First-place Eastern hosts last-place Idaho State with a playoff berth all but wrapped up, but Eagles will be wary of Bengals for good reason
Eastern Washington Univ. "Eagles"
Idaho State University "Bengals"
Saturday, November 20 • 1:05 p.m. Pacific
Roos Field (8,600/Sprinturf) • Cheney, Wash.
EWU Coach: Beau Baldwin (Central Washington '96)
School Record: 22-11/17-6 Big Sky (3rd Season)
Career Record: 32-14 (4th Season -- was 10-3 at CWU in 2007, 6-5 at EWU in 2008, 8-4 at EWU in 2009)
2010: 8-2/6-1 Big Sky Conference
Last Game: EWU 31, Southern Utah 24 (Nov. 13 in Cheney, Wash.)
2009: 8-4/6-2 Big Sky Conference
TV: Televised in the Spokane area and regionally by SWX TV
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
Watch Parties: All road games will be available to watch at the Q Sports Bar and Restaurant at Northern Quest Resort & Casino.
So much gained, yet so much to still play for.
Owning its highest ranking in school history, the third-ranked Eastern Washington University football team can wrap-up at least a share of the Big Sky Conference title when the Eagles take on Idaho State Saturday (Nov. 20) at Roos Field in Cheney, Wash. Kickoff at the "Inferno" is 1:05 p.m. Pacific time as Eastern's 14 seniors will be honored in pre-game ceremonies.
Saturday's game will be televised regionally by SWX, and the radio broadcast of the game may be heard on 700-AM ESPN "The Ticket" and via the web at www.espnnorthwest.com. The game may also be viewed at www.bigskytv.org.
Coming off a 31-24 non-conference victory over Southern Utah on Nov. 13, the Eagles are a win away from the school's fifth Big Sky title, having also won in 1992, 1997, 2004, 2005. Currently, Eastern and Montana State are both 6-1 in the Big Sky standings, with both owning 8-2 records overall. The Bobcats travel to Missoula to play Montana on Nov. 20, and the Grizzlies are currently 5-2 in the league and 7-3 overall.
With No. 1 William and Mary and No. 4 Wofford losing last Saturday, the Eagles jumped to third this week in the Sports Network/Fathead.com top 25 NCAA Football Championship Subdivision poll. This year's squad has surpassed the 1997 team -- which was sixth to end the regular season and fourth after the FCS Playoffs -- for the school's highest ranking ever.
"We have control of our own destiny in terms of a share of the Big Sky title, and that's a big deal," said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin.
Last week's victory has all but assured the Eagles of a spot in the expanded 20-team FCS Playoffs that begin on Nov. 27. Now, a win over ISU could garner one of the five seeds given to teams that guarantee them a first-round bye and to host games against un-seeded or lower-seeded teams.
"We're excited about the win, but we'll find things in all three facets that we have to improve on," said Baldwin after his team scored the winning points against SUU with 3:39 to play. "But I love trying to make improvements off wins."
Idaho State is winless in seven league games thus far, and has lost nine-straight games after defeating Montana-Western 32-3 to open the year. However, the Bengals lost in overtime to Montana State 23-20 on Oct. 30, and last year ended the season with a 41-34 victory over Portland State to snap a 10-game losing streak and avoid a winless campaign. Also, a week before that win the Bengals nearly beat second-ranked and undefeated Montana as the Grizzlies needed a partially-blocked field goal on the final play to prevail 12-10.
And if you go back to 1998, you'll find a Bengals team that spoiled the Big Sky Conference title hopes of Cal State Northridge with a monumental 32-29 win. All the Matadors needed was a win over 1-6 ISU (2-8 overall) to wrap-up the outright league title and automatic berth in the FCS Playoffs. Instead, Idaho State ended CSUN's season.
"We can't be fooled by Idaho State's record," explained Baldwin, "because they went to overtime against Montana State a couple of weeks ago, and last year nearly beat a Montana team that went all the way to the national championship game. They had nearly the same kind of year as they are having now. We are in for a tough game against a tough opponent regardless of who it is."
With six-straight victories, the Eagles have the fifth-longest winning streak in FCS and are one of just seven teams with a current streak of six or more. Eastern has out-scored its last six opponents 200-131.
But Eastern hasn't overwhelmed opponents this season. Seven of Eastern's eight wins this year have come by an average of just under seven points per game, including five decided by seven points or less. Of those seven games, the Eagles have trailed or been tied in the fourth quarter of four of them, in one they trailed in the third quarter and in the other two they were scoreless in the final stanza.
"We knew we had a tough schedule ahead of us and lost some key players from last year," Baldwin added. "But we found a way to come together, keep improving and keep responding whether good or bad. When bad things have happened our players have done a good job of flushing that and moving on to the next week. I'm happy with how the players have stepped up and responded, and have taken each week as its own."
In last week's game, Eastern was out-gained in total offense 484-366, and was shredded for 434 passing yards. But Eastern survived to win thanks to a pair of scoring plays of at least 62 yards, two huge touchdown catches by Brandon Kaufman, two interceptions in the last six minutes by Jesse Hoffman and a 4-1 advantage in the turnover department.
"Everybody's attention was on the Southern Utah game," said Baldwin. "It wasn't a case where we weren't mentally there. We were energetic and enthused, but we just ran into a really good football team, and for a lot of the game they outplayed us. Next week we have to be ready -- absolutely ready."
Bengals Have Had Monumental Upset Before: Lest anybody thinks an Eastern victory this week over Idaho State is a foregone conclusion, 12 years ago the Bengals had the ultimate upset victory. In 1998, Cal State Northridge was tied with Montana at 5-2 heading into the final weekend of the season, including a 21-7 victory over the Grizzlies earlier in the year. All the 7-3 Matadors needed to do to wrap-up the regular season Big Sky title and automatic berth in the playoffs was to defeat last place Idaho State (1-6, 2-8). Cal State Northridge lost to ISU 32-29 and only Montana represented the league in the playoffs.
The Playoff Picture: This year's field for the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs will include 20 teams for the first time. The Northeast and Big South Conferences will both send their regular-season champions to the postseason for the first time. Those two leagues join the Big Sky, Colonial, Southern, Southland, Patriot, Ohio Valley, MEAC, and Missouri Valley as leagues with automatic bids to the playoffs. Two conferences choose not to participate in the football championship, the Ivy League and the Southwestern Athletic Conference.
The other 10 bids will go to at-large teams. Eight teams will play first-round games on Saturday, Nov. 27. Twelve teams will receive first-round byes, and play in the second round on Saturday, Dec. 4. The quarterfinals are Saturday, Dec. 11, with the semifinals the following week. Five teams are seeded, meaning they will play home games unless playing a higher-seeded team or if they did not meet the NCAA's minimum guarantee to host.
Eastern, if it wins its last game, has an excellent shot at earning a top five seed, or at least getting a first-round bye. A factor will be whether or not Montana State wins the league's automatic berth (thanks to a 30-7 victory over EWU earlier this season, MSU has the upper hand). The pairings are announced Nov. 21 at 7 a.m. Pacific time on ESPNU (DirecTV channel 208 and Dish Network channel 141).
Frisco, Texas, is the new host city for the 2010 NCAA Division I Football Championship game, which will played at Pizza Hut Park on Jan. 7, 2011. The 23,500-seat multi-purpose stadium will be the host site for the championship game for the next three years.
Baldwin to Show Video Prior to Coaches Show: Eastern Washington University football fans are invited to view weekly video and hear commentary from Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin Mondays at 5:30 p.m. at Northern Quest Resort and Casino near the Spokane airport. The sessions, which include giveaways and other special guests, take place each Monday at 5:30 p.m. in the former broadcast room adjacent to the Q Sports Bar and Restaurant. Baldwin will show video from the previous game and provide commentary prior to his appearance on the Eagle Coaches Show at 6 p.m., live from the "Q" at Northern Quest. Both events will take place in the former broadcast room adjacent to the Q Sports Bar and Restaurant. Fans will be able to order food and beverages and listen to the show from that location, as well as watch Monday Night Football and other sporting events. The show is aired on 700-AM ESPN "The Ticket" and via the internet at www.espnnorthwest.com. For more information on the show and directions to Northern Quest, go to: http://goeags.com/genrel/releases/10atOct15
PDF Link to Fact Book: The complete version of the 2010 EWU football fact book may be found at:
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:
November 13, 2010 - No. 5 Eastern Makes Plays Late - Again - to Defeat Southern Utah 31-24
November 12, 2010 - Q and A: Football Player Matt Martin
November 11, 2010 - Seniors Honored as October Scholar-Athletes of the Month
November 4, 2010 - Minnerly, Sherritt Selected District VIII All-Academic
November 1, 2010 - Eagles Leap to No. 6 in Rankings as Jones Earns Honors
October 30, 2010 - Jones Propels No. 8 Eagles to 50-17 Win Over Vikings
October 25, 2010 - Matt Johnson Big Sky Player of the Week Again
October 23, 2010 - No. 8 Eagles Squeak Out a 28-24 Win Over Sac State
October 18, 2010 - Thanks to Key Plays, Sherritt Wins POW Honor Again
October 16, 2010 - No. 12 Eagles Score Twice in the Last 3:08 to Beat Bears 35-28
October 11, 2010 - J.C. Sherritt Earns National & Big Sky Player of the Week Accolades
October 9, 2010 - No. 13 Eagles Survive for 21-14 Victory Over No. 26 Lumberjacks
October 7, 2010 - Q and A: Standout Football Player J.C. Sherritt
October 2, 2010 - No. 16 Eastern Surge Past Wildcats 35-24
September 25, 2010 - No. 17 Bobcats Romp Past No. 9 Eagles 30-7
September 20, 2010 - Taiwan Jones Wins National Accolades as Eagles Climb to No. 9
September 18, 2010 - Late Scores Lift No. 18 Eagles Past No. 6 Grizzlies 36-27
September 16, 2010 - Q&A: Football Player Zach Johnson
September 15, 2010 - Pair of Events Help Inaugurate Red Turf
September 15, 2010 - Eagles Schedule Another Game Versus UW for 2014
September 13, 2010 - Red Turf Inaugurated as No. 18 Eastern hosts No. 6 Montana
September 11, 2010 - No. 17 Eagles Gear-Up for Red Turf Debut With 35-32 Victory
September 9, 2010 - Q and A: Football Coach Zak Hill
September 6, 2010 - Payton Award Candidate Wins First Award of 2010 Season
September 2, 2010 - Taiwan Jones Has Big Day, But Eastern Falls to Wolf Pack 49-24
September 1, 2010 - Eagles-Grizzlies Reserved Tickets Sell Out in 23 Minutes
August 27, 2010 - Eagles Open 2010 Season at Powerful Nevada
August 27, 2010 - Red Turf Gets Overwhelming Approval from Eagle Players
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 3, 2010 - Red Sprinturf Arrives; Installation Probably Starts Wednesday
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 POW
July 13, 2010 - Taiwan Jones on Walter Payton Watch List
June 28, 2010 - Eastern Games to Air on 700 ESPN The Ticket
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
Seniors Honored Before ISU Game: A total of 14 seniors, including seven four-year letter winners, will be honored in pre-game ceremonies before the Idaho State game on Nov. 20. In the last four seasons, Eastern has gone 30-15 with a 23-8 record in Big Sky Conference games in that span. Of the seven four-year letter winners, Ashton Gant, J.C. Sherritt, Dante Calcote, Will Edge, Tyler Jolley and Matt Martin all redshirted the 2006 season after graduating from high school earlier that year. Only Jesse Hoffman, who redshirted in 2007, played as a true freshman in 2006 when Eastern finished 3-8 overall and 3-5 in the league. Eastern has had winning seasons ever since. Seven of the seniors have been full-time starters in the 2010 season. Here is a complete list of the seniors being honored this week and the number of letters each has won (including this season; #indicates 2010 starter):
2 - #Ashton Gant - WR - 5-10 - 180 - Sr. - 4L* - Pullman, Wash. (Pullman HS '06)
4 - #J.C. Sherritt - LB - 5-10 - 220 - Sr. - 4L* - Pullman, Wash. (Pullman HS '06)
18 - Jason Harris - TE - 6-1 - 215 - Sr. - 2L* - Sammamish, Wash. (Skyline HS '06)
21 - #Jesse Hoffman - DB - 6-2 - 210 - Sr. - 4L* - Seattle, Wash. (Shorecrest HS '06)
23 - Ethen Robinson - DB - 5-10 - 200 - Sr. - 1L* - Spokane, Wash. (Lewis & Clark HS '06)
28 - #Dante Calcote - DB - 5-8 - 160 - Sr. - 4L* - Seattle, Wash. (Renton HS '06)
36 - Will Edge - DB - 6-0 - 180 - Sr. - 4L* - Tacoma, Wash. (Mount Tahoma HS '06)
45 - Cameron Zuber - P - 6-0 - 180 - Sr. - 2L* - Chehalis, Wash. (W.F. West HS '06)
49 - #Tyler Jolley - DL - 6-3 - 285 - Sr. - 4L* - Nine Mile Falls, Wash. (East Valley HS '06)
58 - Clint Moquist - OL - 6-3 - 280 - Sr. - 2L* - Spokane, Wash. (University HS '06)
63 - Levi Reynolds - DL - 6-3 - 295 - Sr. - SQ* - Tacoma, Wash. (Foss HS '06)
72 - #Nikolai Myers - OL - 6-4 - 295 - Sr. - 3L* - Seattle, Wash. (Ingraham HS '06)
79 - Brice Leahy - OL - 6-7 - 295 - Sr. - 3L* - Gig Harbor, Wash. (Gig Harbor HS '06)
82 - #Matt Martin - TE - 6-2 - 240 - Sr. - 4L* - La Crosse, Wash. (La Crosse-Washtucna HS '06)
Beau Baldwin Faces Mentor For Third Time: Former EWU assistant coaches and Central Washington University head coaches Beau Baldwin and John Zamberlin square off this week for the third-straight season. Zamberlin was Baldwin's mentor for six years at Central, and Baldwin's Eagles won the first meeting Sept. 27, 2008, at EWU by a 45-31 score, and 38-3 last season in Pocatello.
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 assistant Brian Strandley.
Eagles in the Playoff: Eastern 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. The only other seven teams to have qualified four of the last six years are Appalachian State (2005-06-07-08-09), Eastern Illinois (2005-06-07-09), James Madison (2004-06-07-08), Montana (2004-05-06-07-08-09), New Hampshire (2004-05-06-07-08-09), Richmond (2005-07-08-09) and Southern Illinois (2004-05-06-07-08-09).
Eastern has now advanced past the first round four times (1985, 1997, 2004, 2007) and has a 5-7 record in seven playoff appearances (1985, 1992, 1997, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2009). Only 21 teams have made more playoff appearances than the Eagles.
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)
Ranking and Record Has 1997 Feel: The Eagles moved up two spots to third in the Sports Network/Fathead.com top 25 NCAA Football Championship Subdivision poll, eclipsing the previous highest rankings ever by Eastern set in 1997 when that team was sixth in the regular season and finished fourth overall.
Eastern's 1997 team finished the regular season 10-1 and ranked a best-ever sixth, then received a No. 3 seed into the playoffs. The lone loss in the regular season for EWU was 17-7 at Montana State, the same school that defeated Eastern 30-7 earlier this season in Bozeman.
The 1997 team went on to win two playoff games before falling to eventual champion Youngstown State 25-14 in the semifinals. That EWU squad, coached by Mike Kramer and led by Big Sky Conference Players of the Year Harry Leons (offense) and Chris Scott (defense), finished the season 12-2 and ranked fourth in the final poll following the playoffs.
The Sagarin computer rankings have illustrated the league's strength thus far, with the Big Sky the top-rated FCS conference in the country for two weeks earlier this season (the Colonial is now first followed by the Big Sky). Nevada, a team Eastern lost to 49-24 on Sept. 2, is 22nd nationally among all FCS and FBS schools, while Eastern is 77th to rank fifth among all FCS schools. Other 2010 Eagle opponents and their FCS/overall rankings include Sacramento State (8th/84th), MSU (ninth/90th), Northern Arizona (18th/103rd), Montana (19th/105th), Weber State (23rd/115th), Southern Utah (28th/128th), Portland State (51st/160th), Northern Colorado (60th/175th) and Idaho State (86th/205th).
Eastern's 8-2 record overall thus far is its best start since winning the Big Sky Conference title in 1997 as the Eagles were the last team other than Montana to win the league title outright. Eastern's 6-1 league mark is its best seven-game start since 2004. Eastern finished the 1997 regular season 10-1 overall and 7-1 in the league before advancing to the semifinals of the FCS Playoffs. Eastern was 6-1 in the league and 8-3 in the regular season in 2004 when EWU advanced to the quarterfinals of the playoffs.
EWU in Top Three in FCS in Interceptions & Turnovers Forced as EWU 11-0 Last Two Years When It Wins Turnover Battle: Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin has continually preached the importance of turnover margin, and the Eastern defense has apparently taken it to heart.
The Eagles rank third nationally in interceptions (total of 18, ranking only behind the 19 of Alabama State and Southeast Missouri State) and is third in turnovers gained (29). Eastern is now 22nd nationally in turnover margin (.60 less turnovers per game than their opponents) after ranking sixth a year ago (1.25 less). However, the Eagles are 91st out of 117 FCS schools this season in turnovers lost (23).
In the last two years, Eastern is 11-0 when it when it has fewer turnovers than its opponent. This year, the Eagles are 5-0 (7-0 including ties in turnovers with Sacramento State and Portland State) after going 6-0 a year ago when it won the turnover battle. In those 11 games, Eastern has had a 41-13 advantage in turnovers (19-9 this season and 22-4 last year).
Wacky World of the Big Sky: Even though you couldn't tell in the league standings, parity rules supreme in the Big Sky Conference this season. Games on Oct. 23 were the main indications, as Eastern's 28-24 victory over Sacramento State was the "rout" of the week. The other three games were decided by two (Montana State over Northern Colorado 37-35) or three points (Montana over Northern Arizona 24-21 and Weber State over Portland State 44-41).
"Of course, everybody wants to win going away or easily," commented Baldwin. "But the reality is that there are a lot of great teams in our league and there is a lot of fight in them. Whether you are up or you are down, history has showed this year that it's going to be tight at the end. You just have to be ready for all situations that come and different flows in the game. Sometimes it isn't going to go your way, but you have to find a way to get it back in the fourth quarter. Our team has done a good job with that."
Eastern's last five games have been strange to say the least. Opponents have had 140 more plays than the Eagles, an average difference of 28 plays per game. Additionally, opponents have had a 171:05 to 128:55 advantage in time of possession -- a difference of nearly 12 minutes per game (24:03 to 35:57)
However, Eastern has averaged 6.8 yards per play (1,947 total yards) compared to just 4.7 for opponents (2,011 yards). In rushing, the Eagles have averaged 5.5 per carry (834 yards) compared to just 2.5 for opponents (512 yards).
A season-high five turnovers led to 30 less plays against Northern Arizona (87 to 57) on Oct. 9, but EWU prevailed 21-14 behind a huge defensive effort in the fourth quarter. The Eagles had a nearly 10-minute deficit in time of possession, but EWU stopped NAU three times on downs in its final three possessions of the game. Those drives ended at the Eastern 36, 3 and 38 yard lines, with 17:45, 11:33 and 3:37 left in the game. The Lumberjacks averaged just 3.6 yards per play, including only 1.1 rushing.
On Oct. 16 in a 35-28 victory over Northern Colorado, the Eagles were out-played for the better part of 52 minutes. Eastern used a late 80-yard touchdown drive and a forced fumble on a sack that led to a TD with 41 seconds to play to overcome a seven-point deficit. With its offense coming up empty in the third quarter and a touchdown and fumble lost on two of its kickoff returns, Eastern had 20 less plays versus Northern Colorado (76 to 56) and a nearly 14 minute deficit in time of possession. The Bears averaged just 4.8 yards per play, including only 2.9 rushing.
In Eastern's 28-24 triumph over Sacramento State on Oct. 23, Eastern's defense was on the field for 82 plays compared to 56 plays for EWU's offense, and had a nearly 12 minute deficit in time of possession. But Eastern's defense recorded three sacks, two interceptions and broke-up nine passes. Eastern led 21-0 early in the second quarter, but was out-scored 24-0 to fall behind mid-way through the fourth quarter. However, a key defensive stop was highlighted by a third down sack by sophomore defensive end Paul Ena, and that led to EWU's game-winning 35-yard scoring drive that was capped by a Brandon Kaufman 6-yard touchdown catch from Bo Levi Mitchell with 33 seconds to play. The Hornets averaged just 5.2 yards per play, including only 3.5 rushing.
Even a 50-17 victory over Portland State was wacky. Eastern scored 50 points, but had the ball for only 22:01 and had only 53 total plays compared to 99 versus PSU. The Eagles averaged 9.9 yards per play with scoring plays of 71, 65 and 70 yards, while PSU averaged only 4.6 yards per play.
In last week's non-conference game against Southern Utah, Eastern was out-gained in total offense 484-366 and had 17 fewer plays and a nine minute deficit in time of possession. At one time, the plays difference was 66-33. But Eastern survived to win thanks to a pair of scoring plays of at least 62 yards, two huge touchdown catches by Brandon Kaufman, two interceptions in the last six minutes by Jesse Hoffman and a 4-1 advantage in the turnover department.
Eastern 4-0 at the "Inferno": Now 4-0 at home this season, the Eagles are trying to become the first Eastern team to go undefeated at Roos Field (formerly Woodward Field) since 1999 when EWU was 4-0. But it hasn't been easy -- in one game the Eagles trailed in the fourth quarter (Sacramento State), in two they were tied in the final stanza (Montana and Southern Utah) and in the other game the Eagles were scoreless in the fourth (Northern Arizona)
Other years Eastern has been unbeaten at its current stadium site in Cheney came in 1997 (6-0), 1979 (5-0), 1974 (3-0) and 1967 (4-0). The 1985 team was 4-0 and the 1984 was 5-0 when all of EWU's home games were played at Albi Stadium in Spokane. In 1982, Eastern was 5-0 at home -- 3-0 in Cheney and 2-0 in Spokane. In 1966, the year before Roos Field opened for the first time, Eastern was 4-0-1 at Albi.
Eastern had a successful debut on its new red synthetic Sprinturf surface Sept. 18 in Cheney, Wash., defeating rival Montana 36-27 in the first game at Roos Field (formerly Woodward Field). Eastern scored the go-ahead points with four seconds left on a 31-yard field goal by Mike Jarrett, then added a fumble return for a touchdown on the final play to create bedlam after a record crowd of 11,702 attended the game against the 12-time defending league champions.
Eastern followed that with a 21-14 victory over Northern Arizona three weeks later on Oct. 9, needing a huge defensive effort in the fourth quarter to hold-off the Lumberjacks. The Eagles had five turnovers in the game and NAU had 30 more offensive plays and a 10-minute edge in time of possession, but EWU stopped NAU three times on downs in its final three possessions of the game. Those drives ended at the Eastern 36, 3 and 38 yard lines, with 17:45, 11:33 and 3:37 left in the game.
The third victory was just as suspenseful, as Eastern led 21-0 early in the second quarter against Sacramento State on Oct. 23, but was out-scored 24-0 to fall behind mid-way through the fourth quarter. But the Eagles responded with a key defensive stop that was highlighted by a third down sack by sophomore defensive end Paul Ena followed by a 35-yard scoring drive that was capped by a Brandon Kaufman 6-yard touchdown catch from Bo Levi Mitchell with 33 seconds to play.
The fourth win was also a great escape, this time by a 31-24 score over Southern Utah on Nov. 13. Eastern was out-gained in total offense 484-366, and was shredded for 434 passing yards. But Eastern survived to win thanks to a pair of scoring plays of at least 62 yards, two huge touchdown catches by Brandon Kaufman, two interceptions in the last six minutes by Jesse Hoffman and a 4-1 advantage in the turnover department. Kaufman scored the winning points with 3:39 to play.
"It's only the beginning, but we're very happy to have it," said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin of its home-field advantage. "It's something that our players have really grabbed onto as their own. It's their home and they take pride in it."
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 were 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 when we get the chance to practice it on it all week heading into a game on turf."
Eastern Debuts: Besides quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell, just four other players made their starting debuts as Eagles in Eastern's opener against Nevada. The three players on offense were freshman redshirts Steven Forgette at left guard and Brandon Murphy at right tackle, as well as junior running back Darriell Beaumonte. On defense, sophomore Jeff Minnerly made his starting debut as a free safety after playing the last two seasons as a quarterback.
Five more players made starting debuts in Eastern's next game against Central Washington on Sept. 11 -- freshman Anthony Larry at defensive end, sophomore Will Post at right tackle, sophomore Artise Gauldin at cornerback, freshman redshirt Zack Gehring at tight end and Nick Gauthier at quarterback. Gauldin had a memorable starting debut for the Eagles with a sack, a forced fumble and nine total tackles. His forced fumble came following an Eastern punt as he timed his hit on the punt returner perfectly, and the fumble was recovered by EWU snapper Jake Potter at the CWU 12-yard line and led to an Eagle touchdown.
The lone starting debut in the Montana game was by sophomore Josh Antonson at fullback. Normally an offensive lineman, Antonson filled in for injured senior tight end/fullback Jason Harris (concussion). There were no new starters against Montana State, but David Gaylord made the first start of his career against Weber State at defensive end. Paul Ena also started at the other defensive end -- his starting debut at that position after starting a pair of games at middle linebacker to end the 2009 season.
True freshman Ryan Seto started as EWU's second tight end against Northern Arizona on Oct. 9. He later had his first career touchdown, a 9-yard catch in the third quarter that turned out to be EWU's final points in the 21-14 win.
Jerry Ceja, a sophomore from Aurora, Colo., made the first start of his career at Northern Colorado on Oct. 16. He had the team's defensive play of the game, forcing a fumble on a sack late in the game that led to EWU's winning touchdown with 41 seconds to play. Earlier in the season, he had a forced fumble on a sack on the final play of the game that was returned for a score and secured EWU's 36-27 victory over the Grizzlies.
Most recently, senior walk-on Clint Moquist started at right guard for the Eagles as an injury replacement against Sacramento State on Oct. 23. The 2006 graduate of University High School in Spokane, Wash., was selected as the team's offensive player of the game for his efforts. And against Southern Utah on Nov. 13, freshman redshirt Allen Brown started at safety and had five tackles.
Several redshirt freshmen made their first EWU game appearances at Nevada. Most true freshman are redshirting, but running back Mario Brown is playing this season and had four rushes for 18 yards and a kickoff return for 20 yards in his debut versus Nevada. In two fall scrimmages, he rushed for 86 yards on 21 carries. The only other true freshman currently playing is Seto.
A total of 24 players with starting experience (total of 196 starts) returned for the 2010 season. Here are the current number of career starts by Eastern players on the 2010 roster:
Defense (222 starts by 21 players): Matt Johnson 33, J.C. Sherritt 30, Tyler Jolley 26, Renard Williams 24, Zach Johnson 21, Tyler Washburn 14, Evan Cook 13, Dante Calcote 13, Jesse Hoffman 11, Jeff Minnerly 9, David Miles 8, Paul Ena 8, Jerry Ceja 3, David Gaylord 2, Anthony Larry 2, Allen Brown 1, Artise Gauldin 1, Will Edge 1, Rusty Haehl 1, Grant Williams 1 (includes one start on offense in 2009).
Offense (194 starts by 20 players): Chris Powers 22, Nikolai Myers 21, Gabriel Jackson 21, Nicholas Edwards 21, Taiwan Jones 20 (includes four on defense in 2008), Matt Martin 15, Brandon Kaufman 15, Brice Leahy 11, Steven Forgette 10, Bo Levi Mitchell 9, Will Post 9, Ashton Gant 6, Zack Gehring 4, Darriell Beaumonte 3, Tyler Hart 2, Clint Moquist 1, Brandon Murphy 1, Nick Gauthier 1, Josh Antonson 1, Ryan Seto 1.
Injury Report: Nose tackle Tyler Jolley (concussion) and tight end Ryan Seto (shoulder) missed the Portland State game, and the bye week was a big help in resting those players -- and others for EWU's stretch run. Seto has missed the last four games after suffering his injury against Northern Arizona on Oct. 9 in the first start of his career.
A pair of Eagles missed Eastern's game against Sacramento State after suffering injuries versus Northern Colorado -- starting guard Nikolai Myers (groin/hamstring) and defensive lineman Evan Cook (ankle). Myers returned to start against Portland State, but Cook is lost for the season. That will enable him to have shoulder surgery right away after previously planning to delay that until the end of the year.
Backup offensive tackle Caleb Worthington (knee) missed games against Northern Colorado and Sacramento State after suffering his injury against Northern Arizona on Oct. 9. Prior to that, the 6-foot-7, 295-pound freshman redshirt was seeing significant action behind starter Gabriel Jackson at left tackle in recent games while Jackson continues to nurse an ailing neck.
Running back Taiwan Jones had a difficult time staying healthy early in the season, and Eastern is hoping the old Timex adage proves to be true -- "it takes a licking, but keeps on ticking." Jones had 24 total touches against Northern Colorado on Oct. 16 -- including 21 rushes for 168 yards and three touchdowns -- after suffering back and hip spasms late in EWU's win over Northern Arizona on Oct. 9. He was held out of EWU's game at Weber State because of pain from a pelvic contusion suffered in Eastern's 30-7 loss against Montana State on Sept. 25. After just one touch in the second half on a rushing attempt midway through the third quarter, he finally departed the MSU game for good. Two games earlier, Jones sat out the final 11:39 of the game versus CWU after getting tackled during a 65-yard drive that ended when EWU came up empty on a fake field goal attempt. What was originally thought to be a minor concussion was actually dehydration from the game and being sick earlier in the day.
Freshman defensive end Anthony Larry, who made his first career start against Central Washington but suffered a dislocated patella early in the game, missed three games. He was expected to be back for the Weber State game, but his knee continued to build up fluid and needed to be drained. He returned to play limited snaps against Northern Arizona.
A trio of safeties -- all returning letter winners -- missed Eastern's first five games, including Billy Lechtenburg (high ankle sprain), Ethen Robinson (knee) and Domonic Shepperd (knee). Shepperd returned to play against Northern Arizona on Oct. 9, while Lechtenburg, who played as a true freshman in 2009, will redshirt and Robinson isn't expected to return.
Reserve tight end and fullback Jason Harris suffered a concussion against Nevada is not expected to play the remainder of the season. Backup running back Chase King, whose knee injury in the preseason turned out to be an injured anterior cruciate ligament, is also expected to be lost for the season with probable surgery.
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.
Hoffman Big Sky Special Teams Players of the Week After Huge Game on Defense and Special Teams: A senior starting cornerback who joins Taiwan Jones as EWU's kickoff return threats, Jesse Hoffman has been selected as the Big Sky Conference co-Special Teams Player of the Week after his 82-yard kickoff return for a touchdown Nov. 13 versus Southern Utah.
Hoffman has returned a pair of kickoffs for scores this season and ranks second in FCS in average per kickoff return (32.17 to rank behind the 32.31 average of Larrone Moore from Delaware State). Hoffman's career average of 26.3 yards on 24 career returns now ranks fourth in school history.
Hoffman had an 82-yard kickoff return for a touchdown versus Southern Utah on Nov. 13 in the third quarter, but he saved the real fireworks for the fourth quarter with a pair of interceptions on the final two possessions of the day for the Thunderbirds. Hoffman's first interception came with 6:01 left in the game, followed by Eastern's game-winning drive. Hoffman's second pick came at the 2:58 mark, and Eastern's victory was sealed with a fake field goal attempt on fourth-and-four. Hoffman also had four passes broken up, giving him nine for the season. He added six total tackles and ranks fifth on the team with 46 stops.
Hoffman returned a kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown in EWU's 35-28 victory over Northern Colorado on Oct. 16. Hoffman also had six tackles (one for loss) and a pass broken up against the Bears. It equaled the 13th longest kickoff return in school history, and was the longest in just over 10 years. It was also the first for the Eagles since Taiwan Jones returned a kickoff 93 yards for a touchdown in Greeley two years ago on Nov. 8, 2008. Jones also had a kickoff return for a TD against Northern Colorado in 2009, but it was called back because of a penalty.
Hoffman, who rushed for 124 yards and a touchdown as a true freshman for EWU in a 34-0 win at Northern Colorado in 2006, is a 2006 graduate of Shorecrest High School in Seattle.
Kaufman Gathers In Another Game-Winner: Sophomore Brandon Kaufman is proving to be Eastern's go-to receiver, catching a team-leading 50 passes for 861 yards and 10 touchdowns thus far. He has caught touchdown passes in eight of nine games this season, including his last six with a pair of fourth-quarter game-winners.
He ranks 18th in FCS in receiving yards per game (86.1), is 45th in receptions per game (5.00) and his 10 touchdown catches are the seventh-most in FCS. Kaufman has had 100-yard receiving performances against Montana on Sept. 18 (five catches for 119 yards), Weber State on Oct. 2 (five catches for 138 yards), Northern Arizona on Oct. 9 (five catches for 117 yards) and Southern Utah on Nov. 13 (nine catches for 192 yards).
Against Southern Utah on Nov. 13, he caught a career-high nine passes for 129 yards with a long of 43, and had touchdown catches of 25 and 24 yards that were of the "how did he make that catch?" variety. His latter TD catch came with 3:39 left and provided the winning points in Eastern's 31-24 victory.
Among his three catches at Portland State on Oct. 30 was a 15-yard touchdown grab. He had just four catches for 34 yards against Sacramento State on Oct. 23, but he had a 17-yard touchdown to start the scoring and a game-winning 6-yard scoring grab with 33 seconds in the game. One game prior, he had a five-catch, 94-yard performance against Northern Colorado, which included a 4-yard touchdown pass with 3:08 left that knotted the score at 28. He is a 2009 graduate of Heritage High School in the Denver, Colo., area, just a short distance from the game played in Greeley. His family was at the game in force, reportedly purchasing 80 tickets for the game.
Honored for PSU Game, Payton Award Candidate Strikes Again Versus SUU: Junior running back Taiwan Jones scored on a 62-yard run on Eastern's first offensive play of the game, and finished with 158 yards in Eastern's 31-24 win over Southern Utah on Nov. 13. It was his fourth-straight game of 145 yards or more, and his sixth 100-yard performance in nine games this season.
The 62-yard run by Jones on EWU's first offensive play of the game was more than double the longest rush Southern Utah had allowed all season (27 yards). He now has 12 100-yard rushing performances in his 28-game career (21 as a running back). He has 1,236 yards this season to rank as the sixth-best performance in school history, just ahead of the 1,216 he had last season. He has recorded the 15th 1,000-yard rushing performance in school history this season, including 11 in the last 16 seasons (1995-2010).
He now has an average of 137.3 yards per game that ranks fourth in the NCAA Championship Subdivision. After leading the nation in all-purpose yards per game for several weeks early in the year, Jones is currently second with an average of 200.7 yards (rushing, receiving, returns) per game. He is also 12th in scoring (8.67 per game with 13 total touchdowns).
Jones, who averaged an impressive 7.5 yards per carry as a sophomore, was named to the initial 2010 Walter Payton Award Watch List this past summer by The Sports Network. And so far, he's lived up to that billing with a current average of 7.8 yards per rush to lead FCS (among the top 44 rushers averaging at least 75 yards per game), giving him a 7.6 average per rush in his career.
Jones is only the 12th Eagle to rush for over 2,000 yards in his career, and is currently eighth with 2,449. He also has a career average of 157.4 all-purpose yards per game to currently rank as the school record, 33 total touchdowns to rank third, his total of 4,406 all-purpose yards are second, his 1,080 kickoff return yards are sixth and he ranks fourth in points scored with 199.
He now has five plays in his career of at least 80 yards, 10 of 70 or more, 14 of at least 60, 18 of at least 50 and 33 of at least 32 yards. He had a school-record 96-yard touchdown run versus Idaho State in 2009. Ten times in his career he has eclipsed the 200-yard mark in all-purpose yards and has 12 rushing performances of at least 100 yards.
"He's just one of those players that can break it at any time, and that makes it tough on a defense," said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin. "He's a playmaker and you better know where he is on every single snap. And even then, he's hard to stop."
After rushing for 455 yards in his first three games, injuries limited him to 111 in the next two games he played (in addition to one game missed). However, he has rushed for 670 yards in his last four games alone (167.5 per game) with eight touchdowns.
"He went through a stretch where he didn't play a ton, but since that stretch of time he's found a way to get better and better," added Baldwin. "He's done a great job of taking care of his body and doing the right things to put him in this position. From the standpoint of how healthy he is right now, he's in a lot better position than where he was last year at this time."
Jones rushed for 196 of his 199 yards in the first half in EWU's easy 50-17 win at Portland State on Oct. 30. The Eagles led 28-10 at halftime as Jones had a 71-yard TD and then added a 65-yarder a few minutes later as he averaged 15.3 yards on 13 carries in the first half. Coupled with three receptions for 62 yards, he had 261 yards of all-purpose yards on just 17 touches (15.4 yards per touch). It was his 10th career performance of 200 or more yards. His 199 rushing yards was the second-best performance of his career, ranking only behind the 221 he had earlier this season against Montana. Besides earning Big Sky Conference Player of the Week accolades for the third time this season and fourth time in his career, Jones was also recognized as the FCS national running back of the week by College Football Performance Awards.
Jones rushed for 145 yards in Eastern's 28-24 win over Sacramento State on Oct. 23, including a 77-yard touchdown run in which he broke five tackles on his way to his 10th career play of at least 70 yards. After ailing for nearly a month with a painful pelvic contusion, Jones returned to form a week earlier in EWU's 35-28 victory over Northern Colorado on Oct. 16 by rushing for 168 yards and three touchdowns in the narrow win. He had nearly half of his yards on a 73-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. He had a 15-yard run followed by a 24-yard TD scamper on EWU's game-winning, two-play, 39-yard drive with 41 seconds left to play. He also added a 1-yard TD run in the second quarter. As an Eastern cornerback as a freshman in 2008, Jones returned a kickoff 93 yards for a touchdown versus Northern Colorado in Greeley.
Jones earned Big Sky Conference and national accolades for his career-high 221-yard rushing performance in Eastern's 36-27 victory over Montana Sept. 18 in the inaugural game on EWU's new red synthetic Sprinturf surface at Roos Field (formerly Woodward Field). Jones was honored nationally as one of five College Sporting News All-Stars for the week, and was also the FCS performer of the week at running back by College Football Performance Awards. In addition, he earned Big Sky Conference Offensive Player of the Week honors for the third time in his career and second time this season, having also won the award following EWU's game at Nevada on Sept. 2.
His total of 305 all-purpose yards against the Grizzlies (second-most in his career behind the 322 against Nevada) was his ninth career performance of at least 200 yards. His 27 carries were also a career high by nine as Eastern finished with 503 yards of total offense. Jones scored on a 72-yard run in the second quarter and also had a 45-yard pass reception. But perhaps the biggest run of the day for Jones was a 13-yard run during Eastern's final scoring drive, including a brilliant spin move that got him the extra yards needed for an important first down. It was on a third-and-10 play, and was just Eastern's second third down conversion of the day in 14 attempts -- including a string of nine-straight misses to start the game. Jones accounted for 35 of the 56 yards on that 12-play drive.
He added 235 yards and three touchdowns against Central Washington on Sept. 11. He finished the game with 14 rushes for 89 yards and two touchdowns, caught four passes for 63 yards (including a 46-yard score) and had 83 yards in returns.
En route to earning Big Sky Conference Offensive Player of the Week honors, Jones had a career-high 322 all-purpose yards (rushing, receiving and returns) in Eastern's season-opening 49-24 loss at Nevada on Sept. 2. His performance included an 82-yard touchdown reception and a non-scoring 74-yard run. Jones rushed 12 times for 145 yards, had another 92 yards on two receptions and 85 yards on four kickoff returns. His previous career high was 279 yards against Sacramento State on Sept. 26, 2009. Jones also received honorable mention nationally by College Football Performance Awards and was the team's offensive player of the week after the Nevada game.
"It's almost to a point where I'm not surprised, but he made a few more plays against Nevada that make you marvel at how he can make plays," praised Baldwin following the Nevada game. "Even when things aren't there he is able to make them. He has a toughness and grit to him -- he bangs it up in there so he's not just a fast guy. He's a special football player and obviously the big-play guy in our offense."
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.
His talent has been augmented by the addition of a synthetic turf surface at Roos Field. Jones averaged 6.1 yards per carry at home on the grass surface of Woodward Field in 2008, 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.
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.
There were 20 players on the initial Watch List, including five from the Big Sky Conference. 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.
Buck Buchanan Candidate 27 Tackles From Breaking EWU Record for Career Tackles: Buck Buchanan Award candidate J.C. Sherritt is second in school history in career tackles with a total of 373, and the senior strong-side inside linebacker needs just 27 more to break the school record of 399 held by Greg Belzer (1997-2000). Sherritt already holds school and league records with 170 tackles in the 2009 season and 24 tackles against Weber State on Oct. 10, 2009. He also has six career interceptions to go along with 10 passes broken up and a pair of sacks.
Sherritt is EWU's leading tackler thus far with 117 for the season, an average of 11.70 per game that ranks 10th in FCS. Last season, the 2006 graduate of Pullman, Wash., High School led FCS with an average of just over 14 per game.
He had 11 tackles in his last outing versus Southern Utah, but was coming off a 15-tackle effort in EWU's 50-17 win over Portland State on Oct. 30 to give him 11 performances in his career of at least 15 stops. He had 11 tackles and a half sack against Sacramento State on Oct. 23, and in the two games before that had nearly identical games that led to identical honors both weeks in being selected as a national Sporting News All-Star and the Big Sky Conference Defensive Player of the Week.
He had 14 tackles with an interception and sack in EWU's 35-28 win over Northern Colorado on Oct. 16. With the game knotted at 28, he had his sack on the ensuing Bear possession that kept UNC out of field goal range in a third-and-14 situation, which ended with a forced fumble that led to the go-ahead score for the Eagles. On UNC's final possession of the game and with the Bears at the EWU 43-yard line, Sherritt intercepted a pass at the Eastern 21 with eight seconds to play and alertly put his knee down to not risk a fumble.
A week earlier in EWU's 21-14 victory over Northern Arizona on Oct. 9, Sherritt had 16 tackles in the win over the Lumberjacks. He also had an interception, a sack and a quarterback hurry.
"He's already had a couple of key interceptions and he's gotten better in his pass defense," said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin. "When he needs to step up and make tackles he does it, and time after time he's tough to block. All the way back to last year he has been playing like a Buck Buchanan Award candidate. I think that sometimes when you are a little bit better as a whole on defense certain individual stats might go down a little bit. But that takes nothing away from how he is playing -- he's doing other things that sometimes don't get noticed even that much better."
Sherritt had an interception and 11 tackles to go over the 300-tackle mark in his career in Eastern's 35-14 victory over Weber State. His interception against the Wildcats was one of three the Eagles had that their offense turned into touchdowns. Sherritt returned his pick at the goal line 33 yards to help lead to a 67-yard drive and a 35-17 advantage. Interestingly, on the previous possession middle linebacker Tyler Washburn also had an interception on the goal line that he returned 32 yards to set-up a 68-yard drive.
Sherritt also had 11 tackles against Montana State, 12 in Eastern's 36-27 victory over sixth-ranked Montana, 11 and a pass broken up versus Central Washington and he had five tackles and broke-up two passes in Eastern's opener against Nevada on Sept. 2.
A year after finishing second in the voting, Sherritt was 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.
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 initial 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 revised twice, and 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.
Minnerly, Sherritt Selected District VIII All-Academic: Local products Jeff Minnerly and J.C. Sherritt have been selected to the ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District VIII squad as selected by members of the College Sports Information Directors Association (CoSIDA). Their names are now forwarded to the national ballot for Academic All-America honors.
Minnerly is a 2008 graduate of Ferris High School in Spokane where he was a 4.0 student, and is currently an accounting major at EWU with a 3.91 grade point average. The sophomore free safety will be selected to the Big Sky Conference All-Academic team for the second time in 2010.
Sherritt, a 2006 graduate of Pullman (Wash.) High School, was a consensus All-American on the field in 2009 and is a leading candidate for the Buck Buchanan Award given to the top defensive player in FCS. The senior linebacker is a secondary physical education/health and fitness major with a 3.46 GPA, and will be selected to the Big Sky All-Academic team for the fourth time this fall.
Eastern football players have now been honored 52 times since 1989 on the All-District VIII squad, and seven players have gone on to win nine Academic All-America honors. Last season, defensive end Jacob Kragt from Ritzville, Wash., earned first team Academic All-America honors after being selected to the All-District VIII team for the third-straight season.
The qualifying standards include having a minimum 3.3 grade point average at Eastern and being a significant contributor to the team.
The District VIII university division includes all NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) and Bowl Subdivision (FBS) teams from nine western states, including Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Utah and Washington.
A converted quarterback playing free safety for the first time, Minnerly is seventh on the team with 43 tackles and also has a pair of interceptions, three passes broken up and two forced fumbles. He has helped Eastern rank third in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision with 18 interceptions, and the Eagles are third nationally in takeaways with 29.
Minnerly had a team-high eight tackles in his starting debut versus Nevada on Sept. 2, then had four tackles, a forced fumble and his first career interception in a 21-14 win over Northern Arizona on Oct 9. His other interception came on Oct. 23 versus Sacramento State.
Interestingly, Minnerly's high school classmate (as well as football and basketball teammate), Jared Karstetter, was honored on the All-District VIII team as a receiver for Washington State University.
Sherritt currently is 10th in FCS in tackles per game (11.7, total of 117) after leading FCS in 2009 (14.1) when he finished second in voting for the Buchanan Award. He also has three interceptions, three passes broken up, a forced fumble, 2 1/2 sacks, 10 total tackles for loss and a pair of quarterback hurries.
Sherritt was EWU's scholar-athlete for September, and in back-to-back weeks was the Big Sky Conference Defensive Player of the Week and a College Sporting News National All-Star. He had 16 tackles, an interception and sack versus Northern Arizona on Oct. 9, then had 14 tackles, a sack and an interception versus Northern Colorado a week later. Eastern is currently 39th in FCS in rushing defense (131.8), in addition to third in interceptions (18) and third in takeaways (29).
Here are EWU's 2010 nominees (only one Eastern player per position was nominated among those who met the criteria):
4 -J.C. Sherritt - LB - 5-10 - 220 - Sr. - 3L* - Pullman, Wash. (Pullman HS '06)
7 - Jeff Minnerly - DB - 6-1 - 190 - So. - 1L* - Spokane, Wash. (Ferris HS '08)
76 - Will Post - OL - 6-6 - 295 - So. - 1L* - Portland, Ore. (Southridge HS '08)
82 - Matt Martin - TE - 6-2 - 240 - Sr. - 3L* - La Crosse, Wash. (La Crosse-Washtucna HS '06)
1 - Brandon Kaufman - WR - 6-5 - 205 - So. - 1L - Denver, Colo. (Heritage HS '09)
44 - Paul Ena - DL - 6-2 - 230 - So. - 1L - Kenmore, Wash. (Inglemoor HS '09)
92 - Mike Jarrett - K - 5-9 - 165 - Jr. - 1L* - Puyallup, Wash. (Puyallup HS '07)
Others Meeting Criteria but Not Nominated . . .
48 - Grant Williams - LB - 6-1 - 225 - So. - 1L* - Puyallup, Wash. (Rogers HS '08)
43 - Rusty Haehl - LB - 5-11 - 205 - So. - 1L* - Bellevue, Wash. (Bellevue HS '08)
47 - Bobby Gentry - LB - 5-11 - 200 - Jr. - 2L* - Seattle, Wash. (Kennedy HS '07)
68 - Kevin Miller - K - 6-2 - 195 - So. - 1L - Portland, Ore. (Centennial HS '09)
Ena Returns to End After 2009 Move to Linebacker: One of Eastern's most versatile players, sophomore defensive end Paul Ena made big plays early and often in EWU's 50-17 victory over Portland State on Oct. 30. On PSU's first possession of the game, he had two quarterback hurries, then recovered a fumble on the ensuing third down play on one of six three-and-outs (plus a four-down turnover on downs) for the Eagles. Three of those three-and-outs came on PSU's opening three possessions as Eastern jumped out to a 14-0 lead, and at one point had a 183-5 advantage in total offense. Later in the half, he had a 13-yard tackle for loss that led to a punt and a 65-yard scoring run by Taiwan Jones that gave EWU a 28-3 advantage. Ena also combined with J.C. Sherritt for another tackle for loss on that possession, and finished with four tackles in the game, including 2 1/2 for loss.
After starting the season at linebacker, this is his second tour of duty at defensive end for the Eagles, and he started at that position against Weber State on Oct. 2. For the season, Ena has 40 tackles with six for loss including 2 1/2 sacks. He also has four quarterback hurries, an interception and a fumble recovery.
Ena played in 2009 as a backup defensive end as a true freshman, then 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.
Twins Keep Producing Big Numbers in Victories: Junior strong safety Matt Johnson and his twin brother Zach Johnson, a starting weak-side linebacker, have had big games for six consecutive weeks. In those six -- all victories -- they have combined for 118 tackles, three interceptions and eight passes broken up.
Matt now ranks fourth in school history in interceptions with 14, and he is now just four interceptions away from the school record of 18 set by Mike Richter from 1971-75. The only other players ahead of him are former NFL 10-year veteran Kurt Schulz (EWU letter winner 1988-91) and long-time Canadian Football League standout Jackie Kellogg (1990-93) with 17 each.
Matt now has 255 tackles in his career to move into ninth all-time at Eastern, and has had four interceptions this season to help Eastern rank third in FCS (18). So far this season, Zach is second on the team with 92 tackles and Matt is right behind with 71. Zach currently has 188 tackles in his 21-game career for an average of 9.0 per game compared to the 7.7 average for his brother (33 games).
Zach is coming off a career-best 18 tackles in Eastern's 34-21 victory over Southern Utah in which he also had a sack and broke-up a pass. Matt chipped in five stops.
Matt was selected as the Big Sky Conference Defensive Player of the Week for the second time this season and third time in his career following EWU's 28-24 win over Sacramento State on Oct. 23. He finished with nine tackles, an interception (the 14th of his career) and had three passes broken up for the Eagles. Matt returned his first-quarter interception 42 yards to set-up EWU's first score en route to a 21-0 lead. Later in the quarter he broke-up a pass on third down that led to Sac State turning the ball over on downs. His third pass broken up came on a Hail Mary pass on the final play of the day, a play that he could have secured for his 15th career interception but instead safely batted the ball to the ground to end the game.
Zach had 12 tackles and a pair of passes broken up in the win over Sac State as he recorded double figures in tackles for the eighth time in his now 20-game career. Zach had 13 tackles and an interception in a 35-28 victory over Northern Colorado on Oct. 16, while Matt finished with nine stops. In a 21-14 win over Northern Arizona on Oct. 9, Zach helped make a stop on a fourth-and-12 play at the EWU 38-yard line with 3:37 to play to help preserve EWU's victory. Zach finished with 11 tackles and a pair of tackles for loss and Matt added nine tackles and a pass broken up.
In Eastern's 35-24 victory over Weber State, Matt had the 13th interception of his career that led to a first-quarter scoring drive for the Eagles. Matt also had six tackles versus Weber State and Zach finished with 10 tackles.
Matt also was huge against Montana on Sept. 18, finishing with eight tackles and a pair of interceptions to earn Big Sky Conference Defensive Player of the Week honors for the second time in his career. His second interception versus Montana came with 7:31 left in the game after Montana had driven to Eastern's 27-yard line while trailing by three.
Zach also had a big game against Montana with 11 total tackles and a forced fumble on UM's final kickoff return of the game. The Johnson twins are both 2007 graduates of Tumwater, Wash., High School, but a blood clot in Zach's 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, and Matt repeated on that squad in 2009. Matt earned his first Big Sky Conference Defensive Player of the Week honor after tying the Big Sky Conference record with four interceptions in 47-10 win over Portland State on Oct. 31, 2009, in the "Showdown on the Sound" at Qwest Field in Seattle, Wash.
Mitchell Ranks 19th Nationally in Passing Yards: Southern Methodist University transfer Bo Levi Mitchell has completed 57.5 percent of his passes for 2,327 yards, 21 touchdowns and 11 interceptions, and a passing efficiency rating of 133.36. In NCAA Football Championship Subdivision statistics, he ranks 19th in passing offense (232.7 yards per game), 27th in total offense (239.1) and 33rd in efficiency (133.36).
In his latest outing in EWU's 31-24 win over Southern Utah, he was 21-of-34 for 211 yards and a pair of touchdowns, both to Brandon Kaufman. He directed Eastern on a game-winning 55-yard drive, capped by Kaufman's 24-yard TD catch.
In EWU's 35-28 win over Northern Colorado on Oct. 16, Mitchell completed 16-of-25 passes for 172 yards, a touchdown and one interception, including an impressive 7-of-8 for 57 yards in EWU's game-tying drive late in the game in which he utilized five different receivers.
In games against Weber State on Oct. 2 and Northern Arizona on Oct. 9, he completed 69 percent of his passes (43-of-62) with seven touchdowns, three interceptions, an average of 312.5 yards per game and a passing efficiency rating of 181.61. In his first four games of the season, he completed 51.4 percent of his passes for six touchdowns, four interceptions (three returned for touchdowns), 236.8 yards per game and a passing efficiency rating of 113.07. Mitchell had a 20-of-26 performance for 288 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions against Northern Arizona.
Mitchell had his first 300-yard passing performance as an Eagle in EWU's 35-24 victory at Weber State on Oct. 2, completing 23-of-36 passes (64 percent) for 337 yards, four touchdowns and one interception. He led the Eagles on scoring drives of 66, 65, 80, 68 and 67 yards, including the final three during a 21-0 scoring run in the second half that turned a 17-14 deficit into a 35-17 advantage. He completed 14-of-19 passes in the first half and 9-of-17 in the second half.
In Eastern's opener against Nevada, he was a respectable 19-of-35 for 253 yards and two touchdowns. He followed that by going 16-of-27 for 188 yards and a pair of scores against Central Washington, and was 17-of-37 for 234 yards versus Montana. In EWU's loss versus Montana State, he was 24-of-49 for 272 yards as his 49 attempts equaled the 14th-most in school history.
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.
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 before the season began. "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 is now Eastern's starter at free safety. Vitto and Gauthier are the backups behind Mitchell on the depth chart.
In three spring scrimmages, Mitchell 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.
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.
Jerry Ceja Makes Dreams Come True for Defensive Tackles: Thanks to huge plays made by sophomore defensive end Jerry Ceja, Eastern defensive tackles have some great memories. And Eastern has two wins in the book as a result too.
Jerry Ceja, a sophomore from Aurora, Colo., made the first start of his career at Northern Colorado on Oct. 16 and he had the team's defensive play of the game. He forced a fumble on a sack late in the game that was picked up by teammate Tyler Jolley and returned 17 yards. That gave EWU the ball 39 yards from the end zone and led to EWU's winning touchdown with 41 seconds to play in the 35-28 victory.
Earlier in the season, Ceja forced fumble on a sack on the final play of the game that was returned 34 yards for a score by Renard Williams and secured EWU's 36-27 victory over the Grizzlies.
Ceja, whose older brother Dominique Ceja is a backup offensive tackle for Northern Colorado, is a 2009 graduate of Grandview High School in Aurora, just a short distance from the game played in Greeley, Colo.
Williams Up to 13 1/2 Career Sacks: Eastern defensive tackle Renard Williams, who had nine sacks to earn first team All-Big Sky Conference honors a year ago, had his first sack of the season against Weber State on Oct. 2. He added another versus Southern Utah on Nov. 13 and has 2 1/2 for the season.
He now has 13.5 in his career as he nears Eastern's all-time leaders list. Currently 12th, with 15.5 sacks, is Brandon Moore (1999-02). Constantly drawing double teams from opposing teams, Williams has 93 tackles in his 33-game career, including 28 for losses totaling 158 yards.
Zuber's Average 21st in FCS: Senior punter Cameron Zuber has a 40.96 average this season to rank 21st in FCS, with 17 of his 46 punts downed inside the 20. Zuber currently has a 40.4 career average, good enough to rank fifth in EWU history. Last year he had a 39.9 average with 14 of his 43 punts downed inside the 20.
Most recently, he averaged 41.6 yards in five punts, with one downed inside the 20, in EWU's 31-24 win over Southern Utah. In a 28-24 victory over Sacramento State on Oct. 23, Zuber had four punts for a 39.2 average with a long of 58 on a touchback. His other three punts were downed inside the 20 at the Sac State 11, 7 and 9 yard line. His last two punts came in the final 10 minutes, including a 30-yarder with 5:42 to play that pinned the Hornets deep in their own territory and eventually resulted in a Sac State punt and EWU's game-winning 35-yard drive.
"He's been a huge player for us the last two years," said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin. "He's done a great job and keeps getting better every week. I've been very happy with the way our punt unit has performed."
He averaged 50.0 yards in seven punts at Weber State on Oct. 2, including a long of 60 and one punt downed inside the Wildcat 20-yard line. His 60-yard effort at WSU -- which equaled the 18th-longest in school history -- was the second-longest of his career behind the 64-yarder he had last year that ranks eighth all-time at EWU.
A bad snap led to a 10-yard punt for senior on his first punt of this season at Nevada, but he averaged 48.8 yards on his next four punts. He finished with a 41.0 average on five punts, with a long of 51 and one punt downed at the Wolf Pack 4-yard line. He followed that with a 45.0 average on three punts against Central Washington Sept. 11, including a pair downed inside the 20.
Zuber had been attending EWU since he graduated in 2006 from W.F. West High School in Chehalis, Wash., but 2009 was his first season as an Eagle football player. He originally walked-on in spring 2007 but did not make the team. He then returned in fall 2009 through the recommendation of Eastern tight end Nathan Overbay, who was a 2005 graduate of W.F. West.
Blocking Beaumonte: Eastern junior running back Darriell Beaumonte was once a blocking fullback in Eastern's offense, but now he's doing a different kind of blocking.
After leading 28-10 at intermission against Portland State on Oct. 30, the Eagles turned a blocked punt by Beaumonte into a recovery for a touchdown by T.J. Lee to increase the advantage to 18. Beaumonte, a 2007 graduate of Clover Park High School in Tacoma, Wash., also had a huge special teams play in EWU's 36-27 victory over Montana on Sept. 18. He blocked a punt that he returned himself six yards for a score to wipe out Montana's last lead of the day. It was EWU's first blocked punt returned for a TD since 2004.
Also a kickoff and punt coverage special teams standout, Beaumonte has been credited with 23 tackles in his career. He had three in 2008, eight in 2009 and 12 thus far in 2010.
He was a fullback in 2008 as a redshirt freshman, then proved to be more valuable with the ball in his hands and moved to running back the following season. As EWU's backup running back behind All-American Taiwan Jones, he rushed for 135 yards and a touchdown a year ago and has 214 yards and a pair of rushing TDs this season. When Jones was sidelined because of an injury on Oct. 2 versus Weber State, he responded with a 78-yard rushing performance, scoring once on a rush and another on a TD reception in EWU's 35-24 win.
Thanks to a Wager, Twins Easier to Tell Apart: A friendly wager between teammates has helped make it easier for people to tell identical twins Zach and Matt Johnson apart this season. Zach has a friendly wager with starting free safety Jeff Minnerly and redshirt Ronnie Hamlin as to who will cut their hair first. Although Minnerly is also sporting a healthy beard, facial hair is not included in the yet-to-be-determined wager, because Zach admits he can't grow any. Meanwhile, Zach's twin brother Matt Johnson continues to sport a short-cropped haircut as both players had for their careers until this season. Even their jersey numbers can be confusing, having changed their numbers in 2009 after wearing entirely different numbers as freshmen in 2008. Then, in the middle of last season Matt moved from No. 5 to No. 10 as a tribute to his brother, who was lost for the season with a blood clot in his leg. They've returned to their normal numbers this season.
Brice Leahy Returns for First Action Since Catastrophic Injury: Senior Brice Leahy, a 2008 honorable mention All-Big Sky performer, saw his first action in nearly two years in Eastern's 21-14 victory over Northern Arizona on Oct. 9. Since then he has seen regular action as an additional lineman in Eastern's goal-line offense.
The imposing 6-foot-7, 295-pound tackle suffered a catastrophic injury just below his knee in a non-football related accident in June 2009 and missed the 2009 season and most of 2010 spring practices.
"Just the fact he battled through winter conditioning was impressive," said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin before the season began. "Considering the accident and the injury that occurred, it's amazing in my opinion. I would love it if he can get all the way back to where he was in 2008. But if he does everything he can to get better every day, anything he can give us is going to be better than Brice not being back. He's a great leader, a hard worker and he's shown that he wants to be back and around his teammates.
"It would have been very easy for him to just move on and finish school," Baldwin continued. "Instead, he's busted his butt in the weight room and has done everything he can to put himself back on the field. My hope and belief is that if he keeps on his current path, he will be back to where he was in 2008. Even if he's still not quite there, he's going to add a lot to our team."
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 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.
Series History: The Eagles have dominated the series against Idaho State, winning 22 of the 31 previous meetings with a current four-game winning streak and 11 of the last 14. Eastern is 8-4 in meetings in Cheney, 13-5 in Pocatello and 1-0 at Spokane's Albi Stadium.
Last Season . . . Trio Leads Eagle Offense as No. 17 Eastern Beats Idaho State 38-3: Running back Taiwan Jones had another big day, but so did quarterback Matt Nichols and wide receiver Aaron Boyce as Eastern Washington remained unbeaten in the Big Sky Conference football standings with a 38-3 victory over Idaho State Oct. 3 at Holt Arena in Pocatello, Idaho.
Jones rushed for 168 yards and three touchdowns on just 14 carries (12.0 per rush), including a school-record 96-yard rush for a score in the third quarter. He broke the previous record of 95 yards set by John Ditz against Lewis & Clark in 1954. Nichols completed 27-of-38 passes for 293 yards and a pair of touchdown passes to Boyce, who caught 10 passes for 149 yards.
Eastern, which entered the game ranked 17th in the Sports Network NCAA Football Championship Subdivision poll, improved to 4-1 overall, and its third 3-0 start in Big Sky history (1992, 2004).
"I thought that was the most complete game we've played in all three facets -- offense, defense and special teams," said Eagle head coach Beau Baldwin. "We fought until the end -- that's what I love about this team. There wasn't any quit or letdown in the second half on either side of the ball. I was proud of them for that."
"The only thing that bothers me and was sloppy, was our three turnovers," added Baldwin of his team's performance against the Bengals. "That's something we have to clean-up as we hit some of the better teams in the league coming up."
The Eagles finished with 530 yards of total offense, including 237 rushing. Tony Davis added nine catches for 60 yards.
"It's a team effort," Baldwin said of his team's offensive output. "Matt is so unselfish and is doing such a good job. He may have less numbers at this point in the season, but he may be playing his best football. I can't remember very many mistakes he's made in the last two games."
Eastern's defense did the rest, holding ISU to 271 yards, including a negative two yards rushing. Eastern recorded five sacks, 10 total tackles for loss, five passes broken up, five quarterback hurries, three forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries.
Senior Jacob Kragt had a sack and recovered two of the fumbles, with both setting up Eagle touchdowns. Renard Williams had two of the sacks and one of the forced fumbles. J.C. Sherritt, who entered the game leading the Big Sky and ranking sixth in FCS with an average of 13.0 tackles per game, had a forced fumble and eight tackles to lead EWU in stops.
The Eagles scored on two of their first three possessions to take a 14-0 lead. The first score came on a 15-yard touchdown run by Jones, which came three plays following a forced fumble by EWU's Williams that was recovered by Kragt.
Jones scored again on an 11-yard run to cap an 11-play, 88-yard drive. But a pair of turnovers helped hold EWU scoreless in the second quarter until the Eagles mounted a drive in the last four minutes. The Eagles marched 82 yards on seven plays, capped by a 25-yard touchdown pass from Nichols to Boyce.
Eastern struck again from the 4-yard line on its first offensive play of the second half. Jones broke several tackles and simply out-ran several more as the Eagles took a 28-3 lead.
Later in the quarter, Eastern scored again on a 11-yard touchdown pass from Nichols to Boyce. That came after freshman redshirt Tyler Washburn forced a fumble that was recovered by Kragt. Eastern closed the scoring with a 49-yard field goal by Mike Jarrett, which equals the 20th-longest in school history.