Eastern tries to snap a two-game losing streak and work its way back up the Big Sky Conference standings when Montana State visits Woodward Field
Eastern Washington Univ. "Eagles"
Montana State Univ. "Bobcats"
Saturday, October 24 • 1:05 p.m. Pacific
Woodward Field (8,600) • Cheney, Wash.
EWU Coach: Beau Baldwin (Central Washington
School Record: 10-8/8-5 Big Sky (2nd Season)
Career Record: 20-11 (3rd Season -- was 10-3 at CWU in 2007 and 6-5 at EWU in 2008)
2009: 4-3/3-2 Big Sky Conference
Last Game: #3 Montana 41, #21 Eastern Washington 34 (Oct. 17 in Missoula, Mont.)
2008: 6-5/5-3 in Big Sky Conference (3rd)
TV: SWX (SWX Digital 6.2, Cheney Cable 12, Comcast 115, Time Warner 306, Charter 287); Max Media Montana
Radio: 1510-AM in Spokane
Weekly Coaches Luncheon: Tuesday, Noon at the Q Sports Bar and Restaurant at Northern Quest Resort & Casino, cost $12
Even though the defending champions are in the rearview mirror, the Eagles still have their work cut out for them.
Trying to snap a two game losing streak, the Eastern Washington University football team tries to stay in the thick of the Big Sky Conference race when it hosts Montana State this Saturday (Oct. 24) at 1:05 p.m. Pacific time at Woodward Field in Cheney, Wash.
Eastern will be playing in its 83rd Annual Homecoming game, with a 47-32-3 record in the previous 82. Eastern will also retire the No. 71 jersey previously worn at Eastern by Michael Roos (2001-2004), who is now an All-Pro tackle for the Tennessee Titans in the NFL.
Coming off losses to nationally-ranked foes Montana (41-34) and Weber State (31-13), the Eagles are hoping to regain their winning form against the Bobcats. Eastern is not in this week's Sports Network NCAA Football Championship Subdivision top 25 poll and brings a 3-2 lead record and 4-3 overall mark into this Saturday's game.
"We'll fight in practice, work hard, keep our heads up high and look to play well against Montana State," said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin. "We'll give it everything we have."
The Eagles were ranked as high as 15th before losing to the then 21st-ranked Wildcats (now ranked 15th) and fell to 21st prior to losing to the No. 3 Grizzlies (now second). However, the Eagles did receive enough votes to rank 26th this week, and the coaches poll still ranks them 21st nationally.
Montana State was ranked 24th nationally before falling 23-10 to Northern Arizona on Oct. 10, and received enough votes this week to rank 32nd. The Bobcats are coming off a 31-24 overtime victory over South Dakota in a non-league game, and enter this week's game 2-1 in the Big Sky and 4-2 overall. Just ahead of the Bobcats are No. 24 Northern Arizona (3-1), Weber State (4-1) and Montana (3-0). Eastern plays the Lumberjacks in Flagstaff, Ariz., on Nov. 21.
Eastern and Montana State both knocked off Northern Colorado handily (EWU won 16-0 and MSU triumphed 26-21), but they had vastly different results versus Weber State. Eastern lost at home to the Wildcats 31-13 while MSU registered a huge 26-21 road win over the defending Big Sky co-champions a week earlier on Oct. 3.
"They are solid in everything and against everyone," said Baldwin. "They are great defensively, and it really showed in their game against Weber State. They have the ability to run it and mix things up on offense, and anytime a team can do that they will be tough to beat. Montana State is strong every year and this season is no exception."
Recent history is on the side of the Eagles in a series that has seen EWU come out on top in 24 of 32 meetings. Eastern has won the last six meetings and 15 of the last 18. In fact, Eastern has not lost to Montana State in the last six times they have met at Woodward Field, dating back to a 28-25 double-overtime victory by the Bobcats in 1990. Since that game, EWU's only losses to them came in 1997 (17-7 in Bozeman), 2001 (48-38 in Spokane) and 2002 (25-14 in Bozeman).
Last week's narrow loss to Montana was disappointing after the Eagles knotted the score at 27 and 34 in the fourth quarter, only to let the Grizzlies score a go-ahead touchdown. The winning points came with 1:18 left following an 11-play, 55-yard drive.
But an even more devastating blow came on Eastern's final touchdown of the game when senior wide receiver Aaron Boyce crumpled to the ground with an Achilles tendon injury. The 2005 graduate of Kentwood High School in Kent, Wash., is scheduled for surgery on Tuesday (Oct. 20) in Seattle and will be lost for the season. His ends his career ranked second all-time in receptions (222), reception yards (3,330) and touchdown receptions (29).
"Our hearts go out to him -- you never want to see something like that happen, especially to a person like Aaron," said Baldwin of one of his team's four co-captains. "He has done so many great things on the field and has been a great leader. He worked as hard as anyone from December to August preparing for his final year, and was on his way to finishing a great senior season.
"I know he'll fight back, and it will be important for him to stay right with our team and help our young receivers along," added Baldwin. "I know it will mean a lot to them to have him there, and I know he'll do a great job helping them."
Ironically, Eastern's record holder in all three categories had his professional career derailed with an Achilles tendon injury while attending a Miami Dolphins mini-camp as a rookie in spring 2006. Eric Kimble had 253 receptions for 4,140 yards and 46 touchdowns from 2002-05.
Following this week's game, Eastern plays a home game across the Cascade Mountains on Halloween Day in the "Showdown on the Sound." The Eagles will host Portland State on Oct. 31 in a Big Sky Conference game that begins at 1 p.m. at Qwest Field in Seattle. It's believed to be the first time in Eastern's 100-year football history that it has played a game in Seattle. The Eagles will play their first game in the Puget Sound area since Oct. 30, 1982, when Eastern won at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma.
Sherritt Moves Into National Lead in Tackles -- A school-record 24 tackles versus Weber State on Oct. 10 and 17 more against Montana on Oct. 17 has moved junior linebacker J.C. Sherritt (Pullman, Wash. - Pullman HS '06) into the lead in NCAA Football Championship Subdivision statistics with an average of 14.4 tackles per game. He already has 101 stops this season, and at his current pace will finish the season with 158 to break the school record of 151 set by Greg Belzer in 2000.
Sherritt also ranks 35th nationally in tackles for loss with an average of 1.36 per game. He finished the Weber State game with seven solo stops and 17 assists, breaking the previous school record of 23 set by Greg Belzer against Portland State on Sept. 12, 1998. Two of his tackles against Weber State were for losses and he also had a 36-yard interception return for a touchdown. Besides his 101 tackles and interception, Sherritt has 11 tackles for loss, two passes broken up, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries in seven games this season.
Sherritt earned Big Sky Conference Defensive Player of the Week honors for the second-straight week when he had 15 tackles, with 2 1/2 for loss, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery in EWU's 56-30 victory over Sacramento State on Sept. 26.
The previous week, he had 15 versus Northern Colorado on Sept. 19 to earn BSC Defensive Player of the Week accolades for his efforts. Sherritt was also selected as one of four National All-Stars by College Sporting News for his performance against the Bears. Three of the tackles were for losses, including one on a third down play that forced the Bears to punt. He also recovered a fumble, one of four turnovers the Eagles forced in the 16-0 shutout.
Sherritt Added to Buchanan Watch List -- Eastern linebacker J.C. Sherritt is among four players who were added to the Buck Buchanan Award Watch List Oct. 15 by the Sports Network.
The Buchanan Award, which is in its 15th year, is given to the top defensive player in the Football Championship Subdivision. Last year the award was won by Eastern defensive end Greg Peach, now with the Edmonton Eskimos in the Canadian Football League.
There are currently 20 players on that watch list, as well as 20 on the list for the Walter Payton Award given to the top player in FCS. Eastern quarterback Matt Nichols remains a candidate on the Payton Watch List.
Matt Nichols Tops Quarterback He Replaced in the Record Books -- Senior quarterback Matt Nichols, a four-year starter, has broken EWU's career total offense and passing yardage records in the past two games. He is now 856-of-1,390 (62 percent) for 10,627 yards and 76 touchdowns in his 42-game career.
Nichols broke the school record for career passing yards held by the quarterback he replaced, Erik Meyer, who had 10,261 from 2002-05. Now with 11,261 yards of total offense, Nichols broke the previous career record of 10,942 held by Meyer. He also owns EWU's career records for passing completions and attempts, and Nichols also has 634 career rushing yards, trailing Meyer by just 47 yards for the school record of 681 by an Eastern quarterback.
The starting debut for the 40-game starter came in 2006 when Eastern played at 12th-ranked West Virginia. For the second-straight year he is on the watch list for the Walter Payton Award presented by the Sports Network to the top player in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision.
So far this season, Nichols has thrown for 1,841 yards and 13 touchdowns, while completing 66 percent of his passes to give him a passing efficiency rating of 143.98 to rank 21st in FCS. He is 16th in total offense, averaging 269.3 per game. Nichols has five interceptions, but had a streak of 151 attempts without a pick ended against Weber State.
Nichols led Eastern to nine victories as a sophomore in 2007 when he passed for 3,744 yards and 34 touchdowns, and had another 392 yards on the ground. As a junior, his numbers (in two less games) slipped to 3,293 yards and 21 touchdowns passing, and 83 yards rushing.
Taiwan Jones Has Four 100-Yard Rushing Games -- Sophomore running back Taiwan Jones (Antioch, Calif. - Deer Valley HS '07) had his fourth 100-yard performance of the season, gaining 145 in a 41-34 loss at Montana on Oct. 17.
For the season, he has 786 rushing yards and is averaging a lofty 8.4 yards per rush in an average of just over 13 carries per game. Jones has 1,238 all-purpose yards and 10 touchdowns in 126 total touches for averages of 176.9 yards per game and 9.8 per touch. He is averaging a touchdown every 12.6 times he touches the ball. His average of 112.3 yards rushing leads the Big Sky and ranks seventh in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision, and he is also 15th nationally in scoring (8.57 per game) and eighth nationally in all-purpose yards per game (176.9).
At his current pace, Jones would finish with 1,235 yards to rank as the sixth-most in school history. In nine of the last 14 seasons (1995-2008), Eastern has had a 1,000-yard rusher, including six different players. Dale Morris came close with 930 in 2007, but Eastern hasn't had a 1,000-yard rusher since Darius Washington had 1,127 in 2004.
Jones rushed for 168 yards and three touchdowns on just 12 carries in EWU's 38-3 victory over Idaho State on Oct. 3. He had 190 yards and four TDs a week earlier against Sacramento State, giving him 358 yards, seven touchdowns and an impressive 12.3 average per rush in those two games.
His yards versus ISU included a school-record 96-yard rush for a score in the third quarter that ranks as the fourth-longest in Big Sky history. He broke the previous school record of 95 yards set by John Ditz against Lewis & Clark in 1954. He had an 87-yard touchdown on his first career carry in EWU's 35-14 victory over Western Oregon on Sept. 5. That equaled EWU's fifth-longest rush in school history, and was the longest for the Eagles since 1997. It also equaled the longest in the Big Sky since 1989 when Eastern's Dominic Corr had a 92-yard scamper versus Idaho State.
Following his performance against Sac State on Sept. 26 in the 56-30 win, Jones was Sports Network co-Offensive Player of the Week and earned the same honor from the Big Sky Conference as he shared the honor with two other players. Playing in just his fourth game as a collegiate running back, his yardage total was the 29th-most in school history, and the best by an Eagle since Dezmon Cole had 199 versus Weber State on Oct. 23, 2004. Coupled with 69 yards on three kickoff returns and a pass reception for 20 yards, Jones finished with 279 all-purpose yards. He averaged 12.7 yards per rush, and 14.7 yards the 19 times he touched the ball.
Jones had 164 all-purpose yards versus Northern Colorado on Sept. 19, including 95 yards rushing on 18 carries. He also caught a pass for 16 yards, returned a punt for one yard and returned a kickoff 52 yards. His kickoff return would have been an 85-yard touchdown, but a penalty nullified it. Last season, Jones had a 93-yard return for a touchdown versus the Bears. That return helped convince the coaching staff to move him to running back in 2009 to help replace four departed seniors at that position.
Jones missed the early part of the 2008 season with a broken fibula, but returned to start four games at cornerback for the Eagles.
Eastern Now 11th in Passing Offense in FCS -- The Eagles are ranked in the top 40 in all offensive categories in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision, including rushing (40th, 150.3), passing (11th, 266.6), total offense (15th, 416.9) and scoring (30th, 28.4). Individually, Eastern's Taiwan Jones is ranked high in rushing (7th, 112.3), scoring (15th, 8.6) and all-purpose yards (8th, 176.9), with Matt Nichols ranking in passing efficiency (21st, 143.98) and total offense (16th, 269.3). Aaron Boyce ranks in receiving yards (17th, 90.6) and Tony Davis is ranked in receptions per game (25th, 6.0). In addition, Eastern's J.C. Sherritt is leading FCS in tackles (14.43) and is 35th in tackles for loss (1.36), and Renard Williams is 44th in sacks (0.64).
Montana State's top national ranking as a team is 16th in rushing defense (91.8). Eric Fisher leads the nation in punting (46.15 per punt) and Jason Cunningham is 14th in field goals (1.5 per game).
All-Pro Michael Roos Will Return to Eastern on Oct. 24 to Have His No. 71 Jersey Retired -- Former Eastern Washington University All-American and current Tennessee Titans All-Pro offensive tackle Michael Roos will have his jersey retired at EWU's Homecoming game on Oct. 24 versus Montana State.
"Having my jersey retired is obviously a huge thrill for me," said Roos. "It's something you never think is going to happen, so when I was told about it, I was definitely ecstatic. It's an honor that not many players achieve at any level, so I feel extremely honored that Eastern has decided to retire mine."
The 6-foot-7, 315-pound Roos is quick to credit his former coaches at Eastern - offensive line coach Aaron Best and head coach Paul Wulff - for his accomplishments along the way. Best is currently offensive line coach and offensive coordinator at EWU, while Wulff has since moved on to become head coach at Washington State University.
"I was very lucky to have the best offensive line coach possible in Aaron Best," praised Roos. "He taught all of us the meaning of hard work and perseverance. Also, I was fortunate that Paul Wulff took a chance on me out of high school and gave me the opportunity.
"Most importantly, I owe the most to my wife Katherine," he added. "She has put her life on hold since the day the NFL was a faint possibility, and she has supported me 100 percent every step of the way."
Including 35 starts to end his EWU career, Roos entered the 2009 season having made 117 consecutive starts as an offensive tackle. His last 82 starts have come as a Titan (two AFC playoff games, 64 regular season games and 16 pre-season contests). He was even a starter in his first-ever Pro Bowl on Feb. 8.
Five Nominated for Academic All-America Honors -- Five Eastern Washington University football players have been nominated for ESPN The Magazine Academic All-America honors as selected by members of the College Sports Information Directors Association (CoSIDA).
Three of the nominees -- Tony Davis, Chris Thomas and Jacob Kragt -- have been honored previously on the All-District VIII team. Kragt was selected in both 2007 and 2008, Davis was honored in 2007 and Thomas was chosen in 2008.
The qualifying standards include having a minimum 3.3 grade point average at Eastern and being a significant contributor to the team. The All-District VIII team will be announced in early November, and the first team members will advance to the national ballot.
The District VIII university division includes all NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) and Bowl Subdivision (FBS) teams from nine western states, including Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Utah and Washington.
Eastern football players have been honored 48 times since 1989 on the All-District VIII squad, and six players have gone on to win eight Academic All-America honors. Here are EWU's 2009 nominees (only one Eastern player per position was nominated among those who met the criteria):
WR - Tony Davis - Interdisciplinary Studies -
3.414 - 5-9 - 185 - Sr. - 3L* - Olympia, Wash. (Capital HS '05)
OL - Chris Thomas - Biology/Pre-Med - 3.782 - 6-5 - 300 - Sr. - 3L* - Sumner, Wash. (Sumner HS '05)
DL - Jacob Kragt - Biology/Pre-Med - 3.888 - 6-3 - 235 - Sr. - 3L* - Ritzville, Wash. (Lind-Ritzville HS '05)
LB - J.C. Sherritt - Health & Fitness - 3.346 - 5-10 - 220 - Jr. - 2L* - Pullman, Wash. (Pullman HS '06)
TE - Matt Martin - Communication Studies - 3.795 - 6-2 - 240 - Jr. - 2L* - La Crosse, Wash. (La Crosse-Washtucna HS '06)
Game Promotions/Tickets -- Eastern's next home game is Oct. 24 for Homecoming and Michael Roos Jersey Retirement Day when the Eagles host Montana State (1:05 p.m. Pacific time). Eastern will be playing in its 83rd Annual Homecoming game, with a 47-32-3 record in the previous 82. Eastern will also retire the No. 71 jersey previously worn at Eastern by Roos (2001-2004), who is now an All-Pro tackle for the Tennessee Titans in the NFL. The game sponsor is Comcast. It will also be Special Olympics Day and Kiwanis Day. Ticket information is available at http://goeags.com/tickets/ewas-ticketcentral.html or by calling 1-866-4GO-EAGS. Tickets may now be purchased at the on-campus EWU Bookstore, which opens at 7:30 a.m. on the day of games.
PDF Link to Fact Book -- The complete version of the 2009 EWU football fact book may be found at: http://goeags.com/trads/ewas-factbooks.html.
Practices -- This week, two-hour practices take place Tuesday at 4 p.m., Wednesday at 3:45 p.m. and Thursday at 3:45 p.m. on the EWU Sports and Recreation Center practice fields. Media interviews take place after practice or 1/2 hour before the time listed (Tuesday and Wednesday only, please).
More Eagles to Watch -- First-year kicker Mike Jarrett (Puyallup, Wash. - Puyallup HS '07) kicked field goals of 39 and 48 yards in EWU's loss to Montana on Oct. 17. He is now 4-of-6 on the season, with a 49-yarder to his credit. His brother Bryan Jarrett (2005-07) was a two-time All-Big Sky Conference safety for the Eagles . . . Despite never playing on defense, special teams standout and wide receiver Nicholas Ramos (Winters, Calif. - Winters HS '05) has tied the school's fumble recoveries record. His eighth was a recovery on a fumbled punt return by Northern Colorado on Sept. 19 in EWU's 16-0 victory. He tied the record originally set by defensive end Steve Mattson (1994-97). Ramos, who earned honorable mention All-Big Sky honors as a junior in 2008, had four of his fumble recoveries as a sophomore in 2007 . . . Senior linebacker Makai Borden (Puyallup, Wash. - Puyallup HS '05) has tallied 43 tackles this season in six games, but his mere presence on the field has been important the past three seasons for the Eagles. Eastern is now 16-7 in the last two-plus seasons (2007-09) with Borden in the starting lineup and 3-5 without him in it. He has 166 tackles, three interceptions and five passes broken up in 36 career games, and EWU is 17-9 in his 26 games as a starter . . . Junior punter Cameron Zuber (Chehalis, Wash. - W.F. West HS '06) had an impressive outing versus Northern Colorado on Sept. 19 to earn Big Sky Conference Special Teams Player of the Week honors. He punted seven times for a 39.1 average, with five downed inside the 20. His 64-yard punt equaled the eighth-longest in school history and the average field position for the Bears after six of his punts was their own 19. On his seventh punt, Eastern forced a fumble on the return and took over at the UNC 6-yard line before scoring for a 13-0 lead. For the season, he is averaging 40.1 yards on 25 punts, with 11 of them downed inside the 20. Zuber has been attending EWU since he graduated in 2006 from W.F. West High School in Chehalis, Wash., but this is his first season as an Eagle football player. He originally walked-on in spring 2007 but did not make the team. He then returned this fall through the recommendation of Eastern tight end Nathan Overbay, who is 2005 graduate of W.F. West. "He's getting better every day," said Baldwin of Zuber in the game versus UNC. "He's had a few really good kicks and is doing a great job. We consistently gave our defense great field position to work with, and when our punters do a good job of pinning them back there, it makes it hard on opponents to have to go 80-plus yards to score." . . . A total of 12 players return who earned All-Big Sky Conference honors a year ago, including a pair of wide receivers selected to the second team last year as juniors -- Aaron Boyce (Kent, Wash. - Kentwood HS '05) and Brynsen Brown (Puyallup, Wash. - Emerald Ridge HS '05). Brown, however, has since moved over to a defensive end position after freshman redshirt Nicholas Edwards (Tacoma, Wash. - Foss HS '08) earned a starting position in the off-season. Boyce caught 63 passes for 917 yards and 10 touchdowns last season and now has 222 catches for 3,330 yards and 29 touchdowns in his career. Boyce began his senior season with six catches for 126 yards versus Western Oregon on Sept. 5, including a 53-yard touchdown catch, to help him earn Big Sky Conference Offensive Player of the Week honors . . . Senior quarterback Matt Nichols (Cottonwood, Calif.) is one of 10 players returning who earned honorable mention All-Big Sky honors in 2008 after earning the league's Offensive Player of the Year award as a sophomore . . . Senior free safety Kevin Hatch (Spokane, Wash. - Freeman HS '05) had a pair of interceptions, two passes broken up and six total tackles against Western Oregon on Sept. 5 to earn Big Sky Conference Defensive Player of the Week honors. Besides the two touchdowns they scored, the Wolves had the ball inside the Eastern 20 three other times and came away empty. One was ended on an interception by Hatch in the end zone at the end of the first half with EWU clinging to a 14-7 lead. Hatch's other interception led to a touchdown that gave EWU some breathing room at 28-14. He added an interception against Northern Colorado on Sept. 19, giving him eight in his career to go along with a current total of 188 tackles. Hatch ended his junior season with a 73-yard interception return for a touchdown in EWU's upset 33-26 victory over eighth-ranked and regular season Big Sky champion Weber State . . . Junior cornerback Jesse Hoffman (Seattle, Wash. - Shorecrest HS '06) had 10 tackles versus WOU in his first-ever start as an Eagle cornerback. He played previously at EWU as a safety (2008) and running back (2006). Hoffman, however, suffered a high ankle/knee sprain during EWU's practice the day before the Northern Colorado game, and he missed EWU's next three games before returning to play sparingly against Weber State on Oct. 10 . . . Offensive lineman Ray Falelaulii (University Place, Wash. - Curtis HS '07) has been utilized as a fullback along with Grant Williams (Puyallup, Wash. - Rogers HS '08). Falelaulii could wear jersey numbers 96 and/or 75 depending on how he is utilized.
Seven Eagles Make Starting Debuts Against WOU -- Seven Eagles, including a pair each on the defensive line and offensive line, made their Eastern starting debuts against Western Oregon on Sept. 5.
Three of Eastern's starting defensive linemen were seniors in 2008, so freshman redshirt Evan Cook made his debut at strong end and sophomore David Miles made his starting debut at tackle. Miles is backed up by 2008 seven-game starter Renard Williams. Senior Jacob Kragt made the second start of his career at the other end position as he and Cook helped replace record-breaking Buck Buchanan Award winner and Big Sky Conference Defensive Player of the Year Greg Peach.
The only other starting debuts made on defense were made by junior cornerback Jesse Hoffman and freshman redshirt weak-side outside linebacker Rusty Haehl. Hoffman is a former running back (2006) and safety (2008) who moved to cornerback last spring. Haehl earned a starting spot after senior starter Makai Borden suffered a hamstring injury early in preseason practices.
The lone starting debuts on offense were made by freshman redshirt wide receiver Nicholas Edwards, sophomore center Chris Powers and junior right guard Nikolai Myers. Sophomore tackle Gabe Jackson made his second start after playing previously as a backup behind injured starter Brice Leahy. And sophomore Taiwan Jones, a four-game starter at cornerback in 2008, made his starting debut as a running back and had an 87-yard touchdown run on his first career rush.
Also making debuts against Western Oregon were sophomore kicker Mike Jarrett and junior punter Cameron Zuber. Jarrett was a non-lettering squad member last season, and Zuber is punting for the first time since 2005 when he was a high school senior at W.F. West High School in Chehalis, Wash.
Freshman redshirt fullback Grant Williams made the first start of his career against California at tailback. He took the majority of snaps in practice during the week leading up to the game as a trio of Eagle running backs nursed minor injuries. Cornerback Dante Calcote made the first start of his career as an injury replacement for Jesse Hoffman when Eastern played Northern Colorado. Also, Tyler Hart made the first start of his career at running back against Sacramento State on Sept. 26, finishing with 46 yards rushing and 40 receiving. Senior Brett Igbinoba made his first career start at cornerback on Oct. 3. Freshman redshirt Tyler Washburn started his first career game on Oct. 17 against Montana.
A total of 25 players with starting experience returned for the 2009 season. Here are the current number of career starts by Eastern players currently on the 2009 roster:
Defense (185 starts by 19 players) -- Kevin Hatch 31, Makai Borden 26, Lonnie Hosley 20, Matt Johnson 18, J.C. Sherritt 15, Tyler Jolley 12, Renard Williams 11, Zach Johnson 11, Kyle Wilkins 8, Jacob Kragt 8, Evan Cook 7, Josh Jacobson 6, Brett Igbinoba 3, Jesse Hoffman 2, David Miles 2, Dante Calcote 2, Will Edge 1, Rusty Haehl 1, Tyler Washburn 1.
Offense (250 starts by 18 players) -- Matt Nichols 40, Aaron Boyce 39, Brynsen Brown 29, Tony Davis 23, Chris Thomas 25, Nathan Overbay 18, Ryan Forney 18, Brice Leahy 11, Taiwan Jones 9 (includes four on defense in 2008), Gabriel Jackson 8, Nicholas Edwards 7, Chris Powers 7, Nikolai Myers 7, Matt Martin 4, Nicholas Ramos 1, Ashton Gant 2, Grant Williams 1, Tyler Hart 1.
Preseason Honors -- Quarterback Matt Nichols and wide receiver Aaron Boyce topped the list of preseason honors received by Eagle football players. Nichols is on the watch list for the Payton Award (Sports Network) and was an honorable mention All-America selection (College Sporting News). Boyce earned a pair of second team All-America honors (Sports Network, Consensus Draft Services) and joined offensive tackle Chris Thomas and linebacker Zach Johnson on the Big Sky Conference all-league team. Phil Steele Magazine selected Thomas as a first team selection on its preseason All-BSC squad, with Nichols, running back Taiwan Jones, wide receiver Brynsen Brown, tight end Nathan Overbay, strong safety Matt Johnson and injured offensive tackle Brice Leahy on the second team.
Career Records Watch -- Now 856-of-1,390 (62 percent) for 10,627 yards and 76 touchdowns in his 42-game career, senior quarterback Matt Nichols has broken the school record for career passing yards held by the quarterback he replaced, Erik Meyer, who had 10,261 from 2002-05. With 11,261 yards of total offense, Nichols broke the career record of 10,942 held by Meyer. Nichols also broke the school's career completions record to go along with the attempts record he broke last season. Nichols is eight touchdown passes away from the record of 84 held by Meyer. Nichols also has 634 career rushing yards, trailing Meyer by just 47 yards for the school record of 681 by an Eastern quarterback.
Wide receiver Aaron Boyce is second in school history with 222 receptions, and will finish his career trailing only Eric Kimble (2002-05) with a record 253 grabs. Tony Davis (178) is now third behind Boyce and Kimble on Eastern's top 10 list, and Brynsen Brown (141) is 11th. Boyce also has 3,330 reception yards to trailing only Kimble's Big Sky record 4,140 yards, and Boyce's 29 touchdown catches is second behind Kimble's 46.
Senior safety Kevin Hatch now has eight interceptions in his career, and needs just one more to join six other former Eagles with nine to rank ninth on EWU's leaders list. Hatch also has 188 career tackles and needs just 12 more to move into the top 25 in that category. Junior linebacker J.C. Sherritt is right behind with 187 tackles already in his career.
Despite never playing on defense, special teams standout and wide receiver Nicholas Ramos has tied the school's fumble recoveries record. His eighth was a recovery on a fumbled punt return by Northern Colorado on Sept. 19 in EWU's 16-0 victory. He tied the record originally set by defensive end Steve Mattson (1994-97). Ramos, who earned honorable mention All-Big Sky honors as a junior in 2008, had four of his fumble recoveries as a sophomore in 2007.
Injury Report -- Senior wide receiver Aaron Boyce was lost for the season with an injured Achilles tendon suffered in EWU's 41-34 loss to Montana on Oct. 17. However, in that game, receiver Ashton Gant (ankle/hamstring) returned after missing a pair of games, and had a 14-yard touchdown catch.
Running back Tyler Hart (shoulder) and defensive back Domonic Sheppard (shoulder) missed Eastern's games against Idaho State on Oct. 3 and Weber State on Oct. 10. Starting cornerback Jesse Hoffman missed three games after suffering a high ankle/knee sprain in practice the day before EWU played Northern Colorado on Sept. 19. His replacement, Dante Calcote, injured his foot against Sacramento State and missed the following game on Oct. 3 versus Idaho State. Both returned to play against Weber State on Oct. 10.
Special teams standout and backup wide receiver Nicholas Ramos (hamstring) missed the Sacramento State game, and Jason Harris (clavicle) was injured in that game and was lost for the season after undergoing surgery. Ramos also missed the Montana game on Oct. 17 because of his nagging hamstring injury.
Starting linebackers Zach Johnson and Makai Borden both missed most of Eastern's preseason practices because of injuries and sat out the Western Oregon game. Johnson was eventually lost for the season because a blood clot in his leg that was diagnosed following knee surgery this summer and didn't dissipate completely. Borden suffered a hamstring injury in the opening days of practice, adding to ankle, foot and toe injuries he's suffered the past two seasons. Borden returned to the lineup against California and had a team-high nine tackles. Before the Cal loss, Eastern was 13-4 in the last two seasons with Borden in the starting lineup and 2-5 without him in it.
Eastern was also forced to adjust along the offensive line after starting right tackle Brice Leahy was lost for the season with a knee injury suffered in a non-football related accident in June. But Eastern did have a dose of good news during preseason practices. Safety Will Edge, who suffered a dislocated left ankle and broken fibula during a spring scrimmage on April 11, returned earlier than expected. He played in EWU's second preseason scrimmage on Aug. 29 and played in EWU's opener against Western Oregon on Sept. 5.
Nichols Selected To Payton Watch List Again -- On the cusp of breaking Eastern Washington University's career records for passing and total offense, senior quarterback Matt Nichols has been selected by The Sports Network as a preseason candidate for the Walter Payton Award given to the top player in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision.
A four-year starter for the Eagles, Nichols was named to the Payton Watch List for the second-straight season after earning All-America honors and Big Sky Conference Offensive MVP accolades as a sophomore in 2007. The 2005 graduate of West Valley High School in Cottonwood, Calif., earned honorable mention All-Big Sky honors a year ago.
Nichols passed for 3,293 yards and 21 touchdowns as a junior, and his average of 306 yards of total offense per game ranked fifth in FCS. He led the Eagles to the quarterfinals of the FCS Playoffs as a sophomore when he passed for 3,734 yards and a school-record 34 touchdowns.
A year ago, Eastern's Greg Peach won the Buck Buchanan Award presented by TSN to the top defensive player in FCS. In 2005, Eastern's Erik Meyer -- the player Nichols replaced and is chasing in the school record books -- won the Payton Award. Meyer (2002-05) holds school records with 10,261 passing yards, 10,942 yards of total offense and 84 touchdowns.
A total of 20 players have been named to the watch list, including last year's winner, quarterback Armanti Edwards from Appalachian State. Besides Nichols and Edwards, the list includes Weber State quarterback Cameron Higgins, Montana running back Chase Reynolds and Weber State running back Trevyn Smith.
The watch list was October and again in November before the final ballot is announced. Voting from a panel of FCS sports information directors, writers, broadcasters and other football experts will be conducted after the regular season ends. Three finalists will be announced on Nov. 30 and will be invited to the 23rd annual Sports Network Awards banquet on Dec. 17 in Chattanooga, Tenn., the night prior to the FCS championship game. The Eddie Robinson Award (top FCS Coach) and Buck Buchanan Award (top FCS Defensive Player) will also be presented that night.
Nichols Has 14 300-Yard Passing Games in His Career -- Senior quarterback Matt Nichols had first 300-yard passing performance of the 2009 season with 354 against Weber State on Oct. 10. He then had 312 at Montana on Oct. 17, giving him a total of 14 in his career thus far. He has now had at least 300 yards of total offense in 16 career games.
Below is a complete list of his 300-yard outings:
300-Yard Passing Games for Nichols (total of 14)
451 - 37x59, 2td - Montana - 10/6/07 (#3 in school history)
434 - 34x44, 2td - McNeese State - 11/24/07 (#6 in school history)
418 - 34x55, 2td - Portland State - 10/4/08 (#10 in school history)
382 - 26x40, 5td - Idaho State - 9/27/08 (#18 in school history)
363 - 29x43, 1td - Sacramento State - 11/1/08 (#27 in school history)
363 - 19x30, 2td - Portland State - 9/29/07 (#27 in school history)
354 - 24x39, 1td - Weber State - 10/10/09 (#33 in school history)
346 - 25x42, 2td - Northern Arizona - 11/15/08 (#38 in school history)
335 - 36x61, 1td - Texas Tech - 8/30/08 (#43 in school history)
329 - 21x42, 1td - Sacramento State - 9/30/06
328 - 20x29, 3td - Sacramento State - 10/27/07
316 - 17x22, 5td - Northern Arizona - 11/10/07
312 - 32x49, 3td - Montana - 10/17/09
303 - 32x51, 1td - Colorado - 9/6/08
300-Yard Total Offense Games for Nichols (total of
478 - 451 passing, 27 rushing - Montana - 10/6/07
459 - 434 passing. 25 rushing - McNeese State - 11/24/07
435 - 418 passing, 17 rushing - Portland State - 10/4/08
376 - 382 passing, -6 rushing - Idaho State - 9/27/08
375 - 426 passing, 29 rushing - Northern Arizona - 11/15/08
370 - 363 passing, 7 rushing - Portland State - 9/29/07
359 - 256 passing, 103 rushing - Weber State - 11/17/07
359 - 329 passing, 30 rushing - Sacramento State - 9/30/06
364 - 316 passing, 48 rushing - Northern Arizona - 11/10/07
355 - 328 passing, 27 rushing - Sacramento State - 10/27/07
348 - 312 passing, 36 rushing - Montana 10/17/09
344 - 354 passing, -10 rushing - Weber State - 10/10/09
322 - 335 passing, -13 rushing - Texas Tech - 8/30/08
320 - 363 passing, -43 rushing - Sacramento State - 11/1/08
314 - 303 passing, 11 rushing - Colorado - 9/6/08
313 - 242 passing, 71 rushing - Weber State - 11/22/08
Wide Receiver Trio Similar to Previous Quartet -- Eastern's receiving corps in 2009 includes two seniors - Tony Davis and Aaron Boyce - who started when they were freshmen in 2006. A third, current defensive lineman Brynsen Brown, started for the Eagles at receiver from 2006-2008.
In their careers, that trio has combined for 541 catches for 7,413 yards and 49 touchdowns in 116 games worth of experience as receivers (91 starts). In 2008, they combined for 166 passes for 2,229 yards and 17 touchdowns. They combined for 118 catches for 1,539 yards and eight touchdowns as redshirt freshmen in 2006, then combined for 172 catches for 2,561 yards and 18 scores in 13 games in 2007.
In 2008, Boyce equaled his 2007 performance with 10 touchdown catches to rank eighth in school history, and his 63 catches also rank eighth. Interestingly, all of Boyce's touchdown catches have come from Matt Nichols. Of the 49 total touchdowns Boyce, Brown and Davis have caught, all but two of them have come from Nichols (Brown and Davis each caught a TD pass from Chris Peerboom in 2006).
That trio is a reminder of a recent quartet of players that began playing with quarterback Erik Meyer in 2002. Eric Kimble, Raul Vijil, Richmond Sanders and Craig McIntyre had career totals of 503 catches for 7,858 yards and 74 touchdowns in 156 games worth of experience (74 starts). In 2005, Meyer and his teammates won their second-straight Big Sky Conference title and appeared in the playoffs for the second-straight season. Meyer would go on to win the Walter Payton Award in 2005 as the top player in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision.
100-Yard Receiving Games for Aaron Boyce
232 (*17 catches, 1 TD) - Montana - 10/6/07 (#2 in school history)
186 (9 catches, 2 TD) - Sacramento State - 10/27/07 (#10 in school history)
181 (&13 catches, 1 TD) - Portland State - 10/4/08 (#14 in school history)
157 (5 catches, 0 TD) - Northern Arizona - 10/15/08
149 (10 catches, 2 TD - Idaho State - 10/3/09
135 (9 catches, 3 TD) - Idaho State - 9/27/08
135 (9 catches, 1 TD) - Brigham Young - 10/20/07
126 (6 catches, 1 TD) - Western Oregon - 9/5/09
126 (5 catches, 0 TD) - Montana State - 10/13/07
119 (6 catches, 1 TD) - Portland State - 9/29/07
114 (7 catches, 1 TD) - Montana - 10/17/09
108 (6 catches, 2 TD) - Weber State - 11/22/08
107 (9 catches, 0 TD) - UC Davis - 9/15/07
*School record. &Second in school history.
100-Yard Receiving Games for Tony Davis
150 (6 catches, 0 TD) - Idaho State - 9/22/07
131 (6 catches, 0 TD) - Weber State - 10/10/09
131 (8 catches, 1 TD) - McNeese State - 11/24/07
126 (6 catches, 1 TD) - Western Washington - 9/20/08
114 (^13 catches, 1 TD) - Texas Tech - 8/30/08
112 (6 catches, 0 TD) - Central Washington - 9/16/06
^Second in school history behind Aaron Boyce.
100-Yard Receiving Games Brynsen Brown
147 (%11 catches, 1 TD) - Sacramento State - 11/1/08
139 (5 catches, 0 TD) - Portland State - 9/29/07
138 (9 catches, 2 TD) - Northern Arizona - 10/28/06
104 (4 catches, 1 TD) - Idaho State - 9/27/08
104 (7 catches, 0 TD) - McNeese State - 11/24/07
104 (5 catches, 0 TD) - Sacramento State - 9/3/06
99 (6 catches, 1 TD) - Weber State - 11/17/07
%Ninth in school history.
NCAA Postseason Ban Update -- To return to the FCS Playoffs this year, the Eagles will not only have to win more, but hope they eventually receive good news from the NCAA as well. Eastern appealed a postseason ban levied by the NCAA after a two-year review of activities involving the EWU football team from 2003-07 was released in February.
As part of the appeal process, Eastern athletic director Bill Chaves, EWU President Dr. Rodolfo Arévalo and other administrators met with the appeals committee in Indianapolis, Ind., on Aug. 17. No timetable for a decision on the appeal has been provided by the NCAA.
Whether or not the appeal is denied, head coach Beau Baldwin has said since February that the Eagles are taking the approach that the postseason ban won't be a penalty unless Eastern takes care of business on the field in the 2009 season.
Eastern's Schedule Has a Seattle Twist -- The Eastern Washington University football team will play five home games in the 2009 season, and one of them will take place across the Cascade Mountains on Halloween Day.
The Eagles will host Portland State on Oct. 31 in a Big Sky Conference game that begins at 1 p.m. at Qwest Field in Seattle. It's believed to be the first time in Eastern's 100-year football history that it has played a game in Seattle. The Eagles will play their first game in the Puget Sound area since Oct. 30, 1982, when Eastern won at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma.
There are nearly 11,000 Eastern alumni who reside in the Puget Sound area in King, Snohomish and Pierce counties. More than 16,000 reside west of the Cascade Mountains. Among current Eastern students, nearly 1,500 are from King, Snohomish and Pierce counties, and a total of nearly 2,500 are from cities west of the Cascade Mountains.
"We are excited to be able to bring Eagle football to Seattle where we have a tremendous alumni base," said Eastern athletic director Bill Chaves. "The game will also afford our team the opportunity to play in an NFL stadium."
Eagles to Play Washington in 2011 -- Continuing its recent trend of scheduling Pacific 10 Conference opponents, the Eastern Washington University football team has agreed to play the University of Washington on Sept. 3, 2011, in Seattle, Wash. In addition, the Eagles will play next season at Oregon State on Sept. 4, 2010.
The Eagles and Huskies have never met, with Washington beginning its football program in 1889. Eastern is in its 101st season dating back to 1901. Washington is a member of the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS), while Eastern is a member of the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) after competing as a member of the NAIA for most of its history.
"We truly appreciate the opportunity to play the University of Washington in 2011," said Eastern's Athletic Director Bill Chaves. "During these challenging economic times, we have looked to reduce expenses wherever possible and by playing one of our non-conference games in-state will no doubt help to achieve that objective. In addition, coach (Steve) Sarkisian, (UW Athletic Director) Scott Woodward and (Senior Associate A.D.) O.D. Vincent should be commended for their willingness to keep guarantee revenues within the state."
Eastern's game against Oregon State will be the third meeting between the two schools, with the Beavers winning 21-19 in 2000 and 56-17 in 2006. The 2000 meeting was the first game of the head coaching career of Paul Wulff, who is now head coach at Washington State University.
Following a 59-7 loss earlier this season to then 10th-ranked California, Eastern is now 0-4 versus members of the Pacific 10 Conference. The Eagles are 7-18 all-time versus FBS teams.
2010 EWU Tentative Schedule
9/4 - at Oregon State
9/11 - Open
9/18 - Montana
9/25 - at Montana State
10/2 - at Weber State
10/9 - Northern Arizona
10/16 - at Northern Colorado
10/23 - Sacramento State
10/30 - at Portland State
11/6 - Open
11/13 - Southern Utah
11/20 - Idaho State
More Eagle Football Links and Headlines --
EWU Football Web Page - http://goeags.com/sports/m-footbl/index
Big Sky Conference Football - http://www.bigskyconf.com/sport.asp?path=football&tab=mens
Spokane Spokesman-Review EWU Football Page - http://www.spokesman.com/sections/eagles/
The Sports Network (FCS Football) - http://www.sportsnetwork.com/merge/tsnform.aspx?c=sportsnetwork&page=cfoot2/indexpic.htm
NCAA FCS Football - http://www.ncaafootball.com/index.php?s=&url_channel_id=36&change_well_id=1
NCAA Statistics - http://web1.ncaa.org/mfb/mainpage.jsp?year=2009
College Sporting News - http://www.championshipsubdivisionnews.com/index.php?blog=5
RECENT EWU FOOTBALL HEADLINES
October 17, 2009 - No. 21 Eagles edged by No. 3 Grizzlies 41-34
October 15, 2009 - Sherritt Added to Buchanan Watch List
October 15, 2009 - Q and A: Football player Matt Nichols
October 10, 2009 - Weber State Knocks off Eagles 31-13
October 8, 2009 - Q and A: Football Player Nicholas Ramos
October 6, 2009 - Eagles to Play Washington Huskies in 2011
October 3, 2009 - Trio Leads Eagle Offense as No. 17 Eastern Beats Idaho State 38-3
September 30, 2009 - Blood Clot Forces Zach Johnson to Miss Entire Season
September 28, 2009 - Taiwan Jones Earns National Player of the Week Honors
September 26, 2009 - Taiwan Jones Has 279 Total Yards to Lead No. 19 Eagles Past Sac State 56-30
September 21, 2009 - Sherritt, Zuber Earn Big Sky Player of the Week Honors
September 19, 2009 - Eastern Registers 16-0 Shutout in Big Sky Opener
September 12, 2009 - No. 10 California Downs No. 18 Eagles 59-7
September 9, 2009 - Q & A: Football Player Taiwan Jones
September 7, 2009 - Hatch, Boyce Win Big Sky Player of the Week Awards
September 5, 2009 - Eastern Pulls Away from Western Oregon For 35-14 Win
August 20, 2009 - WSU Quarterback J.T. Levenseller Transfers to Eastern
August 19, 2009 - Thomas Nominated for ‘Good Works' Team
BEAU BALDWIN COMMENTS
On Taiwan Jones' 190-Yards Against Sacramento State -- "He's only played four games as a college running back, and he's been a little injured too. So he's going to get better with every carry, and that's what is happening to him right now."
On J.C. Sherritt -- "J.C. has played great. He has consistently been in double-digit tackles and is always around the ball. He's a great player and a great leader for us."
On Shutout Versus Northern Colorado -- "Our defense played an incredible game and we did some good things on special teams too. You have to find a way to win these games -- maybe it's 16-0 or later in the season it may be 35-34. The offense wasn't playing great, but the defense kept stopping them and finding a way to win. It's nice when one side of the ball can lift up the other. The reality is that you might get into games where a team is moving the ball on you and you have to be able to answer as an offense. This was one of those games where it was a low-scoring defensive battle. Our defense continually forced turnovers and stopped them on third and fourth down. We prevailed, and to come away with a shutout is awesome."
On Taiwan Jones & 87-Yard Score Versus Western Oregon -- "He can do that at any time, and that's a dimension to our offense we didn't have last year. Our running backs were good players last year, but we really didn't have that home run ability. That can make a huge difference because it's hard to consistently go on 10 or 12 play drives and score a lot of points. In the long run, you have to have some big plays made. On top of that, he's a good running back. Sometimes his speed is what people talk about, but between the tackles he runs hard and he is tough. He showed that down on the goal line."
On Playing Portland State in Seattle at Qwest Field -- "I think it's great for the program and for the many student-athletes we have who come from that area. Even if they aren't from that area, it's a great opportunity to play in that environment and in that stadium. It's nice to be connected to the West side, and we're hoping there will be a lot of fans at that ballgame that may not get over to Cheney to see a football game. Maybe that can be a way for fans to be more involved and excited with our program. It's a great opportunity for everybody involved and we're excited about it."
On Resiliency of Players in Wake of NCAA Penalties -- "I've been extremely impressed with how resilient our players are -- they have a tough mindset to them. A lot was thrown their way, and people can say what they want on whether or not it was fair. The bottom line is that as a group, all of our players are going in the same direction."
A Taste of the Eagle-Grizzly Rivalry -- In a series full of drama, this year's meeting between Eastern and Montana was the eighth time in the last 14 meetings that both teams have entered the game nationally ranked.
Montana leads the series 25-10-1 with a four-game winning streak dating back to EWU's 34-20 victory in Missoula in 2005. The Grizzlies have won six of the last seven meetings, including victories the last three times Eastern hosted the Grizzlies at Woodward Field (31-28 in 2004, 33-17 in 2006 and 19-3 in 2008).
Since winning three-straight over Montana from 1990-92, Eastern has won just three times -- 40-35 in 1997, 30-21 in 2002 and 34-20 in 2005 -- in the last 17 meetings. Overall, Eastern is 4-13-1 in Missoula, 5-11 in home games and 1-1 in games played at neutral sites.
The Eagles shared the 2004 and 2005 Big Sky titles with Montana, but the Grizzlies have won or shared every league title since 1998. Eastern is the last Big Sky school other than Montana to win the outright title, with that coming in 1997 when the Eagles advanced to the semifinals of the FCS Playoffs.
Eastern has not defeated the Grizzlies at Woodward Field since 1991. The 2008 setback was EWU's sixth-straight loss to Montana in Cheney, however, the Eagles did defeat Montana at Albi Stadium in Spokane in 2002.
Eight 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 25 times in 36 meetings. The winner has usually piled up points and yardage by the ton as evidenced by Eastern's 697 yards of total offense in 1986, 658 yards in 1997 in a 40-35 win, 564 in a 24-23 loss in 2007 and 541 yards by the Eagles in a 34-20 win in Missoula in 2005. In fact, in the last 24 meetings the winning team has averaged 33.6 points. In seven of those 24 games the two teams have combined for at least 70 points, including a 41-34 Grizzly win in Missoula in 2009.
As for suspense, that one's covered too. In 2009, Eastern knotted the score at 34 with 4:58 to play, only to have the Grizzlies drive for the winning score with 1:18 left in a 41-34 victory. In 2007, Eastern kicked a go-ahead field goal with 2:20 to play before top-ranked Montana kicked the game-winner with 26 seconds to play after converting a fourth-and-10 play. Eastern wide receiver Aaron Boyce had the fourth-best receiving effort in Big Sky Conference history with a school-record 17 catches to earn NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Offensive Player of the Week honors from The Sports Network. His 232 receiving yards was the second-most in school history, and Eagle quarterback Matt Nichols passed for a career-high 451 yards to rank third all-time at EWU.
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 record-tying winning streak in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision 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 eight matchups in the last 14 seasons when both squads have entered the game nationally ranked:
2009 - #3 Montana 41, #21 Eastern Washington 34 (in Missoula,
2008 - #12 Montana 19, #23 Eastern Washington 3 (in Cheney, Wash.)
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 (2 overtimes 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.)
Blood Clot Forces Zach Johnson to Miss Entire Season -- A blood clot that developed following knee surgery last summer has forced returning starter Zach Johnson to miss the entire 2009 season, and his twin brother Matt Johnson will now wear Zach's No. 10 jersey in honor of his fallen teammate, Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin announced on Sept. 30.
The blood clot developed before the start of preseason practices in August, and although he has been on blood thinners ever since, it didn't dissipate enough to allow the middle linebacker to practice or play during the first four games of the 2009 season for the 17th-ranked Eagles. A mid-October return date was originally expected for the preseason All-Big Sky Conference selection, but doctors and EWU athletic trainers determined this week that for precautionary reasons he should miss the entire season.
"They feel like because it's still there it's still too dangerous to allow him to practice or play," said Baldwin, indicating that six months recovery may be needed, which would push his return into December. "A blood clot is something you don't want to mess with."
"He's pretty bummed about it," Baldwin said. "The hard part is that Zach feels good and ready to play. It's one thing when you have a physical injury that doesn't allow you to play, but in this case he doesn't feel like there is anything wrong."
The 2006 graduates of Tumwater, Wash., High School were both starters for the Eagles last season as redshirt freshmen. Matt began the season wearing No. 5, but move to No. 10 starting Oct. 3 when EWU played at Idaho State. Last season, Matt wore No. 40 and Zach wore No. 41 before getting the jersey numbers they wanted as sophomores.
"Obviously they are close and care about each other, and wearing Zach's jersey was something Matt felt strongly about doing," explained Baldwin, who did not have Zach on the travel squad for last week's game in Sacramento. "They are close, and they've never not been together for a football game until the Sac State game. Even when one of them wasn't playing in a game, they have always been there together. That bond is reflected by Matt wanting to honor his brother and teammate in this way."
Since the first game of their careers against Texas Tech in August 2008, the twin brothers produced some incredible defensive numbers as redshirt freshmen.
They finished the season combining for 179 tackles to rank 1-2 on the team. Zach, whose 96 tackles ranks 20th in school history, was third in the Big Sky (8.7 per game) and 47th nationally. Matt had 83 total tackles and was eighth in the league (7.6). Zach also had seven passes broken up and ranked eighth in the league in tackles for loss (0.95 per game). Matt had four interceptions to rank 47th in FCS and sixth in the league (0.36 per game).
They combined for 22 tackles in EWU's 28-13 win over Northern Arizona on Nov. 15 and 27 a week earlier in a 31-16 victory over Northern Colorado. Versus NAU, Zach had 12 stops and Matt had nine, with each breaking up a pass. Versus UNC, Zach had 15 tackles and a key interception in the third quarter while Matt finished with 12 tackles.
Both had impressive collegiate debuts in Eastern's 49-24 loss at Texas Tech on Aug. 30. With Matt starting at strong safety and Zach at strong-side inside linebacker, the Johnson brothers finished with a combined 18 tackles, including eight tackles and three passes broken up by Zach. Matt had a team-high 10 tackles and a game-changing interception in the second quarter. The Eagles trailed 21-0 when Matt intercepted a pass and returned it 47 yards to the TTU 7-yard line. Two plays later, Alexis Alexander scored from one yard out to give EWU its first score.
Eagles Fall Short in Bid for First-Ever 4-0 Start -- Eastern's seniors, who had not been 2-0 in Big Sky Conference play in their three previous seasons in the program, accomplished that feat with a 56-30 victory over Sacramento State on Sept. 26. They bettered it with a 38-3 win over Idaho State on Oct. 3 to move to 3-0.
But with a 31-13 home loss to Weber State on Oct. 10, Eastern failed in its bid for its first-ever 4-0 start in 23 seasons as a member of the Big Sky Conference. Eastern has won its first three league games in its Big Sky championship seasons in 1992 and 2004, as well as 2009, but has never started 4-0.
A 16-0 win over Northern Colorado on Sept. 19 gave EWU a win in its season opener for the fourth-straight year. But in the previous three years, the Eagles had also opened league play with a victory, only to lose their next two league games.
Fisher Among Hall of Fame Inductees Honored on Oct. 10 -- Five former Eastern Washington University student-athletes and the school's 1989 volleyball team comprised the ninth class of inductees into the Eastern Athletics Hall of Fame as they were honored in ceremonies that took place on Oct. 10 in Cheney.
The new inductees included a quartet of former Eastern student-athletes who went on to illustrious coaching careers -- Curt Byrnes (football player and wrestling coach at Eastern), Ed Fisher (football/track athlete at Eastern), George Gablehouse (basketball player at Eastern) and Tracy Walters (track athlete at Eastern). The other individual inductee is national collegiate wrestling champion Mike Reed. The 1989 volleyball team was inducted on the 20th anniversary of its 25-7 finish that include a Big Sky Conference title and NCAA Tournament appearance. In addition, former Eastern baseball coach Jim Wasem Sr. received the Eastern Washington University Athletics Hall of Fame Service and Contribution Award.
Start of School Has Sometimes Translated to Setbacks for Eagles -- The start of classes in late September for EWU signals the end of the month-long, football-only period for the Eagles. And in the last nine years, it's made winning on the field that much more difficult.
From 2000-2008, Eastern was 4-4 in the first game after school begins (includes one bye). But in the game after the first full week of school, Eastern was just 2-7 in that same time span. The 2009 fall quarter began on Wednesday, Sept. 23, followed by EWU's 56-30 victory at Sacramento State. The Eagles followed that with an equally-convincing 38-3 win at Idaho State on Oct. 3 to improve to 3-0 in Big Sky Conference play.
Eagles Now 10-0 in Sacramento as Visiting Team Has Won Nine of Last 10 Meetings -- Hornet Stadium is definitely a home-away-from-home for the Eastern football team. Actually, home-field advantage hasn't meant much for either team in the past 10 years of the series.
The 19th-ranked Eagles scored 35 first-half points and went on to hold-off Sacramento State 56-30 Sept. 26 in sweltering heat at Hornet Stadium in Sacramento, Calif. The Eagles are now a perfect 10-0 against the Hornets in Sacramento, and lead the all-time series 14-4.
But even stranger than being perfect in Sacramento is the fact that in the last 10 meetings between EWU and Sac State, the home team has won only once (EWU 45-10 in 2004).
"I don't know, maybe we'll wear away jerseys next year against them," laughed Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin. "I just think it's a little bit of a fluke -- the outcomes of those games just worked out that way. But I do think our players do a good job of traveling -- I always thought that way back when I was an assistant. They are really mature and locked-in to what they are on the road to do, and I think it shows on the field."
Eastern's 2009 win over Sac State avenged a 15-13 home setback to the Hornets the previous year. In the 2008 meeting, the Eagles had 363 passing yards and 23 first downs, but had three turnovers, were 0-for-6 on third down and had minus 31 yards rushing. In 2009, Eastern had one turnover, were 10-of-14 on third down and had 283 yards rushing.
Offensive Line Helps Eagles Score Most Points Since 2001 -- Eastern's scoring output in a 56-30 victory on Sept. 26 against Sacramento State were the most points scored in the last 90 games by the Eagles since beating Cal State Northridge 63-35 on Oct. 27, 2001. But the milestones didn't stop there.
The Eagles also had 283 rushing yards, which was the most in a Big Sky Conference game since rushing for 295 against Weber State on Oct. 23, 2004. The 190 rushing yards Eagle sophomore Taiwan Jones had versus the Hornets were the 29th-most in school history, and the most since that same Weber State game when Dezmon Cole rushed for 199.
In addition, Eastern's 537 yards of total offense were the most since a 626-yard effort versus McNeese State in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs on Nov. 24, 2007.
"We did a great job of taking what they were giving us," said Eagle head coach Beau Baldwin. "And it all starts up front -- the offensive line allowed us to mix it up between run and pass. Taiwan had the biggest day, but Tyler Hart (46 yards on nine carries and four catches for 40 yards) was a huge factor as well. Because we ran the ball so well, the offensive line essentially was the reason it was easy for our receivers to get open downfield. We spread the field out and we spread the football around, and ultimately it came down to the performance by the players on the field. It's easy to draw the plays up, but they did a great job of executing what we practiced all week."
Baldwin was also impressed by senior quarterback Matt Nichols, who needed to attempt just 28 passes. He completed 18 for 255 yards, and passed for a touchdown and rushed for one.
"Matt knows the running back and the offensive line can be his best friends," Baldwin said after the game. "Until I look at the video, I can't think of a single mistake he made. He did all the right things and put us in the right situations. All that is important to this team is to get a win and be 2-0."
Shutout One to Savor -- Eastern's shutout Sept. 19 against Northern Colorado was one to savor, as the last shutout at Woodward Field came back in 1983. The Eagles have had six other shutouts since then either on the road or in Spokane, including a 34-0 win over UNC in 2006.
Big Sky Conference Defensive Player of the Week J.C. Sherritt led the way with 16 tackles, and he was selected as one of four National All-Stars by College Sporting News for his effort against the Bears. The Eagles recovered three fumbles and Kevin Hatch had his third interception of the young season. Eastern also held the Bears to a 0-of-4 performance on fourth down, 4-of-14 on third down and had four sacks.
Eagles Versus Football Bowl Subdivision Members -- Since 1982 when it became a member of the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision, Eastern is now 7-18 all-time versus Football Bowl Subdivision teams. A 35-17 win over Connecticut on Sept. 8, 2001, snapped a five-game losing streak versus FBS foes. Here is Eastern's complete list of games versus FBS 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
2007 - at Brigham Young - L, 7-42
2008 - at #12 Texas Tech - L, 24-49
2008 - at Colorado - L, 24-31
2009 - at #10 California - L, 7-59
EWU Plays in Front of Largest Crowds in School History in 2006-2009 -- Six of the eight largest crowds Eastern has ever played in front of have come in the last four seasons. Eastern's 2009 game at California had 58,083 fans, ranking third on the list. A record crowd of 25,751 at Montana on Oct. 17 now ranks 11th. The 49,887 on hand in Lubbock, Texas, for EWU's 2008 game versus Texas Tech is now fourth in history and the 46,417 one week later in Boulder, Colo., for the EWU-Colorado game ranks fifth.
Eastern's 2007 game at BYU in sold-out LaVell Edwards Stadium broke the year-old record for the largest crowd the Eagles have ever played in front of. Strong winds, rain, snow and temperatures ranging from 37-45 degrees didn't keep many fans at home as the announced crowd of 64,522 was even larger than the stadium's listed capacity of 64,045.
Eastern's 2006 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 in 2006 is now the seventh-largest at 38,071. Below is a list of the 16 crowds in excess of 20,000 the Eagles have ever played against.
Attendance - Opponent - Date - Result
64,522 - at Brigham Young - Oct. 20, 2007 - L, 7-42
59,504 - at West Virginia - Sept. 9, 2006 - L, 3-52
58,083 - at California - Sept. 12, 2009 - L, 7-59
49,887 - at Texas Tech - Aug. 30, 2008 - L, 24-49
46,417 - at Colorado - Sept. 6, 2008 - L, 24-31
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
25,751 - at Montana - Oct. 17, 2009 - L, 34-41
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
23,226 - at Montana - Oct. 6, 2007 - L, 23-24
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
Hatch, Boyce Win Big Sky Player of the Week Awards -- Senior free safety Kevin Hatch and wide receiver Aaron Boyce have earned their first-ever Big Sky Conference player of the week awards for their performances in Eastern Washington University's season-opening 35-14 victory over Western Oregon on Sept. 5.
Hatch, a 2005 graduate of Freeman (Wash.) High School, had a pair of interceptions, two passes broken up and six total tackles against WOU. Boyce began his senior season with six catches for 126 yards, including a 53-yard touchdown catch. Boyce is from Kent, Wash., and graduated from Kentwood HS in 2005.
Besides the two touchdowns they scored, the Wolves had the ball inside the Eastern 20 three other times and came away empty. One was ended on an interception by Hatch in the end zone at the end of the first half with EWU clinging to a 14-7 lead. Hatch's other interception led to a touchdown that gave EWU some breathing room at 28-14.
"Hatch's play in the end zone was huge," said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin. "If that wasn't a pick, they had a chance to get three on the board. That was a great play he made, and then he had another later in the game. He's a senior and has played a lot of football. I was really impressed by the way he stepped up and made plays."
Preseason Rankings -- In the preseason, the Eagles were honored with rankings of 17th in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Coaches poll and 18th in the Sports Network poll of sportswriters, broadcasters and sports information directors. The AGS/anygivensaturday.com poll has the Eagles 19th, with several other preseason publications ranking EWU as high as 13th (Sporting News).
The Sports Network (preseason): 1. Appalachian State; 3. Montana; 9. Weber State; 18. Eastern Washington; 30. Montana State; 36. Northern Arizona.
FCS Coaches (preseason): 1. Appalachian State; 3. Montana; 9. Weber State; 17. Eastern Washington; 37. Northern Arizona; 38. Montana State.
AGS/anygivensaturday.com (preseason): 1. Richmond; 3. Montana; 9. Weber State; 19. Eastern Washington; 25. Montana State.
Lindy's Football Preview (preseason): 1. Appalachian State; 3. Montana; 9. Weber State; 17. Eastern Washington.
The Sporting News (preseason): 1. Richmond; 5. Montana; 7. Weber State; 13. Eastern Washington; 17. Montana State; 21. Northern Arizona.
Athlon (preseason): 1. Appalachian State; 6. Montana; 7. Weber State; 25. Eastern Washington.
Phil Steele's Football (preseason): 1. Appalachian State; 4. Montana; 15. Eastern Washington; 21. Weber State.
USA Today (preseason): 1. Richmond; 3. Montana; 9. Weber State; 17. Montana State; 23. Eastern Washington.
Eastern Appeals Football Postseason Ban -- Eastern Washington University officially submitted its appeal in March to the 2009 postseason ban imposed on the EWU football team by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). As part of the appeal process, Eastern athletic director Bill Chaves, EWU President Dr. Rodolfo Arévalo and other administrators met with the appeals committee in Indianapolis, Ind., on Aug. 17. No timetable for a decision on the appeal has been provided by the NCAA
Eastern athletic director Bill Chaves said Eastern is appealing just the postseason ban and not the other penalties -- most of those were self-imposed previously -- that were released by the NCAA on Feb. 11. The NCAA released its findings that day from a two-year review of activities involving the EWU football team from 2003-07.
The NCAA looked into a series of secondary rule violations, which, taken in total, led to a major infractions case. The university originally self-reported the violations to the NCAA in February 2007.
In its report, the NCAA's Committee on Infractions accepted self-imposed measures the university already implemented. Those measures began at the start of the current academic year and will be continually improved and assessed. In addition, the NCAA levied a penalty on the football team which prohibits postseason play during the 2009 football season and placed EWU on three years of probation, from 2009-2012. During the probationary period, EWU will be required to file additional compliance reports with the NCAA.
After the arrival of EWU President Rodolfo Arévalo and Chaves, who came to Eastern in September of 2007, several new monitoring systems and resources for coaches were put in place to reflect Eastern's commitment to properly-managed athletic programs. At the time of the violations, many of those resources were not in place, including checks and balances that may have helped avoid the violations from occurring.