April 18, 2009
Before sophomore Taiwan Jones could have his coming out party, senior Matt Nichols and freshman redshirt Scott Burgett had considerable production of their own Saturday (April 18) in Eastern Washington University’s 54-play scrimmage at the EWU Sports and Recreation Center playing fields.
The scrimmage ended the second week of spring practices for the Eagles, who play their annual Red-White Game next Saturday (April 25) at 2 p.m. at Woodward Field. Spring practice concludes on April 30.
Jones, converted this spring to running back from cornerback, had scoring runs of 39 and 41 yards to account for the final two scores of the day for the offense. But before those scores, Nichols and Burgett directed the offense to a trio of scores as they combined to complete 17-of-20 passes for 251 yards and two touchdowns.
In all, the offense finished with 367 yards of offense, including 89 on the ground. Not including 31 yards in losses from five quick-whistle sacks, the Eagles rushed for 120 yards with Jones finishing with 80 on just three carries.
"In a sense, this was his coming out where he finally was able to get loose a little bit," said Eagle head coach Beau Baldwin said of the 6-foot-1, 185-pounder from Antioch, Calif. "In the other scrimmage opportunities he’s had, as limited as they were, he just hadn’t really had those opportunities. We’ve seen it a little in practice, but it takes time and he has a long ways to go. No question that he has talent, and for a taller, skinnier back, he has a lot of strength. He’s not afraid to be tackle-to-tackle."
The Eagles are trying to improve a running game that averaged just 98.5 yards per game and 3.6 yards per carry last season. It was Eastern’s lowest average per game since 1987 when Eastern played the first of what is now 22 seasons as a member of the Big Sky Conference.
"We’ve worked hard to try to develop a better running game this year," Baldwin explained. "We’ve done some things in practice with inside run drills and things of that nature to try to create more production. We’re not necessarily trying to run more plays, but we’re trying to get better at the few runs we have. The players are working hard -- both the offensive linemen up front and the backs themselves."
Nichols, entering his fourth season as a starter, completed 11-of-14 passes for 109 yards and directed the offense to scoring drives of 60 and 70 yards on seven plays each. The first drive of the day by Nichols resulted in a 19-yard pass from running back Tyler Hart to senior wide receiver Aaron Boyce.
Burgett was a perfect 6-of-6 for 142 yards, with touchdown passes of 20 yards to Ashton Gant and 61 yards to J.T. Leggin. He directed the offense to three scores on drives of 60 yards (five plays), 60 yards (two plays) and 70 yards (five plays).
Boyce was the leading receiver with five catches for 66 yards, and Jones caught three for 23. Gant, a 2006 graduate of Pullman, Wash., High School, had a pair of grabs for 49 yards.
Junior linebacker J.C. Sherritt, a classmate of Gant’s at Pullman, led the defense with six total tackles including a sack. He also forced a fumble that was recovered by Matt Johnson and had a pass broken up that was intercepted by Dante Calcote. Of the five sacks registered, sophomore end David Miles was credited with 1 1/2.
"I thought we had great effort, especially considering the fact we were a little short-handed at certain positions," said Baldwin of the scrimmage. "It’s never as good and never as bad as it seems. I’m not basing everything on the end result or just big plays. I want to more consistency by all players on the field. We’ll get a better idea of that when we watch the video.
"We’re a little thin right now on defense, so in fairness to them they were going back-to-back a lot where the offense was switching every series."
Aaron Boyce 19 pass from Tyler Hart (Mike Jarrett kick) - 7 plays, 60 yards
Ashton Gant 20 pass from Scott Burgett (Jarrett kick) - 5 plays, 60 yards
J.T. Leggin 61 pass from Scott Burgett (Jarrett kick) - 2 plays, 60 yards
Taiwan Jones 39 run (Jarrett kick) - 7 plays, 70 yards
Jones 41 run (Jarrett kick) - 5 plays, 70 yards
Tackles: J.C. Sherritt 6, Bobby Gentry 6, Tyler Jolley 4, Jesse Hoffman 4, Dante Calcote 4, David Miles 3, Rusty Haehl 3, Matt Johnson 3, Josh Jacobson 2, Jacob Kragt 2, Makai Borden 2, Evan Cook 1, Levi Reynolds 1, Bryan Karwacki 1, Kevin Hatch 1, Jeff Young 1.
Interceptions: Dante Calcote 1.