Taiwan Jones begins game with an 87-yard touchdown run as Eagles open the 2009 season with non-conference win
Sophomore Taiwan Jones (pictured) scored on an 87-yard run on his first carry as an Eastern Washington University running back. But is wasn't that easy the rest of the way in EWU's 35-14 non-conference college football victory against Western Oregon Saturday (Sept. 5) at Woodward Field in Cheney, Wash.
The Eagles, ranked 18th in the preseason NCAA Football Championship Subdivision rankings, scored 14 fourth-quarter points on a pair of Matt Nichols-to-Nathan Overbay touchdown passes as they survived for the win over the NCAA Division II Wolves.
"We had to weather some storms and overcome some mistakes," said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin. "We definitely came back and played better in the second half."
The game was the season opener for both teams, and for the Eagles, the schedule gets significantly tougher. Next week (Sept. 12) the Eagles face visit California of the Pacific 10 Conference in a game that starts at 2:35 p.m. Pacific time at Memorial Stadium in Berkeley, Calif.
Jones, a four-game starter as an Eastern cornerback as a freshman in 2008, scored on EWU's first offensive play of the game and finished with 122 yards and two scores on 12 carries. It was EWU's first 100-yard rushing performance since Dale Morris had 130 in the 2007 FCS Playoffs against McNeese State.
Nichols, a candidate for the Payton Award given to the top player in FCS, completed 20-of-30 passes with three touchdowns in the victory. He had touchdown passes of 20 and 21 yards to Overbay, who caught four passes for 66 yards. The other touchdown pass by Nichols was a 53-yarder to senior Aaron Boyce, who finished with six catches for 126 yards.
The Eagles finished with 446 yards of total offense, but needed its defense to keep the Wolves at bay. The Wolves finished with 321 yards of total offense.
Senior free safety Kevin Hatch had a pair of interceptions, two passes broken up and six total tackles. Linebacker J.C. Sherritt finished with 15 tackles and cornerback Jesse Hoffman had 10.
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. Another ended with a blocked field goal in the fourth quarter by Eastern's Tyler Jolley. Hatch's other interception led to a touchdown that gave EWU some breathing room at 28-14.
"Our players were in really good shape coming out of the summer, and I think it showed," said Baldwin. "We knew this game against Western Oregon was going to be a tough ballgame and outsiders thought by playing a classification down it would be an easy win. But it never is.
"I've been involved in a lot of these games on both sides, and a lot of things can happen," he added. "It's the first game of the season, and sometimes weird things can happen."