Eagles Conclude Season by Hosting ISU
Nov. 6, 2006
It's not about championships, playoffs or even winning seasons for the Eastern Washington University football team this week. It's about honoring 13 seniors for their many accomplishments.
The Eagles, who won the Big Sky Conference title and advanced to the NCAA Division I-AA Playoffs the last two seasons, will close their 2006 season against Idaho State Saturday at 2:05 p.m. at Woodward Field in Cheney, Wash.
Before the game, Eastern will honor 13 seniors playing in their final game in an EWU uniform. Although Eastern is just 2-8 this season, those seniors were a major reason why the Eagles won 22 games from 2003-05 and extended Eastern's string of consecutive winning seasons to seven.
"They were able to come away with a couple of championships and do some unbelievable things," said Eagle head coach Paul Wulff of his seniors. "It isn't very often players can come away from their college football experience with championships and their degrees, which all of them are on track at doing."
Both EWU and ISU have had limited success in the win column this season. Idaho State is 2-7 overall and 1-5 in the Big Sky, with its lone league victory over Northern Colorado (41-13). Eastern defeated the Bears (34-0) and Montana State (19-10), a team the Bengals lost to 42-35.
Otherwise, both EWU and ISU have lost to all other teams in the conference. The lone exception is Weber State, a team the Bengals close the season against on Nov. 18. Last week, Idaho State lost 22-14 at home against Sacramento State, extending the losing streak for the Bengals to four games. Eastern's losing streak is currently at three.
The Bengals, although second-to-last in NCAA Division I-AA in passing yards allowed per game (276.1), are 11th nationally in rushing defense (103.0). They also have an explosive offense led by running back Josh Barnett, quarterback Matt Guttierez and wide receiver Akilah Lacey. Barnett needs just 44 yards Saturday to hit the 1,000-yard mark for the season. Guttierez, a senior transfer from Michigan, has passed for 1,879 yards and 13 touchdowns. Lacey has caught 31 passes for 705 yards for seven touchdowns and an average of 22.7 yards per catch.
"Like us, they are struggling to find ways to win games," said Wulff. "At times they are like us -- they show some flashes of some really good things. On offense (Josh) Barnett is a very good football player and is running the ball well for them. And (Matt) Guttierez has been solid as a senior. Defensively, they've been very good against the run."
Just 2-5 in the league, EWU is trying to avoid going winless at home, with a current mark of 0-4 this season at Woodward Field. The last time Eastern went winless at home came in 1962 when it finished 0-4 in Cheney and 0-1 at Spokane's Albi Stadium. The Eagles finished 0-8-1 that season. Eastern has never been winless at the current site of Woodward Field as the Eagles are now 100-51 there dating back to 1967. A 24-7 win over UC-Davis on Nov. 19, 2005, at the fog-shrouded stadium was Eastern's 100th victory at Woodward.
Boding well for Eastern is its recent record in regular season finales. The Eagles have won the final regular season game in six of their last seven seasons, with the lone loss coming 41-10 at Montana in 2003.
Eastern's roller-coaster season continued last week at Weber State where the Eagles fell 19-14. Eastern led 14-10 at halftime, but was out-gained in the third quarter 160-2 and in the fourth quarter 94-30. The Wildcats outscored EWU 9-0 in the second half to pull out the win.
Prior to that, the Eagles were coming off their highest-scoring output of the season, but also one of its worst defensive performances in a 44-36 loss to Northern Arizona. Eastern had 464 yards of offense against the Lumberjacks, a week after getting just 164 in a 34-0 loss to Portland State.
Before surrendering just 19 points against WSU, the Eagle defense had allowed 78 points in its last two games -- including 44 to a Lumberjack team that finished with 541 yards of total offense. Just three games ago, Eastern was celebrating the school's first shutout in 215 games with a 34-0 whitewashing of Northern Colorado.
#1 - Sheldon Weddle - K - 6-1 - 195 - Sr. - 2L* - Ephrata, Wash. (Ephrata HS '02)
#3 - DeNique Ford - DB - 5-9 - 185 - Sr. - 2L* - Moreno Val., Calif (Canyon Springs HS '02 & Riverside CC)
#5 - Nick Denbeigh - DB - 5-10 - 195 - Sr. - 2L* - Spokane, Wash. (Lewis & Clark HS '02)
#10 - Charles Searcy - WR - 5-8 - 185 - Sr. - 1L - Detroit, Mich. (Romulus HS '02 & Santa Monica JC)
#11 - Branden Nicholson - WR - 6-1 - 195 - Sr. - SQ* - Long Beach, Ca. (Brea-Olinda HS '02 & Santa Barb. Col.)
#14 - Ryan Donckers - P - 6-0 - 215 - Sr. - 2L* - Renton, Wash. (Renton HS '02)
#19 - Brandon Keeler - DB - 6-3 - 215 - Sr. - 3L* - Federal Way, Wash. (Federal Way HS '02)
#24 - Ryan Cole - RB - 6-1 - 220 - Sr. - 1L* - Port Orchard, Wash. (South Kitsap HS '02 & Ore. State U.)
#28 - Brett Bergstrom - K - 6-2 - 220 - Sr. - 1L* - North Bend, Wash. (Mt. Si HS '02 & Shasta, Calif., JC)
#40 - David Eneberg - LB - 5-11 - 210 - Sr. - 3L* - Mukilteo, Wash. (Kamiak HS '02)
#57 - Harrison Nikolao - OL - 6-2 - 295 - Sr. - 3L - Tacoma, Wash. (Lincoln HS '02)
#87 - Tim Calhoun - TE - 6-4 - 250 - Sr. - 2L* - Zillah, Wash. (Zillah HS '02)
#95 - Keith Grennan - DL - 6-4 - 290 - Sr. - 1L* - Edmonds, Wash. (Woodway HS '02 & Central Wash. Univ.)
Recently Close and Always Lots of Offense in EWU vs. ISU Game: Recent games in the Eastern Washington-Idaho State series have been close, including five of the last six decided by a touchdown or less. Eastern won 47-22 the last time the teams met at Woodward Field in 2004, but Idaho State has won three of the last four overall including 21-14 in Cheney in 2002, 55-52 in double-overtime in 2003 in Pocatello and 34-30 last year in Pocatello. Eastern edged the Bengals 48-45 in 2001 in Pocatello.
Eastern leads the all-time series 18-9, with the winning team scoring at least 30 points in all but four of the last 25 meetings. In three of the last 10 games, the two teams have combined for 1,000 yards of total offense.
"It's been a very competitive game and will be another good game to watch," said Wulff, whose 2006 squad will set a school record for attendance if at least 3,690 fans attend Saturday's finale. "For some reason, we've always played each other close. Against other teams, games in the series have sometimes been lopsided one way or another. But in recent years this has been a been a very even series."
Three times in the last 10 meetings, Eastern Washington and Idaho State have combined for more than 1,000 yards of offense. The last came in 2004 in EWU's 47-22 win when the Eagles finished with 612 yards compared to 433 for the Bengals. The other two occasions came in 2001 (1,217) and 1999 (1,109).
The Eagles and Bengals combined for 958 yards of offense in 2003 in ISU's 55-52 win in double overtime. Last year, in a 34-30 Idaho State win, the two teams combined for 726.
Since 1996 when Eastern started a six-game winning streak followed by losses in 2002 and 2003, the two teams have combined for 659 points and 8,755 yards of offense in those 10 meetings. That's an average of 65.9 points and 875.5 yards per game, with at least 80 points scored in three games (107 in 2003, 93 in 2001 and 83 in 1999). EWU has averaged 40.0 points and 484.1 yards, while ISU has averaged 25.9 points and 391.6 yards.
Eagles & Bengals in NCAA Statistics: Eastern is currently 77th out of 116 I-AA teams in total offense (304.9 yards per game). Eastern, which finished the last two seasons ranked fourth nationally in offense, was 112th after three games this season and its highest ranking of the year was 70th after seven games. Eastern is currently 102nd in rushing (96.6), 33rd in passing (203.3) and 90th in scoring (17.4).
Defensively, Eastern is 104th in total defense (389.7) while ranking 103rd in rushing defense (195.2), 91st in passing efficiency defense (138.3) and 103rd in scoring defense (29.0). Eastern is 19th nationally with 12 interceptions. The Eagles are also ranked 31st nationally in net punting (34.2).
Kicker Brett Bergstrom, who is 14-of-16 kicking field goals this season, is sixth in field goals (1.4 per game). Punter Ryan Donckers is 11th in punting with a 42.5 average. Quarterback Matt Nichols is 61st in total offense with an average of 170.4 yards per game. Tony Davis is 63rd in receiving (4.4 per game) and Brynsen Brown is 86th in receiving yards (52.1 per game).
Idaho State is 42nd in total offense (348.1) and is 39th in scoring offense (24.7), 27th in passing offense (216.8) and 69th in rushing offense (131.3). Defensively, Idaho State is 98th nationally in total defense (379.1) and 102nd in scoring defense (28.9). Although the Bengals are 11th in rushing defense (103.0), they are 92nd in passing efficiency defense (139.2) and 115th out of 116 I-AA teams in passing yards allowed per game (276.1). The Bengals are third nationally in net punting (38.1), 27th in sacks (2.22 per game) and 32nd in punt returns (10.5 per return).
Individually, quarterback Matt Gutierrez is 33rd in offense (207.9) and 69th in passing efficiency (116.2). Josh Barnett is 20th in rushing (106.2) and Akilah Lacey is 24th in receiving yards per game (78.3). Dan Zeidman is sixth in punting (43.8), Pago Togafau is 10th in tackles (11.0 per game) and Eddie Thompson is 22nd in punt returns (11.5 per return).
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 when he finished 21-of-42 for 329 yards, a touchdown and three interceptions against Sacramento State on Sept. 30. 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 10 games thus far, Nichols is 132-of-240 (55.0 percent) for 1,655 yards, six touchdowns, 15 interceptions and a passing efficiency rating of 109.2.
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.
Peerboom had just 88 yards passing and no touchdowns entering the 2006 season, and had just 174 yards and one touchdown entering EWU's game against Northern Arizona on Oct. 28. But he was 13-of-23 for 179 yards and three touchdowns against the Lumberjacks. He split time with Nichols, then saw all snaps in the fourth quarter when Nichols was injured. Trailing 44-22, Peerboom tossed a pair of touchdown passes to nearly rally the Eagles to victory before losing 44-36. He also split time with Nichols at Weber State, and for the season, he is now 34-of-69 (49.3 percent) for 409 yards, four touchdowns, two interceptions and an efficiency rating of 112.4.
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 64 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.
Although a shoulder injury kept him from playing against Weber State, he still has a team-leading 64 tackles this season. He now has 208 in his career to move into the top 25 in career tackles in EWU history. He currently ranks 20th and is just five tackles from moving into 19th. At his current pace of 7.1 per game (currently 11th in the Big Sky), he would finish with 78 this season and 225 in his career to rank 15th.
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 One Away From School Field Goals Record: Kicker Brett Bergstrom had field goals of 27, 35 and 52 yards -- the eighth-longest in school history -- versus Northern Arizona on Oct. 28. Coupled with his blocked 35-yarder versus Weber State, he is 14-of-16 kicking field goals this season. He is 16-of-17 kicking extra points. His other misses this season were against Northern Colorado (36-yard field goal) and Northern Arizona (extra point).
His 14 field goals is just one away from the school record with just one game left to play. The school record is shared by three players -- Josh Atwood in 1997, Alex Lacson in 1991 and Jason Cromer in 1990. He ranks sixth in I-AA with an average of 1.4 field goals per game. He is also averaging 60.8 yards on 39 kickoffs this season, including 16 touchbacks.
In just his first season as Eastern's placekicker, he is only the second player in school history to kick three field goals of 50 yards or more in a single season and only the third overall to have that many 50-yard boots in a career. Eric Stein had five career field goals of at least 50 yards, including three in 1987 (school record 57, 51 twice).
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.
Bergstrom made long field goals of 56 and 47 yards against Northern Colorado on Oct. 10. His 56 yarder is the second-longest in school history, ranking behind the 57-yarder 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.
Six Eagles Nominated for Academic All-America Honors: Six Eastern players were nominated recently for ESPN The Magazine Academic All-America honors for the 2006 season. To qualify, student-athletes must have at least a 3.20 grade point average, have sophomore academic and athletic standing and be a starter or often-used reserve. The All-District VIII winners will be announced on Nov. 9. The nominees included:
#40 - David Eneberg - LB - 5-11 - 210 - Sr. - 3L* - Mukilteo, Wash. (Kamiak HS '02) - General Management Major
#66 - Matt Alfred - OL - 6-3 - 300 - Jr. - 2L* - Gig Harbor, Wash. (Gig Harbor HS '03) - Interdisciplinary Studies Major
#5 - Nick Denbeigh - DB - 5-10 - 195 - Sr. - 2L* - Spokane, Wash. (Lewis & Clark HS '02) - Communications Studies Major
#34 - Toke Kefu - RB - 5-9 - 220 - Jr. - 2L - San Mateo, Calif. (San Mateo HS '04) - Health and Fitness Major
#14 - Ryan Donckers - P - 6-0 - 215 - Sr. - 2L* - Renton, Wash. (Renton HS '02) - Communications Studies Major
#80 - Tom McAndrews - TE - 6-0 - 240 - Jr. - 2L* - Spokane, Wash. (Mead HS '03) - Finance Major
Eagle Tidbits: The best Eastern can finish this season is 3-8 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. This season is shaping up to be one much like 1995 when a young Eagle team finished 3-8 overall and 1-6 in the Big Sky. Two years later, in 1997, the Eagles finished 12-2, won the Big Sky with a 7-1 record and advanced to the semifinals of the NCAA Division I-AA Playoffs . . . 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 42.5 this season. His career average of 40.5 currently ranks third 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. He had a school-record 71-yard punt against Northern Arizona on Oct. 28, and now owns four of the eight-longest punts in school history (71, 69, 66, 64) . . . Although it is winless at home this season, Eastern has averaged 7,940 fans in four home games. Eastern would need to draw at least 3,690 in the team's season-ending game versus Idaho State on Nov. 11 to break the school record set last year when an average of 7,090 fans attended five home games. 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 58 tackles this season, giving him 234 in 42 games as an Eagle to rank 12th in Eastern history. He needs just two tackles versus Idaho State to move into 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 279 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 1,206 yards in 22 career games with 18 total touchdowns (17 rushing). He has a team-leading 327 yards this season, including a season-high 79 against Northern Arizona on Oct. 28 and 65 a week later versus Weber State. . . 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 six 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, caught his first career touchdown pass from Chris Peerboom on Oct. 28 against Northern Arizona. His first career touchdown was a 60-yard punt return for a touchdown versus Oregon State in his first game as an Eagle and he also had a touchdown pass from Nichols versus Weber State. A third redshirt freshman, Brynsen Brown, has caught three touchdown passes thus far, including two against Northern Arizona when he finished with nine catches for 138 yards. His first touchdown came against Montana on Oct. 7 . . . Boyce, Davis and Brown have combined for 115 catches for 1,464 yards and eight touchdowns thus far. All three have between 33 and 44 catches, 443 and 500 yards receiving and two and three touchdown receptions thus far . . . Eastern has had 12 interceptions this season, including two by senior DeNique Ford, junior Gregor Smith, junior Anthony Dotson and junior Ira Jarmon. The others have been recorded by David Eneberg, Makai Borden, Nick Denbeigh and Brandon Keeler . . . Eastern had just four sacks in its first five games, but has had 12 in its next four games. The Eagles had five versus Montana, one versus Northern Colorado, four more against Portland State and two versus Northern Arizona. Eastern had none versus Weber 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."
Total of 19 Players Have Made Starting Debuts in 2006: A total of 19 players have made starting debuts in the 2006 season. The latest was Marcus Walker, who started in place of injured starting linebacker David Eneberg versus Weber State.
Prior to that, recent starting debuts were made freshman Jacob Kragt at defensive end at Portland State and sophomore Adam Macomber 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, Tony 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 (209 starts by 20 players): Nick Denbeigh 34, Brandon Keeler 33, David Eneberg 24, Greg Peach 15, Keith Grennan 14, DeNique Ford 13, Bryan Jarrett 13, Jason Belford 11, Ira Jarmon 10, Gene Piffero 8, Gregor Smith 7, Lance Witherspoon 7, Shea Emry 7, George Lane 3, Makai Borden 3, Anthony Dotson 2, Josh Jacobson 2, Adam Macomber 1, Jacob Kragt 1, Marcus Walker 1.
Offense (236 starts by 24 players): Rocky Hanni 32, Matt Alfred 32, Harrison Nikolao 31 (includes 23 on defense), Zach Wasielewski 22, Tim Calhoun 18, Ryan Cole 16, Chris Carlsen 11, Aaron Boyce 10, Matt Nichols 9, Charlie Wulff 9, Brynsen Brown 7, Tony Davis 6, Tyler Coleman 5, Charles Searcy 5 (includes four starts on defense), Tom McAndrews 5, Alexis Alexander 5, Julian Stewart 3, Toke Kefu 3, Dale Morris 2, Dezmon Cole 1, Chris Peerboom 1, Shane Eller 1, Jeffrey Solomon 1, Ryan Forney 1.
EWU Injury Report: Eagle head coach Paul Wulff reports that linebacker David Eneberg (shoulder) is doubtful this week and offensive guard Harrison Nikolao (shoulder) is probable. Eastern's leading tackler, Eneberg missed the Weber State after suffering the injury at home versus Northern Arizona. Nikolao has missed the last two games. Those two shoulder injuries are in addition to the season-ending shoulder injury suffered by Gregor Smith against Portland State that required surgery on Nov. 6.
Defensive end Jacob Kragt (ankle), who made the first start of his career against Portland State, is questionable again this week. Kragt was injured versus PSU and didn't play against Northern Arizona and Weber State. Tight end Tim Calhoun returned to play against Weber State with a cast after missing three games. He had 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.
Running back Dale Morris (foot) started against Montana at running back after missing the first five games with a pre-season injury. However, Morris re-aggravated the injury and is lost for the season.
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.
SERIES HISTORY & NOTES
Series History: Eastern leads the series 18-9, and has won seven of the last 10 meetings including a six-game winning streak from 1996-2001. The streak was snapped in 2002 with a 21-14 home loss to the Bengals, who would go on to share the Big Sky title with Montana and Montana State. Eastern had seven-straight wins in the series from 1984-91. The Eagles are 11-5 in games played in Pocatello and 7-4 in home games versus the Bengals.
In 2004, senior running back Darius Washington rushed for 228 yards and four touchdowns as the Eagles beat the Bengals 47-22 in Cheney. Washington's performance was the seventh-best in school history as Eastern finished with 612 yards of total offense -- the seventh-most in school history. Eastern had 331 yards on the ground and 281 through the air. With Washington rushing for 117 yards in the first half, the Eagles jumped out to a 26-6 lead early in the second quarter -- just 15 minutes and 21 seconds into the game. Eastern led by no less than 17 the rest of the way. Eastern's 331 yards was the most in its last 30 games since rushing for 363 against Cal State Northridge in 2001. It's total offense total was the most since finishing with 630 against Western Oregon in 2002, and the most against a NCAA Division I school since finishing with 618 against Idaho State in 2001.
In Pocatello in 2003, Idaho State rallied from a two-touchdown deficit in the fourth quarter, and went on to defeat Eastern Washington 55-52 in double overtime. Erik Meyer passed for 312 yards and four touchdowns -- including a key 23-yard scoring toss on a fake field goal attempt in the fourth quarter that gave the Eagles a 42-28 lead. But Eastern was unable to run out the clock on its final three possessions, resulting in a pair of ISU touchdowns in the final 5:01 of the game. Both teams scored touchdowns in the first overtime, then EWU's Rich Heintz kicked a field goal to give the Eagles a three-point lead. But ISU, aided by a pass interference penalty on a third down play, scored the winning points on a 1-yard touchdown run by Isaac Mitchell. On his way to a career night, Eastern sophomore wide receiver/running back Eric Kimble was lost for the game after suffering a concussion early in the second quarter on a 25-yard run that resulted in an ISU facemask penalty. He didn't return, and finished the game with 134 yards of all-purpose yardage on just 12 plays. Eastern finished with 452 yards of total offense, with ISU finishing with 506 -- 508 in the last three quarters and overtime alone.
In 2002, the Eagles were unable to capitalize on three Idaho State turnovers in the first half and lost their Big Sky Conference opener 21-14. The Bengals scored two of its touchdowns in a 2:51 span in the third quarter. All five touchdowns scored in the game were pass plays of 39 yards or longer. Eastern scored on plays of 39 and 55 yards, and the Bengals had touchdown passes of 70, 85 and 58 yards. Idaho State out-gained the Eagles in total offense 431-276 after the Eagles entered the game ranked third in I-AA with an average of 499 yards per game. Eastern was also ranked fifth in scoring offense at 39.0 points per outing. Throw away Idaho State's three scoring plays, and Eastern's defense was superb. Eastern allowed 431 yards of total offense on 72 plays (6.0 per play), but 213 of those yards came on the three long touchdown passes. Throw out those three plays and the Eagles allowed just 218 yards on 69 plays (3.2 per play).
In 2001, Troy Griggs kicked a 41-yard field goal with a new shoe with eight seconds remaining as the Eagles downed Idaho State 48-45 at Holt Arena. Eastern running back Jesse Chatman finished his career with 212 yards and three touchdowns on the ground for the Eagles. Quarterback Fred Salanoa finished with 360 yards -- 12th-best in school history -- and three touchdowns passing. As a team, Eastern finished with 618 yards to give them a school record 5,659 for the season (record 514.5 per game). Griggs scored a total of 12 points in the game to finish his season with a school-record 93 points, but amazingly was playing the game with a new kicking shoe he used for the first time during pre-game warmups. His normal kicking shoe apparently fell out of his travel bag during Eastern's plane flight from Spokane to Salt Lake City, Utah, and his mother purchased a $10 pair of shoes on the morning of the game. With five kickoff returns for 150 yards, Lamont Brightful maintained his I-AA record for career average per kickoff return. His 53-yarder on the final return of his career gave him a 30.0 average in 65 career returns to break the record of 29.688 held by Marshall's Troy Brown (1991-92).
In 2000, Eastern nearly doubled the offensive output of Idaho State and came away with a 38-7 victory at Woodward Field in Cheney. With Jesse Chatman rushing for 143 yards and Jovan Griffith adding another 99, the Eagles out-gained the Bengals 482-245. The Eagles rushed for 153 yards in the second half as they had a 267-97 edge in total offense after halftime. The Eagles scored the final 28 points in the game, including 21 in the second half.
Fourth downs, and not so much the offenses and definitely not the defenses, told the story in Eastern's narrow 45-38 win over Idaho State in 1999. The two teams combined for 1,109 yards of offense, with ISU finishing with 604 total and 477 through the air. Eastern ended up with 505, including 295 on the ground. The difference in the game might be best found in the fourth-down conversions category. ISU was 1-of-4, including three misses in the last 18 1/2 minutes of the game. Eastern was 2-of-2, with one conversion a touchdown and the other leading to a TD. Two touchdown runs in the second quarter by Jesse Chatman gave Eastern a 21-10 lead it would never relinquish. But ISU battled back with 320 yards of offense in the second half. In ISU's last six possessions of the game, three ended in touchdowns and three ended when Eastern's defense stopped the Bengals on downs.
In 1998 Eastern triumphed 44-13 in Pocatello and out-gained the Bengals 456-247. In 1997 in Cheney, Eastern beat ISU 51-7. The Eagles led 20-0 at halftime and 41-0 after three quarters in a game regionally televised on Fox Sports Northwest. Senior-led in that game, Eastern's Rex Prescott rushed for 171 yards, Harry Leons passed for 230 and Jeff Ogden caught seven passes for 147 yards. Greg Belzer had five tackles and scored on a 42-yard interception return for a touchdown. Eastern had 546 yards in total offense to the 183 of ISU, whose only points came on a fourth-quarter fumble recovery for a touchdown. A year earlier in a difficult trip to Pocatello, Eastern prevailed 31-17. Eastern's chartered airplane flight to Pocatello, Idaho, was canceled because of mechanical problems. Alaska Airlines, with the help of Seattle Seahawks executive Gary Wright, was eventually able to end the 6 1/2 hour ordeal by securing a plane and crew for a late-night flight to Pocatello. Eastern arrived at their motel in Pocatello at about 4 a.m. Mountain time, just 10 hours before kickoff.
Last Year - Idaho State 34, #5 Eastern Washington 30: Eastern Washington rallied from a 17-point deficit in the second half, but too many mistakes early and late doomed the fifth-ranked Eagles as they fell to unranked Idaho State 34-30 in the Big Sky Conference football opener for both teams Sept. 24 at Holt Arena in Pocatello, Idaho.
Idaho State scored 24 unanswered points to take a 24-7 lead at halftime before Eastern ran off 17-straight of its own to knot the game in the second half. But key plays down the stretch spoiled the valiant comeback.
"I was really proud of our team, regardless of the circumstances, of how they competed in the third quarter and fourth quarter," said Eagle head coach Paul Wulff. "We flat out fought and got back in the ballgame. Good teams do that, and this is a good football team."
Eastern out-gained Idaho State 425-301 in total offense - including 263-88 in the second half. But EWU couldn't overcome four turnovers, 12 penalties for 99 yards and 198 ISU yards on kickoff and punt returns.
"We fought hard and came back and played well," said Wullf. "I'm sure when we watch this on film we're going to realize we shouldn't have even been in the game with as many mistakes as we made. Our defense got put into some horrible situations in the first half and we had some critical turnovers and penalties."
Quarterback Erik Meyer completed 31-of-47 passes for 364 but was sacked seven times and was pressured into interceptions in EWU's last two possessions of the game. Kimble caught seven passes for 91 yards and a touchdown.
"We came out in the second half and played pretty well to get back in it," added Wulff. "We had a couple of turnovers late and some things just didn't go our way in this ballgame."
The Eagles took advantage of an interception by Gregor Smith on ISU's first possession of the game, and turned it into a five-play, 51-yard scoring drive. Meyer found Richmond Sanders for a 21-yard score on the pass play with 10:34 remaining in the first quarter.
But Idaho State scored 21-straight points in just a 10:30 span to take a 21-0 lead, needing just 13 plays to score on drives of 61, 20 and 36 yards. The Bengals took advantage of an Eagle fumble to close the half with a field goal and take a 24-7 lead at intermission.
Eastern was out-gained in total offense 213-152 in the first half, and had a pair of fumbles. But what hurt the most were eight penalties for 54 yards, with several key miscues stalling drives or helping extend ISU's.
"Our offensive line wasn't playing well (in the first half)," explained Wulff. "We were controlled on the lines of scrimmage, and that's why you saw that outcome in the first half."
The Eagles got back in the game with a pair of scoring drives in the third quarter, and managed to hold ISU scoreless. Casey Willis kicked a 22-yard field goal to cap a short drive after an ISU fumble that was forced by EWU's Jason Belford on a sack was recovered by Garrett Quinn.
A 12-play, 74-yard drive followed on Eastern's next possession, with the Eagles scoring on a 3-yard touchdown pass from Meyer to Kimble. Earlier on the drive, Kimble gathered in a 22-yard pass from Meyer to break the career reception yards record.
Eastern tied it on its next possession on a four-play, 60-yard drive, with Meyer covering the last 13 for a touchdown with 10:50 to play.
However, ISU followed with a 62-yard kickoff return by Kenyon Blue, and scored just six plays later to pull ahead by a touchdown. The Bengals were aided by yet another Eastern penalty, this time a costly pass interference penalty on a third-and-18 play.
"The kickoff return was big, and gave them an opportunity to score and respond after we tied it up," Wulff said. "They made some big plays (on special teams). Our coverage units weren't very good on kickoffs and punts."
Eastern used a 51-yard kickoff return of its own by Charles Searcy to ignite a six-play, 43-yard touchdown drive that should have tied the game. But after Ryan Cole scored on 1-yard run, the Eagles missed the extra point, putting them down 31-30 with 6:09 to play.
Idaho State closed the scoring with a field goal that was sandwiched between a pair of interceptions by Meyer.
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 Secondary: "I think our safety position is the best it's ever been at this university. We have some great players there. We feel very comfortable with one cornerback and need to develop one more, but I think our safeties are outstanding."
On Big Sky Race: "This is going to be a year where some teams are going to emerge halfway to three-quarters through the season. I'll be honest, I think it can be any one of eight teams -- I don't think anybody knows. Teams change throughout the season."
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 Offensive Line: "I think there is potential to be really good, but to be honest, they have yet to prove that they are really good. It's all based on speculation and returning veterans with experience. They have not gelled and they have not had the opportunity to really do great things yet. And this season we need them to and we are really hoping they develop into a fine unit. Ultimately we need them to help us win ballgames."
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."
On Standouts from First Game: "For a freshman, Tony Davis did some nice things. So did Aaron Boyce and Shane Eller. These are players who never played college football in their lives, and they had the opportunities to make a few big plays in the game. Brandon Keeler had a solid game and we need him to play well all season. He did some good things in the ballgame and that was encouraging. Alexis Alexander did well playing in his first game since high school (in 2000) and was our offensive player of the week and special teams player of the week. We had a lot of players getting their first taste of college football against Oregon State and they did some darn good things. Now they need to take it to the next level and improve on their first-game experience."
PRE-SEASON RANKINGS & INDIVIDUAL HONORS
Eagles Unranked in Pre-Season Poll: After spending the entire 2005 season and most of 2004 nationally-ranked, Eastern Washington started the 2006 season out of the Sports Network NCAA Division I-AA Top 25 Poll. That snapped a string of 20-straight polls in which EWU was ranked by the media members and sports information directors who vote in the TSN poll.
However, the Eagles received enough votes to rank 26th. Eastern was ranked 23rd in the AGS (Any Given Saturday) pre-season poll and was also ranked 23rd in the pre-season by the Football Gazette. Eastern's 2006 opponents in the TSN pre-season poll include Montana (2nd) and Montana State (17th).
The Eagles finished 13th in the final Sports Network NCAA Division I-AA Poll of the 2005 season. Eastern entered 2005 ranked fourth nationally, but slipped to sixth after losing its season-opener at San Jose State. Eastern was fifth for two-straight weeks before a loss at Idaho State dropped it to 14th. Eastern spent one week at 15th before moving up to 12th prior to knocking off Montana, which catapulted the Eagles into sixth. But a 28-23 home loss to Weber State on Oct. 22 dropped the Eagles eight spots to 14th before jumping up to 11th a week later. A 40-35 loss at Cal Poly dropped Eastern to 21st -- the lowest ranking for the Eagles all season. Eastern moved to 19th after a 35-14 home win over 11th-ranked Montana State, then was 15th after closing the regular season with a win over UC Davis.
Eastern finished the 2004 season ranked a season-high seventh, thanks to a victory over No. 1 ranked and top-seeded Southern Illinois in the first round of the NCAA Division I-AA Playoffs. Eastern ranked in the top 25 seven times in the 2004 season, including the last six times the poll was released.
Coaches Pick Eagles Second: The Eastern Washington University football team has been picked to finish anywhere from second to fifth as the Big Sky Conference preseason coaches and media polls were released July 17 at the Big Sky Conference Summer Kickoff in Park City, Utah.
The Eagles, who shared Big Sky titles the last two years and advanced to the NCAA Division I-AA Playoffs both seasons, were picked second by the coaches and fifth by the media. In 2005, Eastern was picked to win the title it eventually shared with Montana.
The uncertainty, however, is created by the fact the Eagles lost Payton Award-winning quarterback Erik Meyer, four receivers including record-breaking Eric Kimble, a pair of cornerbacks and middle linebacker Joey Cwik, who was the Big Sky's Defensive Player of the Year. But with 41 letter winners back -- including 10 who earned All-Big Sky Conference recognition a year ago -- the Eagles expect to contend for the title once again in 2006.
"I think this will be a year where we will surprise a lot of teams," said Eagle lineman Harrison Nikolao, who was Eastern's player representative at the Summer Kickoff. "Everyone has lost a lot of players throughout the conference. People look at us and see that we lost Erik Meyer, Eric Kimble and the core of our wide receivers. Teams are going to look at us as being suspect in certain things and weak in certain areas, which we are. But we're going to be stronger as a team this year than in the past three years."
The 6-foot-2, 295-pound Nikolao will be a key figure in that strength. He was a second team All-Big Sky defensive lineman last year, but has moved to an offensive guard position heading into his senior season. The 2002 graduate of Lincoln High School in Tacoma, Wash., has a team-high 24 games of starting experience as an Eagle, including a stint as a two-way player in 2004.
"We thrive on competing and that is not going to change," Nikolao added. "We are only going to improve. That's what Eastern Football is all about."
In the coaches poll, Montana was picked to win the title and received eight of the nine first-place votes. Montana State was picked third and plays the Eagles in the league opener for both teams on Sept. 23 in Bozeman, Mont. Portland State was picked fourth followed by Idaho State, Weber State, Northern Arizona, Sacramento State and league newcomer Northern Colorado.
The media poll also had Montana on top, with the Grizzlies receiving 28 of 32 first-place votes. Montana, which plays at Eastern on Oct. 7, was followed by Montana State, Weber State, Portland State, Idaho State, Eastern, Northern Arizona, Sacramento State and Northern Colorado.
Alfred and Hanni Earn Pre-Season All-America Honors From The Sports Network and I-AA.Org: After two productive seasons as underclassmen, Eastern Washington University offensive linemen Matt Alfred and Rocky Hanni have been selected as pre-season All-Americans by The Sports Network and its NCAA Division I-AA executive director Matt Dougherty. Later, that same duo earned the same honor as first team All-America selections by I-AA.Org.
Alfred, a 6-foot-3, 300-pound guard from Gig Harbor, Wash. (Gig Harbor HS '03), was selected to the first team. The 6-5, 290-pound Hanni earned honorable mention, and is from Sumner, Wash. (Sumner HS '03).
Alfred was a first team All-America and All-Big Sky pick in 2005 after helping the Eagles rank fourth nationally in total offense with an average of 477.8 yards per game. He has started as either a guard or tackle in Eastern's last 22 games the past two seasons as EWU has won a share of two Big Sky Conference titles, made two appearances in the I-AA Playoffs and has a 16-9 record.
As a freshman in 2004, Hanni was the first-ever offensive lineman to win Big Sky Newcomer of the Year honors. The 6-5, 290-pound Hanni also earned All-America honors that season and has started all 23 games as an Eagle. He moved from tackle to guard as a sophomore, but is expected to return to tackle in 2006.
Football Gazette Honors Seven In-State Eagles: Seven Eastern Washington University football players -- all from the state of Washington -- have been selected to the Football Gazette preseason NCAA Division I-AA All-America team.
The remainder of players recognized received honorable mention. They included tight end Tim Calhoun from Zillah, Wash., offensive tackle Rocky Hanni from Sumner, Wash., linebacker David Eneberg from Mukilteo, Wash., defensive back Bryan Jarrett from Puyallup, Wash., and Brandon Keeler from Federal Way, Wash.
Trio of Eagles on Preseason All-Big Sky team: Eastern Washington senior tight end Tim Calhoun, junior offensive guard Matt Alfred and junior safety Bryan Jarrett have been selected to the preseason All-Big Sky Conference team as selected by members of the media.
All three players received All-Big Sky recognition a year ago when Calhoun was selected to the second team and Alfred and Jarrett were both first team selections. Alfred also earned All-America honors.
Calhoun is a 2002 graduate from Zillah, Wash., High School, and has caught 46 passes for 591 yards and five touchdowns in his career. He earned honorable mention All-Big Sky honors as a true freshman before missing the 2003 and 2004 seasons because of injuries.
Alfred has started 22 career games as a guard and tackle, and is a 2003 graduate of Gig Harbor, Wash., High School. In each of the last two years, Eastern has ranked fourth in NCAA Division I-AA in offense with averages of nearly 500 yards per game. His younger brother Kenny is an offensive lineman at Washington State University.
Jarrett transferred to Eastern after playing one season at Western Washington University, and is a 2003 graduate of Puyallup, Wash., High School. He had 59 tackles, two passes broken up and an interception as an eight-game starter in his first season as an Eagle in 2005.
Those players helped lead the Eagles to a second-straight league title and NCAA Division I-AA Playoff berth in 2005.
Eagles Announce Spring Award Winners: At Eastern's Red-White Spring Football game, head coach Paul Wulff announced that junior guard Matt Alfred and senior linebacker David Eneberg will serve as co-captains in the 2006 season. Alfred is a 2003 graduate of Gig Harbor, Wash., High School, and Eneberg graduated in 2002 from Kamiak High School in Mukilteo, Wash.
Also at the game, Wulff handed out strength and conditioning awards to Alfred, running back Ryan Cole, cornerback Adam Macomber and defensive end Jason Belford. Selected as most improved were cornerback Anthony Dotson and offensive guard Julian Stewart. Winning the "Iron Eagle" awards for academic and athletic achievement during the year were tight end Tom McAndrews and defensive back Bryan Jarrett.
OTHER NOTES & QUOTES
Bill Diedrick Jr. Inducted Into Hall of Fame: It was 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 was 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.
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 finished with the second-most wins in the league and begins the playoffs on Nov. 5. A break in the schedule 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
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 in 1 1/2 games after that, Eastern's offense 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, EWU fell 21-14 to Central Washington Sept. 16, 21-20 to Sacramento State on Sept. 30 and 44-36 to Northern Arizona on Nov. 28.
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 rallied from a 14-point deficit against Northern Arizona to take a 22-20 lead, but the Lumberjacks pulled away by scoring 24 unanswered points.
Eastern is 0-4 at Woodward Field this season after entering the year with a 35-9 record in the last nine seasons. Of the 13 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, Northern Arizona, Sam Houston State and Central Washington.
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 127.0 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."