Trio Leads Eagle Offense as No. 17 Eastern Beats Idaho State 38-3
Jones breaks 55-year-old record with 96-yard run as EWU is now 3-0 in Big Sky heading into Hall of Fame Game Oct. 10 against defending champion Weber State
Running back Taiwan Jones had another big day, but so did quarterback Matt Nichols and wide receiver Aaron Boyce as Eastern Washington remained unbeaten in the Big Sky Conference football standings with a 38-3 victory over Idaho State Saturday (Oct. 3) at Holt Arena in Pocatello, Idaho.
Jones rushed for 168 yards and three touchdowns on just 14 carries (12.0 per rush), including a school-record 96-yard rush for a score in the third quarter. He broke the previous record of 95 yards set by John Ditz against Lewis & Clark in 1954. Last week, Jones had 190 yards and four touchdowns against Sacramento State to earn national player of the week honors.
Nichols completed 27-of-38 passes for 293 yards and a pair of touchdown passes to Boyce, who caught 10 passes for 149 yards. Nichols came up just short of his 13th 300-yard passing performance in his career, but it was the 12th 100-yard receiving output for Boyce.
Eastern, which entered the game ranked 17th in the Sports Network NCAA Football Championship Subdivision poll, is now 4-1 overall, and has its third 3-0 start in Big Sky history (1992, 2004).
"I thought that was the most complete game we've played in all three facets -- offense, defense and special teams," said Eagle head coach Beau Baldwin. "We fought until the end -- that's what I love about this team. There wasn't any quit or letdown in the second half on either side of the ball. I was proud of them for that."
Eastern goes for its first 4-0 BSC start in school history when Eastern hosts defending league co-champion Weber State for Hall of Fame Day next Saturday (Oct. 10) at 12:37 p.m. at Woodward Field in Cheney, Wash. The 11th-ranked Wildcats were upset at home by Montana State 26-21 on Saturday.
Eastern plays at Montana on Oct. 17 and hosts Montana State on Oct. 24 as the Eagles approach the difficult part of their schedule.
"The only thing that bothers me, and that was sloppy, was our three turnovers," added Baldwin of his team's performance against the Bengals. "That's something we have to clean-up as we hit some of the better teams in the league coming up."
The Eagles finished with 530 yards of total offense, including 237 rushing. Tony Davis added nine catches for 60 yards.
"It's a team effort," Baldwin said of his team's offensive output. "Matt is so unselfish and is doing such a good job. He may have less numbers at this point in the season, but he may be playing his best football. I can't remember very many mistakes he's made in the last two games."
Eastern's defense did the rest, holding ISU to 271 yards, including a negative two yards rushing. Eastern recorded five sacks, 10 total tackles for loss, five passes broken up, five quarterback hurries, three forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries.
Senior Jacob Kragt had a sack and recovered two of the fumbles, with both setting up Eagle touchdowns. Renard Williams had two of the sacks and one of the forced fumbles. J.C. Sherritt, who entered the game leading the Big Sky and ranking sixth in FCS with an average of 13.0 tackles per game, had a forced fumble and eight tackles to lead EWU in stops.
Idaho State, meanwhile, is now 0-5, including a 33-22 loss a week earlier to NCAA Division II power Central Washington. That came on the heels of a murderer's row schedule to start the season in which ISU was out-scored 158-20. The Bengals lost to Arizona State (50-3) and Oklahoma (64-0) before falling to defending Big Sky co-champion Weber State (44-17) in the league opener for both schools.
The Eagles scored on two of their first three possessions to take a 14-0 lead. The first score came on a 15-yard touchdown run by Jones, which came three plays following a forced fumble by EWU's Williams that was recovered by Kragt.
Jones scored again on an 11-yard run to cap an 11-play, 88-yard drive. But a pair of turnovers helped hold EWU scoreless in the second quarter until the Eagles mounted a drive in the last four minutes. The Eagles marched 82 yards on seven plays, capped by a 25-yard touchdown pass from Nichols to Boyce.
Eastern struck again from the 4-yard line on its first offensive play of the second half. Jones broke several tackles and simply out-ran several more as the Eagles took a 28-3 lead.
Later in the quarter, Eastern scored again on a 11-yard touchdown pass from Nichols to Boyce. That came after freshman redshirt Tyler Washburn forced a fumble that was recovered by Kragt. Eastern closed the scoring with a 49-yard field goal by Mike Jarrett, which equals the 20th-longest in school history.
Nichols, a four-year starter, is nearing EWU's career passing and total offense records. Inthe process of EWU's loss to California on Sept. 12, Nichols broke the school's career completions record to go along with the attempts record he broke last season. He is now 800-of-1,302 (61 percent) for 9,961 yards and 72 touchdowns in his 40-game career. The starting debut for the 38-game starter came in 2006 when Eastern played at 12th-ranked West Virginia.
Nichols is now 300 passing yards and 373 yards of total offense from setting school career records in those categories. 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 FCS.