Adams and Forte Lead Eagles Past Jackrabbits 41-17 in FCS Playoffs; Eagles Will Host Jacksonville State on Saturday
With Vernon Adams passing for five touchdowns and Quincy Forte rushing for 202 yards, third-seeded and No. 3 ranked Eagles score 27 points in the second half to advance to quarterfinals and end season for No. 13 Jackrabbits
It wasn’t easy in 12-degree weather, but Walter Payton Award finalist Vernon Adams and running back Quincy Forte found a way.
Adams had five touchdown passes and 244 yards of total offense, and Forte rushed for 202 yards and a score, as the third-seeded and No. 3 ranked Eastern Washington University football team beat 13th-ranked South Dakota State 41-17 Saturday (Dec. 7) at Roos Field in Cheney, Wash., in the second round of the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs.
“I am proud of our players,” said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin. “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.”
Eastern will now host a game on Saturday, Dec. 14 at 1:05 p.m. Pacific time versus Jacksonville State, which upset sixth-seeded McNeese State 31-10 Saturday in the second round. The game will be televised live on internet-based ESPN3. A year ago, Eastern advanced to the semifinals and won the title in 2010.
Located in Jacksonville, Ala., the Gamecocks are 11-3 overall and pounced Samford 55-14 in the first round on Nov. 30 after receiving an at-large bid to the playoffs. It will be EWU’s first-ever meeting with Jacksonville State, which finished 5-3 in the Ohio Valley Conference under first-year head coach Bill Clark.
Information on tickets for the game at “The Inferno” – where EWU is 23-3 all-time – will be available at: http://goeags.com/ticket/13playoffs (also below). The game will 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.
The Eagles, who capped a perfect 8-0 Big Sky Conference season with a 42-41 win over the Vikings on Nov. 23, are now 11-2 on the season with a nine-game winning streak. Eastern finished the regular season ranked third in The Sports Network FCS Top-25 Poll for the sixth-straight week, and entered the playoffs as the No. 3 seed.
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 Taiwan Jones had 230 versus North Dakota State in the 2010 FCS Playoffs.
Adams had a season-low 12 completions and 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. He now has 51 touchdown passes this season to move into a tie with Jimmy Garoppolo of Eastern Illinois for third all-time in FCS history, just five from the record.
Freshman Cooper Kupp had four catches for 90 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He broke the school record with 20 TD catches for the season, (19 shared by Nicholas Edwards, 2011, and Eric Kimble, 2004) and broke the FCS record for most touchdowns by a freshman (Moss with 19 in 1996). He also tied the Big Sky record of 20 TD catches set originally by Ed Bell of Idaho State in 1969.
Now with 81 receptions, Cooper Kupp has tied the FCS record for receptions by a freshman (81, Sean Price, Appalachian State, 2012). He is currently sixth in school history, and is just two from fifth and four from fourth. The school record is 95 set by Nicholas Edwards in 2011.
With a touchdown reception in all 13 of the games he has played in his EWU career, one game earlier he broke 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.
Eastern finished with 504 yards of offense for EWU’s seventh performance of 500 or more yards. Eastern had 335 of its yards in the second half alone. Now with 526 points this season, EWU broke the school record of 488 set in 2004.The Big Sky record is 537 points set by Montana in 2009.
Defensively, Eastern held SDSU 2,000-yard rusher Zach Zenner to 71 yards and a single touchdown on 21 carries. Buck Buchanan Award candidate Ronnie Hamlin led the Eagles with 13 tackles for the 15th performance of his career of 10 or more tackles. Safety Todd Raynes added seven tackles, a forced fumble and two passes broken up.
South Dakota State scored the first time they had the ball on a 75-yard drive, while EWU had to punt the first two times it had the ball. But the Eagles scored two touchdowns with 2:16 of each other on drives of 51 and 70 yards. They ended on TD passes of yards to Zack Gehring and 40 to Kupp.
The Jackrabbits tied the score with 1:40 before halftime, and held EWU’s offense to just 169 yards of offense in the first half.
Eastern took the lead again for good in the third quarter with an eight-play, 82-yard drive, capped by a 2-yard TD pass from Adams to Zach Wimberly. It was the first TD catch of the season and career for Wimberly, making him the 12th Eagle this season to catch a TD pass.
After SDSU failed on a fake punt inside their own territory, EWU pounced with a quick four-play, 34-yard drive, capped by a 15-yard TD pass to Kupp.
The Jackrabbits converted a fourth-down play that led to a field goal, but EWU countered with a 69-yard TD pass to Cory Mitchell on the first play of the fourth quarter to put the Eagles up 34-17.
Eastern closed out its scoring with a 20-yard TD run by Forte with 3:06 left in the game.
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 entered the game fourth in FCS in turnover margin, with 32 turnovers forced this season and 16 lost.
Eastern entered the SDSU game ranked fourth in FCS in total offense (531.1 per game) and eighth in scoring (40.4).
The Jackrabbits finished 9-5 on the season after finishing 5-3 in a four-way tie for second in the Missouri Valley Football Conference behind two-time defending FCS Champion North Dakota State (8-0).
EWU-Jacksonville State FCS Playoff Ticket Information . . .
EWU will host Jacksonville State on Saturday (Dec. 14) at 1:05 p.m. Pacific time at Roos Field in Cheney, Wash. Tickets for the general public will go on sale starting Monday, Dec. 9 at 10 a.m. Links and information are available at http://goeags.com/ticket/13playoffs. They may be purchased through TicketsWest outlets, via www.ticketswest.com and 1-800-325-SEAT. Prices range from $30 for premium seating to $20 for end zone and east side seating.
Free tickets for Eastern students will be available for pickup at the EWU Bookstore Customer Service Desk starting at 10 a.m. on Monday, Dec. 9. In order to claim a student ticket, students must present a valid EWU student identification card. The limit is one ticket per ID card and the owner of the ID card is the only person allowed to pick-up the ticket.
More on the Eagles and this week’s game may be found at: http://www.goeags.com/sports/m-footbl/index
BEAU BALDWIN QUOTES
Opening Statement: “I first want to congratulate South Dakota State on their really great season. I know they played in one of the toughest conferences in the country, and they also won a big game on the road last week. This was their fourth straight road game. Give some credit to them for being a very tough opponent, and they proved to be tough today. In most games we have been going into the half up, but in the last couple we have been down or tied. We were tied today and we were down two games ago with Portland State, but we have found a way to continue to play well for 60 minutes. We have been playing especially well in the third quarter, and today we played well in the fourth when it was still a ball game. 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 SDSU’s Failed Fake Punt: “We were fortunately in a safe look because our defense was on the field. I am sure they were trying to check out of it because we didn’t have our punt return team in. I have been in that spot. In hindsight it is always 20-20 when something doesn’t work. I know that it can happen out on the field. I was proud of our guys for being disciplined and understanding the situation and making sure we were keying (on the fake punt). I thought it was a spot where they might go for it. Once they were lining in the punt unit we were yelling stay and that was why they were trying to check out of it.”
Holding Zach Zenner to 71 Yards and a Long of 13: “I don’t think you ever just stop them. We held them a little more in check. He is a great running back. You have to get a lot of hats to the football. You can’t leave those situations where if one guys misses he is gone. When it comes down to it, he is one of the better home-run hitters I have seen. He will run, run and run, and all of a sudden bust one. Last week he had an 87-yarder. He turned the tide in that NAU game, when NAU was trying to go up two scores. He has done that in a lot of games, and you also saw that in Nebraska. He will get out and run away from anyone at any level. It was really important that we took good angles, get that extra hat in on the tackle and were not in situations where he could bust those long ones. When they really turn up some points and yards is when he has two or three of those big runs in the game. It is very common for him. Twice he has run for over 2,000 yards. I think today he went over it. That is special, and we have a lot of respect for how he runs the football. I am proud of our guys because that is not easy to do.”
On Forte: “I think sometimes people look at us (as a passing team) because of some of the numbers we have had throwing the ball and some of Vernon’s passing numbers. Some people think we are a pass-first team, but when you really look at our numbers we are pretty close to 50-50 on the course of the whole year. We are going to have those games where teams are going to play softer coverage or try to defend the pass. We have to be able to run the ball. The reason I think Quincy is able to go 21 (carries) for 203 (yards) is because all year long you have had guys like Mario, Jabari, Demitrius and Jalen, and it is not like he has had 300 carries to this point. I think he has come into the game with only 10 or 12 carries per game because we have been able to run by committee and we have so much talent. He is a fresh back at game 15. When it is a workload back they may not be as fresh because they have 300 carries in a year. That is part of our philosophy -- you see it with our defensive line and running backs. I want to be great at the end of the year with our defensive line and our tailbacks. By playing more guys at the end of the year it allows us to have some more fresh bodies at the end of the year.”
On First Half: “I don’t get too frustrated (when we are down). I really don’t. We knew that first off, they have the opening kickoff which adds to the lower numbers. You know you are going to get that extra possession having the opening kickoff (of the second half), especially when we were not able to do anything with that last possession before half. That is not frustrating because they are good at that. I saw Youngstown State run 41 plays against them and other teams. South Dakota State is very good at snapping the ball with one or two seconds on the clock on offense and playing good defense that forces teams to a low number of plays in a game. You have to weather that a little bit and know that you need to be more precise in the second half. You cannot waste possessions with a team like that because before you know it the game will be over. I guess frustrating is a word we use very seldom. We talk more about making adjustments. In some ways it is a positive. We had 14 points, we only ran 26 plays, we are going to get the ball to start the second half and we are going to start making adjustments and doing some good things in this third quarter with more opportunities.”
On Fourth-and-Six Call: “That was never anything but four-down territory for me at that point. I just thought that the odds are there. If we don’t get the down the defense goes out there. It was not awful field position. It was a great play by Vernon and Cooper to execute that, but that is pretty common for us to do. What was uncommon was that it was a very well executed play. It was well defended, they had a pass rush and Vernon really had to step up and find Coop late because he was getting hit.”
On Cooper: “It has been a special season. He is one of those young men that came here with talent. There is no doubt about that. In most years he would have played as a true freshman, but because we had Herd, Edwards and Kaufman we decided he would be able to redshirt. He took that redshirt year and took his talents to a new level. He has been doing that all his life. He spends time in the film room like a quarterback. You have to kick him out of the weight room and make sure he stays balanced as a human because that is how he is. Cooper Kupp is one of those guys that if he is not watching film he is catching tennis balls with the tennis ball machine in the offseason when you are not allowed to use footballs. He always is doing things to be better. Everyone comes here with talent just like they come to every university with talent to play football, but he maximizes it. He maximizes it to a level that is different from any freshman I have seen.”
On Wind and Cold: “It affected us in the kicking game. We had to make a couple adjustments, and we probably should have sky kicked it a couple of them. That is tough on a return unit. I have been in that position with that one hit on them where we sky kicked it. I have been in that same spot, and it is a tough ball to field. That is probably where I noticed the weather. I didn’t really notice it in the passing game on either side. I didn’t think their quarterback had issues with it either.”
* A crowd of 6,127 hardy souls attended the EWU-SDSU game, which shattered 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.
* The Eagles have a 155-50 advantage in the third quarter this season, including a dominating 106-6 margin in the last seven games. In those seven games, EWU has allowed only third-quarter field goals to Idaho State on Nov. 2 and South Dakota State on Dec. 7. Eastern hasn’t allowed a third-quarter touchdown since Oct. 12 versus North Dakota.
* In November and beyond, Eastern is now 18-1 since 2010 and 27-4 since 2007. Since 2010, EWU is 34-3 after Oct. 1, including an 11-0 mark two years ago, 6-1 in 2011, 8-2 in 2012 and 9-0 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.
* Eastern has outscored opponents 267-182 in the first half (133-73 in the first quarter) and is 10-0 when it leads or is tied at halftime. Eastern is 1-2 when it trails at halftime and the Eagles have a 259-183 scoring edge in the second half.
* During its current nine-game winning streak, Eastern has outscored its opponents by a 338-206 margin – a 42-24 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 23-3 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.
* Vernon Adams now has 51 touchdown pass this season and is tied for third all-time in FCS with Jimmy Garoppolo of Eastern Illinois, the co-leader with Adams this season in FCS. 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.
NCAA Touchdown Pass Leaders
56 - Willie Totten (Mississippi Valley 1984)
56 - Bruce Eugene (Grambling 2005)
51 – Vernon Adams (Eastern Washington, 2013) – five today
51 – Jimmy Garoppolo (Eastern Illinois, 2013) – three today