Eastern linebacker is Big Sky Defensive Player of the Week after a sack and interception in UNC's final five offensive plays
Buck Buchanan Award candidate J.C. Sherritt added big plays to his big tackle numbers last week in Eastern Washington University's come-from-behind 35-28 victory over Northern Colorado Saturday (Oct. 16) in Greeley, Colo.
Thanks to his game-saving sack and interception on UNC's final five offensive plays of the game, Sherritt has been selected as the Big Sky Conference Defensive Player of the Week for the second-straight week. He is a 2006 graduate of Pullman (Wash.) High School.
Eastern is now 5-2 and off to its best start since 1997. The Eagles are ranked eighth in this week's Sports Network/Fathead.com top 25 NCAA Football Championship Subdivision poll, up four spots from last week. It equals Eastern's highest ranking since finishing the 2007 season ranked eighth.
With the game knotted at 28 thanks to an 80-yard drive by EWU, Sherritt had his sack on the ensuing Bear possession that kept UNC out of field goal range and into a third-and-14 situation. That play 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.
He also had 14 tackles versus UNC to move him into fourth in school history in career tackles with a total of 336, moving him past Joey Cwik (331 from 2002-05). He is just 10 from Derek Strey (346 from 1994-97) for third and only 11 behind Jason Marsh (347 from 1991-93) for second.
The senior strong-side inside linebacker needs 64 more tackles 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 -- including one in each of his last three games -- to go along with 10 passes broken up and a pair of sacks.
Sherritt is EWU's leading tackler thus far with 80 for the season, an average of 11.43 per game that ranks 10th in FCS. Last season he led FCS with an average of just over 14 per game.
In the win over UNC, the Bears averaged just 4.8 yards per play and a week earlier in a 21-14 win against Northern Arizona that figure was 3.6. With its offense coming up empty in the third quarter and a touchdown and fumble on two of its kickoff returns, Eastern had 20 less plays versus Northern Colorado (76 to 56). A season-high five turnovers led to 30 less plays against Northern Arizona (87 to 57). In the last two games combined, Eastern's defense has been on the field for just over 48 minutes while opponents have had the ball for more than 71. Eastern's defense is third nationally in interceptions (total of 13) and fifth in turnovers gained (20), but is 102nd out of 117 FCS schools in turnovers lost (17).
Eastern rolled up 465 yards of offense in a 35-24 win over Weber State on Oct. 2, but that slipped to 354 against NAU and 381 versus UNC. Eastern has won its five games by an average of just 7.4 points per game and has been out-scored by an average of 24 points in its losses.
A week earlier, Sherritt earned recognition as a national Sporting News All-Star and the Big Sky Conference Defensive Player of the Week for his performance in last EWU's 21-14 victory over Northern Arizona on Oct. 9. He had 16 tackles -- the 10th time in his career he has had at least 15 tackles -- in the win over the Lumberjacks. He also had an interception, a sack and a quarterback hurry.