August 30, 2008

Eastern Impressive After the First Quarter But Loses 49-24

Aug. 30, 2008

Final Stats

What didn’t go well in the first quarter went much better in the second quarter for the Eastern Washington University football team.

But Texas Tech took advantage of an early turnover, an early 116-0 advantage in offense and an early 21-0 lead, and went on defeat the Eagles 49-24 in a non-conference college football game Saturday (Aug. 30) at Jones AT&T Stadium in Lubbock, Texas.

The game was a match-up between Eastern, ranked seventh in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision and Texas Tech, ranked 12th in the NCAA Bowl Subdivision. It was the first of two-straight foes from the Big 12 Conference for the Eagles, who play at Colorado on Sept. 6.

"We battled all game long," said Beau Baldwin, who was making his EWU head coaching debut. "You never want to start a game that way, but our team never got down."

After falling behind 21-0, Eastern out-scored the Red Raiders (17-7), out-gained them (134-107) and had more first downs (9-5) in the second quarter to pull within 28-17 at halftime. But the Red Raiders were too much to stop on offense as they finished with 639 yards of total offense behind the 43-of-58 passing for 536 yards by Graham Harrell.

"After being down 21-0, we won the second quarter 17-7 to put ourselves in a good position at halftime," added Baldwin, whose team was out-scored just 28-24 after the first quarter. "We kept believing and kept fighting.

"I’m really proud of this team," he added. "I’m not into moral victories, but I’m proud of our fight and how we left it all out on the field."

After completing just one of his first six attempts, Eastern’s Matt Nichols rebounded to complete 36-of-61 passes in the game for 335 yards and a touchdown. However, he was victimized by dropped passes by EWU receivers, and one of the three interceptions he threw came on an EWU drop.

Junior Tony Davis, who missed four games last season with a shoulder injury, led the Eagles with 13 catches for 114 yards and a touchdown. His catch total was the second most in school history, ranking only behind the 17 teammate Aaron Boyce had in 2007 against Montana.

Junior Brynsen Brown added eight grabs for 82 yards and Nathan Overbay had five for 61. In all, Eastern finished the game with 364 yards of total offense.

Eric Morris led Texas Tech receivers with nine receptions for 164 yards and Detron Lewis had eight for 163 yards. Reigning Biletnikoff Award winner Michael Crabtree had nine grabs for 73 yards and a touchdown.

The Eagles trailed 21-0 when the defense ignited the Eagles. Freshman redshirt Matt Johnson, who along with his twin brother Zach Johnson were starting and playing in their first collegiate game, intercepted a pass and returned it 47 yards to the TTU 7-yard line. Two plays later, Alexis Alexander scored from one yard out to give EWU its first score.

"We just weren’t in rhythm yet," explained Baldwin of his team’s slow offensive start. "But we finally found it. Matt Johnson’s pick was a huge play in the game. It was something that helped give us a little bit of rhythm."

The Johnson brothers finished with a combined 18 tackles, including eight tackles and three passes broken up by Zach. Matt had a team-high 10 tackles and his game-changing interception.

"They are great players and have bought right in," said Baldwin of the twins from Tumwater, Wash. "They’re coachable, they can run, they can tackle -- they have all the tools to be great defensive players in this league. They left it on the field and went hard. There was no question that a lot of young players stepped up today."

Late in the first half, Nichols directed EWU on a seven-play, 54-yard drive as his 1-yard plunge cut the lead to 28-14. Then, after a Texas Tech failed fourth-down conversion attempt, Eastern drove deep enough to try a 55-yard field goal to end the half. Felipe Macias made the kick -- the third-longest in school history behind boots of 57 and 56 yards.

Eastern had a chance to cut into the lead even more in the third quarter, but a field goal attempt by Macias was blocked. That led to a Red Raider touchdown that gave them some breathing room at 34-17 with 4:51 left in the third quarter.

The Eagles, however, showed its poise again to go on a 11-play, 77-yard drive, capped by a 30-yard touchdown pass to Davis. However, Texas Tech put yet another score on the board to take a 42-24 advantage early in the fourth quarter. The Red Raiders closed the scoring with a touchdown with 2:08 to play.

The first offensive play of the game was a bobbled reception attempt that was intercepted by the Red Raiders. That led to an early score, and in the first 6 1/2 minutes of the game TTU had a 116-0 advantage in total offense on an 18-4 advantage in plays.

The Red Raiders took its 28-7 lead in the second quarter, one play after a fumble into the end zone that EWU recovered was reversed by the game’s replay official.

Eastern is now 8-15 all-time versus FBS opponents, but hasn’t won it its last six meetings since beating Idaho 8-5 in 2003. Eastern lost last season to Brigham Young 42-7, and in 2006 opened the season with losses to Oregon State (56-17) and sixth-ranked West Virginia (52-3). Several current Eagles played in those games, including Nichols, who made his starting debut against the Mountaineers.

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