%, 2,690 yards, 33 TD, 5 Int.) and the EWU mark (171.4, Erik Meyer, 2004/68%, 3,707 yards, 31 TD, 9 Int.).
Vernon Adams TD Passes (53) . . . His 53 touchdowns are third all-time in FCS, tied with Jimmy Garoppolo of Eastern Illinois, who ended his 2013 season with 53. The record of 56 is shared by Willie Totten (Mississippi Valley 1984) and Bruce Eugene (Grambling 2005). Adams broke the Big Sky single season record of 42 TD passes set by Brian Ah Yat of Montana in 1996 and the school record of 37 set by Bo Levi Mitchell in 2010.
Vernon Adams Total Offense (5,140) . . . Adams has moved into third in FCS history, moving past Jimmy Garoppolo (5,112 yards this year) and Bruce Eugene from Grambling (5,018 in 2002). Ranking No. 2 is Taylor Heinicke from Old Dominion (5,546 in 2012) and the record is held by Steve McNair from Alcorn (5,799 in 1994). Adams previously broke the Big Sky record of 4,400 set by Cameron Higgins of Weber State in 2008 and the school record of 4,224 yards set by Erik Meyer in 2005.
Vernon Adams Passing Yards (4,600) . . . Adams ranks second this season in FCS behind the 5,050 by Jimmy Garoppolo of Eastern Illinois, and those two players rank fourth and second, respectively in FCS history. Adams is 263 yards from third (4,863, Steve McNair, Alcorn, 1994), 450 from Garoppolo and 476 from the record (5,076, Taylor Heinicke, Old Dominion, 2012). Adams broke the Big Sky Conference record of 4,477 (Cameron Higgins, Weber State, 2008) and the previous school record of 4,009 (Bo Levi Mitchell in 2011).
Vernon Adams Rushing Yards (540) . . . Ranked second on the team with 540 yards, Adams broke the school record for rushing yards by a quarterback of 392 set by Matt Nichols in 2007.
Cooper Kupp Receiving Touchdowns (21) . . . His 21 TD catches are tied for fourth in FCS history, (21, John Matthews, San Diego 2008), two from third (23, Rob Giancola, Valparaiso, 2003) and three from second (24, David Ball, New Hampshire, 2005). The record is 27 set by Jerry Rice of Mississippi Valley in 1984. He has now broken the 45-year-old Big Sky record (20, Ed Bell, Idaho State, 1969), the school record (19 shared by Nicholas Edwards, 2011, and Eric Kimble, 2004) and the FCS record for most touchdowns by a freshman (19, Randy Moss, Marshall, 1996). With a touchdown reception in all 14 of the games he has played in his EWU career, hebroke the record of 11 consecutive games with a TD catch previously held by Randy Moss from Marshall in 1996 and Cal Poly’s Ramses Barden in 2008 (EWU’s Brandon Kaufman is incorrectly listed in the NCAA record book).
Cooper Kupp Receiving Yards (1,567) . . . Kupp ranks 13th in FCS history, just 50 yards from moving into 10th. The record is 1,850 set by Eastern’s Brandon Kaufman in 2013. Kupp owns the FCS record for receiving yards by a freshman, which was previously 1,196 yards by Sean Price of Appalachian State in 2012. He is currently second in school history behind Kaufman.
Cooper Kupp Receptions (85) . . . Kupp broke the FCS record for receptions by a freshman (81, Sean Price, Appalachian State, 2012). He is currently fourth in school history, and is just two from third and eight from second. The school record is 95 set by Nicholas Edwards in 2011.
Quincy Forte Rushing Yards (1,131) . . . Forte owns one of the 16 1,000-yard seasons in school history, currently ranking ninth. Eastern has now had a 1,000-yard rusher in 12 of the last 19 seasons (1995-2013), and Forte is the first since Taiwan Jones had 1,742 in 2010.
Individual Tackles . . . Three Eagles all have over 100 tackles and rank in the top 23 in school history, including Ronnie Hamlin with 129 (ninth), T.J. Lee II with 105 (21st) and Cody McCarthy with 102 (23rd).
Kevin Miller Extra Points (70-of-75) . . . With 70 extra points in 75 attempts this season, Miller has broken school records in both categories previously held by Josh Atwood in 1997 (58-of-61) and Big Sky Conference records previously held by Mike Hollis from Idaho in 1993 (68-of-68).
Team Scoring (561) . . . Eastern broke the Big Sky record of 537 set by Montana in 2009. Eastern previously broke the school record of 488 set in 2004.
Team Touchdowns (79) . . . EWU broke the Big Sky record of 72 set by Idaho in 1993 and the school record of 67 set in 2004.
Team Total Offense (7,422) . . . EWU broke the Big Sky and school records of 6,735 yards set in 1997.
Team Passing (4,853) . . . EWU broke the Big Sky record of 4,540 set by Weber State in 2008 and the school record of 4,469 yards set in 2012.
Team TD Passes (56) . . . EWU has shattered the school record of 38 set in 2010 and the Big Sky record of 43 set by Montana in 1996. There is no FCS record for overall touchdown passes, but the record for passing TDs per game is 6.4 set by Mississippi Valley in 1984 (64 in 10 games).
Team Passing Efficiency (185.3/65.7%, 4,853 yards, 56 TD, 1 Int.) . . . The Eagles are on pace to break the school record of 162.3 set in 2004 (65%, 3,784 yards, 31 TD, 11 Int.). There is no Big Sky record, but the FCS mark is 197.3 set in 2007 by San Diego (68%, 3,270 yards, 48 TD, 2 Int.). Eastern is also on pace to break the school record for completion percentage of 65.5 percent set in 2004.
Vernon Adams Passing Efficiency (177.5/64%, 6,561 yards, 73 TD, 22 Int.) . . . Although he is just shy of the minimum of 425 completions required (he has 422), Adams currently ranks ahead of the FCS record (176.7, Josh Johnson, San Diego, 2004-07/68%, 9,699 yards, 113 TD, 15 Int.). His mark also ranks ahead of the former FCS record holder (now No. 2), which are also the Big Sky and EWU records (166.5, Erik Meyer, 2002-05/66%, 10,261 yards, 84 TD, 17 Int.).
Vernon Adams TD Passes (73) . . . Already third in school history, he is 11 from moving into second (84, Erik Meyer, 2002-05). The school record is 96 (Matt Nichols, 2006-09), which is second in Big Sky history and 14th all-time in FCS.
Vernon Adams Passing Yards (6,561 yards) . . . Already fifth in school history, he is just 931 yards from moving into fourth (7,492, Mark Tenneson, 1989-92). The school record is 12,616 (Matt Nichols, 2006-09), which is the Big Sky record and eighth all-time in FCS.
Vernon Adams Total Offense (7,443 yards) . . . Already fourth in school history, he is 104 yards from moving into third (7,547, Bo Levi Mitchell, 2010-11). The school record is 13,308 (Matt Nichols, 2006-09), which is the Big Sky record and ranks sixth all-time in FCS.
Vernon Adams Rushing Yards (882) . . . Adams broke the school record for rushing yards by a quarterback of 692 set by Matt Nichols from 2006-09.
Ronnie Hamlin Tackles (350) . . . Listed as a senior but hopeful to receive a sixth year in 2014, Hamlin is third in school history with a current total of 350 tackles. The only players ahead of him are Greg Belzer (399 from 1997-00) and J.C. Sherritt (432 from 2007-10), who is third in Big Sky history and ranks 15th in FCS history.
T.J. Lee Tackles (254) . . . Currently 13th in school history, the next players to catch are Tyler Washburn (259, 2009-12) and Brad Packer (263, 1997-2000).
Games Played (51) . . . Senior kicker Kevin Miller is one of five players who have equaled the school record with 51 career games played. The others are Allen Brown, Brandon Murphy, Will Katoa and Bo Schuetzle. They share the record with Paul Ena (2009-12), Tyler Washburn (2009-12) and Matt Martin (2007-10). Miller is the only player on this year’s squad who has been in the playoffs all four years he has played (2009, 2010, 2012, 2013) – he redshirted in 2011 when EWU missed the playoffs with a 6-5 record.
* The Eagles have a 162-53 advantage in the third quarter this season, including a dominating 113-9 margin in the last seven games. In those seven games, EWU has allowed only third-quarter field goals to Idaho State on Nov. 2, South Dakota State on Dec. 7 and Jacksonville State on Dec. 14. Eastern hasn’t allowed a third-quarter touchdown since Oct. 12 versus North Dakota. During EWU’s 10-game winning streak, the Eagles have a 141-17 advantage in the third. Eastern has outscored its opponent in the third quarter in 11 of 14 games, including the last 10.
* In November and beyond, Eastern is now 19-1 since 2010 and 28-4 since 2007. Since 2010, EWU is 35-3 after Oct. 1, including an 11-0 mark two years ago, 6-1 in 2011, 8-2 in 2012 and 10-0 thus far in 2013. 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.
* EWU is now 11-0 when leading (9-0) or tied (2-0) at halftime. The Eagles are 12-0 when leading (11-0) or tied (1-0) after three quarters, and are 10-1 when leading (6-1) or tied (4-0) after the first quarter.
* Eastern has scored a touchdown in 10-straight quarters, and in 46 of 56 quarters this season.
* EWU is the second team in league history to have a 4,000-yard passer, a 1,000 yard rusher and two 1,000-yard receivers. In 1991, Weber State’s Jamie Martin threw for 4,125 yards, Geoff Mitchell rushed for 1,170, Alfred Pupunu had 1,204 receiving yards and Dave Hall had 1,043 receiving yards.
* Eastern has outscored opponents 288-203 in the first half (140-80 in the first quarter) and has a 273-186 scoring edge in the second half. So far, EWU has out-scored opponents 41-6 in the second half in two playoff games.
* Eastern finished with 545 yards of offense in a 35-24 win over Jacksonville State for EWU’s eighth performance of the season of 500 or more yards. Eastern had a school-record 743 yards of offense in EWU’s 55-34 victory over Idaho State Nov. 2, with 432 through the air and 311 on the ground.
* During its current 10-game winning streak, Eastern has outscored its opponents by a 414-247 margin – a 41-24 average score. The last loss for EWU was 49-34 at Sam Houston State on Sept. 28, and its other loss was 33-21 to NCAA Football Championship Subdivision foe Toledo.
* The Eagles are now 24-3 all-time on the red turf at Roos Field since 2010 when the stadium was renamed to Roos Field (formerly Woodward Field). Eastern avenged its first-ever loss at “The Inferno” with a 54-29 victory for the third-ranked Eagles over the fourth-ranked Bobcats on Nov. 9, 2013. Montana State handily defeated the Eagles 36-21 in Cheney in 2011, and the only other losses on the red turf were a 43-26 loss to Portland State on Oct. 29, 2011 (avenged 42-41 on Nov. 23, 2013), and a 45-42 setback to Sam Houston State in the semifinals of the FCS Playoffs on Dec, 15, 2012. Eastern was 8-0 at home during the debut year when EWU won the NCAA Division I title, 2-2 in 2011, 7-1 in 2012 and 6-0 thus far in 2013.
* Eastern is now 5-0 this season when it wins the turnover battle, and 7-1 when it wins the battle or is tied. South Dakota State, which had two turnovers to EWU’s one, entered the game fourth in FCS in turnover margin, with 32 turnovers forced this season and 16 lost. The Eagles lost the turnover battle versus Jacksonville State 3-2..
* A crowd of 6,127 hearty souls attended the EWU-SDSU game, with a temperature of 12 degrees to shatter Eastern’s record for coldest temperature at kickoff. The previous coldest game in recorded school history was 28 degrees on Dec. 6, 1997, versus Youngstown State in the FCS Playoffs in Spokane, and 28 in a Big Sky Conference game at Montana on Nov. 15, 2003. It was a balmy 37 degrees in Eastern’s game against Jacksonville State one week later.
* Eastern is 2-0 versus current members of CAA Football. Eastern beat Villanova 41-31 in the semifinals of the 2010 FCS Playoffs, then beat Delaware 20-19 in the title game.
* The Eagles are 12-2 overall and finished a perfect 8-0 in Big Sky Conference play for the first time in school history. Only four other times in 105 years of football at Eastern has the school eclipsed the 10 victory mark (13 in 2010, 12 in 1997, 11 in 2012 and 1967). Eastern finished the regular season ranked third in The Sports Network FCS Top-25 Poll for the sixth-straight week.
* The Eagles became the first Big Sky team to finish the league season undefeated and win the outright league title since Montana did it in 2009. The Grizzlies were the only team to win the outright league title since 1997, having accomplished that feat in 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2006 and 2007 and 2009. Eastern won the title in 1997 with a 7-1 record. Eastern was the first non-Montana school to finish unbeaten since 1991 when Nevada was 8-0.
* Ranked for the 28th-consecutive time, Eastern remained third in The Sports Network Top 25 FCS Poll released for the final time in the regular season on Nov. 24. Eastern is behind top-ranked North Dakota State and Eastern Illinois. Other Big Sky schools in the rankings include Montana (#4), Northern Arizona (#8), Montana State (#16) and Southern Utah (#22). Eastern was also third in the final FCS Coaches Poll of the regular season, followed by Montana (#5), NAU (#9), MSU (#18) and SUU (#25).
* Eastern has won seven Big Sky Conference titles in school history, with titles in 1992, 1997, 2004, 2005, 2010, 2012 and 2013. Winning three titles in the last four years is unprecedented in school history. Moreover, the Eagles are making their 10th playoff appearance, including seven in the last 10 seasons (1985, 1992, 1997, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2013).
* Reaching a milestone and equaling a school record against Montana on Oct 26, Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin is now 56-21 in five-plus seasons as a head coach (2008-13) and 38-10 in Big Sky Conference games. His .792 winning percentage in league games is the best-ever by an Eastern head coach and currently ranks fifth in the 50-year history of the Big Sky Conference. His 38 Big Sky victories are a school record, four better than the EWU head coach he previously served under, Paul Wulff (2000-2007). Baldwin’s .727 percentage overall is now seventh in league history. He won his 50th game overall and equaled Wulff’s record for league victories in the 42-37 victory over the Grizzlies.
* As a team, EWU is leading FCS in passing efficiency (185.3), and is fourth in total offense (530.1 per game), fourth in passing (346.6), 42nd in rushing (183.5) and sixth in scoring (40.1). Defensively, EWU is 104th in total defense (455.9), 42nd in rushing (183.5), 117th in passing (279.6) and 68th in scoring (27.8). In addition, the Eagles are the ninth in third-down conversions (48.5 percent), second in passing yards per completion (15.7) and 13th in pass completion percentage (65.7 percent).
* Eastern is averaging 5.2 yards per carry after averaging just 3.7 a year ago and 3.0 in 2011. Eastern’s average is the school’s best since 2001 when the Eagles averaged 6.4 after Jesse Chatman finished the year with 2,096 yards and 7.4 yards per rush. Taiwan Jones averaged 7.9 in 2010 and 7.7 in his career, but even during EWU’s National Championship season in 2010 the Eagles averaged 4.8 per rush as a team. This season, Quincy Forte is averaging 6.9 yards per rush and Mario Brown is averaging 6.1, but Forte averaged just 4.7 as a sophomore and 5.0 as a freshman.
* The Eagles won their 100th game in 30 seasons as a member of FCS when they defeated South Dakota State on Dec. 7, and EWU is now 201-143-2 record (.584) since joining FCS in 1984. The Eagles also registered their 500th victory all-time when the third-ranked Eagles beat fourth-ranked Montana State at Roos Field on Nov. 10. Now in its 105th year of football, Eastern is 504-401-23 (.555) in 928 games. Eastern’s game at North Dakota on Oct. 12 was Eastern’s 200th Big Sky Conference game since joining the league in 1987. As the Big Sky celebrates its 50th anniversary this season, the Eagles are in their 27th year as a member and have a current record of 121-85 (.587).
* The Eagles have already won two nailbiters in 2013, and have now won 13 games since 2010 when trailing or tied in the fourth quarter. This year, Eastern won 49-46 over 25th-ranked Oregon State by scoring the winning points with 18 seconds left after a 75-yard drive. The Eagles ended the regular season by driving 74 yards in just 29 seconds to score the game-winning TD with 31 seconds remaining versus Portland State. Eastern won three nailbiters in 2012 (Montana, Montana State, UC Davis), two in 2011 and six in the 2010 national title season.
* Eastern’s 49-46 victory at No. 25 Oregon State on Aug. 31, 2013, was just the fourth time since the division was created in 1978 that a FCS (formerly known as I-AA) team defeated a ranked FBS opponent. The other times that feat occurred came in 1983 (Cincinnati def. #20 Penn State 14-3), 2007 (Appalachian State def. #5 Michigan 34-32) and 2010 (James Madison def. #13 Virginia Tech 21-16).
Player Fast Facts
* The first FCS All-America team was released on Dec. 6 by College Sports Madness and five Eagles were selected to the first and second teams. Wide receiver Cooper Kupp was a first team selection and was the FCS Freshman of the Year, and cornerback T.J. Lee III also earned first team accolades. Named to the second team were quarterback Vernon Adams Jr., center Ashton Miller and linebacker Ronnie Hamlin. Adams, Kupp, Miller and Lee also earned first team All-America honors from Beyond Sports Network.
* Ronnie Hamlin, who injured his shoulder in the first half against Jacksonville State and wasn’t expected back, started the second half and finished with the second-most tackles in his career with 15. He now has 16 performances in his career with at least 10 tackles. He has 350 tackles in his career to move into third in school history, and his 129 tackles this season are currently ninth.
* With a career-high 181 receiving yards versus Jacksonville State, Ashton Clark had his fourth 100-yard game of his career, and first since North Dakota on 10/12/13. His 11 receptions tied his career high set last year versus Southern Utah, which ranks 12th in school history.
* Junior running back Quincy Forte wears the same jersey number – 22 -- as former Eagle Taiwan Jones (now with the Oakland Raiders), and he’s putting up some Jones-like numbers. With 202 yards and a touchdown in EWU’s 41-17 win over South Dakota State, Forte had the 25th performance in school history with 200 rushing yards or more, and shattered his previous career high of 123 set earlier this season. His performance was the best by an Eagle since Jones had 230 versus North Dakota State in the 2010 FCS Playoffs. He followed that with 190 yards against Jacksonville State, giving Forte 1,131 yards on the season to rank ninth in school history. Eastern has now had a 1,000-yard rusher in 12 of the last 19 seasons (1995-2013), and the first since Jones had 1,742 in 2010. His previous best back-to-back games came in early November when he had 123 and two touchdowns against Montana State on Nov. 9, and one game earlier he had 119 rushing yards on just six carries (19.8 per rush) versus Idaho State. He had an 83-yard touchdown versus ISU that ranks as the ninth-longest rush in school history, and the longest since Jones had a school-record 96-yarder at Idaho State on Oct. 3, 2009.
* Big Sky Conference Freshman of the Year Cooper Kupp has had eight or more catches on five times, and at least 100 yards on seven occasions. His 205 yards against Idaho State ranks as the sixth-most all-time at EWU. He earned Freshman of the Week honors from The Sports Network twice this season.
* With at least one TD reception in all 14 games of his career thus far, redshirt freshman Cooper Kupp has 21 TD catches to lead FCS. He has 85 catches this season – a TD for every 4.0 catches so far. A leading candidate for the Jerry Rice Award given to the top Freshman in FCS, Kupp is averaging 18.4 yards per catch (85-1567). He is fifth in FCS and tops among freshmen in receiving yards per game (111.9), second in receiving yards and 29th in receptions per game (6.1).
* Vernon Adams is ranked No. 1 again this week in passing efficiency in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (185.7), which continues to rank as a school and Big Sky record while ranking fourth all-time in FCS. He has a 65.5 percent completion rate (291-of-444 to rank 16th in FCS), 4,600 yards (second), 53 touchdowns (first) and 12 interceptions for the season. Adams is third in FCS in points responsible for with an average of 24.7 per game (total of 344 to rank second, with 53 TD passes, four rushing touchdowns and one two-point conversion). He is also second in FCS in total offense per game (367.1) and fourth in passing yards per game (328.6 per game). He now has 53 touchdown passes this season to move into a tie with Jimmy Garoppolo of Eastern Illinois for third all-time in FCS history, just three from the record of 56.
* Adams had a season-low 12 completions, but five of them were for touchdowns in EWU’s 41-17 win over South Dakota State. He also had his second-fewest attempts with 22, but TD passes of 69 and 40 yards helped him to a 217-yard passing game (also second-lowest), to go along with 27 on the ground. His efficiency rating in the game was 212.4 – his fourth-best performance of the season.
* Adams completed his first 10 passes and finished 16-of-18 for 300 yards, no interceptions and a passing efficiency rating of 302.2 against Montana State on Nov. 9. He nearly broke the school record of 310.4 set by Eastern’s Mark Tenneson versus Sonoma State in 1992 (10-of-14/71 percent, 265 yards, 4 TDs, 0 Int.), a Big Sky record which was broken earlier this season by Montana’s Jordan Johnson (322.3). For his efforts, Adams earned national offensive player of the week accolades for the third time this season, including two from The Sports Network. One game earlier, Adams passed for 432 yards and five touchdowns in a 55-34 win over Idaho State on Nov. 2 and he had the fifth-best performance in school history one week earlier with 457 against Montana. He matched the 457-yard effort against Portland State on Nov. 23, finishing with career highs of 34 completions and 54 attempts to earn Big Sky Offensive Player of the Week honors for the fourth time in 2013 and sixth time in his career.
* In other individual national rankings, senior receiver Ashton Clark is 40th in receiving yards (78.9 per game, with a total of 1,104 to rank 14th) and 42nd in receptions (5.4 per game, with a total of 75). Sophomore Shaq Hill is 67th in all-purpose yards per game (106.5, with totals of 768 receiving, 615 on kickoff returns and 2 rushing). Senior cornerback T.J. Lee, who is in sole possession of the school record for career forced fumbles with seven, has four this season to rank 22nd in FCS in average per game (0.29). He also is 26th in fumble recoveries per game (0.29), with a total of four. Jake Miller is 18th in FCS in average per punt (42.8).
* Now 20-3 as a starter at EWU, Vernon Adams has 30 pass completions already in his career of at least 40 yards, including 20 for touchdowns. All but four of those have come this season, including completions against Jacksonville State of 43 yards to Cooper Kupp and 41 yards to Ashton Clark (TD). For the second-straight year, Adams was a finalist for Geico Play of the Year for his game-winning touchdown run versus Oregon State.
* In just the last five games of the regular season, Eastern sophomore wide receiver/kickoff returner Shaquille Hill was involved in long plays of 44, 54, 68, 76, 80 and 86 yards – including four from sophomore quarterback Vernon “Big Play V.A.” Adams. Included were TD receptions of 68 and 76 yards against Montana State, and an 86-yard TD catch versus Montana. All three rank in the top 50 in school history, and the 86-yard catch is eighth. In all, Hill has 10 plays of at least 40 yards in his young career, including kickoff returns of 99, 93 and 80 yards. He had a non-scoring kickoff return of 80 yards against Idaho State on Nov. 2 and later scored on a 44-yard pass as he finished the game with 144 all-purpose yards on just three touches (two kickoff returns and one reception) for an average of nearly 50 yards per touch. One game earlier versus Montana, Hill had an 86-yard TD catch to rank as the eighth-longest in school history.
* Said Former Eagle Quarterback Matt Nichols, who wore jersey No. 16 and whose top single season passing yardage (3,830 and 3,744) and total offense marks (4,136 and 3,932) have been overtaken by Vernon Adams (4,600 passing, 5,10 total offense): “Vernon Adams should not have moved from No. 16 to No. 3 – that’s the only bad move he’s made so far.”
* Senior kicker Kevin Miller is one of five players who have played in 51 career games to tie the school record. The others are Allen Brown, Brandon Murphy, Will Katoa and Bo Schuetzle. Miller is the only player on this year’s squad who has been in the playoffs all four years he has played (2009, 2010, 2012, 2013) – he redshirted in 2011 when EWU missed the playoffs with a 6-5 record. With 70 extra points in 75 attempts this season, Miller has broken school records in both categories previously held by Josh Atwood in 1997 (58-of-61) and Big Sky Conference records previously held by Mike Hollis from Idaho in 1993 (68-of-68). Miller made all six of his extra point attempts versus Portland State on Nov. 23, including a pressure-packed boot with 31 seconds left against a team that has blocked seven kicks this season. Miller also averaged 64.3 yards on seven kickoffs with a pair of touchbacks. Portland State averaged just 19.2 yards on its five returns.
Vernon Adams is One of Three Payton Award Finalists
Eastern quarterback Vernon Adams is one of three finalists for the Walter Payton Award given to the top player in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision, The Sports Network announced Dec. 3.
Adams, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo of Eastern Illinois and running back Terrance West of Towson have been invited to the announcement of the 27th Walter Payton Award, bestowed on the outstanding player in the FCS and considered the Heisman Trophy of the former Division I-AA level.
The winner will be announced at The Sports Network's FCS Awards Banquet and Presentation on Dec. 16 in Philadelphia. The winners of the Buck Buchanan Award (FCS outstanding defensive player), Jerry Rice Award (FCS freshman of the year) and Eddie Robinson Award (FCS coach of the year) also will be feted that night.
Awards voting is based on the regular season.
The talents of Adams, Garoppolo and West are undeniable, and the statistics of the three have been otherworldly. Beginning with Eastern Washington beating Oregon State, Eastern Illinois topping San Diego State and Towson stopping Connecticut in the opening week of the season, the Payton Award finalists have commanded center stage.
Vernon Adams and Cooper Kupp Take Big Sky Top Honors
Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin has coached the best – record-breakers and Payton Award winners included. But the 2013 performance by sophomore Vernon Adams tops them all.
Adams has been selected as the Big Sky Conference Offensive Player of the Year in a vote by the league’s head coaches, winning the honor for the 10th time by an Eastern player, including nine of the last 13 years.
The honor was announced Nov. 26, and also included the announcement of Eagle freshman sensation Cooper Kupp as the league’s Freshman of the Year. Both he and Adams were the only unanimous selections on the All-Big Sky Conference first team, earning first team votes on all 12 ballots. A total of 25 Eagle players were honored on first team (5 selections), second team (5), third team (4) and honorable mention (11) squads.
Adams, who is now 20-3 as a starting quarterback at Eastern, joined an impressive list of previous winners for EWU, including quarterbacks Bo Levi Mitchell (2011), Matt Nichols (2007 and 2009) and Erik Meyer (2004 and 2005). Mitchell and Meyer went on to win the Walter Payton Award given by The Sports Network to the top player in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision.
Kupp ended the regular season as the leader in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision with 20 touchdown catches for the season, and owns sole possession of the FCS record for consecutive games with a TD reception. The 2012 graduate of Davis High School in Yakima, Wash., has caught at least one TD in all of the games he has played in his 14-game EWU career. He is the favorite to win the Jerry Rice Award given by The Sports Network to the top freshman in FCS.
Three-Time Selection T.J. Lee Headlines All-Big Sky Team
Little did his parents know that T.J. Lee III would stand for three-peat. The Eastern cornerback headlined a list of 25 Eagles honored on the All-Big Sky Conference team on Nov. 26 by earning first team honors for the third-straight season.
The 2009 graduate of West Seattle High School became only the third Eagle in school history – and the first on defense -- to accomplish that feat. In fact, only 45 total players in the 50-year history of the league have earned three first team accolades, as well as another three who have four-peated.
Also named to the first team for the Eagles were unanimous selections Vernon Adams (quarterback) and Cooper Kupp (wide receiver), as well as Ashton Miller (center) and Bo Schuetzle (special teams). Adams and Kupp were selected first team on all 12 ballots to earn the league’s only unanimous honors, and were also the league’s Offensive Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year, respectively.
Named to the second team were Ronnie Hamlin (outside linebacker), Ashton Clark (wide receiver), Steven Forgette (offensive guard), Clay DeBord (offensive tackle) and Andru Pulu (defensive tackle). Third team selections were Zack Gehring (tight end), Quincy Forte (running back), Anthony Larry (defensive end) and Tevin McDonald (safety).
Another 11 Eagles earned honorable mention -- Shaq Hill (wide receiver), Cory Mitchell (wide receiver), Cassidy Curtis (offensive tackle), Brandon Murphy (offensive guard), Will Katoa (defensive tackle), Dylan Zylstra (defensive tackle), Evan Day (defensive end), Cody McCarthy (inside linebacker), Allen Brown (safety), Ronald Baines (cornerback) and Kevin Miller (kicker).
The only other players in school history to be honored on the first team three times are offensive lineman Harold Fox (1992-93-94) and return specialist Lamont Brightful (1999-2000-01).
Eastern’s list of All-Big Sky players includes 14 seniors, meaning 11 should be back in an Eagle uniform in the 2014 season.
Baldwin Captures Big Sky Coach of the Year Honor
If Beau Baldwin had anything to say about it, he’d rename the award.
The sixth-year Eastern head football coach was awarded for the second-straight season as Big Sky Conference Coach of the Year, the league announced Nov. 27.
Baldwin led EWU to its third Big Sky title in four seasons with an 8-0 conference mark, and a 10-2 overall record. He became one of four coaches in FCS history to lead his team to a win over a ranked FBS team when his Eagles topped No. 25 Oregon State 49-46 to open the season.
He is now 56-21 in five-plus seasons as a head coach (2008-13) and 38-10 in Big Sky Conference games. His .792 winning percentage in league games is the best-ever by an Eastern head coach and currently ranks fifth in the 50-year history of the Big Sky Conference. His 38 Big Sky victories are a school record, three better than the EWU head coach he previously served under, Paul Wulff (2000-2007). Baldwin’s .727 percentage overall is now seventh in league history.
Baldwin’s honor is the seventh for an Eastern head coach. Dick Zornes was the first in 1992, followed by Mike Kramer in 1997. Wulff was honored in 2001, 2004 and 2005 prior to Baldwin winning the honor in 2012.
Eastern’s 2013 season under Baldwin includes wins over five teams who were ranked in the FCS polls this season – Montana, Montana State, Cal Poly, Southern Utah and South Dakota State. The only losses for the Eagles came on the road to FBS Toledo and Sam Houston State, which was ranked fourth in FCS at the time.
The Senior Class
Eastern’s 2013 roster includes 23 seniors, with 12 starting at least nine games in 2013 for the Eagles (five on offense, seven on defense). The list also included the team’s starting kicker (Kevin Miller).
However, two players did not take part in Senior Day introductions on Nov. 23 -- linebacker Ronnie Hamlin and McKenzie Murphy. Despite being listed as a senior, Hamlin will eventually apply to the NCAA to receive his sixth year. After redshirting the 2009 season because of the bum knee, the injury also kept him from playing during Eastern’s national championship season in 2010. Murphy played his lone collegiate seasons in 2008 for the now-defunct Western Washington program and in 2011 for the Eagles, but recently received a waiver from the NCAA to play the remainder of this season (his sixth year out of high school). Murphy went through EWU’s senior introductions a year ago.
Those 23 seniors have combined for 830 games worth of experience, and have had 396 starts between them. A total of 13 will finish their careers as four-year letterwinners. More importantly, they have helped Eastern win an unprecedented three Big Sky Conference titles in four seasons, 27-of-32 Big Sky Conference games and 42 games overall the last four seasons. A total of 18 were a part of EWU’s NCAA Division I Championship in 2010. By contrast last year’s 16 seniors combined for 617 games worth of experience and had 292 starts between them.
Below is the complete list of this year’s seniors with the
number of games played/started listed at the end of each
player’s roster information.
41 - J.C. Agen - Linebacker - 6-2 - 210 - Sr. - 3L* - Spokane, Wash. (Central Valley HS ’09) – 36/9
24 - ^Ronald Baines - Cornerback - 5-10 - 195 - Sr. - 3L* - Tacoma, Wash. (Mount Tahoma HS ’09) – 50/27
30 - Demitrius Bronson – Running Back - 5-10 - 210 - Sr. - 2L* - Kent, Wash. (Kentwood HS ’08 / Washington) – 29/10
70 - ^Steven Forgette – Offensive Guard - 6-4 - 300 - Sr. - 3L* - Vancouver, Wash. (Heritage HS ’09) – 46/45
85 - ^Zack Gehring – Tight End - 6-4 - 240 - Sr. - 3L* - Castle Rock, Wash. (Castle Rock HS ’09) – 49/33
92 - ^Will Katoa – Defensive Nose Tackle - 6-0 - 295 - Sr. - 3L* - Salt Lake City, Utah (Judge Memorial HS ’09) – 51/15
19 - Christian Hudnell - Cornerback - 6-0 - 185 - Sr. - 1L* - Sacramento, Calif. (Jesuit HS ’09 / Kentucky) – 4/1
83 - Cody Humphrey – Tight End - 6-5 - 260 - Sr. - 2L* - Hermiston, Ore. (Hermiston HS ’09) – 23/2
23 - Daniel Johnson – Wide Receiver - 5-10 - 190 - Sr. - 3L* - San Jose, Calif. (Valley Christian HS ’09) 34/3
1 - ^Anthony Larry – Defensive End - 6-3 - 250 - Sr. - 2L* - Sacramento, Calif. (Luther Burbank HS ’09) – 37/21
31 - ^T.J. Lee III – Cornerback - 5-9 - 190 - Sr. - 3L* - Seattle, Wash. (West Seattle HS ’09) – 48/34
68 - Kevin Miller - Kicker - 6-2 - 225 - Sr. - 3L* - Portland, Ore. (Centennial HS ’09) – 51
77 - ^Brandon Murphy – Offensive Guard - 6-4 - 305 - Sr. - 3L* - Albany, Ore. (West Albany HS ’09) – 51/37
25 - McKenzie Murphy - Safety - 5-9 - 190 - Sr. - 1L* - Spokane, Wash. (Ferris HS ’08 / Western Washington) – 16/0
46 - Jakob Pugsley – Defensive End - 6-3 - 235 - Sr. - 2L* - Newman Lake, Wash. (East Valley ’09) – 32/1
93 - ^Andru Pulu – Defensive Tackle - 6-2 - 290 - Sr. - 1L* - Federal Way, Wash. (Fed. Way HS ’09 / Washington) – 27/27
52 - Drew Reynolds – Offensive Guard - 6-1 - 300 - Sr. - 2L* - Tacoma, Wash. (Foss HS ’09) – 22/9
21 - Bo Schuetzle - Cornerback - 6-0 - 200 - Sr. - 3L* - Spokane, Wash. (Shadle Park HS ’09) – 51/3
12 - Anthony Vitto - Quarterback - 6-1 - 195 - Sr. - 3L* - Simi Valley, Calif. (Chaminade College Prep ’09) – 10/0
2013 Co-Captains . . .
4 - ^Allen Brown - Safety - 5-10 - 170 - Sr. - 3L* - Tacoma, Wash. (Foss HS ’09) – 51/37
15 - ^Ashton Clark – Wide Receiver - 5-11 - 185 - Sr. - 2L* - Vancouver, Wash. (Heritage HS ’09) – 41/16
39 - ^Ronnie Hamlin - Linebacker - 6-2 - 235 - Sr. - 2L* - Lacey, Wash. (Timberline HS ’09) – 39/36
66 - ^Ashton Miller - Center - 6-2 - 300 - Sr. - 3L* - Vancouver, Wash. (Evergreen HS ’09) - 32/29
^Has started at least nine games in 2013.
Quoting Coach Baldwin
On Albert Havili: “As you can see, he is
bigger than all our junior and senior linebackers already. He
walked on campus and was physically ready to play. He still is
working every day on the mental part -- that takes time as a true
freshman. I know he said he got gassed pretty easy, but he can run.
Not just for a big guy, but for a linebacker -- let alone adding
the fact of how much weight he is carrying and how much thump he
can bring. We thought he was the most ready (of our freshman
linebackers). The other two freshmen that came here were right
there too, but they are redshirting instead. We knew we were
going to be playing one or two linebackers. We settled on one when
we figured out where we were (as a team). Albert was definitely the
most physically ready in terms of his size.”
On Offensive Line: “I thought the offensive line played really well. I think in the back-to-back weeks probably the worst half in the playoffs has been the first half of South Dakota State. We struggled a little bit there and made adjustments and played great in the second half. I think they carried it over to this week. I think that the offensive line did a great job in terms of protections. I thought the running backs added to that piece too. Vernon did a good job getting into the right protections although I don’t think there were many times that he had to check protections. On a running standpoint, we were able to lean on that too. I think we get thought of as pass first and pass happy, but really we have been balanced all year at 50-50. I love being balanced. It doesn’t mean that you won’t have that game where you are 2-1 one side or the other doing what it takes to win. Those big boys up front have worked on it and we have stressed all the way back to February. It didn’t just happen this week. It was back in February, spring ball and fall camp. We made a concerted effort to be better at running the ball if we truly want to have a chance at playing 15 to 16 ball games, which is our mindset.”
On Quincy Forte: “He has a little bit of everything in him. That is not taking anything away from guys like Mario, Jabari, Bronson and guys who have run for us well -- not just this year, but also in past years. Quincy is probably the biggest threat of a home run with some power. He has a little bit more strength than you might think for a smaller guy. At the same time, I will be the first to say that any one of those guys I mentioned could get some of those carries and end up in the same spot. We are blessed to have a nice group of running backs by committee. I think that has helped us (this year). Quincy came into last week with only about 120 carries on the year. A lot of times your starting running back is not sitting at 120 carries. He hasn’t been injured. We have been able to do that throughout the course of the year with Mario, Jabari and Bronson. When it is all said and done you are fresh at the end of the year with all your backs. That is the big picture plan we have had.”
On Jacksonville State Win: “I want to congratulate our players. Every game, especially in December, is going to have a different feel to it. We talk about that a lot in team meetings. There might be games that are smooth and rhythmic. There might be other games that are defensive battles. We consistently are able to make adjustments and find ways to win in whatever ball game it is. To do that is tougher than you might think. I am really proud of our guys to keep fighting. We found different ways to win this game than we did a week ago. Who knows what kind of game we will be in next week, but we know it will be against a very good opponent. We are happy to get one more shot at home with next week’s ball game.”
On South Dakota State Win: “I am proud of our players. I thought we stepped up and played some cold weather playoff type of football. A lot of times as a team we get looked at in a certain way because maybe we put up a lot of yards passing. We were able to play some tough grind-it out-football. We won the turnover battle, had great second-half defense and we finished running the ball really well, along with scoring with the ball in the air. I am proud of the guys for their fight. They just have to keep getting tougher as they go.”
On Vernon Adams Winning Big Sky Offensive Player of the Year Award: “I don’t want to take anything away from players like Erik Meyer, Matt Nichols and Bo Levi Mitchell, but Vernon’s season this year is the best I’ve seen since I’ve been a college football coach. He’s earned this award and there is no question about it. He went after it and it’s been fun to see his progress. He worked hard to improve his skills as a quarterback, such as how he is going to beat the blitz and how he is going throw down the field with things crashing around him. Plus the little things, like how he’s going to lead. He’s taken a lot of hits and has had times when his body isn’t feeling great, but he’s played through it. The ride this year isn’t even close to being over in our minds, and the same is true of the ride in terms of the growth we can make as a team and Vernon’s growth as a quarterback. His mindset is that he wants to keep getting better and there is still a very high ceiling he can go after.”
On Cooper Kupp: “Bigger than (the statistics), he maximizes every ounce of his talent. We all see he has talent – lots of talent – but he has a great work ethic for video study, off-season work and preparation. He understands what teams are doing defensively, how to work a release and knows our entire offense. That allows us to put him in different positions. He understands the concept of every play, not just the receiver position he is playing. We can move him around, and teams can’t plan for him to be at one spot all the time – he’s everywhere within our offense. It’s hard for a freshman to do those things mentally, and then he’s also been tough enough to handle hard hits and play through pain. He’s a strong-minded young man with a lot of talent, but it’s that mental toughness and work ethic that takes him from being a good or great player to one of the best. (The Big Sky Freshman of the Year Award) was unanimous with the coaches in the conference, and deservingly so. In a conference rich with receiver talent, he was the best as a freshman. He the best receiver in this conference – not just the best freshman – and he was in the top three or four nationally in terms of what he’s done statistically.”
On T.J. Lee: “T.J. has been incredible. In this conference with such a rich history and the competition you are up against every week, to be recognized as a three-time first team All-Big Sky player is hard to do. He’s gone out and earned it. He’s second on our team in tackles and cornerbacks don’t usually make a lot of tackles. He’s ferocious. He has cover skills, he can blitz, he can force and recover fumbles and he can flat out tackle. Unselfishly, he went back there and played safety for us when we were in a bind. He averaged double digits in tackles in those two games, including 14 against Montana State. He’s a great, All-America type of player for us. He will surely be missed, but I’m excited to see him hopefully finish things out the right way in the playoffs.”
On 25 Players Honored on All-Big Sky Team: “It’s been an extremely strong group of players both physically and mentally. They’ve earned it – I keep using that word because you don’t end up as outright Big Sky champs without a lot of work. It’s not just given to you and it’s not just luck, you go out and earn it. The players who were recognized got after it in January all the way through July to put themselves in the position to have this kind of season. I’m proud of them for that and everything they’ve done to get our program to this point.”
On Winning Coach of the Year: “I am humbled very much. Especially in the sport of football, a coach of the year award is more accurately stated as a coaching staff of the year award. So much of it is because of what the assistant coaches do every year. I’m lucky to have not only great football guys, but great teachers and men on this staff. This type of award is a tribute to them. And no staff ever wins a coach of the year award without talented players, great leadership and outstanding character in the locker room. Our players exemplify that.”
On 8-0 Big Sky Finish: “It feels really good to finish Big Sky play unbeaten. Obviously, it is going to be tough (in the postseason). I give credit to all the players for battling -- especially the seniors. They battled the whole year to get to this point. It is not easy to win the conference championship. To do it and finish it like this is fun. It’s hard to win one Big Sky title let alone three out of the last four years. That’s amazing and I’m just proud of all the people who are a part of making that happen.”
On Seniors: “To win league championships in three out of four years is unheard of at a lot of schools, and unprecedented in the history of Eastern football. They were the leaders in that accomplishment, and have helped us to where we are now. It’s a special group. We hear it a lot from other people how good of young men they are. They will be missed, but we are going to enjoy as much time as we have with them the rest of this year.”
On Anthony Vitto: “There are a lot of schools in the country where he would be a starter. I know it’s hard on him sometimes because he wants to play. When he has the opportunities like this, he’s making the most of them. You saw it at Oregon State, you saw it against Montana State and you definitely saw it in a big way against Cal Poly. I’m really proud of him and we’re lucky to have a player as a backup to Vernon that has the ability as a starter.”
On Sweeping Montana: “We are coming a long way. I have a lot of respect for those Montana programs like a lot of other programs. Those two Montana programs are huge, so to win the last four against them in back-to-back years is special (first time since 1992). It is a combination of a lot of things helping us to get to that point. I couldn’t be happier for all the people that are a part of it.”
On Eastern’s 500th Win All-Time in Victory Over MSU: “I can’t think of a better way (to have the 500th win). I just thank the fans, the guys that went out there and played, and our coaches. It was a total team effort, and the environment was awesome. I can’t think of a better way to win. Montana State is a very good football team. We were able to really play a great football game and finish, especially in the second half.”
On Importance of Winning in Missoula to Seniors: “Twice in your career you get an opportunity to play there. To get that victory for our seniors was special, and now our program has beaten Montana three of the last four years. It’s been a long time (since 1992) that Eastern has beaten Montana in back-to-back seasons. There are a lot of things from that victory that are special to our seniors and program.”
On Importance of Montana Win in FCS: “It was a huge league game and it had national implications. Whether we are from the same league or not, it was a game between two top 10 teams. Our players embrace coming into (tough) environments and love the challenge of that. We loved the challenge going into this and we knew it was going to be tough to find a way to win.”
On Preseason Schedule: “This was definitely the toughest preseason schedule we’ve had since I’ve been here in terms of the first four games. But I invite it – I love it. It’s helped us be battle-tested because we’ve been in some serious wars. It’s tough and it’s a challenge. We were put on a stage on the road against one of the top teams at our level and now we have move forward in a very tough conference.”
On Being Fourth FCS School to Defeat a Ranked FBS Team: “It’s big and shines a light on our program, even more than before. I’m not going to undersell it – it’s huge for the program and what it does in recruiting and the image of who we are.”
On Victory Over No. 25 Oregon State: “I’m proud of our players. We’ve come up short before in games like this, but I’m proud when I see them out there fighting, not getting wide-eyed and attacking the situation. When things don’t go right, we want them to be ready to respond. And our team did that against a very good Oregon State football team. Winning the ballgame is huge, but I was just proud of how our team handled every situation that came up in the game.”
On Coaching Eagle Players: “The best part about coaching to me is working with 18 to 23-year-old student-athletes and getting a chance to make an impact in their lives. We get to watch them grow, and it’s fun to be a part of that process. The culture and attitude that has been built over the years has grown to a new level. We’ve had great players and leaders here before, but this group has learned from past teams and players on how to prepare in the offseason and what to do in the summer. The makeup and mental attitude of our players has grown. If you have that, you have a chance to be successful and the more enjoyable it is to coach.”
Defense (281 starts by 22 players): Allen Brown 37, Ronnie Hamlin 36, T.J. Lee 34, Ronald Baines 27, Andru Pulu 27, Anthony Larry 21, Cody McCarthy 19, Evan Day 16, Will Katoa 15, Miquiyah Zamora 9, J.C. Agen 9, Tevin McDonald 8, Jordan Tonani 7, Todd Raynes 5, Bo Schuetzle 2, Miles Weatheroy 2, Dylan Zylstra 2, Jakob Pugsley 1, Zach Bruce 1, Zackary Johnson 1, Christian Hudnell 1, Frank Cange 1.
Offense (328 starts by 25 players): Steven Forgette 45, Brandon Murphy 37, Zack Gehring 33, Ashton Miller 29, Clay DeBord 26, Vernon Adams 23, Quincy Forte 16, Ashton Clark 16, Cooper Kupp 14, Cory Mitchell 12, Cassidy Curtis 10, Demitrius Bronson 10, Jordan Talley 9, Drew Reynolds 9, Ryan Seto 7, Jake Withnell 7, Mario Brown 6, Shaq Hill 4, Jake Rodgers 3, Daniel Johnson 3, T.J. Boatright 2, Cody Humphrey 2, Jase Butorac 2, Jabari Wilson 2, Zach Wimberly 1.
* Only four positions had players making their first starts as Eagles against Oregon State, and two were manned by former starters in the Pac-12 Conference. Redshirt freshman Cooper Kupp started at wide receiver and redshirt freshman Jabari Wilson started at running back. Jake Rodgers, a 12-game starter at Washington State last season, started at right tackle in his Eagle starting debut. The other Eagle starting debut was by safety Tevin McDonald, who started 24 games the past two seasons at UCLA. Sophomore wide receiver Shaq Hill made the first start of his career in EWU’s second game of the season against Western Oregon, and offensive tackle Cassidy Curtis and fullback/tight end Zach Wimberly made their first starts at Toledo. Linebacker Miquiyah Zamora made the first start of his career against Weber State and responded with five tackles (1 1/2 for loss) and had his first career interception, which led to an EWU touchdown. Against North Dakota, safety Todd Raynes and defensive end Zackary Johnson made the first starts of their careers. Raynes had a team-high seven tackles with a pass broken up in his debut, and Johnson finished with three tackles. No starting debuts were made in the Southern Utah and Montana games, but safety Zach Bruce made his first career start against Idaho State. Eastern had two new cornerbacks start against Montana State – senior Bo Schuetzle made his first career start when T.J. Lee was moved to safety and Frank Cange started when Ron Baines was late for a meeting earlier in the day. Senior Jakob Pugsley made the first start of his career on Senior Day on Nov. 23 versus Portland State.
Offensive tackle T.J. Boatright (knee) was injured against Cal Poly and has missed the three games since. Cornerback Ronald Baines (concussion) missed much of the South Dakota State game, but returned to play versus Jacksonville State. Safety Allen Brown (hamstring) was injured against Montana and missed three games before starting versus Portland State. Safety Isaiah Jenkins (shoulder) missed the Cal Poly and Portland State games and is probable for the playoffs. Running back Demitrius Bronson (foot) also missed the Cal Poly game but started versus Portland State, and fellow running back Jabari Wilson (hamstring) did not play versus PSU. Quarterback Vernon Adams (shoulder strain) was injured on a touchdown pass to Cooper Kupp in the third quarter at Cal Poly, but was held out of the rest of the game for precautionary reasons and started against Portland State after getting limited reps in practices. Todd Raynes (hamstring) and linebacker J.C. Agen (quadriceps) played versus Cal Poly after missing the MSU and Idaho State games with injuries suffered against Montana. Nose tackle Will Katoa (knee) and offensive tackle Clay Debord (ankle) were also injured at Montana and missed the Idaho State game. Safety Tevin McDonald was lost for an indefinite period of time with a broken fibula suffered against Idaho State that required surgery. Wide receiver and kickoff returner Shaq Hill (knee sprain), who was injured against North Dakota and did not play versus Southern Utah, returned to play against Montana on Oct. 26 and had an 86-yard touchdown catch. Starting offensive tackle Jake Rodgers (knee sprain) and running back Jabari Wilson (shoulder) were both injured against Western Oregon on Sept. 7, but both returned to play against Montana after missing five games each. Running back Jalen Moore missed the North Dakota and Southern Utah games with a hip pointer and kidney stones. Defensive lineman Jordan Pulu had arthroscopic knee surgery on Aug. 29 and made his season debut against Weber State on Oct. 5. But he suffered a shoulder injury in that game and will have surgery. He will apply for a medical hardship to receive his year of eligibility back. True freshman wide receiver Kendrick Bourne (ankle) missed the UND game but played against Southern Utah and caught a 31-yard TD pass. Offensive lineman Drew Reynolds (knee) also made his season debut against WSU after missing EWU’s first five games. Running back Demitrius Bronson (high ankle sprain) suited up versus Toledo, but sat out for the third-straight game. He carried five times and scored twice in his season debut against Sam Houston State on Sept. 28. Running back Quincy Forte (hamstring) missed the Oregon State game, but returned to rush for 99 yards against Western Oregon. Senior tight end Cody Humphrey suffered a dislocated patella in practice on Aug. 21 and required surgery, and is out for the season. As a result, defensive lineman Zach Wimberly was moved to tight end, and Ryan Seto will play as both a wide receiver and tight end. Before the season began, freshman All-America safety and Ferris HS graduate Jordan Tonani began surgical treatment for a hip ailment that will cost him the 2013 season. Tonani’s painful hip injury is called hip joint acetabular impingement, and the ailment requires surgery to both hips with six months of rehabilitation required for each. His first surgery on his left hip took place on July 29, and also included a labral tear that was repaired. He had the second surgery on his right hip on Sept. 16. He would have competed for a starting position at safety, but should return fully healthy in spring 2014.
Last Time Out
Try as they might, the offense couldn’t give the Eagles a two-score lead in the second half. But the defense did.
With true freshman Albert Havili providing the decisive blow with a 77-yard interception return for a touchdown, third-seeded and No. 3 ranked Eastern Washington University defeated Jacksonville State 35-24 Dec. 14 in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs at Roos Field in Cheney, Wash.
The Eagles rolled up 545 yards of offense and gave up 528 against the Gamecocks from the Ohio Valley Conference. However, Eastern’s defense was dominating in the second half for the second-straight week -- EWU has not given up a second-half touchdown while out-scoring opponents 41-6 after intermission in those two playoff victories.
Eastern enjoyed another offensive explosion in the win over JSU, with the Eagles setting Big Sky Conference records for single season scoring (561) and passing offense (4,853), with Walter Payton Award finalist Vernon Adams breaking the league record for passing yards (4,853).
The Eagles only gave up just two sacks against a team that featured the sixth-best pass defense in FCS and ranked fourth in quarterback sacks with a total of 50. Adams finished 18-of-29 for 324 yards and had his 52nd and 53rd TD passes for the season, which are now tied for the third-most in FCS history.
Senior Ashton Clark had a career-high 181 yards receiving on 11 catches, which equal the 12th-most in school history. Freshman redshirt Cooper Kupp added four catches for 99 yards, as both he and Clark caught touchdown passes from Adams.
Running back Quincy Forte, who had 202 yards in EWU’s second-round win over South Dakota State, had 190 on 24 carries with a pair of touchdowns versus JSU.
Linebacker Ronnie Hamlin, who injured his shoulder in the first half and wasn’t expected back, started the second half and finished with the second-most tackles in his career with 15. Senior cornerback T.J. Lee III added 12 tackles, broke-up a pass and had a quarterback hurry. Linebacker Cody McCarthy was the third Eagle in double figure tackles with 11.
The first half resembled a track meet with the two teams combining for 649 yards of offense. Eastern had 337 yards on just 29 plays, but two turnovers in the JSU red zone cost the Eagles dearly. Jacksonville State had 312 yards on 50 plays.
The Gamecocks were 8-of-11 on third down, while the Eagles were so good on first and second down that they had just one third down conversion attempt, and they converted it.
More Player Notes
* Senior T.J. Lee, a three-time first team All-Big Sky cornerback, now has 254 tackles, four interceptions, 25 passes broken up and 3 1/2 sacks in his 48-game career (34 starts). He is just the 35th Eagle in school history to have 200 career tackles (currently ranked 13th). He owns sole possession of the school record for most career forced fumbles with seven, and his 25 passes broken up ranks sixth. Three times in his career he has forced and recovered the same fumble, with two of them occurring on quarterback sacks. One of those three came this season against North Dakota (10/12/13) when he also finished with six tackles and a pass broken up. He had a trio of passes broken up at Idaho State (11/2/13) and had a career-high 14 tackles and the fourth interception of his career one game later against Montana State (11/9/13) in his first-ever start at safety for the Eagles. 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. His average of 6.4 tackles per game ranked 29th in the Big Sky and his total of 11 passes broken up were second. The two-time first team All-Big Sky selection also had 2 1/2 sacks, nine total tackles for loss, an interception, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. 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.
* On the 2013 Buck Buchanan Watch List and the voting list for the award, senior linebacker Ronnie Hamlin has 350 tackles already in his 39-game EWU career (36 starts) to rank third in school history. His 129 tackles this season rank as the ninth-most in school history. He had 15 tackles in his last outing versus Jacksonville State (12/14/13), which was the 16th time in his career he has had double figures in tackles. Hamlin also has four career interceptions, and his momentum-changing 77-yard return for a touchdown against North Dakota (10/12/13) was the 10th-longest in school history. With UND driving for a potential game-tying score late in the third quarter, he leaped high to snag the third interception of his career, ran over one would-be tackler, then returned it down the sideline for his first pick-six as an Eagle. He also had a diving interception against Idaho State (11/2/13) to squelch an ISU drive and lead to an EWU TD and 45-27 lead. Despite being listed as a senior, Hamlin will eventually apply to the NCAA to receive his sixth year. After redshirting the 2009 season because of the bum knee, the injury also kept him from playing during Eastern’s national championship season in 2010. If he does get the extra year back, he could challenge the school record of 432 tackles set by 2010 Buck Buchanan Award winner J.C. Sherritt. Hamlin earned All-America honors in 2012 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.
* Boise, Idaho, native Cody McCarthy is coming off an 11-tackle performance against Jacksonville State, giving him six performances of at least 10 stops in his 33-game career (19 as a starter). He has career totals of 190 tackles, 3 1/2 sacks and three passes broken up. He leads EWU with 11 tackles for losses totaling 41 yards.
* Junior defensive end Evan Day has had a sack in five-straight games from Oct. 12 to Nov. 9. He had one more against Portland State on Nov. 23, giving him six on the season and 14 in his 37-game career (16 as a starter).
* Team co-captains for the 2013 season include a quartet of seniors from high schools in the state of Washington -- center Ashton Miller, senior wide receiver Ashton Clark, senior safety Allen Brown and junior linebacker Ronnie Hamlin. The players were selected by a vote of their teammates.
* Senior offensive guard Steven Forgette missed most of the 2011 season because of an injury, but his 45 career starts are the most among all Eastern players. The only game he didn’t start in his 46-game career was to allow a senior to start on Senior Day in 2010. A year ago, he earned honorable mention All-America honors in 2012 from the College Sports Journal and second team All-Big Sky accolades. He was also named to the Big Sky Conference All-Academic team. Despite missing Forgette helped EWU rank seventh in the FCS in 2012 in passing yards per game (318.9), 14th overall in total offense (442.0) and 17th in scoring (33.7). He started all 14 Eastern games at left offensive guard a year after breaking his fibula against Montana (9/17/11) and missing the rest of the season. He earned honorable mention All-Big Sky honors as a redshirt freshman in 2010 when the Eagles won the NCAA Division I title.
* Vernon Adams currently has a career passing efficiency rating of 177.5 which ranks as the school record (64.0 percent, 6,561 yards, 73 TD, 22 INT). A starter in 23 of the 26 games he has played in his career, Adams has a career average of 252.3 passing yards per game to currently fourth all-time at EWU. His 73 TD passes are already third, his 6,561 passing yards are fifth and his 7,443 yards of total offense are fourth. He is now 20-3 as a starter, with his lone losses coming against Southern Utah in 2012 and Toledo and Sam Houston State in 2013. Adams was selected as the Freshman of the Year on the College Sporting News “Fabulous 50” All-America team in 2012, and was also 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). 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.
* The Eagles finished seventh in FCS in passing offense (318.9 per game) in 2012, as returning starter Vernon Adams combined with Kyle Padron to lead EWU to the school record for passing yards (broken in 2013). The Eagles finished with 4,469 yards, breaking the previous record of 4,102 yards in 2005. Padron started 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 (12/8/12) in the quarterfinals and Adams against Sam Houston State (12/15/12) 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.
* Despite standing just 5-foot-10, 170 pounds, senior safety Allen Brown played in 48 of 48 games in his career until missing three games with a hamstring injury. He and teammates Kevin Miller, Brandon Murphy, Bo Schuetzle and Will Katoa have tied the school record of 51 shared with three other players. Allen has career totals of 37 starts, 233 tackles, four interceptions and 15 passes broken up. He is the 34th Eagle in school history to have 200 career tackles, and currently ranks 19th. He needs three passes broken up to rank on EWU’s top 10 list in that category. He has 37 career starts, ranking first on the defense and second overall (Steven Forgette has 45). At the end of spring practices, Brown was the recipient on defense of the “Iron Eagle” Award for achievements in the off-season in strength and conditioning and the classroom. He finished second on the team with 91 tackles in 2012 to help him earn second team All-Big Sky honors. Brown was also second on the team with seven passes broken up to go along with a pair of forced fumbles. His average of 6.5 tackles per game in 2012 ranked 28th in the Big Sky. He was also second on the team with seven passes broken up to go along with a pair of forced fumbles.
* Redshirt freshman Shaq Hill currently has the seventh-best career kickoff return average in school history (25.0) and is fifth in kickoff return yards (1,527). He was a member of the College Sports Journal Freshman All-America team and earned honorable mention All-Big Sky Conference honors in 2012. Hill, who had a 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against North Dakota (10/6/12), finished ranked 17th in FCS with an average of 26.8 yards per kickoff return. On EWU’s single season leaders lists, he finished the 2012 season ranked in the top 10 in kickoff returns (third, 34), kickoff return yards (second, 912) and kickoff return average (10th, 26.8). As a backup wide receiver, he caught seven passes for 66 yards. Hill would have had another TD in the FCS Playoffs against Illinois State (12/8/12), 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 (12/8/12) game.
* The 43.4 career punting average of sophomore Jake Miller currently ranks as a school record, placing him ahead of the 42.3 average of Jesse Nicassio (2002-03). He has had 25 punts of 50 yards or more in his career and 11 of at least 55. He owns nine punts ranked in the top 35 in school history, with boots of 74, 66, 59 (twice) and 57 (five times). Named to the Big Sky Conference All-Academic team in 2012, Miller had a school-record 74-yard punt versus Washington State (9/8/12), breaking the previous record of 71 set in 2006 by Ryan Donckers. His best in 2013 was a 66-yarder (seventh in school history). Miller’s average of 43.3 yards per punt in 2012 ranks third all-time in EWU history, just behind his No. 2 ranking with a 44.2 average in 2011 (the school record is 44.4). Of his 40 punts in 2012, six were for at least 50 yards and 15 were downed inside the opponent 20-yard line.
* Ronnie Hamlin’s long hair has been a trademark of his, and a friendly wager between teammates lasted three years. During the 2010 season, Hamlin and safety Jeff Minnerly 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 on Dec. 17, 2012 -- just two days after his career and the 2012 season concluded -- and donated the hair to Locks of Love.
* The top plays and honors of sophomore quarterback Vernon Adams have been encapsulated in a new web site located at www.BigPlayVA.com. Featured are some of the top plays by Adams, including his incredible scramble and touchdown throw against Sacramento State on Oct. 20, 2012, which was one of eight finalists for the GEICO Play of the Year. His game-winning touchdown run against Oregon State on Aug. 31, 2013, is also on the site. He had a school-record of 518 yards of total offense in the 49-46 upset over the Beavers in only the fourth-ever win by a NCAA Football Championship Subdivision school over a ranked member of the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision. The many accolades Adams won as a result of the OSU victory are also featured, as well as an interview on the Jim Rome Show. His complete bio, statistics and information on EWU tickets and the Gateway Project are also prominent.
* McKenzie Murphy, a safety on last year’s Eagle squad and former player on the now-defunct Western Washington football program, applied for and was granted a waiver by the NCAA to play the remainder of the season for the Eagles. He was granted the waiver for personal circumstances that were not within his control, and was given the ruling on Nov 8. He made his season debut at Cal Poly on Nov. 16 and had three tackles. In his sixth academic year since graduating in 2008 from Ferris High School in Spokane, Wash., Murphy played the 2008 season at Western, which dropped its program the following January. He stayed at Western and eventually received his degree in accounting, and is now pursuing his master’s degree at EWU in computer science. Murphy, who turned 24 on Oct. 20, transferred to EWU in January 2012 and played for EWU that fall. Despite missing two games with a broken thumb that required surgery and one with a concussion, he played in 11 games as a backup safety and had 13 tackles and a pair of interceptions. One of his picks was against Southern Utah when he was playing with a heavily-padded cast. While at Ferris, Murphy was an Associated Press first team All-State selection and was the Greater Spokane League Defensive MVP. He had 120 tackles and three interceptions as a senior. Murphy said he originally started the appeal process in the summer to get the waiver, but an academic internship conflicted with early-season practices. He said the NCAA responded quickly upon presenting his final documentation, and within 24 hours was eligible again. “I wanted to progress my career outside of football, and I had time constraints with the internship that wouldn’t allow me to play,” Murphy said. “But when the injuries starting occurring, the coaches and I started joking about my eligibility and I completed the appeal.”
* Sophomore quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. and several other Eagles helped at the Russell Wilson Passing Academy in Spokane this past summer. Adams and Wilson – the starting quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks -- are similar in stature and ability, and will continue to draw comparisons as Adams’ career progresses. Adams, in fact, is now wearing jersey No. 3 for the Eagles – the same number Wilson wears -- after donning No. 16 as a redshirt freshman last season. The switch is unrelated to Wilson -- Adams wore No. 3 in high school and asked for that number after it became available when wide receiver Greg Herd graduated.
* Junior safety Tevin McDonald had 135 tackles in 27 career games (24 as a starter) at UCLA, plus four interceptions and 14 passes broken up. He is the son of six-time NFL All-Pro safety Tim McDonald, who is currently the defensive backs coach for the New York Jets where he coaches former Eagle Isaiah Trufant (2002-05). Tevin’s brother, Tim, Jr., (goes by T.J.), was a senior All-America safety at USC in 2012 and was drafted in the third round of the 2013 NFL Draft by St. Louis. Tevin was with Eastern during 2013 spring practices after getting dismissed from UCLA’s squad for violating team policy.
* Another talented transfer joining the Eagles in 2013 is offensive lineman Jake Rodgers, a 12-game starter at Washington State last fall. He started at right guard in the team’s season-opener at BYU, then started at left guard in WSU’s 24-20 win over Eastern Washington. He started a total of three games at right guard (BYU, UNLV, Colorado), one at left guard (EWU), five at right tackle (Oregon, Oregon State, California, Stanford, Utah) and the final three games of the season at left tackle (UCLA, Arizona State, Washington).
* Lost for the 2013 season with a painful hip injury that required surgery to both hips, Jordan Tonani had a sensational redshirt freshman season for the Eagles in 2012. As an injury replacement for senior safety Jeff Minnerly, Tonani earned a spot on the College Sports Journal Freshman All-America squad and was awarded with honorable mention All-Big Sky honors. He 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 during his debut season, Tonani’s 21-yard interception return for a touchdown with 11:15 to play became the winning points in a 27-24 victory over second-ranked Montana State (10/13/12). 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.
* For the second time this season, sophomore quarterback and Walter Payton Award candidate Vernon Adams earned National Player of the Week honors from College Sports Madness for his performance against Montana on Oct. 26. He also repeated as a College Sporting News National All Star and one six recipients of Beyond Sports Network FCS Offensive Player of the Week, in addition to earning FCS Offensive Player of the Week accolades from USA Football. He completed 27-of-40 passes for a career-high 457 yards, ranking as the fifth-most in school history. His six TDs tied the school record set on five previous occasions, including once by Adams in the second half alone of last year’s loss in the semifinals of the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs.
* Redshirt freshman Cooper Kupp earned Co-Freshman of the Week honors from The Sports Network for his 11-catch, 182-yard receiving performance against Montana on Oct. 26. He was also the FCS Wide Receiver Performer of the Week as selected by College Performance Awards. In back-to-back games versus Southern Utah on Oct. 19 and against Montana, Kupp had 11 catches to equal the 12th-best in school history tied with 10 others, including teammate Ashton Clark with 11 grabs versus SUU a year ago. Kupp finished with 168 yards and a score against the Thunderbirds and versus the Grizzlies he had two touchdowns and 182 yards to rank 18th all-time at EWU. Kupp had five catches for 119 yards and two touchdowns in his debut as an Eagle against Oregon State on Aug. 31. He spent part of the summer in 2013 working at the Manning Passing Academy as a college counselor/coach. While in high school he previously attended the camp, which is run by Archie Manning, the father of NFL quarterbacks Eli and Peyton Manning. Archie is a former New Orleans Saints teammate of Cooper’s grandfather, Jake Kupp.
* A total of 15 Eastern players were honored on preseason All-America lists, All-Big Sky Conference teams and positional rankings released this summer by NCAA Football Championships Subdivision media outlets. Preseason All-America accolades were received by cornerback T.J. Lee III, offensive lineman Steven Forgette and linebacker Ronnie Hamlin, who was also named to the watch list for the Buck Buchanan Award presented by The Sports Network to the top defensive player in FCS.
More Team Notes
* When the No. 3 Eagles played No. 4 Montana State on Nov. 9, only one other regular season game in EWU history has matched two higher-ranked FCS teams. And that came earlier this season when the No. 2 Eagles fell at No. 4 Sam Houston State 49-34. Until this season, the previous biggest game of such magnitude came last year when second-ranked MSU lost at home 27-24 to the sixth-ranked Eagles. And in 12 of the last 18 seasons Eastern has entered the Montana game with both teams nationally-ranked, but the highest collective rankings were 13 this year when the third-ranked Eagles beat the 10th-ranked Grizzlies 42-37 in Missoula, and 14 in 2005 when the No. 12 Eagles beat No. 2 Montana 34-20 in Missoula. The previous biggest non-conference game in school history was in 1992 when the 18th-ranked Eagles lost at No. 3 Northeast Louisiana (now Louisiana-Monroe) 41-31. In the FCS Playoffs, Eastern was top-ranked when it defeated fifth-ranked Delaware 20-19 in the 2010 Championship Game. In last year’s EWU-SHSU matchup in the semifinals of the FCS Playoffs, the Eagles were fourth and Sam Houston was fifth.
* Eastern had a school-record 743 yards of offense in EWU’s 55-34 victory over Idaho State Nov. 2, with 432 through the air and 311 on the ground. The Eagles broke the previous record of 740 set in 1997 against Rocky Mountain. The coach for EWU in that game was Mike Kramer, now the head coach at ISU. Eastern’s 311 rushing yards were the most for the Eagles in their last 117 games dating back to a 331-yard performance against Idaho State on Sept. 25, 2004, in a 47-22 win.
* 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. Eastern entered the 2013 season ranked fourth in The Sports Network preseason Top-25 poll, and was ranked third by the coaches.
* Among the returning letterwinners are seven starters on offense and 5 1/2 on defense, as well as the school’s punter and kickoff specialist. Three All-Americans (linebacker Ronnie Hamlin, cornerback T.J. Lee, offensive guard Steven Forgette) and three others who earned Freshman All-America accolades (quarterback Vernon Adams, safety Jordan Tonani and return specialist Shaq Hill) are among the returning players. Tonani, a seven game starter in 2012, will miss the 2013 season because of hip surgery.
* Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin is back for his sixth season at the helm after being selected as one of 20 coaches on the voting list for the 2012 Eddie Robinson Award, given to the national coach of the year in FCS. He finished fifth in the voting, and was also the Big Sky Conference Coach of the Year for the first time. Baldwin has now been a part of five Big Sky Conference championships as either an Eastern assistant coach (2004, 2005) or head coach (2010, 2012, 2013). In addition, he has been a part of six FCS Playoff berths – two as an assistant (2004, 2005) and three in four seasons as head coach (2009, 2010, 2012, 2013). In receiving the Big Sky Coach of the Year honor for the first time in 2012 and repeating in 2013, 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. Baldwin coached in his 100th Eastern game when the Eagles rallied to beat Montana 32-26 earlier in the 2012 season.