Oct. 20, 2008
Ryan Kelley Earns Big Sky Player of the Week Award
Cornerback intercepts two passes, including one returned for a touchdown, in a 34-17 victory over his former team
The Eagle defense -- particularly its secondary -- has come a long way since its debacle Oct. 4 at Portland State.
One of those players, Eastern Washington University cornerback Ryan Kelley, has been selected as this week’s Big Sky Conference co-Defensive Player of the Week after intercepting two passes against his former school last Saturday (Oct. 18) in a 37-17 victory at Montana State University.
Kelley, who was at MSU in 2004 and 2005, had a pair of interceptions, including one he returned 37 yards for a first-half score. That interception, with 5:03 left in the second quarter, helped Eastern to a 14-all tie at halftime despite just 93 yards from EWU's offense.
His other interception came earlier in the quarter when he returned it nine yards to the MSU 21-yard line, but the Eagles were unable to score. Kelley also had five tackles in the game.
Eastern’s defense gave up 623 passing yards and 597 total yards three games ago in a 47-36 loss at Portland State. But in the two games since, it has surrendered just 36 points, 447 passing yards and 680 total yards.
"It was awesome to see those two interceptions," said EWU head coach Beau Baldwin, whose team has a bye this week before hosting Northern Arizona for Homecoming on Nov. 1. "He has gotten better the last few weeks, and he and our defense have made a lot of improvements."
Kelley has started all seven games this season and has 45 total tackles with a pair of passes broken up. He had just two interceptions in the first 18 games of his EWU career, but duplicated that in the first 25 minutes of his return trip to Bozeman. In his 19-game career (12 as a starter), he now has 81 tackles, four interceptions and seven passes broken up.
He is a 2004 graduate of Serra High School in San Mateo, Calif., but was born in Los Angeles and considers that as his hometown. After redshirting in 2004 and playing sparingly in 2005 at MSU, he played at San Mateo Junior College in California in 2006. He attended EWU and played for the Eagles for the first time in fall 2007.
Just prior to spring practice in 2008, Kelley spent a week in the hospital battling for his life with a bout of bacterial meningitis. He lost 12 pounds after overcoming the sometimes-deadly disease that put him in critical condition in an intensive care unit, as well as an induced coma, in late March. Kelley returned to practice during EWU’s final week of spring drills, but only because weather delays and postponements forced the Eagles to practice the week after the Red-White Spring Game. He still has some lingering hearing loss in his left ear, and likened it to a constant bell ringing
Kelley shared the Big Sky’s Defensive Player of the Week Award with Northern Colorado linebacker Cristian Sarmento. Montana quarterback Cole Bergquist is Offensive Player of the Week and Weber State returner/wide receiver Bryant Eteuati is the Special Teams Player of the Week.