"College Football Starts Here" when Eagles and Bearkats tangle in the inaugural FCS Showcase at Roos Field
2014 Eagle Football
#1 Eastern Washington University "Eagles"
#17 Sam Houston State University "Bearkats"
Saturday, Aug. 23, 2014 • 12:35 p.m. Pacific
Roos Field (8,600) • Cheney, Wash.
EWU Coach: Beau Baldwin (Central Washington '96)
School Record: 56-22/38-10 Big Sky Conference (7th Season)
Career Record: 66-25 (8th 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 and 12-3 in 2013)
2013: 12-3/8-0 Big Sky (OUTRIGHT CHAMPIONS; FCS Playoffs semifinals)
Last Game: #5 Towson 35, #3 EWU 31 (Dec. 21 in Cheney, Wash.)
TV: Televised live via ESPN, with Mark Jones calling the play-by-play, Rod Gilmore serving as analyst and Jessica Mendoza providing sideline reports.
Radio: 700-AM ESPN in Spokane. Larry Weir returns for his 24th 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: ewulive.statb.us (web) or ewustats.com (mobile phones)
Weekly Coaches Show: Mondays (starting Aug. 25) at 6 p.m. at the "Impulse Club" at Northern Quest Resort & Casino . . . 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.
If the anticipation is an indication, football fans in some 100 million homes and a sold-out crowd are in for an incredible opener.
ESPN will broadcast the first college football game of the season this Saturday (Aug. 23) when Eastern Washington University hosts Sam Houston State in the inaugural FCS Showcase at Roos Field in Cheney, Wash. Kickoff on the red Sprinturf surface at "The Inferno" is 12:35 p.m. Pacific time.
The game will also be broadcast live on internet-based ESPN3. A special live pre-game show will be broadcast on SWX TV in Eastern Washington, as well as online via ESPN3, starting at 11 a.m. Pacific time. In addition, SWX will air at noon a pre-produced 1/2 hour show similar to the HBO "Hard Knocks" series.
Fans may also listen to the game live regionally on 700-AM ESPN and via the web at www.700espn.com, with pre-game coverage starting at 11 a.m.
A special EWU Kickoff Celebration, featuring ESPN personality and former Eastern student Colin Cowherd, will take place on Friday (Aug. 22) at River Park Square in downtown Spokane starting at 5 p.m. Details are available at: http://goeags.com/genrel/releases/15genrelAug6RPSKickoffCelebration
"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."
Ranked as the No. 1 team in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision entering the season, the Eagles finished third in the final Sports Network FCS Top 25 poll of the 2013 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 Big Sky Conference.
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.
After this week's game, Eastern remains at home to face Montana Western on Aug. 30 on Youth Football Day at Roos Field. Kickoff is 6:05 p.m. Pacific time versus the Bulldogs, a member of the NAIA and the Frontier Conference.
Official Social Media Sites
Twitter:@ewuathletics, @CoachBBaldwin, #GoEags, #BigSkyFB, #FCS
Facebook:EWU Football, EWU Athletics
PDF Link to Fact Book
The complete version of the 2014 EWU football fact book may be found at:
More Eagle Football Links and Headlines
EWU Football Web Page - http://goeags.com/sports/m-footbl/index
EWU Football News & Notes - http://www.goeags.com/sports/m-footbl/2014-15/news
EWU Coach and Player Interview Podcasts - http://www.goeags.com/radio_podcasts/radio_podcasts.html
Link to Football Ticket & RV Parking Information: http://www.goeags.com/tickets
Big Sky Conference Football - http://www.bigskyconf.com/index.aspx?tab=football&path=football
Spokane Spokesman-Review EWU Football Page - http://www.spokesman.com/eagles
700 ESPN – http://700espn.com
The Sports Network (FCS Football) - http://www.sportsnetwork.com/merge/tsnform.aspx?c=sportsnetwork&page=cfoot2/indexpic.htm
NCAA FCS Football - http://www.ncaa.com/sports/football/fcs
NCAA Statistics (2013) - http://stats.ncaa.org/rankings?sport_code=MFB&division=12
College Sports Journal - http://www.college-sports-journal.com
College Football Performance Awards – http://www.collegefootballperformance.com
College Sports Madness - http://www.collegesportsmadness.com/fcs-football
Eagle Football Storylines
Information on these notes and more may be found in EWU's official game notes located at: http://goeags.com/sports/m-footbl/2014-15/files/14fbRelease.pdf
* Ranked No. 1 in The Sports Network preseason FCS top 25 poll, this is fourth time in five seasons Eastern has earned a No. 1 ranking by TSN. Eastern finished the 2010 season No. 1 and as NCAA Division I champion. Eastern also was ranked No. 1 during the 2011 and 2012 seasons. Three-time defending champion North Dakota State was ranked No. 2, while four Eagle opponents in 2014 are ranked in the top 25. Sam Houston State, Eastern's season-opening opponent on Aug. 23, is ranked 17th.
* In the last four seasons alone, the EWU and SHSU programs have combined for 82 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).
* The Eagles are 24-4 all-time at "The Inferno," with two of the losses coming the past two seasons in the semifinals of the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs. One of those was a 45-42 loss in 2012 when EWU rallied from a 35-0 halftime deficit to nearly pull off an improbable comeback.
* Eastern is looking for its first victory in four tries against Big Sky Conference nemesis Sam Houston State. Last year's 51-20 playoff victory over Southern Utah was SHSU's seventh-straight against BSC teams, including six playoff games since 2011.
* Cornerback by committee will be Eastern's plan of attack for the opener, with as many as five players receiving a comparable number of snaps. Redshirt freshman Jake Hoffman and junior Frank Cange are listed as the starters, with backups including Arizona State transfer Rashad Wadood, redshirt freshman Victor Gamboa and true freshman Nzuzi Webster.
* The Eagles expect only three players on offense (G Aaron Neary, G Thomas Gomez, WR Blair Bomber) and three on defense (E Samson Ebukam, NT Matthew Sommer, CB Jake Hoffman) to make the first starts of their careers. In addition, Roldan Alcobendas will make his debut as EWU's kicker. Of those seven players, only Hoffman and Alcobendas – both redshirt freshmen -- will be making their collegiate football debuts.
* In all, Eastern's starting offensive lineup is expected to include four seniors, five juniors and a pair of sophomores; the starting defense will include five seniors, two juniors, three sophomores and a redshirt freshman. A total of 15 offensive players return with starting experience totaling 141 starts, while 13 returning defensive players account for 121 starts.
* At this point, five true freshmen probably won't redshirt this season. They include wide receiver Terence Grady and tight end Conner Baumann on offense, and cornerback Nzuzi Webster, end Marcus Saugen and nose tackle Patiole Pesefea on defense.
* Junior Vernon Adams Jr. puts his 20-4 record as a starter on the line. That represents the most back-to-back wins by a starting quarterback in school history (Bo Levi Mitchell had 19). One of the losses for the Walter Payton Award runner-up was against Sam Houston State last year. In a 2012 relief appearance in the playoffs when EWU fell behind the Bearkats 35-0 at halftime, he entered after halftime and had six touchdown passes in the 45-42 loss.
* Sixth-year senior Ronnie Hamlin begins his pursuit of the school record for career tackles. With a current career total of 361 tackles in 40 games (37 as a starter), the Buck Buchanan Award candidate is 38 from Greg Belzer (399 from 1997-00) and 71 away from record holder J.C. Sherritt (432 from 2007-10).
* Sophomore Cooper Kupp had at least one TD reception in the first 14 games of his career to set a FCS record, but had the streak stopped in a 2013 loss in the semifinals of the FCS Playoffs. He had 21 TD catches in 2013 to lead FCS in 2013 as a redshirt freshman. The Jerry Rice Award winner has 93 career catches – a TD for every 4.4 catches so far – and averaged 18.2 yards per catch in 2013 (93-1691).
* Beau Baldwin, the reigning two-time Big Sky Coach of the Year, 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. His .792 winning percentage in league games (38-10) is the best-ever by an Eastern head coach and currently ranks fifth all-time in the league.
* Sam Houston State's new head coach is K.C. Keeler, who was the head coach at Delaware when Eastern and head coach Beau Baldwin beat the Blue Hens 20-19 for the 2010 NCAA Division I Championship. The Eagles scored all 20 of their points in the last 16:48 to rally from a 19-0 deficit.
* Senior running back Quincy Forte ended the 2013 season with 469 yards in three playoff games, pushing him over the 1,000-yard mark for the season. His 1,208 yards ranked eighth in school history and gave EWU a 1,000-yard rusher for the 12th time in the last 19 seasons (1995-2013).
* Texas native Cory Mitchell returns for his senior season for the Eagles. The 26-year-old brother of former Eagle Bo Levi Mitchell (the Most Outstanding Player in the 2010 National Championship game and now with Calgary in the CFL), Cory is a 2006 graduate of Katy (Texas) High School and resides in Cheney with his fiance, Atosha Granger, and their two sons – Jhett who will turn three when EWU plays at Washington on Sept. 6 and Dash who will turn two in December.
* 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.
Eastern has lost all three previous meetings versus Sam Houston State, and two of the meetings 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 Jr. 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.
* Following EWU's two-game season-opening homestand, Eastern won't return home again until taking on Idaho State on Oct. 4 on Hall of Fame Day at Eastern. Eastern will 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.
* After the UW 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).
2014 Preseason Honors
* Five seniors will serve as co-captains for the 2014 football season, as selected by a team vote during preseason practices. They include linebacker Ronnie Hamlin, who was also a captain last season. The others are safety Tevin McDonald, defensive lineman Dylan Zylstra, center Jase Butorac and wide receiver Cory Mitchell. Three of the captains are from the state of Washington – Hamlin is a 2009 graduate of Timberline High School in Lacey, Wash.; Zylstra graduated from Kentridge HS in Kent, Wash., in 2010 and Butorac is a 2010 graduate of Skyline High School in Sammamish, Wash. McDonald is from Fresno, Calif., and Mitchell is from Katy, Texas.
* Well-known already in The Sports Network awards circles, junior quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. and sophomore Cooper Kupp are on the initial Watch List for the Walter Payton Award presented annually by TSN to the top player in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision. Adams was the 2013 runner-up for the Payton Award while Kupp was a unanimous winner of the Jerry Rice Award given by TSN to the top freshman in FCS. They join a list of 20 players on the initial Watch List. Adams finished with 446 votes last season, 130 behind the 576 of winner Jimmy Garoppolo of Eastern Illinois, who was drafted in the second round by the New England Patriots in the 2014 NFL Draft (62nd pick overall). Adams was the only non-senior in the top four, with fifth-place finisher Michael Nebrich of Fordham finishing with 106 votes. Nebrich is on the initial Watch List as well.
* In addition, senior linebacker Ronnie Hamlin was selected as one of 20 NCAA Football Championship Subdivision players selected to the Buck Buchanan Award Watch List. The Buchanan Award is presented annually by The Sports Network to the top defensive player in FCS. Hamlin was an All-American the past two seasons for the Eagles, and was selected to the 2014 TSN preseason All-America squad. In 2013, he finished 12th in the voting for the Buchanan Award.
* Five players – the most among teams represented – were selected to The Sports Network NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Preseason All-America team announced July 1. Junior quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. and sophomore wide receiver Cooper Kupp were selected to the first team, while senior linebacker Ronnie Hamlin was picked for the second team on defense. Third team selections included senior running back Quincy Forte and junior offensive tackle Clay DeBord. Adams and Kupp earned first team recognition on six different preseason All-America squads.
* A year after going an unblemished 8-0 in the Big Sky Conference for the first time in school history, the Eagles have been selected by both the media and coaches to win a third-straight title. Eastern earned 34 of the 36 first-place votes in the media poll, and 11 of 12 in the coaches poll. Eastern has never won three-straight Big Sky titles, but has won a total of seven since joining the league in 1987.
* Junior quarterback Vernon Adams Jr., was selected along with five other Eagles to the 2014 preseason All-Big Sky Conference team released July 14 at the Big Sky Conference Summer Football Kickoff in Park City, Utah. Eastern garnered six of the 30 selections, and Adams was selected to repeat as the league's offensive MVP. Other Eagles honored included sophomore wide receiver Cooper Kupp, junior offensive tackle Clay DeBord, senior linebacker Ronnie Hamlin, senior safety Tevin McDonald and senior defensive tackle Dylan Zylstra. Adams enters his junior season with a near-perfect Big Sky mark of 15-1 as a starter.
* A total of seven players have been named to the 2014 College Football Performance Awards (CFPA) Watch List for their respective positions heading into the 2014 season. Most recently, punter Jake Miller and kickoff returner and all-purpose performer Shaq Hill were named to watch lists. Previously, running back Quincy Forte, wide receiver Cooper Kupp, defensive end Evan Day, linebacker Ronnie Hamlin and quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. were listed as candidates for CFPA honors. Five Eagles have previously earned CFPA honors: Adams (2013 CFPA FCS National Performer of the Year Trophy), Kupp (2013 CFPA FCS Wide Receiver Award), Brandon Kaufman (2012 CFPA FCS Wide Receiver Award), Bo Levi Mitchell (2011 CFPA FCS Elite Quarterback Award) and Taiwan Jones (2010 CFPA FCS Running Back Award).
* A total of 13 Eagles earned some sort of preseason recognition in 2014 from various preseason magazines and media outlets.
Career Starts by Returning Players
Defense (121 starts by 13 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, Frank Cange 1, Jordan Talley 9 (all on offense).
Offense (141 starts by 15 players): Clay DeBord 27, Vernon Adams Jr. 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.
Quoting Beau Baldwin
On Playing Opener on ESPN: "Obviously there are nerves too, and if you have nerves that means you care. It's exciting, and I'm always excited about these opportunities. Every team gets to this point in camp where you need to play somebody else. There is still a ton of work to do from Monday to Friday. The guys know that and embrace that. We're excited for next Saturday."
On Cornerbacks: "If they all play a similar amount of snaps, that might be the best thing for us and them. It will keep sifting itself out during the year, or, they will continue to play with that kind of rotation. That would give us competition throughout the entire year, depth and freshness moving forward. You've seen it before at our running back position, and definitely in our defensive line. If we can do a little bit of that at cornerback as well, that's a good thing."
On Rashad Wadood: "He's (acclimated) extremely well. I knew he could play, but the things I love the most is his character, his personality and his family. Since he's been here he's exceeded my expectations on how hungry he is. He is the type of transfers we get here. We are very selective in our transfers and we want to make sure they are a great fit once they get here."
On Return of Ronnie Hamlin: "He's a special player. 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."
On Hamlin's 2010 & 2011 Injuries: "It was tough on Ronnie. 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. 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. He just kept grinding through it the second time and never felt sorry for himself. He went out and attacked it."
On Running Backs: "We have four or five players we can rely on, and that's a great problem to have," said Baldwin. "That's tough sometimes for those players in that running back group – they all want to be the starter and they all have the ability to potentially get a lot of carries. But it keeps the competition alive and keeps us fresh at that position no matter where we are in the season. We feel very confident with all those players that they will get the job done."
On Kendrick Bourne: "Kendrick will make some incredible plays, and as a receiver he gives you a little of everything. He just needs to get over the hump and be more consistent – he needs to make the fifth play after he's made four. That's just getting in game shape. But the strides he has made from spring to now have been really strong."
* The Eagles lost two projected starters to knee injuries and subsequent surgery in the spring. Returning All-Big Sky Conference defensive end Evan Day isn't expected back until late this season. Cornerback D'londo Tucker, who saw action in 2013 as a true freshman, suffered his injury following the end of spring practices and will redshirt.
* Three players are returning from season-ending injuries suffered a year ago. Safety Tevin McDonald was lost for the season with a broken fibula suffered against Idaho State that required surgery. Defensive end John Goldwire did not play in 2013 because of a severe case of Rhabdomyolysis (rhab·do·my·ol·y·sis), a condition in which damaged skeletal muscle breaks down rapidly and releases potentially damaging products into the bloodstream. In Goldwire's case, it affected his kidneys. Before the season began, freshman All-America safety and Ferris HS graduate Jordan Tonani began surgical treatment for a hip ailment that cost him the 2013 season. Tonani's painful hip injury was 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.