Aug. 22, 2008
Before giving way to the youth of the Eastern Washington University football team, 25-year-old Alexis Alexander got a chance to show what he can do without another running back standing behind him.
The senior rushed for 54 yards on just five carries as a tailback, then filled his role as fullback to highlight a 67-play intrasquad scrimmage Friday (Aug. 22) at Gonzaga Prep in Spokane, Wash. With most starters being held out to enable younger players to show their stuff, the scrimmage ended the second week of preseason practice for the Eagles.
"I thought we came out here and competed hard," said first-year head coach Beau Baldwin, whose team opens the season at Texas Tech next Saturday (Aug. 30) in Lubbock, Texas. "At this time of the season it’s always tough. You are hitting your 20th practice, so you’re ready to hit somebody else."
The scrimmage was mostly situational -- and designed mostly for backups. Quarterback Matt Nichols attempted just six passes in limited duty, and Eastern’s top three receivers (Aaron Boyce, Tony Davis, Brynsen Brown) and starting tailback (Dale Morris) watched from the sidelines with several other starters.
"There is always a fine line between how little and how much you play those guys," said Baldwin of the 15 returning starters his team has. "I don’t want to pull back too much, but I want to try to be smart. A lot of those players have gotten a ton of reps in practice. When you get to the last scrimmage, you want to be smart about that as long as you’ve covered game-type situations in practice."
Alexander, a 2001 graduate of Medical Lake, Wash., High School who played three seasons of minor league baseball, had just five yards on his first two carries at tailback. But he then had runs of 24, 15 and 10 yards on his next three carries before returning to his customary position as fullback.
He helped Tyler Hart score on a 2-yard run during short-yardage situations -- one of four offensive scores for the Eagles. Later, A.J. Jimerson also scored on a five-yard run and Felipe Macias kicked a 28-yard field goal after just missing a 50-yard attempt.
In all, the offensive squads had 288 yards of offense, including 112 yards rushing and 176 through the air on 21-of-34 passing.
Senior backup quarterback Alex Smart completed 10-of-17 passes for 87 yards, with true freshman Scott Burgett completing 5-of-6 for 58 yards. Jeff Minnerly, another true freshman out of Spokane’s Ferris High School, was 2-of-5 for 18 yards.
Junior J.T. Leggin was the leading receiver with four catches for 27 yards, and true freshman Bryant Cameron caught a pair for 29 yards, including a 6-yard TD from Burgett. True freshman Chase King added 27 rushing yards.
Defensively, freshman linebacker Bobby Gentry led the way with seven tackles including a sack. True freshman Bryan Karwacki, who was playing on his former high school home field, had six. Freshman linebacker Rusty Haehl had five tackles and a pair of passes broken up, and Will Edge, Adam Macomber and Renard Williams also had five tackles apiece.
Edge also broke-up a pass, and David Miles and Jacob Kragt combined on a sack. However, the defensive play of the day was turned in by sophomore cornerback Dante Calcote, who had an interception and returned it 31 yards for a touchdown.
"There were a lot of young players playing so that’s always a challenge," said Baldwin. "But it was good for them to be thrown into the fire a little bit. The key is teaching them, coming back and correcting the mistakes and doing better the next time."
Baldwin is giving the team Saturday off before starting preparations for Texas Tech on Sunday. The team departs via charter on Aug. 29, with kickoff the following day at 4 p.m. Pacific time.
"There’s a different atmosphere to it," added Baldwin of game week. "From a player’s standpoint, they’re excited because they know every week they are going to play somebody. Two-a-days get old for every player -- anybody who says any different is lying. You get to practices 15, 16, 17, and you want to go play another team. Once you start getting into those game weeks, the season starts flying by."