May 1, 2007

Red-White Game Wraps Up Spring Practice

May 1, 2007

Sometimes, the pressure is on the favorites as much as the underdogs.

In an unusual twist, the starting offense and defense will take on the backup units this Saturday (May 5) when the Eastern Washington University football team wraps-up four weeks of spring football practice with the annual Red-White Game at Woodward Field in Cheney, Wash. The game begins at 2 p.m. and is free and open to the public.

That scrimmage is part of the 26th Annual Orland Killin Weekend at EWU. The weekend includes the Coaches Golf Tournament on Friday (May 4), as well as the Killin Dinner, Dance & Auction that takes place after Saturday's Red-White Game. Eastern's volleyball and soccer teams will also be in action on Saturday. More information on the events taking place can be found at: http://WWW.GOEAGS.COM or by calling 509-359-2463/1-800-648-7697/1-866-4GO-EAGS.

For 26 years, Killin Weekend has benefited the Orland Killin Academic Scholarship Fund and athletic scholarships at Eastern Washington University.

The obvious favorite in Saturday's football game will be the "White" squad, featuring starting quarterback Matt Nichols and the rest of Eastern's offensive and defensive starters. The "Red" will consist of backup units, but Eagle head coach Paul Wulff hopes -- even expects in some respects -- that it will be a close game.

"We're going to find out," he said. "I don't think we've ever done it this way before. It's something different and will be a great challenge for the No. 2's. We'll see what guys can step up and play well regardless of what team they are on."

The game will consist of four 12-minute quarters with running time, except for the final two minutes of the first half. This week's game will be the first time in four scrimmages this spring that the starters have played against backups. The challenge to perform well is on shoulders of the backups, but the starters have the pressure to live up to expectations, Wulff said.

"We think in a lot of ways it will be highly-competitive," he said. "Are the 2's going to step up and are the 1's going to play to the level they need to play? It gives the backups an opportunity to prove that they have a chance to compete for a starting position. It puts pressure on both units."

Eastern's starting and backup offensive units have been impressive in three scrimmages thus far, with 1,156 total yards and an average of 7.3 yards per play. Offensive units have rushed for 406 yards (4.8 per play) and have completed 68 percent of their passes (50-of-74) for 750 yards, seven touchdowns and no interceptions.

Nichols, who started as a redshirt freshman a year ago, has completed 27-of-42 passes (64 percent) for 450 yards and four touchdowns. Junior backup Alex Smart has completed 78 percent of his passes (18-of-23) for 233 yards and two scores. Smart has an impressive passing efficiency rating of 206.4, compared to 185.7 for Nichols. Third-string quarterback Jason Harris has completed 5-of-9 passes for 67 yards.

Sophomore wide receiver Tony Davis has been the team's big playmaker so far, catching nine passes for 185 yards and three touchdowns, and rushing five times for 82 yards and one more score. Sophomore Jeffrey Solomon has 10 catches for 128 yards, and has rushed four times for 25 yards and a touchdown.

The team's leading receiver has been senior Shane Eller with 16 catches for 198 yards and a touchdown. Sophomore Aaron Boyce has added six catches for 69 yards. Sophomore Nicholas Ramos has added four grabs for 59 yards and two scores.

Leading the running game has been sophomore Jesse Hoffman with 118 yards on 22 carries (5.4 per carry) and one touchdown. Senior Toke Kefu has had 19 rushes for 83 yards (4.4 per carry) and a touchdown. A.J. Jimerson has played in two scrimmages, and has 75 yards on 16 carries (4.7 per carry) with a touchdown.

Defensively, sophomore defensive back Kevin Hatch has had 15 tackles and a pair of passes broken up, and sophomore Lonnie Hosley has had 12 stops with a pass broken up. Linebackers Shane Cooley and Jared Kuhl have had 12 and 11 tackles, respectively. Cooley is a freshman and Kuhl is a senior.

Along the defensive line, junior Shawn Powell has had two sacks, with single sacks also recorded by juniors Jason Belford, Greg Peach and Lance Witherspoon.

Eastern opens its season Aug. 31 at home against Montana-Western.

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