Aug. 31, 2007
This was a record Matt Nichols was happy to set.
The sophomore quarterback equaled a 20-year school record with six touchdown passes to lead Eastern Washington University to an easy 52-13 non-conference football victory over Montana-Western in a delayed game Friday (Aug. 31) at Woodward Field in Cheney, Wash.
In a game delayed 55 minutes by a pre-game thunderstorm, Eastern won its season opener for only the second time since 1997. It was also just the second time since 1997 that the Eagles opened against a non-NCAA Football Bowl Division opponent and the first time since 1997 Eastern opened at Woodward Field. The Eagles are a member of the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision and the Bulldogs are a member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) and the Frontier Conference.
Nichols completed 20-of-26 passes for 229 yards as he tied the TD passes record originally set by Rob James in 1987 against Weber State. In 2006 as a freshman, Nichols had just eight touchdowns the entire season and equaled a school-record 17 interceptions.
"He did good things, he was very accurate and he ran the offense like we coached him to do," said EWU head coach Paul Wulff. "I think he's gained some confidence."
Sophomores Tony Davis and Aaron Boyce each added two touchdown catches each as the Eagles scored all 52 of their points in the first three quarters. Backup quarterback Alex Smart also had a touchdown pass as EWU equaled the school record of seven set in 2002 versus Montana Tech.
Also catching touchdown passes were Nicholas Ramos, Nathan Overbay and Shane Eller. Junior Dale Morris added 148 rushing yards and sophomore safety Kevin Hatch had two interceptions, five tackles and a pass broken up in his first start as an Eagle.
"He needs to keep going, and keep getting those reps," said Wulff of Hatch, a 2005 graduate of nearby Freeman (Wash.) High School. "This was his first start and his first opportunity to really play. He needs to play so he will get better."
Eastern finished with 567 yards of total offense to rank as the 20th-most in school history. Eastern allowed 244 yards, but just 84 in the second half when it held the Bulldogs without a score.
The Eagles scored 14 points in the first quarter, 17 in the second and 21 in the third quarter. Eastern scored seven of its first eight possession, with the lone failure a missed 26-yard field goal in the first quarter.
"We'll get those things corrected so when we play a more difficult opponent down the road we will be in better shape," said Wulff of his team's miscues.
Eastern now takes a week off before hosting UC Davis on Sept. 15. The Eagles, who were just 3-8 overall and 3-5 in league play last season, open their Big Sky Conference schedule at Idaho State on Sept. 22.
"There will be a lot of things to clean up, which is good. It gives us the opportunity to make some mistakes and still win a ball game," Wulff added.
"We still have some conditioning issues and we have to get ourselves in better condition. We have a lot of game film to work off of now and we have some better direction."
"There are some real positive signs but there are some signs that concern us. We'll have to work on those things."