Eastern hoping to avoid a 'hangover' after registering a huge 36-27 win over sixth-ranked Montana in the first game on EWU's new red Sprinturf field
Eastern Washington Univ. "Eagles"
Montana State University "Bobcats"
Saturday, September 25 • 12:05 p.m. Pacific
Bobcat Stadium (13,500/FieldTurf) • Bozeman, Mont.
EWU Coach: Beau Baldwin (Central Washington
School Record: 16-10/11-5 Big Sky (3rd Season)
Career Record: 26-13 (4th Season -- was 10-3 at CWU in 2007, 6-5 at EWU in 2008, 8-4 at EWU in 2009)
2010: 2-1/1-0 Big Sky Conference
Last Game: EWU 36, Montana 27 (Sept. 18 in Cheney, Wash.)
2009: 8-4/6-2 Big Sky Conference
TV: Televised in Montana by Max Media
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.
Be wary of the hangover. But even more importantly, be wary of the Bobcats.
From one lopsided series to another, ninth-ranked Eastern Washington University makes its first Big Sky Conference road trip of the season when the Eagles play at No. 17 Montana State on Saturday (Sept. 25). Kickoff at Bobcat Stadium in Bozeman, Mont., is 12:05 p.m. Pacific time.
Eastern's radio broadcast of the game may be heard on 700-AM ESPN "The Ticket" and via the web at www.espnnorthwest.com. No local television is available, but the game may be viewed at www.bigskytv.org and in Montana via Max Media.
Eastern is coming off a successful debut on its new red synthetic Sprinturf surface last Saturday (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.
The celebration after the huge win over the 12-time defending league champions had Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin bringing up Montana State quickly and often following the game. He speaks from experience -- he was an assistant coach in 2005 when Eastern followed a 34-20 road victory over Montana with a 28-23 home loss to Weber State.
"We have to be careful not to have that hangover game," said Baldwin. "Next week there are a lot of distractions. One, when you're coming off a game like this you have to be careful. We're playing a Montana State team that is good -- really good."
Baldwin also brought up academics, with classes at EWU starting this Wednesday (Sept. 22)
"Our players need to enjoy this -- which they should," Baldwin said after the Montana win. "But they need to come back focused on academics and not let that force us into a tailspin. That first week, when school is back in session, we have a goofy practice schedule. We have to do everything we can to avoid going backward."
Eastern, 2-1 overall and 1-0 in the Big Sky, moved up nine spots and is ranked ninth in The Sports Network/Fathead.com top 25 NCAA Football Championship Subdivision poll. It is Eastern's highest ranking since finishing the 2007 season ranked eighth. Montana State, 2-1 overall and 0-0 in the league, is ranked 17th while Montana slipped from sixth to 14th after falling to the Eagles, and was No. 1 two weeks ago.
Recent history is on the side of the Eagles in a series that has seen EWU come out on top in 25 of 33 meetings. Eastern has won the last seven meetings and 16 of the last 19. Since 1990, EWU's only losses to the Bobcats came in 1997 (17-7 in Bozeman), 2001 (48-38 in Spokane) and 2002 (25-14 in Bozeman).
That winning streak for the Eagles could have easily ended last season at home against the Bobcats in EWU's 35-24 win. The game featured scoring runs of 14 and 21 unanswered points by the Eagles, and a mid-game run of 18-straight points by the Bobcats.
Eastern fell behind 24-14 early in the fourth quarter, but scored the final 21 points, including a pair of touchdown passes from Matt Nichols to Taiwan Jones. Tyler Hart closed the scoring with a 4-yard run with 1:49 to play -- the first rushing touchdown surrendered by MSU all season.
At one point in the fourth quarter, Eastern was 0-of-9 on third-down conversions and had only 201 yards of offense, compared to 470 for the Bobcats. But Eastern converted its last three third downs in the last five minutes of the game and had 193 yards of offense in the final quarter to finish with 394. Montana State finished with 592 yards of offense.
Eastern has won the last three meetings in Bozeman, with MSU's last win coming by a 25-14 score in 2002. In fact, Eastern has not lost to Montana State in the last seven times they have met at Roos Field, dating back to a 28-25 double-overtime victory by the Bobcats in 1990.
By contrast, Eastern picked up a rare win last week against Montana, which now leads the all-time series 25-11-1. The win by the Eagles was their first over Montana since 2005, and the school's first since 1991 at Roos Field (formerly Woodward Field). Eastern has won just four times in the last 18 meetings.
Red Turf To Be Featured on ESPN GameDay: A feature on Eastern's new red turf is expected to air this week during ESPN GameDay coverage from Boise, Idaho, where the Broncos host Oregon State on BSU's blue turf. An ESPN crew, led by feature producer Lydelle King, was in Cheney last Saturday and Sunday videotaping highlights, interviews and the turf itself. The show, which features Chris Fowler, Lee Corso, Kirk Herbstreit and Desmond Howard, airs Saturday (Sept. 25) from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Pacific time.
It Wasn't All Pretty, But It Was a Win: Missed opportunities and mistakes plagued Eastern in its 36-27 victory over Montana, but fortunately, the Grizzlies had their own missed opportunities and mistakes.
Eastern fell behind 14-0 with a disastrous start, but overcame three turnovers, a 2-of-15 night on third down and three trips into the red zone that ended with field goals. Montana, meanwhile, had six turnovers, was 3-of-15 on first down and managed only two field goals in the second half after scoring 21 first-half points.
"We were in position to possibly take an early lead but we overthrew Taiwan (Jones) on a play we had drawn up, then the next thing you know we throw an interception for a touchdown on the next play," Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin explained of his team's slow start. "You think you were going up 7-0 to going down 7-0. Then we came back and made a mistake on kick return that gave them another touchdown."
"Yes, we did," Baldwin added of digging out of the hole. "The best thing I can say about that is the attitude of the guys on the sideline. Nobody panicked and thought we were done. Everybody just believed and stayed with it. We didn't change what we were doing -- we knew if we kept chopping away we could get back into it and eventually on top."
Eastern's touchdowns featured a 32-yard touchdown pass, a 72-yard touchdown run and a blocked punt returned for a score, and then clinched the win with a fumble return for a score.
"We hit some big plays," said Baldwin. "And we also made some mistakes. If we can work on playing cleaner we won't put our defense in such a tough position. We have the power to move the ball but we have to clean-up two things -- I'd like to see us improve our short-yardage running game in the red zone and we need to make sure we're cleaner with the turnover piece."
Start of School Has Sometimes Translated to Setbacks for Eagles -- The start of classes in late September for EWU signals the end of the month-long, football-only period for the Eagles. And in the last 10 years, it's made winning on the field that much more difficult.
From 2000-2009, Eastern was 5-4 in the first game after school begins (includes one bye). But in the game after the first full week of school, Eastern was just 3-7 in that same time span.
Last season the Eagles avoided any start of school pratfalls. The 2009 fall quarter began on Sept. 23, followed by EWU's 56-30 victory at Sacramento State. The Eagles followed that with an equally-convincing 38-3 win at Idaho State on Oct. 3 to improve to 3-0 in Big Sky Conference play.
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:
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 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 27, 2010 - Red Turf Gets Overwhelming Approval from Eagle Players
August 26, 2010 - Radio Show Featuring Baldwin Airs Live From Northern Quest
August 25, 2010 - EWU-PSU to Play for the Dam Cup
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
Walter Payton Award Candidate Wins Big Sky & National Accolades: Not surprisingly, Taiwan Jones has earned Big Sky Conference and national accolades for his career-high 221-yard rushing performance in Eastern's 36-27 victory over Montana last Saturday (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.
The previous career best for Jones was 190 against Sacramento State on Sept. 26, 2009. A candidate for the Walter Payton Award given to the top player in FCS, Jones scored on a 72-yard run in the second quarter and also had a 45-yard pass reception.
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's huge," praised Baldwin. "He comes up big in big games -- that's the type of player he is. At the same time, he's an amazing teammate. He cares about his teammates and his team first more than anything else. He never ceases to amaze me. You put him in that position and he's one of those guys who has talent but he also has a huge heart. He's not afraid of any situation."
With an average of 287.3 all-purpose yards (rushing, receiving, returns) per game, the junior running back is the early leader in that category in NCAA Championship Subdivision statistics. He also ranks fourth in rushing (151.7 per game) and 13th in scoring (10.0 per game with five 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 8.6 yards per rush.
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 eight plays in his career of 71 yards or more, 13 of at least 50 and 27 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. Nine times in his career he has eclipsed the 200-yard mark in all-purpose yards and has eight 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 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, 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 has a career average of 157.4 all-purpose yards per game to currently rank as the school record, and his 990 kickoff return yards is seventh. His total all-purpose yardage of 3,462 is just 20 yards away from Eastern's top 10 list, and by the end of the season he should be on Eastern's all-time lists for rushing yards (currently with 1,668), scoring (144) and touchdowns (25).
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 Candidate Has 12 Tackles Versus Grizzlies: A year after finishing second in the voting, Eastern Washington University senior linebacker J.C. Sherritt has been selected to the 20-player watch list for the 2010 Buck Buchanan Award awarded by The Sports Network to the top defensive player in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision.
Sherritt is coming off a season-high 12 tackles in Eastern's 36-27 victory over sixth-ranked Montana. 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 28 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 284 career tackles to rank seventh in school history, he needs 116 more 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.
Twins Big Versus Montana, Including Big Sky Defensive Player of the Week Matt Johnson: Junior strong safety Matt Johnson had a big game against Montana, 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.
His two interceptions gives him 12 picks in his career to rank fourth in school history, and he is now just six 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). Johnson also already has 207 tackles to rank 24th all-time at Eastern.
But his twin brother Zach Johnson also had a big game with 10 total tackles and a forced fumble on Montana'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.
Special Teams Were Special Versus Griz: Led by the three field goals of junior kicker Mike Jarrett -- including the game-winner for all intents and purposes -- Eastern's special teams were special in Eastern's 36-27 victory over Montana on Sept. 18.
Jarrett was short on his first field goal attempt from 41 yards out, but made a pair of 20-yarders before his clutch 31-yard kick with four seconds to play in the game. His boot broke a 27-all tie, and Eastern added a touchdown on the game's final play to win by nine.
Jarrett is now 4-of-6 kicking field goals this season with a long of 40, and last season was 5-of-10 with a long of 49. A former walk-on, Jarrett's brother Bryan was an All-Big Sky Conference safety while playing for EWU from 2005-07.
"We were struggling a little bit with our red zone offense -- we couldn't punch it in there," said Baldwin. "But I'm so proud of Mike Jarrett for making three field goals, including the last one."
Junior Darriell Beaumonte also had a huge special teams play by blocking a punt and returning it six yards for a score -- EWU's first blocked punt returned for a TD since 2004. Matt Johnson also forced a fumble on a punt return that was recovered by sophomore Artise Gauldin, and freshman redshirt J.C. Agen recovered a fumble on yet another UM punt return.
"Special teams were huge," added Baldwin. "We've put an emphasis on special teams this year. We're giving out special teams awards and we're doing things like letting them eat first at team meals. We feel like we needed to improve on that, and that was an area in the past that I felt Montana had an edge on us. Based on what I saw live, I felt like we created it to be an advantage for us this year."
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 52.5 percent of his passes for 675 yards, five touchdowns and three interceptions, and a passing efficiency rating of 120.4. 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.
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 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.
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.
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).
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. The other true freshman currently playing is freshman Ryan 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 (145 starts by 18 players): Matt Johnson 26, J.C. Sherritt 23, Tyler Jolley 19, Renard Williams 17, Zach Johnson 14, Evan Cook 12, David Miles 7, Tyler Washburn 7, Dante Calcote 6, Jesse Hoffman 4, Jeff Minnerly 3, Paul Ena 2, Artise Gauldin 1, Anthony Larry 1, Will Edge 1, Rusty Haehl 1, Grant Williams 1 (includes one start on offense in 2009).
Offense (117 starts by 18 players): Taiwan Jones 15 (includes four on defense in 2008), Chris Powers 15, Nikolai Myers 15, Gabriel Jackson 14, Nicholas Edwards 14, Brice Leahy 11, Matt Martin 8, Brandon Kaufman 8, Ashton Gant 3, Steven Forgette 3, Tyler Hart 2, Bo Levi Mitchell 2, Will Post 2, Zack Gehring 1, Brandon Murphy 1, Darriell Beaumonte 1, Nick Gauthier 1, Josh Antonson 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 39.6 career average, good enough to rank seventh 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.
Injury Report: Freshman defensive end Anthony Larry, who made his first career start against Central Washington but suffered a slight knee injury early in the game, is still questionable after missing the Montana game.
Running back Taiwan 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. "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 -- have missed Eastern's first three 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 both the Central and Montana games.
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: Recent history is on the side of the Eagles in a series that has seen EWU come out on top in 25 of 33 meetings. Eastern has won the last seven meetings and 16 of the last 19. In fact, Eastern has not lost to Montana State in the last seven times they have met at Roos Field, dating back to a 28-25 double-overtime victory by the Bobcats in 1990. Eastern has also won the last three meetings in Bozeman, with MSU's last win coming by a 25-14 score in 2002. Since 1990, EWU's only losses to the Bobcats came in 1997 (17-7 in Bozeman), 2001 (48-38 in Spokane) and 2002 (25-14 in Bozeman).
Last Season . . . Eagles Rally For 35-24 Victory Over Montana State -- Sophomore running back Taiwan Jones and senior quarterback Matt Nichols sparked Eastern Washington in the fourth quarter as the Eagles rallied for a 35-24 victory over Montana State Oct. 24 at Woodward Field in Cheney, Wash., and remain in the thick of the Big Sky Conference football race.
The win snapped a two-game losing streak for the Eagles. The game featured scoring runs of 14 and 21 unanswered points by the Eagles, and a mid-game run of 18-straight points by the Bobcats.
"Obviously it was a wild game and fun for the fans," said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin. "But as a coach I can't remember one quite like that where there have been so many flow changes."
Eastern was victorious in its 83rd Annual Homecoming game, and is now 48-32-3 in those 83 games. Eastern also used the game to retire the No. 71 jersey previously worn at Eastern by Michael Roos (2001-2004), who is now an All-Pro tackle for the Tennessee Titans in the NFL.
Eastern fell behind 24-14 early in the fourth quarter, but scored the final 21 points, including a pair of touchdown passes from Nichols to Jones. Tyler Hart closed the scoring with a 4-yard run with 1:49 to play -- the first rushing touchdown surrendered by MSU all season.
At one point in the fourth quarter, Eastern was 0-of-9 on third-down conversions and had only 201 yards of offense, compared to 470 for the Bobcats. But Eastern converted its last three third downs in the last five minutes of the game and had 193 yards of offense in the final quarter to finish with 394. Montana State finished with 592 yards of offense.
"In the second half they obviously had a lot of momentum and were running the ball well," said Baldwin. "Then, boom-boom, we ended up hitting a few big plays. We definitely played in spurts and I never felt like we had a great flow. But sometimes that happens against great defenses and great teams. "
Nichols completed 26-of-41 passes for 327 yards and four touchdowns, including catch-and-run scoring plays to Jones of 20 and 38 yards in the fourth quarter. His other two touchdown passes were 16 and 15 yards to senior tight end Nathan Overbay, both in the final 53 seconds of the first half.
"Matt played great," praised Baldwin. "I think there was one ball that I look back on that he forced, but in 41 attempts he took care of the football and was taking hits. He's playing with a lot of young receivers on the outside, with Tony and Nate inside. It was great to see Matt finish his career at Woodward with a win."
Although held to 55 rushing yards on 12 carries, Jones finished with 264 yards of all-purpose yardage in the win. He caught six passes for 149 yards and returned four kickoffs for 60 more yards. Tony Davis added seven catches for 57 yards, with Overbay finishing with five grabs for 60 yards.
Junior linebacker J.C. Sherritt, who entered the game leading FCS with an average of 14.4 tackles per game, had 18 versus the Bobcats. Sophomore safety Matt Johnson added 14 tackles with an interception, a sack and a fumble recovery.
Johnson was a huge factor in the first half, with his interception coming at EWU's 8-yard line in the first quarter to squelch a MSU threat. Later, Eastern drove 80 yards on seven plays to score with 53 seconds remaining in the first half. On the next offensive play, Eastern's Bobby Gentry forced a MSU fumble that Johnson returned 14 yards to set-up a 15-yard touchdown pass from Nichols to Overbay with 32 seconds left.
But the Bobcats scored on their next offensive play to pull within 14-12 at halftime, then scored the first 12 points of the second half to take a 24-14 advantage with 14:04 remaining in the game.
On its next possession, Eastern faced a fourth-and-10 play from the MSU 42, but true freshman Brandon Kaufman hauled in a 12-yard pass from Nichols to keep the drive alive. Kaufman was making the first start of his career in place of senior Aaron Boyce, whose prolific 42-game career came to an end with an Achilles tendon injury suffered the previous week against Montana.
"Kaufman maybe had the biggest play of the game as you look back on how the game unfolded," said Baldwin.
One play after Kaufman's catch, Jones scored the first of his two touchdowns that gave EWU a 28-24 lead with 10:12 remaining. His second touchdown was set-up by a 21-yard punt return by Davis, who also had a 24-yard return in the first half.
Eastern clinched the victory with a 12-play, 96-yard drive that took 5:53 off the clock and gave EWU a 35-24 lead with 1:49 remaining. That came after a MSU fourth down touchdown pass was ruled an incompletion with 7:42 to play.
"(Matt) talked about it the other day that he's never really had a comeback," Baldwin said of his senior quarterback, who has nearly 11,000 passing yards in his career. "He won a lot of games in high school without a lot of close games, and here he really never had a comeback. To be down 10 late in the game and to not have Aaron Boyce, he stood up big-time and made some huge plays to bring us back."
Montana State was ranked 24th nationally after a 26-21 road victory over Weber State before falling 23-10 to Northern Arizona on Oct. 10. The Bobcats received enough votes entering the EWU game to rank 32nd, six spots behind EWU at No. 26.
"This is a team that put it to Weber State's great offense," said Baldwin. "They have a lot of great players, and they like to run the ball and play great defense. They make it tough on you, but some of our big-time players made some big plays at crucial times."
Griz-Eagle Matchup Lives Up to Hype: In a series full of drama, the 2010 meeting between Eastern and Montana was the ninth time in the last 15 meetings that both teams entered the game nationally ranked. And it went down to the wire as the Eagles pulled out a 36-27 victory.
Junior Mike Jarrett nailed a 31-yard field goal with four seconds left to give Eastern a 30-27 lead, then the Eagles iced it on the final play of the game with a 34-yard fumble return for a touchdown by junior defensive tackle Renard Williams after a sack and forced fumble by sophomore end Jerry Ceja with additional pressure by senior Tyler Jolley.
It was Eastern's first victory over Montana since 2005, giving Eastern's seniors their first win over the Grizzlies. Since 1990, Eastern has won four times on UM's home field in Missoula, but Eastern had won just twice at home in that span until this year. The lone win since then at Roos Field (formerly Woodward Field) came in 1991, and Eastern's change to a red synthetic Sprinturf surface and change of name altered its success in Cheney where the Eagles had a six-game losing streak.
Montana now leads the series 25-11-1, and has still won six of the last eight meetings. Since winning three-straight over Montana from 1990-92, Eastern has won just four times -- 40-35 in 1997 (in Missoula), 30-21 in 2002 (at Albi Stadium in Spokane), 34-20 in 2005 (in Missoula) and 36-27 in 2010 (in Cheney) -- in the last 18 meetings. Overall, Eastern is 4-13-1 in Missoula, 6-11 in home games and 1-1 in games played at neutral sites.
The Eagles shared the 2004 and 2005 Big Sky titles with Montana, but the Grizzlies have won or shared every league title since 1998. Eastern is the last Big Sky school other than Montana to win the outright title, with that coming in 1997 when the Eagles advanced to the semifinals of the FCS Playoffs.
Nine 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 37 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, 541 yards by the Eagles in a 34-20 win in Missoula in 2005 and 503 in a 2010 victory in Cheney. In fact, in the last 25 meetings the winning team has averaged 33.6 points. In seven of those 25 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. Besides the late-game heroics by the Eagles in 2010, Eastern knotted the 2009 meeting 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 - #18 Eastern Washington 36, #6 Montana 27 (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.)
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 Schedule Another Game Versus UW for 2014: The Eagles are making up for lost time.
Eastern Washington University has scheduled a second football game against the University of Washington, giving the Eagles games in both 2011 and 2014 versus the Huskies of the Pacific 10 Conference. The announcement of the agreement was made jointly by EWU and UW on Wednesday (Sept. 15).
Eastern will open the 2011 season at Husky Stadium on Sept. 3, then will return on Sept. 6, 2014. The Eagles will play at Washington State in 2012 and Oregon State in 2013, giving Eastern four-straight games against Pac 10 opponents. Besides games in 1907 and 1908 against Washington State, Eastern's only other games versus Pac 10 opponents have been against Oregon State (2000 and 2006), Arizona State (2002) and California (2009). Eastern has also played recent Pac 10 recruit Colorado (2008).
Eastern has never played Washington.
"We are extremely excited about scheduling Washington again in 2014," said Eastern athletic director Bill Chaves. "Given the roster makeup of our team, those two games against the Huskies affords the many student-athletes we have from the west side of the state the opportunity to play at 'home' against Washington. That will no doubt be a memorable experience and thrill for not only our players and coaches, but our fans and alumni as well."
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 26 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 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.
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.
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
2011 EWU Tentative Schedule
9/3 - at Washington
9/10 - TBA
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 - Bye
11/12 - at Cal Poly
11/19 - at Idaho State
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 - Bye
8/31 - at Oregon State
9/6 - at Washington
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).