November 11, 2006

Seniors Go Out Winners as Eagles Beat Bengals 40-6

Nov. 11, 2006

It was a win 13 Eastern Washington University seniors will cherish forever. But it was also a win to build on for the future for the Eagle football program.

Eastern out-gained Idaho State 364-179 in total offense as the Eagles ended its 2006 football season with a 40-6 victory over Idaho State Saturday (Nov. 11) at Woodward Field in Cheney, Wash.

The Eagles, who won the Big Sky Conference title and advanced to the NCAA Division I-AA Playoffs the last two seasons, ended their season with a 3-8 mark overall and 3-5 record in the Big Sky Conference. The Eagles have now won their regular season game in seven of their last eight seasons.

Obviously, Eastern saved its best for last against the Bengals, who are now 2-8 overall and 1-6 in the conference heading into a season-ending home game Nov. 18 versus Weber State.

"This was the first time in 11 games that we came out and played a complete ball game and execute the way we wanted to," said EWU head coach Paul Wulff, who concluded his seventh season at the helm. "Now, we have a lot of growing up to do between now and next year."

"It was a great performance by our kids today, they were committed to trying to win this last game at home for our seniors."

Before the game, Eastern honored 13 seniors playing in their final game in an EWU uniform. 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 before it ended this year.

Senior kicker Brett Bergstrom tied the single season school record for field goals when he made a 28-yarder in the third quarter. Of the other seniors, Ryan Cole rushed for 80 yards in the victory, and even offensive lineman Harrison Nikolao carried the ball four times for six yards. Punter Ryan Donckers completed a pass for six yards, and receivers Charles Searcy and Branden Nicholson received their most playing time of the year and combined for three catches.

Also, senior tight end Tim Calhoun caught a touchdown pass and Brandon Keeler was the team's leading tackler with nine and an interception. He finished with 243 tackles to rank 10th in school history. Linebacker David Eneberg, who missed the last two games with a shoulder injury, finished his career with 208 to rank 20th.

"The seniors have been outstanding, not only this year but in their entire career," praised Wulff. "This group brought a couple of (Big Sky) championships to this school and they have been great ambassadors to this University. If there was anything I could do, or our coaches could do, was to help them have a great last game. We wanted to do it today."

Freshmen redshirts stole the rest of the offensive show against the Bengals. Walk-on Nicholas Ramos scored on a 28-yard pass and a 35-yard reverse, and starting quarterback Matt Nichols passed for a score and rushed for another. He finished the game 11-of-19 for 94 yards and an interception, and rushed five times for 66 yards.

Of Eastern's 16 completed passes, nine were by redshirt freshmen for 101 of the 138 passing yards the Eagles had. Four players threw passes, 10 had rushes and 10 caught passes.

"It was a great game for Nick (Ramos)," Wulff said. "He's a walk-on and he has done a great job working his tail off. He will be a factor for us in the upcoming seasons."

Eastern finished with 226 rushing yards against an Idaho State team that went into the game ranked 11th nationally in rushing defense (103.0 yards per game). Defensively, Eastern held ISU to 92 yards rushing and 87 passing. Josh Barnett, who came into the game with 956 rushing yards, had just 41 Saturday to come three from the 1,000-yard mark.

Eastern scored its first touchdown of the day after an Idaho State fumble, and Bergstrom made his field goal after a Bengal interception. Eastern also registered a safety on a sack by sophomore Greg Peach.

"We did a great job of capitalizing on the turnovers our defense forced today and turning those turnovers into points on offense," said Wulff. "That is something that we haven't been able to do this season. It was encouraging for our offense to score on our first offensive possession again today after doing that last week at Weber State."

Eastern took a 9-0 lead after the first quarter, and led 16-6 at intermission. The Eagles out-scored Idaho State 17-0 in the third quarter. A week earlier in a 19-14 loss to Weber State, Eastern was out-scored 9-0 in the second half.

"Halftime was a big thing for us as coaches today," said Wulff. "Last week we didn't play well after halftime, but today our kids came into the second half fired up and ready to get the win."

A crowd of 3,818 attended the game, but it was enough to set the school's single season attendance record. Eastern averaged 7,116 in five home games (35,580 total), breaking the previous record of 7,090 in 2005 (35,451 total in five home games).

Eastern avoided going winless at home, with a current mark of 0-4 this season at Woodward Field. The Eagles are now 101-51 at Woodward dating back to 1967 when it was opened. A 24-7 win over UC-Davis on Nov. 19, 2005, at the fog-shrouded stadium was Eastern's 100th victory at Woodward, and the last home win for the Eagles until Saturday.

Bergstrom missed a 32-yarder earlier in the game on the muddy field as he finished the season 15-of-18 kicking field goals this season. He was also 21-of-22 kicking extra points. His other misses this season were against Weber State (blocked 35-yarder), Northern Colorado (36-yard field goal) and Northern Arizona (extra point).

He now shares the school record with three other players -- Josh Atwood in 1997, Alex Lacson in 1991 and Jason Cromer in 1990. He entered the game ranked sixth in I-AA with an average of 1.4 field goals per game. He is also averaging 60.6 yards on 45 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).

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