Similarities abound from last two semifinal teams, and Eastern again feels ready to make another run to the national championship it won in 2010
There will be a little bit of déjà vu when the Eastern Washington University football team begins preparations for the 2014 season on April 4.
For the second-straight year, Eastern will hit the practice field trying to erase the taste of a home loss in the semifinals of the NCAA Football Championship Playoffs. The Eagles will spread 14 practices over the course of 28 days, and hit the field eager to make yet another run at the NCAA Division I title EWU won in 2010.
For the most part, Eastern will practice Tuesdays and Thursdays, and have scrimmages on Saturdays. The annual Red-White Game takes place on Saturday, April 26 at 2 p.m. at Roos Field, but the Eagles will follow that with two more practices the following week.
Head coach Beau Baldwin, who enters his seventh season at the helm, expects to have upwards of 90 players participating this spring, including 45 returning letterwinners. A year ago, the Eagles had 48 letterwinners back, and they provided the cornerstone of a 13-2 season and the school’s first-ever 8-0 Big Sky Conference finish in school history.
“There are a lot of things we want to keep improving on in the spring, and it starts with fundamentals and getting back to a lot of basics," said Baldwin. “Yes, we want to get a lot of things in, but we really want to improve and see some competitive battles occur. We have one-third of our practices in the spring out of the 44 we have before we play our first game.”
Among the returning letterwinners are six starters on offense and five on defense, as well as the school’s punter and long snapper. Three All-Americans (quarterback Vernon Adams Jr., wide receiver Cooper Kupp and linebacker Ronnie Hamlin), lead the list of returning players. A total of 12 players who earned All-Big Sky Conference honors a year ago return, as well as Freshman All-American Samson Ebukam on the defensive line.
The Eagles lost three of their starters in the secondary, totaling 101 career starts, 644 tackles, 13 interceptions and 54 passes broken up between them. Graduation losses also cost the Eagles three of four starting defensive linemen and three starting offensive linemen. But just like last year, EWU has plenty of returning letterwinners at each position, plus a strong group of redshirt freshmen waiting in the wings.
A year ago, EWU lost all three of their starting wide receivers. Yet, EWU ended up having four players earn All-Big Sky honors in 2013, including Kupp, who won the Jerry Rice Award presented by The Sports Network to the top freshman in FCS. Three of four starting defensive linemen were lost, but EWU still managed to have six players along the defensive line earn postseason accolades.
In addition, a pair of starting linebackers were also lost from the 2012 squad, but now the Eagles enter 2014 with that position as a strength with the announcement that Hamlin was successful in his appeal for a sixth year from the NCAA. That gives EWU returning starters at each linebacker position, but also with a deep and talented group of backups.
“It’s already started,” Baldwin said of the position battles that exist at all positions. “But it really cranks up once you get pads on and start playing ball in the spring.”
Eastern has advanced to the semifinals three of the last four years under Baldwin, the reigning two-time Big Sky Coach of the Year. He enters the 2014 season with a 56-22 record in six seasons to currently rank eighth in the 50-year history of the Big Sky Conference. He helped lead EWU to its third Big Sky title in four seasons with the school’s first-ever unbeaten conference mark.
Spring Practice Schedule
Eastern recently completed its winter conditioning program, and spring break takes place the week of March 24. Spring quarter classes start on March 31, and spring ball begins four days later.
Practices take place various days through May 1. Most practices are scheduled to start at 4 p.m. (media interviews at approximately 3:35 p.m. or after practice at about 6 p.m.). All practices take place at Roos Field or on the back practice fields at the Sports and Recreation Center. Scrimmages also take place on the red Sprinturf surface at the “Inferno” in Cheney, Wash. (except for April 12).
April 4 - Practice (no pads), 4 p.m.
April 5 - Practice (no pads), 10 a.m.
April 8 - Practice, 4 p.m.
April 10 - Practice, 4 p.m.
April 12 – Practice/Half-Scrimmage, 8:15 a.m. practice/9:30 scrimmage
April 15 – Practice, 4 p.m.
April 17 - Practice, 4 p.m.
April 18 - Practice, 4 p.m.
April 19 - Scrimmage, approx. 10:30 a.m., Roos Field
April 22 - Practice, 4 p.m.
April 24 - Practice, 4 p.m.
April 26 – Red-White Spring Game, 2 p.m., Roos Field
April 29 - Practice, 4 p.m.
May 1 – Practice, 4 p.m.
Eastern is scheduled to scrimmage on Saturday, April 12 (a half scrimmage at Roos Field, starting at approximately 9:30 a.m.) and Saturday, April 19 (approximately 10:30 a.m.) at Roos Field. The annual Red-White Game will take place on Saturday, April 26 at 2 p.m. at Roos Field in conjunction with Eagle Week at EWU and the Orland Killin Lobster Dinner, Dance and Auction. The Red-White Game will be televised live in the Spokane area by SWX -- SWX digital 6.2 in Spokane/Cheney/Sandpoint/Lewiston, 23.3 in Yakima and 25.3 in the Tri-Cities; also via Comcast 306 (Spokane); Davis Cable 514/81.2/12 (Cheney); Time Warner 306 (Coeur d’Alene & Pullman/Moscow); Charter 287 (Tri-Cities/Yakima), Cable One 466 (Lewiston) and Northland Cable 115 (Moses Lake & Sandpoint).
33rd Annual Killin Dinner, Dance & Auction is April 26 at EWU as Part of “Eagle Week”
Tickets are now on sale for the 33rd Annual Killin Dinner, Dance and Auction, which is the featured event of “Eagle Week” at Eastern Washington University. The event follows the annual Red-White Spring Football Game on April 26 at 2 p.m. at Roos Field in Cheney, Wash.
Tickets are $100 per individual and $700 for a table of eight. Online ordering is now available via the events link at http://alumni.ewu.edu/Killin2004. All tickets will be mailed out by April 15. Any tickets purchased after April 15 will be held at will call at the main entrance.
Killin takes place at the EWU Sports and Recreation Center. The event starts with a social hour and auction at 4:30 p.m., followed by the dinner (6:15 p.m.), program/presentations/live auction (7:15 p.m.) and dancing (8 p.m.).
Besides online at www.goeags.com, tickets may also be obtained by calling 509-359-2463 or 1-800-648-7697.
Net proceeds benefit areas of greatest need within Eastern Athletics. The event is named in honor of Orland Killin, who, along with his wife Bernice, helped create the event. Killin was a man immensely dedicated to academics and the integrity of Eastern Washington University, serving as professor, faculty athletic representative and faculty president. He was an Eastern football letter winner in 1941-42.
Other events taking place as part of “Eagle Week” will be announced in the coming weeks. There is no admission charged for the Red-White Game, which will also be televised throughout Eastern Washington by SWX. Volleyball and soccer scrimmages are also expected to take place on April 26.
Taking place the day before on Friday, April 25, is the 27th Annual Coaches Golf Tournament. The golf tournament takes place at the Fairways Golf Course near Cheney, Wash., at noon. Registration and information for that event is available via the “Eagle Week” page at: http://goeags.com/trads/ewas-eagleweek.html
Recent Eagle Football Headlines
ESPN to Air Aug. 23 Eastern-Sam Houston State Game from “The Inferno”
An exclusive, national television audience on ESPN will be seeing lots of the red turf at Roos Field on Aug. 23.
One of the top non-conference rivalries in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision will usher in the 2014 college football season in the inaugural ESPN FCS Showcase when Eastern hosts Sam Houston State on Saturday, Aug. 23 at “The Inferno” in Cheney, Wash. Kickoff is slated for 12:30 p.m. Pacific time in what is expected to be the first college football game played this season.
The Big Sky Conference and EWU reached an agreement with ESPN after the NCAA granted Eastern a waiver of the permitted Aug. 28 start date for games. Although Eastern is winless in three games all-time versus Sam Houston State, the game matches two of the top teams in FCS. The Eagles won the 2010 NCAA Division I title and advanced to the semifinals in 2012 and 2013. The Bearkats, a member of the Southland Conference, were FCS runners-up in 2011 and 2012.
In the last four seasons alone, the two programs have combined for 84 victories overall (42 by EWU, 40 by SHSU), five league titles (3 by EWU, 2 by SHSU) and 48 league wins (27 by EWU, 21 by SHSU). Those have yielded three berths in the FCS Playoffs for both teams, with a total of 15 postseason victories (8 by EWU, 7 by SHSU).
“It’s an amazing opportunity to play one of the top programs at our level to kick off the 2014 football season,” said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin. “We’re very appreciative of ESPN and the commitment they have made to FCS Football, both in the past and in the future. We truly believe it will be a great game for football fans not just at our level, but also for others who aren’t as familiar with FCS football.”
The Eagles finished third in the final Sports Network FCS Top 25 poll of the season after losing to Towson 35-31 in the semifinals of the playoffs. Eastern was 12-3 on the season and 8-0 in the league.
The Bearkats finished 14th with a final record of 9-5, having defeated Southern Utah from the Big Sky 51-20 in the first round of the playoffs, then falling 30-29 to Southeastern Louisiana. Sam Houston State’s new head coach is K.C. Keeler, who was the head coach at Delaware when Eastern beat the Blue Hens 20-19 for the 2010 NCAA Division I Championship.
Two of the three all-time meetings against Sam Houston State have come in the FCS Playoffs, starting in 2004 when the Bearkats rallied to beat EWU 35-34 in the first-ever playoff game at Roos Field (then known as Woodward Field). Interestingly, that was the final game in an Eastern uniform for current Tennessee Titan Michael Roos, who donated $500,000 toward the red turf project in 2010 and, subsequently, the stadium was re-named in his honor.
The second match-up came in the semifinals of the 2012 playoffs in which EWU rallied from a 35-0 deficit at halftime to nearly pull-off a miraculous comeback in the 45-42 loss. Eastern quarterback Vernon Adams had a school-record six touchdown passes in the second half alone in that game, and the Walter Payton Award runner-up will return for his junior season in 2014.
The third meeting came during the 2013 regular season, and EWU was defeated 49-34 in Huntsville, Texas, in a game delayed 1 1/2 hours because of a severe thunderstorm that rolled through the area. The game was a match-up of the second-ranked Eagles and the fourth-ranked Bearkats. Adams had 390 yards of total offense for the Eagles, but that was offset by the 450 rushing yards by SHSU.
The 2014 meeting is a return game for the home-and-home series the two schools agreed upon in June 2012.
Non-Conference Match-Up With Montana State Included in 2014 Football Schedule
From the cold of last December to the heat of this August, Eastern football fans won’t have to wait long to watch the Eagles in action again.
In conjunction with the announcement of their opener versus Sam Houston State being broadcast on ESPN, Eastern has published its finalized schedule for the 2014 season. The schedule includes 12 games, including six at home and six on the road. Game times and television coverage will be announced at a later date.
The schedule includes two August home dates – Aug. 23 versus Sam Houston State and Aug. 30 versus Montana Western. The Bearkats ranked 14th in the final Sports Network NCAA Football Championship Subdivision poll, and closed the year 9-5 overall and 4-3 in the Southland Conference. Sam Houston State’s new head coach is K.C. Keeler, who was the head coach at Delaware when Eastern beat the Blue Hens 20-19 for the 2010 NCAA Division I Championship.
The Bulldogs are a member of the NAIA and the Frontier Conference, and finished 4-6 last season. Montana Western is located in Dillon, Mont.
Following that homestand, the Eagles play at Washington in Seattle on Sept. 6 in a rematch of a 2011 game in which EWU’s upset bid came up just short in a 30-27 loss. The new coach for the Huskies is Chris Petersen, and among his assistants are former Eagle coaches Jimmy Lake (also a former Eagle player), Rich Rasmussen and Pete Kwiatkowski. Washington finished 9-4 overall and 5-4 in the Pac-12 Conference a year ago, and defeated BYU 31-16 in the Fight Hunger Bowl.
Following that game, the Eagles close their non-conference schedule on Saturday, Sept. 20 against Montana State in Bozeman, Mont. As part of the league’s expansion in 2012, only Montana and Portland State will be on EWU’s annual schedule, and the other six league games are played on a rotating basis with the other 10 Big Sky teams. Thus, the Eagles will play non-league games the next two years versus MSU, which finished the 2013 season 7-5 overall and 5-3 in the Big Sky. The Bobcats are scheduled to play in Cheney on Sept. 19, 2015, in the return game.
Eastern’s 2014 Big Sky schedule begins on Sept. 27 at UC Davis, and the team’s home league opener is Oct. 4 versus Idaho State and former Eastern head coach Mike Kramer. Eastern’s other home league games are against Northern Colorado (Oct. 18), North Dakota (Nov. 1) and Montana (Nov. 8). Other road games are at Southern Utah (Oct. 11), Northern Arizona (Oct. 25) and Portland State (Nov. 22).
Buchanan Award Candidate Ronnie Hamlin Given Sixth Year by NCAA
Ronnie Hamlin has made up for lost time, and now the Buck Buchanan Award candidate will get one more season to make it count.
Nearing the school record with a current career total of 361 tackles in 40 games (37 as a starter), the Eastern Washington University linebacker will return for the 2014 season after recently being given a sixth year by the NCAA to replace two other seasons wiped out because of injuries. He is a 2009 graduate of Timberline High School in Lacey, Wash., and earned second team All-America and All-Big Sky honors in 2013 for the Eagles.
“He’s a special player,” said head coach Beau Baldwin. “It’s great to have him back from a talent standpoint and a leadership standpoint as a team captain. He brings so much to our program on and off the field – 365 days a year – and he does things right. It’s neat to see a decision like this made for such a quality player and person like Ronnie.”
Hamlin is third in school history with 361 tackles, and the only players ahead of him are Greg Belzer (399 from 1997-00) and J.C. Sherritt (432 from 2007-10). Hamlin is just 71 tackles from Sherritt, who is third in Big Sky history and ranks 15th in FCS history.
Hamlin originally hurt his left knee on Sept. 2, 2009 – just three days before EWU began its season. He had surgery to repair the anterior cruciate ligament on Oct. 21, but then tore the ACL again during spring practice on April 24, 2010. He had surgery on June 17, then didn’t hit the practice field again until spring of 2011.
He finished with 85 tackles his first season, 136 in 2012 and 140 last season to rank as the fourth-most in school history. Most importantly, he has helped lead the Eagles to a 29-11 record overall and 20-4 Big Sky Conference mark with a pair of league titles and two appearances in the semifinals of the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs. This past season, he finished 12th in the voting for the Buck Buchanan Award presented by The Sports Network to the top defensive player in FCS.
“It was tough on Ronnie,” recalled Baldwin of the 2009 and 2010 seasons. “We were thinking he could play right away, and then all of the sudden he was injured. We knew he would fight through it, but a year later he was injured again.
“It was a challenge – not so much for us but more so for him,” he continued. “That injury is tough to go through once, but to go through it a second time can create some doubts in the heads of a lot of players. It was back-to-back years with the same injury, and a long rehabilitation process.
“But that was a credit to his mental toughness and his desire to play football, be a student and graduate from Eastern,” added Baldwin. “He just kept grinding through it the second time and never felt sorry for himself. He went out and attacked it.”
* The Eagles were 12-3 overall in 2013 after finishing 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, then ended the postseason ranked third as well.
* 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.
* 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 made 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 56-22 in six 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 .718 percentage overall is now eighth 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.
* The Eagles are now 24-4 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 fourth-ranked Montana State 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 setbacks in the semifinals of the FCS Playoffs by a 45-42 score against Sam Houston State in on Dec, 15, 2012, and 35-31 versus Towson on Dec. 21, 2013. 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 7-1 in 2013.
* 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).
* As a team in 2013, EWU led FCS in passing efficiency (182.55), and was fourth in total offense (533.5 per game), fourth in passing (349.8), 41st in rushing (183.7) and seventh in scoring (39.5). Defensively, EWU was 104th in total defense (457.7), 74th in rushing (180.7), 115th in passing (277.1) and 73rd in scoring (28.3). In addition, the Eagles finished 10th in third-down conversions (48.1 percent), second in passing yards per completion (15.5) and 14th in pass completion percentage (65.6 percent).
* Eastern averaged 5.3 yards per rushing attempt after averaging just 3.7 in 2012 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. In the 2013 season, Quincy Forte averaged 6.7 yards per rush and Mario Brown averaged 6.3. Forte averaged just 4.7 as a sophomore and 5.0 as a freshman.
* The Eagles have passed for nearly 10,000 yards and 100 touchdowns in the past two seasons – 9,716 yards and 95 TDs to be exact. The totals include 5,247 yards in the 2013 season to rank fourth in FCS (349.8 per game) and break EWU and Big Sky records. Eastern’s 58 TD passes also set school and league records. In 2012, the Eagles finished seventh in FCS in passing offense (318.9 per game), as Vernon Adams combined with Kyle Padron to lead EWU to the school record for passing yards. The Eagles finished with 4,469 yards, breaking the previous record of 4,102 yards in 2005. With a combined 37 touchdown passes for the season, each had a school-record six touchdown passes in back-to-back games in the FCS Playoffs. Padron has six versus Illinois State (12/8/12) in the quarterfinals and Adams followed with six 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. Adams matched the six touchdown passes in his sophomore season against Montana (10/26/13).
Returning Player Notes
* Now a junior, Vernon Adams finished the 2013 season ranked No. 1 in passing efficiency in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (183.13), which set school and Big Sky records while ranking fourth all-time in FCS. He had a 65.6 percent completion rate (319-of-486 to rank 15th in FCS), 4,994 yards (second), 55 touchdowns (first) and 15 interceptions for the season. Adams was third in FCS in points responsible for with an average of 23.9 per game (total of 356 to lead FCS, with 55 TD passes, four rushing touchdowns and one two-point conversion). He was also second in FCS in total offense per game (373.3), fourth in passing yards per game (332.9 per game) and third in passing yards per completion (15.66). He had 55 touchdown passes in the 2013 season to lead FCS and come just one from the record of 56 shared by two players.
* Now 20-4 as a starter at EWU, Vernon Adams has had 30 pass completions already in his career of at least 40 yards, including 20 for touchdowns. All but four of those came in the 2013 season. For the second-straight year, “Big Play V.A.” was a finalist for Geico Play of the Year for his game-winning touchdown run versus Oregon State (8/31/13).
* With at least one TD reception in the first 14 games of his career to set a FCS record, Cooper Kupp had 21 TD catches in 2013 to lead FCS in 2013 as a redshirt freshman. He finished with 93 catches – a TD for every 4.4 catches so far – and averaged 18.2 yards per catch (93-1691). He had 11 receptions of 40 yards are more, including six for scores. He was fifth in FCS and tops among freshmen in receiving yards per game (112.7), first in total receiving yards and 25th in receptions per game (6.2).
* Big Sky Conference Freshman of the Year and Jerry Rice Award winner Cooper Kupp had eight or more catches seven times, and at least 100 yards on eight occasions. His 205 yards against Idaho State rank as the sixth-most all-time at EWU. He earned Freshman of the Week honors from The Sports Network twice in the 2013 season, and eventually was the runaway winner of the Jerry Rice Award given to the top freshman in FCS.
* Running back Quincy Forte wears the same jersey number – 22 -- as former Eagle Taiwan Jones (now with the Oakland Raiders), and he put up some Jones-like numbers in the 2013 FCS Playoffs. With 202 yards and a touchdown in EWU’s 41-17 win over South Dakota State (12/7/13), Forte had the 25th performance in school history with 200 rushing yards or more, and shattered his previous career high of 123 set earlier in the 2013 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 (12/14/13) and 77 against Towson (12/21/13), giving Forte 1,208 yards on the season to rank eighth 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. Forte’s previous best back-to-back games came in early November when he had 123 and two touchdowns against Montana State (11/9/13), and one game earlier he had 119 rushing yards on just six carries (19.8 per rush) versus Idaho State (11/2/13). 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.
* Eastern sophomore wide receiver/kickoff returner Shaq Hill has 11 plays of at least 40 yards in his young career, including kickoff returns of 99, 93, 80, 53 and 41 yards. He has also been involved in long pass plays of 86, 76, 68, 58, 54 and 44 yards, including five from sophomore quarterback Vernon “Big Play V.A.” Adams. Included were TD receptions of 68 and 76 yards against Montana State (11/9/13), and an 86-yard TD catch versus Montana (10/26/13). All three rank in the top 50 in school history. He had a non-scoring kickoff return of 80 yards against Idaho State (11/2/13) 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. He currently has the ninth-best career kickoff return average in school history (24.2) and is fifth in kickoff return yards (1,546).
* In other individual national rankings by returning players, Shaq Hill was 69th in all-purpose yards per game (106.2, with totals of 790 receiving, 634 on kickoff returns and 2 rushing). Jake Miller was 18th in FCS in average per punt (42.8).
* Boise, Idaho, native Cody McCarthy had 24 tackles in the last two games of the season to give him seven performances of at least 10 stops in his 34-game career (20 as a starter). He had 11 in the quarterfinals of the FCS Playoffs against Jacksonville State (12/14/13), then had a career-high 13 against Towson (12/21/13). He led EWU with 11 tackles for losses totaling 41 yards in the 2013 season. He has career totals of 203 tackles (35th in school history), 3 1/2 sacks and three passes broken up.
* Junior defensive end Evan Day had a sack in five-straight games from Oct. 12 to Nov. 9. He had one more against Portland State (11/23/13), giving him a team-leading six on the season and 14 in his 38-game career (17 as a starter).
* Vernon Adams currently has a career passing efficiency rating of 176.3 (64.2 percent, 6,955 yards, 75 TD, 23 INT), which currently ranks as the school and Big Sky record ahead of Erik Meyer (166.5 from 2002-05). A starter in 24 of the 27 games he has played in his career, Adams has a career average of 257.6 passing yards per game to currently third all-time at EWU. His 75 TD passes are already third, his 6,955 passing yards are fifth and his 7,902 yards of total offense are third. He is now 20-4 as a starter, with his lone losses coming against Southern Utah in 2012 and Toledo, Sam Houston State and Towson in 2013.
* 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 26 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). In the 2013 season, he finished with a 42.8 average (fifth in school history) and had 16 of his 52 punts downed inside the 20-yard line. Named to the Big Sky Conference All-Academic team in 2013 and 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). He finished with a 42.8 average in 2013 to rank fifth and give him three of the top five single season marks in school history. Of his 131 career punts, 41 have been downed inside the opponent 20-yard line and 29 have been of at least 50 yards.
* Safety Tevin McDonald had his 2013 campaign ended in EWU’s ninth game of the season with a leg injury, but it was enough to earn him third team All-Big Sky honors. He finished with 43 tackles, an interception, two passes broken up and a forced fumble. Previously, 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 previously coached former Eagle Isaiah Trufant (2002-05), who is now with the Cleveland Browns. 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.
* Another talented transfer who joined the Eagles in 2013 was offensive lineman Jake Rodgers, a 12-game starter at Washington State in 2012. He played in 10 games for the Eagles, including the first two and the last two as a starter. A knee injury kept him out of five full games before he returned to action in six games as a sub. In 2012 at Washington State, Rodgers 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.
* Former Eagle Quarterback Matt Nichols, who wore jersey No. 16 and whose top single season passing yardage (3,830) and total offense marks (4,136) were obliterated by Vernon Adams (4,994 passing, 5,599 total offense) joked before the season about a jersey number change for Eastern’s current QB: “Vernon Adams should not have moved from No. 16 to No. 3 – that’s the only bad move he’s made so far.”
* 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. Hamlin has continued to let his hair grow.
* The top accolades and honors of quarterback Vernon Adams have been encapsulated in a new web site located at www.BigPlayVA.com. He had a school-record of 518 yards of total offense in a 49-46 upset over 25th-ranked Oregon State, including a game-winning touchdown run for only the fourth-ever win by a NCAA Football Championship Subdivision school over a ranked member of the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision. His complete bio, statistics and information on EWU tickets and the Gateway Project are also prominent.
* Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin concluded his sixth season at the helm in 2013, and for the second-straight season was selected as one of 20 coaches on the voting list for the Eddie Robinson Award, given to the national coach of the year in FCS. He finished fifth in the voting in 2012 and sixth in 2013, and was also the Big Sky Conference Coach of the Year both seasons. 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 four in six 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. Baldwin coached in his 100th Eastern game when the Eagles rallied to beat Montana 32-26 in the 2012 season.
* Eastern sophomore quarterback Vernon Adams finished second in the voting for the 27th Annual Payton Award given to the top player in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision. The winner was Eastern Illinois quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and finishing third was Towson running back Terrance West. The Payton Award was won previously by Eastern players Erik Meyer (2005) and Bo Levi Mitchell (2011). That award is bestowed on the outstanding player in the FCS and considered the Heisman Trophy of the former Division I-AA level.
* Bursting onto the scene with the best season by a freshman wide receiver in NCAA Football Championship Subdivision history, Cooper Kupp was selected by The Sports Network as the recipient of the Jerry Rice Award given to the top freshman in FCS football. The award is named for legendary NFL wide receiver Jerry Rice, who played in the FCS (then Division I-AA) at Mississippi Valley State. Kupp, a 2012 graduate of Davis High School in Yakima, Wash., earned unanimous first team All-America honors for a season that included 93 catches for 1,691 yards and 21 touchdowns. All three are FCS records for a freshman, and his streak of 14 games with a touchdown catch was an overall FCS record.
* Sophomore quarterback Vernon Adams and redshirt freshman wide receiver Cooper Kupp received top honors from College Football Performance Awards (http://collegefootballperformance.com) after sensational, record-breaking seasons for the Eagles. Adams, a sophomore from Pasadena, Calif. (Alemany HS ’11), won the top award overall given by CFPA as the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision National Performer of the Year. Florida State freshman Jameis Winston won the same honor for NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision schools. Kupp, a redshirt freshman from Yakima, Wash. (Davis HS ’12) was presented the CFPA Wide Receiver Award for FCS, which was won the previous year by Eastern’s Brandon Kaufman.
* On a team loaded with depth along the defensive line, true freshman Samson Ebukam was chosen as a second team selection on the College Sports Journal All-Freshman Team. In addition to Ebukam, redshirt freshman wide receiver Cooper Kupp was the College Sports Journal Freshman of the Year. Ebukam, a 2013 graduate of David Douglas High School in Portland, Ore., played in all 15 Eastern games and finished with 28 tackles and three quarterback sacks. He was credited with two passes broken up and two quarterback hurries. The 6-foot-3, 230-pound defensive end also had an interception he returned 21 yards for a touchdown in EWU’s 34-10 home win over Southern Utah (10/19/13). He recorded sacks versus Sam Houston State (9/28/13), North Dakota (10/12/13) and Idaho State (11/2/13). He was one of three true freshmen among the 11 players who saw significant action along the defensive line for the Eagles.
* 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 was 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. Adams 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.
* 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. Eastern’s list of All-Big Sky players includes 14 seniors, meaning 11 should be back in an Eagle uniform in the 2014 season. 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 in the 2013 season included 13 seniors, meaning 12 should be back in an Eagle uniform in the 2014 season. A total of 25 Eagle players were honored on first team (5 selections), second team (5), third team (4) and honorable mention (11) squads. Named to the first team for the Eagles were unanimous selections Vernon Adams (quarterback) and Cooper Kupp (wide receiver), as well three-time first team pick T.J. Lee III (cornerback), 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).
Other 2013 Season Recap Notes
* Ranked for the 29th-consecutive time, Eastern finished third in The Sports Network Top 25 FCS Poll released for the final time on Jan. 6 at the conclusion of the 2013 postseason. Eastern finished only behind top-ranked and three-time defending FCS champion North Dakota State and FCS runner-up Towson. Eastern was also third in the final FCS Coaches Poll of the year. The 2013 season was the 11th time Eastern has finished the season nationally ranked, including seven times since 2004. The other seasons were in 1985, 1992, 1993, 1997, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2012.
* Eastern finished 5-2 versus teams ranked in the final top 25 poll by The Sports Network. Eastern had regular season Big Sky victories over No. 8 Montana, No. 20 Montana State and No. 21 Southern Utah, and fell in a non-conference game at No. 14 Sam Houston State. In the FCS Playoffs, Eastern defeated No. 13 South Dakota State (41-17) and No. 10 Jacksonville State (35-24), but fell to No. 2 Towson in the semifinals (35-31). The semifinal win helped the Tigers catapult from fifth to second in the final poll, while Jacksonville State jumped 10 spots to 10th in the final poll with its quarterfinal appearance. Eastern did not play Northern Arizona, which finished 15th in the final TSN poll.
* The Eagles finished with a 179-53 advantage in the third quarter in the 2013 season, including a dominating 130-9 margin in the last eight games. In those eight games, EWU 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 didn’t allow a third-quarter touchdown since Oct. 12 versus North Dakota. During EWU’s 10-game winning streak that ended in the loss to Towson, the Eagles had a 158-17 advantage in the third. Eastern outscored its opponent in the third quarter in 12 of 15 games, including the last 11.
* EWU was the second team in league history to have a 4,000-yard passer (Vernon Adams Jr. with 4,994), a 1,000 yard rusher (Quincy Forte with 1,208) and two 1,000-yard receivers (Cooper Kupp with 1,691 and Ashton Clark with 1,233). 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 had nine performances in the 2013 season of 500 or more yards, with five ranking in the top 22 in school history. 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 10-game winning streak, Eastern outscored its opponents by a 414-247 margin – a 41-24 average score. Before falling to Towson in the semifinals of the FCS Playoffs, the only other losses for EWU were 49-34 at Sam Houston State on Sept. 28 and 33-21 to NCAA Football Championship Subdivision foe Toledo on Sept. 14.
* Eastern was 5-0 in 2013 when it won the turnover battle, and 7-1 when it won the battle or was 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 in the 2013 season and 16 lost. The Eagles lost the turnover battle versus Jacksonville State 3-2 and to Towson 2-1.
* 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 in the 2013 season. Having completed its 105th year of football, Eastern is 505-402-23 (.555) in 930 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 celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2013, the Eagles concluded their 27th year as a member and have a current record of 121-85 (.587).
* The Eagles won two nailbiters in 2013, and have now won 13 games since 2010 when trailing or tied in the fourth quarter. In 2013, 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.
* Vernon 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 in the 2013 season by Montana’s Jordan Johnson (322.3). For his efforts, Adams earned national offensive player of the week accolades for the third time in the 2013 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.
Career Starts by Returning Players
Defense (122 starts by 14 players): Ronnie Hamlin 37, Cody McCarthy 20, Evan Day 17, Miquiyah Zamora 10, Tevin McDonald 8, Jordan Tonani 7, Todd Raynes 6, Miles Weatheroy 2, Dylan Zylstra 2, Zach Bruce 1, Zackary Johnson 1, Christian Hudnell 1, Frank Cange 1, Jordan Talley 9 (all on offense).
Offense (141 starts by 15 players): Clay DeBord 27, Vernon Adams 24, Quincy Forte 17, Cooper Kupp 15, Cory Mitchell 13, Cassidy Curtis 10, Ryan Seto 7, Jake Withnell 7, Mario Brown 6, Shaq Hill 4, Jake Rodgers 4, T.J. Boatright 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 in 2012, started at right tackle in his Eagle starting debut. The other Eagle starting debut was by safety Tevin McDonald, who started 24 games the previous 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. Frank Cange started at cornerback against Montana State when Ron Baines was late for a meeting earlier in the day.