Sept. 29, 2008
The scores 28-21 and 34-0 are all the motivation the 11th-ranked Eastern Washington University football team will need this week.
Those are the scores of the last two losses the Eagles have taken at the hands of Portland State, Eastern’s opponent this Saturday (Oct. 4) in Portland, Ore. Kickoff at PGE Park is 1:05 p.m. Pacific time.
Last year’s 28-21 home loss to the Vikings stung, but so did the 34-0 loss in Portland two seasons ago. The Eagles were shut-out for the first time in 205 games dating back to a 51-0 loss to North Texas in 1988, and it is the only time EWU has been shut-out in a current total of 160 Big Sky Conference games.
"Every team in this league is tough and every game is challenging," said first-year Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin. "We’re going to get the best from any team we face, so there’s lots of motivation. It’s a Big Sky game, we haven’t beat them since 2005 and just the fact you want to get on a good roll at the start of the Big Sky schedule. There is no reason not to be motivated and no reason to think about anything other than Portland State."
This week, the Eagles will have their hands full again against a team with the top passing offense among the 118 teams in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision. The Vikings are averaging 356.5 passing yards per game in the run-and-shoot offense of legendary head coach Jerry Glanville and offensive coordinator Mouse Davis.
"When they get hot they can be really tough," Baldwin said. "They are a little bit of a sleeping giant because they maybe haven’t played their best football yet. They have a nice scheme and have good players. We have to do everything we can to take them out of that rhythm offensively and what they do."
Eastern, meanwhile, is right behind PSU at 326.8 passing yards per game to rank third nationally. The Eagles are also 11th nationally in scoring average (48.8) and have a huge advantage over PSU in rushing offense. Eastern is 88th nationally (105.0 per game) while PSU is 116th (33.5). Overall, Eastern is 11th in FCS in total offense (431.8) and PSU is 33rd (390.0).
It could be an offensive show Saturday because defensively both teams are in the bottom four in FCS in total defense. Eastern is 115th (474.5 yards allowed per game) and PSU is 116th (482.0), but Baldwin is wary of the Viking defense.
"Defensively they fly around, hit you and are one of the more physical teams," Baldwin said of the challenge his offense will face this week. "They bring a lot of different types of pressures so you have to be on point with your protections."
The Vikings enter Saturday’s game with a 1-3 mark overall and 0-1 record in the Big Sky after last week’s season-opening 41-31 loss at Sacramento State. But the Vikings haven’t played at home since beating Western Oregon 31-14 on Aug. 30. In the meantime, PSU lost to former Eastern head coach Paul Wulff’s Washington State squad 48-9 on Sept. 20.
Eastern enters Saturday’s game with a 2-2 mark overall and 1-0 in the Big Sky Conference after its second-straight dominant performance in the fourth quarter. Eastern scored the final 17 points in a 45-31 victory over Idaho State, a week after scoring the final 21 in a 52-31 triumph over Western Washington.
In those two games, Eastern has out-gained its opponents 418-11 in the fourth quarter while out-scoring them 35-0. The Eagles owned a 197-27 advantage in the fourth quarter versus Western Washington, then had 221 four-quarter yards compared to minus-16 for the Bengals.
"I kind of made jokes about that in our meeting the other day -- we look forward to the day when we have a nice little lead going into the fourth quarter," said Baldwin of his team’s need for fourth-quarter fireworks. "But you would rather have that than the other way. I’ve been a part of teams sometimes that didn’t know how to respond in adverse situations. They can be challenging both physically and mentally late in the ballgame and our players have responded."
"You would like to think there are some conditioning aspects to it," he explained. "We take pride in practicing hard and practicing fast. The conditioning they did this past summer, and in general since January, have put them in a great spot. And we have great leaders. They know what to do in those situations and other players follow suit. We are mentally strong too in determining what to do in that situation. We can either fold it up and play passive, or we can go after it and win the fourth quarter. Fortunately we’ve had players make some big plays late in ballgames."
Getting off to a 1-0 start was important for the Eagles.
"It's huge," said Baldwin. "It just puts you in a better position -- and I've been on the other end where you just had to fight and scrap once you are down 0-1. So this was a huge win for us, against a very good football team. They're going to win games in the Big Sky, I will tell you this right now. I think more than just a few."
Likewise, PSU’s 0-1 start in the league doesn’t mean much to Baldwin.
"One loss does not take you out of that, especially this year," he said. "Right now, Portland State, along with every other team in this conference, is still very much alive in this race. So it’s a huge game for them and a huge game for us. We’ll make sure our players understand that this will take our best effort to win on the road against a good Portland State team."
Eastern will enter this week’s game ranked 11th in The Sports Network NCAA Football Subdivision rankings.
-- Nichols Big Sky Player of the Week as He and Peach Provide Fourth Quarter Fireworks -- Junior Matt Nichols and senior Greg Peach -- a pair of candidates for national player of the year awards -- sparked Eastern in the fourth quarter of both wins the past two weeks.
Nichols, who won his fourth Big Sky Conference Offensive Player of the Week honor for his effort against ISU, passed for 382 yards (17th-best in school history) and five touchdowns against the Bengals. A week earlier he had 281 yards and three touchdowns against WWU. But the Walter Payton Award candidate was at his best in the fourth quarter of both games, going a collective 13-of-15 for 259 yards and three TD passes. Nichols now has three 300-yard performances in four games this season and nine in his 28-game career.
Peach had three sacks for the second-straight game against the Bengals, including one in the fourth quarter as ISU completed just 2-of-8 passes for 12 yards, and had minus 28 rushing yards, in the final stanza. A week earlier, he had a hand in all four Eastern sacks in the game. He now has 23 1/2 in his career, and in a matter of two weeks has moved from ninth to fifth on Eastern’s career leaders list.
-- Ahead For the Eagles -- Following Saturday’s game, Eastern returns home for the Eastern-Montana showdown on Oct. 11 at Woodward Field. As of Monday, Sept. 29, less than 700 tickets remain, mostly general admission. Additional bleachers will be added to push the capacity of Woodward Field from 8,600 to 10,840. Tickets may be purchased by calling 1-800-325-7328 or logging on to www.ticketswest.com.
Besides Montana, Eastern plays league home games in 2008 against Sacramento State (Nov. 1) and Northern Arizona (Nov. 15). Eastern’s four Big Sky opponents at home had a collective 23-22 record overall and 18-14 league mark in 2007, led by Montana’s 11-1 record overall and perfect 8-0 record in the BSC. Eastern’s 2008 road opponents were 15-30 overall and 12-20 in the conference.
-- Nichols, Boyce and Peach Perform Well in Front of Fellow "100 for 100" Players -- With 55 of their fellow "100 for 100" team members looking on, quarterback Matt Nichols, wide receiver Aaron Boyce and defensive end Greg Peach proved their worthiness in that select group in Eastern’s 45-31 victory over Idaho State on Hall of Fame/"100 for 100" Weekend at EWU.
Nichols passed for 382 yards and five touchdowns, and Boyce caught nine passes for 135 yards and three scores. Peach had three sacks for the second-straight week and finished with nine total tackles.
"They did come up big and we were very proud of them," said Baldwin. "Greg has had two big games in a row -- he’s starting to really let it go and is playing well.
"Matt has been consistent all year. We turned it over a few too many times our first two games, but in the last two he’s been very clean. The one interception he had was a little out of his control (dropped pass).
"Aaron has made huge plays the past two weeks. Not just the touchdown catches, but he made some huge third down catches too. At the receiver position, you may have games where you only catch two or three balls, and with our depth it’s going to be like that. We’ll have different players step-up in different games, and that makes us that much harder to defend."
In summer 2008, the athletic department named 100 of the top players in school history to the "100 for 100" All-Time Football Team to commemorate the 100th year of football at Eastern. Players on the squad were honored during pre-game ceremonies, which included current Eastern players paying tribute with a line of handshakes and high fives as they left the field for the lockerroom 20 minutes prior to kickoff.
Fan voting took place through Sept. 21 for the top player by position, and 12 players were honored. Nearly 700 votes were cast with a total of more than 5,000 votes received, and, interestingly, all 100 of the 100 players received votes.
In addition, former NFL offensive tackle Kevin Sargent was inducted into the Eastern Athletics Hall of Fame. Sargent played seven seasons for the Cincinnati Bengals, starting 63 of the 73 games he played in his injury-shortened career.
Established in 1996, this year’s inductees will bring the total number of individuals in the Hall of Fame to 45. Five teams have also been inducted. More information on the Hall of Fame and the "100 for 100" team may be found at: http://goeags.cstv.com/hallfame.
-- EWU Individual Leaders -- Several Eagles are among the leaders in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision.
Junior quarterback Matt Nichols has already had three 300-yard passing performances, and leads the Big Sky and ranks second in FCS in total offense per game (325.3). He is also 28th in passing efficiency (137.7). Junior receiver Tony Davis has already caught 30 passes after a shoulder injury held him to 35 all of the 2007 season. Davis is seventh nationally and second in the league in receptions per game (7.4), and is 23rd in FCS and fourth in the Big Sky in reception yards per game (85.8).
In addition, kicker Felipe Macias already has field goals of 55 and 52 yards to his credit -- the only player to have made a 50-yarder in the first two weeks of the season. Entering this week’s action, he still has the two longest field goals in FCS and is the only player with two of 50-plus yards. Punter Fritz Brayton has also been impressive, averaging 42.0 yards per kick to rank 20th in FCS.
Defensively, twins Matt Johnson and Zach Johnson, a pair of freshman redshirts, have combined for 65 tackles thus far to rank 1-2 on the team. Zach is second in the Big Sky (8.5 per game) and 65th nationally, and Matt is seventh in the league (7.75). Zach also has three passes broken up and Matt has three interceptions to rank 12th in FCS and second in the league (0.75 per game).
Senior defensive end Greg Peach had three sacks in back-to-back games against Western Washington and Idaho State and now ranks third nationally and first in the Big Sky (1.5 per game). Fellow defensive end Jason Belford has four total sacks this season to rank sixth in FCS and second in the league.
-- Nichols Has Three 300-Yard Passing Games -- Junior quarterback Matt Nichols has already had three 300-yard passing games this season, giving him a total of nine in his 28-game career thus far. Most recently, he had 382 yards against Idaho State to rank as the third-best in his career and 17th-best in school history as he earned Big Sky Conference Offensive Player of the Week honors. Currently on the 2008 Walter Payton Award Watch List, his completions (36) and attempts (61) against Texas Tech on Aug. 30 both rank as the second-most in school history.
On EWU’s career passing lists, Nichols ranks in the top five in all categories, including third in passing yards (6,794), average yards per game (242.6) and total offense (7,301). He is just 698 passing yards and 127 total yards of offense from catching Mark Tenneson (1989-92) for second on both lists. The record holder is 2005 Payton Award winner Erik Meyer (2002-05) with 10,261 passing yards and 10,942 yards of total offense. Meyer is the player Nichols replaced in 2006 as Eastern’s starting quarterback.
Nichols is also fourth in efficiency rating (138.7), second in touchdown passes (52, ranking only behind the 84 of Meyer), third in completions (535) and third in attempts (875).
Below is a complete list of his 300-yard outings:
300-Yard Passing Games for Nichols
451 - 37x59, 2td - Montana - 10/6/07 (#3 in school history)
434 - 34x44, 2td - McNeese State - 11/24/07 (#6 in school history)
382 - 26x40, 5td - Idaho State - 9/27/08 (#17 in school history)
363 - 19x30, 2td - Portland State - 9/29/07 (#26 in school history)
335 - 36x61, 1td - Texas Tech - 8/30/08 (#39 in school history)
329 - 21x42, 1td - Sacramento State - 9/30/06
328 - 20x29, 3td - Sacramento State - 10/27/07
316 - 17x22, 5td - Northern Arizona - 11/10/07
303 - 32x51, 1td - Colorado - 9/6/08
300-Yard Total Offense Games for Nichols
478 - 451 passing, 27 rushing - Montana - 10/6/07
459 - 434 passing. 25 rushing - McNeese State - 11/24/07
376 - 382 passing, -6 rushing - Idaho State - 9/27/08
370 - 363 passing, 7 rushing - Portland State - 9/29/07
359 - 256 passing, 103 rushing - Weber State - 11/17/07
359 - 329 passing, 30 rushing - Sacramento State - 9/30/06
364 - 316 passing, 48 rushing - Northern Arizona - 11/10/07
355 - 328 passing, 27 rushing - Sacramento State - 10/27/07
322 - 335 passing, -13 rushing - Texas Tech - 8/30/08
314 - 303 passing, 11 rushing - Colorado - 9/6/08
-- Wide Receiver Trio Ahead of Previous Quartet -- Eastern’s receiving corp in 2008 includes three juniors – Tony Davis, Brynsen Brown and Aaron Boyce – who have started since they were freshmen in 2006. In their careers, that trio has already combined for 361 catches for 5,004 yards and 34 touchdowns in 80 games worth of experience (66 starts). They combined for 118 catches for 1,539 yards and eight touchdowns as redshirt freshmen in 2006, then combined for 172 catches for 2,561 yards and 18 scores in 2007.
Boyce has already moved onto EWU’s career lists, ranking ninth in catches (142), 10th in touchdown catches (17) and 12th in receiving yards (2,037).
That trio is a reminder 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). But after their first two seasons as Eagles, that quartet had just 121 catches, for 1,774 yards and 17 touchdowns -- less than half of the production that Davis, Brown and Boyce had in their first two years.
In 2005, Meyer and his teammates 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.
100-Yard Receiving Games for Aaron Boyce
232 (*17 catches, 1 TD) - Montana - 10/6/07 (#2 in school history)
186 (9 catches, 2 TD) - Sacramento State - 10/27/07 (#10 in school history)
135 (9 catches, 3 TD) - Idaho State - 9/27/08
135 (9 catches, 1 TD) - Brigham Young - 10/20/07
126 (5 catches, 0 TD) - Montana State - 10/13/07
119 (6 catches, 1 TD) - Portland State - 9/29/07
107 (9 catches, 0 TD) - UC Davis - 9/15/07
100-Yard Receiving Games for Tony Davis
150 (6 catches, 0 TD) - Idaho State - 9/22/07
131 (8 catches, 1 TD) - McNeese State - 11/24/07
126 (6 catches, 1 TD) - Western Washington - 9/20/08
114 (*13 catches, 1 TD) - Texas Tech - 8/30/08
112 (6 catches, 0 TD) - Central Washington - 9/16/06
*Second in school history behind Aaron Boyce.
100-Yard Receiving Games Brynsen Brown
139 (5 catches, 0 TD) - Portland State - 9/29/07
138 (9 catches, 2 TD) - Northern Arizona - 10/28/06
104 (4 catches, 1 TD) - Idaho State - 9/27/08
104 (7 catches, 0 TD) - McNeese State - 11/24/07
104 (5 catches, 0 TD) - Sacramento State - 9/3/06
99 (6 catches, 1 TD) - Weber State - 11/17/07
-- Davis Has Second-Best Receiving Performance in School History -- Junior Tony Davis, who missed four games last season with a shoulder injury, led the Eagles with 13 catches for 114 yards and a touchdown in Eastern’s 49-24 loss to Texas Tech on Aug. 30. His catch total equaled the second most in school history, ranking only behind the 17 teammate Aaron Boyce had in 2007 against Montana. Davis, a 2005 graduate of Capital High School in Olympia, Wash., had 126 yards and a touchdown on six catches versus Western Washington on Sept. 20. Davis now has five 100-yard receiving performances in his Eastern career.
-- Macias Follows 55-Yarder With 52-Yarder -- Senior kicker Felipe Macias booted a 55-yard field goal against Texas Tech on Aug. 30 to pull Eastern to within 28-17 at halftime. He then had a 52-yarder against Colorado, giving him the only 50-yard field goals in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision after the first two weeks of the season.
His kick versus TTU was the third-longest in school history behind boots of 57 and 56 yards. Brett Bergstrom kicked a 56-yarder in 2006 while the school record is a 57-yarder that Eric Stein had in 1987. However, both of those kicks came at much higher altitudes and thinner air. Bergstrom’s was in Greeley, Colo. (elevation 4,711), and Stein’s was in Bozeman, Mont. (4,872). Macias kicked his in high humidity in Lubbock, Texas (elevation 3,222), but did have the wind at his back.
His kick at Colorado, at an elevation of 5,387 feet, was the ninth-longest in school history. It gave the Eagles a 24-17 lead with 3:57 to play.
-- Baldwin Likes Team’s Character and Leadership -- With 15 starters and 43 total letter winners returning from last year’s squad, Eastern is hoping to continue the momentum from the 2007 season when the Eagles returned to the top of the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision scene with a 9-4 finish after a dismal 3-8 record the year before. Eastern advanced to the FCS Playoffs for the third time in the last four seasons and closed the year ranked eighth in the final Sports Network poll of the year.
"I like the makeup of our team a lot," said Baldwin. "Not only do we have great talent, but we have great character and leadership. Those are things your team has to have if they don’t want to be just good but strive to be great. We are nowhere near that at this moment, but in my opinion we have the right makeup to be consistent throughout the year."
-- Five Players Make Starting Debuts -- Five players, including three on defense and two on offense, made their starting debuts at Texas Tech on Aug. 30.
The defensive debuts were made by weak-side outside linebacker J.C. Sherritt, strong-side inside linebacker Zach Johnson and strong safety Matt Johnson. Sherritt is a sophomore from Pullman, Wash. (Pullman HS ’06) and the Johnson twins are redshirt freshmen from Tumwater, Wash. (Tumwater HS ’07). The Johnson twins were playing in their first collegiate football game.
On offense, both new starters were offensive guards. Ryan Forney, a junior from Silverdale, Wash. (Central Kitsap ’05) started at left guard and Bryan Smith, a senior from Enumclaw, Wash. (Enumclaw HS ’04) started on the right.
Since then, only three new starting debuts have been made. Sean Rock started at center versus Idaho State and defensive nose tackle Renard Williams and linebacker Kyle Wilkins both made their starting debuts against Western Washington.
-- 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. In the last six years, EWU’s top three win-loss records (collective 25-13) were recorded by teams that returned at least 245 starts. The worst three records (collective 15-18) were by teams with 225 returning starts or fewer.
The Eagles entered the 2008 season with 26 players returning with starting experience totaling 272 starts. Broken down, Eastern returns 136 starts on both defense and offense (13 players each) for a total of 272 starts returning.
By contrast, Eastern 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. 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
2008 - 26 - 272 - 5 - ?
2007 - 31 - 245 - 6 - 9-4 (total of 11 new starters used during the year)
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
Here are the current number of career starts by Eastern players on the 2008 roster -- Defense (180 starts by 18 players) -- Greg Peach 33, Jason Belford 29, Lance Witherspoon 22, Makai Borden 17, Kevin Hatch 17, Lonnie Hosley 12, Shawn Powell 12, Ryan Kelley 9, Marcus Walker 5, Josh Jacobson 5, Matt Johnson 4, Zach Johnson 4, J.C. Sherritt 3, Tyler Jolley 3, Renard Williams 2, Adam Macomber 1, Jacob Kragt 1, Kyle Wilkins 1.
Offense (180 starts by 16 players) -- Matt Nichols 27, Aaron Boyce 26, Charlie Wulff 23, Brynsen Brown 24, Tony Davis 16, Dale Morris 16, Chris Thomas 11, Alexis Alexander 9, Nathan Overbay 6, Brice Leahy 5, Bryan Smith 4, Ryan Forney 4, Toke Kefu 3, A.J. Jimerson 3, Matt Martin 2, Sean Rock 1.
-- Injury Report -- Redshirt freshman Tyler Hart is out this week with a shoulder injury suffered against Idaho State on Sept. 27. Hart has played as a backup running back as well as returning punts and kickoffs. Redshirt freshman cornerback Taiwan Jones, who broke his fibula the first week of pre-season practices, could make his Eagle debut this week against Portland State. He is listed as questionable for this week’s game after missing Eastern’s first four games.
Eastern came out of its first three game fairly healthy. The only player to leave the Texas Tech game with an injury was Alexis Alexander, who sat out the Colorado game and returned to play against Western. Linebacker J.C. Sherrit left the Colorado game with a sprained ankle suffered on his 48-yard interception return for a touchdown. He missed the Western game but returned to play against Idaho State.
Senior starting nose tackle Shawn Powell suffered a knee injury before practices even began and is out for the season.
Interestingly, injuries to Alexander and Sherritt both occurred on touchdowns. Last year, Tony Davis injured his shoulder on a touchdown reception versus Portland State and missed four games.
Beau Baldwin QUOTES
-- On Giving Up Big Plays Against Idaho State -- "We should be in a position to make them earn everything. I was more frustrated because in the first half, I didn't think our offense was playing very good, and we put our defense in a few bad spots. Our defense even made a play to score one of those three touchdowns we scored. Then at the end, there was one play where they hit a fly ball on us. That's the part that's frustrating. The fact that we are 21-21 with Idaho State, that doesn't surprise me. You go throughout the Big Sky this entire year, you're going to see tie ballgames at halftime no matter what game.
-- On Big Sky Race -- "It's one of those things where every week, in the Big Sky, there is anyone top to bottom that can beat anyone. And I really believe that, maybe this year more than ever. Some of those teams that were considered lower-level Big Sky teams in the last few years, those coaches are (in their) second year. Every one of those Big Sky teams is better than I think they probably were the year before. So, top to bottom, this conference is tough, and every week, if you have any sort of letdown, you will find yourself losing a ballgame."
-- On EWU’s Defensive Line -- "They are always going to be the meat and potatoes of our defense. We are going to be as good as our defensive line -- we are going to be in ballgames later on that are 17-10 or 13-7. You never know, those type of games happen too. We just have to make sure we're on the right end of those. I don't care what the final score is as long as we are on the right end."
-- Series History -- Portland State leads the series 17-12-1. Eastern is 6-8 against the Vikings in Portland and 6-9-1 at home against them. The road team has won six of the last 11 meetings.
In 2006, Eastern Washington managed just 164 yards of total offense as the 23rd-ranked Vikings defeated the Eagles 34-0. 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. 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.
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.
-- 2007 Revisited/No. 21 Eastern Falls to Portland State 28-21 -- Sophomore quarterback Matt Nichols passed for a career-high 363 yards and a pair of touchdowns, but 21st-ranked Eastern Washington was inconsistent on offense and lost 28-21 to Portland State Sept. 29 in a Big Sky Conference football game at Woodward Field in Cheney, Wash.
Eastern was held to 74 yards in the opening quarter and 79 in the third quarter as the Eagles fell behind 28-14 with 3:28 to play in the game. Eastern scored late to pull within a touchdown and had the ball on the PSU 42-yard line in the final seconds, but Nichols was intercepted on a desperation heave into the end zone to end the contest.
It was EWU’s first loss in four tries this season as the Eagles fell to 1-1 in the Big Sky Conference. Portland State is now 2-3, including a perfect 2-0 Big Sky mark after being picked to finish second in the league standings.
"On offense we just didn’t execute all night long and we never got in sync," said Eagle head coach Paul Wulff, whose team finished with 417 yards of offense, well below their average of 487.7 that ranked fourth in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision. "We just didn’t play well on offense and it put our defense in a lot of stressful situations."
Eastern allowed Portland State to finish with 520 yards of offense, including 141 rushing yards by Olaniyi Sobomehin. The Vikings entered the game ranked 116th and last in FCS in rushing (21.8 yards per game).
"I thought our defense played well in a lot of situations," said Wulff. "It was just a frustrating game. We just didn’t play as well as we hoped we would and we just didn’t execute great."
Nichols completed 19-of-30 passes as he eclipsed his previous career high of 329 yards set last year against Sacramento State. His performance equals the 23rd-best in school history.
Eastern managed just 54 net yards rushing as Nichols was sacked five times. In its previous four games, EWU’s senior-dominated offensive line surrendered just one. Dale Morris was the leading rusher with 35 yards on 11 carries with a long rush of seven yards.
Portland State took an early 7-0 lead before Eastern got untracked in the second quarter with back-to-back scores. Brown’s 85-yard catch and run led to a 1-yard touchdown run by Alexis Alexander to knot the score 7-7.
Eastern took the lead on its next possession after Eagle Terry Mixon returned an interception 57 yards to the PSU 26. Five plays later, Nichols passed 10 yards to Tony Davis to give EWU its only lead of the game.
Portland State scored three times in the second half to take a 28-14 advantage with 3:28 to play. But Eastern went on a four-play, 83-yard scoring drive that took just 51 seconds, with Nichols completing a pair of passes to Boyce of 51 yards and 23 yards for the touchdown.
Eastern got the ball back with 23 seconds to play, and Nichols completed a pass of 36 yards to Evan Robbins before ending the game with his interception.