Road Game at Idaho State Next Up for No. 17 Eagles
Now 3-1 after high-scoring victory, Eastern finds itself in a Hornet's nest once again at Holt Arena against 0-4 Bengals
Eastern Washington Univ. "Eagles"
Idaho State University "Bengals"
Saturday, October 3 • 2:35 p.m. Pacific
Holt Arena (12,000) • Pocatello, Idaho
EWU Coach: Beau Baldwin (Central Washington
School Record: 9-6/6-3 Big Sky (2nd Season)
Career Record: 19-9 (3rd Season -- was 10-3 at CWU in 2007 and 6-5 at EWU in 2008)
Last Game: #19 Eastern Washington 56, Sacramento State 30 (Sept. 26 in Sacramento, Calif.)
2008: 6-5/5-3 in Big Sky Conference (3rd)
Radio: 1510-AM in Spokane & www.teamline.cc
Weekly Coaches Luncheon: Tuesday, Noon at the Q Sports Bar and Restaurant at Northern Quest Resort & Casino, cost $12
Watch Party: Saturday (Oct. 3) at 2:35 p.m. at the Q Sports Bar and Restaurant at Northern Quest Resort & Casino.
Fresh off a 26-point victory against the Sacramento State Hornets, the Eastern Washington University football team will no doubt find itself in a Hornet's nest once again this Saturday (Oct. 3).
The Eagles play their second Big Sky Conference road game in as many weeks when they play at winless Idaho State, with kickoff at 2:35 p.m. Pacific time at Holt Arena in Pocatello, Idaho. The game may be heard live via radio in the Spokane area on 1510-AM and via the internet through audio (www.teamline.cc) or video (www.bigskytv.org) webcasts.
Eastern, which moved up two spots to 17th in this week's Sports Network NCAA Football Championship Subdivision poll, enters with a 3-1 record, having defeated Sacramento State (56-30) and Northern Colorado (19-0) in league games, as well as Western Oregon (35-14) in non-league tilt. The Eagles fell to 10th-ranked California (59-7).
Idaho State, meanwhile, is 0-4 after coming off a 33-22 loss 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.
Despite an obvious difference in success thus far, head coach Beau Baldwin vows his team is focused on nothing but the Bengals. And obviously it will be a hungry Bengals team looking for its first win of the season.
"The main thing for us to focus on is Idaho State," said Baldwin. "The players did an incredible job of locking in on our goal this past week of beating Sac State. We've been putting up weekly goals each week, and we haven't talked about end of the year goals, sanctions or any of that. Our whole focus this week will be on Idaho State.
"I can't say that last year we were always 100 percent looking at our next game," he continued. "I told our team back in February that this year was going to be all about short-term goals. It takes a lot of maturity from the players to make that happen during the week. They did that against Sacramento State, and this week, Idaho State becomes the biggest game of the year."
And coaching staff reunions probably won't be discussed this week either as former Central Washington head coaches Baldwin and John Zamberlin square off for the second-straight season. Zamberlin was Baldwin's mentor for six years at Central, and Baldwin's 11th-ranked Eagles won the first meeting last Sept. 27 at EWU by a 45-31 score.
The roots of the Baldwin vs. Zamberlin match-up started back in 1992-94 when Zamberlin was an assistant coach at Eastern. In 1997, he became head coach at Central Washington, and for six years Baldwin was his quarterbacks coach and co-offensive coordinator.
Baldwin would leave to become Eastern's offensive coordinator for four seasons, including 2006 when a youthful Eastern team finished just 3-8. One of EWU's losses that season was a 21-14 loss to the NCAA Division II Wildcats, a victory that helped secure Zamberlin the job at ISU for the 2007 season. And it was Baldwin who filled the head coaching vacancy at CWU. Finally, when Eastern's Paul Wulff left to become head coach at Washington State University, Baldwin returned as head coach at EWU.
Zamberlin also knows many of Baldwin's assistants from his days at Central -- including John Graham, Ryan Sawyer, and Torey Hunter who were either coaches, players or both under him. Likewise, the ISU coaching staff includes former Eastern assistants Steve Amrine and Brian Strandley.
In last year's game against ISU, Eastern quarterback Matt Nichols passed for 382 yards and five touchdowns on 25-of-40 passing, with Aaron Boyce catching nine passes for 135 yards and three scores. However, in the fourth quarter alone, Nichols was 7-of-8 for 150 yards and a pair of touchdowns as the Eagles scored the final 17 points of the league opener for both teams. Defensively, linebacker J.C. Sherritt had 12 total tackles, including 4 1/2 for losses.
Nichols, a four-year starter, is nearing EWU's career passing and total offense records. In the 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 773-of-1,264 (61 percent) for 9,668 yards and 70 touchdowns in his 39-game career. The starting debut for the 37-game starter came in 2006 when Eastern played at 12th-ranked West Virginia.
Nichols is now 593 passing yards and 666 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.
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.
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."
After Just Four Games as a Collegiate Running Back, Taiwan Jones Earns National and Big Sky Player of the Week Honors -- Sophomore running back Taiwan Jones (Antioch, Calif. - Deer Valley HS '07) earned national and league player of the week honors after rushing for four touchdowns and 190 yards on just 15 carries in EWU's 50-36 win over Sacramento State on Sept. 26.
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.
So far this season, he has 665 all-purpose yards for averages of 166.2 yards per game and 10.2 per touch. His average of 102.3 yards rushing per game leads the Big Sky and ranks 14th in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision, and he is also 11th nationally in all-purpose yards per game. He has 409 rushing yards for the season and is averaging a lofty 8.3 yards per rush in an average of just over 12 carries per game.
"He's only played four games as a college running back, and he's been a little injured too," said Eagle head coach Beau Baldwin. "So he's going to get better with every carry, and that's what is happening to him right now."
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.
He 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.
Sherritt Repeats as Player of the Week and Moves To Sixth Nationally in Tackles -- Earning Big Sky Conference Defensive Player of the Week honors for the second-straight week, junior linebacker J.C. Sherritt (Pullman, Wash. - Pullman HS '06) 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.
With three performances this season of 15 tackles, Sherritt has moved into sixth in this week's NCAA Football Championship Subdivision statistics. He is averaging 13.0 tackles per game, which leads the Big Sky. He also ranks eighth nationally in tackles for loss with an average of 1.88 per game.
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.
"J.C. has played great in three-straight games," said head coach Beau Baldwin after the shutout against Northern Colorado, but he could have made the same comments after the Sac State game. "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."
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.
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.
Since 2000, Eastern is 5-4 in the first game after school begins (includes one bye). But in the game after the first full week of school, Eastern is just 2-7. The 2009 fall quarter began on Wednesday, Sept. 23, followed by EWU's 56-30 victory at Sacramento State. Based on recent history, this Saturday's game at Idaho State could prove to be even tougher to win.
Eagles Avoid Recent History and Now Set Sights on First 3-0 Start Since 2004 -- 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.
A 19-0 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.
A win this week over Idaho State would equal EWU's best league start since 2004 when the Eagles finished 6-1 and shared the Big Sky title with Montana. Eastern has won its first three league games in its Big Sky championship seasons in 1992 and 2004, but have never started 4-0.
In games played against EWU's first three 2009 league opponents, the Eagles have won 10 of 13 games against those teams since 2004. The lone losses came at home to Sacramento State (2006 and 2008) and at Idaho State (2005).
Game Promotions/Tickets -- Eastern's next home game is Oct. 10 for "Hall of Fame Weekend" when the Eagles host defending Big Sky Conference co-champion Weber State. The game sponsor is Best Western Peppertree Inns. It will also be Special Olympics Day, Grand Columbia Boy Scout Day, EWU Staff/Faculty Appreciation Day and Sponsor Appreciation 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 Tuesday, Wednesday 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.
More Eagles to Watch -- Senior linebacker Makai Borden (Puyallup, Wash. - Puyallup HS '05) has quietly tallied 20 tackles this season in three games, but his mere presence on the field has been important the past three seasons for the Eagles. After EWU's win at Sacramento State on Sept. 26, Eastern is now 15-5 in the last two-plus seasons (2007-09) with Borden in the starting lineup and 3-5 without him in it. He has 143 tackles, three interceptions and five passes broken up in 33 career games, and EWU is 16-7 in his 23 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. He followed that performance to average 42.7 yards on three punts against Sacramento State on Sept. 26, with a long of 51 and one punt 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. "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 200 catches for 2,979 yards and 25 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 9,668 yards and 70 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 1,264 career pass attempts and 773 completions. Later in the season, he should break EWU's career passing yards and total offense records . . . 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. He added an interception against Northern Colorado on Sept. 19, giving him eight in his career to go along with 178 tackles. With an average of 0.75 interceptions per game thus far in 2009, Hatch is tied for seventh in FCS. 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 that game and the following week when Eastern played at Sacramento State . . . Offensive lineman Ray Falelaulii (University Place, Wash. - Curtis HS '07) has been utilized as a fullback when Grant Williams (Puyallup, Wash. - Rogers HS '08) has not been fully healthy. Falelaulii could wear jersey numbers 96 and/or 75 depending on how he is utilized . . . 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 . . . Players of the week from the Northern Colorado game were Taiwan Jones on offense, J.C. Sherritt on defense and Jason Harris on special teams . . . 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 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.
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 (152 starts by 17 players) -- Kevin Hatch 28, Makai Borden 23, Lonnie Hosley 17, Matt Johnson 15, J.C. Sherritt 12, Zach Johnson 11, Renard Williams 9, Tyler Jolley 9, Josh Jacobson 6, Kyle Wilkins 6, Jacob Kragt 5, Evan Cook 4, Jesse Hoffman 2, Dante Calcote 2, Will Edge 1, David Miles 1, Rusty Haehl 1.
Offense (217 starts by 18 players) -- Matt Nichols 37, Aaron Boyce 36, Brynsen Brown 29, Tony Davis 21, Chris Thomas 22, Nathan Overbay 15, Ryan Forney 15, Brice Leahy 11, Taiwan Jones 6 (includes four on defense in 2008), Gabriel Jackson 5, Nicholas Edwards 4, Chris Powers 4, Nikolai Myers 4, Matt Martin 3, 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 -- 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 9,668 yards passing, 10,276 yards of total offense and 70 touchdown passes in his career. Meyer holds school records with 10,261 passing yards (593 more than Nichols), 10,942 yards of total offense (666 more) and 84 touchdowns (14 more).
Nichols also has 608 career rushing yards, trailing Meyer by just 73 yards for the school record of 681 by an Eastern quarterback. Nichols already holds the school records with 1,264 passing attempts and 773 completions.
Wide receiver Aaron Boyce, already second in school history with 200 receptions, will most likely finish his career trailing only Eric Kimble (2002-05) with a record 253 grabs. Tony Davis (155) is now seventh on Eastern's top 10 list, and Brynsen Brown (141) is 11th. Boyce also has 2,979 reception yards, trailing only Kimble's 4,140 and the 3,013 by Tony Brooks (1990-93).
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 178 career tackles and needs just 22 more to move into the top 25 in that category.
Injury Report -- Cornerback Jesse Hoffman missed the Northern Colorado game on Sept. 19 after suffering a high ankle/knee sprain the day before during EWU's practice. He also missed the Sacramento State game, as did special teams standout and backup wide receiver Nicholas Ramos (hamstring).
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 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 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 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 Similar to Previous Quartet -- Eastern's receiving corps in 2009 includes two seniors - Tony Davis and Aaron Boyce - who have started since 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 496 catches for 6,812 yards and 45 touchdowns in 110 games worth of experience as receivers (86 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 45 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.
Fisher Among Hall of Fame Inductees to Be Honored on Oct. 10 -- Five former Eastern Washington University student-athletes and the school's 1989 volleyball team will comprise the ninth class of inductees into the Eastern Athletics Hall of Fame as they will be honored in ceremonies that take place on Oct. 10 in Cheney.
The new inductees include 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 will be 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. will receive the Eastern Washington University Athletics Hall of Fame Service and Contribution Award.
The inductees will be honored with a breakfast and ceremony that starts at 9 a.m. on Oct. 10 at the Pence Union Building. The public is invited to attend (RSVP to 509-359-2463 or 1-800-648-7697) and the cost is $15 per person. They will also be honored at EWU's football game against Weber State that begins at 12:35 p.m. Pacific time and is regionally-televised on Altitude Sports and Entertainment. Hall of Fame recipients will also be recognized at Eastern's volleyball match the previous evening against Portland State at 7 p.m. Pacific time.
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 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 10, 2009 - "Watch Parties" Start Sept. 26 at Northern Quest Resort & Casino
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
September 3, 2009 - Eagle Coaches Luncheons Move to Northern Quest Starting Sept. 8
August 20, 2009 - WSU Quarterback J.T. Levenseller Transfers to Eastern
August 19, 2009 - Thomas Nominated for ‘Good Works' Team
BEAU BALDWIN COMMENTS
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 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."
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 -- 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).