April 19, 2008

Defense, Offense Make Big Plays in Scrimmage

April 19, 2008

The big plays were obvious, but what wasn't too obvious from Saturday's (April 19) scrimmage for the Eastern Washington University football team will be evaluated via video in the coming days.

The defense recorded nine quick-whistle sacks, an interception and three passes broken up, and the offense had three touchdown passes and 291 yards as Eastern concluded the second week of spring practice. Eastern's next scrimmage will be next Saturday (April 26) at 2 p.m. in the annual Red-White Game at Woodward Field in Cheney, Wash., as part of the annual Orland Killin Weekend at EWU.

"We definitely made some improvement, but we still have a long ways to go in several areas," said first-year head coach Beau Baldwin. "But I really believe we did some things a lot better than a week ago. A lot of time you watch the video from the scrimmage and some areas are never as good or never as bad as it seems at the time. We'll watch it and evaluate it, and there will definitely be things we have to work on the last two weeks of spring ball."

Last week, the Eagles had a 45-play scrimmage that was highlighted by 250 yards of offense from Baldwin's highly-touted offensive squad. This week, the offense ran 67 plays and finished with 271 passing and 70 rushing, but 50 of those rushing yards were wiped out by sacks.

Four players combined for the nine sacks, including 2 1/2 each by Jason Belford and All-American Greg Peach, and two each by Lance Witherspoon and Jacob Kragt. All four Eastern starters are back along the defensive line and all four earned All-Big Sky Conference honors a year ago. They were going against an inexperienced offensive line that had no returning starters in the lineup on Saturday.

Freshman redshirt cornerback Taiwan Jones intercepted reigning Big Sky Conference Offensive MVP Matt Nichols early in the scrimmage. Jones also had two other passes broken up and four tackles to help set the tone for the defense.

"Guys were flying around and there was some definite pop in the pads," said Baldwin. "I think I saw that a little more than a week ago -- we were a little bit more physical and that is good to see. There was probably more energy than a week ago."

Nichols finished 13-of-25 for 140 yards and a 3-yard touchdown pass to Brynsen Brown to cap a 75-yard drive. Backup quarterback Alex Smart completed 7-of-9 passes for 131 yards and touchdown drives of 70 and 75 yards. He had touchdown passes of 44 yards to Ashton Gant and 20 yards to J.T. Leggin.

All-America wide receiver Aaron Boyce had a scrimmage-high four receptions for 47 yards. A.J. Jimerson had 20 yards rushing on eight carries and Alexis Alexander had 19 yards on six carries.

Linebacker Marcus Walker led the defense with eight tackles, with safeties Matt Johnson and Jesse Hoffman adding seven and six, respectively.

Baldwin is anxious to watch the video to see more, particularly with the starting offense and defense matching up against each other.

"It's hard -- I don't (like to single out players) based on just watching the scrimmage," he said. "I like to go back and watch film and really see what happened. I know Taiwan Jones made a couple of plays and knocked down a couple of passes, Matt Johnson if flying around a lot. Ashton Gant and Brynsen Brown both made some plays. And I thought our backs all hit some runs here and there. You hear it from every coach, but we have to clean up certain things."

In order to make the scrimmages as game-like as possible, Baldwin and his coaching staff coached from the sideline instead of the field. That made it that much more difficult to help inexperienced groups and individual players. That's where video sessions will come in.

"Our coaches are doing a great job -- each position coach and each coordinator -- of getting their groups better each day," Baldwin explained. " I want more than anything for us all to keep off the field on these scrimmage days. It's hard as a coach -- you keep creeping out there and you want to coach and lead. But we need our players to get on the field and play without somebody right in their ear. That is the way it is going to be in games in the fall."

Scoring Plays:
Ashton Gant 44 pass from Alex Smart (Mike Jarrett kick)
J.T. Leggin 20 pass from Alex Smart (Matt Pierce kick)
Brynsen Brown 3 pass from Matt Nichols (Mike Jarrett kick)

Rushing: A.J. Jimerson 8-20, Alexis Alexander 6-19, Shane Hoffman 1-8, Tyler Hart 2-10, Aaron Boyce 2-7, Toke Kefu 3-7, Matt Nichols 3-minus-12, Alex Smart 8-minus-39, Totals 33-20 (includes 9 sacks for 50 yards in losses).

Passing: Matt Nichols 13-25-140, Alex Smart 7-9-131, Totals 20-34-271.

Receiving: Aaron Boyce 4-47, Brynsen Brown 3-34, Brett Igbinoba 3-22, Ashton Gant 2-63, J.T. Leggin 2-27, A.J. Jimerson 2-21, David Miles 1-40, Eric Clark 1-9, Nathan Overbay 1-5, Toke Kefu 1-3, Totals 20-271.

Leading Tacklers: Marcus Walker 8, Matt Johnson 7, Jesse Hoffman 6, Lance Witherspoon 6, Kyle Wilkins 5, J.C. Sherritt 5, Adam Macomber 5, Taiwan Jones 4, Jason Belford 4, Greg Peach 4, Ryan Buenaflor 4.

Sacks: Greg Peach 2 1/2, Jason Belford 2 1/2, Lance Witherspoon 2, Jacob Kragt 2.

Interceptions: Taiwan Jones 1.

Passes Broken Up: Taiwan Jones 2, Adam Macomber 1.

 

Remaining 2008 Spring Practice Schedule:
(begin at 3:20 p.m.; Media Interviews at 3 p.m.)
Tuesday, April 22
Thursday, April 24
Tuesday, April 29
Wednesday, April 30
Thursday, May 1

2008 Spring Scrimmages:
(times/location tentative and subject to change)
Saturday, April 26 - Red-White Game - 2 p.m. (Woodward Field)

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