Oct. 23, 2006
If recent history is anything, it's probably meaningless.
Eastern Washington University's football team looks for its first home victory of the season -- on Homecoming nonetheless -- against a Northern Arizona team it has dominated the last two seasons. But none of that will matter when the game kicks off at 2:05 p.m. Pacific time at Woodward Field in Cheney, Wash.
Why? Because the youthful Eagles have been unpredictable at best this season, yet, are out to prove the 0-3 start at Woodward was just a fluke. But Northern Arizona, behind the rejuvenated play of senior quarterback Jason Murrietta, is out to prove results the last two seasons were flukes as well.
"It's going to be a very competitive game," Eagle head coach Paul Wulff predicts of this year's match-up after the last three meetings were decided by an average of 27.3 points per game. "We face another senior quarterback and that makes it a challenge. There are five senior quarterbacks starting in the league right now, and Murrietta is having a great year. He has played a tremendous amount of football and has proven to be a very good quarterback."
This will be Eastern's 80th Homecoming game, with the Eagles owning a 46-30-3 record in the previous meetings. Eastern is just 2-6 overall and 2-3 in the Big Sky after suffering a 34-0 loss to Portland State on Oct. 21. A week earlier, Eastern was on the winning end of a 34-0 score versus Northern Colorado.
"Defensively we were very good in the first half and in the second half we lost a little focus at times," Wulff said of the turnaround against PSU. "Our defense had tough field position the entire game, but overall our performance was good. On offense we couldn't string together enough good plays to get many drives going until the end of the game. But you have to give Portland State credit because their defense made plays."
The Lumberjacks are coming off a 39-22 thumping of Sacramento State, a team the Eagles lost to at home 21-20 on Sept. 30. Murrietta completed 21-of-28 passes for a season-high 384 yards and four touchdowns last week as the Lumberjacks improved to 4-3 on the season and 2-2 in the league.
As a freshman, Murrietta torched the Eagles in a 54-31 Lumberjack win by completing 21-of-36 passes for 360 yards and two touchdowns. He went on to win Offensive Player of the Year honors in the conference.
The following season in EWU's 45-14 home romp, Murrietta was just 16-of-40 for 166 yards and two interceptions and two touchdowns. In that game, Eastern quarterback Erik Meyer was 10-of-10 and EWU led 21-0 before Murrietta completed his first pass of the game. Eastern out-gained NAU 259-4 in the first quarter alone.
Eastern won easily again last season, beating the Lumberjacks 42-14 in Flagstaff, Ariz. Murrietta was just 4-of-12 for 33 yards while Meyer was 23-of-31 for 314 yards and a pair of scores.
This year, Meyer is gone and Murrietta is back to being the leading candidate as MVP of the league if not the nation. Meyer won last year's Payton Award as the top player in NCAA Division I-AA. Murrietta was seventh in the voting for that award in 2003 and is on the "Watch List" for this year's honor.
For the season, Murrietta has completed 64 percent of his passes for 1,635 yards, 17 touchdowns and just two interceptions. He is currently sixth in NCAA Division I-AA with a passing efficiency rating of 162.4. His top target is junior Alex Watson, who has caught eight touchdown passes and ranks in the top 10 in I-AA in both receptions per game (7th; 6.6) and reception yards per game (10th; 96.1).
Northern Arizona's lone league losses were by a combined 10 points to Montana State (39-32) and league-leader Montana (24-21).
"Murrietta is playing well and their offense is a lot more efficient this year," said Wulff. "They do a good job scoring points and taking care of the football. Defensively they've a done a nice job too. Their two league losses were very tight ballgames they could have easily won."
Eastern's passing game, by comparison, is utilizing a redshirt freshman quarterback and three redshirt freshmen wide receivers.
"Experience matters in every league," Wulff added. "That's the way it goes. Hopefully our experience is growing. But each week the opponents are going to be different and that makes it a challenge."
The best Eastern can finish this season is 5-6 as its streak of winning seasons will come to an end at seven. The streak started in 1999, a year after Eastern began the season 0-3 but recovered well enough to finish 5-6. Eastern also started this season 0-3.
"We have to get back to .500 in league," added Wulff. "Homecoming is always a big game for us and this week's game is important."
What a Difference a Week Makes: A near-perfect first half opened a 31-0 lead at halftime against Northern Colorado on Oct. 14, but since then, Eastern's offense has managed just a field goal in the second half versus UNC. Eastern went from a 34-0 shutout against the Bears to losing by the same score on Oct. 21 at Portland State. Those are the only shutouts -- for or against -- the Eagles have had in 148 Big Sky Conference games.
Eastern scored four touchdowns in the first 19 minutes of the game against UNC as redshirt freshman quarterback Matt Nichols led four touchdown drives of 81, 72, 37 and 14 yards. Eastern's 291 yards of offense in the first half was more than the 288.7 Eastern was averaging entering the game. Eastern finished the game with a season-high 478 yards of total offense while holding the Bears to 169.
The UNC win was Eastern's first shutout in 215 games dating back to a 3-0 win over Stephen F. Austin in 1987. The Bears ended drives in Eastern territory just three times, including two inside the 26. Both of those ended in interceptions with the deepest penetration to Eastern's 17.
Against Portland State, 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 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 as EWU finished with just 164 yards of offense.
"We should," said Wulff after the PSU loss when asked if his team had something to prove at home this week where the Eagles are 0-3. "That's the bottom line. We need to get better from this game."
"We need to grow up and understand that every week you have to play," he added. "You don't just play good for one week and not show up the next and not execute very well."
Woodward Kind to Opponents: Woodward Field has been kind thus far to opponents. Besides a 33-17 loss to Montana in EWU's last game there on Oct. 7, EWU fell 21-14 to Central Washington Sept. 16 and 21-20 to Sacramento State on Sept. 30. Montana jumped out to a 21-0 lead in the first quarter, but in the two previous losses Eastern relinquished second-half leads. Central and Sac State scored 36 of their 42 combined points in the second half.
Eastern is 0-3 at Woodward Field this season after entering the year with a 35-9 record in the last nine seasons. Of the 12 losses EWU has suffered there since 1997, three of them have been against Sacramento State. The others are Portland State (2), Weber State (2), Montana (2), Idaho State, Sam Houston State and Central Washington.
The Eagles have won the last four meetings against Northern Arizona at Woodward Field, with the last loss coming in 1996 by a 13-10 score. Overall, Eastern is 6-2 at Woodward versus the Lumberjacks.
Eagles & Lumberjacks in NCAA Statistics: Eastern dropped 11 positions last week in NCAA Division I-AA statistics, with a current ranking of 81st out of 116 I-AA teams in total offense (296.8 yards per game). Eastern, which finished the last two seasons ranked fourth nationally in offense, was 112th after three games this season. Eastern is currently 105th in rushing (91.4), 33rd in passing (205.4) and 103rd in scoring (15.5).
Defensively, Eastern is 80th in total defense (364.1) while ranking 97th in rushing defense (177.3), 82nd in passing efficiency defense (133.3) and 96th in scoring defense (28.4). Eastern is ninth nationally with 11 interceptions. The Eagles are also ranked 31st nationally in net punting (34.2).
Kicker Brett Bergstrom, who is 11-of-12 kicking field goals this season, is ninth in field goals (1.38 per game). Punter Ryan Donckers is 12th in punting with a 42.4 average. Quarterback Matt Nichols is 54th in total offense with an average of 181.8 yards per game. Tony Davis is 62nd in receiving (4.38 per game).
Northern Arizona is 43rd nationally in total offense (344.6), 15th in scoring (30.3), 96th in rushing offense (102.4) and 15th in passing offense (242.1). Defensively, PSU is 110th in total defense (403.4), 101st in scoring defense (29.4), 39th in rushing defense (125.7) and 110th in passing efficiency defense (154.6). The Lumberjacks are second in net punting (39.49), fourth in passing efficiency (162.5) 11th in kickoff returns (23.46 per return), 12th in turnover margin (+6 for the season) and 15th in sacks (2.57 per game). However, NAU is last nationally in passing yards allowed per game (277.7).
Individually, Jason Murrietta is sixth in passing efficiency (162.4) and 19th in total offense (225.6). His top target is Alex Watson, who ranks seventh in receptions per game (6.6) and 10th in reception yards per game (96.1). Rhian Madrid is fourth nationally in punting average (44.9), Chris Hunsaker is seventh in sacks (0.93 per game) and Robbie Dehaze is 24th in field goals (1.0 per game).
Total of 18 Players Have Made Starting Debuts in 2006: A total of 18 players have made starting debuts in the 2006 season. The latest were freshman Jacob Kragt, who started at defensive end at Portland State, and sophomore Adam Macomber, who started at rover against Northern Colorado. Not included is receiver Charles Searcy, a former Eastern defensive back who made his first start on offense against Montana on Oct. 7.
Two Eagles made the first starts of their careers in Eastern's loss to Sacramento State. Freshman redshirt guard Ryan Forney started at guard, taking the place of two other players who didn't start for disciplinary reasons. True freshman Jeffrey Solomon started at wide receiver as the Eagles began the game in a four receiver lineup.
The Eagles had a shake-up in their starting lineup after the team's 0-3 start, with six players making their EWU starting debuts at Montana State on Sept. 23. Some were because of injuries but others were designed to improve Eastern at various positions. Those six players included wide receiver Brynsen Brown, offensive tackle Julian Stewart, wide receiver Shane Eller, nose tackle Josh Jacobson, rover Anthony Dotson and linebacker Makai Borden. In addition, Davis started at the tailback position but quickly gave way to Toke Kefu, who came off redshirt to play versus the Bobcats.
Prior to that, eight starting debuts were made by Eagles in Eastern's first three games. Five players -- two on defense and three on offense -- made their starting debuts in the opener against Oregon State. Sophomore Shea Emry started at middle linebacker where he replaces 2005 Big Sky Defensive Player of the Year Joey Cwik, who started 40 games and never missed a game in his EWU career. The other debut on defense was made by junior Ira Jarmon at cornerback. On offense, quarterback Chris Peerboom filled the starting position held for 35 games the past three seasons by 2005 Walter Payton Award winner Erik Meyer. Freshman redshirt wide receiver Aaron Boyce and sophomore fullback Alexis Alexander also made their starting debuts. Alexander transferred from Washington State where he was a scout team linebacker and prior to that played three seasons of minor league baseball.
In all, the Eagles opened the 2006 season with 25 players with starting experience, amounting to 225 starts between them. Five players entered with between 22 and 24 starts each.
Last year, 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.
Here are the number of career starts by Eastern players in the 2006 season:
Defense (187 starts by 19 players): Nick Denbeigh 32, Brandon Keeler 31, David Eneberg 23, Greg Peach 13, Keith Grennan 12, DeNique Ford 11, Bryan Jarrett 11, Jason Belford 9, Gene Piffero 8, Ira Jarmon 8, Gregor Smith 7, Lance Witherspoon 5, Shea Emry 5, George Lane 3, Makai Borden 3, Anthony Dotson 2, Josh Jacobson 2, Adam Macomber 1, Jacob Kragt 1.
Offense (214 starts by 24 players): Harrison Nikolao 31 (includes 23 on defense), Rocky Hanni 30, Matt Alfred 30, Zach Wasielewski 20, Tim Calhoun 18, Ryan Cole 14, Chris Carlsen 11, Aaron Boyce 8, Matt Nichols 7, Charlie Wulff 7, Tony Davis 5, Brynsen Brown 5, Tyler Coleman 5, Charles Searcy 5 (includes four starts on defense), Tom McAndrews 4, Dale Morris 2, Toke Kefu 3, Alexis Alexander 3, Dezmon Cole 1, Chris Peerboom 1, Julian Stewart 1, Shane Eller 1, Jeffrey Solomon 1, Ryan Forney 1.
Nichols Assumes Starting Quarterback Position: Freshman redshirt Matt Nichols has secured the starting quarterback position, helping his cause with an improved performance against Montana State on Sept. 23. He is the first freshman quarterback to start for the Eagles since Griffin Garske in 1996.
Nichols, making just the fourth start of his career, had the first 300-yard passing game in his career as he finished 21-of-42 for 329 yards, a touchdown and three interceptions against Sacramento State. A week earlier against Montana State he completed 10 of his last 14 passes and in the game and was 11-of-19 for 176 yards. His most accurate game came Oct. 21 versus Northern Colorado when he completed 16-of-21 passes for 259 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
In eight games thus far, Nichols is 112-of-201 (55.7 percent) for 1,450 yards, five touchdowns, 14 interceptions and a passing efficiency rating of 110.6.
Entering the season, Nichols shared time with junior Chris Peerboom in hopes of finding a full-time starter. Peerboom started against Oregon State and directed Eastern's offense in six possessions before leaving the game early in the second half with a concussion that kept him out of two games. He didn't play again until the Montana game.
Eastern utilized two quarterbacks at the start of the 2003 season when Erik Meyer and Skyler Allen were battling for the job. They shared possessions and each started one game before Meyer, then a sophomore, won the job against Central Washington and started his last 34 games for the Eagles (35 total). He concluded his record-breaking career by winning the 2005 Walter Payton Award as the top quarterback in NCAA Division I-AA.
Eneberg Leads Eagles With 61 Tackles: Senior linebacker David Eneberg earned Big Sky Conference Defensive Player of the Week honors twice this season after road victories at Montana State on Sept. 23 and Northern Colorado (Oct. 14). Eneberg is from Mukilteo, Wash., and is a 2002 graduate of Kamiak High School.
With a team-leading 61 tackles this season, he now has 205 in his career to move into the top 25 in career tackles in EWU history. He currently ranks 22nd and is just three tackles from moving into 20th. At his current pace of 7.6 per game (currently seventh in the Big Sky), he would finish with 83 this season and 230 in his career to rank 14th.
Eneberg's player of the week honors were the first of his career. He was an honorable mention All-Big Sky selection last year.
Bergstrom Still 11-of-12 Kicking Field Goals: Kicker Brett Bergstrom earned Big Sky Conference Special Teams Player of the Week honors for the second time this season after helping Eastern defeat Northern Colorado 34-0 Oct. 14 in Greeley, Colo. He also earned the same honor after Eastern's win at Montana State on Sept. 23.
Bergstrom is from North Bend, Wash., and graduated in 2002 from Mount Si High School before playing two seasons at Shasta Junior College in California.
He has now made 11-of-12 field goal attempts and all 11 extra points as he ranks ninth in I-AA with an average of 1.38 field goals per game. He is also averaging 60.1 yards on 28 kickoffs this season, including 13 touchbacks.
His 11 field goals made already ranks eighth in school history with three games left to play. He is just four from the school record shared by three players -- Josh Atwood in 1997, Alex Lacson in 1991 and Jason Cromer in 1990.
Bergstrom made long field goals of 56 and 47 yards against the Bears. His 56-yard field goal is the second-longest in school history, ranking behind the 57-yarder Eric Stein had 20 years ago against Montana State on Sept. 25, 1987.
In Eastern's 19-10 league victory at Montana State, Bergstrom kicked four field goals. Bergstrom's field goals included a 53-yarder that at the time was the fourth-longest in school history (now fifth).
Bergstrom is in his first year as Eastern's placekicker after previously spending time at safety, wide receiver and defensive end in the Eagle program.
Eagle Tidbits: Punter Ryan Donckers has been consistent in his three seasons as Eastern's punter with a 39.0 average in both 2004 and 2005, and a current average of 42.4 this season. His career average of 40.3 currently ranks fifth in school history. In a five-game stretch from Sept. 16-Oct. 14, he had a 46.1 average in 25 punts with eight downed inside the opponent 20-yard line and a long of 66 . . . The largest crowd in Woodward Field history -- 11,583 -- attended the Eastern-Montana game on Oct. 7. The previous most came two years ago against the Grizzlies when 10,754 attended the game . . . Rover Brandon Keeler has 47 tackles this season, giving him 223 in 39 games as an Eagle. He ranks 16th in Eastern history, moving past the 222 of former Canadian Football League and NFL Europe star Jackie Kellogg (1990-93). The next player to catch is former NFL standout Kurt Schulz (1988-91) with 224. At his current pace of 5.9 tackles per game, Keeler would finish with 64 tackles this season and 240 in his career which would rank 10th on Eastern's all-time leaders lists. The senior also has four interceptions (one this year versus Central Washington) and seven passes broken up . . . Since coming off his redshirt year versus Montana State, Toke Kefu has rushed for a team-leading 276 yards and three touchdowns. He had 98 yards against Sacramento State and 93 versus Montana State, giving him four performances in his 25-game career of between 89 and 98 yards . . . Running back Ryan Cole went over the 1,000-yard rushing mark in his career versus Central Washington. He now has 1,062 yards in 20 career games with 17 total touchdowns (16 rushing) . . . Freshman redshirts Matt Nichols and Aaron Boyce hooked-up for a 9-yard touchdown pass against Central Washington. It was the first career touchdown pass for Nichols and the first career touchdown reception for the 6-foot-2 Boyce, who has caught three of the five TD passes Nichols has had thus far. Boyce is a former basketball teammate of EWU standout Rodney Stuckey at Kentwood High School in Kent, Wash., where they helped lead their team to the State 4A title in 2004. . . Another redshirt freshman receiver, Tony Davis, is still looking for his first career touchdown reception. He came within inches of scoring against Montana State on a 28-yard pass from Nichols. He is the team's leading receiver with 35 catches for 394 yards. His first career touchdown was a 60-yard punt return for a touchdown versus Oregon State in his first game as an Eagle . . . Boyce, Davis and Brynsen Brown -- all redshirt freshmen receivers -- have combined for 87 catches for 1,150 yards and four touchdowns thus far. All three have between 357 and 394 yards receiving thus far. Brown had his first touchdown catch as an Eagle versus Montana on Oct. 7 . . . Eastern has had 11 interceptions this season, including two by senior DeNique Ford, junior Gregor Smith and junior Anthony Dotson. The others have been recorded by David Eneberg, Makai Borden, Nick Denbeigh, Ira Jarmon and Brandon Keeler . . . Eastern had just four sacks in its first five games, then had five versus Montana, one versus Northern Colorado and four more against Portland State. End Greg Peach leads the team with 3 1/2, and linebacker David Eneberg has three . . . True freshman Jesse Hoffman had 124 yards on 16 carries against Northern Colorado for the top performance on the team this season. Said Wulff: "We know he has a lot of talent. It's just a matter of giving him more and more carries in tighter ballgames. When you have a true freshman at that position, you're a little leery sometimes. But we know he has great potential and is only going to get better."
EWU Injury Report: Eagle head coach Paul Wulff reports that defensive end Jacob Kragt (ankle), who made the first start of his career against Portland State, is questionable this week. He also said that tight end Tim Calhoun is also questionable after missing two games after undergoing surgery to repair ligament damage following a thumb injury he suffered against Montana on Oct. 7.
Safety Nick Denbeigh was questionable for the Northern Colorado game on Oct. 14 after suffering an elbow injury against Montana, but was able to play and even start after a brace was shipped directly to Greeley, Colo., where the game was played. His injury against Montana came after he intercepted a pass earlier in the game despite having a heavily-wrapped hand because of a broken bone he suffered in EWU's season opener at Oregon State. For four games, Denbeigh played with a cast.
Free safety Bryan Jarrett (ankle) and linebacker Shea Emry (hip flexor) returned against Montana after suffering injuries against Central Washington. Center Chris Carlsen (knee) is also back after suffering his injury at Oregon State. And running back Dale Morris (foot) started against Montana at running back after missing the first five games with a pre-season injury. However, Morris hasn't played since then as his foot continues to bother him.
2006 Eagles at a Glance: Eastern is coming off back-to-back seasons in which it won a share of the Big Sky Conference title and advanced to the NCAA Division I-AA Playoffs. Eastern returned 41 letter winners from that team, including 19 on offense, 20 on defense, its kicker and its punter. In all, 14 starters are back, with experience heaviest at safety and along the offensive and defensive lines.
But replacing the incredible contributions of eight amazingly productive seniors will prove to be difficult indeed. Eastern lost the 2005 Walter Payton Award winner and Big Sky Offensive MVP (quarterback Erik Meyer), the Big Sky Defensive MVP (middle linebacker Joey Cwik), a two-time All-America receiver (Eric Kimble), three other wide receivers and a pair of starting cornerbacks.
Wulff has replaced Meyer with junior Chris Peerboom and freshman redshirt Matt Nichols. They were to split playing time early in the season to see which quarterback leads the offense the best, but Peerboom missed two games with a concussion suffered in the opener against Oregon State. Replacing the play-making abilities of Kimble will be equally difficult.
"They are two of the best players to ever play in this conference," said Wulff. "But in the game of football there are 11 players on the field, and we feel like we have a program that can be extremely successful with whatever 11 players we put out there. That's not going to change."
Among the players returning are 11 players who earned All-Big Sky Conference accolades in 2005. First team selections included safety Bryan Jarrett and offensive guard Matt Alfred, who also earned a pair of All-America accolades as well.
Second team choices returning include former OSU running back Ryan Cole, who rushed for 879 yards and 14 touchdowns for the Eagles last year. Safety Brandon Keeler, tight end and Tim Calhoun, defensive lineman Harrison Nikolao were also second team picks, but Nikolao has moved over to a starting offensive guard position for his senior season.
Honorable mention All-Big Sky picks a year ago included Rocky Hanni (offensive guard), Nick Denbeigh (outside linebacker), David Eneberg (inside linebacker), Sheldon Weddle (kicker) and Shea Emry (special teams). As a freshman in 2004, Hanni was honored as an All-American after earning Big Sky Conference Newcomer of the Year honors -- the only offensive lineman in the history of the award to win that honor. He has moved to tackle this season.
Last season, Eastern garnered the league's automatic berth in the NCAA Division I-AA Playoffs with a 7-4 record overall and 5-2 conference mark following an eventful final two weeks of the regular season. The 21st-ranked Eagles defeated the 11th-ranked Bobcats 35-14 on Nov. 12 and the following week MSU upset Montana 16-6 to force a three-way tie for the title and give EWU the automatic berth by virtue of a season sweep over the Montana schools.
In the Big Sky Conference preseason polls, Eastern was picked to finish second by the coaches and sixth by the media. Montana State was picked third by the coaches and second by the media. Montana, which shared the conference title last year with EWU and MSU, was picked first in both polls.
Bill Diedrick Jr. to be Inducted Into Hall of Fame: It's an overdue honor, but only because Bill Diedrick Jr. is usually a little busy in the fall.
The Spokane native and former Eastern All-America quarterback will be inducted into the Eastern Athletics Hall of Fame on Oct. 28 as part of EWU's Homecoming Football game against Northern Arizona at Woodward Field in Cheney, Wash. A reception will take place at 11 a.m. that day at Reese Court, and the public is invited to attend (RSVP to 509-359-2463).
Diedrick led Eastern to the NAIA Championship game in 1967, earning All-America honors for a squad that was the inaugural team inducted into Eastern's Hall of Fame in 2001. Established in 1996, the Hall of Fame currently includes three teams and Diedrick will become the 35th individual member. He was selected for induction in 2005, but was unable to attend the semi-annual induction ceremonies because of his coaching commitments.
Besides being a record-breaking quarterback at Eastern, Diedrick has spent more than 30 years coaching high school, collegiate and professional football. He went on to an illustrious collegiate coaching career with stops at Montana State, Idaho, Washington State, Washington, Stanford, Notre Dame and the Canadian Football League. Currently, he is coaching quarterbacks and wide receivers for the Calgary Stampeders in the Canadian Football League.
"Spending 36 years in coaching have given me a lot of wonderful honors and opportunities," said Diedrick, who has had 13 different stops in his coaching career. "But none compare to the three honors I received as a player -- playing for a national championship, being named an All-American and now being selected into the Hall of Fame at Eastern."
Calgary, currently 10-7 with the second-most wins in the league, ends its regular season on Oct. 21 and the playoffs begin on Nov. 5. That enabled him to return to the Spokane area where his mother Lillian still resides.
Bill's father, Bill Diedrick Sr., passed away on April 3, 2005, and is already a member of the Inland Northwest Hall of Fame Scroll of Honor in recognition for the 70 years he spent in the region as an athlete, coach, trainer and groundskeeper. A 1942 Eastern graduate, "Mouse" was also inducted into the Washington State Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 1979.
Diedrick was a second team NAIA All-America selection for Eastern in 1967 when he quarterbacked the team to an 11-1 record and an appearance in the NAIA Championship game. Eastern lost that game 28-21 to Fairmont State, but it marked the high point in a revival of Eastern football under head coach Dave Holmes. Before the arrival of Holmes -- who is an inaugural member of Eastern's Hall of Fame -- Eastern was winless in the 1961 and 1962 seasons.
"I truly believe the lessons we were taught by our coaches have really been the foundation and guiding focus in my coaching career," said Diedrick.
A graduate of Spokane's North Central High School, Diedrick played for Eastern in 1965 (8-1), 1966 (7-1-1), 1967 (11-1) and 1969 (4-5) for a collective record of 30-8-1. In his career he completed 274-of-532 passes (51.5 percent) for 4,076 yards, 50 touchdowns and 27 interceptions. His career passing efficiency rating of 136.7 stood as a record for nearly 30 years, as did his single season rating of 157.0 in 1967.
He completed 121-of-221 passes (55 percent) for 1,995 yards and 25 touchdowns in 1967, with his touchdown total standing as a school record for 34 years until being broken in the 2001 season.
"I recall the closeness and chemistry we had as a team," said Diedrick of the Eastern teams he played on. "We were a collection from all over the state of Washington -- mostly from small communities and a few of us from larger cities. We cared about one another and the only important thing was playing well, not letting your teammates down and winning. We had some very intense rivalries with Central and Western. Years later, many of these hated players from opposing teams became very close friends in the coaching ranks."
Diedrick also played baseball at Eastern, and was the school's batting champion in 1969 with a .298 average. He graduated from Eastern in 1970, and received his master's degree in 1971 from the University of Hawaii where he served as a graduate assistant under Holmes.
"I will always treasure my days at Eastern," he said, "from my first training camp as a young freshman to the day I departed Cheney to begin my coaching career."
More on Diedrick and the Eastern Athletics Hall of Fame can be found at: http://goeags.cstv.com/hallfame/ewas-hallfame.html
SERIES HISTORY & NOTES
Series History: Eastern leads the overall series 14-9, and has won seven of the last nine meetings. Eastern is 8-3 at home (6-2 at Woodward Field, 2-1 at Albi Stadium) and 6-6 on the road against NAU.
In 2004, Erik Meyer and Eric Kimble connected on three first-half touchdown passes to lead Eastern to a 45-14 victory over 16th-ranked Northern Arizona. Meyer was nearly perfect in Eastern's fourth-straight victory, completing 19-of-21 for 290 yards and four touchdowns (passing efficiency rating of 269.3). Kimble finished with five catches for a then career-high 165 yards. He started his day with an 81-yard touchdown reception from Meyer, and added touchdown catches of 28 and 39 yards. Senior Darius Washington rushed for 127 yards on 23 carries for EWU. Eastern finished with 557 yards of offense, and the Eagles held the Lumberjacks to 209 yards.
In 2003 in Flagstaff, NAU took advantage of early Eastern Washington punting mistakes to score the first five times it had the ball as the 14th-ranked Lumberjacks went on to a 54-31 victory in Eastern's 800th game of all-time. The Lumberjacks out-gained Eastern 570-395 in total offense, and held the Eagles to 33 yards rushing after allowing a net of zero at halftime. Eastern's woes started with its punt team as a 15-yard punt by Jesse Nicassio, a fumbled snap by Nicassio and a 30-yard punt return by the Lumberjacks helped NAU to a quick 13-0 lead. Meyer completed eight of his first nine passes in the game, and finished 22-of-33 for 300 yards and an 83-yard touchdown pass to Kyler Randall. Randall caught nine passes for 139 yards. NAU true freshman Jason Murrietta finished the game 21-of-36 for 360 yards, two touchdowns passing and two rushing.
In the 2002 meeting, senior quarterback Josh Blankenship passed for 378 yards and five touchdowns as the Eagles held on to defeat the 16th-ranked Lumberjacks 41-29. Eastern took a 25-point lead, allowed NAU to score 23-straight points, then regained its composure to put the Lumberjacks away in the fourth quarter. With Eastern held to single digit rushing yards much of the game, Blankenship's arm was called on to lead the Eagles. He had three touchdown passes in the first half as Eastern jumped out to 28-3 lead in the second quarter. But NAU scored 20 points in a 1:04 span in the third quarter to pull within 28-26. However, Blankenship responded by completing 6-of-7 passes for 79 yards on an important eight-play, 80-yard drive that gave Eastern some breathing room with 13:19 to play. After a Northern Arizona field goal, Eastern's four-play, 65-yard drive provided the final points of the game with 4:42 left. Eastern receiver Eric Kimble caught seven passes for 153 yards and touchdown passes of 14 and 37 yards from Blankenship.
In 2001, NAU's Marcus King rushed for 248 yard and three touchdowns as Northern Arizona overcame a 21-7 deficit and then held off Eastern Washington 42-33 in Flagstaff. NAU's offense finished with 509 yards of offense against an Eastern defense missing four starters out with injuries. Eastern, meanwhile, had 481 yards of offense and three crucial turnovers. Standout Eagle running back Jesse Chatman finished with 104 yards on 23 carries, but was held 94 yards below his season average. The Eagles scored the first three times they had the ball, scoring on drives of 80, 78 and 21 yards to score three touchdowns in a span of just 4:46.
In 2000, Jesse Chatman rushed for 196 yards and all four of Eastern's touchdowns as the Eagles broke open a close game in the fourth quarter to defeat Northern Arizona 27-9 at Woodward Stadium. After a scoreless third period, the Eagles scored twice within a two-minute span in the fourth quarter. After driving 85 yards on 12 plays to take a 20-9 edge with 7:26 left, NAU fumbled away the ensuing kickoff. Chatman scored again five plays later, giving Eastern an insurmountable 27-9 lead with 5:33 to play. Eastern rushed for 239 yards and passed for 165 to finish with 404 for the game. Eastern held the Lumberjacks to 236 yards of total offense, including 98 on the ground and 138 through the air.
In 1999, with the odds stacked against it, Eastern's defense had a memorable performance against Northern Arizona in leading the Eagles to a 14-10 win in Flagstaff. Eastern entered the game having allowed averages of 450.8 yards and 37.8 points per game for the season, and had given up 89 points in its last two Big Sky outings. Eastern had the league's worst pass defense, allowing opponents to pass for a .632 completion percentage, 1,075 yards and 14 touchdown passes, while intercepting just one pass in 114 opponent throws. Furthermore, the Eagle defense was missing four starters who were out with injuries. However, the Eagles responded to allow just 377 yards of total offense and intercept four Lumberjack passes. The Eagles allowed 296 passing yards, but just 81 on the ground. The Lumberjacks put together an 11-play, 74-yard scoring drive to open the game with a field goal, but after that their longest drive of the game was 56 yards. NAU's only other score came on a two-play, 23-yard drive that came after an Eastern interception. After NAU took a 10-0 lead in the first quarter, Eastern shut-out the Lumberjacks in their final nine possessions. Britt Lentz had the first interception of his career in the second quarter, and returned it 15 yards to the NAU 1-yard line to set-up a 1-yard touchdown run by Jesse Chatman. At the end of the first half, Claude Jean-Baptiste had an interception at the goal line that stopped a potential NAU scoring drive. And in the third quarter, Julian Williams had the second pick of his career to give Eastern the ball at the NAU 35-yard line. The Eagles followed with the final points of the day with 6:04 left in the quarter on a 23-yard touchdown pass from Chris Samms to Dan Curley that capped a four-play, 35-yard drive. Injury replacement Travis Reed led the Eagles with a career-high 13 tackles, and Lentz added 12.
In 1998, the clock was Eastern Washington's best friend as the Eagles held off Northern Arizona 21-17 in Cheney. Taking over on their own 26-yard line with 3:10 left to play, the Lumberjacks drove the ball deep in Eastern territory. On the 14th play of the drive, Ole Olesen stopped NAU quarterback Clay Brown after a 4-yard gain to the Eagle 8-yard line with less than 10 seconds to play. But the Lumberjacks, who had no timeouts remaining, were unable to run another play before time ran out. The Eagles led from start to finish, taking a 21-7 lead before NAU scored the final 10 points of the game. Eastern scored with 13 minutes left in the third quarter on a 45-yard touchdown catch and run by Lamont Brightful from Griffin Garske. The Eagles were unable to score again in the game as NAU outgained Eastern in total offense 379-343. Greg Belzer, who suffered a concussion on the third-to-last play of the game, had 14 tackles to lead the Eagle defense.
Eastern's 31-14 victory over the Lumberjacks in Flagstaff, Ariz., in 1997 snapped a three-game losing streak to NAU and clinched at least a share of the Big Sky Conference title. Rex Prescott scored on an 80-yard run on the second play of the game, and the Eagles led the rest of the way. Prescott finished with what was then an EWU single-game rushing record of 272 yards on 25 carries as the Eagles finished with 592 yards of total offense. Eastern held NAU to 295 total yards, and had five sacks, limiting Travis Brown to 18-of-42 passing for 221 yards. Josh Martin and Britt Lentz each had sacks for the Eagles, and Jimmy Lake had eight tackles. Eastern lost to NAU in Cheney 30-16 in 1995 and 13-10 in 1996. In the 1996 game, NAU's Mark Jagodzinski kicked a 28-yard field goal with nine seconds left to give the Lumberjacks the victory.
Last Year - #15 Eastern Washington 42, Northern Arizona 14 - Eastern Washington out-gained Northern Arizona 583-185 in total offense and the 15th-ranked Eagles surged past the Lumberjacks 42-14 Oct. 8 at the Walkup Skydome in Flagstaff, Ariz. The Eagles scored the first two times they had the ball in each half en route to the easy win.
Ryan Cole rushed for 158 yards and a touchdown versus the Lumberjacks. Erik Meyer added 314 passing yards on 23-of-31 passing, with wide receiver Eric Kimble finishing with seven catches for 95 yards and a touchdown.
The Eagles finished with 35 first downs -- just four from the school record -- while limiting NAU to only nine. Eastern rushed for 261 yards and had 322 passing, while NAU finished with 69 on the ground and 116 through the air. Eastern's defense had three sacks and held NAU to 11-of-24 passing.
Eastern had the ball for 41:58 and ran 100 plays. Northern Arizona had the ball for just 18:02 and had just 40 offensive plays.
"We played better, we ran the ball well and our kids played hard," said Eagle head coach Paul Wulff. "When we run the ball well that sets everything up for us. When you do that you have a chance to win games."
The 28-point win was Eastern's largest victory in 12 games in Flagstaff, with the previous best a 28-6 victory in 1986. The last time Eastern played at NAU, the Lumberjacks scored 54 points on the Eagles in a 54-31 blowout.
"It is tough to win down here, I know that," said Wulff. "It's a good win for us on the road. You have to win on the road if you expect to be in the hunt at the end. We found a way to do it this time."
"Defensively we played pretty smart," he added. "We gave up one big play against us, but other than that they weren't on the field very much because defensively we did good things."
The Eagles jumped out to a quick 14-0 lead, scoring on drives of 59 and 97 yards. Cole scored on a 1-yard run, then Kimble gathered in a 20-yard pass from Meyer as the Eagles took a two-touchdown advantage less than 10 minutes into the game. Kimble's touchdown reception was his 39th, moving into fifth on the NCAA Division I-AA all-time list.
Eastern added field goals of 25 and 36 yards by Sheldon Weddle to take a 20-7 lead at halftime. The Eagles, who had 203 yards of offense in the first quarter alone, had a 330-97 advantage at halftime. Eastern ran 54 plays to 18 for NAU, whose lone score in the first half came on a 68-yard reverse.
Eastern scored the first three times it had the ball in the second half on drives of 73, 78 and 80 yards. The Eagles scored on a 24-yard run by Dale Morris before Meyer had a 35-yard touchdown to Tyler Coleman. A 2-yard run by Lars Slind gave Eastern a 42-7 lead with 11:27 remaining in the game, and at that point, a dominating 543-101 advantage in total offense, and 33-3 in first downs.
"We were consistent throughout the game," said Wulff. "That's what we were trying to do through the first four games. In the fifth game we finally got what we've been striving for. We'll see now if we can play that way in our sixth game."
In all, five different Eagles scored touchdowns. Nine players caught passes, and seven different players ran the ball behind an improving offensive line that includes four sophomores and one senior.
"Ryan played well and the offensive line got better," added Wulff. "We challenged them this week, and we need that group to get better every week. They took a step this week and we'll see if they can do it this next week."
Paul Wulff QUOTES
On Running Game Helping Passing Game Versus Montana State: "There is no question that the running game loosens up the other team's defense. Their pass rush isn't as effective and gives our quarterback more time to throw the ball. It gave Matt Nichols some confidence. What he didn't do against Central but did against Montana State was step up in the pocket. It's a credit to him that he stepped up and made plays."
On Playing I-A Opponents: "All of the coaches in our conference take pride in playing I-A programs. At the end of the game those opposing players and coaches realize we are well-coached and play good football. Generally we garner a lot more respect after we played them than entering the ballgame. At the same time you want to take care of your team first and get better."
On Inexperienced Players: "It's one of those situations where it's going to be baptism by fire, and we'll just have to find out. I think our players will go in, play well, compete and learn a lot. We are going to make plays and we're going to make mistakes too. But I'm excited, and in the big picture, those games will help us once we get into conference play."
On Legacy Left by Erik Meyer and Eric Kimble: "They provided a different level of play in terms of performance, excitement and higher expectations. They left a mark that will never be taken away. The provided expectations and competitiveness that other players can look up to. They can see what it takes to be a great player and what it takes to be a trendsetter. Those guys were."
On Defense in the Big Sky: "We have some very good defenses this year. I think defense is going to be the strong point of this conference."
On Building Streak of Seven-Straight Winning Seasons: "It's what you work a lot of long hours for over the course of time to develop your program. By no means we where we want to be, but we have definitely made some steps and we are going in the right direction. We've made some strides and we need to keep moving forward."
OTHER NOTES & QUOTES
Eneberg and Bergstrom Earn Player of the Week Honors Again: There is a definite pattern.
Linebacker David Eneberg and kicker Brett Bergstrom both earned Big Sky Conference Player of the week honors for the second time this season after helping Eastern defeat Northern Colorado 34-0 Oct. 14 in Greeley, Colo.
Both were also honored three weeks earlier after Eastern's only other victory this season at Montana State on Sept. 23.
"It's awesome and a little bit ironic," said Eagle head coach Paul Wulff of the twin honors for the pair. "In our two conference road wins, David and Brett have played big, big roles in those victories."
Eneberg had six tackles, an interception, a forced fumble and had two passes broken up in EWU's first shutout in 20 years against Northern Colorado. All of his statistics except for one tackle came during a near-perfect first half when Eastern opened a 31-0 lead at halftime.
"David played one of his best games," said Wulff. "He made a lot of big plays and tackled very well. He's a great leader."
Bergstrom made long field goals of 56 and 47 yards against the Bears. His 56-yard field goal is the second-longest in school history, ranking behind the 57-yarder Eric Stein had 20 years ago against Montana State on Sept. 25, 1987.
"We try not to make them too long," laughed Wulff. "But we feel confident -- and I know he does -- that he can make them from there. And he did.
In Eastern's 19-10 league victory at Montana State, Eneberg had 13 tackles and Bergstrom kicked four field goals. Bergstrom's field goals included a 53-yarder that at the time was the fourth-longest in school history (now fifth).
Those honors were the first player of the week honors for both players. Eneberg was an honorable mention All-Big Sky selection last year and Bergstrom is in his first year as Eastern's placekicker after previously spending time at safety, wide receiver and defensive end in the Eagle program.
Eastern Records First Shutout in 20 Years: Eastern's 34-0 victory at Northern Colorado on Oct. 14 was the first time in 215 games that EWU has recorded a shutout. The Bears, who finished with just 169 yards of total offense, ended drives in Eastern territory just three times, including two inside the 26. Both of those ended in interceptions with the deepest penetration to Eastern's 17.
The last time EWU had a shutout was a 3-0 win over Stephen F. Austin in 1987. Eastern came close twice in the previous two seasons. On Nov. 19, 2005, at home against UC-Davis and Oct. 23, 2004, at Weber State, the Eagles held their opponents without an offensive score. Versus UC Davis, the Aggies scored on a 50-yard interception return in the third quarter. Against Weber State, the Wildcats scored a touchdown on a fumble recovery with just 4:43 left to play.
Eastern had held opponents to single digits in 23 games since the last shutout, but wasn't able to shut them out. On Sept. 18, 2004, in a 39-8 victory, Eastern held Central Washington to eight points as the Wildcats scored with 4:52 left in the third quarter. Holding Idaho scoreless for the final 54:29 in an 8-5 victory in 2003 was about as close as Eastern has come to a shutout, as well as a 1994 game when Cal Poly scored with 21 seconds left in Eastern's 61-7 blowout win. The five points Idaho scored were the fewest Eastern had allowed since beating Idaho State 37-3 in 1992. The 13 combined points were the fewest in an EWU game since the 3-0 win over Stephen F. Austin.
More From the Irony Department: The come-from-behind victory by the Seattle Seahawks over the St. Louis Rams on Oct. 15 included a game-winning drive that was amazingly similar to Eastern's drive a day earlier to end the first half versus Northern Colorado. Eastern used an eight-play, 48-yard drive in the last 1:42 of the half to set-up a 56-yard field goal by Brett Bergstrom. The Seahawks ended the final 1:44 of its game with an eight-play, 47-yard drive that ended with a game-winning 54-yard field goal by Josh Brown.
Eastern 1-5 Start Rare: Starting the season 1-5, you have to go back to 1983 to find a year when the Eagles had won just once in six games to start the season. That year the Eagles were 0-5 before winning their last five games. This week, Eastern will try to avoid a 1-6 start that hasn't occurred since 1963. The year before that 3-6 season, Eastern was 0-8-1.
In 1995, Eastern had a young and inexperienced team at several positions much like this year's team. That squad won its first two games, then lost eight of its final nine to finish 3-8. Two years later in 1997, Eastern finished 12-2 and advanced to the semifinals of the NCAA Division I-AA Playoffs.
A Taste of the Eagle-Grizzly Rivalry: In a series that has provided plenty of drama over the years -- including 2005 -- Montana now leads the all-time series 22-10-1. Eastern is 4-11-1 in Missoula, 5-10 in home games and 1-1 in games played at neutral sites. In six of the last 11 meetings between the two teams, both teams have entered the game nationally-ranked.
Seven recent games in the series that have been decided by margins of 10 points or less are the exclamation points in a rivalry that has seen the Grizzlies come out on top 21 times in 32 meetings. The winner has usually piled up points and yardage by the ton as evidenced by Eastern's 653 yards of total offense in 1997 in a 40-35 win, and 541 yards by the Eagles in a 34-20 win in Missoula in 2005. In fact, in the last 22 meetings the winning team has averaged 34.3 points. In six of those 22 games the two teams have combined for at least 70 points, including a 41-31 Grizzly win at Spokane's Albi Stadium in 2000.
As for suspense, that one's covered too. In 2004 Montana blocked a 28-yard field goal attempt by the Eagles with 18 seconds remaining as the 23rd-ranked Eagles fell to the fifth-ranked Grizzlies 31-28 in a showdown for first place in front of a Woodward Field record crowd of 10,754. In 2002 Eastern beat the No. 1 ranked and unbeaten Grizzlies 30-21, ending Montana's NCAA Division I-AA record-tying winning streak at 24 games. It was the first Big Sky Conference loss for UM head coach Joe Glenn, and snapped Montana's record winning streaks of 25 Big Sky games in a row and 13 league road games in a row. And in the process, the Eagle victory opened the door for Montana State and Idaho State to share the conference title with the Grizzlies.
Here are the six matchups in the last 10 seasons when both squads have entered the game nationally-ranked:
2005 - #12 Eastern Washington 34 at #2 Montana 20 (in Missoula, Mont.)
2004 - #5 Montana 31, #23 Eastern Washington 28 (in Cheney, Wash.)
2001 - #3 Montana 29, #15 Eastern Washington 26 (overtime in Missoula, Mont.)
2000 - #9 Montana 41, #18 Eastern Washington 31 (in Spokane, Wash.)
1997 - #17 Eastern Washington 36, #2 Montana 35 (in Missoula, Mont.)
1996 - #1 Montana 34, #20 Eastern Washington 30 (in Cheney, Wash.)
Eneberg and Bergstrom Win Big Sky Honors: A week earlier, Eagle senior linebacker and team co-captain David Eneberg helped organize a closed-door, players-only team meeting. On Sept. 23, he and kicker Brett Bergstrom were reveling in the results.
Eneberg was selected as the Big Sky Conference Defensive Player of the Week on Sept. 25 and Bergstrom earned the same award on special teams. Eneberg had 13 tackles and Bergstrom kicked four field goals in Eastern's 19-10 league victory at Montana State Sept. 23.
Eneberg is from Mukilteo, Wash., and is a 2002 graduate of Kamiak High School. Bergstrom is from North Bend, Wash., and graduated the same year from Mount Si High School before playing two seasons at Shasta Junior College in California.
The honors were the first player of the week honors for both players. Eneberg was an honorable mention All-Big Sky selection last year and Bergstrom is in his first year as Eastern's placekicker after previously spending time at safety, wide receiver and defensive end in the Eagle program.
"Both are deserving of those awards," said Eagle head coach Paul Wulff. "David had a great week of practice and it showed in the ballgame. Without a question he's one of our best team leaders."
Eneberg also had a sack and pass broken up against the Bobcats, and both came on third down plays that forced punts in the first half as EWU opened a 9-0 lead at halftime it wouldn't relinquish. Eastern won for the fourth-straight time over MSU and the 5-foot-11, 210-pound Eneberg has played big roles in all four.
As a freshman in 2003, he intercepted a pass that helped seal Eastern's 35-25 win at Albi Stadium in Spokane. A year later, he batted-down a fourth-and-goal pass in overtime to secure Eastern's come-from-behind 51-44 victory that gave Eastern a NCAA Division I-AA Playoff berth. He had four tackles and broke-up a pass in last year's 35-14 victory at Woodward Field.
Eneberg's performance helped Eastern's defense allow just 10 points and 235 yards versus MSU. In the first three games, Eastern allowed an average of 43.0 points and 471.0 yards per game.
"Our defense was much-improved," added Wulff. "We're still not playing championship football yet. But it was an improved effort and now we need to step it up that much more going into game five."
A senior who had never attempted an EWU field goal prior to this season, Bergstrom kicked field goals of 21, 53, 39 and 30 yards versus the Bobcats, with his 53-yarder ranking as the fourth-longest in school history. Three of the kicks came in the first half to give Eastern a 9-0 lead at halftime. His fourth helped Eastern re-gain a nine-point lead in the second half.
Bergstrom Finally Finds His Niche: It took a few years and a few positions, but Eagle senior Brett Bergstrom has found his niche.
A senior who had never attempted an EWU field goal prior to this season, Bergstrom kicked four field goals in Eastern's 19-10 victory at Montana State on Sept. 23. He kicked field goals of 21, 53, 39 and 30 yards versus the Bobcats, with his 53-yarder ranking as the fourth-longest in school history. Three of the kicks came in the first half to give Eastern a 9-0 lead at halftime.
"He's a veteran player and has a strong leg," said Eagle head coach Paul Wulff. "We really feel like we have a player that can help us win games. And he did against Montana State."
Not bad for a player who came to Eastern three years ago and went through three positions before finding his calling. He redshirted as a safety in 2004, moved to receiver and even tried defensive end before earning the kicking job.
"It was very frustrating because I thought I had a chance at playing as a safety," Bergstrom said. "But things happen, so I changed positions."
Bergstrom was a kicker at Mount Si High School in North Bend, Wash., then went to Shasta Junior College in California for two seasons. He kicked there too, but initially didn't ask his Eastern coaches to give him an opportunity to kick until about a year ago.
"I never really showed them that I could kick," he said. "But last year I asked them if I could try it, and now I have the chance."
The strong-legged Bergstrom specialized in kickoffs in 2005 before edging out fellow senior Sheldon Weddle for this year's placekicking chores. He averaged 61.0 yards per kickoff as a junior with 23 touchbacks.
Kicking camps in Texas, California and Boise, Idaho, helped him hone his skills in summer 2006. His improvement has turned the kicking game into a strength for the Eagles.
"It does feel good," he said. "At first I didn't really like it because it wasn't that much fun. But I finally got into it this past summer and worked hard at it. I have a lot more things to work on and I just want to get better from here."
Eastern's field goal record is 57 yards set by Eric Stein in a 1986 game at Montana State. That record could be in jeopardy if game situations give Bergstrom the opportunity.
"He kicked a 58-yarder in the rain and wind in our practice at Montana State," added Wulff. "He is certainly capable of kicking it from 60."
"It's all about confidence," added Bergstrom. "You just can't have any doubt that you're going to make it. If you do, you are going to miss it."
Rule Change Means Quicker Games: In a rules change designed to speed up play -- but as a result will provide for less plays in the game -- the game clock will be started sooner in several situations. In most circumstances the clock will start on a change of possession on the ready-for-play signal instead of when the ball is snapped. It will also start when the ball is kicked on free kicks (kickoffs), where previously it started when the ball was touched in play.
Thus far, there have been an average of 125.1 plays per game (both Eastern and its opponents). Last year, there were an average of 147.0 plays and the year before that the average was 146.5.
Wulff on Rule Changes Regarding Game Clock for 2006: "They expect there will be anywhere from 20 to 25 less plays in a game, and that's a big impact. You have to be that much more efficient and maximize your plays. I think it will affect the game."
Eagles 0-2 Start Rare, 0-3 Even Rarer: Only four times since 1963 have the Eagles started the season 0-3. Eastern has never overcome a 0-3 start to finish with a winning record.
In 1998, Eastern lost its first three games of the season after going a school-record 12-2 the year before and advancing to the semifinals of the I-AA Playoffs. The Eagles started the 1988 season with a tie, then lost their next two games en route to a 2-8-1 finish. In 1983, EWU lost its first five games then won its last five to finish 5-5. Before 2004, the 1982 season was the last time Eastern started 0-2 and finished with a winning season as the Eagles won their final eight games to finish 8-2.
This is just the third time since 1983 that the Eagles have started the season 0-2 (EWU became a member of NCAA Division I-AA in 1984). The last time came in 2004 when the Eagles opened with losses at Nicholls State and Humboldt State. The Eagles went on to win nine of their next 10 games -- starting with a victory over Central Washington -- to advance to the quarterfinals of the NCAA Division I-AA Playoffs.
Eagle head coach Paul Wulff has lost his opening game in six of his seven seasons at the helm, but five of those games were against NCAA Division I-A opponents. In 2001, Eastern opened the season with a 35-17 win at I-A Connecticut.
EWU Play in Front of Largest Crowd in School History: Eastern's game versus West Virginia at sold-out Milan Puskar Stadium was attended by 59,504 fans -- the largest crowd by nearly 20,000 fans the Eagles have ever played against. The previous record was 39,581 set at Arizona State in 2002. Eastern's game at Oregon State is now the third-largest at 38,071. Below is a list of the 12 crowds in excess of 20,000 the Eagles have ever played against.
Attendance - Opponent - Date - Result
59,504 - at West Virginia - Sept. 9, 2006 - :L, 3-52
39,581 - at Arizona State - Aug. 31, 2002 - L, 2-38
38,071 - at Oregon State - Aug. 31, 2006 - L, 17-56
34,389 - at Air Force - Sept. 11, 2004 - L, 20-42
30,782 - at Oregon State - Sept. 2, 2000 - L, 19-21
27,323 - at U.S. International - Oct. 28, 1967 - W, 44-19
25,493 - at Boise State - Oct. 14, 2000 - L, 23-41
23,739 - at Montana - Oct. 15, 2005 - W, 34-20
23,329 - at Montana - Nov. 15, 2003 - L, 10-41
21,981 - at Boise State - Oct. 9, 1999 - L, 7-41
21.487 - at Boise State - Sept. 21, 1991 - L, 17-31
21,145 - at San Diego State - Aug. 30, 2003 - L, 9-19
Wulff on West Virginia Crowd: "It was loud, but I thought it was a good crowd. Our players handled it extremely well. We play in a very loud environment too at the University of Montana. More and more the last few years our players have been exposed to these types of crowds and so they are able to adapt to it."
Eagles Versus I-A Members: 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 I-A teams. A 35-17 win over Connecticut on Sept. 8, 2001, snapped a five-game losing streak versus I-A foes. Here is Eastern's complete list of games versus NCAA Division I-A members since 1983.
Year - Opponent - Result
1983 - Cal State-Long Beach - W, 20-17
1985 - at Cal State-Long Beach - W, 30-23
1986 - at Cal State-Long Beach - L, 34-35
1990 - at #10 Houston - L, 21-84
1994 - at Utah State - W, 49-31
1996 - at Boise State - W, 27-21
1996 - at Idaho - L, 27-37
1997 - Idaho - W, 24-21
1998 - at Idaho - L, 14-31
1999 - Idaho - L, 21-48
1999 - at Boise State - L, 7-41
2000 - at Oregon State - L, 19-21
2000 - at Boise State - L, 23-41
2001 - at Connecticut - W, 35-17
2002 - at Arizona State - L, 2-38
2003 - at San Diego State - L, 9-19
2003 - at Idaho - W, 8-5
2004 - at Air Force - L, 20-42
2005 - at San Jose State - L, 21-35
2006 - at Oregon State - L, 17-56
2006 - at #6 West Virginia - L, 3-52
Nichols and Wulff Get First Starts Against Sixth-Ranked Mountaineers: Quarterback Matt Nichols and center Charlie Wulff couldn't have asked for a tougher assignment in their first starts of their careers against sixth-ranked West Virginia.
Nichols started in place of Chris Peerboom, whose concussion suffered in the Oregon State game kept him from making the trip to Morgantown, W.Va. Wulff started in place of Chris Carlsen, who suffered a minor knee injury against the Beavers and also didn't play at WVU. Wulff is the nephew of Eagle head coach Paul Wulff.
Matt Nichols on Starting Debut Against West Virginia: "It's easy when you have a great offensive line and good players around you. I had confidence from the coaches and that makes it easy to have confidence in the game plan. Our offensive line played absolutely amazing. They gave up no sacks and we moved the ball. Our running game was a lot better than Oregon State. We did what we were taught on our (scoring) drive. We just have to finish them."
Eastern Surrenders Lots of Points, But Doesn't Cough Up Ball Against Mountaineers: Although Eastern was out-scored 108-20 in the two games against I-AA opponents, the Eagles improved significantly in turnovers from one game to the next.
Against Oregon State, Eastern fumbled away the ball on the second offensive play of the game, then had three more turnovers in its next six possessions. The Beavers turned three of them into touchdowns en route to a 35-0 lead after the first 19 minutes of the game.
Eastern had just one turnover against West Virginia, and none of them were fumbles. An interception thrown by Matt Nichols was Eastern's only miscue as EWU made the Mountaineers earn their points.
"We'll see how we respond from it as the season goes along," Wulff said of playing at West Virginia a week after playing OSU. "I think it was great for our players. I'm a big picture kind of guy -- I'm not always looking at whether we win all the time because there are a lot of other factors in life. Our players had a great experience coming across the country, and played good, hard football and lost."
"We are going to learn from it," he added. "We have a chance to win a conference championship and compete for a national championship in I-AA. Those are our program goals, and this game gave us a flavor of how to play at a high, high level. We need to do that."
Eagles Play Nationally-Ranked I-A Opponent for Second Time: Playing the likes of a nationally-ranked West Virginia was virtually uncharted territory for the Eagles. Eastern is 7-13 all-time versus NCAA Division I-A schools, and the only other time the Eagles played a ranked I-A opponent came in 1990 when Eastern fell 84-21 to Houston. That game was played in the Houston Astrodome as the Cougars finished the season ranked 10th in the Associated Press poll.
Eastern lost 52-3 to a West Virginia team that was 11-1 last year and defeated Georgia 38-35 in the Nokia Sugar Bowl after winning the Big East Conference title with a perfect 7-0 record. The win over the Eagles was the 28th in 32 games for the Mountaineers.
Eastern played in Morgantown at Mountaineer Stadium in the NAIA Championship Game in 1967, where it lost 28-21 to Fairmont State. Eastern was actually known as the Eastern Washington State College Savages at the time.
Incidentally, Eastern's two trips to Morgantown are half of the four the Eagles have made previously East of the Mississippi River. The others were at Eastern Illinois in 1991 (a 30-12 loss) and at Connecticut to open the 2001 season (a 35-17 victory). The game against UConn came during the second year the Huskies were members of I-A, and the meeting came four seasons before they joined the Big East Conference in 2005.
Matt Nichols on Playing I-A West Virginia: "We just played a top-five team that has a chance to win the national championship. That will help when we drop back down and play in our division. It helps us get used to the speed of the game, especially for myself and our redshirt freshmen wide receivers. It's a great experience to see how major college football is played."
Ryan Cole on EWU's Performance at OSU: "We came in prepared, but we didn't execute. We had some mistakes and physical errors in the first quarter, and it snowballed from there. We weren't really able to come back and rebound. But it's a first game of the season. We knew we weren't going to play our best football because I don't believe any team plays its best football in the first game of the season. But it was a harsh loss and we made them look good.
Ryan Cole on Returning to OSU Where He Previously Played: "It was great to see some familiar faces after the game. I applaud Oregon State because they played a heckuva game. I wish them the best of luck and hopefully they can be successful in the Pac 10 and be league champs. I always wish them the best."
Term I-AA Eliminated in December: At the conclusion of this season, the term I-AA will no longer be used by the NCAA in distinguishing teams in I-AA Football. The NCAA Board of Directors approved on Aug. 3 two new labels for NCAA Division I football. Schools in I-A will now be referred to as the "Football Bowl Subdivision" and I-AA will change to "NCAA Football Championship Subdivision." The Collegiate Commissioners Association helped develop the new labels.
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."
Eagles in the Playoffs: Eastern's 2005 appearance in the NCAA Division I-AA Playoffs was the school's fifth berth in school history, and the first time the Eagles have made back-to-back appearances.
Eastern's 2004 appearance in the second round was the third time Eastern advanced past the first round. Eastern now has a 4-5 record in five playoff appearances after losing at Northern Iowa 41-38 in the first round of the 2005 playoffs. In 2004, Eastern defeated No. 1 ranked and top-seeded Southern Illinois 35-31 in the first round and then lost 35-34 to Sam Houston State in the quarterfinal round in EWU's first-ever playoff game at Woodward Field in Cheney, Wash.
Eastern hadn't appeared in the I-AA playoffs since 1997 when the Eagles advanced to the semifinals where it lost to Youngstown State 25-14 at Albi Stadium in Spokane, Wash. Eastern played two early-round games at Albi, defeating Northwestern State 40-10 and Western Kentucky 38-21.
Eastern also participated in the playoffs in 1985 (won at Idaho 42-38 and lost at Northern Iowa 17-14) and 1992 (lost at Northern Iowa 17-14). The school's only other post-season experience came in 1967 when Eastern advanced to the NAIA Championship game where it lost to Fairmont State 28-21.
Here is a complete list of EWU's playoff games:
2005 - at Northern Iowa - L, 38-41 (First Round)
2004 - Sam Houston State - L, 34-35 (Quarterfinals/Cheney)
2004 - at Southern Illinois - W, 35-31 (First Round)
1997 - Youngstown State - L, 14-25 (Semifinals/Spokane)
1997 - Western Kentucky - W, 38-21 (Quarterfinals/Spokane)
1997 - Northwestern State - W, 40-10 (First Round/Spokane)
1992 - at Northern Iowa - L, 14-17 (First Round)
1985 - at Northern Iowa - L, 14-17 (Quarterfinals)
1985 - at Idaho - W, 42-38 (First Round)
Eagles in I-AA Statistics in 2005: After leading NCAA Division I-AA in offense much of the year, the Eagles finished fourth with an average of 477.8 yards per game.
Quarterback Erik Meyer was second in I-AA in individual total offense as the Payton Award candidate averaged 352.0 yards per game, just behind Grambling's Bruce Eugene at 367.0 per game. Meyer also finished fourth nationally in passing efficiency with a 169.3 rating, and his average of 333.6 passing yards per game was second. Meyer became just the 12th player in I-AA history to throw for at least 4,000 yards in a single season (he finished with 4,003).
Eastern finished second in I-AA in passing offense at 341.8, just behind Grambling (357.7). Eastern finished the season as the I-AA leader in total offense in both 1997 (505.6) and 2001 (514.5), and has now led the Big Sky Conference in total offense in four of the last five years.
Eastern was also 14th in scoring (35.0) and seventh in passing efficiency (161.4). The Eagles were 69th out of 116 I-AA teams in rushing (136.1 per game), up from 96th (104.0 per game) after three games.
Defensively, Eastern finished 15th nationally in pass efficiency defense (103.3) after entering the playoffs ranked fifth (97.3). The Eagles finished 62nd overall in defense (363.2), 60th in rushing defense (160.1) and 45th in scoring defense (23.4).
Eagle receiver Eric Kimble finished fifth in receiving yards (118.3) and fifth in receptions (7.3) per game. Raul Vijil was right behind Kimble, ranking 12th in receiving yards (90.0) and 16th in receptions (6.0). That duo ranked first and second in the Big Sky in both categories. Kimble also closed the year ranked 13th in all-purpose yards with an average of 142.2 per game.
Defensively, cornerback Jesse Hendrix was 10th in passes defended with a total of 16 (1.33 per game), with 14 passes broken up and two interceptions.
Injury Epidemic in 2005: A total of 20 key players -- 15 of them starters at one time during the season -- lost playing time and practice time after being injured since the season started in September. In all, those 20 players missed a total of 90 games and a total 55 starts. Early in the year the injury rate was severe, with nine players suffering injuries in Eastern's first three games (three in each game) that kept them out of practice and games.
Here is a list of the injured players in 2005 that are on EWU's 2006 roster.
Name -Played/Starts -Games/Starts Missed
TOTALS (20 Players) - 90/55
LB David Eneberg (ankle) - 11/10 -1/2 (UCD, UNI)
NG Harrison Nikolao (sternum) - 12/10 - 0/2 (Sac, CP)
TE Tom McAndrews (knee) - 7/1 - 5/0 (Sac, CP, MSU, UCD, UNI)
RB Dale Morris (knee) - 9/1 - 3/0 (UM, WSU, Sac)
S Gregor Smith (knee) - 7/4 - 5/8 (NAU, UM, WSU, Sac, CP)
DE Jason Belford (calf) - 3/2 - 9/9 (lost for season after PSU game)
DT Keith Grennan (back) - 10/4 - 2/0 (PSU, Sac)
DE Jacob Kragt (shoulder) - 2/0 - 10/0 (redshirted)
QB Chris Peerboom (finger tendon) - 3/0 - 8/0 (WOU through CP)
Eagles Fall Short of 1,000: Always proud of its running game with outstanding running backs and offensive linemen, Eastern has now had a 1,000-yard rusher for nine of the last 11 seasons from 1995-2004, including six different players. In 2005, the Eagles just missed having a running back finish with 1,000 as Ryan Cole finished with 879.
Darius Washington finished with 1,127 yards in 12 games in the 2004 season. Because of a shoulder injury, he had just 16 yards in his last two regular season games, but had 257 yards in a pair of playoff games.
The Eagles came up short in 2003 as Reggie Witherspoon finished with 766 after Washington's season came to a premature end with a knee injury in Eastern's second game of the season.
Joe Sewell started the string of 1,000-yard rushers with 1,025 in 1995, then had 1,094 in 1996. In 1997, Rex Prescott rushed for what was then a school-record 1,793 and Mike MacKenzie accumulated 1,058 in 1997 and 1,396 in 1998. Jovan Griffith finished with 1,275 in 1999, and Jesse Chatman had 1,188 in 2000 and a remarkable 2,096 in the 2001 season that surpassed Prescott's single season school record. The eighth-straight performance was by Griffith with 1,130 yards as he went over the 1,000-yard mark with a 199-yard performance in Eastern's season-ending 30-21 victory over No. 1 ranked Montana on Nov. 16, 2002. In Eastern's other 86 years of football, only three 1,000-yard performances have been recorded - 1,238 by Mel Stanton in 1965, 1,049 by Meriel Michelson in 1950 and 1,114 by Jamie Townsend in 1985.
Eagles 6-4 in Overtime Games: After defeating Montana State 51-44 in overtime on Nov. 13, 2004, Eastern Washington is now 6-4 in overtime games. The Eagles are 4-1 in single overtime games, 1-3 in double overtime, and 1-0 in triple overtime contests. Here is the complete list of EWU overtime games:
2004 - at Montana State - W, 51-44 (one overtime)
2003 - at Idaho State - L, 52-55 (two overtimes)
2001 - at Sacramento State - W, 42-35 (one overtime)
2001 - at Montana - L, 26-29 (two overtimes)
2000 - at Weber State - W, 27-24 (one overtime)
1998 - Portland State - L, 27-30 (one overtime)
1994 - Montana State - W, 34-31 (three overtimes)
1991 - at Idaho - W, 34-31 (two overtimes)
1990 - Montana State - L, 25-28 (two overtimes)
1990 - at Idaho State - W, 33-26 (one overtime)
Former Office Mates Wulff and Kramer Share 2005 Coach of the Year Honor: Former co-workers Paul Wulff and Mike Kramer were riding high a year ago after each won a share of the Big Sky Conference title as well as the league's Coach of the Year honor.
Wulff directed the Eagles to their second-straight Big Sky Conference co-championship in 2005 and a second-straight NCAA Division I-AA Playoff berth. Kramer, a former Eastern head coach and assistant, led Montana State to a season-ending 16-6 victory over Montana as the Eagles, Bobcats and Grizzlies shared the 2005 title.
Back in 1993 when Wulff was a first-year volunteer assistant coach and Kramer was the team's offensive line coach, that duo shared an office and coached the line together. When Kramer took over as EWU's head coach in 1994, Wulff became his offensive line coach. Wulff took over as Eastern's offensive coordinator under Kramer in 1998 and 1999, then took over as head coach in 2000 when Kramer left for Bozeman.
"It's great to share the honor with him," said Wulff. "He's a great friend and does a great job at Montana State. He has done wonders for my career since the day I became a coach at Eastern. He gave me a lot of leeway and helped me out so much."