Even without starter Bo Levi Mitchell, Eagles throw for 164 yards and three touchdowns while taking advantage of the situation in situational scrimmage
While it was too early in the spring to tell for sure, Eastern Washington University’s quarterbacks were sharp Friday (April 8) in the first scrimmage of spring practices for the defending NCAA Football Championship Subdivision champions.
And Bo Levi Mitchell wasn’t one of them.
With the MVP of the national championship game sitting out the 34-play scrimmage with a minor knee injury, a trio of his backups combined to complete 14-of-19 passes for 164 yards and three touchdowns. Sophomore Anthony Vitto had two of the TDs and was a perfect 6-of-6 for 97 yards.
But the situations in the situational scrimmage may have had a lot to do with the impressive passing performance as head coach Beau Baldwin was cautious in his post-game analysis. Injuries in the secondary hindered the defense and the scrimmage included four red zone drives, which shortened the field for the offense.
But the confidence of his signal-callers was evident, exactly a year after the Eagles were actually looking for a starting quarterback to replace record-breaking four-year starter Matt Nichols. Adding 24 rushing yards and a sack for minus 5, Eastern finished the scrimmage with 183 yards in 34 plays (5.4 per play).
“Numbers-wise they did a good job,” Baldwin said of the quarterbacks. “However, you always need to look at video to really know for sure. Sometimes you can get away with a completion that still might not have been the correct read or was thrown late. But based on the numbers they were definitely sharp, and that excites me.
Vitto had an 11-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Hart in a red-zone situation, then had a 57-yard strike to Ashton Clark on his final pass of the scrimmage. Nick Gauthier was 5-of-5 for 46 yards and an 18-yard TD to Bo Levi Mitchell’s brother Cory Mitchell. And Greg Panelli completed his first three tosses before finishing 4-of-8 for 21 yards.
“We want to see those young guys fighting for that backup position behind Bo,” added Baldwin. “And you never know -- they are always one snap away anyway from playing. You always have to be ready and I like the competition that we have at that position right now.”
Defensively, linebackers Rusty Haehl and J.C. Agen each had four tackles, as did cornerback Ronald Baines. Defensive end Jerry Ceja had the lone sack of the day.
“We have some new packages and things we are doing defensively, and I’m excited to see how that plays out,” said Baldwin. “But we didn’t necessarily see those today because we have quite a few injuries defensively, so it limited what we could do. We’ll get a chance to see that more in the next couple of weeks.”
Baldwin was impressed by several other things as well on Friday.
“The offense kept the ball off the ground and operated well,” he said. “We’re doing some good things with working on certain situations and communicating as an offense and defense. We’re getting a better feel for what the situations are and what we have to do.”
The Eagles will scrimmage three more times in the remaining 10 practice sessions of spring. Scrimmages will take place the next two Saturdays at approximately 10 a.m. before the Eagles end spring drills with the annual Red-White game at 2 p.m. on April 30 that will be televised live regionally by SWX.
The Eagles have the weekend off, and Baldwin will be in Seattle Saturday (April 9) to throw out the first pitch at the Seattle Mariners game at 6 p.m. Pacific time and televised by Root Sports (formerly Fox Sports Northwest). Baldwin, who lettered in baseball three years in high school, received a visit before Friday’s scrimmage from former Eastern pitcher Kerry Pease, who is associate director of the EWU sports and recreation center.
“Kerry Pease, my pitching coach, demanded that I throw a couple before I left,” Baldwin explained. “He wanted me to throw out here in front of the team, and that went well. If it goes wrong Saturday, it’s all between the ears because by arm and shoulder is fine.
“I’ll be honest, I’m probably more nervous in that as I would be coaching a national championship game,” he added. “It’s different, because until this week, I haven’t thrown a baseball in going on 10 or 15 years. But I’m feeling good.”
Tyler Hart 11 pass from Anthony Vitto
Cory Mitchell 18 pass from Nick Gauthier
Ashton Clark 57 pass from Vitto
Rushing: Mario Brown 2-10, Demitrius Bronson 4-9, Darriell Beaumonte 3-6, Nick Washburn 3-minus-1, Anthony Vitto 2-minus-1, Trenton Pinson 1-minus-4, Totals 15-19.
Passing: Anthony Vitto 6-6 97, Nick Gauthier 5-5 46, Greg Panelli 4-8 21, Totals 15-19 164.
Receiving: Cory Mitchell 4-41, Tyler Hart 4-30, Alante Wright 3-23, Ashton Clark 2-65, Greg Herd 1-6, Demitrius Bronson 1-minus-1, Totals 15-164.
Leading Tacklers: Ronald Baines 4, J.C. Agen 4, Rusty Haehl 4, T.J. Lee 2, Allen Brown 2, Bo Schuetzle 2, Paul Ena 2, Will Katoa 2, Charles Moetului 2, Shane Stagg 2.
Sacks: Jerry Ceja 1.
Spring Practice Schedule
Practices take place various days through April 30. Most practices are scheduled to start at 4 p.m. (media interviews at approximately 3:45 p.m. or after practice at about 6 p.m.). All practices take place either at Roos Field or on the EWU Sports and Recreation Center practice fields. Scrimmages also take place on the red Sprinturf surface at the "Inferno" in Cheney, Wash.
April 12 - Practice, 4 p.m.
April 14 - Practice, 4 p.m.
April 16 - Scrimmage, approx. 10 a.m., Roos Field
April 19 - Practice, 4 p.m.
April 21 - Practice, 4 p.m.
April 23 - Scrimmage, approx. 10 a.m., Roos Field
April 26 - Practice, 4 p.m.
April 27 - Practice, 4 p.m.
April 28 - Practice, 4 p.m.
April 30 - Red-White Spring Game, 2 p.m., Roos Field