Nichols and Davis Lead Offense in Red-White

May 5, 2007

For the most part, it went off without a hitch.

Sophomore Matt Nichols passed for two touchdowns and sophomore Tony Davis scored twice as the starters dominated the Red-White Game to end four weeks of spring football practice for Eastern Washington University on Saturday (May 5) at Woodward Field in Cheney, Wash.

The White, consisting of Eagle starters on both offense and defense, won the game 28-3. The No. 1 offense had 308 yards of total offense, while the starting defense surrendered just 134 yards to the Red.

In fact, 58 yards of the 134 total the Red had came on a rush by junior fullback Alexis Alexander. A second-team All-Big Sky Conference selection a year ago and graduate of nearby Medical Lake High School, Alexander played for both the White and the Red in Saturday's scrimmage.

"I thought our No. 1 offense and defense played exceptionally well today, but we also had kids playing well across the board," said Eastern head coach Paul Wulff. "We had a really crisp scrimmage and I'm really proud of how well we played."

Nichols, who passed for 1,749 yards as EWU's starter a year ago, directed the White to 70-yard scoring drives on three of four possessions. The only time his squad didn't score came on an interception by freshman Ethen Robinson, a graduate of Spokane's Lewis & Clark High School.

Davis scored on a 36-yard run to start the scoring in the game, then sophomore Aaron Boyce had a 53-yard touchdown reception from Nichols. After the a 36-yard field goal by Matt Pierce for the Red to end the first half, Nichols passed eight yards to Davis for a score to start the third quarter.

Later, backup junior quarterback Alex Smart took over as quarterback for the No. 1 offense. He passed 21 yards to sophomore Jeffrey Solomon for the final score of the game. Smart, who led scoring drives for both the starters and the backups, was an example of taking advantage of the opportunity that presented itself for both squads on Saturday.

"The coaches will always have concerns after watching a scrimmage, but I think we just need to build depth at certain positions," Wulff said. "We have kids who are starting to step up and play better football. Regardless of whether you are a starter or a backup, the reality is that you just need to play good. When your opportunity comes you need to play and play well."

Nichols finished 11-of-16 for 141 yards, and Smart was 10-of-18 for 102 yards -- including 74 yards as quarterback for the Red.

Davis caught four passes for 33 yards and rushed three more times for 52 yards. Boyce caught three passes for 72 yards, and Solomon caught a pair for 23 yards to go along with a rush for 35.

Leading the Red receivers were sophomore tight end Nathan Overbay with four catches for 49 yards and sophomore wide receiver Nicholas Ramos with four grabs for 41 yards.

"Our receivers and quarterbacks have made large strides as far as gaining experience, and they have looked great this spring," said Wulff.

Senior running back Toke Kefu rushed for 57 yards on eight carries, and Alexander led the Red with 66 yards on three rushes.

Defensively, Eastern had seven quick-whistle quarterback sacks, including six by the No. 1 defense. But most importantly to Wulff, six of the seven sacks were by defensive linemen, including three by junior defensive end Greg Peach.

"Out of all of our squads, I am most proud of our defensive line," said Wulff. "Our defensive line has made a lot of improvements based on experience, compared to our lack of experience on the defensive line last year. Our defense as a whole has become more sound and made less mental mistakes, which is really encouraging."

Eastern defensive units also had nine passes broken up, including two each by sophomore Kevin Hatch, sophomore Aaron Cartwright and senior Anthony Dotson. Dotson also had three tackles. Linebacker Jared Kuhl had a game-high five tackles and Robinson finished with four.

Eastern opens its 2007 season Aug. 31 at home against Montana-Western. Last year Eastern finished 3-8, with all three victories coming in Big Sky Conference play.

"I think this team has a chance to make a lot of improvement from where we were a year ago," Wulff said. "We are clearly a better football team, but to what degree is yet to be determined. That is why we play the season, but we are a better team."


More Comments from Paul Wulff . . .

"Our spring practices went very well and in some cases they went even better than expected. I am really happy with the improvements we have made over the course of the spring practices, but like any coach, I'm going to say we still have a long way to go. There is only so much you can do to get a team ready and to keep improving, and I feel like we have taken the steps necessary in order to accomplish what we want to do this upcoming season."

"The only thing we can really do now physically to get ready for training camp in three months is to get bigger and stronger. Over the summer our team needs to continue working on getting bigger and stronger and to continue to work as a team. I think this is a very close team as far as being true teammates to each other, which has been the most exciting thing I have seen this spring. The players are learning to respect each other and learning to be good teammates. That is an area where you can never be too strong. So I hope they continue to bond with each other over the summer and in the fall we will have a very tight knit team."


Eagles Announce Spring Award Winners . . .

At halftime, Wulff announced recipients of the team's spring football awards, and center Chris Carlsen from Poulsbo, Wash., was a double winner. The 2003 graduate of North Kitsap High School received one of four strength and conditioning awards handed out and was one of two recipients of "Iron Eagle" awards for academic and athletic achievement.

The "Iron Eagle" for defensive players was given to senior defensive back Ira Jarmon, a 2003 graduate of Clover Park HS in Lakewood, Wash. Others winning strength and conditioning awards were senior defensive back Bryan Jarrett from Puyallup, Wash. (Puyallup HS '03), junior defensive end Greg Peach from Vancouver, Wash. (Evergreen HS '05), and sophomore wide receiver Tony Davis from Olympia, Wash. (Capital HS '05).

Selected as most improved were sophomore linebacker Ryan Buenaflor from Anacortes, Wash. (Anacortes HS '05) and sophomore offensive lineman Sean Rock from Kent, Wash. (Kentwood HS '05). Wulff said team captains will be announced in the fall.


Scoring Plays:
White - Tony Davis 36 run (Matt Pierce kick)
White - Aaron Boyce 53 pass from Matt Nichols (Pierce kick)
White - Davis 8 pass from Nichols (Pierce kick)
Red - FG Pierce 36|
White - Solomon 21 pass from Smart

Total Offense: White: 33 plays, 308 yards. Red: 31 plays, 134 yards. TOTAL 64 plays, 442 yards.

Rushing: White: Toke Kefu 8-57, Tony Davis 3-52-1 TD, Jeffrey Solomon 1-35, Matt Nichols 1-minus-5, Total 13-139-1TD. Red: Alexis Alexander 3-66, Jesse Hoffman 3-6, Nicholas Ramos 1-2, Jason Harris 2-minus-2, Alex Smart 5-minus-31, Total 14-41. TOTAL RUSHING - 27-180-1 TD.

Passing: White: Nichols 11-16-141-2 TD-1 Int., Smart 2-4-28-1 TD, Total 13-20-169-3 TD. Red: Smart 8-14-74, Harris 1-3-19, Total 9-17-93. TOTAL PASSING - 22-37-262-3 TD-1 Int.

Receiving: White: Davis 4-33-1 TD, Aaron Boyce 3-72-1 TD, Solomon 2-23-1 TD, Evan Robbins 2-18, Tom McAndrews 1-12, Toke Kefu 1-11, Total 13-169-3 TD. Red: Nathan Overbay 4-49, Ramos 4-41, Shane Eller 1-3, Total 9-93. TOTAL RECEIVING - 22-262-3 TD.

Leading Tacklers: Jared Kuhl 5, Ethen Robinson 4, Anthony Dotson 3, Greg Peach 3.

Sacks: Peach 3, Lance Witherspoon, Jacob Kragt, Graham Dorland, Brady Smith, Total 7.

Interceptions: Ethen Robinson (24-yard return).

Passes Broken Up: Dotson 2, Kevin Hatch 2, Aaron Cartwright 2, Smith, Shane Cooley, Steven Sullivan, Total 9.

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