Both sides of the ball trade big plays as Eagles conclude second week of spring practices
It was like two kids on a teeter-totter.
The Eastern Washington University offense and defense responded to each other's big plays with scores and stops throughout the day during EWU's 68-play football scrimmage Saturday (April 16) at Roos Field in Cheney, Wash.
The Eagles will scrimmage two more times in the remaining seven practice sessions of spring. Next Saturday's (April 23) scrimmage will take place in the 10 a.m. hour before the Eagles end spring drills with the annual Red-White game at 2 p.m. on April 30 that will be televised live regionally by SWX.
Eastern's offensive units ended drives with five touchdowns and a field goal on Saturday, but they never had them on back-to-back possessions. The Eastern defense rose to the occasion with stops after each score, including interceptions by cornerbacks Ronald Baines and Alden Gibbs. Two sacks by Paul Ena (pictured) and one by David Gaylord also helped the cause.
"There was great energy and plays made on both sides of the ball," said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin, whose defending NCAA Division I champions will open the 2011 season at Washington on Sept. 3. "That's what I always want to see, as well as the defense and offense responding to a bad situation by coming back strong."
Eastern's offensive units had 349 yards of total offense, with Eastern's running game especially impressive. A week after they combined for only 25 yards on nine carries in EWU's first spring scrimmage, senior Darriell Beaumonte (5-23), sophomore Mario Brown (8-31) and University of Washington sophomore transfer Demitrius Bronson (9-58) combined for 112 yards on 22 carries.
Brown scored on a 1-yard run late in the scrimmage and Bronson scored on a 2-yard scamper. Bronson averaged 6.4 yards per carry as he had runs of 17, 14, 9 and 8 yards among his nine carries.
"Beaumonte is a veteran who is always ready and has been an incredible leader for us. He's always going to be a factor," praised Baldwin. "Mario started for us at the end of last season and is continuing to get better and more comfortable with the offense. And I think Demitrius is going to be a great addition. We are going to need all three of those players, there's no doubt about it. All three of them will have a serious impact for us next year."
Eastern's four quarterbacks combined to complete 23-of-33 passes for 241 yards, with returning starter Bo Levi Mitchell leading the way. The MVP of the national championship game completed 7-of-12 passes for 75 yards, and had a 10-yard touchdown pass to Alante Wright to cap a 13-play, 65-yard drive.
Backup Anthony Vitto was 6-of-8 for 73 yards and 1-yard TD to Bo Levi's older brother, Cory Mitchell, which ended a 10-play, 60-yard drive. Nick Gauthier was 7-of-8 for 40 yards, directing Eastern on an eight-play, 48-yard drive that culminated with his 14-yard scoring toss to Greg Herd.
Even the team's fourth quarterback, Greg Panelli, directed the offense on a scoring drive of 65 yards on just six plays. A junior college transfer who redshirted last season, Panelli was 3-of-5 for 53 yards and two interceptions.
Baldwin said he could live with the interceptions, but several unforced errors -- including center-quarterback and quarterback-running back exchanges, as well as a fumble by Bo Levi -- need to be addressed in the final two weeks of spring practices.
"We have to clean-up some things and we will," Baldwin vowed. "We'll get wristbands for the quarterbacks and make it a little more game-like -- I think that will clean-up a couple of things that happened early. And we made some unforced errors and I can't stand those. I can live with a jarring hit and somebody knocking the ball out, or a good pick by the defense. But I can't live with exchange issues -- those things we have to improve on as we head through spring."
Ashton Clark was the team's leading receiver with four catches for 38 yards, and Wright also caught four passes for 29 yards. Cory Mitchell could have also had four grabs, but he couldn't quite haul in a pass to the end zone by his brother and finished with three grabs for 32 yards.
""That was one of the main reasons I came here -- I definitely wanted to play with my brother at some point," said Bo Levi, who played two seasons at Southern Methodist before transferring to EWU last fall. Cory is a 2006 graduate of Katy (Texas) High School and Bo Levi graduated two years later, so they didn't play much high school football together.
"We were able to do it in baseball when I was young, and it was the greatest of times," Bo Levi continued in regards to Cory, who has caught seven passes for 73 yards and two scores (but neither from Bo Levi) in two spring scrimmages thus far. "Coming out here and seeing him catch the ball and make some plays is a lot of fun. Sooner or later I hope it's me throwing the ball to him and having him make touchdown catches."
Gaylord was the leading tackler for the defense with six, and Ena added five.
"I feel like we're on a good track with where we need to be," added Baldwin. "I'm excited to see how the second half of spring practice goes."
Alante Wright 10 pass from Bo Levi Mitchell (fumbled snap)
Cory Mitchell 1 pass from Anthony Vitto (Michael Jarrett kick)
FG Jarrett 37
Greg Herd 14 pass from Nick Gauthier (Jarrett kick)
Mario Brown 1 run
Demitrius Bronson 2 run
Rushing: Demitrius Bronson 9-58, Mario Brown 8-31, Darriell Beaumonte 5-23, Nick Washburn 2-6, Nick Gauthier 2-9, Bo Levi Mitchell 2-minus-1, Greg Panelli 2-minus-2, Anthony Vitto 4-minus-13, Team 1-minus-3, Totals 35-108.
Passing: Bo Levi Mitchell 7-12-0 75, Anthony Vitto 6-8-0 73, Greg Panelli 3-5-2 53, Nick Gauthier 7-8-0 40, Totals 23-33-2 241.
Receiving: Ashton Clark 4-38, Alante Wright 4-29, Greg Herd 3-41, Cory Mitchell 3-32, Nicholas Edwards 2-23, Zack Gehring 1-24, Daniel Johnson 1-22, Tyler Hart 1-11, Darriell Beaumonte 1-9, Patrick Mealey 1-6, Dalton Puyear 1-4, Nick Washburn 1-2, Totals 23-241.
Interceptions: Alden Gibbs 1, Ronald Baines 1.
Sacks: Paul Ena 2, David Gaylord 1.