September 13, 2010

Red Turf Inaugurated as No. 18 Eastern hosts No. 6 Montana

Although UM drops out of top spot in national rankings, both the Eagles and Grizzlies enter the game ranked for the ninth time in the last 15 years

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


Eastern Washington Univ. “Eagles”
versus
University of Montana “Grizzlies”

Saturday, September 18 • 4:05 p.m. Pacific
Roos Field (11,000/Sprinturf) • Cheney, Wash.

EWU Coach: Beau Baldwin (Central Washington ‘96)
School Record: 15-10/11-5 Big Sky (3rd Season)
Career Record: 25-13 (4th Season -- was 10-3 at CWU in 2007, 6-5 at EWU in 2008, 8-4 at WU in 2009)
2010: 1-1/0-0 Big Sky Conference
Last Game:  EWU 35, Central Washington 32 (Sept. 11 in Seattle, Wash.)
2009: 8-4/6-2 Big Sky Conference
TV: Televised regionally by SWX (SWX Digital 6.2 in Spokane, 25.3 in the Tri-Cities & 23.3 in the Yakima area; Comcast 115; Time Warner 306; Charter 287); Throughout Montana via KPAX 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
Webcast: www.bigskytv.org
Twitter: http://twitter.com/EWUAthletics


The red is ready.

The first football game on Eastern Washington University’s new red Sprinturf surface promises to be a doozy, as the 18th-ranked Eagles host No. 6 powerhouse Montana in the Big Sky Conference opener for both schools.

Kickoff at Roos Field (formerly Woodward Field) is Saturday (Sept. 18) at 4:05 p.m. in what will be a sold-out stadium (capacity of just under 11,000). The showdown will be regionally televised on SWX and in Montana via KPAX TV in Missoula. Eastern’s radio broadcast may be heard on 700-AM ESPN “The Ticket” and via the web at www.espnnorthwest.com.

The game has been a donnybrook in recent years, and this will be the ninth time in the last 15 meetings both teams enter the game nationally ranked. Since 1990, Eastern has won four times on UM’s home field in Missoula, but Eastern has won just twice at home in that span.

The lone win since then at Woodward Field came in 1991, and Eastern is hoping the change of turf and change of name alters its success in Cheney where the Eagles have a six-game losing streak. The color of the surface may give Eastern a boost of adrenaline, but the Eagles know it doesn’t affect how the team plays -- and ultimately the outcome.

“You couldn’t write the script any better,” said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin. “But the game will be less about the fact we are playing Montana on the red turf and more about how we can beat them. That’s a challenge for every team in this league because it doesn’t happen very often.”

The other home win for EWU against the Grizzlies came at Albi Stadium in Spokane in 2002. The Eagles stunned the unbeaten Grizzlies 30-21, ending Montana’s record-tying winning streak in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision at 24 games. It also snapped Montana’s record winning streaks of 25 Big Sky games in a row and 13 league road games in a row. Eastern has defeated the Grizzlies four times in Missoula in the last 20 years -- 1990, 1992, 1997 and 2005.

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.

The added advantage the turf gives Eastern isn’t lost on Baldwin. As far as he’s concerned, it’s incREDible.

“It fits some of our talent,” explained Baldwin, who is in his third year as Eastern’s head coach and seventh overall in Cheney. “Strategically we’ve prepared for turf games before over the years, but those were all on the road. More than anything it fits what we are all about and the strengths of some of our skill players. Hopefully it becomes a real home field advantage for us.”

The Grizzlies, who for a week were ranked No. 1 in The Sports Network/Fathead.com top 25 FCS poll, dropped to 1-1 for the season with a 35-33 loss at Cal Poly on Sept. 11. A week earlier, the Grizzlies opened the season with a 73-2 thrashing of NCAA Division II Western State College from Colorado.

Eastern also enters the game 1-1 after edging NCAA Division II Central Washington 35-32 on Sept. 11 in the second edition of the “Showdown on the Sound” at Qwest Field in Cheney, Wash. A week earlier, Eastern lost its opener at Nevada 49-24 on Sept. 2.

Both games were nail-biters in the fourth quarter. The Eagles had a chance to cut into an 11-point Wolf Pack lead in the fourth quarter, but an Eagle turnover led to two late Nevada scores. In the Central game, Eastern needed pass break-ups by seniors Dante Calcote and Tyler Jolley on Central’s final two offensive plays of the game to preserve EWU’s victory.

Eastern was out-gained in total offense by Nevada 553-432 and by Central Washington 352-311. Eastern junior running back Taiwan Jones leads FCS in all-purpose yards, with an average of 278.5 per game after two games. He has scored four touchdowns to rank fourth nationally in scoring and is 10th in rushing (117.0 per game).

This week, the excitement of being at home, playing its conference opener and playing on the new red turf will make the day memorable. How Eastern plays is what concerns Baldwin the most.

“That part is not my concern,” he said of the motivation the fanfare surrounding the game provides. “My concern is that we clean-up some things. There are a lot of little things that the fans may not see -- some of those can result in a safety or a touchdown for our opponents. There are a few plays here or there that we have to clean up. There are certain plays that are the difference between a team that knows how to finish and being a team that all of the sudden lets a team back in the ballgame.”

“But I’m excited to be 1-1 and to be at home for our Big Sky opener,” he added.

 

Show Tells the Red Turf Story: A half-hour television program telling the story of EWU’s Red Turf Project will be aired by SWX at 9:30 p.m. on Friday (Sept. 17) and right after the game broadcast on SWX the following day. The show, produced by John Fritz of KHQ TV in Spokane, includes interviews with past and present players and coaches, as well as administrators and fans of the team. The show will also reveal the winner of fan voting of a new nickname for the red Sprinturf surface. The show may be viewed on SWX Digital 6.2 in Spokane, 25.3 in the Tri-Cities & 23.3 in the Yakima area; Comcast 115; Time Warner 306; and Charter 287.

 

Pair of Events Help Inaugurate Red Turf: A pair of events leading into the Eastern Washington University football game against Montana in Cheney, Wash., have been planned to help inaugurate Eastern’s new red Sprinturf playing surface.

Dave Woodward, son of the late Arthur C. Woodward, will be on hand for a special dedication and open house that will take place on Thursday, Sept. 16 at 3 p.m. At the dedication, the field officially becomes Roos Field after being named Woodward Field for 78 years.

Also, the official Red Turf Tailgate Party presented by the Eagle Athletic Association will take place on Friday, Sept. 17 from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Pend Oreille Pavilion at Northern Quest Resort and Casino. Cost is $20 per person and includes a tailgate food buffet, door prizes and more. Tickets are available through TicketsWest (ticketswest.com and 800-325-SEAT), and the first 300 fans attending will receive a chunk of EWU’s red turf. A special presentation will take place as Sterling Savings Bank awards the Presidents’ Cup Award that EWU won in the 2009-10 school year.

The Red Turf Project at EWU included a $500,000 contribution made by Michael and Katherine Roos, which continued the family’s philanthropic efforts on behalf of Eastern and the community through the Michael Roos Foundation.  A former Eagle student-athlete, Roos is a starting left offensive tackle for the Tennessee Titans in the National Football League, and has started every Titans game in his five-year career. Coupled with 35-straight starts to end his Eastern career, Roos has started 143-straight games entering the 2010 regular season.  Roos excelled in the classroom as well, graduating with a double major in finance and economics.

 

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:
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 8, 2010 - Pair of Events Help Inaugurate Red Turf
September 6, 2010 - Payton Award Candidate Wins First Award of 2010 Season
September 6, 2010 - Nathan Overbay Signed to Practice Squad by Dolphins
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 26, 2010 - Radio Show Featuring Baldwin 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 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 3, 2010 - Red Sprinturf Arrives; Installation Probably Starts 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 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

 

GAME NOTES

More on the Roos Field Dedication: The event will begin at 3 p.m. when the “Patchin, Osso and the Wingman” radio show on 700 ESPN “The Ticket” begins its broadcast live from the field.

At 3:15 p.m., the re-dedication ceremony takes place at the lower entrance to the field as the name of the stadium officially becomes Roos Field. Dave Woodward and his wife, Grace, will attend and participate as a plaque is unveiled commemorating the 78 years the field was named after his father, Arthur C. “Woody” Woodward. Michael and Katherine Roos won’t be able to attend because the Titans play at home that week.

Eastern assistant coach Aaron Best, who was offensive line coach when Michael Roos was an Eagle, will represent the Roos family. Other Eastern administrators and dignitaries will also be involved with the ceremony.

Finally, from 3:30 p.m. to 4:15 p.m., fans will be invited to the field to get a close-up view of the turf. At 4:20 p.m., Eastern’s football team will practice and fans are encouraged to watch.

Arthur C. Woodward was Eastern’s head football coach in 1927 and 1928. More importantly, Woodward was head of Eastern’s department of physical education and health for 23 years from 1927 to 1950. He was insistent that every interested student should have the opportunity to engage in competitive sports through intramural activities. He endeared himself to students, and, as a result, Woodward Field was named in his honor in 1932.

His son, Cheney native Dave Woodward, is 85 and now living in Pueblo, Colo. Dave went on to become a pioneer in scuba diving and in April 2009, was given the International Legends of Diving Award in Freeport, Grand Bahamas for his 54-year diving career. His start in that endeavor began after his father gave him a pair of new swim fins that were provided by the Voit Rubber Company, and he tried them out in the pool located in the basement of Eastern’s Showalter Hall.

 “While the idea (of changing the stadium’s name) does bring a bit of sadness, I do understand,” said Dave Woodward in an e-mail to Eastern athletic director Bill Chaves last spring. “My father was a great person and a great asset to the University.  The fact that stadium carried his name for so long emphasizes that.”

 

Walter Payton Award Currently Leads FCS In All-Purpose Yards: With an average of 278.5 all-purpose yards (rushing, receiving, returns) per game, junior running back Taiwan Jones is the early leader in that category in NCAA Championship Subdivision statistics. He also ranks fourth in scoring (12.0 per game with four total touchdowns) and 10th in rushing (117.0 per game). After averaging 7.5 yards per carry as a sophomore, he is currently averaging 9.0 as a junior.

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.

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.

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.

He now has seven plays in his career of 71 yards or more, 12 of at least 50 and 25 of at least 32 yards. Five have been for at least 80 yards, including a school-record 96-yard touchdown run versus Idaho State in 2009. Eight times in his career he has eclipsed the 200-yard mark in all-purpose yards and has seven rushing performances of at least 100 yards.

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. “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 should also be augmented by the addition of a synthetic turf surface at Roos Field. The red Sprinturf 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.

Jones had a career average of 150.3 all-purpose yards per game to currently rank third in school history, and his 976 kickoff return yards is seventh. His total all-purpose yardage of 3,157 is quickly approaching Eastern’s top 10 list, and by the end of the season he should be on Eastern’s all-time lists for rushing yards, scoring and touchdowns.

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 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.

 

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.

He had five tackles and broke-up two passes in Eastern’s opener against Nevada on Sept. 2, then had a team-high 11 tackles and a pass broken up in EWU’s victory over Central Washington on Sept. 11. He is EWU’s leading tackler thus far with 16 for the season.

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, now has 272 career tackles to rank seventh in school history, he needs 128 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.

 

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 when 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.

So far this season he has completed 56.5 percent of his passes for 441 yards, four touchdowns and one interception, and his passing efficiency rating of 134.26 ranks 32nd in FCS and fifth in the league. 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.

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 is now Eastern’s starter at free safety. Vitto and Gauthier are the backups behind Mitchell on the depth chart.

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 other players made their starting debuts as Eagles 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.

Several redshirt freshmen made their first EWU game appearances at Nevada. Most true freshman will redshirt, but running back Mario Brown will play this season and had four rushes for 18 yards and a kickoff return for 20 yards versus Nevada. In two fall scrimmages, he rushed for 86 yards on 21 carries.

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 (134 starts by 17 players): Matt Johnson 25, J.C. Sherritt 22, Tyler Jolley 18, Renard Williams 16, Zach Johnson 13, Evan Cook 11, David Miles 6, Tyler Washburn 6, Dante Calcote 5, Jesse Hoffman 3, Paul Ena 2, Jeff Minnerly 2, Artise Gauldin 1, Anthony Larry 1, Will Edge 1, Rusty Haehl 1, Grant Williams 1 (includes one start on offense in 2009).

Offense (106 starts by 17 players): Taiwan Jones 14 (includes four on defense in 2008), Chris Powers 14, Nikolai Myers 14, Gabriel Jackson 13, Nicholas Edwards 13, Brice Leahy 11, Matt Martin 7, Brandon Kaufman 7, Ashton Gant 3, Tyler Hart 2, Steven Forgette 2, Bo Levi Mitchell 1, Will Post 1, Zack Gehring 1, Brandon Murphy 1, Darriell Beaumonte 1, Nick Gauthier 1.

 

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.

 

More Players to Watch: A bad snap led to a 10-yard punt for senior punter Cameron Zuber (Chehalis, Wash. - W.F. West HS ’06) on his first effort of the day, but he averaged 48.8 yards on his next four punts in Eastern’s opener against Nevada. 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 currently has a 40.3 career average, good enough to rank fifth in EWU history. 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 . . . . 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. Matt currently has 199 career tackles heading into the Montana game.

 

Injury Report: Just two injuries came from the Central Washington game. Running back Taiwan Jones sat out the final 11:39 of the game 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. The other injury was suffered by freshman defensive end Anthony Larry, who made his first career start against the Wildcats but suffered a slight knee injury early in the game. He is questionable for this week, and Jones is probable.

“We wanted to be smart about it,” said Baldwin of the injury to Jones. “He wanted to come right back in but at the time we thought it might have been a slight concussion. You don’t mess with that, and we weren’t going to put him back in with that kind of injury.”

A trio of safeties -- all returning letter winners -- missed the Central and Nevada games, including Billy Lechtenburg (high ankle sprain), Ethen Robinson (knee) and Domonic Shepperd (knee). Reserve tight end and fullback Jason Harris suffered a concussion against Nevada and missed the Central game.

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 History: 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 (now Roos 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.

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.

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.

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 were 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:
2010 - #6 Montana at #18 Eastern Washington  (in Cheney, Wash.)
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 40, #2 Montana 35 (in Missoula, Mont.)
1996 - #1 Montana 34, #20 Eastern Washington 30 (in Cheney, Wash.)

 

Last Season . . . No. 21 Eagles edged by No. 3 Grizzlies 41-34 -- Eastern Washington tied the score with a late touchdown drive in the fourth quarter, but Montana responded with a touchdown drive of its own Oct. 17 as the No. 3 ranked and unbeaten Montana Grizzlies edged the No. 21 Eagles 41-34 in a Big Sky Conference football showdown at Washington-Grizzly Stadium in Missoula, Mont.

After falling behind by 14 points in the third quarter, Eastern rallied to knot the score at 27 and 34, with the last tie coming with just 4:58 left. But the Grizzlies went on an 11-play, 55-yard drive to score the winning points with 1:18 remaining.

The Grizzlies are now 6-0 overall and 3-0 in the league thus far, while the Eagles suffered their first Big Sky setback a week ago when they lost to defending co-champion Weber State 31-13. Eastern is now 3-2 in the league and 4-3 overall as the Eagles and Grizzlies played for the eighth time in the last 14 meetings with both teams ranked in the Sports Network NCAA Football Championship poll.

“I’m proud of our team,” said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin. “I know we’ll go back and look and find that it’s not perfect and we made mistakes. But I was proud of everyone for fighting and scrapping right down to the end. It hurts when you lose, but I don’t question one bit our overall effort. We could have easily packed it in when we got down by two scores. But we found a way to come back.”

Penalties (10 for 104 yards) and four failed fourth-down attempts also hurt the Eagles, who had 489 yards of total offense to Montana’s 353.

“We felt like we could do some things against them and we played sound,” said Baldwin. “But nothing came easy -- they are a great team and their record is what it is for a reason. We knew we were going to have to make plays at the end. They made one more play than we did and I give them credit -- my hat is off to them. But I’m proud of the way our players fought in a tough environment.”

Senior quarterback Matt Nichols completed 32-of-49 passes for 312 yards and three touchdowns. In the process, he broke EWU’s career total offense record after breaking the career passing record a week earlier. He now has 11,261 yards of total offense, 10,627 career passing yards and 76 touchdowns in his 42-game career. The previous record for total offense was 10,942 held by the quarterback he replaced, Erik Meyer (2002-05).

Seniors Aaron Boyce and Tony Davis combined for 15 catches for 173 yards, with Boyce catching seven for 114 yards and a touchdown, and Davis finishing with eight grabs for 59 yards.  Boyce, however, was lost late in the game with an injury to his left Achilles tendon.

Sophomore running back Taiwan Jones also had a productive day, rushing 17 times for 145 yards. He had 241 yards of all-purpose yards, including 78 on kickoff returns and 18 more on three receptions.

Junior linebacker J.C. Sherritt, ranked third in FCS in tackles with an average of 14.0 per game (total of 84), added 17 against the Grizzlies. He had a school-record 24 a week earlier in a loss to Weber State. Sophomore safety Matt Johnson added 14 stops against the Grizzlies and senior linebacker Makai Borden had 12.

Eastern jumped out to a quick 7-0 lead when Nichols directed Eastern on a seven-play, 70-yard drive on EWU’s first possession. He passed 13 yards to Nathan Overbay for the touchdown, which was the play that gave Nichols EWU’s total offense record.

Interestingly, the next two plays for Nichols were for minus yards to put him second again behind Meyer, but a 20-yard pass completion to Boyce gave Nichols the record for good.

After a safety following a bad snap on an Eagle punt attempt, EWU took a 10-2 advantage on a 39-yard field goal by Mike Jarrett.

Eastern led 10-5 in the second quarter when it was driving for another score, with Nichols 10-of-11 for 80 yards at that point. But the momentum turned with his incompletion on a fourth down at the UM 31, which followed a five-yard procedure penalty when Eastern faced a more manageable fourth-and-1 situation.

Montana followed with a pair of touchdowns to take a 20-10 lead, and Eastern closed out the scoring in the first half with a 48-yard field goal by Jarrett -- his second-longest of the year.

The Grizzlies took a 27-13 advantage in the third quarter on a touchdown drive following another failed attempt on fourth down by the Eagles. However, Nichols directed the Eagles on a pair of scoring drives to knot the score at 27.

The first was an eight-play, 85-yard march that ended with Nichols’ 14-yard TD pass to Ashton Gant, who was cleared to play just two days prior because of a nagging high ankle sprain. The second was a four-play, 65-yard drive capped by a 50-yard touchdown pass from Nichols to Boyce.

Montana took the lead back on an 82-yard punt return, but Eastern responded with a 12-play, 74-yard drive to knot the game at 34. A 1-yard touchdown run by Jones tied the score with 4:58 to play.

But Montana spoiled EWU’s upset chances with a drive lasting 3:32, capped by a 1-yard run by Chase Reynolds. Nichols completed two passes on the ensuing drive, but the Eagles turned the ball over on downs at their own 49-yard line.

  

MORE NOTES

A QB Six Months Earlier, Minnerly Leads Eagles in Tackles in Opener: A quarterback last March when spring drills began for the Eagles, less than six months later Jeff Minnerly found himself as the team’s leading tackler in Eastern’s 49-24 loss at Nevada on Sept. 2.

He finished the game with eight tackles, including seven unassisted stops. A sophomore who graduated from Ferris High School in Spokane, Wash., in 2008, Minnerly made his first career start at free safety. After earning EWU's Offensive Scout Team Player of the Year while redshirting in 2008, Minnerly completed 4-of-8 passes for six yards in 2009 while serving as the backup to All-American and two-time Big Sky Conference Offensive Player of the Year Matt Nichols.

But he was caught in a logjam of quarterbacks last spring, including Southern Methodist transfer Bo Levi Mitchell. Minnerly’s move to defense took place on April 13, and he had an interception in a scrimmage that very day. He is also EWU’s holder on placekicks and Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin said the decision to move from quarterback was to enable the 6-foot-1, 190-pound sophomore a greater chance to use his athletic ability to contribute to the team.

 “Few players are gifted enough physically and mentally to make a significant move like that,” explained Baldwin. “We thought it would be the best thing for the team and Jeff to make this move, and we feel like he has all the tools to be an excellent safety. He still had a chance to compete for our quarterback position, but he has an even better opportunity to compete and earn playing time at the safety position.”

Minnerly earned first team 4A All-State honors as a quarterback from WashingtonPreps.com, and was the Offensive Most Valuable Player in the Greater Spokane League after throwing for 27 touchdowns and just one interception as a senior. Also known for his scrambling ability, he was MVP for the East when he directed his team to a game-winning, 93-yard drive in the final 3:31 for a 17-14 victory in the 4A/3A East-West All-State Game.

Minnerly was also a starter for the two-time WIAA State 4A Champions in basketball, who were 29-0 both seasons. Ferris was the first 4A school to go unbeaten two consecutive seasons. He was a 4.0 student in high school and was his school's male recipient of the prestigious Greater Spokane League Scholar-Athlete award.

“Jeff is a great competitor,” Baldwin added. “He’s demonstrated his great football skills during agility drills in the winter, as well as his ability as a quarterback to cover ground and move. He’ll bring leadership and intelligence to the safety position, and that will be huge.”

 

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. In the fall, Daniel Johnson was moved from running back to receiver as well, and Allen Brown and Chandler Gayton shifted to safety from cornerback.

 

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.

 

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 Versus The Pacific 10 Conference -- Since the early 1980’s when it began the move to become a member of the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (in 1984), Eastern is now 7-19 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. Against the Pacific 10 Conference, EWU is 0-4. 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
2010 - at Nevada - L, 24-49

 

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)

 

Nichols and Overbay Released, But Overbay Signed to Practice Squad by Dolphins: Former Eagle tight end Nathan Overbay was signed Sept. 6 to the Miami Dolphins practice squad after getting released by the Denver Broncos. Quarterback Matt Nichols was also released by the Dallas Cowboys on Aug. 19 before the 2010 regular season began.

Both had signed free agent contracts following the conclusion of their careers at EWU in 2009. Nichols completed 10-of-16 passes for 81 yards and two interceptions in two preseason games. Overbay played but did not catch any passes in the preseason for Denver. Another Eagle signed in the offseason was former San Diego Charger Keith Grennan by the Cleveland Browns. But he was cut in July before training camp began.

Eastern’s only current active NFL player is sixth-year player Michael Roos, who started all four preseason games for the Titans. That gives him a total of 143 straight starts as an offensive tackle dating back to his sophomore season at Eastern in 2002. He started 35-straight games at EWU, and the other 108 have come as a Titan (25 preseason games, 80 regular season games, 2 playoff games and the Pro Bowl in February 2009).

Active professionals currently playing in the Canadian Football League are Greg Peach (Edmonton), Shea Emry (Montreal), Ryan Phillips (British Columbia), Luke Fritz (Winnipeg) and Dario Romero (Edmonton).

 

THE RED TURF STORY

Less Than a Year in the Making, the Country’s First-Ever Red Synthetic Turf Field Will Debut Sept. 18: In describing the spontaneity of fund-raising efforts for Eastern Washington University’s Red Turf Project, Marc Hughes thinks of it as “gasoline on a fire.”

If it wasn’t for the incredibly generous $500,000 gift of Michael and Katherine Roos, the Eastern associate athletic director for development knows the entire project would have gone up in smoke before it even started. But that initial gift --gasoline on a fire if you will -- ignited the subsequent generous giving by other friends of Eastern and made the project a reality in time for the 2010 season.

“Without Michael and Kat, we aren’t where we are today,” Hughes admits. “That’s a given.”

Impressively, the project was less than a year in the making, with a cost of approximately $825,000. From the initial proposal presented to the Roos family to the conclusion of turf installation, the project lasted a mere 8 1/2 months.

Despite the quick turnaround, the results are simply astonishing.

On Sept. 18, the generosity of those Eagle fans and friends -- including a large group of former players -- will come to fruition when the Eagles play their first football game on the new Sprinturf surface.

Eastern will play its long-time rival Montana at 4:05 p.m. that day in what will be a sold-out stadium (capacity of just under 11,000). It would have been a huge game anyway, as Eastern enters the 2010 season ranked 13th nationally and has advanced to the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs in four of the last six seasons.

 Before playing the first game on the turf, Eastern has planned a dedication and open house for Thursday, Sept. 16. The event will begin at 3 p.m. when the “Patchin, Osso and the Wingman” radio show on 700 ESPN “The Ticket” begins its broadcast live from the field.

At 3:15 p.m. the re-dedication ceremony takes place as the name of the field officially becomes Roos Field. Dave Woodward and his wife, Grace, will attend and participate as a plaque is unveiled commemorating the 78 years the field was named after his father, Arthur C. “Woody” Woodward. Michael and Katherine Roos won’t be able to attend because the Titans play at home that week.

Finally, from 3:30 p.m. to 4:15 p.m., fans will be invited to the field to get a close-up view of the turf. At 4:20 p.m., Eastern’s football team will practice and fans are encouraged to watch.

 

The Need for Turf . . .

Built in 1967, Eastern’s stadium has had a grass field since its inception. Modern artificial turf provides a safe, fast, low-maintenance surface for football, and is particularly desirous in regions with inclement weather.

Besides the obvious advantages of synthetic turf in inclement weather, Eastern typically has additional practice issues late in the season in dealing with darkness and class schedules. With artificial turf, the Eagles can practice on their game field under the lights at their convenience with minimal field condition worries.

"When all is said and done, the most important aspects of this Red Turf Project are the ways it benefits student-athletes at EWU," Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin said. "It gives us a surface that's better to play on, and it's extremely important for us to be able to practice on our game field more often."

Besides that, the speed and skills of Eastern players -- featuring running back Taiwan Jones -- made the timing of the project even more important. Jones has two more years in Eastern’s program after a 1,000-yard season in 2009 helped him earn All-America honors as a sophomore. 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.

Eastern becomes the sixth of nine universities in the Big Sky Conference to convert to artificial turf, with Sacramento State also converting its field in summer 2010. The turf installation will also benefit EWU and the environment through a savings of approximately 300,000 gallons of water per year.

 

The Initial Donation . . .

Finding reasons to have a synthetic surface were incredibly easy to come up with compared to the obstacle of funding it. There was a vision, but no plan in the works when Hughes sat down on Dec. 22, 2009, with Michael and Katherine and presented them a proposal to contribute to a new synthetic surface.

Roos, already a mainstay at left offensive tackle for the Tennessee Titans of the National Football League, had quickly established a generous legacy of giving back to his alma mater since ending his EWU career in 2004. Through the Michael Roos Foundation, he had established a dinner, sports auction and poker tournament; partnered with EWU’s Orland Killin Dinner, Dance and Auction; hosted the inaugural Fish & Chip Tournament in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, and contributed to Eastern Athletics, Special Olympics in Washington and Boys and Girls Clubs of Spokane County. In addition, the Roos family has donated two sets of uniforms to the Eastern football program.

His generosity was deep rooted because of the opportunity Eastern afforded him. After moving to the United States from Estonia in 1992, he played just one season of high school football before EWU recruited him almost by accident in 2000. The Eastern coaching staff was watching another prospective player on video when they noticed Roos, then saw him for the first time in person playing high school basketball.

"I am grateful for my time at EWU," said Roos, a 2008 All-Pro selection and a starter in that season’s Pro Bowl. "Not only did I meet my wife during my time at the university, but Eastern's leadership, coaches and football program paved the way for my professional success in football.  It is exciting to be able to give back."

After spending his first two years in the program as a tight end and defensive end, he finally moved to offensive line where he started 35-straight games for EWU. By the time he ended the 2010 season for the Titans, his string of consecutive starts as a football player had reached 139. He graduated in 2005 with a finance and economics degree; Katherine, a former Eastern tennis player, graduated a year earlier with a degree in urban and regional planning.

But the pitch for artificial turf was not a small one, and Hughes was more concerned with fulfilling the wishes of the Roos family in directly helping the Eagle football program. Roos, who also remains in close contact with EWU offensive coordinator Aaron Best (his offensive line coach while he was an Eagle), was aware that Baldwin felt artificial turf was the most immediate need for his program. The idea of red turf was kicked around, but never a given.

“Michael liked the idea of red initially and Kat also liked it,” explained Hughes. “Michael wanted to make sure the football coaches were okay with the red color.”

A simple text message came to an overjoyed Hughes on Jan. 7, 2010, part of which read, "count me and Kat in for 500k." That created the momentum to institute a fundraising plan, and, as it turned out, the gasoline was red.

The announcement of the pledge -- and the unique color of the turf -- was made on Jan. 26, 2010.

 "We cannot thank Michael and Katherine enough for their generous gift," said Chaves at the time of the announcement. "As former student-athletes, their leadership takes the thought of ‘learning, earning and returning' to an entirely new level. Our hope is that this will inspire others to join Michael and Katherine in helping complete this project. We are sincerely grateful."

 

The Publicity . . .

What made the announcement out of the ordinary was the fact Eastern’s new turf would be the first red synthetic playing surface not only in NCAA Division I but in the entire country. That made it a magnet for instant publicity on a national scale.

Coverage of the turf announcement in late January included mentions on ESPN’s Pardon the Interruption, SportsNation, The Dan Patrick Show, the New York Times, as well as a story run nationally by Associated Press. After the announcement went viral via the web, an estimated 16 million media impressions were made nationally about the project through the internet, blogs, newspaper stories or broadcast reports.

The publicity took off again in the summer when the turf was actually being laid, including a story in the Wall Street Journal, coverage from the Reuters News Agency and mentions on ESPN. A turf cam (at www.goeags.com) had more than two million hits as fans watched the progress.

 

The Gasoline on the Fire . . .

The Eastern Washington University Board of Trustees, the EWU Foundation and Eastern administrators worked together once the original pledge was made by the Roos family. EWU Foundation executive director Mike Westfall, director of development Tim Szymanowski, athletic director Bill Chaves and Hughes were now tasked to essentially match the initial donation by the Roos family to fund the project. If they could secure funds by June 1, the turf could be installed by the fall.

Alumni and friends of Eastern came through magnificently and generously.

ESPN radio personality Colin Cowherd, a former Eastern student, announced his $50,000 gift toward the project on Feb. 12, and then returned to Eastern to serve as host for the Killin Dinner, Dance and Auction on April 24. Another large gift was made by former Eagle Kurt Schulz (1991 EWU graduate, football letter winner 1988-91, 10-year NFL safety).

Others would follow with significant gifts as well, including Tim Bradbury (1984 EWU graduate, football letter winner 1981-82-83, now President, New Media for American City Business Journals) and Jim McElwain (1985 EWU graduate, football letter winner 1981-82, former EWU assistant coach and now offensive coordinator at Alabama), as well as the Rockwood Clinic.

In March, the “Play it on the Red” fund-raising effort began to raise money through the contributions of former Eastern players. Leading the effort was Eastern Hall of Famer Dick Zornes, a former EWU football player, assistant coach, head coach and athletic director. He wrote hand-written notes to players, teammates and fellow coaches from his tenure, which was no small task considering the length of his 26-year association with Eastern.

“Coach Zornes helped us galvanize a group of former football players and other friends to support the project," says Hughes. "These members of the EWU family continued the positive momentum of generosity ignited by Michael and Kat.”

 

Honoring the Roos Family . . .

With fundraising going well, Eastern set its sights on making sure the project could meet an aggressive timeline and be completed in time for the 2010 season. Though the project was managed by the EWU Foundation via Westfall, its success was a team effort as a core group of individuals, including Chaves, Syzmanowski, Hughes and EWU facilities representative Mike Davis, spent countless hours meeting with engineers and turf companies.  Eventually the EWU Foundation sent out and received bids back for the project.

But as that was going on, the school wanted to thank the Roos family for their philanthropic efforts. On May 20, Eastern made the announcement that Woodward Field would be re-named to “Roos Field” upon project completion.

“We are thrilled to be able to acknowledge in this manner the incredible contributions Michael and Katherine have made to Eastern Washington University,” said Chaves. “We felt this was the most appropriate honor we could give them, but at the same time, we regard highly the legacy left by Mr. Woodward. Regardless of the name change, we will permanently remember the Woodward family at our stadium.”

A plaque commemorating the 78 years Eastern’s football stadium has been named Woodward Field will be placed on the new entrance. The stadium originally was located in two different places, but was moved to its present site in 1967.  When the field was dedicated in 1932, Eastern was known as Cheney Normal before going through three name changes (Eastern Washington College of Education, Eastern Washington State College and Eastern Washington University).

The stadium was named for Arthur C. Woodward, who was Eastern’s head football coach in 1927 and 1928. More importantly, Woodward was head of Eastern’s department of physical education and health for 23 years from 1927 to 1950. He was insistent that every interested student should have the opportunity to engage in competitive sports through intramural activities. He endeared himself to students, and, as a result, Woodward Field was named in his honor in 1932.

His son, Cheney native Dave Woodward, is 85 and now living in Pueblo, Colo. Dave went on to become a pioneer in scuba diving and in April 2009, was given the International Legends of Diving Award in Freeport, Grand Bahamas for his 54-year diving career. His start in that endeavor began after his father gave him a pair of new swim fins that were provided by the Voit Rubber Company, and he tried them out in the pool located in the basement of Eastern’s Showalter Hall.

A few short days after the name change announcement, the EWU Board of Trustees gave its formal approval of the project’s gift agreement with the EWU Foundation, allowing the project to be constructed by the Foundation and gifted to EWU at its conclusion. On June 2, the project received formal approval from the EWU Foundation Board of Directors, including the financing plan between U.S. Bank and the EWU Foundation.

 

The Results . . .

The official start of the project began under sensational blue skies on June 12 with a “turfbreaking” ceremony. Michael and Katherine Roos helped uncover the first mounds of sod from the nearly 40-year-old stadium. They were joined by Eastern President Dr. Rodolfo Arévalo and EWU Foundation Board Chair Rob Neilson.

It was announced that Sprintfurf Inc., based in Wayne, Pa., received the contract to install the first red turf. The excavation and prep work sub-contractor was Pauletto Trucking and Excavation in Spokane, which was also a sub-contractor for the Sprinturf field that was installed in 2005 at Gonzaga Prep High School in Spokane. Other contractors involved in the project included Coffman Engineers and Geo Engineers, both based in Spokane.

The first month of the project included the removal of 18 inches of sod and dirt before beginning the prep work, which included a sophisticated drainage system and 12 inches of granular sand with a coating of gravel. That process also included highly-technical laser leveling.

Finally, a truck carrying a partial shipment of the new turf arrived on Aug. 3, and the installation crew rolled out the first turf on the field the next day. Once all the turf was laid, all that was left was final stitching and gluing, installation of logos and the final step of the field being infilled with millions of rubber pellets. In three weeks, the project was completed and ready for play by Aug. 27 when the Eagles practiced on the turf for the first time.

 

The Future . . .

The turf is only the beginning.

By mid-August 2010, as the project was nearing completion, fund raising efforts had yielded more than $900,000 in pledges, with the extra funds applied to turf financing costs and a future scoreboard project. The scoreboard is long overdue in its own right. The Woodward Field scoreboard was first installed in 1989, but without video and other bells and whistles that help make the fan experience at games and other campus events special. A new scoreboard would also provide an increased advertising revenue stream and provide recruiting advantages as well.

In the long term, Baldwin sees several significant advantages thanks to the investment. His team has already developed into a solid, championship contender in the Big Sky Conference. And now, just like where the turf helped take EWU in the national conscience, he hopes his football program will contend yearly for national titles.

"First of all, the generosity and loyalty Michael Roos has shown to our football program at EWU are unparalleled," Baldwin said. "Top to bottom, the players and coaches -- everyone associated with our program -- knows it's a sizable and generous gift, and can't be more excited about the opportunity to play and practice on the new surface.”

The momentum created by the Roos family and the legion of other donors has Baldwin excited about the possibility of replacing the old scoreboard and its impact on his program.

 "It's huge for recruiting because potential student-athletes can see the progress we are making and the positive direction of our program," he continued. "With all the different events that can take place at Roos Field and a stronger game-day experience, it's bound to bring more exposure to our program. We already feel proud about the great things we are doing, but hopefully this project will continue our evolution as a nationally-recognized program and university."

Eastern is hoping for more results that ignite like gasoline on a fire.

 

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