Oct. 14, 2006
Greeley, Colo. -
A near-perfect first half opened a 31-0 lead at halftime as the Eastern Washington University football team defeated Northern Colorado 34-0 in the first-ever Big Sky Conference match-up between the two schools Saturday (Oct. 14) at Nottingham Field in Greeley, Colo.
It was Eastern's first shutout in 215 games dating back to a 3-0 win over Stephen F. Austin in 1987.
"Our team did a great job," said Eagle head coach Paul Wulff. "Our coaches did a good job to put our players in a position to make plays and they did. We did some really, really good things."
Eastern scored four touchdowns in the first 19 minutes of the game as redshirt freshman quarterback Matt Nichols led four touchdown drives of 81, 72, 37 and 14 yards. Eastern's 291 yards of offense in the first half was more than the 288.7 Eastern was averaging entering the game.
And to conclude the first-half explosion and give EWU a 31-0 lead at intermission, Brett Bergstrom made a 56-yard field goal that is the second-longest in school history. Only the 57-yarder Eric Stein had 20 years ago against Montana State on Sept. 25, 1987 was longer.
Eastern finished the game with a season-high 478 yards of total offense while holding the Bears to 169.
Nichols, who had four interceptions in Eastern's 33-17 loss the previous week against Montana, was 11-of-13 for 202 yards in the first half. He finished the game 16-of-21 for 259 yards.
Eastern's longest drive of the first half came on its second possession of the game when EWU drove 81 yards on nine plays. Redshirt freshman Boyce caught a 37-yard touchdown pass from Nichols to cap the drive.
The Eagles scored again just before the end of the first quarter on a 2-yard run by Kefu to cap a 72-yard drive that took just five plays to complete. True freshman Jeffrey Solomon then showed his promise for the future by following a 16-yard kickoff return with a 37-yard touchdown grab from Nichols on the very next play.
Hoffman gave Eastern a 28-0 lead with 11:10 left in the first half with a 12-yard scoring run. That followed an interception by Smith that he returned 29 yards to the UNC 12-yard line.
But the best drive of the game for the Eagles came when they took over at their own 13-yard line with just 1:42 left before halftime. Nichols showed poise and completed four passes to take the Eagles into Northern Colorado territory where Bergstrom kicked his 10th field goal in 11 tries this season.
Earlier in the game, he missed from 39 yards -- his first miss of the season. In the second half he made a 47-yarder that gave EWU a 34-0 lead with 3:58 left in the third quarter.
The Eagles will still have to win their last four games if they are to continue their current streak of seven-straight winning seasons. The streak of winning seasons started in 1999, a year after Eastern began the season 0-3 but recovered well enough to finish 5-6. Eastern has never overcome a 0-3 start to finish with a winning record.