April 28, 2007
Maybe they could have used a morning dose of caffeine to get their energy and emotions flowing, but there were plenty of good things that caught the eye of Eastern Washington University head football coach Paul Wulff Saturday (April 28) as his team concluded its third week of spring practice.
Eastern's offensive units combined for 337 yards as the Eagles continued to open up the playbook during the 43-play scrimmage at Woodward Field in Cheney, Wash. However, the starting defense was particularly impressive to Wulff, whose team concludes spring drills next Saturday (May 5) with the annual Red-White Game at Woodward Field at 2 p.m.
"It was a good scrimmage in some ways," he said. "Defensively we played really well, particularly the No. 1 defense. And offensively there were times we moved the ball."
"If we lacked something, it was probably the energy and emotion we showed the first two scrimmages," he added of the 9:30 a.m. start. "I don't know if it was the early start time or what. But even then there was some good tackling and some good plays made on both sides of the ball."
"It doesn't mean we weren't getting work done," he added. "It turned into a work day without a lot of emotion. There were things we accomplished. But there were some things we didn't do as well today as we have in practice."
Eastern's offense rushed for 113 yards and passed for another 224. The defense had four sacks and forced a fumble, but for the most part, had a bend-but-don't-break mentality despite allowing 7.8 yards per play.
Last week, the offense had a total of 498 yards and an average of 6.7 yards per play. That came a week after the offense had 321 yards on just 36 plays -- 8.9 per play -- in the team's first scrimmage.
Eastern's offense is a work in progress under first-year offensive coordinator Todd Sturdy. However, the ever-expanding playbook included reverses, option, no-huddle offense and lots of different offensive sets that were on display in Saturday's scrimmage.
"We're adding things, but we won't have everything in this spring," Wulff said. "We'll add more in the fall, and then when we get into game preparation, we'll cut back. You'll see a lot of diverse things on offense and give a lot of different looks. I like where we're headed on offense, but we're surely not where we need to be at this point."
Starting quarterback Matt Nichols completed 7-of-11 passes for 93 yards, and had touchdown passes to wide receiver Tony Davis (20 yards) and tight end Tom McAndrews (18 yards) during a red-zone offense drill. Backup Alex Smart was impressive, completing 3-of-5 passes for 101 yards. Jason Harris was 2-of-2 for 30 yards.
Eight players caught the 12 completions the quarterbacks had, including two for 65 yards by Shane Eller and a pair for 53 yards by wide receiver Jeffrey Solomon. Solomon also rushed twice for 19 yards and Davis had three carries for 29.
"The players are having fun with it and the coaches are having fun with it," Wulff said of the offense. "It really gives a lot of players -- particularly at the skill positions -- a lot of opportunities to make plays. That's the nice thing about it. Every skill position has an opportunity to potentially carry the ball, and a lot of guys can catch the ball, obviously."
Defensive back Lonnie Hosley had five tackles and a pass broken up to lead the defense, and linebacker Jared Kuhl also had five stops. Shawn Powell, a 2004 graduate of Shadle Park High School in Spokane, had two of the team's sacks.
Powell, as well as wide receiver Brynsen Brown and second team All-Big Sky Conference fullback Alexis Alexander, returned after missing last week's scrimmage with injuries. Alexander rushed three times for 10 yards and Brown had a twisting, one-handed catch for 22 yards on a pass from Nichols.
Wulff is hoping to even get more players back this week in preparation for the Red-White Game.
"It nice to get some of them back for practices," he said. "We are going to keep holding a few players out, and today we had three starting offensive linemen who were not participating. But we'll play with the players we have and hopefully we'll get as good as we possibly can through these last few practices."
"We have to evaluate individuals, but at the same time we have to look at formulas and potential scenarios we may want to try in the fall in regards to personnel groupings," he added. "We want to have players learn to play next to each other, so there is that cohesiveness we want to try to build. You just don't get a lot of that done in the spring because you have players missing because of injuries, classes or whatever the case might be. It's a little different in the spring than in the fall."
Eastern opens its season Aug. 31 at home against Montana-Western.