October 21, 2006

Eagles Fall 34-0 to No. 23 Portland State

Oct. 21, 2006

Final Stats

There were 10 teams ranked in the NCAA Division I-AA top 25 that lost in an upset-filled Saturday (Oct. 21) of college football.

But 23rd-ranked Portland State wasn't one of them.

Eastern Washington managed just 164 yards of total offense as the Vikings defeated the Eagles 34-0 in a Big Sky Conference football game at PGE Park in Portland, Ore.

Eastern was coming off a 34-point effort a week earlier against Northern Colorado in which EWU finished with a season-high 478 yards of offense. But Portland State was downright stingy, and has now allowed just 27 points in its last three games.

"We played a tough opponent with a good defense," said Eagle head coach Paul Wulff. "Unfortunately, we didn't execute like we should have."

A week after posting their first shutout in 215 games dating back to 1987, the Eagles were shut-out for the first time in 205 games dating back to a 51-0 loss to North Texas in 1988. Those are the only shutouts -- for or against -- the Eagles have had in 148 Big Sky Conference games.

The deepest penetration for Eastern came in the fourth quarter when the Eagles drove to the PSU 19 but turned the ball over on downs. Only two other possessions finished in Viking territory.

"Offensively, we put our defense in such a terrible bind because we couldn't get first downs and that kept the defense on the field too long," explained Wulff. "I thought our defense played really well early in the first half but ran out of gas."

Eastern, now 2-6 overall and 2-3 in the Big Sky, held PSU to just 18 yards of offense in the first quarter. But the Vikings took advantage of an Eastern turnover to take a 10-0 lead at halftime and then pulled away in the second half. Portland State finished with 378 yards of offense.

The Vikings are now 4-2 in the league and 5-3 overall as they remained alive for a possible I-AA playoff berth and stayed in contention for the league title. Eastern was in a similar must-win situation itself but now finds itself building for the future. At best, the Eagles can finish 5-6 as their string of seven-straight winning seasons will come to an end.

Defensively, Eastern was led by linebacker David Eneberg with eight tackles and a sack. End Greg Peach had seven tackles and a sack and nose tackle Lance Witherspoon finished with five tackles, 1 1/2 sacks and a pass broken up.

Eastern rushed for just 14 yards, including seven sacks, and had 150 yards through the air. Freshman redshirt quarterback Matt Nichols was 9-of-19 for 80 yards and Chris Peerboom was 7-of-13 for 70 yards. Aaron Boyce was the leading receiver with five catches for 61 yards and Toke Kefu led the Eagles with 20 rushing yards.

Entering the game, PSU ranked 37th in I-AA in total defense (306.7), 18th in scoring defense (16.3), 39th in rushing defense (121.9) and ninth in passing efficiency defense (94.9). The Vikings led I-AA with 15 interceptions and had one on Saturday.

"They blitzed us a ton," said Wulff. "We didn't handle it very well and we made a lot of mental errors early with our young players. We made mistakes."

After a scoreless first quarter, the Eagles survived one turnover but couldn't survive another. A tipped interception gave PSU the ball at the Eastern 41-yard line mid-way through the half, but the Eagle defense held and forced a punt.

However, Eastern's Tony Davis muffed the punt return, and Portland State recovered at the EWU 9-yard line. The Vikings scored a touchdown, then kicked a field goal late in the half to take a 10-0 lead at intermission.

"It was huge," said Wulff of the muffed punt. "It was 0-0 and we turned the darn ball over. We gave them an easy 7-0 lead on a punt return. You can't do that and put the defense in tough situations. I thought we would have a chance to maybe even pitch a shutout if our offense could do anything, but they couldn't."

Portland State scored again on its first possession of the second half, scoring on an eight-play, 76-yard drive. The Vikings scored again shortly thereafter with a field goal that gave the Vikings a 20-0 lead with 4:27 to play in the third quarter.

A pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns closed out the scoring for PSU.

The Eagles return to Cheney, Wash., for games Oct. 28 versus Northern Arizona and Nov. 11 against Idaho State. Thus far, Eastern is 0-3 at home as it heads into its annual homecoming game this week that starts at 2:05 p.m. Pacific time at Woodward Field in Cheney, Wash.

"We should," said Wulff when asked if his team had something to prove at home. "That's the bottom line. We need to get better from this game."

"We need to grow up and understand that every week you have to play," he added. "You don't just play good for one week and not show up the next and not execute very well."

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