Eagles Open 2010 Season at Powerful Nevada

Eagles play the Wolf Pack for the first time since 1991 when both schools were members of the Big Sky Conference 

Click here for a complete .pdf version of this week's release




Eastern Washington Univ. “Eagles”
at
Nevada “Wolf Pack”

Thursday, September 2 • 6:05 p.m. Pacific
Mackay Stadium (29,993, FieldTurf ) • Reno, Nevada 

2009: 8-4/6-2 Big Sky Conference
Last Game: #12 Stephen F. Austin 44, #13 Eastern Washington 33 (Nov. 28 in Nacogdoches, Texas, in FCS Playoffs)
TV: None
Radio: 700-AM ESPN “The Ticket” in Spokane. Larry Weir returns for his 20th season calling the play-by-play, with analysis handled by Paul Sorensen.
Internet Radio: www.espnnorthwest.com
Weekly Coaches Show: Mondays, 6 p.m. at the Q Sports Bar and Restaurant at Northern Quest Resort & Casino. . . 700-AM ESPN “The Ticket” in Spokane and www.espnnorthwest.com
Webcast: www.nevadawolfpack.com
Twitter: http://twitter.com/EWUAthletics


A few things haven’t changed since the last time Eastern Washington University met the University of Nevada in football, but there has been one huge constant.

The Eagles open their 2010 season on Thursday (Sept. 2) in Reno, Nev., as they face the Wolf Pack for the first time since 1991. Kickoff at Mackay Stadium is 6:05 p.m. Pacific time in a game carried live via radio in the Spokane area on 700-AM ESPN “The Ticket.”

Current Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin was a sophomore starter at quarterback at Central Washington back in 1991 when EWU and Nevada last met. But the head coach on the Nevada sideline is the same as Chris Ault enters his 26th season at the helm. Ault has had three stints as head coach there -- 1976-92 (17 seasons), 1994-95 (two seasons) and 2004-2009 (six seasons). With 38 total seasons at the school as a player, coach and athletic director, Ault has a 206-96-1 record as head coach with eight conference championships and 13 post-season appearances (including seven bowl appearances).

Ault’s team was a member of the Big Sky Conference back in 1991 when the Wolf Pack romped to a 51-14 win at EWU’s Woodward Field. Nevada finished 12-1 and unbeaten (8-0) in the league, and then advanced to the quarterfinals of the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs. Eastern closed the 1991 season with a 5-6 record, and then shared the Big Sky title with Idaho in 1992 when both Nevada and Boise State departed for the Big West Conference.

Nevada started competition in the Western Athletic Conference in 2000 and recently announced plans to leave for the Mountain West Conference in 2012.

Practices for the Eagles began on Aug. 9, and now, less than a month later, it’s game week.

“It goes quick -- every year the preseason seems to go quicker and quicker,” said Baldwin. “The older I get, the more everything just speeds up. It’s here already. We’re excited to go play a game, but at the same time there is still a lot to do.

 “We have to get our true game plan in,” he added. “We haven’t spent a ton of time with that yet -- we like to concentrate on what we do in the first 23 practices. Now we’ll break-up into scout teams and we’ll figure out what we are going to do against Nevada. We need to get ourselves to a level where we feel like we’re ready to play in a football game. We still need practices from Friday through Wednesday -- it’s not like we’ll be ready for this game tomorrow. Those practices will be big for our guys.”

 

Repeat Performances: Both the Eagles and Wolf Pack are hoping for repeat performances from highly-successful 2009 campaigns.

Nevada was 8-5 overall and 7-1 in the WAC last season, having lost its first three games and its last two. The Wolf Pack ended the season with a 45-10 loss to SMU (current Eagle Bo Levi Mitchell was a member of that SMU team) in the Hawaii Bowl.  The Wolf Pack featured an offense that led the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision with an average of 344.9 yards rushing per game and had three 1,000-yard rushers. The Wolf Pack was second in total offense (505.6) and sixth in scoring (38.2).

The team’s top two rushers were underclassmen (Vai Taua/1345 yards/10 touchdowns and Colin Kaepernick/1,183 yards/16 touchdowns), with Kaepernick also passing for 2,052 yards and 20 touchdowns while accounting for 36 total TDs.

“They run the ball as well as anybody in the country, so they are extremely scary to us from a defensive standpoint,” said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin. “That is going to be No. 1. You say you want to stop the run against every team you play, but these guys are as hard to stop as anyone. And their front seven on defense is a strength of theirs -- it really makes them go and will be a real challenge for our team.”

The Eagles finished the 2009 season with an 8-4 record and advanced to the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs for the fourth time in the last six seasons. Eastern expects to return 10 starters from that team -- including five on offense and five on defense, plus a pair of returning players who started nearly half of the season as injury replacements.

However, the Eagles did lose 17 Eagle seniors who combined for 350 starts in their careers, including quarterback Matt Nichols, tight end Nathan Overbay and right tackle Chris Thomas off an extremely prolific offense. By contrast, 26 players return with starting experience, but they have a total of just 196 starts between them.

Defensively, Eastern returns All-America linebacker J.C. Sherritt, who averaged more than 14 tackles per game in 2009 to lead FCS. Eastern also returns three starting defensive linemen, as well as twin brothers Matt and Zach Johnson at safety and linebacker, respectively. Despite their youth a year ago, the Eagles still have to replace three starters in the secondary and had several other key graduation losses.

Running back Taiwan Jones is the top player from the offense returning after a 1,000-yard season helped him earn All-America honors as a sophomore. His talent should also be augmented by the addition of a synthetic turf surface at Woodward Field. The red Sprinturf was installed this summer in time for the 2010 home opener against Montana on Sept. 18.

 

PDF Link to Fact Book: The complete version of the 2010 EWU football fact book may be found at:
http://goeags.com/trads/ewas-factbooks.html.

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/index.aspx?tab=football&path=football
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=2010
College Sporting News - http://www.collegesportingnews.com
Championship Subdivision News - http://www.championshipsubdivisionnews.com

RECENT EWU FOOTBALL HEADLINES
August 26, 2010 - Radio Show Featuring Baldwin and Players Airs Live From Northern Quest
August 25, 2010 - EWU-PSU to Play for the Dam Cup
August 25, 2010 - Starters Rest as Defense Shines in Final Eastern Scrimmage
August 24, 2010 - Eagles Scrimmage Wednesday on Practice Fields
August 19, 2010 - Sprinturf Crew Works Under the Lights Friday
August 18, 2010 - First Eastern Scrimmage Features Back and Forth Thriller
August 16, 2010 - Eagles 13th in The Sports Network Preseason Poll
August 13, 2010 - Red Turf is Exciting, But Eagles Have Lots of Work Ahead
August 4, 2010 - Vote on a Name as Red Turf Rollout Continues
August 3, 2010 - Red Sprinturf Arrives, With Installation Probably Starting Wednesday
August 2, 2010 - Football Practices Begin Aug. 9
July 27, 2010 - Red Sprinturf Set to Arrive Aug. 3
July 26, 2010 - More Preseason Honors for Eagle Trio
July 21, 2010 - Buck Buchanan Watch List Includes Eastern J.C. Sherritt
July 20, 2010 - Eagles Picked to Finish Second Behind Grizzlies
July 19, 2010 - Sherritt is Big Sky’s Choice as Preseason Defensive Player of the Year
July 13, 2010 - Taiwan Jones on Walter Payton Watch List
July 12, 2010 - Fox Sports Northwest Airs “Fish & Chip Tournament” Highlights
July 9, 2010 - EWU-Montana Pre-Sale Tickets Available
June 28, 2010 - Eastern Games to Air on 700 ESPN The Ticket
June 24, 2010 - Eastern to Play Central Washington in Seattle on Sept. 11
June 12, 2010 - “Turfbreaking” Begins Excavation Work for Red Turf Project
June 5, 2010 - 2009-10 Awards Presented to Eastern Student-Athletes at “EeeWoos”
May 20, 2010 - With Addition of New Turf, a New Name for Eastern’s Football Field

 

GAME NOTES

Eagles Play Nine of 11 Games on Synthetic Turf: With the addition of its own red Sprinturf surface this fall, Eastern will play nine games on synthetic turf this fall. The only games on grass will be against Weber State on Oct. 2 and Northern Colorado on Oct. 16.

“We’re going to practice on it every day we can,” said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin. “We’ll be on turf more than we ever have before we play a turf game. It will be an advantage once we get the chance to practice it on it all week heading into a game on turf.”

 

Eagles Feature New Gunslinger: Southern Methodist University transfer Bo Levi Mitchell secured the starting quarterback position with outstanding performances in three spring scrimmages, and was named the starter on April 29 -- barely three weeks into spring drills.

In three spring scrimmages, he completed 24-of-36 passes (67 percent) for 352 yards and three touchdowns -- all to sophomore Nicholas Edwards -- with just one interception. He helped the White to a 20-0 victory over the Red in EWU’s Spring Game, completing a pass for 61 yards to Greg Herd on the game’s first play before scoring on an 8-yard scamper.

In his lone scrimmage of fall practices, Mitchell was 10-of-16 for 151 yards as he led the offense on two long touchdown drives. He capped a seven-play, 70-yard drive with a 10-yard touchdown run to open the scrimmage, then later ended a five-play, 70-yard drive with a 29-yard touchdown strike to Herd.

Mitchell came to Eastern from Southern Methodist where he started all 19 of the games he played. In his career, the 6-foot-2, 210-pound Mitchell completed 385-of-676 passes (57.0 percent) for 4,590 yards (241.6 per game) with 36 touchdowns and 33 interceptions. He was also 29-1 as a high school starter at Katy (Texas) High School.

“He’s performed extremely well considering he had to learn a new system,” Baldwin said. “He has all the tools to be a great collegiate quarterback at any level. He can make every throw in our offense and do them all well -- and a lot of them are not easy.”

Eastern had entered the spring taking a look at six players competing for the starting quarterback position. Returning letter winners Jeff Minnerly and Scott Burgett were in the mix, as well as 2009 redshirts Nick Gauthier and Anthony Vitto. Minnerly and Burgett are both sophomores, but had only 10 pass attempts between them as redshirt freshmen in 2009. Gauthier is a junior who transferred from Bakersfield College in California, and Vitto is a freshman. The sixth was Greg Panelli, a strong-armed, 6-foot-3, 225-pounder who passed for more than 5,000 yards and 56 touchdowns at Modesto Junior College and twice earned All-Golden Gate Conference honors.

Minnerly, however, was moved to safety during spring practice, and now may be Eastern’s starter at free safety this week against Nevada. Vitto and Gauthier are listed as co-backups behind Mitchell on the depth chart heading into the Nevada game.

In six total scrimmages in the spring and fall, Vitto was 32-of-58 for 352 yards, one touchdown and had two interceptions. Gauthier was 33-of-63 for 304 yards, two TDs and four picks. Burgett and Panelli played in four scrimmages each, and Burgett was 12-of-20 for 214 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. Panelli was 8-of-13 for 91 yards and a touchdown.

 

Other Debuts: Besides quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell, just four players are expected to make their starting debuts as Eagles this week against Nevada. The two players on offense are freshman redshirts Steven Forgette at left guard and Brandon Murphy at right tackle. On defense, sophomore Jerry Ceja will make the first start of his career as Eastern’s left end. And, if he starts ahead of Will Edge, sophomore Jeff Minnerly will make his starting debut as a free safety after playing the last two seasons as a quarterback.

Forgette and Murphy are two of several redshirt freshmen who will be making their first EWU appearance in a game at Nevada. Most true freshman will redshirt, but running back Mario Brown is expected to play this season. In two fall scrimmages, he rushed for 86 yards on 21 carries.

A total of 24 players with starting experience (total of 196 starts) return for the 2010 season. Here are the current number of career starts by Eastern players on the 2010 roster:

Defense (112 starts by 14 players): Matt Johnson 23, J.C. Sherritt 20, Tyler Jolley 16, Renard Williams 14, Zach Johnson 11, Evan Cook 10, David Miles 4, Tyler Washburn 4, Dante Calcote 3, Jesse Hoffman 2, Paul Ena 2, Will Edge 1, Rusty Haehl 1, Grant Williams 1 (includes one start on offense in 2009).

Offense (84 starts by 10 players): Taiwan Jones 13 (includes four on defense in 2008), Chris Powers 12, Nikolai Myers 12, Gabriel Jackson 11, Nicholas Edwards 11, Brice Leahy 11, Matt Martin 5, Brandon Kaufman 5, Ashton Gant 2, Tyler Hart 2.

 

Five Players Selected as Co-Captains: In voting conducted by members of this year’s squad, five players have been selected as EWU’s co-captains for the 2010 season. Senior captains on defense include senior tackle Tyler Jolley and linebacker J.C. Sherritt, who was also a captain in 2009. The players selected on offense were senior tight end Matt Martin, senior offensive guard Nikolai Myers and junior quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell.

Three of the captains are local products who graduated from state of Washington high schools in 2006 -- Jolley from Spokane’s East Valley High School, Sherritt from Pullman HS and Martin from La Crosse-Washtucna HS. Myers is a 2006 graduate of Ingraham High School in Seattle, and Mitchell is a transfer from Southern Methodist University and a 2008 graduate of Katy, Texas, High School.

 

Eagles 13th in The Sports Network Preseason Poll: The Eagles are starting where they ended last season.

The Eastern Washington University football team is ranked 13th in The Sports Network/Fathead.com NCAA Football Championship Subdivision 2010 Top 25 Preseason Poll released Aug. 16.

A year ago, Eastern was 8-4 and lost to Stephen F. Austin 44-33 in the first round of the FCS Playoffs after finishing as the Big Sky Conference runner-up with a 5-2 record. The Eagles, who entered the 2009 playoffs ranked 13th and ended the season ranked in that position as well, have qualified for the postseason in four of the last six seasons.

Defending FCS champion Villanova is ranked first in the poll, with defending Big Sky champion and FCS runner-up Montana ranking second. Other Big Sky teams in the preseason top 25 include Weber State (19th) and Montana State (24th), with Stephen F. Austin ranked eighth.

Northern Arizona received enough votes to rank 28th, and other league schools also receiving votes included Portland State (18) and Idaho State (15). Southern Utah, Eastern’s non-conference opponent on Nov. 13, received 14.

Eastern plays Montana on Sept. 18 in the league opener for both schools, which will also be the inaugural game on Eastern’s new red Sprinturf surface at what will become Roos Field (formerly Woodward Field) in Cheney, Wash. The Eagles play at Montana State the following week on Sept. 25 and at Weber State the week after that on Oct. 2.

Eastern opens its season Sept. 2 at Western Athletic Conference foe Nevada, followed by the “Showdown on the Sound” against NCAA Division II Central Washington on Sept. 11 at Qwest Field in Seattle, Wash.

Several preseason publications also have the Eagles ranked as high as 12th (Athlon), as well as rankings of 17th (Lindy’s) and 21st (The Sporting News). The FCS Coaches Poll ranked Eastern 14th when it was released on Aug. 23.

 

Buck Buchanan Watch List Includes Eastern J.C. Sherritt: A year after finishing second in the voting, Eastern Washington University senior linebacker J.C. Sherritt has been selected to the 20-player watch list for the 2010 Buck Buchanan Award awarded by The Sports Network to the top defensive player in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision.

Sherritt, a 2006 graduate of Pullman (Wash.) High School, averaged 14.17 tackles per game (170 total) as a junior in 2009 to lead FCS and catapult him into contention for the Buchanan Award. Arthur Moats from James Madison won the award last year, and in 2008 the winner was Eastern’s Greg Peach (now playing for the Edmonton Eskimos in the Canadian Football League).

Since 2000 when the Big Sky and FCS began keeping statistics as a record, Sherritt’s total was a league record and the seventh-most in FCS, and his average of 14.17 was also a league record and 13th in FCS history. Besides his 170 tackles, Sherritt had 14 tackles for loss, four passes broken up, three forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries and an interception he returned for a touchdown.

Sherritt, who also set school and league records with 24 tackles against Weber State on Oct. 10, 2009, enters his senior season with 256 career tackles. Now ranked eighth in school history, he needs 143 to break the school record of 399 held by Greg Belzer (1997-2000).

Sponsored by Fathead.com, the Buchanan Award is in its 16th season and will be presented on Thursday, Jan. 6 in Frisco, Texas -- the night before the championship game of the FCS Playoffs.

Besides Sherritt, other finalists from 2009 on this year’s watch list include Grambling State senior defensive end Christian Anthony (fourth), Appalachian State senior strong safety Mark LeGree (fifth) and Richmond senior defensive tackle Martin Parker (13th). Two other Big Sky Conference players are on the list -- defensive end Christian Clark of Sacramento State and Montana junior cornerback Trumaine Johnson.

The Buchanan Award Watch List will be updated on Oct. 4 and 25. Ballots will be sent to a panel of approximately 200 sports information and media relations directors, broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries after the regular season on Nov. 22.

The Sports Network also presents the Walter Payton and Eddie Robinson awards, which are also sponsored by Fathead. The Payton Award honors the FCS player of the year and the Robinson Award honors the FCS coach of the year. Those two awards, like the Buchanan, will be presented at the national awards banquet.

 

Taiwan Jones on Walter Payton Watch List: Eastern junior running back Taiwan Jones, who averaged an impressive 7.5 yards per carry as a sophomore, has been named to the initial 2010 Walter Payton Award Watch List, The Sports Network has announced.

The Walter Payton Award is given annually to the top offensive player in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision. Big Sky Conference players have captured the honor six times, most recently by Eastern Washington quarterback Erik Meyer in 2005. Eastern quarterback Matt Nichols finished fourth in the voting as a senior in 2009.

A cornerback as a freshman at Eastern in 2008, Jones scored on an 87-yard run on his first carry as an Eagle running back in 2009. Jones started and ended his season with a 100-yard game, finishing with a total of six for the season to earn first team All-Big Sky Conference honors. He was a third team selection on The Sports Network’s FCS All-America Football Team, and was a third team choice as an all-purpose back on the Associated Press All-America squad.

Jones, who is from Antioch, Calif., and graduated from Deer Valley High School in 2007, finished with 1,213 rushing yards in 2009 to rank as the sixth-most in school history. He ranked in the top 10 in FCS in rushing (ninth, 101.1 per game), scoring (sixth, 9.50 per game) and all-purpose yards per game (second, 195.4). His 2,345 all-purpose yards (rushing, receiving, returns) were the second-most in school history, and his 19 touchdowns and 114 total points both rank fourth.

In all, Jones had 14 plays (seven rushes, three receptions and four kickoff returns) of at least 38 yards in 2009, including nine of at least 50. Besides his 87-yard run, he had a school-record 96-yard touchdown run versus Idaho State and an 80-yard reception for a TD versus Northern Arizona.

His talent should also be augmented by the addition of a synthetic turf surface at Woodward Field, which will be re-named Roos Field upon project completion this September. The red turf was installed this summer in time for the 2010 season.

Jones averaged 6.1 yards per carry at home on the grass surface of Woodward Field, but that was boosted to 8.2 in EWU’s other eight games on fields that featured seven artificial surfaces as well as one grass field at Sacramento State with excellent footing.

There are 20 players on the current Watch List, including five from the Big Sky Conference. Besides Jones, the list also includes Montana running back Chase Reynolds, Grizzly quarterback Andrew Selle, Northern Arizona quarterback Michael Herrick and Weber State quarterback Cameron Higgins.

This year’s award is being sponsored by Fathead.com. The winner will be announced on the eve of the Division I National Championship game in Frisco, Texas.

 

More Players to Watch: A total of five players return who earned All-Big Sky Conference honors a year ago, including senior All-America linebacker J.C. Sherritt (Pullman, Wash. - Pullman HS ’06) and junior All-America running back Taiwan Jones (Antioch, Calif.). Both were first team All-Big Sky selections, as was junior defensive tackle Renard Williams (Port Orchard, Wash. - South Kitsap HS ’07). Williams is one of three starters returning on the defensive line, and he finished his sophomore season with 9 1/2 sacks and 35 total tackles. The other two returning All-Big Sky performers are junior center Chris Powers (Black Diamond, Wash. - Tahoma HS ’07) and junior safety Matt Johnson (Tumwater, Wash. - Tumwater HS ’07). Johnson finished his sophomore season with 102 tackles and six interceptions . . . Matt Johnson’s twin brother  Zach Johnson (Tumwater, Wash. - Tumwater HS ’07) is also back after a blood clot in his leg sidelined him for the entire 2009 season. As freshmen in 2008, the brothers 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.

 

Starting Over . . . Again: Eastern has been down this road before.

Much like 2005 when quarterback Erik Meyer graduated after winning the Walter Payton Award as the top player in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision, Eagle fans are wondering what Eagle Football will be like without 17 Eagle seniors who combined for 350 starts in their careers.

Most notably, the Eagles lose All-American and Big Sky Conference all-time passing leader Matt Nichols, who was the league’s Offensive Player of the Year in both 2007 and 2009. Nichols replaced Meyer at quarterback in 2006 and helped the Eagles to 26 victories and a pair of FCS Playoff berths. In all, Nichols broke 14 school records and six Big Sky Conference marks.

“I still remember after the 2005 season that somebody said to me, ‘we’ll see what you’re like in the post-Erik Meyer era,’” said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin, who concluded his second season as head coach and sixth overall at EWU. “It was tough for a year for sure, but Matt came along after that and proved to be pretty good. We’ll get the same questions this year.”

Interestingly, neither Meyer nor Nichols locked-up the starting quarterback position during the spring before their starting debuts. Meyer and Skyler Allen were locked in a tight competition in spring 2003, and it wasn’t until the third game of the season that Meyer locked up the starting job. Nichols and Chris Peerboom shared snaps early in the 2006 season, and Peerboom started the team’s opener before Nichols started the final 10 games that season and 45 of the 47 games he played in his career.

 

Ena Moves Back to Linebacker: Sophomore Paul Ena, who played in 2009 as a backup defensive end as a true freshman, started at middle linebacker in the regular season finale against Northern Arizona (11/21/09) and finished with a team-high 16 tackles. He started again in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs against Stephen F. Austin (11/28/09) and had 20 tackles to rank as the sixth-most in recorded school history. He finished the season fifth on the team with a total of 63 tackles.

He was Eastern’s fourth player to be on EWU’s depth chart as a starter at middle linebacker in 2009. Returning starter Zach Johnson did not play because of a blood clot that developed following knee surgery during the summer, then Kyle Wilkins suffered a season-ending knee injury in practice before Eastern’s seventh game. Freshman redshirt Tyler Washburn started four games until he also suffered a knee injury.

Ena was a linebacker at Inglemoor High School in Seattle, finishing his senior season in fall 2008 with 162 total tackles (65 solo, 97 assisted) and two sacks. His father Tali Ena was a standout running back at Washington State University and went on to play for the Seattle Seahawks.

 

More Position Changes: A trio of returning Eagle letter winners changed positions in the spring, including defensive lineman-turned-linebacker Paul Ena. Ena took over at that position for the final two games of the 2009 season, and will stay there this season. Others making a move include Jason Harris from linebacker to tight end, Tyler Hart from running back to wide receiver and Grant Williams from fullback/running back to linebacker.

 

Hope Up Front: One of Eastern’s hopes for the 2010 season is that a more experienced defensive unit up front will control the line of scrimmage more and, overall, the defensive side of the ball won’t be on the field as much as they were in 2009. A productive running game will help Eastern toward that goal after Eastern’s quick-strike offense in 2009 helped lead to an average of 76 plays per game for opponents. That was nearly six more per game than EWU, which had a half-minute deficit in time of possession despite out-gaining opponents 462-428 per game.

A year ago, Eastern finished sixth in FCS in turnover margin, averaging 1.25 less turnovers per game than its opponents. That will continue to be an emphasis after Eastern was 6-0 during the regular season when it won the turnover battle, with a 22-4 advantage in those six games.

“We obviously want to expand on that because we thought it was a huge part of our success in 2009,” said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin.

 

Injury Report: A trio of safeties -- all returning letter winners -- are out indefinitely, including Billy Lechtenburg (high ankle sprain), Ethen Robinson (knee) and Domonic Shepperd. Players who didn’t take part in spring practices because of injuries include Matt Johnson (shoulder), Robinson (shoulder), Jakob Pugsley (knee) and Jakob Scott (collarbone). All-American Taiwan Jones, who had surgery in December to repair a sports hernia, saw limited action in the spring as he continued to build strength from injuries to both shoulders and a hand during his debut as a running back in 2009. Johnson and Zach Gehring (shoulder) also had surgeries following the season.

 

SERIES HISTORY

Series Notes: Eastern and Nevada met eight times from 1984-91, including the last five meetings in Big Sky Conference games. The lone victory for the Eagles came in 1989 -- EWU’s third season in the league -- by a 33-7 score at Spokane’s Albi Stadium.

The Wolf Pack were coached in all eight of those games by Chris Ault, who just completed his 25th season as Nevada’s head coach. In the 1991 game, Nevada scored 23 unanswered points to take a 30-7 lead in the third quarter. The Wolf Pack won 51-14 as it out-gained Eastern in total offense 550-320.

Interestingly, four future NFL players from Eastern played in that game, including 10-year NFL veteran safety Kurt Schulz. Offensive tackle Kevin Sargent went on to a seven-year career with Cincinnati and Trent Pollard, a fifth-round draft choice, played three seasons for the Bengals. Tight end Tony Lenseigne played for a trio of NFL teams. In addition, six others played professionally -- most in the Canadian Football League -- including nine-year veteran Jackie Kellogg.

Eastern’s victory in 1989 is a legendary one for the Eagles and a dubious one for the Wolf Pack. Schulz, a sophomore then, intercepted three passes and set a school record that still stands with 105 interception return yards. His 90-yard interception return gave Eastern a 13-0 lead just 5:09 into the game as he also finished with nine tackles and a pair of passes broken up . Eastern had six interceptions in the game as the Wolf Pack also had four fumbles lost. The 10 turnovers resulted in Nevada’s most lopsided loss since 1974, but the Wolf Pack went on the finish 7-4 that season while *9-the Eagles were 4-6.

 

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

 

MORE NOTES

 A Taste of the Eagle-Grizzly Rivalry: In a series full of drama, the 2009 meeting between Eastern and Montana was the eighth time in the last 14 meetings that both teams entered the game nationally ranked.

Montana leads the series 25-10-1 with a four-game winning streak dating back to EWU’s 34-20 victory in Missoula in 2005. The Grizzlies have won six of the last seven meetings, including victories the last three times Eastern hosted the Grizzlies at Woodward Field (31-28 in 2004, 33-17 in 2006 and 19-3 in 2008).

Since winning three-straight over Montana from 1990-92, Eastern has won just three times -- 40-35 in 1997, 30-21 in 2002 and 34-20 in 2005 -- in the last 17 meetings. Overall, Eastern is 4-13-1 in Missoula, 5-11 in home games and 1-1 in games played at neutral sites.

The Eagles shared the 2004 and 2005 Big Sky titles with Montana, but the Grizzlies have won or shared every league title since 1998. Eastern is the last Big Sky school other than Montana to win the outright title, with that coming in 1997 when the Eagles advanced to the semifinals of the FCS Playoffs.

Eastern has not defeated the Grizzlies at Woodward Field since 1991. The 2008 setback was EWU’s sixth-straight loss to Montana in Cheney, however, the Eagles did defeat Montana at Albi Stadium in Spokane in 2002.

Eight recent games in the series that have been decided by margins of 10 points or less are the exclamation points in a rivalry that has seen the Grizzlies come out on top 25 times in 36 meetings. The winner has usually piled up points and yardage by the ton as evidenced by Eastern’s 697 yards of total offense in 1986, 658 yards in 1997 in a 40-35 win, 564 in a 24-23 loss in 2007 and 541 yards by the Eagles in a 34-20 win in Missoula in 2005. In fact, in the last 24 meetings the winning team has averaged 33.6 points. In seven of those 24 games the two teams have combined for at least 70 points, including a 41-34 Grizzly win in Missoula in 2009.

As for suspense, that one’s covered too. In 2009, Eastern knotted the score at 34 with 4:58 to play, only to have the Grizzlies drive for the winning score with 1:18 left in a 41-34 victory. In 2007, Eastern kicked a go-ahead field goal with 2:20 to play before top-ranked Montana kicked the game-winner with 26 seconds to play after converting a fourth-and-10 play. Eastern wide receiver Aaron Boyce had the fourth-best receiving effort in Big Sky Conference history with a school-record 17 catches to earn NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Offensive Player of the Week honors from The Sports Network. His 232 receiving yards was the second-most in school history, and Eagle quarterback Matt Nichols passed for a career-high 451 yards to rank third all-time at EWU.

 In 2004, Montana blocked a 28-yard field goal attempt by the Eagles with 18 seconds remaining as the 23rd-ranked Eagles fell to the fifth-ranked Grizzlies 31-28 in a showdown for first place in front of a Woodward Field record crowd of 10,754. In 2002 at Albi Stadium in Spokane, Eastern beat the No. 1 ranked and unbeaten Grizzlies 30-21, ending Montana’s record-tying winning streak in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision at 24 games. It was the first Big Sky Conference loss for UM head coach Joe Glenn, and snapped Montana’s record winning streaks of 25 Big Sky games in a row and 13 league road games in a row. And in the process, the Eagle victory opened the door for Montana State and Idaho State to share the conference title with the Grizzlies.

Here are the eight matchups in the last 14 seasons when both squads have entered the game nationally ranked:
2009 - #3 Montana 41, #21 Eastern Washington 34 (in Missoula, Mont.)
2008 - #12 Montana 19, #23 Eastern Washington 3 (in Cheney, Wash.)
2005 - #12 Eastern Washington 34, #2 Montana 20 (in Missoula, Mont.)
2004 - #5 Montana 31, #23 Eastern Washington 28 (in Cheney, Wash.)
2001 - #3 Montana 29, #15 Eastern Washington 26 (2 overtimes in Missoula, Mont.)
2000 - #9 Montana 41, #18 Eastern Washington 31 (in Spokane, Wash.)
1997 - #17 Eastern Washington 36, #2 Montana 35 (in Missoula, Mont.)
1996 - #1 Montana 34, #20 Eastern Washington 30 (in Cheney, Wash.)

 

Eagles to Play Cougars in Football in 2012; Huskies in 2011: The Eastern Washington University versus Washington State University football rivalry is separated less by miles than by years.

The Eagles are scheduled to make the short  90-mile trek to Pullman, Wash., on Sept. 8, 2012, to face Washington State University in the first varsity meeting between the two schools in more than 100 years. Eastern lost to the Cougars in 1907 (46-0) and 1908 (73-0), and were 8-10-1 from 1921-46 against WSU’s junior varsity or freshman teams.

Washington State is coached by Paul Wulff, who was 53-40 with three NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Playoff berths as Eastern’s head coach for eight seasons (2000-2007). He spent a total of 15 seasons at EWU as a coach, and several members of his staff are former Eagle coaches.

“We cannot thank (WSU director of athletics) Jim Sterk, (senior associate director of athletics) John Johnson, coach Wulff and (coordinator of football operations) Shawn Deeds for making this possible,” said Eastern athletic director Bill Chaves in January 2010. “It has been over 100 years since these two schools have played football against each other and I know that our fan base and college community will look forward to this opportunity.”

Eastern has never played Washington, but that will change on Sept. 3, 2011, when the Eagles play the Huskies in Seattle. That game was announced on Oct. 6, 2009.

Chaves also said the Eagles are scheduled to play at Idaho -- also located about 90 miles from EWU’s campus -- in Moscow, Idaho, on Sept. 1, 2012.

Eastern was a member of the National Association for Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) for most of its history before becoming a member of FCS in 1984. But despite playing 25 games against NCAA Football Bowl Division members since 1983 -- including four against the Pacific 10 Conference -- the Eagles have not played Washington State or Washington during that time span.

The last time Eastern played Idaho was in 2003 when Eastern won 8-5 in the Kibbie Dome. Eastern is 5-15 all-time against its former Big Sky Conference rival, and 2-3 since the Vandals moved to FBS in 1996.

2011 EWU Tentative Schedule
9/3 - at Washington
9/10 - Open
9/17 - at Montana
9/24 - Montana State
10/1 - Weber State
10/8 - at Northern Arizona
10/15 - Northern Colorado
10/22 - at Sacramento State
10/29 - Portland State
11/5 - at Idaho State
11/12 - at Cal Poly
11/19 - Open

2012 Schedule
9/1 - at Idaho
9/8 - at Washington State
9/15 - Idaho State
9/22 - Sacramento State
9/29 - at Portland State
10/6 - Montana
10/13 - at Montana State
10/20 - at Northern Colorado
10/27 - Northern Arizona
11/3 - Cal Poly
11/10 - at Weber State
11/17 - Open

 



Eagles in the Playoffs: Eastern’s made its seventh appearance in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs in 2009 when the 13th-ranked Eagles lost at No. 12 Stephen F. Austin 44-33 in the first round. It was also the fourth berth in a six-year span as EWU’s appearances in 2004 and 2005 were the first time the Eagles had ever made back-to-back appearances. Eastern has now advanced past the first round four times (1985, 1997, 2004, 2007) and has a 5-7 record in six playoff appearances.

In 2007, the Eagles handed second-seeded and No. 3 ranked McNeese State its first loss of the year in a 44-15 first-round victory. Eastern then lost in the quarterfinals at two-time defending champion Appalachian State. In 2004, Eastern defeated No. 1 ranked and top-seeded Southern Illinois 35-31 in the first round and then lost 35-34 to Sam Houston State in the quarterfinal round in EWU’s first-ever playoff game at Woodward Field in Cheney, Wash. In both 2004 and 2007, Eastern entered the playoffs ranked 14th nationally.

Until 2004, Eastern hadn’t appeared in the FCS playoffs since 1997 when the Eagles advanced to the semifinals where it lost to Youngstown State 25-14 at Albi Stadium in Spokane, Wash. Eastern played two early-round games at Albi, defeating Northwestern State 40-10 and Western Kentucky 38-21.

Eastern also participated in the playoffs in 1985 (won at Idaho 42-38 and lost at Northern Iowa 17-14) and 1992 (lost at Northern Iowa 17-14). The school’s only other postseason experience came in 1967 when Eastern advanced to the NAIA Championship game where it lost to Fairmont State 28-21.

Here is a complete list of EWU’s playoff games:
2009 - at Stephen F. Austin - L, 33-44 (First Round)
2007 - at Appalachian State - L, 35-38 (Quarterfinals)
2007 - at McNeese State - W, 44-15 (First Round)
2005 - at Northern Iowa - L, 38-41 (First Round)
2004 - Sam Houston State - L, 34-35 (Quarterfinals/Cheney)
2004 - at Southern Illinois - W, 35-31 (First Round)
1997 - Youngstown State - L, 14-25 (Semifinals/Spokane)
1997 - Western Kentucky - W, 38-21 (Quarterfinals/Spokane)
1997 - Northwestern State - W, 40-10 (First Round/Spokane)
1992 - at Northern Iowa - L, 14-17 (First Round)
1985 - at Northern Iowa - L, 14-17 (Quarterfinals)
1985 - at Idaho - W, 42-38 (First Round)

 

 

 

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