Sept. 24, 2007
Now that they are on top of the Big Sky Conference standings, the challenge turns to staying there for the 21st-ranked Eastern Washington University football team. Plus, along the way, EWU gets the opportunity to atone for last year.
The unbeaten Eagles, coming off a surprisingly easy 34-7 Big Sky Conference win at Idaho State, hosts Portland State this Saturday (Sept. 29). Kickoff between the two league unbeatens -- both are 1-0 -- is 6:05 p.m. Pacific time on Eastern Athletics Hall of Fame and All-Athletes Reunion Weekend at Woodward Field in Cheney, Wash.
The Vikings enter this week's game with a 1-3 record overall and lost to a team the Eagles defeated, but those facts about as misleading as misleading can be. For good reason, Portland State was picked to finish second in the Big Sky this season, right behind nine-time defending league champion Montana.
The Vikings returned 41 letter winners and 10 starters from last year's team that finished 7-4 overall and 6-2 in the league. In fact, PSU enters Saturday's game with a five-game winning streak in Big Sky games.
The Vikings, coached by former National Football League head coach Jerry Glanville, lost 35-12 at nationally-ranked McNeese State before falling to UC Davis 26-17 on Sept. 8. The Vikings picked up their first league win of the year over Sacramento State, 35-24, then lost at NCAA Football Bowl Division member San Diego State 52-17.
Eastern played UC Davis the week after PSU did, and the Eagles won 41-31. The Aggies had nine sacks versus Portland State while Eastern allowed none against UC Davis. The Vikings had a chance to win their game against the Aggies, but a goal-line stand helped preserve the nine-point UC Davis win. Eastern had two second-half interceptions to help preserve its 10-point win.
Last year the Vikings blew-out Eastern 34-0 in Portland. Eastern managed just 164 yards of offense against PSU, ranked 23rd at the time. The Eagles were shut-out for the first time in 205 games dating back to a 51-0 loss to North Texas in 1988.
The Eagles had a bye on Sept. 8 after scoring on seven of their first eight possessions in an easy 52-13 win over Montana-Western. Eastern finished with 567 yards of total offense to rank as the 20th-most in school history. Eastern followed that with a 478-yard effort against UC-Davis and 418 against Idaho State. Eastern is now ranked fourth nationally in total offense with an average of 487.7 yards per game.
Eagle Head Coach Paul Wulff on Portland State: "You don't always want to look back, but we were really showed up when we played Portland State last year. They have a very talented football team coming to town and a team that is very explosive based on their offensive scheme. So it's going to be a heckuva challenge for our entire football team to pull it out at home."
From 0-3 to 3-0: Eastern, 3-0 on the season, matched its win total from a year ago with the victory over Idaho State. Eastern had a 27-0 lead at halftime and had a 391-100 advantage in total offense when it took that advantage.
It was Eastern's first road trip of the season, and the Sept. 22 date equals EWU's latest road opener since 1987. Each of Paul Wulff's seven previous seasons as head coach had begun with games on the road.
Eastern hasn't started a season 3-0 since beginning the 1997 season with four-straight wins en route to a 12-2 finish. The Eagles were just 3-8 overall and 3-5 in league play last season after winning Big Sky Conference titles and earning NCAA Football Championship Subdivision playoff berths each of the previous two seasons.
Eastern started the 2006 season with losses to NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision opponents Oregon State and West Virginia, as well as a setback to NCAA Division II Central Washington.
Wulff on 3-0 Start: "It's good to start off 3-0. We're 3-0 and get to go home and play a good team in Portland State. A year ago we were a young football team and we had some issues. And we had to play a heckuva schedule which didn't help our record. Playing two of the top 15 teams in the country in their division is not going to help anybody have a lot of success."
Wulff on 3-0 Start Setting Up Team for a Successful Season: "It sure does. It gives us an opportunity to have success, it helps the program to grow, it helps recruiting and it helps the school. It's very challenging when you have to play a very difficult schedule early in the year. It feels like you are always trying to make it up the whole year. It's all about direction and what you are trying to accomplish with your program."
Eagles Rise to 21st in National Rankings: Last week's convincing victory over Idaho State has helped Eastern Washington move up four spots to 21st in The Sports Network NCAA Football Championships Subdivision top 25 poll of sportswriters, broadcasters and sports information directors.
Besides Eastern, Big Sky Conference rival Montana is now the top-ranked team in FCS, Montana State is 18th and Northern Arizona received enough votes to rank 32nd. The Grizzlies took over the top spot from Appalachian State, which knocked off Michigan earlier in the year but lost to Wofford last week, fell to fifth.
When EWU was ranked 25th on Sept. 17, the Eagles earned their first national ranking since 2005 in the TSN poll. Eastern hadn't been nationally ranked since it finished the 2005 season 13th in the TSN poll.
In the Sagarin computer ratings, Eastern is even higher with a ranking of No. 6 among FCS schools to rank three spots ahead of No. 9 Montana. Despite losing to Eastern 41-31, UC Davis is 12th and Montana State is 19th. Eastern is 88th overall among the total of 242 schools in NCAA Division I football (116 in FCS and 126 in the Football Bowl Subdivision). Montana is right behind EWU in 96th, with Northern Iowa rated 53rd overall and first among FCS schools.
Here is a listing of EWU's 2007 opponents in this week's FCS rankings (four polls are distributed nationally on a weekly basis), in addition to the Sagarin computer ratings:
The Sports Network: 1. Montana; 18. Montana State; 21. Eastern Washington; 32. Northern Arizona; 43. UC Davis.
Coaches: 1. Montana; 17. Montana State; 23. Eastern Washington; 28. UC Davis; 49. Northern Arizona.
AGS (anygivensaturday.com): 1. Northern Iowa; 2. Montana; 19. Montana State; 29. Eastern Washington; 30. Northern Arizona.
Football Gazette Top 40 Rankings: 1. Massachusetts; 3. Montana; 19. Montana State; 23. Eastern Washington; 25. Northern Arizona; 29. UC Davis.
Sagarin Computer Ratings (among FCS schools): 1. Northern Iowa (53rd overall); 6. Eastern Washington (88th overall); 8. Montana (96th overall); 12. UC Davis; 19. Montana State; 28. Northern Arizona; 35. Portland State; 58. Idaho State; 66. Sacramento State; 71. Weber State; 84. Northern Colorado. Also, 35. (overall) Brigham Young.
Brayton Big Sky Special Teams Player of the Week: Junior Fritz Brayton, currently the fifth-best punter in the nation, has been selected as the Big Sky Conference Special Teams Player of the Week after his performance in Eastern's 34-7 victory over Idaho State.
Brayton punted six times for a 47.7 average, with a long punt of 53 yards and two downed inside the Idaho State 20-yard line. The average field position for ISU was their own 20-yard line. In the second half, he had punts that were downed at the ISU 8 and 9 yard lines.
Brayton, a transfer from Washington State University and 2004 graduate of Westview High School in Portland, Ore., ranks fifth in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision with an average of 43.7 yards per punt. He has a long of 55 yards with a total of six punts of at least 50. Five of his 18 punts have been downed inside the opponent 20-yard line.
He is taking the place this season of Ryan Donckers, who averaged 42.4 yards per punt as a senior to rank third in school history. His career average of 40.5 also ranks third.
Brayton's father, Fritz Sr., was a wide receiver at Washington State from 1971-73. The junior Brayton is the grandson of WSU baseball legend Bobo Brayton and his cousin Tyler Brayton plays in the NFL for the Oakland Raiders.
Wulff on Brayton: "So far in the season he's done a really nice job when he's punted. A big part of our success has been field position, and he's a big part of that. We need him to show that consistency every week. He replaced a good punter, but so far in the last three games he has done a nice job. As long as the other 10 players on the punt unit are doing their job, it gives Fritz a better chance to have success."
Nichols Has Hot Start: It's still early, but sophomore quarterback Matt Nichols ranks among the nation's leading quarterbacks after the first three games of the season.
Nichols currently ranks 14th in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision with a 157.2 passing efficiency rating, and his average of 271.7 yards of offense per game is also 14th. He completed 17-of-30 passes for 285 yards and one touchdown in Eastern's 34-7 victory at Idaho State. On Aug. 31, Nichols earned Big Sky Conference Offensive Player of the Week honors when he had a school-record six touchdown passes against Montana-Western.
He has thrown just one interception in 98 attempts this season after throwing a school-record 17 interceptions a year ago. His ratio last season was an interception every 15.2 attempts. With nine touchdown passes in his first two games this season, he has already exceeded his total output of eight in 11 games in 2006. His passing efficiency rating thus far is 157.7 compared to a 109.0 rating as a freshman.
Wulff on Nichols After Three Games: "He's done a nice job and has worked hard. He's very committed to being a good football player and his commitment has shown up by his improvement. He still has a lot of things to get better at, but hopefully we can build off each week's performance. It's very important that we do that. He's one of the hardest-working guys I've ever been around."
Nichols on ISU Win: "It gives us a lot of confidence. We talked a lot about our last few trips down here was how we took good teams and played tough Idaho State teams but came out with a loss. One of our main focuses was playing tough even though we were on the road, and treating it like we were at home. We wanted to eliminate the crowd noise with our hurry-up offense and not let them make big plays on defense. We felt like we didn't play as well as an offense as we thought we should have. We have a lot to improve on -- we all know that. This is just one step toward our major goal."
Nichols on Goals: "Our goal is to go through the conference without a loss -- that's everybody's goal. In the Big Sky, everybody is matched-up really well against each other. All the teams are good and anybody can beat anybody. We just know we have to go in and play our best every game. We know what we can do and where we want to go. We aren't trying to validate ourselves to anybody. We are just trying to win games."
Happy 60th Birthday Coach Wulff!: Paul Wulff won't be 41 until Feb. 25, 2008, but that didn't stop his players from giving him a birthday wish on the plane flight home from EWU's game at Pocatello. The flight attendant wished Wulff a happy 60th birthday over the loudspeaker, which resulted in a roar of applause and laughter from the team. Upon arrival in Spokane, Wulff began an immediate investigation to identify and punish the culprit. Initial reports blamed the quarterback.
Wulff Played for Mouse Davis in 1992: Eastern head coach Paul Wulff was a center for Portland State offensive coordinator Mouse Davis back in spring 1992 when Davis was the head coach of New York-New Jersey Knights in the World League. Like he has throughout his career, Davis was using the famous "Run-and-Shoot" offense the Vikings utilize. A year later, after his playing career concluded, Wulff started his coaching career at Eastern as a volunteer offensive line coach.
Eagles Lead FCS in Turnover Margin: The Eagles have just two turnovers this season, while opponents have coughed the ball up 11 times in three games (nine interceptions and two fumbles). Last season, the Eagles forced 26 turnovers and had 24 themselves.
Eastern's plus 3.0 margin per game leads in turnover margin among the 116 teams in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision. Eastern ranks third in interceptions (3.0 per game). Sophomore free safety Kevin Hatch and sophomore Lonnie Hosley are both tied for the national lead in interceptions with three (1.0 per game).
Other EWU Statistical Leaders: Eastern Washington is averaging 487.7 yards of offense after two games, good for fourth in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision. Eastern is also fifth in scoring offense (42.3), 16th in passing offense (265.7) and 17th in rushing offense (222.0). Eastern is also 12th in passing efficiency (160.4) with 10 touchdowns and just one interception. The Eagles, behind a veteran offensive line that includes four senior starters, has allowed just one quarterback sack to rank third nationally (0.3 sacks per game).
Defensively, Eastern is 86th in total defense (387.0), 21st in scoring defense (17.0), 18th in rushing defense (94.7), 110th in passing defense (292.3) and 10th in passing efficiency defense (94.7).
Individually, Dale Morris is 57th in rushing (80.7 yards per game) and Aaron Boyce is 24th in receptions (6.0) and 31st in receiving yards (80.7). Tony Davis is 35th in receptions (5.7) and 23rd in receiving yards (85.3). Punter Fritz Brayton ranks fifth nationally (43.7 per punt) and kicker Felipe Macias is 38th in scoring (8.3) and 37th in field goals (1.0).
Run and Shoot Ranks Second Nationally in Passing: Portland State, featuring the run-and-shoot offense of football coaching legend Mouse Davis, ranks second nationally in passing offense (340.8) but are 116th and last in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision in rushing (21.8). The Vikings are 60th in total offense (362.5) and 81st in scoring offense (20.3). Defensively, PSU is 38th in rushing defense (128.0), 95th in total defense (413.0), 96th in scoring defense (34.3) and 108th in pass defense (285.0).
Individually, quarterback Brian White is fourth in passing yards per game (300.0), but the Vikings have allowed 28 quarterback sacks to reduce his ranking in total offense to 13th (274.3). Kenneth Mackins is 13th in receiving yards per game (94.3) and 20th in all-purpose yards (164.3). Jordan Senn ranks 10th in tackles (11.3).
Jarrett Helps Lead Impressive Effort by Defense: Safety Bryan Jarrett, one of just four seniors on the starting defense, had seven tackles and a key first-half interception in Eastern's 34-7 road win at Idaho State.
His interception at mid-field and 36-yard return led to a field goal that gave Eastern a 3-0 lead. He also had a touchdown-saving tackle in the second half, and had two other tackles that led to an Idaho State punt (in the first half) or loss of the ball on downs (in the second half).
Eastern would go on to score 24 more points -- including 10 more points off turnovers -- to take a 27-0 lead at halftime. When Eastern took its 27-0 lead, the Eagles had a 291-100 advantage in total yards. Idaho State scored its first points with 9:09 left in the game on a 92-yard drive. Idaho State finished with 400 yards, but 296 came in the second half.
The Eagles forced five turnovers against ISU, including three in the first 18 minutes of the game. Eastern leads the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision in turnover margin, with 11 takeaways and just two giveaways (average difference of 3.00 per game).
Jarrett, a 2003 graduate of Puyallup, Wash., High School, hopes to put an injury-plagued 2006 season behind him. He started Eastern's first three games and last three games in 2006 at free safety, and finished the season with 48 tackles despite missing two games and five starts with an ankle injury. He had 16 tackles in back-to-back games late in the season versus Northern Arizona (10/28/06) and Weber State (11/4/06), finishing with a season-high nine stops against the Wildcats. As a junior, he earned first team All-Big Sky Conference honors. He started Eastern's last eight games at whip safety, taking over for injured starter Gregor Smith and then never relinquishing his position. Jarrett played the 2003 season at Western Washington University where he started four of the nine games he played.
Tony Davis Has Second-Longest Non-Scoring Reception: Sophomore Tony Davis has six catches for 150 yards, including four for 126 yards in the decisive first half, in Eastern's 34-7 victory over Idaho State. He had a non-scoring 78-yard reception from quarterback Matt Nichols that led to a touchdown that gave Eastern a 20-0 lead in the first half. It was the second-longest non-scoring pass play in school history, ranking only behind the 82-yard connection from Erik Meyer to Raul Vijil in Eastern's 2004 playoff victory over No. 1 ranked and top-seeded Southern Illinois.
Davis also had catches of 25 and 20 yards in the first half as Eastern opened a 27-0 lead in the second quarter with a total offense advantage of 291-100. Davis also rushed four times for 15 yards to finish with 141 all-purpose yards (14.1 yards per touch).
"It's not about the individual, it's about the scheme and what we need to take advantage of," said Eagle head coach Paul Wulff. "It just so happened that in this game it was Tony's position to be that guy."
4.0 Student Tom McAndrews Nominated for Academic Awards: Senior 4.0 student-athlete Tom McAndrews has been nominated by Eastern Washington University for the National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame National Scholar-Athlete Postgraduate Scholarship Awards.
The 6-foot, 240-pound tight end is a double major in finance and economics at EWU. He will complete his bachelor's degree in December 2007, and then begin work sometime soon on his master's in business administration.
With a perfect 4.0 grade point average, he has been named to the Dean's List 12 out of a possible 12 quarters at Eastern. He is expected to be selected to the Big Sky Conference All-Academic team for the fourth-straight year in 2007. He will be nominated for ESPN The Magazine Academic All-America honors and for a NCAA Postgraduate scholarship.
McAndrews was the 2006 recipient of the "Iron Eagle" Award for EWU Football academic and athletic achievement. He was awarded a Trustee's Scholarship (2006), Washington Promise Scholarship (2003) and Red Reese Scholarship (2003). He also became a member of Beta Gamma Sigma Honor Society (2007).
He scored the first touchdown of his Eastern career against UC Davis on Sept. 15, 2007, on an 8-yard reception in the fourth quarter of the 41-31 win. Mainly used as a blocking tight end, fullback and on special teams, he entered the 2007 season with 12 catches for 125 yards in 29 games played (five as a starter). In 2005 he was EWU's Most Improved Player and helped Eastern Washington win Big Sky Conference titles in 2004 and 2005, earning berths in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs both seasons.
His community service activities include serving as a PLUS (Program Leading to Undergraduate Success) Facilitator in business law for the EWU Academic Support Center (2006). He was an intern as Community and Economic Development Assistant for the Cheney community/EWU campus development group called Pathways to Progress (2005). He has also been a volunteer for Harvest Food Bank, Spokane Guild School, Habitat for Humanity and the Cheney School District.
McAndrews was also a 4.0 student at Mead High School in Spokane, Wash., where he was the 2003 Valedictorian.
Wide Receiver Quartet Ahead of Previous Quartet: Eastern's returning receiving corp includes a senior and five sophomores who are learning their trade via trial by fire. Three of the sophomores - Tony Davis, Brynsen Brown and Aaron Boyce - combined for 118 catches for 1,539 yards and eight touchdowns as redshirt freshmen in 2006. Jeffrey Solomon added seven catches as a true freshman but is redshirting in 2007. So far in their careers, Davis, Brown and Boyce have combined for 164 catches for 2,155 yards and 14 touchdowns in 42 games worth of experience (31 starts).
Those four young players are reminders of a recent quartet of players that began playing with quarterback Erik Meyer in 2002. Eric Kimble, Raul Vijil, Richmond Sanders and Craig McIntyre had career totals of 503 catches for 7,858 yards and 74 touchdowns in 156 games worth of experience (74 starts).
In 2005, Meyer and those players won their second-straight Big Sky Conference title and appeared in the playoffs for the second-straight season. Meyer would go on to win the Walter Payton Award in 2005 as the top player in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision.
"They are not at that level yet, but at the same stage of their careers, they are clearly ahead of those guys," said Eagle head coach Paul Wulff of his corp of sophomore receivers. "Whether they can continue to make themselves better and get them to play at a higher level, that remains to be seen. But there is talent there, and if they are mature about how they handle their business, then they have a chance to really improve. As much as the coaches drive them and push them, ultimately it's their responsibility to make themselves better athletes, better players and ultimately better people."
Nichols on Receiving Corp: "We have a great group of receivers, including our starting sophomore corp. They are really talented and find holes, especially with a year under our belts. We know how to work against defenses a lot better than we did last year. I think that really showed the last few games. We know how to find holes and know where the weaknesses are in certain coverages."
Six Players Make Starting Debuts for Eagles: Just six position players made their starting debuts for Eastern Washington when the Eagles hosted Montana-Western on Aug. 31.
Powell is a junior two-year letter winner who graduated in 2004 from Shadle Park High School in Spokane, Wash. Hatch is a sophomore from Freeman (Wash.) High School, and lettered as a backup and special teams player last year. Hosley is a 2005 graduate of Evergreen High School in Vancouver, Wash.
A freshman redshirt, Leahy is a 2006 graduate of Gig Harbor (Wash.) High School, the same school that produced All-America guard Matt Alfred (2003 graduate). Overbay, whose uncle Lyle Overbay plays for the Toronto Blue Jays, is from Chehalis, Wash., and graduated in 2005 from W.F. West High School. Martin, a freshman redshirt from La Crosse-Washtucna (Wash.) High School, made his debut when the Eagles started in a two tight end formation.
Hatch and Leahy are taking the place of returning veterans who have to miss the season. Offensive tackle Julian Stewart is academically ineligible and free safety Gregor Smith will miss the year with a nagging shoulder injury.
Besides those new starters, Eastern has new special teams players. Taking over at kicker is Felipe Macias, a junior college transfer from Moorpark College in California. Washington State transfer Fritz Brayton takes over at punter.
Against UC Davis on Sept. 15, sophomore left tackle Chris Thomas made the first start of his career. Thomas is a 2004 graduate of Sumner (Wash.) High School, the same school senior Rocky Hanni graduated from in 2003.
Here are the number of career starts by Eastern players in the 2007 season:
Defense (113 starts by 17 players): Greg Peach 19, Bryan Jarrett 17, Jason Belford 15, Ira Jarmon 14, Lance Witherspoon 10, Gregor Smith 7, Makai Borden 6, Anthony Dotson 5, Josh Jacobson 3, Shawn Powell 3, Kevin Hatch 3, Lonnie Hosley 3, Jared Kuhl 3, Marcus Walker 2, Adam Macomber 1, Jacob Kragt 1, Dezmon Cole 1 (includes one start on offense).
Offense (198 starts by 21 players): Rocky Hanni 36, Matt Alfred 36, Zach Wasielewski 25, Chris Carlsen 13, Aaron Boyce 13, Matt Nichols 13, Charlie Wulff 11, Brynsen Brown 10, Tony Davis 8, Alexis Alexander 6, Tom McAndrews 6, Dale Morris 5, Julian Stewart 4, Toke Kefu 3, Chris Thomas 2, Shane Eller 2, Brice Leahy 1, Nathan Overbay 1, Matt Martin 1, Jeffrey Solomon 1, Ryan Forney 1.
Starting Experience Leads to Wins: Returning starts -- and the experience that goes along with them -- can sometimes be a good gauge of how many wins can be expected on the field.
The Eagles entered the 2007 season with 31 players returning with starting experience and a total of 245 starts. Of the total, just 80 were on the defensive side and 165 were by offensive players. By contrast, the Eagles opened the 2006 season with 25 players with starting experience, amounting to 225 starts between them.
The Eagles entered the 2005 season with 23 players with starting experience (280 total starts). Just five players made their starting debuts for the Eagles in the season opener, but 13 made starting debuts after that because of a large amount of injuries the Eagles suffered.
The Eagles opened the 2004 season with 29 players with starting experience (271 starts), and in 2003 they had 28 players with starting experience (168 starts). However, Eastern had just 17 players with a combined 108 starts between them entering the 2002 season.
In both the 2003 and 2004 season openers, the Eagles had six new starters in the lineup. In 2002, 13 players made starting debuts in Eastern's 38-2 loss at Arizona State.
Below is a breakdown by year of the returning starters Eastern has had and the record the Eagles ended up with.
Year - Players With Starting Experience - Total Starts - New Starters in Opener - Record
2007 - 31 - 245 - 6 - 2-0 (total of 7 new starters used thus far)
2006 - 25 - 225 - 5 - 3-8 (total of 21 new starters used during the year)
2005 - 23 - 280 - 5 - 7-5 (total of 18 new starters used during the year)
2004 - 29 - 271 - 6 - 9-4
2003 - 28 - 168 - 6 - 6-5
2002 - 17 - 108 - 13 - 6-5
*** Eastern has been picked to finish fifth in the league by both the media and coaches. Although Montana has won or shared every Big Sky title since 1998, Wulff expects another challenging season in which any team can compete for the league title. Last year Eastern lost three of its league games by a combined total of 14 points. "That's an indication of how this league has evolved," said Wulff. "There used to be the obvious two or three teams that could line-up, play pretty good and win. This league is not like that now. You have to play pretty darn well each week just to have a chance to win."
*** Eastern returns a pair of the best offensive linemen in the league in guard Matt Alfred (6-3, 300) and tackle Rocky Hanni (6-5, 290). Hanni was a first team All-Big Sky and All-America selection in 2004, and Alfred followed suit in 2005. Both earned second team All-BSC honors in 2006 and have started 33 games each. Hanni was the Big Sky's Newcomer of the Year as a freshman in 2004, the only time in the history of the league (the award has existed for 29 years) that the honor has gone to an offensive lineman. Both have earned pre-season All-America honors in 2007. Alfred, who missed much of EWU's preseason practices with a knee injury, was honored by College Sporting News and was a second team pick by The Sports Network. Hanni was honored as a third team pick by TSN and Alfred was the lone Eagle selected to the All-Big Sky Conference preseason squad as selected by the league.
*** As a fullback new to the EWU program in 2006, Alexis Alexander earned second team All-Big Sky Conference honors and was honored as the team's Offensive Player of the Year. Now, he's also seeing action at running back in the 2007 season, and had 122 yards and a touchdown against UC Davis on Sept. 15. He started six games in 2006 at fullback, including the last five games of the season. He made his Eagle debut against Oregon State (8/31/06) when he played in his first football game in six years dating back to his senior season in high school in 2000. He originally came to Eastern as a linebacker after transferring from Washington State University. He was a defensive scout team player in 2004 for the Cougars after going from receiver to defensive back to linebacker. He was an 18th-round draft choice by the Kansas City Royals in the 2001 Major League Baseball draft. He hit .225 in 355 career at bats, with five home runs and 22 stolen bases. He spent the 2002 season with the Spokane Indians of the Class A Northwest League. Alexander graduated from Medical Lake HS in 2001.
*** Three of Eastern's returning players earned second team All-Big Sky honors a year ago -- offensive linemen Matt Alfred and Rocky Hanni and fullback Alexis Alexander. Players returning that earned honorable mention All-Big Sky honors a year ago include offensive tackle Zach Wasielewski, defensive end Greg Peach, wide receiver Tony Davis and special teams standout Nicholas Ramos. Safeties Gregor Smith and Bryan Jarrett earned All-Big Sky honors previously but missed much of the 2006 season with injuries.
*** Eastern's defense was spectacular at times in 2006, but certainly wasn't consistent. Eastern allowed 33, 34 and 44 points in three of its five league losses, but allowed just 16 points total - 0, 6 and 10 - in its three victories. Eastern followed its first shutout in 215 games (34-0 over Northern Colorado) by falling victim to its first shutout in 205 games (34-0 to Portland State) in the very next outing for the Eagles.
*** Success starts up front, and plenty of experience returns on the offensive line. In fact, seven players have a combined 121 starts between them. Matt Alfred (36) and Rocky Hanni (36) have started since they were freshmen, Zach Wasielewski (25) has started two seasons and centers Chris Carlsen (13) and Charlie Wulff (11) have started a full season each.
*** Quarterback Matt Nichols returns after starting Eastern's last 10 games as a redshirt freshman. He completed 55 percent of his passes for 1,749 yards, but had a school-record 17 interceptions and just eight touchdowns. Eastern averaged just 108 yards per game rushing in 2006, and hopes to improve those numbers considerably this season. A trio of experienced running backs return, led by injury-plagued junior Dale Morris, senior Toke Kefu and fullback-turned-running back Alexis Alexander.
*** Senior guard Matt Alfred's younger brother Kenny Alfred currently plays as a lineman at Washington State. Matt graduated from Gig Harbor (Wash.) High School in 2003 and Kenny graduated from Gig Harbor in 2005. Matt's fellow starting lineman Brice Leahy is a 2006 graduate of Gig Harbor. The Alfred brothers' father, David, played at Western Washington. David and his wife Claudia attended 19 of 23 of the games their sons played in the 2006 season, however, sometimes they had to separate so at least one of them could attend games on the same weekend. Matt entered the 2007 season with a string of 33-straight starts for the Eagles. In 2006 he earned second team All-Big Sky Conference honors and was named to the Big Sky Conference All-Academic team for the third time. In 2005 he earned first team All-America honors from The Sports Network and second team All-America honors from the Associated Press. He was also a first team selection on the Football Gazette All-West Region squad and earned first team All-Big Sky Conference honors. As a freshman in 2004, he was a second team All-Big Sky Conference selection as an offensive guard.
*** Junior college transfer Felipe Macias won the starting kicking job over freshmen redshirts Craig Danielson and Matt Pierce. Washington State transfer Fritz Brayton will handle punting duties. They replace two of the best kickers in school history -- Brett Bergstrom and Ryan Donckers. Bergstrom kicked a school-record 15 field goals in 2007, including three of 50 yards or longer, to become the only Eagle in 2006 to earn first team All-Big Sky Conference honors. Donckers averaged 42.4 yards per punt as a senior to rank third in school history, and his career average of 40.5 also ranks third.
*** Four Eastern seniors -- offensive guard Matt Alfred, center Chris Carlsen, running back Toke Kefu and tight end Tom McAndrews -- could earn their fourth-straight Big Sky All-Academic selection at the conclusion of the 2007 season. All four have been honored three times previously.
*** The injury woes of safety Gregor Smith and running back Dale Morris have seemingly gone in different directions. Smith will miss the 2007 season with a torn labrum in his shoulder that had already kept the 2003 graduate of nearby Lakeside High School (Nine Mile Falls, Wash.) out of 11 of 36 EWU games in his career. A second team All-Big Sky special teams selection as a freshman in 2004, Eastern is 15-10 in the 25 games he has played. In the 11 games he has missed, Eastern is 4-7. Morris, the brother of Seattle Seahawks running back Maurice Morris, missed 12 of a possible 23 games in his first two seasons as an Eagle with a painful Lisfranc foot sprain. However, he appears to be at full strength again after bio-mechanics rehabilitation to help the foot become flexible again and distribute weight evenly to the metatarsals.
*** A quartet of Eagles have some noteworthy coaching relatives. Center Charlie Wulff is the nephew of Eagle head coach Paul Wulff. The father of linebacker Marcus Walker is Washington State University assistant coach Mike Walker. And punter Fritz Brayton, a transfer from WSU has three notable relatives. His father, Fritz Sr., was a wide receiver at WSU from 1971-73. The junior Brayton is the grandson of WSU baseball legend Bobo Brayton and his cousin Tyler Brayton plays in the NFL. And tight end Nathan Overbay is the nephew of Major League Baseball player Lyle Overbay of the Toronto Blue Jays.
*** Eastern's new coaches in 2007 include offensive line coach Tom Ackerman, a former EWU All-American who spent eight years in the NFL. New offensive coordinator Todd Sturdy won 85 games as a head coach at St. Ambrose University in Iowa, and among his assistants there were current EWU defensive coordinator Jody Sears and former EWU offensive coordinator and current WSU quarterbacks coach Timm Rosenbach. In addition, former Cal Poly quarterback Chris Peterson has joined Eastern as running backs coach. Veteran Eastern coach Joe Wade has moved to wide receivers, Sears will coach defensive ends, Jeff Schmedding coaches safeties and Travis Niekamp has added special teams coordination to his coaching duties.
*** While at Puyallup (Wash.) High School, linebacker Makai Borden received recruiting interest from BYU, which is EWU's Oct. 20 opponent. His father Randy Borden played at BYU-Hawaii before shattering his wrist longboarding (surfing). A LDS family, Makai's mother also attended school at BYU-Hawaii.
Paul Wulff QUOTES
Wulff on Progress of Team: "This team continues to grow. We aren't there yet but we're on the right track. I think as we go along this year and in the next couple of years, this team is going to be pretty good."
Wulff on Alexis Alexander and Dale Morris: "They are emerging as our best ballcarriers. Toke Kefu gives us good balance in there with those two guys. We have a good chance to be very good at that position. But they have to stay healthy and to continue to work hard to get themselves in great condition. And our offensive line has some work to do but the makings are there. We have to get them rolling and executing a little better."
Wulff on Young Receivers: "They've worked hard and put themselves in a position to make a lot of improvement. Now it's about producing on game day. We expect big things from them and we should. They have some youth, but they also have some experience. We are going to need them to make plays. Tony Davis is going to do a lot of different things. I think that fits his talent."
Wulff on Applying for Sixth Year for Gregor Smith: "We don't even have the results from his MRI yet to know exactly what the possibility is to get himself healthy again. We have to go back through and look at all the time he's missed -- counting this year. I don't know all the rules and details yet to see if he qualifies for a sixth year, but I would like to think he does and we will apply for it."
Wulff on Alexander Earning Repetitions at Running Back: "He's handled it great -- he gets to carry the ball more. It was becoming clearer that when we put the ball in his hands more good things happen. It's something we've thought about over the summer and has evolved in camp. We have to get the ball in his hands. He's good enough to catch it and good enough to run it. As long as he keeps producing and playing at a high level he's going to carry the ball. We'll make sure he helps this football team and he clearly does. He's a tough guy to tackle."
Wulff on Dale Morris: "So far Dale is healthy and getting in football shape. He's missed a tremendous amount of football -- it's basically been a year since he even put his pads on. But anybody who misses a year in their sport is going to be a little rusty. Hopefully as the season progresses we'll see him continue to improve and break off a lot of that rust. He's doing a nice job in camp to get himself in shape."
Series History: Portland State leads the series 16-12-1. Eastern is 6-7 against the Vikings in Portland and 6-9-1 at home against them. The road team has won five of the last 10 meetings.
In 2005 in Cheney, running back Ryan Cole rushed for a career-high 154 rushing yards and five touchdowns, and quarterback Erik Meyer broke the school's career passing yardage record as 14th-ranked Eastern Washington surged past Portland State 42-24 on Oct. 1 at Woodward Field. Cornerback Jesse Hendrix added a pair of interceptions and three passes broken up as the Eagles outscored the Vikings 21-0 in the fourth quarter. The Eagle outburst broke open a close game, played on a slippery field left muddied by two days of rain. Meyer completed 19-of-31 passes for 266 yards and a touchdown as he broke the previous record of 7,492 held by Mark Tenneson (1989-92). Eastern, finished with 488 yards of total offense, including 222 rushing. Eastern put the game away with touchdowns on three of its last four possessions -- all scored by Cole.
In 2004, Eastern used a fast start to record a 41-21 victory over the Vikings in Portland. The Eagles opened a 27-point lead in the second quarter en route to taking a 34-7 lead at halftime. Eastern outscored PSU 27-0 in the second quarter. Erik Meyer was 16-of-21 for 233 yards and three touchdowns in the first half, and finished the game with a then career-high 325 yards and four touchdowns on 22-of-30 passing. Eastern converted 5-of-6 third down conversions in the first half. Junior Eric Kimble had a career-high 10 catches for a then career-high 161 yards and one touchdown. Viking running back Ryan Fuqua didn't play after rushing for 768 yards and six touchdowns in three previous meetings against the Eagles.
In 2003 in Cheney, quarterback Erik Meyer and running back Reggie Witherspoon each accounted for three touchdowns as Eastern Washington rolled past Portland State 42-16. Meyer completed 17-of-22 passes for 272 yards and a touchdown, and rushed for another 33 yards and two touchdowns. His favorite receivers were Kyler Randall with seven catches for 98 yards and Raul Vijil with five grabs for 121 yards. Witherspoon rushed for three touchdowns and 134 yards, with touchdown runs of 23, 42 and 5 yards. The Eagles finished with 517 yards of total offense against PSU, but perhaps most importantly held Viking running back Ryan Fuqua in check for the most part. The junior, who had rushed for 657 yards in two previous games against the Eagles, finished with 111 yards after having 94 in the first half alone. The Eagles held PSU to 322 yards offense, and forced three turnovers.
In 2002, Ryan Fuqua rushed for 264 yards a pair of touchdowns -- including a back-breaking 77-yarder in the fourth quarter -- as 14th-ranked Portland State held-off Eastern 34-31 in Portland. Although they fell behind 24-7 in the first half, Eastern battled back in the second half. Trailing by just three, Eastern got the ball back twice in the last 3:49 but poor field position hurt Eastern's chances to get a drive going. Eastern started those possessions at the 3-yard line and the 8-yard line, and PSU held both times. Fuqua's 77-yard run with 10:58 to play was the killer, and provided the winning points for PSU. Eric Kimble had an 80-yard punt return with 7:16 to play to give Eastern its final points. Not including Fuqua's 77-yard run, in the second half Eastern held Portland State to 139 yards of offense on 28 plays and Fuqua had just 32 yards on 13 carries. Eastern meanwhile, had 224 of its 419 yards of total offense after halftime. Eastern's Darius Washington finished with 71 yards of rushing, but had three fumbles on the night, losing one. In all Eastern fumbled five times and lost two of them.
In 2001, freshman Ryan Fuqua rushed for the third-most yards in NCAA Division I-AA history -- second in the Big Sky Conference -- with 393 as the Vikings opened a 34-3 halftime lead and held off Eastern Washington 37-22. Fuqua had 243 yards and all three of his touchdowns in the first half, and carried a total of 45 times against the Eagles. Portland State finished with 533 yards of total offense, compared to 435 for the Eagles. Although the Eagles outscored the Vikings 19-3 in the second half, it was a pair of non-scoring drives in the third and fourth quarters by PSU that clinched the win. The Vikings took 12:26 off the clock in those two drives alone, which both ended on failed fourth down tries. Eastern's Jesse Chatman finished with 173 rushing yards. He also caught five passes for 94 yards and a 12-yard touchdown when he hurdled over an opponent at the 5-yard line and then walked into the end zone. Fred Salanoa completed 22-of-33 passes for 249 yards and three touchdowns, and also rushed for 32 yards. Joe Levens was the team's leading receiver with seven catches for 64 yards and a touchdown. Middle linebacker Luke Vincent led the Eagles defensively with 11 tackles.
In 2000, Eastern clinched a second-place finish in the Big Sky Conference as the Eagles closed their season with a 27-24 victory over PSU in Hillsboro, Ore. Jesse Chatman fumbled on his first carry of the game, but came back to rush for 145 yards and three touchdowns. Fred Salanoa completed 26-of-32 passes for 295 yards, but in the second half alone he was 14-of-15 for 177 yards. Eastern overcame three turnovers in the first half and costly penalties in the third quarter en route to the win. But when it counted the most, Eastern's offense scored on three-straight possessions in the second half to open a 27-17 lead. And the defense, playing against an extremely talented Viking offense, held PSU scoreless on two-straight possessions during the same stretch. The Eagles held Portland State to 88 yards rushing, 372 total yards and 24 points. Entering the game, PSU was among the national leaders in all four categories with averages of 184.0 rushing, 423.8 in total offense and 35.4 points.
In 1999, Eastern overcame a disastrous second quarter, but couldn't quite get over the hump in the second half and was upended by Portland State 48-39. The Vikings scored touchdowns on five of six possessions in the first half and took a 34-19 lead at halftime. Eastern's defense stiffened in the second half, pulling to within 41-33 on a 7-yard pass from Fred Salanoa to Joe Levens with 10:48 to play. Four minutes later, Jeff Allen recovered an errant Viking lateral pass, and Eastern went on a 12-play, 51-yard touchdown drive that was capped by a 1-yard touchdown run by Jesse Chatman. On the conversion attempt, Fred Salanoa's pass in the corner of the end zone was just off the fingertips of Keish Levingston. The Vikings sealed the win when Orshawante Bryant picked up Eastern's onside kickoff and returned it 43 yards for a score. Sophomore running back Jovan Griffith rushed for 185 yards and Chatman had 108 as they helped Eastern rush for 304 yards in the game. At the time it was the most rushing yards for the Eagles in their last 20 games dating back to a 319-yard performance versus Idaho State in 1997. Griffith carried 24 times with a long rush of 45 yards and a 7.7 average per rush
In 1998, then-Eastern head coach Mike Kramer used words like "devastation" and "bitter" to describe Eastern's overtime loss to Portland State that was broadcast live on Fox Sports Net Northwest. Here are the reasons for Kramer's disappointment: Eastern kicker Josh Atwood missed three second half field goals of 33 yards or less, including a 25-yarder with one second left that could have won the game. LeVar McClary returned a blocked field goal 38 yards to the PSU 22-yard line to set-up the attempt. The block by Jeff Allen came on a PSU 51-yard field goal attempt with 32 seconds to play. Furthermore, Eastern senior Mike MacKenzie fumbled the ball away twice in PSU territory to stop drives. And penalties hurt the Eagles in key situations as Eastern was whistled for seven penalties for 74 yards. The Eagles had 383 yards of total offense to PSU's 439. But the Eagles had 19 less plays than the Vikings while averaging 6.3 yards per play to PSU's 5.5. The highlight for the Eagles of the game was the pair of punts for touchdowns Bashir Levingston returned against the Vikings. He had a 62-yarder in the second quarter, and added a 68-yarder with 7:18 left in the fourth quarter that gave the Eagles a 24-17 lead. However, Portland State came back to score a touchdown with 4:28 to play, and in overtime the Vikings scored a touchdown after an Eagle field goal.
Last Season -- #23 Portland State 34, Eastern Washington 0: There were 10 teams ranked in the NCAA Division I-AA top 25 that lost Oct. 21. But 23rd-ranked Portland State wasn't one of them.
Eastern Washington managed just 164 yards of total offense as the Vikings defeated the Eagles 34-0 in a Big Sky Conference football game at PGE Park in Portland, Ore.
"We played a tough opponent with a good defense," said Eagle head coach Paul Wulff. "Unfortunately, we didn't execute like we should have."
Eastern was coming off a 34-point effort a week earlier against Northern Colorado in which EWU finished with a season-high 478 yards of offense. But a week after posting their first shutout in 215 games dating back to 1987, the Eagles were shut-out for the first time in 205 games dating back to a 51-0 loss to North Texas in 1988. Those are the only shutouts -- for or against -- the Eagles have had in Big Sky Conference games (the PSU game was EWU's 148th).
The deepest penetration for Eastern came in the fourth quarter when the Eagles drove to the PSU 19 but turned the ball over on downs. Only two other possessions finished in Viking territory.
"Offensively, we put our defense in such a terrible bind because we couldn't get first downs and that kept the defense on the field too long," explained Wulff. "I thought our defense played really well early in the first half but ran out of gas."
Eastern held PSU to just 18 yards of offense in the first quarter. But the Vikings took advantage of an Eastern turnover to take a 10-0 lead at halftime and then pulled away in the second half. Portland State finished with 378 yards of offense.
Defensively, Eastern was led by linebacker David Eneberg with eight tackles and a sack. End Greg Peach had seven tackles and a sack and nose tackle Lance Witherspoon finished with five tackles, 1 1/2 sacks and a pass broken up.
Eastern rushed for just 14 yards, including seven sacks, and had 150 yards through the air. Freshman redshirt quarterback Matt Nichols was 9-of-19 for 80 yards and Chris Peerboom was 7-of-13 for 70 yards. Aaron Boyce was the leading receiver with five catches for 61 yards and Toke Kefu led the Eagles with 20 rushing yards.
Entering the game, PSU ranked 37th in I-AA in total defense (306.7), 18th in scoring defense (16.3), 39th in rushing defense (121.9) and ninth in passing efficiency defense (94.9). The Vikings led I-AA with 15 interceptions and had one on Saturday.
"They blitzed us a ton," said Wulff. "We didn't handle it very well and we made a lot of mental errors early with our young players. We made mistakes."
After a scoreless first quarter, the Eagles survived one turnover but couldn't survive another. A tipped interception gave PSU the ball at the Eastern 41-yard line mid-way through the half, but the Eagle defense held and forced a punt.
However, Eastern's Tony Davis muffed the punt return, and Portland State recovered at the EWU 9-yard line. The Vikings scored a touchdown, then kicked a field goal late in the half to take a 10-0 lead at intermission.
"It was huge," said Wulff of the muffed punt. "It was 0-0 and we turned the darn ball over. We gave them an easy 7-0 lead on a punt return. You can't do that and put the defense in tough situations. I thought we would have a chance to maybe even pitch a shutout if our offense could do anything, but they couldn't."
Portland State scored again on its first possession of the second half, scoring on an eight-play, 76-yard drive. The Vikings scored again shortly thereafter with a field goal that gave the Vikings a 20-0 lead with 4:27 to play in the third quarter.
A pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns closed out the scoring for PSU.
PREVIOUS GAME SUMMARY
No. 25 Eagles Open Big Sky Play with 34-7 Win: The offensive performance was expected, but the stellar defensive effort was even better. Sophomore quarterback Matt Nichols passed for 232 yards in the first half to stake Eastern Washington University to a 27-0 lead and the Eagles went on to open Big Sky Conference play with a 34-7 football victory over Idaho State Saturday (Sept. 22) at Holt Arena in Pocatello, Idaho.
Alexis Alexander added three rushing touchdowns as the 25th-ranked Eagles had 285 yards in the first half and a total of 418 in the game. Eastern's defense did its part in the win as it forced four first-half turnovers, held the Bengals without a point for the first 50:51 of the game and allowed 104 yards in the decisive first half and 404 in the game.
"Anytime you go on the road and win by 27, you'll take it," Eastern head coach Paul Wulff said. "Defensively we played great. We played physical and we played smart."
Nichols finished the game 17-of-30 for 285 yards and one touchdown. He has now thrown for nine touchdown passes with just one interception after having a school-record 17 interceptions and eight touchdowns in 2006 as a freshman.
"Matt threw the ball well," said Wulff. "They were lined up to take the run away, so they gave us the pass. We took advantage of it."
Sophomore receiver Tony Davis had six catches for 150 yards, including four grabs for 126 yards in the first half. Senior Shane Eller added three catches for 52 yards, and Aaron Boyce had three grabs for 46 yards and a touchdown.
"Matt was putting the ball on the money most of the time," Wulff added. "Our receivers did a good job for the most part, but we dropped some balls. In a close game, we can't do that."
Idaho State scored its first points with 9:09 left in the game on a 92-yard drive. Although Eastern was out-gained 296-133 in the second half, Wulff was pleased with the defense.
"Most of the third quarter our defense had its backs against the wall and faced a big challenge," Wulff added. "Ultimately, they did a great job."
Linebacker Marcus Walker led the Eagles with 10 tackles and Ira Jarmon had eight tackles and an interception. Senior Bryan Jarrett also had an interception, and sacks were recorded by Josh Jacobson, Greg Peach, Jason Belford and Tyler Jolley.
Idaho State had three turnovers in the first 18 minutes and Eastern turned them into points to take a 13-0 lead. An interception by Jarrett led to a 21-yard field goal by Felipe Macias.
Another ISU turnover, this time an interception in EWU's own end zone by Hosley, resulted in a seven-play, 80-yard drive for the Eagles. Alexander ran the final 38 yards for the score.
Another Macias field goal, this time from 50 yards, came after a fumble that was forced by Makai Borden and recovered by Belford. The field goal equaled the 15th-longest in school history and gave Eastern a 13-point cushion with 10:47 left in the second quarter.
Eastern added two more scores before halftime on impressive drives after ISU punts. The first was highlighted by a non-scoring 78-yard pass from Nichols to Davis and capped by a 1-yard run by Alexander.
The Eagles took a 27-0 lead on a nine-play, 74-yard drive, with Nichols passing 27 yards to Boyce for the touchdown. At that time, just 27:36 into the half, Eastern had a 291-100 advantage in total offense.
A 44-yard rush on a reverse by Boyce led to Eastern's lone score in the third quarter. Alexander scored his third touchdown of the day on a 3-yard run with 5:21 left in the period, giving Eastern a 34-0 advantage.
The Eagles have now won nine of the last 12 meetings, with the winning team averaging 40.7 points in those last 12 meetings. Eastern has outscored ISU 74-13 in the last two games in the series.
EAGLES IN PRO FOOTBALL
Three Players Remain on NFL Rosters: Michael Roos (Tennessee Titans), running back Jesse Chatman (Miami Dolphins) and defensive end Keith Grennan (San Diego Chargers) all secured spots on NFL teams when final cuts were announced in early September in the 2007 season. Roos and Chatman are on the active roster and Grennan is a practice squad player.
In his team's 2007 opener, Chairman rushed seven times for 15 yards and caught six passes for 48 yards in an overtime loss to the Washington Redskins. Roos helped the Titans rush for a club-record 282 yards in a 13-10 win over Jacksonville.
Former Eastern football star Erik Meyer was one of seven former Eagles who started the 2007 season with NFL teams. The others three were kicker Brett Bergstrom (New Orleans Saints), safety Brandon Keeler (Arizona Cardinals) and offensive lineman Harrison Nikolao (Cincinnati Bengals). Those three, as well as Grennan, were rookies after playing for Eastern in 2006.
Meyer capped a record-breaking year in NFL Europa by signing a free agent contract with the Seattle Seahawks during the summer. He attended Seattle's training camp in Kirkland, Wash., in August, a camp that formerly took place in EWU's hometown of Cheney, Wash.
A year ago, Meyer was with Cincinnati before getting cut and Eric Kimble was with Miami. Kimble suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon and missed the 2006 season, then was released on March 1, 2007.
Other current pros include Jesse Hendrix who is now in Montreal of the Canadian Football League, along with fellow Alouettes Luke Fritz and Dario Romero. Lamont Brightful started the 2007 season with Montreal and is now with Calgary. Other former Eagles still active in the CFL are Ryan Phillips (British Columbia) and Bashir Levingston (Toronto). Isaiah Trufant is in the ArenaFootball League, joining the Kansas City Brigade in 2007 after playing for the Spokane Shock in af2. Raul Vijil is a current member of the Shock, and other current af2 players include Josh Blankenship (Tulsa Talons) and Muhammad Shamsid-Deen (Tri-Cities Fever).
Several former EWU coaches have also spent time in the professional ranks, including Jimmy Lake, Jim McElwain, Keith Murphy, Randy Hansen, Bill Diedrick Jr., and Aaron Best. Diedrick, a 2007 inductee into the Eastern Athletics Hall of Fame, and Best are now offensive coaches for the Toronto Argonauts in the CFL.
Chatman "Hot" in Sports Illustrated: Former Eastern running back Jesse Chatman, now with the Miami Dolphins, was listed in the "Who's Hot" section in the Aug. 20 issue of Sports Illustrated magazine. Here's what the magazine had to say about Chatman, who rushed for 4,173 yards and 53 touchdowns from 1999-2001 at Eastern:
Running back Jesse Chatman gained 392 yards (on just 65 carries) for the Chargers in 2004. Then he gained 50 pounds and missed two seasons. Now looking svelte in a Dolphins uni, he broke off a 74-yard TD run last Saturday. Chatman: "I'm not going to take this for granted."
In two preseason games thus far, Chatman is Miami's leading rusher with 107 yards on 14 carries and the leading receiver with five catches for 43 yards. He is listed as the team's No. 2 running back behind Ronnie Brown.
Meyer Sets NFL Europa Completion Percentage Record That Will Never Be Broken: Former Eastern quarterback Erik Meyer completed 68.8 percent of his passes in the 2007 season for the Cologne Centurions, setting a NFL Europa record that will never be broken. Shortly after the season ended, the National Football League decided to cease existence of the league.
Meyer led the Centurions to a 6-4 record. He ranked second among NFLE quarterbacks with a passer rating of 101.1. He completed 141-of-241 passes for 1,612 yards, 13 touchdowns and six interceptions. Meyer also added 138 rushing yards and one touchdown. Shortly after the season, he signed a free agent contract with the Seattle Seahawks.
He was NFL Europa's Player of the Week after his performance for the Cologne Centurions in a key victory over the Amsterdam Admirals on June 9. He completed 21-of-29 passes for 287 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions during Cologne's 31-13 victory. That performance gave him a league-best quarterback rating of 138.1 in the game, edging his previous league-best performance of 136.9 earlier this season against Berlin.
He earned the starting position in week three with a 14-6 victory over the Rhein Fire. At the time, the win moved the Centurions into second place in the standings behind the defending champion Frankfurt Galaxy.
While at EWU, Meyer was named the Big Sky Offensive MVP in 2004 and 2005 and his senior year was named the Walter Payton Award winner. He helped lead Eastern to back-to-back Big Sky Conference co-championships and two NCAA Championship Subdivision playoff berths.
He broke the NCAA Championship Subdivision record for efficiency rating (166.5) by quarterbacks with at least 400 completions. He had 10,261 yards and 84 touchdowns in 42 career games.
Blankenship Helps Tulsa Advance to ArenaCup8 Title: Former Eastern quarterback Josh Blankenship helped the Tulsa Talons to the championship game of the af2 indoor football league. However, a mid-season injury made his contribution minimal after leading Tulsa to victories in its first seven games of the season. Tulsa won the title with a 73-66 victory over Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, but Blankenship did not play.
Blankenship, who earned honorable mention All-America honors and was the Big Sky Conference Offensive Player of the Year for EWU in 2002, passed for 43 touchdowns in those first seven games before suffering a foot injury (strained arch support). He played in just five games after that as Justin Allgood took over as the starter and has held that position ever since. In 12 games, Blankenship has completed 54 percent of his passes for 2,365 yards, 54 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. Tulsa is 17-2 this season, including three playoff victories.
MORE SEASON NOTES
Eagles Add JC All-America Safety: Two-time junior college All-America defensive back Terry Mixon joined the Eastern football program on Sept. 11 and was able to play for the Eagles four days later against UC Davis. He finished with five tackles in his Eagle debut.
"He did well with the limited plays he received," Eagle head coach Paul Wulff said. "But that's how it is going to have to work for him right now. We'll try to get him a little more each game and get him ready. He's not in great shape but he's getting there. And he has to learn the system a little bit. Obviously he will be a great benefit for us."
Mixon left the Washington State University program the previous week after coming to the Cougars from Grossmont Community College near San Diego. Since classes don't start at EWU until Sept. 26, Eagle head coach Paul Wulff was able to get Mixon admitted and enrolled at EWU. It was a much-needed boost for an Eastern team that lost three safeties for the season after just the first game of the year because of injuries.
"We were very fortunate to acquire somebody on such late notice," said Wulff, who lists Mixon as 6-foot-1, 225 pounds. "We have a huge need right now at safety because of the three season-ending injuries we've already had at that position."
Wulff said Mixon could possibly play at free safety, but most likely the rover (strong safety) position. Senior Gregor Smith (shoulder), sophomore Jesse Hoffman (elbow) and freshman redshirt Ethen Robinson (Achilles) have been lost for the season at free safety.
In 2006 as a sophomore at Grossmont, Mixon was ranked by JCFootball.com as the No. 1 safety in the nation. As a sophomore, he repeated as both an All-Foothill Conference first team pick and junior college All-America selection. He was All-California Region III first team and helped his team to 10-2 record and a second-round berth in state playoffs. He was named conference player of the week three times.
As a freshman, he helped Grossmont to a 13-1 record and the California State Championship. He was a four-time Foothill Conference Player of the Week. He earned all-conference first team honors and was named a junior college All-American.
Mixon was a quarterback and defensive back at Dominguez High School in Compton, Calif. He started at quarterback as a senior and rushed for almost 800 yards and 12 touchdowns and added 12 touchdown passes. He was a SuperPrep All-Far West selection (No. 70) as a defensive back. He had over 100 tackles, along with five interceptions, four forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries.
He was born Dec. 20, 1985, in San Diego, Calif. His parents are Timothy Mixon and Betty Randall.
Eagles Lose Two More Safeties For the Season: Sophomore Jesse Hoffman and redshirt freshman Ethen Robinson both suffered season-ending injuries in Eastern's opener against Montana-Western. Both backups at free safety, Hoffman injured his elbow and Robinson tore his Achilles tendon. Besides those two players, projected starting free safety Gregor Smith was lost for the season with a nagging shoulder injury before practices even began.
Hoffman played considerably as a running back as a true freshman in 2006, but moved to defense when the fate of Smith was known. Hoffman finished with 234 yards, including the team's top performance of the year with 124 yards and a touchdown in a 34-0 win at Northern Colorado.
First Big Sky Player of the Week Won by Nichols: One game doesn't make a season, but the sophomore football campaign for Eastern Washington University's Matt Nichols has gotten off to an impressive start after a not-so-impressive season as a freshman redshirt.
The quarterback from Cottonwood, Calif., equaled a 20-year school record with six touchdown passes to lead Eastern to an easy 52-13 non-conference football victory over Montana-Western in EWU's season-opener Aug. 31 at Woodward Field in Cheney, Wash.
As a result, he was awarded with the first Big Sky Conference Offensive Player of the Week honor of the 2007 season. It was the first of what is hopefully many conference honors in the still young career of Nichols. He also earned team offensive player of the week accolades as well.
Nichols completed 20-of-26 passes for 229 yards against the Bulldogs as he tied the TD passes record originally set by Rob James in 1987 against Weber State. His passing efficiency rating of 227.06 is much better than the 109.0 rating he had in 2006 as a redshirt freshman.
"He did good things, he was very accurate and he ran the offense like we coached him to do," said EWU head coach Paul Wulff. "I think he's gained some confidence."
In his debut season, Nichols had just eight touchdowns the entire season and equaled a school-record 17 interceptions. The first start of his career came against nationally-ranked West Virginia on Sept. 9, 2007, when he completed 13-of-25 passes. His talent allowed him to start 10 games in 2006, but his inexperience and inconsistency caused him to be replaced in five of those outings.
Wulff on Sophomore Debut for Nichols: "The way he was practicing we thought there was a chance he would do well in this first game. We felt like we had better athletes outside at the receiver positions, and we knew that if we gave him enough time, he would be able to hit them. And that's what he did. His accuracy was good and I think of the six incompletions he had, three were dropped balls -- they were right in their hands."
Wulff on Reason for Early Success for Nichols: "The (biggest reasons) are last year's experience and the amount of work he has put in to get better. He's gotten to know his teammates better and doesn't have receivers that are freshmen to throw to. That is just part of college football and the maturation you have to go through. We went through that last year and we're better now because of it."
Lower Division Opener Something New: For a change, Eastern got to see how it feels to open the season on the other end of the collegiate football food chain.
A 52-13 win over Montana-Western marked the first lower division opener for Eastern since 1997. It was also the first time Eastern opened the season at Woodward Field since 1997, when Eastern finished 12-2 and advanced to the "Final Four" of the Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs.
In eight of nine seasons from 1997-2006, Eastern opened the season on the road against a Football Bowl Subdivision foe (formerly I-A). Just once in those nine seasons -- a 35-17 victory at Connecticut -- has Eastern opened the season with a victory.
Eastern Has Burning Desire to Improve: Eastern is coming off a 3-8 finish last year that included a 3-5 record in Big Sky Conference play after losing all three of its non-conference games. Eastern head coach Paul Wulff is expecting his team to be championship contender once again after sharing the Big Sky Conference title in both 2005 and 2006 and advancing to the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs both seasons.
"I think there is a burning desire to get back to playing well and playing good football," he said. "That includes coaches and players. We have built enough expectations of success in our program that last year was not acceptable. We will prepare ourselves as well as we possibly can to come back this season and play better."
Eagles Are Still Youthful: Eastern enters the season with much more experience under its belt than last year, but the Eagles are still young. In the team's opener against Montana-Western, only three seniors were in the team's starting lineup on defense and four were on the starting offense.
All four of those seniors on offense are linemen as Eastern returns a pair of past All-Americans (Matt Alfred in 2005 and Rocky Hanni in 2004), as well another All-Big Sky tackle in Zach Wasielewski. The lone non-starting senior on the offensive line, Julian Stewart, is academically ineligible to play in 2007 and has been replaced by freshman redshirt Brice Leahy and sophomore Chris Thomas.
"That was a little bit of a hit, but we do have some experience there and it is an area that needs to be a strength," said Wulff of losing Stewart. "They are a group that should play well and get us out of the gate and play well early. There is a lot of pressure on those guys to perform well."
Eastern's offense will be led by sophomore quarterback Matt Nichols and five other sophomores expected to play key roles as offensive skill players. They include wide receivers Tony Davis, Aaron Boyce, Jeffrey Solomon and Brynsen Brown, as well as tight end Nathan Overbay. Solomon is injured and will probably redshirt.
"All of those youthful players have good experience," Wulff said. "We are still going to be a youthful football team, but I do believe we should be a good football team. How fast we grow as the season progresses is really going to be the indicator of how well we end up doing at the end of the season."
Eagles Play Six Home Football Games: Eastern will open a six-game home schedule on Friday, Aug. 31, with a non-conference home game versus Montana-Western. After a bye week, Eastern plays another non-conference game against UC Davis on Sept. 15.
Big Sky Conference play begins at Idaho State on Sept. 22, followed by the EWU Athletics Hall of Fame Game on Sept. 29 against Portland State. After playing at Montana on Oct. 6, Eastern hosts Montana State on Oct. 13.
A difficult road trip at NCAA Division I Bowl Division (formerly I-A) member Brigham Young follows on Oct. 20, then the Eagles play at Sacramento State on Oct. 27. Eastern's Homecoming game is Nov. 3 against Northern Colorado, and the Eagles conclude the regular season with a road game at Northern Arizona on Nov. 10 and a home game versus Weber State on Nov. 17.
Last season, Eastern finished 3-8 overall and 3-5 in the Big Sky Conference with a schedule that included two NCAA Division I Bowl Division members West Virginia and Oregon State. The Eagles, young and inexperienced at several positions including quarterback and wide receiver, closed the year with a convincing 40-6 victory over Idaho State.
Eastern is 7-0 all-time against Western Montana, but hasn't played the Bulldogs since 1982 when both were affiliated with NAIA. Montana-Western is still a NAIA member while Eastern is now a member of the NCAA Division I Championship Division (formerly I-AA).
UC-Davis is also in the NCAA Division I Championship Division and is a member of the Great West Conference. The Aggies, who were 6-5 in 2006, will be eligible for the postseason for the first time since 2002 when it was still a member of NCAA Division II. In the only meeting between the two teams, Eastern beat UC Davis 24-6 on Nov. 19, 2005, at fog-shrouded Woodward Field.
Brigham Young finished the 2006 season ranked 15th in the USA Today Coaches Poll and 16th in the Associated Press top 25. The Cougars won their final 10 games, including a 38-8 victory over Oregon in the Pioneer PureVision Las Vegas Bowl to finish the season with an 11-2 record.
The Cougars finished the season ranked fourth nationally in passing offense (323.5 yards per game) and total offense (465.5). The BYU offense also ranked fifth in scoring offense with an average of 36.8 points per game. Additionally, the Cougars had a 167.08 passing efficiency rating on the season to rank second nationally.
Defensively, the Cougars finished the season ranked 10th in scoring defense, allowing just 14.7 points per game. BYU ranked 16th in passing efficiency defense (106.2) and 38th in total defense (319.2).
Since 1982 when it became a member of NCAA Division II (the Eagles became a I-AA team in 1983), Eastern is now 8-13 all-time versus Bowl Division teams. A 35-17 win over Connecticut on Sept. 8, 2001, snapped a five-game losing streak versus I-A foes. Eastern has lost its last four since beating Idaho 8-5 in 2003.
Montana is the defending Big Sky Conference champion, a title it has won outright or shared for the past nine seasons. The Grizzlies advanced to the playoffs for a record 14th straight season, and won twice in the playoffs before falling to Massachusetts 19-17 in the semifinals. Montana finished its season ranked third in The Sports Network poll with a 12-2 record.
Montana State won its first playoff game in 22 years, downing Furman 31-13 in the first round in Bozeman. The Bobcats' season came to an end with a 38-17 loss at eventual national champion Appalachian State. Montana State finished its season 8-5, and ranked 10th in The Sports Network poll.
Eagles Picked to Finish Fifth in Big Sky: The Eastern football team has been picked to finish fifth in the 2007 Big Sky Conference football season as the preseason polls were released July 16 at the league's Summer Kickoff in Park City, Utah.
Eastern is coming off a 3-8 season in 2006 that included a 3-5 record in the Big Sky. Eastern finished in a tie for sixth in the 2006 league race after being picked to place second by the coaches and sixth by the media.
This season, Eastern returns 13 starters and a total of 46 letter winners. Picked to finish exactly in the middle of the nine-team league, Eastern was picked to finish behind Montana, Portland State, Montana State and Northern Arizona. The Eagles were picked ahead of Weber State, Sacramento State, Idaho State and Northern Colorado.
"That doesn't bother me at all, and I don't think it bothers anybody else on our team at all," said EWU senior safety Gregor Smith. "It's that record at the end of the season that shows how you do."
Smith, a 2003 graduate of Lakeside High School in Nine Mile Falls, Wash., was EWU's player representative at the media gathering and meetings in Park City.
Alfred, Hanni Honored on Preseason All-America Teams: Senior offensive guard Matt Alfred has been selected to a pair of preseason NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision All-America football teams. He was a member of the College Sporting News squad, and was a second team selection by The Sports Network. In addition, the 6-foot-3, 300-pound Alfred was named to the preseason All-Big Sky team. Fellow offensive lineman Rocky Hanni was on the Sports Network's third team.
A 2003 graduate of Gig Harbor (Wash.) High School, Alfred was an All-American in 2005 and has earned three previous postseason All-BSC honors at EWU (second team in 2004 and 2006 and first team in 2005). He enters the 2007 season with 33-straight starts as an Eagle.
Hanni earned All-America honors as a freshman in 2004 when he was the Big Sky Conference's Newcomer of the Year. He has also started 33 games at Eastern.
Former 1,000-Yard Rusher Among New Hall of Fame Members: Five individuals and two teams will comprise the eighth class of inductees into the Eastern Washington University Athletics Hall of Fame in ceremonies that will take place on Sept. 29, 2007, in Cheney, Wash.
The new inductees include record-setting All-West Coast fullback Meriel Michelson, who held the school's career rushing record for nearly 40 years. He finished with 2,517 yards, including the school's first 1,000-yard season as he led Eastern to 29 victories and three conference titles. He had 1,049 in 1950 when he led the nation in rushing and was selected to the United Press Little All-West Coast team. Michelson, who was a counselor and teacher in Pasco, Wash., for more than 30 years, passed away recently on July 18 after a battle with lung cancer.
The other individual inductees include All-America cross country and track standout Kari McKay and former gymnastics coach and long-time supporter Thorne Tibbitts. The other two individual inductees were members of Eastern's highly-successful volleyball program in the late 90's -- player Kim Exner and her coach Pamela Parks, who has been a fixture for more than 30 years in the Eastern athletic department.
Two teams will also be inducted as Eastern celebrates the 25th anniversary of the school's 1982 NCAA Division II cross country title and the 30th anniversary of the 1977 NAIA wrestling championship.
Established in 1996, this year's inductees will bring to the total number of individuals in the Hall of Fame to 40 and teams to five. More information may be found at: http://goeags.cstv.com/hallfame.
The inductees will be honored with a social that starts at 10 a.m. on Sept. 29 at the Pence Union Building. The public is invited to attend (RSVP to 509-359-2463 or 1-800-648-7697).
Recipients will also be honored at the volleyball match against Northern Arizona that starts at 1 p.m. at Reese Court, and EWU's football game with Portland State that begins at 6:05 p.m. at Woodward Field.
The induction is part of the All Athletes Reunion and Hall of Fame Weekend at EWU. More information may obtained at: http://www.ewu.edu/x49735.xml.
McKay was an All-American in the 10,000 meters at the 1992 NCAA Track & Field Championships and also made two appearances at the NCAA Cross Country Championships. The graduate of nearby Almira (Wash.) High School went on to a successful road-racing running career, including a string of six-straight years as the top area female finisher at the annual Lilac Bloomsday race.
Tibbitts has been recognized as one of 34 "pioneers" of the sport of gymnastics in the State of Washington. He coached Eastern to a second-place finish at the 1965 NAIA Championships, and helped lay the groundwork for the school's future success in that sport. He has been a fixture in Cheney ever since, and has been a huge supporter and contributor to the athletic department.
Exner led Eastern to 46 victories in her last two seasons (1997 and 1998), including a NCAA Tournament berth and co-Big Sky Conference title. Twice she was the league's MVP and earned All-Region VIII honors as she finished her career with school and Big Sky records for kills (1,860). Formerly from Vernon, B.C., she is married to former Eastern and current Washington State assistant football coach Timm Rosenbach.
Parks began her legacy at Eastern as a volleyball player, then won 291 matches in 18 seasons as the school's head coach. In her tenure, Eastern had six 20 victory seasons, won two Big Sky Conference regular season titles, one BSC tournament title and advanced to three NCAA Tournaments. She remains on staff as an associate athletic director.
Timing Rule Changes Rescinded: Two timing rules put into effect in 2006 were rescinded for the 2007 season. The changes were originally designed to speed up play, but as a result provided for less plays in the game as the game clock in 2006 was started sooner in several situations. In most circumstances the clock started on a change of possession on the ready-for-play signal instead of when the ball is snapped. It also started when the ball is kicked on free kicks (kickoffs), where previously it started when the ball was touched in play. In 2006, there were an average of 126.9 plays per game (both Eastern and its opponents). In 2005, there were an average of 147.0 plays and the year before that the average was 146.5.
Terms I-A and I-AA Eliminated: The terms I-A and I-AA are no longer being used by the NCAA in distinguishing teams in NCAA Division I football. Schools in I-A are now referred to as the "NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision" or "FBS" and I-AA will change to "NCAA Football Championship Subdivision" or "FCS." The Collegiate Commissioners Association helped develop the new labels and were approved by the NCAA Board of Directors.
The new term is designed to distinguish Division I institutions for purposes of governing football, the only sport for which such a distinction is necessary. Members felt the old nomenclature inaccurately tiered Division I institutions in all sports, not just football, and produced instances in which media outlets and other entities incorrectly cited institutions as being Division I-AA in basketball or baseball, for example.
"All Division I institutions, regardless of whether they sponsor football, are in fact and should be referred to as Division I members," said Board Chair and University of Connecticut President Philip Austin. "The only reasons for labeling are the need to distinguish the two football subdivisions for the purpose of governing the sport and to maintain separate statistics. The Board is stressing that the nomenclature reflect the totality of the Division I membership whenever possible and that the subdivision labels be used sparingly. Still, there are instances in which we need to use them, and we feel the new labels are more accurate."
Big Stat Totals in Spring: Eastern's starting and backup offensive units were impressive in four spring scrimmages (including the Red-White Game), with 1,598 total yards and an average of 7.2 yards per play. Offensive units rushed for 586 yards (5.2 per play) and completed 65 percent of their passes (72-of-111) for 1,012 yards, 10 touchdowns and just one interception.
Nichols, who started as a redshirt freshman a year ago, completed 38-of-58 passes (66 percent) for 591 yards, six touchdowns and one interception. Junior backup Alex Smart completed 68 percent of his passes (28-of-41) for 335 yards, three scores and no picks. Smart had an impressive passing efficiency rating of 161.1, compared to 181.8 for Nichols. Third-string quarterback Jason Harris completed 6-of-12 passes for 86 yards.
Sophomore wide receiver Tony Davis was the team's big playmaker, catching 13 passes for 218 yards and four touchdowns, and rushing eight times for 134 yards and two more scores. Sophomore Jeffrey Solomon had 12 catches for 151 yards and a touchdown and rushed five times for 60 yards and a score.
The team's leading receiver was senior Shane Eller with 17 catches for 201 yards and a touchdown. Sophomore Aaron Boyce added nine catches for 141 yards. Sophomore Nicholas Ramos added eight grabs for 100 yards and two scores.
Leading the running game was sophomore Jesse Hoffman with 124 yards on 25 carries (5.0 per carry) and one touchdown. Senior Toke Kefu had 27 rushes for 140 yards (5.2 per carry) and a touchdown. A.J. Jimerson played in two scrimmages, and had 75 yards on 16 carries (4.7 per carry) with a touchdown.
Defensively, sophomore safety Kevin Hatch had 17 tackles and a four passes broken up, and sophomore cornerback Lonnie Hosley had 14 stops with a pass broken up. Linebackers Shane Cooley and Jared Kuhl had 14 and 16 tackles, respectively. Cooley is a freshman and Kuhl is a senior.
Eagles Announce Spring Award Winners: Center Chris Carlsen from Poulsbo, Wash., was a double winner as EWU handed out awards at the conclusion of spring practice. 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).
Sturdy Takes Over as Offensive Coordinator: St. Ambrose University head football coach Todd Sturdy decided to leave his post to take the offensive coordinator position at Eastern, it was announced on March 13, 2007.
Sturdy was 85-40 in 12 seasons as head coach for SAU, which is located in Davenport, Iowa. Sturdy, 39, was selected as NAIA Region 2 Coach of the Year by the American Football Coaches Association after coaching the Fighting Bees to a perfect 10-0 regular season finish. The team's season came to an end with a 38-31 double-overtime loss to Morningside in the first round of the NAIA Championship Series.
Wulff has known Sturdy for seven years, dating back to when Timm Rosenbach joined the EWU coaching staff after a stint at St. Ambrose. Rosenbach is now the quarterbacks coach at Washington State University. Jody Sears also worked for Sturdy at St. Ambrose.
"He has a proven track record as an assistant and has accomplished even more as a head coach," said Eastern head coach Paul Wulff. "I first met him seven years ago and it's a great fit. He's going to bring great leadership, passion and work ethic to our program. He's an excellent worker"
Besides serving as offensive coordinator, Wulff said Sturdy will also coach quarterbacks, assist with special teams and serve as the team's academic liaison. He replaced Beau Baldwin, who left Eastern to become head coach at Central Washington University.
Ackerman Joins EWU Coaching Staff: A former starter in the National Football League and one of the greatest offensive linemen in school history, Tom Ackerman took over as offensive line coach when preseason practices for the 2007 season began in mid-August.
Formerly from Nooksack, Wash., Ackerman played eight seasons in the NFL, including the first six with the New Orleans Saints and the 2002 and 2003 seasons with the Tennessee Titans.
Ackerman was the 145th pick overall in the 1996 NFL Draft and was the first offensive lineman in Washington and the Big Sky Conference to be taken. He was a third team All-American at EWU following his senior season in 1995.
"Tom will give us a great presence," said Eastern head coach Paul Wulff, who came to Eastern in 1993. "I coached Tom when I first arrived here and spent three seasons with him. We see the exact same things and work well together. It will be great for our players."
He played in 105 career games in the NFL, including 21 as a starter. While in the NFL, he started and ran the Ack for Kids Foundation for five years, with proceeds benefiting children in his hometown and Whatcom County. Following his playing career, he returned to the Spokane area and has spent time in private business and as a football coach and strength coach. In 2007, he coached the offensive line for the Spokane Shock in arenafootball2.
Ackerman is a 1991 graduate of Nooksack Valley High School where he earned All-State honors in football as a linebacker and tight end. He started 32 games at Eastern, playing as a guard, tackle, center and long snapper. He earned third team All-America accolades and first team All-Big Sky honors as a senior, and was a second team All-BSC pick as a junior. The Eagles won 21 games in his four seasons, including the Big Sky Conference regular season title in 1992.
Ackerman was born Sept. 6, 1972, in Nooksack, and will turn 35 during Eastern's bye week in the 2007 schedule. He has three daughters - Riley (9), Lexi (8) and Avery (6). His brother T.J., who was an offensive lineman at Eastern and played briefly in the Canadian Football League, is now living in Ferndale, Wash. T.J. is selling real estate along with their father Jim, who is the current mayor of Nooksack.
Eagles to Play Colorado in 2008: Eastern has agreed to play the Colorado Buffaloes in the 2008 football season as Eastern will play its first-ever game against a Big 12 Conference foe. The game versus the member of the NCAA Bowl Subdivision (FBS) is scheduled for Sept. 6, 2008, in Boulder, Colo.
The Eagles will be just the second NCAA Championship Subdivision (FCS) opponent for the Buffaloes, who were upset by Montana State 19-10 on Sept. 2, 2006. Colorado finished 2-10 a year ago under first-year head coach Dan Hawkins and has no FCS opponents on its 2007 schedule.
Colorado is one of three non-league games for the Eagles in 2008. Eastern is also scheduled to play at UC Davis on Sept. 13 and a lower-division home game against an opponent to be determined.
Eastern's eight Big Sky Conference games in 2008 begin Sept. 27 with a home game against Idaho State and conclude Nov. 22 at Weber State. Other league home games include Montana (Oct. 11), Sacramento State (Nov. 1) and Northern Arizona (Nov. 15).
Eastern opens its 2007 schedule at home against Montana-Western on Aug. 31 and plays UC Davis on Sept. 15. Other 2007 home games include Portland State (Sept. 29), Montana State (Oct. 13), Northern Colorado (Nov. 3) and Weber State (Nov. 17).
Eastern Football Shirts Get National TV Exposure: A simple trade made in summer 2006 in Finland turned out to be a pretty good swap for Eastern Washington University and the Eagle football team.
A pro football teammate of former Eagle Jake Young wore three different EWU football shirts in July 2007 on the hit CBS television reality show "Big Brother 8." Young, who now lives in Nampa, Idaho, after last playing for EWU's Big Sky Conference championship teams in 2004 and 2005, was simply shocked when he saw his former practice shirt on TV in early July.
"That sucker has my shirt on!," he yelled at his TV.
Nicholas Starcevic -- or Nick as he's know on the show -- is the contestant spreading Eastern to a world-wide audience. He appeared on the show for a month before finally being kicked out by his fellow housemates.
"Isn't that great?," Young said of the exposure EWU and the football team has received. "I knew he was going to be on TV, but I didn't know what show he was going to be on. Now I know where my clothes went -- he has three of my shirts."
Eastern's athletic logo on a helmet and "Eastern Washington" is prominent on one of the shirts, and Big Sky Conference Champions is on the back of another. The back of the third shirt includes the face of Young's former EWU teammate, quarterback Erik Meyer. That shirt commemorates the record-breaking season Meyer had in 2005 when he won the Walter Payton Award.
"We kept getting calls and e-mails from people saying they saw the shirt and wondered what former player of ours is on the show," said Eagle head coach Paul Wulff. "I wish it was a former player because I would have been sending him more shirts and gear than he knew what to do with."
But just how did Starcevic end up with the shirts? At first, many people thought Nick played football at Eastern, but that was quickly dispelled when it was revealed that he was from Kimball, Minn., and played at Minnesota-Crookston. Listed by the show as a former professional football player, Nick's only professional experience came in the European Federation of American Football (EFAF) while playing for the Seinajoki Crocodiles in Finland.
His teammate in 2006 just happened to be Young, and they were two of the three Americans allowed to play on each team in that league. During their successful 11-2 season during the spring and summer months, Young and Starcevic became close friends. Before they departed back to their lives in the United States, they made a couple of trades.
"I have some of his gear and he has some of mine," Young said. "He's one of my best buddies. We had a good time together in Europe."
Young last talked to him this spring, but Starcevic couldn't say much. "But he told me something big was going to happen. He couldn't tell me anything because he said he had to take a lie detector test."
"I had the FBI or an agency like that contact me," Young said of what happened next. "I thought he was in trouble. It was a heckuva background check. Next thing I know, I see him on TV. I said, `oh my gosh!'"
Starcevic was a defensive back and linebacker for the Crocodiles, who finished second in the Maple League and fourth overall in the Euro League in 2006. Young played linebacker, quarterback and wide receiver -- "a little bit of everything," he said.
The third American on the squad was Maurice Drayton from The Citadel. Nick has been wearing a Citadel shirt on the show as well.
Young, who helped Kamiah (Idaho) High School win a State title as a senior in 2000, was impressed by the level of football played in Finland. But to see Nick listed as a pro football player in the show's biographical information elicited a chuckle out of Young.
"I laugh every time I see that," said Young. "But it was definitely pro football -- we got paid for it -- but it was really more like semi-pro football. It was probably comparable to (NCAA) Division II Football."
A backup throughout his career, Young played 23 games at Eastern and finished with 51 tackles, a sack and an interception he returned 46 yards. Eastern won Big Sky titles and advanced to the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs in both 2004 and 2005, but playing in Finland with Starcevic was yet another football experience Young will never forget.
He remembers a trip to Russia for a game in which he was selected the team's MVP in the victory. On that same trip, despite warnings to not drink the water, Starcevic didn't follow the directive and spent several days -- including during the game -- throwing up with the stomach flu.
"We had some wild times, definitely," Young said. "He was very goofy and one of the funniest people I've ever talked to. But he is also very smart and very athletic. He fits right in (on TV)."
Eastern's current TV exposure is similar to the exposure the school luckily received back in 1992. The Eagles were on a charter flight to play at Northern Iowa in the playoffs, and that same plane was scheduled to later pick-up president-elect Bill Clinton. That gave athletics marketing director Lee Yerty an idea.
Yerty, a former football teammate of Wulff's at Washington State University, gave a flight attendant an EWU hat a