#21 Eagles Open Big Sky Play at Woodward Field
After falling to powerful California 59-7, Eastern hopes to get off to a fast start in Big Sky play as it takes on Northern Colorado
Eastern Washington Univ. "Eagles"
Univ. of Northern Colorado "Bears"
Saturday, Sept. 19 • 1:05 p.m. Pacific
Woodward Field • Cheney, Wash.
EWU Coach: Beau Baldwin (Central Washington
School Record: 7-6/5-3 Big Sky (2nd Season)
Career Record: 17-9 (3rd Season -- was 10-3 at CWU in 2007 and 6-5 at EWU in 2008)
Last Game: #10 California 59, #18 Eastern Washington 7 (Sept. 12 in Berkeley, Calif.)
2008: 6-5/5-3 in Big Sky Conference (3rd)
TV: SWX (SWX Digital 6.2, Comcast 115, Time Warner 306, Charter 287)
Radio: 1510-AM in Spokane
Weekly Coaches Luncheon: Tuesday, Noon at the Northern Quest Resort & Casino (Legends of Fire), cost $12
Although they have won their Big Sky Conference opener each of the past three seasons, the Eastern Washington University football team is hoping that a different piece of history does not repeat itself.
The Eagles try to get the league season off to a good start when Northern Colorado visits EWU Saturday (Sept. 19) at 1:05 p.m. in the league opener for both schools at Woodward Field in Cheney, Wash.
"Having that first Big Sky game at home is always nice," said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin. "No matter who you face, a win in your opener can give you that much more confidence. If you lose your first game, you are always playing a little bit behind as the season moves along."
Eastern, which fell three spots to 21st in this week's Sports Network NCAA Football Championship Subdivision poll, enters with a 1-1 record after beating Western Oregon (35-14) and falling to 10th-ranked California (59-7). The Bears are also 1-1, falling at 25th-ranked Kansas (49-3) before picking up a home victory over San Diego (31-12).
In each of the last three years, the Eagles have opened league play with a victory, only to lose their next two league games. Getting off to a good start this week is important, and Baldwin is always taking the one-game-at-a-time approach. But continuing to build momentum as the season goes along is certainly the long-range goal.
"To have any shot at competing for the league title, the first couple of games are important to win," said Baldwin. "Obviously, the league opener is the most important -- at this point it's the biggest game of the year for everyone in the conference."
Following the UNC game, Eastern plays a pair of road games at Sacramento State and Idaho State. Eastern has defeated the Bears four-straight times and has won the last three meetings with ISU. Since 2004, the Eagles have won 10 of 13 games against those teams, with the lone losses coming at home to Sacramento State (2006 and 2008) and at Idaho State (2005). In fact, although Eastern has lost the past two home meetings with Sac State, the Eagles are a perfect 9-0 in games against the Hornets played in Sacramento.
But despite owning a 3-0 record against Northern Colorado since the Bears joined the Big Sky in 2006, Eastern will have its hands full against a UNC team that rolled up 477 yards of total offense in a messy, muddy game against San Diego. Running back Andre Harris rushed for 152 yards and two touchdowns in the win, and quarterback Bryan Waggener passed for 221 yards, including an 80-yard touchdown to Alex Thompson. Cornerback Korey Askew had 10 tackles, an interception and two passes broken up.
Last season, the Bears finished just 1-10 overall and 1-7 in the Big Sky, with the lone victory coming by a 29-9 score versus Idaho State. Eastern defeated UNC 31-16, adding to a 17-7 victory in 2006 and 34-0 romp in 2005 -- an 82-23 scoring advantage all with EWU quarterback Matt Nichols at the helm.
"Top to bottom, Northern Colorado has gotten better every year they've been in the conference, and this season is no different," warned Baldwin. "It was tough to tell much from their game against San Diego because of the weather, but against Kansas they were in no way overmatched. Sometimes the score doesn't always turn out the way you want, but they played on that stage and showed their improvement as a program."
The Eagles are coming off a 6-5 finish in 2008 that included a 5-3 record in the Big Sky Conference, but EWU ended the season with a three-game winning streak. Eastern returned 38 letter winners from that team, including 17 back on offense and 21 on defense. A total of 15 starters returned, featuring eight on offense and seven on defense.
Eastern is led by Nichols, a four-year starter who should break EWU's career passing and total offense records in 2009. The starting debut for the 35-game starter came in 2006 when Eastern played at 12th-ranked West Virginia.
In the process of EWU's loss to California last week, Nichols broke the school's career completions record to go along with the attempts record he broke last season. He is now 741-of-1,211 (61 percent) for 9,267 yards and 67 touchdowns in his 37-game career.
Nichols is now 994 passing yards and 1,089 yards of total offense from setting school 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.
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.
Game Promotions/Tickets -- Eastern's next home game is Sept. 19 for "Welcome Back Weekend" when the Eagles host Northern Colorado in the Big Sky Conference opener for both teams. The game sponsor is Rockwood Clinic, and they will be giving hand sanitizer to fans who attend the game. It will also be Youth Football Day, Special Olympics Day and Inland NW Council Boy Scout Day. Ticket information is available at http://goeags.com/tickets/ewas-ticketcentral.html or by calling 1-866-4GO-EAGS.
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 -- Until school begins on Sept. 23, two-hour practices take place Tuesday at 3 p.m., Wednesday at 2 p.m. and Thursday at 2 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.
Eagles to Watch -- 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). Boyce caught 63 passes for 917 yards and 10 touchdowns last season and now has 191 catches for 2,855 yards and 24 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. A 2009 Walter Payton Award candidate, he has passed for 9,267 yards and 67 touchdowns in his career, having opened his senior season with 286 yards and three touchdowns versus Western Oregon. He already owns EWU's school records with 1,211 career pass attempts and 741 completions. Later in the season, he should break EWU's career passing yards and total offense records . . . Talented sophomore Taiwan Jones (Antioch, Calif.) moved to running back to help replace four departed seniors at that position, and had an 87-yard touchdown on his first career carry in EWU's 35-14 victory over Western Oregon on Sept. 5. It 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. The school record is 95 set by John Ditz against Lewis & Clark in 1954. Jones missed the early part of the 2008 season with a broken fibula, but returned to start four games at cornerback for the Eagles . . . Senior free safety Kevin Hatch (Spokane, Wash. - Freeman HS '05) had a pair of interceptions, two passes broken up and six total tackles against WOU 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. 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 linebacker J.C. Sherritt (Pullman, Wash. - Pullman, HS '06 equaled his career high with 15 tackles against WOU. He then had seven versus California, and currently leads the Big Sky with an 11.0 average per game . . . 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). Twin brothers Matt and Zach Johnson (Tumwater, Wash. - Tumwater HS '07) return after stellar debut seasons. They combined for 179 tackles to rank 1-2 on the team, with Zach finishing with 96 and a team-high seven passes broken up, and Matt closing the year with 83 tackles and a team-leading four interceptions. Both players earned honorable mention All-Big Sky accolades in 2008. Zach, however, is lost until at least October after a blood clot in his leg was diagnosed following knee surgery this summer and hasn't yet dissipated completely . . . Defensive tackle Renard Williams (Port Orchard, Wash. - South Kitsap HS '07) and center Chris Powers (Black Diamond, Wash. - Tahoma HS '07) were picked by the coaching staff as the team's players of the week from the California game. Earning scout team player of the week honors were wide receiver Ikaika Gleason (Spanaway, Wash. - Bethel HS '08) and defensive back Artise Gauldin (Kent, Wash. - Kent-Meridian HS '09). The previous week, team player of the week honors were won by Hatch and Boyce, as well as kicker Mike Jarrett (Puyallup, Wash. - Puyallup HS '07) for special teams.
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 was 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 20-game 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.
Also making debuts 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.
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 (130 starts by 16 players) -- Kevin Hatch 26, Makai Borden 21, Lonnie Hosley 15, Matt Johnson 13, Zach Johnson 11, J.C. Sherritt 10, Renard Williams 7, Tyler Jolley 7, Josh Jacobson 6, Kyle Wilkins 4, Jacob Kragt 3, Evan Cook 2, Jesse Hoffman 2, Will Edge 1, David Miles 1, Rusty Haehl 1.
Offense (195 starts by 17 players) -- Matt Nichols 35, Aaron Boyce 34, Brynsen Brown 29, Tony Davis 20, Chris Thomas 20, Nathan Overbay 13, Ryan Forney 13, Brice Leahy 11, Taiwan Jones 5 (includes four on defense in 2008), Matt Martin 3, Gabriel Jackson 3, Nicholas Ramos 1, Ashton Gant 1, Nicholas Edwards 2, Chris Powers 2, Nikolai Myers 2, Grant Williams 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 -- Senior quarterback Matt Nichols is chasing school career passing records held by the player he replaced, 2005 Walter Payton Award winner Erik Meyer (2002-05). Nichols has 9,267 yards passing, 9,853 yards of total offense and 67 touchdown passes in his career. Meyer holds school records with 10,261 passing yards (994 more than Nichols), 10,942 yards of total offense (1,089 more) and 84 touchdowns (17 more). Nichols also has 586 career rushing yards, trailing Meyer by just 95 yards for the school record of 681 by an Eastern quarterback. Nichols already holds the school records with 1,211 passing attempts and 741 completions. Wide receiver Aaron Boyce, already second in school history with 191 receptions, has an outside shot of catching Eric Kimble (2002-05) for the record of 253. Tony Davis (148) is now eighth on Eastern's top 10 list, and Brynsen Brown (141) is 11th. Boyce also has 2,855 reception yards, trailing only Kimble's 4,140 and the 3,013 by Tony Brooks (1990-93).
Injury Report -- 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 is out until mid-October after a blood clot in his leg was diagnosed following knee surgery this summer and hasn't yet dissipated 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 on and broken fibula during a spring scrimmage on April 11, returned earlier than expected and 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 currently includes Weber State quarterback Cameron Higgins, Montana running back Chase Reynolds and Weber State running back Trevyn Smith.
The watch list will be revised in 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 12 300-Yard Passing Games in His Career -- Senior quarterback Matt Nichols had six 300-yard passing games in 2008, giving him a total of 12 in his 36-game career thus far. He had at least 300 yards of total offense in seven games in 2008 (14 in his career), including a season-ending 313-yard effort against Weber State (242 passing, 71 rushing).
He also had a 346-yard passing performance against Northern Arizona (11/15/08) and had 418 against Portland State (10/4/08) to rank as the third-best in his career and 10th-best in school history. A week before the PSU game, he had 382 and five touchdowns against Idaho State (9/27/08) as he earned Big Sky Conference Offensive Player of the Week honors.
On Eastern's single season passing lists, Nichols finished the 2008 season with the second-most attempts (451), completions (3,293) and average passing yards per game (299.4); the fifth-most passing yards (3,293); the ninth-most touchdown passes (21); and the fifth-most total offensive yards (3,376).
Below is a complete list of his 300-yard outings:
300-Yard Passing Games for Nichols (total of 12)
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)
346 - 25x42, 2td - Northern Arizona - 11/15/08 (#37 in school history)
335 - 36x61, 1td - Texas Tech - 8/30/08 (#42 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
303 - 32x51, 1td - Colorado - 9/6/08
300-Yard Total Offense Games for Nichols (total of 14)
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
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 Ahead of Previous Quartet -- Eastern's receiving corps in 2009 includes three seniors - Tony Davis, Brynsen Brown and Aaron Boyce - who have started since they were freshmen in 2006. In their careers, that trio has already combined for 480 catches for 6,618 yards and 44 touchdowns in 104 games worth of experience (83 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 44 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
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
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 (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.
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
September 12, 2009 - No.
10 California Downs No. 18 Eagles 59-7
September 10, 2009 - "Watch Parties" Start Sept. 26 at Northern Quest Resort & Casino
September 9, 2009 - Q & A: Football Player Taiwan Jones
September 7, 2009 - No. 18 Eagles Face Tremendous Challenge at Cal
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
September 3, 2009 - Eagle Coaches Luncheons Move to Northern Quest Starting Sept. 8
August 31, 2009 - Eagles Open at Home Versus Western Oregon
August 29, 2009 - Eagle Backups Again Take Center Stage in Final Scrimmage
August 27, 2009 - Nationally-Ranked Eagles Scrimmage Saturday
August 22, 2009 - No Winners, No Losers in EWU's Opening Scrimmage
August 21, 2009 - Newcomers Catching Baldwin's Eye
August 20, 2009 - WSU Quarterback J.T. Levenseller Transfers to Eastern
August 19, 2009 - Thomas Nominated for ‘Good Works' Team
August 17, 2009 - Baldwin Impressed Thus Far With Tempo and Fitness
BEAU BALDWIN COMMENTS
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 Defense Versus Western Oregon -- "Obviously, there were lots of things on both sides of the ball that we'll have to get better at. Our defense was put in a lot of tough positions. They were in a tough spot, but they held their own -- especially in the red zone -- and I was really impressed with that."
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 Looking Good on Paper With 38 Letter Winners and 15 Starters Back -- "I've seen years where on paper you're set-up to achieve certain things and you don't. And I've seen years where you are aren't expected to do much and you do. It comes down to whether the coaches and players are willing to do all the things to put us in a position to have a successful season. In my opinion, it's going to come down to the little things."
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."
On Quarterback Matt Nichols in the Off-Season -- "In my opinion, he's had the best winter that I've seen him have. He's been working hard in the weight room and in speed and agility drills to help change his body. This is the best winter I've seen out of him and one of best I've ever seen out of a quarterback."
RECENT GAME SUMMARY
#10 California 59, #18 Eagles -- Eastern Washington scored on an 83-yard drive in the first quarter, but the California Bears performed as advertised after that to score 52 unanswered points and record a 59-7 victory over the Eagles Sept. 12 at Memorial Stadium in Berkeley, Calif.
In a match-up between the Big Sky Conference and the Pacific 10 Conference, Eastern entered the game ranked 18th in the Sports Network FCS poll. Cal, meanwhile, was ranked 10th in the Associated Press poll in the NCAA Football Bowl Division and represented the second-highest ranked team EWU has ever played (West Virginia was sixth when they beat EWU 52-3 in 2006).
Heisman Trophy candidate Jahvid Best rushed for 144 yards on 17 carries and scored twice for the Golden Bears, who are now 2-0. The Eagles, now 1-1, were out-gained 392-14 on the ground. In all, California had 507 yards of offense to EWU's 235.
"I felt going into the game that they were the most complete team I had ever seen on film," said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin. "They were big up front, they are physical and they are fast on defense. In the games we broke down (on film) they had only given up nine plays of 20 or more yards. They do everything right, and on top of that they have great athletes with skill and speed everywhere. This was the most complete team I have seen as far as being well-coached and disciplined -- from offense to defense to special teams. They have all the tools."
Senior quarterback Matt Nichols led the Eagles with a 23-of-31 passing performance for 195 yards and a touchdown. The Eagles host Northern Colorado next Saturday (Sept. 19) in the Big Sky Conference opener for both teams at 1:05 p.m. Pacific time at Woodward Field in Cheney, Wash.
California struck first with a touchdown just four minutes into the game, but the Eagles responded with an 11-play, 83-yard drive that was engineered by Nichols. He completed 7-of-8 passes for 79 yards on the drive, and also had a rush for nine yards. One of his completions was a 36-yarder to Aaron Boyce, then Nichols capped the drive with a 4-yard touchdown pass to fullback Grant Williams.
"We thought maybe we could get some situations where we could hit some things underneath, and when we got them in the right formation, hit them over the top," explained Baldwin. "We got one of those (big plays), and it would have been nice if we had hit a couple more. They don't just give that up -- they are going to make plays.
"We were hoping we could hit them somewhere early," Baldwin added. "That is the only way you have chance in these types of games -- to get off to a fast start."
Cal scored 17 points in the second quarter, 14 in the third and 21 in the fourth. Although Eastern had just one turnover in the game, it was a costly fumble on a third-and-one play in the second quarter that led to a field goal and helped open the floodgates for Cal.
"The fumble was huge -- I take the blame for that," said Baldwin. "We were trying to take a shot at something and it wasn't there as quickly as we thought. I wanted the team to know we weren't coming here to punt the football and take a paycheck. We were here to lay it on the line. We were going to play for 60 minutes."
Senior Tony Davis had eight catches for 71 yards, and senior tight end Nate Overbay added seven grabs for 62 yards. Darriell Beaumonte led the Eagles with nine rushes for 21 yards.
Last week, a few hours after Eastern scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns to surge past Western Oregon 35-14, the Golden Bears topped that with a 52-13 thrashing of Maryland. A week earlier, Cal and Best were featured in Sports Illustrated as a team that could challenge power USC for the Pac 10 title.
Most Eastern players were on the team last year when the Eagles nearly upset Colorado before falling 31-24. That came a week after losing to 12th-ranked Texas Tech 49-24. Two years ago, Eastern lost to Brigham Young (42-7), and in 2006 when Eastern's senior class were freshmen, Eastern lost to Oregon State (56-17) and West Virginia (52-3).
"Almost all the FCS teams do this now (play an FBS team)," said Baldwin. "The one thing it does for us is that we played one of the better football teams. We played a team that I think has a great chance to win the Pac-10, and maybe that gives us that much more. I feel we played a fairly clean game. You are worried that with the crowd noise you will have five turnovers, but we had the one fumble where their player made the play. It wasn't an unforced error. We didn't have fumbled snaps or anything. In a game like this you have to create some turnovers to have a chance."
In the process of Saturday's loss, Nichols broke the school's career completions record to go along with the attempts record he broke last season. He is now 741-of-1,211 (61 percent) for 9,267 and 67 touchdowns in his 37-game career.
"His first start was at West Virginia, so he isn't rattled by much," said Baldwin. "He has played a lot of football and has started a lot of games. Having him in there makes a huge difference. He isn't afraid and he isn't intimated by the surroundings. He just has to make his reads that much quicker."
"I've played six or seven games against programs like this, so I kind of knew what to expect as far as the speed of the game and everything," said Nichols. "Any time you have four or five 6-foot-3 linebackers who are all faster than you, it is pretty difficult to consistently score. I think we had a good game plan. I don't think they see a lot of five-wide sets. I think we had a little advantage in the first quarter until they figured out what our plan of attack was. Obviously, they've got some of those playmakers like Best and a few on defense that make that difference.
"A lot of people know that the game was not a big blowout like the score showed at the end," the senior from Cottonwood, Calif., added. "We wanted to come out and give them a scare in the first half and show them that we were here to play. I think that if one or two plays had gone our way and if we had gone into halftime with a little bit closer score it would have been nice. In games like these you have to have big plays go your way and that didn't happen for us today."
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 -- Five of the seven 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. 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
25,493 - 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.
WSU Quarterback J.T. Levenseller Transfers to Eastern -- Sophomore quarterback J.T. Levenseller has transferred from Washington State University to Eastern Washington University and will play football for the Eagles, Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin announced Aug. 20.
Baldwin said the 6-foot-1, 190-pound Levenseller has been admitted and enrolled at EWU after receiving his official release to transfer from WSU where he played for former Eastern head coach Paul Wulff. The 2007 graduate of Pullman (Wash.) High School is eligible to play this season, and has three years of eligibility plus a redshirt season remaining.
Baldwin said Levenseller would become Eastern's sixth quarterback in the program, and later said he will redshirt the 2009 season.
As a true freshman at WSU last season, Levenseller saw action in four games and completed 17-of-34 passes for 134 yards with two interceptions and no touchdowns.
Levenseller will be among familiar company at EWU as he and two current Eagles helped lead Pullman to the State 2A football title in fall 2005. Eagle linebacker J.C. Sherritt ('06), wide receiver Ashton Gant ('06) and Levenseller led Pullman to a perfect 14-0 record that season. Former Eagle Marcus Walker helped Pullman finish 11-3 and advance to the 2A title game in 2003. Walker, whose father also coached at WSU, graduated in 2004 from Pullman.
Eagles Release Schedule With 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.
Eastern will also play home games against Western Oregon (Sept. 5), Northern Colorado (Sept. 19), Weber State (Oct. 10) and Montana State (Oct. 24) at Woodward Field in Cheney, Wash.
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."
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.
Twin Stat Lines Commonplace for Johnson Twins -- Since the first game of their careers against Texas Tech in August, twin brothers Zach Johnson and Matt Johnson produced some incredible defensive numbers as redshirt freshmen in 2008.
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.
"There was no question Zach had a huge pick against Northern Colorado," said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin of the 2006 graduates of Tumwater, Wash., High School. "He did a great job and is a great player. Both of the Johnson twins are great players. At different times they were a little banged up because they played a lot of snaps, but those guys kept coming to play."
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.
"They are great players and have bought right in," said Baldwin after the Texas Tech game. "They're coachable, they can run, they can tackle -- they have all the tools to be great defensive players in this league. They left it on the field and went hard. There was no question that a lot of young players stepped up against Texas Tech."
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).