Season Begins in Familiar Locale for Many Eagles

With 41 players returning “home” to play the University of Washington, the Eagles are anxious to begin defense of their national title


Eastern Washington Univ. “Eagles”
at
University of Washington “Huskies”

Saturday, Sept. 3 • 4:05 p.m. Pacific
Husky Stadium (72,500/FieldTurf) • Seattle, Wash.

EWU Coach: Beau Baldwin (Central Washington ‘96)
School Record:
27-11/18-6 Big Sky (4th Season)
Career Record:
37-14 (5th Season -- was 10-3 at CWU in 2007, 6-5 at EWU in 2008, 8-4 at EWU in 2009, 13-2 at EWU in 2010)
2010:
13-2 (NCAA Division I Champions)/7-1 Big Sky Conference (co-champions)
Last Game: EWU 20, Delaware 19 (Jan. 7 in Frisco, Texas)
TV: Root Sports (formerly Fox Sports NW). Announcers include Tom Glasgow, Waren Moon, Jason Stiles and Jen Mueller
Radio:
700-AM ESPN “The Ticket” in Spokane. Larry Weir returns for his 21st season calling the play-by-play, with analysis handled by Paul Sorensen (Rob Keefe & Raul Vijil for UW Game)
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” & www.espnnorthwest.com


It will be a homecoming road game for 41 members of the Eastern Washington University football team. A historic homecoming at that.

The defending NCAA Division I champion opens defense of its title this Saturday (Sept. 3) when the Eagles open their season against Pac-12 Conference member Washington. The match-up – Washington’s first-ever meeting against a team from the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision – starts at 4:05 p.m. Pacific time and will be televised live on Root Sports. The radio broadcast of the game, featuring play-by-play announcer Larry Weir, may be heard on 700-AM ESPN "The Ticket" and via the web at www.espnnorthwest.com.

Eastern’s current 92-man roster includes 60 players from the state of Washington, and for much of its history as a member of Division I, the Eagles have dubbed themselves “Washington’s Team.” Of those 60 players, 41 are from the Puget Sound area, and another six are from Southwest Washington, just a short trip down Interstate 5 from Seattle.

“It’s going to be a lot of fun preparing for them,” said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin, who is from Tacoma, Wash., and graduated in 1990 from Curtis High School. “So many of our players have grown up in Tacoma, Seattle, North of Seattle, South of Tacoma. Probably over half our team is from the area if you were to break it down. They grew up watching Washington games and I grew up watching games at Husky Stadium or on TV. So to be in that environment against a Pac-12 team couldn’t get any better.”

The Huskies are a member of the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision and the Pac-12 Conference. Washington finished 7-6 overall and 5-4 in the league a year ago, just two years after a 0-12 campaign in 2008. The Huskies won their final four games last season, including a 19-7 Holiday Bowl victory over Nebraska -- a team Washington lost to 56-21 earlier in the year.

“I’m so excited about this game. I always get excited for the, quote-unquote, play-up games, but we don’t look at them that way. Our players look at them like it’s just another college football game – we don’t really worry about the classification. We are always excited about the opportunity to be on this stage.”

Eastern enters the 2011 season with more game experience and practice time than most teams, whose 2010 seasons ended last November. The Eagles played 15 games after ending the season with an 11-game winning streak to win the 2010 NCAA Division I title. With well more than an extra month of practice time under their belts, the Eagles finished the season on Jan. 7, 2011, with a come-from-behind 20-19 victory over Delaware in the national championship game.

Eastern returns 15 starters from last year’s team that finished with a school-record 13 wins and just two losses. Twelve Eagle players have garnered preseason honors, including seven who have received All-America honors at the NCAA FCS level. Those players include quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell, wide receiver Brandon Kaufman, center Chris Powers and tackle Gabriel Jackson on offense, and safety Matt Johnson, linebacker Zach Johnson and tackle Renard Williams on defense.

With the exception of some nagging injuries, Eastern enters the 2011 season in excellent health. True freshman linebacker Cody McCarthy (knee) is out for a few weeks, but Baldwin hopes to have all of his starters ready for the opener.

“We’re relatively healthy, although you are never perfect at this point,” he said. “(Strength and conditioning coach) Nate Brookreson and his assistants did a great job over the summer and the players worked hard. You can tell we have sustained our health pretty well during camp, and that’s a sign of a strong, athletic team, and a team which is in really good physical shape. We have a few dings, but for the most part – compared to years past – we are healthier now than we would be at this point.”

 

PDF Link to Fact Book

The complete version of the 2011 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
EWU Football News & Notes - http://www.goeags.com/sports/m-footbl/2011-12/news
Big Sky Conference Football - http://www.bigskyconf.com/index.aspx?tab=football&path=football
Spokane Spokesman-Review EWU Football Page - http://www.spokesman.com/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/DivisionIFCS.aspx
NCAA Statistics - http://web1.ncaa.org/mfb/mainpage.jsp?year=2011
College Sporting News - http://www.collegesportingnews.com
Championship Subdivision News - http://www.championshipsubdivisionnews.com


GAME NOTES

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 Pac-12 Conference. The announcement of the agreement was made jointly by EWU and UW on Sept. 15, 2010.

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-12 opponents. Besides games in 1907 and 1908 against Washington State, Eastern’s only other games versus Pac-12 opponents have been against Oregon State (2000 and 2006), Arizona State (2002) and California (2009). Eastern has also played recent Pac-12 recruit Colorado (2008).

Eastern has never played Washington until 2011.

“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 Pac-12 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 1996.

 

Eagles Versus The Pac-12 Conference & FBS

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 current Pac-12 Conference members, EWU is 0-5. 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

 

EWU Plays in Front of Largest Crowds in School History in 2006-2009

Six of the eight largest crowds Eastern has ever played in front of have occurred from 2006-2009. Eastern's 2009 game at California had 58,083 fans, ranking third on the list. A record crowd of 25,751 at Montana on Oct. 17, 2009, now ranks 11th. The 49,887 on hand in Lubbock, Texas, for EWU's 2008 game versus Texas Tech is now fourth in history and the 46,417 one week later in Boulder, Colo., for the EWU-Colorado game ranks fifth.

Eastern's 2007 game at BYU in sold-out LaVell Edwards Stadium broke the year-old record for the largest crowd the Eagles have ever played in front of. Strong winds, rain, snow and temperatures ranging from 37-45 degrees didn't keep many fans at home as the announced crowd of 64,522 was even larger than the stadium's listed capacity of 64,045.

Eastern's 2006 game versus West Virginia at sold-out Milan Puskar Stadium was attended by 59,504 fans – at the time, that was the largest crowd by nearly 20,000 fans the Eagles had ever played against. The previous record was 39,581 set at Arizona State in 2002. Eastern's game at Oregon State in 2006 is now the seventh-largest at 38,071. Below is a list of the 16 crowds in excess of 20,000 the Eagles have ever played against.

 

Attendance - Opponent - Date - Result
64,522 - at Brigham Young - Oct. 20, 2007 - L, 7-42
59,504 - at West Virginia - Sept. 9, 2006 - L, 3-52
58,083 - at California - Sept. 12, 2009 - L, 7-59
49,887 - at Texas Tech - Aug. 30, 2008 - L, 24-49
46,417 - at Colorado - Sept. 6, 2008 - L, 24-31
39,581 - at Arizona State - Aug. 31, 2002 - L, 2-38
38,071 - at Oregon State - Aug. 31, 2006 - L, 17-56
34,389 - at Air Force - Sept. 11, 2004 - L, 20-42
30,782 - at Oregon State - Sept. 2, 2000 - L, 19-21
27,323 - at U.S. International - Oct. 28, 1967 - W, 44-19
25,751 - at Montana - Oct. 17, 2009 - L, 34-41
25,493 - at Boise State - Oct. 14, 2000 - L, 23-41
23,739 - at Montana - Oct. 15, 2005 - W, 34-20
23,329 - at Montana - Nov. 15, 2003 - L, 10-41
23,226 - at Montana - Oct. 6, 2007 - L, 23-24
21,981 - at Boise State - Oct. 9, 1999 - L, 7-41
21.487 - at Boise State - Sept. 21, 1991 - L, 17-31
21,145 - at San Diego State - Aug. 30, 2003 - L, 9-19

 

Eagles Ranked No. 1 Nationally By The Sports Network

The Eastern Washington University football program will start the 2011 season the way it ended the 2010 campaign as the No. 1-ranked football team in the NCAA Championship Subdivision.

But staying there will be a difficult task.

The Eagles have been installed as a prohibitive No. 1 by voters in The Sports Network/Fathead.com FCS Preseason Top 25 released Aug. 15. They gained 90 of the 140 first-place votes and 3,377 points in the poll, which is selected by a national panel of sports information and media relations directors, broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries.

Eastern Washington won its final 11 games of the 2010 season to win the 2010 NCAA Division I title, and was ranked No. 1 in polls at the conclusion of the regular season and the playoffs. Eastern opens its 2011 season Sept. 3 at Washington of the Pac-12 Conference, before playing two more road games at South Dakota (Sept. 10) and Montana (Sept. 17). The Eagles, who return 15 starters plus their two kickers from last season's 13-2 squad, play their home opener Sept. 24 versus Montana State.

The Bobcats and Eagles shared the Big Sky Conference title a year ago, and MSU is ranked sixth in the preseason poll. Perennial national powerhouse Montana, which won or shared the previous 12 league titles before last year, enters the 2011 season ranked 12th.

During the regular season, the Top 25 will be released every Monday afternoon, except for the final weekend of the regular season, when it will be released Sunday morning, Nov. 20, due to its use as an official tool by the NCAA Division I Football Committee in selecting the 20-team playoff field.

The Sports Network and Fathead.com will release a final Top 25 following the FCS championship game, which will be held Jan. 7 at Pizza Hut Park in Frisco, Texas.

 

FCS Coaches Like Eagles as No. 1 Team Too

The final preseason rankings have been announced, and the Eastern Washington University football program is ready to start working on next year’s preseason rankings.

The Eagles received 23 of the 28 first-place votes to earn 687 points overall and have been ranked first in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Preseason Coaches Poll released Monday (Aug. 22). A week earlier, the Eagles were ranked No. 1 in The Sports Network/Fathead.com FCS Preseason Top 25, gaining 90 of the 140 first-place votes.

“Next year at this time I would like to see us up near the top again,” explained Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin, whose team finished No. 1 in both polls last season after winning the 2010 NCAA Division I title. “It means you’ve done good things the year before. We love the fact we are No. 1 and appreciate the recognition.”

Appalachian State, which finished the 2010 season at No. 4, earned one first-place vote and a total of 617 points, placing the Mountaineers in the No. 2 spot.  Georgia Southern received three first-place votes after making a run to the national semifinals and begins the 2011 season at No. 3. William & Mary is fourth and Delaware, which Eastern defeated 20-19 in the national championship game, rounds out the top five.

Big Sky Conference rival Montana State is No. 6, and Montana is 12th. Eastern plays those two teams on Sept. 24 and Sept. 17, respectively, to open league play for the Eagles. Other Big Sky schools receiving votes in the poll included Sacramento State (66), Northern Arizona (3) and Weber State (3). Non-conference foe Cal Poly received 71 votes.

The FCS Coaches Poll is based exclusively on a voting panel of head coaches in the FCS under the cooperation of the Collegiate Commissioners Association (CCA) and the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA), and is administered by the Southern Conference.

“I don’t mention it at all to our team, but it’s a great thing for our program and it’s what we’ve set as our vision,” added Baldwin of the preseason rankings. “We’ve been successful for a lot of years, but we’re always trying to take our success to another level. If you are truly going after that level of success, you are going to have preseason rankings to live up to and, quote, unquote, have pressure to live up to it. That comes with the territory.”

 

All-America Recap

Six Eagles earned All-America honors in 2010, including four who will return in the 2011 season. Junior wide receiver Brandon Kaufman was honored as a sophomore, while center Chris Powers, safety Matt Johnson and defensive lineman Renard Williams earned All-America accolades as juniors.

Kaufman was selected to the College Sports News “Sweet 63” All-America Team and the Phil Steele Publications All-America fourth team. Johnson was also on the “Sweet 63” squad, and earned second-team honors from Phil Steele and third team accolades from the Sports Network. Powers was a first-team choice by the Sports Network and picked to the Phil Steele third team. Williams, a two-time first-team All-Big Sky Conference selection, was selected to the “Sweet 63” squad.

In addition, quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell was selected as the Most Outstanding Player in the NCAA Division I Championship game, and Kaufman was chosen by the College Sporting News as its playoffs MVP.

Head coach Beau Baldwin received numerous national accolades as well, including the College Sporting News Coach of the Year and the same honor from the American Football Monthly. He was on the voting list for the 2010 Eddie Robinson Award presented by The Sports Network, and was a finalist for the Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year award.

The only two departed All-Americans were running back Taiwan Jones and linebacker J.C. Sherritt, who won the 2010 Buck Buchanan Award presented by The Sports Network to the top defensive player in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision. Sherritt was also selected to six different All-America teams as a first-team selection, and was the College Sporting News Defensive Player of the Year and the Big Sky Defensive MVP.

Jones, who had a year of eligibility remaining but declared himself eligible for the NFL Draft, finished fourth in the voting for the 2010 Walter Payton Award presented by The Sports Network to the top offensive player in the FCS. He was also selected to five different All-America teams as a first-team selection, and was the Phil Steele Publications FCS Offensive Player of the Year, the College Football Performance Awards Running Back of the Year and the Big Sky Offensive MVP.

In addition, the Inland Northwest Sportswriters and Broadcasters (SWABS) selected Eastern as its Team of the Year, Baldwin as its Coach of the Year and Sherritt as the Male Amateur Athlete of the Year.

 

More Players to Watch

A total of 10 players return who earned All-Big Sky Conference honors a year ago, including two-time All-Big Sky Conference first-team defensive tackle Renard Williams. Also receiving first-team accolades and back for the 2011 season are junior wide receiver Brandon Kaufman, senior center Chris Powers, senior safety Matt Johnson and senior special teams standout Darriell Beaumonte.

Johnson’s twin brother, senior linebacker Zach Johnson, was a second-team selection, as was returning senior offensive tackle Gabriel Jackson. Eastern’s honorable mention selections back for the 2011 season include sophomore offensive guard Steven Forgette, senior quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell and junior safety Jeff Minnerly.

A total of 19 players were honored, including eight seniors. Entering the 2010 season, only five players returned who had earned All-Big Sky honors the year before.

 

Eastern Returns 30 Players With Combined 335 Starts

The Eagles return 30 players with a combined 335 starts between them entering the 2011 season. Of Eastern’s 19 letter winners lost, 13 combined for 191 starts -- including 22 by Taiwan Jones, who left EWU early to declare for the NFL Draft.

There are 15 players with starting experience returning on both offense and defense, with 168 total starts on defense and 167 on offense. By contrast, 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, with players not returning marked out.

Defense (168 starts by15 players returning): Matt Johnson 38, J.C. Sherritt 35, Tyler Jolley 30, Renard Williams 29, Zach Johnson 26, Tyler Washburn 19, Dante Calcote 18, Jesse Hoffman 16, Evan Cook 13, Paul Ena 13, Jeff Minnerly 9, David Gaylord 7, Allen Brown 5, Jerry Ceja 3, Anthony Larry 2, Will Edge 2, Will Katoa 1, Artise Gauldin 1, Rusty Haehl 1, Grant Williams 1 (includes one start on offense in 2009), Brandon Murphy 1 (includes one start on offense in 2010).

Offense (167 starts by 15 players): Chris Powers 27, Nikolai Myers 26, Gabriel Jackson 26, Nicholas Edwards 26, Taiwan Jones 22 (includes four on defense in 2008), Matt Martin 19, Brandon Kaufman 19, Brice Leahy 12, Steven Forgette 14, Bo Levi Mitchell 14, Will Post 13, David Miles 8 (includes eight career starts on defense), Ashton Gant 7, Zack Gehring 6, Darriell Beaumonte 3, Tyler Hart 3, Mario Brown 3, Clint Moquist 2, Greg Herd 3, Nick Gauthier 1, Josh Antonson 1, Ryan Seto 1.

 

As Many as Five Eagles Could Make Starting Debuts This Week

Only a handful of Eagles are expected to make Eagle starting debuts this week, including just one on offense and up to four on defense.

On offense, sophomore Ashton Miller is expected to start at right guard. He is from Vancouver, Wash., and graduated from Evergreen High School in 2009. All other offensive players have made at least one start in their careers.

On defense, a pair of cornerbacks will make their starting debuts – sophomore T.J. Lee III  and senior Alden Gibbs. Lee is a 2009 graduate of West Seattle High School, and Gibbs is a former Eastern basketball player in just his second season of collegiate football. He is from Brooklyn, N.Y.

Senior Charles Moetului is listed as a starter at defensive tackle, and that will be his first start in the 30th collegiate game of his career. Sophomore Ronnie Hamlin might start at weak-side outside linebacker, and is from Lacey, Wash., and is a 2009 graduate of Timberline High School. Eastern’s strong-side linebacker position might be manned by junior Grant Williams, who started once before as a fullback in 2009. He is a 2008 graduate of Rogers High School in Puyallup, Wash.

Several other Eagles listed as backups at their respective positions will see the first action of their careers against the Huskies. Linemen Evan Day and Jase Butorac, both 2010 graduates of Skyline High School in Sammamish, are expected to see action for the defense and offense, respectively. Washington transfer Demitrius Bronson will make his Eagle debut after playing previously for the Huskies. And whoever wins Eastern’s punter job will be making his Eagle debut. Washington State transfer Jake Miller and Boise State transfer Jimmy Pavel are listed as the co-starters, and are backed up by sophomore Cameron Homan, who has yet to punt in a game.

 

Former Husky Demitrius Bronson Makes Eagle Debut Versus Former Team

Eastern running back Demitrius Bronson did not play in 2010, but spent the 2009 season as a backup tailback at Washington. He saw action in a total of seven games as a true freshman, rushing 19 times for 89 yards. He carried the ball eight times for 39 yards against Oregon, including a long run of 18. He rushed three times for 31 yards in a 42-10 win over No. 19 California and carried the ball four times for 16 yards in a 30-0 blanking of Washington State. He originally was a part of the fall 2008 recruiting class, but delayed enrollment until January 2009 and entered the 2009 season as a true freshman.

A 2008 graduate of Kentwood High School in Kent, Wash., he finished his high school career with 3,810 rushing yards, and was averaging more than 200 yards per game as a senior before suffering an ankle injury.

Eagle newcomer Jason Boyce (’11) also attended Kentwood, as did Boyce’s brother Aaron Boyce. Aaron was an All-America wide receiver for Eastern in 2007 and finished his career (2006-09) with 222 receptions for 3,330 yards and 29 touchdowns to rank second in Eastern history in all three categories. He was a 2005 graduate of Kentwood High School where he played basketball on the same team as former Eagle and current Detroit Piston Rodney Stuckey.

Bronson’s  older brother, John, was a standout defensive lineman at Kent-Meridian before playing college ball at Penn State and in the NFL with the Arizona Cardinals (2005-06).

 

Offseason Strength and Conditioning a Priority

Although the 2010 season lasted all the way until Jan. 7 when the Eagles defeated Delaware 20-19 in the NCAA Division I Championship game, Baldwin’s team has been as focused as ever in offseason strength and conditioning sessions. Baldwin preached early and often a year ago about the process of the 2010 season and concentrating on doing the little things right. And it paid off in the long run.

“A lot of players are hungry to work hard and hungry to do that between now and August,” he said. “They realize that some of the things we did last year that were different, better and were tough along the way, ended up paying off in the end. That doesn’t mean it always pays off with a national championship -- those are tough to come by. But if you want the opportunity, then you really have to put forth the effort.

“You have to want to do all the little things between January and August to have that chance to play late into the season,” he continued. “The national title helped justify the hard work we did in the offseason, and hopefully it triggers our players this year. That’s what it took last year, and it will take even a little bit more this year.”

Because most of the team stayed in Cheney for voluntary summer workouts, Baldwin knows the Eagles are anxious to finally play a game. Many of Eastern’s players went through what essentially was a three-month preseason camp, and that came after winter strength and conditioning and a month-long spring practice session.

“More than anything, it kind of levels their excitement,” Baldwin said of finally playing a game. “Preseason camp can become a drag, and what people may forget is that these players have been working hard since our season ended.”

 “I hear the old adage that ‘your players don’t know what two-a-day practices are – 20 years ago two-a-days were every day.’ But at the same time, most of those players didn’t stay on campus to work-out on their own during the summer. They had two months off and came back and got in shape during those two-a-days. Our players volunteered on their own to work almost every day in June and July with our strength coaches. Camp becomes sort of a drag because it’s three months when you don’t get to play a game. We are ready for a game and ready to play somebody else.”

 

Turnovers a Key to Eagle Success

Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin has continually preached the importance of turnover margin, and the Eastern defense apparently took it to heart. The Eagles ranked first nationally in interceptions (total of 26) and turnovers gained (47), and finished 17th nationally in turnover margin (.80 less turnovers per game than its opponents) after ranking sixth in 2009 (1.25 less).

In the last two years, Eastern is 14-0 when it has fewer turnovers than its opponent. In 2010, the Eagles were 8-0 (11-0 including ties in turnovers with Sacramento State, Portland State and Delaware) after going 6-0 in 2009 when it won the turnover battle. In those 14 games, Eastern has had a 55-19 advantage in turnovers (33-15 in 2010 and 22-4 in 2009).

To illustrate its importance, in four-straight games in the FCS Playoffs, Eastern played a team ranked in the top seven nationally in turnover margin and significantly higher than the Eagles. Yet, Eastern forced more turnovers in those four games (13) than it committed (10).

“It’s right there in front of you,” said Baldwin. “When you start getting into the playoffs and look at the teams that made it that far, you see what they all have in common are really good turnover margins. That is still the statistic that means the most to us, and it’s what we stress the most to the team. It determines your win-loss record more than any other statistic. It’s something we emphasize on both sides of the ball, and we’ll hit upon it in the spring and again in the fall. You have to try to simulate it and mentally get it into your head during practices. You have to work on drills, but as much as anything, it has to be such a focus mentally that you believe you are going to win that battle week-after-week.”

Delaware entered the championship game ranked third in turnover margin (1.21 less per game), and was sixth in takeaways (31) and third in interceptions (20). The Blue Hens were also 10th in fewest giveaways with only 14 on the season -- including a FCS-low of three interceptions. In the end, each team had one interception as the lone turnovers in the game.

Villanova had entered the Dec. 17 meeting with Eastern ranked seventh in turnover margin in the FCS (1.00 less per game), with rankings of 10th in turnovers gained (29), 12th in interceptions (17) and 21st in turnovers lost (16). The Eagles won the turnover battle against the Wildcats 6-2.

Eastern’s opponent the previous week, North Dakota State, entered the game sixth in turnover margin in the FCS (1.00 less per game), with rankings of fifth in turnovers gained (32), 14th in interceptions (16) and 46th in turnovers lost (19). The Bison won the turnover battle 5-3.

In the second round of the playoffs, Southeast Missouri entered the game second in turnover margin in the FCS (1.36 less per game), with rankings of sixth in turnovers lost (12), 14th in turnovers gained (27) and third in interceptions (19). Eastern forced four turnovers (two fumbles, two interceptions) and had just two itself (one fumble, one interception).

However, the Eagles also averaged more than two giveaways per game in the 2010 season – 19 fumbles and 16 interceptions for a total of 35.

“Even though we won the national title, we lacked in some areas,” Baldwin explained. “One of them was our ball security. We ended with a really good turnover margin, but that was because we led the nation in interceptions and takeaways. But the giveaway part on offense and special teams is something we need to improve on.”

 

2011 Schedule for National Champs is Challenging

Putting together the 2011 Eastern Washington University football schedule was nearly as difficult as it will be to play it this fall for the national champions.

For the Eagles to defend their 2010 NCAA Division I Football Championship, Eastern will have to play games at Washington, South Dakota and Cal Poly. Those three teams were a collective 18-17 in 2010.

Although EWU is only playing four home games, those games are impressive -- including a match-up with fellow 2010 Big Sky Conference co-champion Montana State on Sept. 24 at Roos Field (formerly Woodward Field) in Cheney, Wash. Weber State visits the following week on Oct. 1 for Hall of Fame Weekend at EWU.

Eastern hosts Homecoming against Northern Colorado on Oct. 15, then ends its home schedule on Oct. 29 versus Portland State for Senior Day. Season tickets are now on sale at: http://goeags.com/tickets/ewas-fbticketcentral.html

“We have four tremendously entertaining home games, beginning the weekend when our students return to campus,” said Eastern athletic director Bill Chaves. “All four games come within a span of a little over a month, so it should be great.”

Washington is a member of the NCAA Football Bowl Division Subdivision (FBS), and defeated Nebraska 19-7 in the Holiday Bowl to finish 7-6 on the season. Eastern also plays NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Members Cal Poly and South Dakota State.

Although Cal Poly did not earn a berth in the FCS Playoffs, the Mustangs finished 7-4 and ranked 24th in The Sports Network/Fathead.com Top 25 poll. The school, located in San Luis Obispo, Calif., is currently a member of the soon-to-be-disbanding Great West Conference, but will join the Big Sky Conference in 2012.

South Dakota, located in Vermillion, S.D., was 4-7, but early in the year won at FBS foe Minnesota 41-38. The Coyotes are also a member of the Great West Conference and will join the Missouri Valley Football Conference in 2012.

Without being able to schedule an additional home game on Sept. 10 at Roos Field -- where Eastern was 8-0 in 2010 on the new red Sprinturf surface at the “Inferno” -- the Eagles were left with a string of three-straight road games to start the season. Included is a Sept. 17 matchup with Big Sky and FCS powerhouse Montana in Missoula.

“We really like the composition of playing 10 FCS schools and one FBS game,” said Chaves. “If there was one thing I wish could have happened was that we had five home games and not four, but sometimes that is just what occurs in the scheduling process – it is an inexact science. It took some time to complete the schedule given the challenges in the west from a FCS standpoint.”

Eastern’s schedule includes just four home games for the first time since 1981. However, Eastern has previously played just four games in Cheney in 2009 (plus one home game in Seattle), and 2008, 2000, 1999, 1998 and 1990 (with at least one additional home game each of those seasons in Spokane). Eastern utilized Albi Stadium in Spokane as the school’s main home field from 1983-89, and played two home games in Spokane and three in Cheney in 1982.

Taiwan Jones versus Jesse Hoffman on Eve of EWU-UW Game

Eastern has five former players currently playing in the National Football League, and another six currently in the Canadian Football League. Newcomers in the NFL include running back Taiwan Jones (Oakland Raiders), who rushed for 81 yards and a touchdown in his debut in a preseason game on Aug. 28 against New Orleans. Cornerback Jesse Hoffman is currently with the Seattle Seahawks, which hosts Oakland the night before Eastern plays Washington. Interestingly, back in 2003 on the night before Eastern played at San Diego State, former running back Jesse Chatman rushed for 114 yards for the San Diego Chargers in a home game in the same stadium against the San Francisco 49ers.

Other current Eastern professionals in the NFL include offensive tackle Michael Roos (Tennessee Titans), tight end Nathan Overbay (Tampa Bay Buccaneers) and cornerback Isaiah Trufant (Philadelphia Eagles). Trufant’s older brother, Marcus, plays for the Seattle Seahawks and his younger brother, Desmond, plays for Washington.

Current Eastern professionals in the CFL include linebacker J.C. Sherritt (Edmonton Eskimos), who had 11 tackles in his regular season debut and has been among the league leaders in tackles as a rookie. Through eight games, he had 45 tackles to rank second in the CFL. He is teammates at Edmonton with quarterback Matt Nichols and defensive end Greg Peach, who won the Buck Buchanan Award for Eastern in 2008 – two years before Sherritt won the same award. Also in the CFL are veteran defensive lineman Dario Romero (Saskatchewan Roughriders) and veteran defensive back Ryan Phillips (British Columbia Lions), as well as linebacker Shea Emry (Montreal Alouettes).

 

Eastern Enters 2011 Season 8-0 at the “Inferno”

Finishing 8-0 at home in the 2010 season, the Eagles are the first Eastern team to go undefeated at Roos Field (formerly Woodward Field) since 1999 when EWU was 4-0. But it wasn’t easy -- in two games the Eagles trailed in the fourth quarter (Sacramento State, North Dakota State), in two they were tied in the final stanza (Montana and Southern Utah) and in another game the Eagles were scoreless in the fourth (Northern Arizona). They capped the unbeaten season with a 41-31 victory over Villanova on Dec. 17 in the semifinals of the FCS Playoffs.

 “We feel like we had a home field advantage in the 2010 season, and our goal was to go undefeated at home,” said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin.

Other years Eastern was unbeaten at its current stadium site in Cheney came in 1997 (6-0), 1979 (5-0), 1974 (3-0) and 1967 (4-0). The 1985 team was 4-0 and the 1984 squad was 5-0 when all of EWU’s home games were played at Albi Stadium in Spokane. In 1982, Eastern was 5-0 at home -- 3-0 in Cheney and 2-0 in Spokane. In 1966, the year before Roos Field (formerly Woodward Field) opened for the first time, Eastern was 4-0-1 at Albi.

Eastern had a successful debut on its new red synthetic Sprinturf surface Sept. 18 in Cheney, Wash., defeating rival Montana 36-27 in the first game at Roos Field (formerly Woodward Field). Eastern scored the go-ahead points with four seconds left on a 31-yard field goal by Mike Jarrett, then added a fumble return for a touchdown on the final play to create bedlam after a record crowd of 11,702 attended the game against the 12-time defending league champions.

Eastern followed that with a 21-14 victory over Northern Arizona three weeks later on Oct. 9, needing a huge defensive effort in the fourth quarter to hold-off the Lumberjacks. The Eagles had five turnovers in the game and NAU had 30 more offensive plays and a 10-minute edge in time of possession, but EWU stopped NAU three times on downs in its final three possessions of the game. Those drives ended at the Eastern 36, 3 and 38 yard lines, with 17:45, 11:33 and 3:37 left in the game.

The third victory was just as suspenseful, as Eastern led 21-0 early in the second quarter against Sacramento State on Oct. 23, but was out-scored 24-0 to fall behind mid-way through the fourth quarter. But the Eagles responded with a key defensive stop that was highlighted by a third down sack by sophomore defensive end Paul Ena followed by a 35-yard scoring drive that was capped by a Brandon Kaufman 6-yard touchdown catch from Bo Levi Mitchell with 33 seconds to play.

The fourth win was also a great escape, this time by a 31-24 score over Southern Utah on Nov. 13. Eastern was out-gained in total offense 484-366, and was shredded for 434 passing yards. But Eastern survived to win thanks to a pair of scoring plays of at least 62 yards, two huge touchdown catches by Brandon Kaufman, two interceptions in the last six minutes by Jesse Hoffman and a 4-1 advantage in the turnover department. Kaufman scored the winning points with 3:39 to play.

Finally, the Eagles had a breather against Idaho State in a 34-7 win. Tied at seven early in the second quarter, Eastern scored three touchdowns in the last 12:01 of the quarter -- all on touchdown passes from Bo Levi Mitchell. The Eagles led 28-7 at halftime and added a pair of field goals in the second half while holding the Bengals scoreless.

In the playoffs, a 37-17 win over Southeast Missouri State saw the Eagles out-score the Redhawks 20-0 in the second half after the game was tied 17-all at halftime. Against North Dakota State in the quarterfinals, the Eagles had to put together a 90-yard drive to tie the game with 23 seconds left, then won it in overtime with a 25-yard touchdown pass on the first play. A Bison fumble at EWU’s 1-yard line ended the game. The Eagles scored 20 unanswered points to take a 20-7 lead versus Villanova in the semifinals on Dec. 17, and they never trailed or were tied after that.

 “It’s only the beginning, but we’re very happy to have it,” said Baldwin of EWU’s home-field advantage. “It’s something that our players have really grabbed onto as their own. It’s their home and they take pride in it.”

Eastern finished just off the pace to set the single season attendance record, with an average of 6,473 fans per game that ranks sixth in school history. Included was a Roos Field record crowd of 11,702 against Montana on Sept. 18. That crowd broke the previous school record of 11,583 set in a 2006 game versus the Grizzlies, helping the Eagles to an average that ranks just behind the record of 7,116 fans per game set in 2006.

 

Eagles 3-0 Win 2010 Without Jones as Mitchell Throws for 11 Touchdowns and 931 Total Yards

Yes, there is life without Taiwan Jones, Eastern’s uuber-talented running back who had a year of eligibility remaining but declared himself eligible for the NFL Draft. The junior rushed for 1,742 yards and scored 17 total touchdowns in 10 full games played and parts of two others in 2010. But a foot injury ended his season against North Dakota State in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs, causing Jones to miss the last two games of EWU’s championship run.

Eastern was 3-0 in the 2010 season when it was forced to play without its two-time All-American. Eastern junior quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell was impressive in all three of those games, completing a combined 68 percent of his passes (79-of-117) in those three games for a passing efficiency rating of 162.0. Most importantly, in those games he directed Eastern on 11 touchdown drives of at least 63 yards.

Included in the wins without Jones was EWU’s 41-31 semifinal victory over Villanova on Dec. 17 when true freshman Mario Brown rushed for a career-high 104 yards on 26 carries in his absence. Brown's 104 rushing yards marked the 10th individual 100+ rushing yard game of the season for Eastern Washington, and eighth in a row. Jones had all of the previous nine 100-yard performances, and Brown’s previous career high was 54 yards in a 37-17 second round victory over Southeast Missouri State on Dec. 4.

Mitchell had three touchdown passes in the final 16:48 in the FCS title game to rally the Eagles to a 20-19 victory and earn the game’s Most Outstanding Player honor. He completed 29-of-43 passes for 302 yards and one interception, and directed EWU on scoring drives of 80 (5 plays), 89 (14 plays) and 63 yards (8 plays). One game earlier, he completed 27-of-38 passes for 292 yards, no interceptions and four touchdowns in the win over Villanova. He led Eastern on touchdown drives of 63 yards (5 plays), 43 yards (8 plays), 80 (2 plays) and 63 yards (12 plays).

Earlier in the season without Jones, Eastern scored 21-straight second-half points after falling behind 17-14 to surge past Weber State 35-24 in a crucial Big Sky Conference football game. Mitchell passed for a career-high 337 yards and four touchdowns and the defense had three interceptions that led to scores. He directed Eastern on touchdown drives of 66 yards (9 plays), 65 yards (13 plays), 80 yards (6 plays), 68 yards (9 plays) and 67 yards (4 plays). Mitchell was 23-of-36 as he helped the team to leads after all four quarters.

As Jones’ backup in 2010, Brown rushed for 341 yards on 100 carries for an average of 3.4 yards per rush with one touchdown. Junior Darriell Beaumonte added 219 yards on 81 carries for a 2.7 average per rush and two scores. They also combined for 28 catches for 208 yards and two more TDs. By contrast, Jones rushed for 1,742 yards in the 2010 season on 221 carries with a 7.9 average per rush and 14 scores on the ground. He also caught 24 passes for 342 yards and three touchdowns.

 
 
 

RETURNING PLAYER NOTES

Kaufman Gathers In Trio of Game-Winners in 2010

Sophomore Brandon Kaufman proved to be Eastern’s go-to receiver in the 2010 season, catching a team-leading 76 passes to rank as the fifth-most in school history. His catches were good for 1,214 yards (fifth in EWU history) and 15 touchdowns (second behind the school-record of 19 set by Eric Kimble in 2004). His TD total was the second-most in the FCS as he caught a TD pass in 11 of 15 games in the 2010 season, including EWU’s last seven regular season games. He had caught a pass in 18-straight games before his streak was broken versus North Dakota State, as the last time he failed to catch a pass was on Oct. 10, 2009, in the third game of his career. In addition, he had fourth-quarter game-winners against Northern Arizona, Southern Utah and Delaware, and had a game-tying catch with 3:08 left in EWU’s come-from-behind win over Northern Colorado.

Kaufman was selected as the FCS Playoffs MVP by College Sporting News, thanks in part to his nine catches for 120 yards and two touchdowns in a 20-19 win over Delaware in the championship game, in which EWU rallied from a 19-0 deficit. He had a 22-yard TD catch with 16:48 left in the game for EWU’s first score, then had a championship-clinching 11-yard scoring grab with 2:47 remaining. He caught eight passes for 135 yards against Villanova in the semifinals of the FCS Playoffs, including a 76-yard touchdown catch from Bo Levi Mitchell in the third quarter. Their 76-yard connection equaled the 30th-longest pass play in school history. He also had four receptions for 37 yards in the second-round triumph over Southeast Missouri State.

He finished his sophomore season ranked 25th in the FCS in receiving yards per game (80.9), was 45th in receptions per game (5.1) and his 15 touchdown catches were the second-most in the FCS. Kaufman had six 100-yard receiving performances in 2010, with those coming against Montana on Sept. 18 (five catches for 119 yards), Weber State on Oct. 2 (five catches for 138 yards), Northern Arizona on Oct. 9 (five catches for 117 yards), Southern Utah on Nov. 13 (nine catches for 129 yards), Villanova on Dec. 17 (eight catches for 135 yards) and Delaware on Jan. 7 (nine catches for 120 yards)

Against Southern Utah on Nov. 13, he caught a career-high nine passes for 129 yards with a long of 43, and had touchdown catches of 25 and 24 yards that were of the “how did he make that catch?” variety. His latter TD catch came with 3:39 left and provided the winning points in Eastern’s 31-24 victory. In the next game against Idaho State, he scored EWU’s first two touchdowns in the 34-7 victory with TD catches of 10 and 30 yards.

Among his three catches at Portland State on Oct. 30 was a 15-yard touchdown grab. He had just four catches for 34 yards against Sacramento State on Oct. 23, but he had a 17-yard touchdown to start the scoring and a game-winning 6-yard scoring grab with 33 seconds to go in the game. One game prior, he had a five-catch, 94-yard performance against Northern Colorado, which included a 4-yard touchdown pass with 3:08 left that knotted the score at 28. He is a 2009 graduate of Heritage High School in the Denver, Colo., area, just a short distance from the game played in Greeley. His family was at the game in force, reportedly purchasing 80 tickets for the game.

 

Having Started Every Game in Their Careers, Twins Produced Big Numbers During 2010 Winning Streak

Junior strong safety Matt Johnson and his twin brother Zach Johnson, a starting weak-side linebacker, had big performances in the last 11 games of the 2010 season. In those 11 contests -- all victories -- they combined for 189 tackles, five interceptions and 11 passes broken up. In the NCAA Division I Championship game, Zach Johnson had 15 tackles with a pair of sacks, and Matt Johnson added nine tackles and a pass broken up.

They have started every game they have played in their careers, with Matt up to 38 and Zach now with 25. Matt now ranks fourth in school history in interceptions with 15, and he is just three 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), who both have 17 each.

Matt has 289 tackles in his career to move into seventh all-time at Eastern, and had five interceptions in 2010 to help Eastern lead the FCS with 26. He had 105 tackles (19th in school history), eight passes broken up, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery in the 2010 season.

Zach Johnson finished second on the team with 134 tackles (sixth in school history), and also had 3 1/2 sacks, five passes broken up, two fumble recoveries and a forced fumble. Zach currently has 230 career tackles to rank 16th all-time at Eastern, and his average of 9.2 tackles per game is slightly better than the 7.8 average for his brother.

They combined for 14 tackles in EWU’s semifinal victory in the FCS Playoffs over Villanova, with Matt leading the way with nine tackles, an interception, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. One week earlier, they combined for 22 tackles in Eastern’s 38-31 overtime victory over North Dakota State. Zach also had a pair of passes broken up and had the fumble recovery on the game’s final play that secured EWU’s win.

Zach had a career-best 18 tackles in Eastern’s 34-21 victory over Southern Utah in which he also had a sack and a pass broken up. Matt chipped in five stops.

Matt was selected as the Big Sky Conference Defensive Player of the Week for the second time in the 2010 season and third time in his career following EWU’s 28-24 win over Sacramento State on Oct. 23. He finished with nine tackles, an interception and had three passes broken up for the Eagles. Matt returned his first-quarter interception 42 yards to set-up EWU’s first score en route to a 21-0 lead. Later in the quarter, he broke-up a pass on third down that led to Sac State turning the ball over on downs. His third pass broken up came on a Hail Mary pass on the final play of the day, a play that he could have secured for his 15th career interception but instead, safely batted the ball to the ground to end the game.

Zach had 12 tackles and a pair of passes broken up in the win over Sac State. Zach had 13 tackles and an interception in a 35-28 victory over Northern Colorado on Oct. 16, while Matt finished with nine stops. In a 21-14 win over Northern Arizona on Oct. 9, Zach helped make a stop on a fourth-and-12 play at the EWU 38-yard line with 3:37 to play to help preserve EWU’s victory. Zach finished with 11 tackles and a pair of tackles for loss and Matt added nine tackles and a pass broken up.

In Eastern’s 35-24 victory over Weber State, Matt had the 13th interception of his career that led to a first-quarter scoring drive for the Eagles. Matt also had six tackles versus Weber State and Zach finished with 10 tackles.

Matt also was huge against Montana on Sept. 18, finishing with eight tackles and a pair of interceptions to earn Big Sky Conference Defensive Player of the Week honors for the second time in his career. His second interception versus Montana came with 7:31 left in the game after Montana had driven to Eastern’s 27-yard line while trailing by three.

Zach also had a big game against Montana with 11 total tackles and a forced fumble on UM’s final kickoff return of the game. The Johnson twins are both 2007 graduates of Tumwater, Wash., High School, but a blood clot in Zach’s leg sidelined him for the entire 2009 season.

As freshmen in 2008, the brothers combined for 179 tackles to rank 1-2 on the team, with Zach finishing with 96 and a team-high seven passes broken up, and Matt closing the year with 83 tackles and a team-leading four interceptions. Both players earned honorable mention All-Big Sky accolades in 2008, and Matt repeated on that squad in 2009. Matt earned his first Big Sky Conference Defensive Player of the Week honor after tying the Big Sky Conference record with four interceptions in 47-10 win over Portland State on Oct. 31, 2009, in the “Showdown on the Sound” at Qwest Field in Seattle, Wash.

 

Mitchell Has Triumphant Return to Texas

Transfer Bo Levi Mitchell had a triumphant return to his home state, passing for 302 yards and three touchdowns to earn Most Outstanding Player accolades in leading Eastern to a come-from-behind 20-19 victory over Delaware in the NCAA Division I Championship Game on Jan. 7, 2011, in Frisco, Texas. Mitchell is from Katy, Texas, and transferred from Southern Methodist University following the 2009 season. SMU is located in Dallas, about 25 minutes from Frisco, while his hometown of Katy is about five hours away. He completed 29-of-43 passes and directed EWU on scoring drives of 80 (5 plays), 89 (14 plays) and 63 yards (8 plays).

His three touchdowns against Delaware gave him 37 for the season and helped him break the single-season school record of 34 set by Matt Nichols in 2007. Mitchell also broke school records for attempts (505) and completions (300).

For the season, Mitchell completed 59.4 percent of his passes for 3,496 yards (fifth in school history), a school-record 37 touchdowns, 15 interceptions and a passing efficiency rating of 135.8. In NCAA Football Championship Subdivision statistics, he finished ranked 20th in passing offense (233.1 yards per game), 26th in total offense (236.2) and 26th in efficiency (135.8).

Eastern was 3-0 in the 2010 season when it was forced to play without All-America running back Taiwan Jones, and Mitchell was impressive in all three games. He completed a combined 68 percent of his passes (79-of-117) in those three games for a passing efficiency rating of 162.0. Most importantly, in those games he led Eastern on 11 touchdown drives of at least 63 yards.

Besides the Delaware game when EWU had to play without Jones, one game earlier Mitchell completed 27-of-38 passes for 292 yards, no interceptions and four touchdowns in a semifinal win over Villanova on Dec. 17. He directed Eastern on touchdown drives of 63 yards (5 plays), 43 yards (8 plays), 80 (2 plays) and 63 yards (12 plays).

Earlier in the season without Jones, Eastern scored 21-straight second-half points after falling behind 17-14 to surge past Weber State 35-24 in a crucial Big Sky Conference football game. Mitchell passed for a career-high 337 yards and four touchdowns and the defense had three interceptions that led to scores. He led Eastern on touchdown drives of 66 yards (9 plays), 65 yards (13 plays), 80 yards (6 plays), 68 yards (9 plays) and 67 yards (4 plays). Mitchell was 23-of-36 as he helped the team to leads after all four quarters. His final three scoring drives came during a 21-0 scoring run in the second half that turned a 17-14 deficit into a 35-17 advantage. He completed 14-of-19 passes in the first half and 9-of-17 in the second half.

Mitchell had just 38 yards through 37 1/2 minutes of EWU’s playoff victory over North Dakota State on Dec. 11. But he was 5-of-13 for 78 yards during a 13-play, 90-yard drive to knot the game with 23 seconds to play on a 4-yard touchdown pass to Nicholas Edwards. He converted two plays on fourth down on the drive and also had a 40-yard pass to Edwards. Mitchell, who was 13-of-32 for 141 yards, two interceptions and three touchdowns in the game, provided the game-winning points with a 25-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Hart on the first play of overtime,

A week prior, he had a 21-of-34 effort against Southeast Missouri State in which he had a pair of second half touchdowns and 178 total yards. One game earlier, Mitchell earned high praise after passing for 256 yards and four touchdowns in EWU’s 34-7 win over Idaho State. Mitchell was 20-of-25 for 213 yards and four touchdowns in the first half alone as he directed the Eagles on scoring drives of 55, 63, 71 and 95 yards. He closed the game 26-of-38 (68.4 percent) for 256 yards and no interceptions.

In EWU’s 31-24 win over Southern Utah, he was 21-of-34 for 211 yards and a pair of touchdowns, both to Brandon Kaufman. He led Eastern on a game-winning 55-yard drive, capped by Kaufman’s 24-yard TD catch.

In EWU’s 35-28 win over Northern Colorado on Oct. 16, Mitchell completed 16-of-25 passes for 172 yards, a touchdown and one interception, including an impressive 7-of-8 for 57 yards in EWU’s game-tying drive late in the game in which he utilized five different receivers.

In games against Weber State on Oct. 2 and Northern Arizona on Oct. 9, he completed  69 percent of his passes (43-of-62) with seven touchdowns, three interceptions, an average of 312.5 yards per game and a passing efficiency rating of 181.61. In his first four games of the season, he completed 51.4 percent of his passes for six touchdowns, four interceptions (three returned for touchdowns), 236.8 yards per game and a passing efficiency rating of 113.07. Mitchell had a 20-of-26 performance for 288 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions against Northern Arizona.

In Eastern’s opener against Nevada, he was a respectable 19-of-35 for 253 yards and two touchdowns. He followed that by going 16-of-27 for 188 yards and a pair of scores against Central Washington, and was 17-of-37 for 234 yards versus Montana. In EWU’s loss versus Montana State, he was 24-of-49 for 272 yards as his 49 attempts equaled the 14th-most in school history.

 

Williams Up to 18 Career Sacks

Eastern defensive tackle Renard Williams, who had nine sacks to earn first-team All-Big Sky Conference honors in 2009, finished with 6 1/2 in the 2010 season to repeat as an All-Big Sky selection and earn All-America honors in the process, as he was selected to the College Sports News “Sweet 63” All-America Team.

He had a two-sack effort against North Dakota State on Dec. 11 for the fourth multi-sack performance of his career. He now has 18 in his career to rank 10th in school history. Constantly drawing double teams from opposing teams, Williams has 116 tackles in his 38-game career, including 40 for losses totaling 204 yards.

 

A Year Later, Wager Continues Between Minnerly and Hamlin

A friendly wager between teammates is entering year two, but with one less competitor. Safety Jeff Minnerly, linebacker Ronnie Hamlin and linebacker Zach Johnson challenged each other to see who could go the longest without cutting their hair.

After the season ended, Zach cut his hair -- a short-cropped haircut like his twin brother Matt Johnson -- and dropped out of the competition, leaving Minnerly and Hamlin to determine a winner. A year later, neither seems ready to give in, and both have grown hair to their shoulders. Minnerly has also sported a “Grizzly Adams” full beard at times in the last year, although facial hair was not included in the wager.

Initially, the wager helped make it easier for people to tell the identical twins apart in the 2010 season. While Zach grew his hair out during the 2010 season, Matt continued to sport a short-cropped haircut as both players had for their entire careers to that point. Even their jersey numbers can be confusing, having changed their numbers in 2009 after wearing entirely different numbers as freshmen in 2008. Then, in the middle of the 2009 season, Matt moved from No. 5 to No. 10 as a tribute to his brother, who was lost for the season with a blood clot in his leg. They returned to their normal numbers in the 2010 and 2011 seasons, with Matt wearing No. 5 and Zach utilizing No. 10.

 

Ena Enters Second Full Season at End After 2009 Move to Linebacker

 One of Eastern’s most versatile players, sophomore defensive end Paul Ena made big plays early and often in EWU’s 50-17 victory over Portland State on Oct. 30, 2010.

On PSU’s first possession of the game, he had two quarterback hurries, then recovered a fumble on the ensuing third down play on one of six three-and-outs (plus a four-down turnover on downs) for the Eagles. Three of those three-and-outs came on PSU’s opening three possessions as Eastern jumped out to a 14-0 lead, and at one point had a 183-5 advantage in total offense. Later in the half, he had a 13-yard tackle for loss that led to a punt and a 65-yard scoring run by Taiwan Jones that gave EWU a 28-3 advantage. Ena also combined with J.C. Sherritt for another tackle for loss on that possession, and finished with four tackles in the game, including 2 1/2 for loss.

After starting the season at linebacker, he began his second tour of duty at defensive end for the Eagles, and he started at that position against Weber State on Oct. 2. For the season, Ena had 55 tackles with 8 1/2 for loss including 2 1/2 sacks. He also had five quarterback hurries, an interception and four fumble recoveries. Two of his fumble recoveries came against Villanova on Dec. 17 in the semifinals of the FCS Playoffs.

As a true freshman in 2009, Ena played as a backup defensive end, then started at middle linebacker in the regular season finale against Northern Arizona (11/21/09) and finished with a team-high 16 tackles. He started again in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs against Stephen F. Austin (11/28/09) and had 20 tackles to rank as the sixth-most in recorded school history. He finished the season fifth on the team with a total of 63 tackles.

He was Eastern’s fourth player to be on EWU’s depth chart as a starter at middle linebacker in 2009. Returning starter Zach Johnson did not play because of a blood clot that developed following knee surgery during the summer, then Kyle Wilkins suffered a season-ending knee injury in practice before Eastern’s seventh game. 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.

 

Jerry Ceja Makes Dreams Come True for Defensive Tackles

Thanks to huge plays made by sophomore defensive end Jerry Ceja, Eastern defensive tackles have some great memories. And those plays helped the Eagles win two games during its trek to the national title.

A sophomore from Aurora, Colo., Ceja made the first start of his career at Northern Colorado on Oct. 16 and he had the team’s defensive play of the game. He forced a fumble on a sack late in the game that was picked up by teammate Tyler Jolley and returned 17 yards. That gave EWU the ball 39 yards from the end zone and led to EWU’s winning touchdown with 41 seconds to play in the 35-28 victory.

Earlier in the season, Ceja forced a fumble on a sack on the final play of the game that was returned 34 yards for a score by Renard Williams and secured EWU’s 36-27 victory over the Grizzlies.

For the season, Ceja had 23 tackles with five sacks, three forced fumbles and three quarterback hurries. Two of his sacks and a hurry came in the semifinals of the FCS Playoffs against Villanova. He is a 2009 graduate of Grandview High School in Aurora, just a short distance from the Oct. 16 game played in Greeley, Colo. His older brother, Dominique Ceja, is a backup offensive tackle for Northern Colorado,

 

Miller Boots Them Long

Strong-legged Kevin Miller finished 2-of-3 kicking field goals for the Eagles in the 2010 season and also handled kickoffs for EWU. He booted a 48-yarder in the third quarter of EWU’s 34-7 win over Idaho State on Nov. 20 to equal the 23rd-longest in school history. He also made a 44-yarder at Portland State on Oct. 30 and had a 44-yarder blocked against North Dakota State on Dec. 11.

A 2009 graduate of Centennial High School in Portland, Ore., he also averaged 58.7 yards on six kickoffs against ISU and its prolific kickoff returner Tavoy Moore, who had five returns for 93 yards with a long of 38. ISU started possessions inside its own 20 four times, with an average field position of its own 24-yard line.

He finished the 2010 season averaging 64.2 yards on 81 kickoffs with 15 touchbacks. As a freshman in 2009, he averaged 63.0 yard per kick with 14 touchbacks on 47 kickoffs.

 

Blocking Beaumonte

Eastern junior running back Darriell Beaumonte was once a blocking fullback in Eastern’s offense. But the first-team All-Big Sky Conference special teams selection did a different kind of blocking in the 2010 season.

After leading 28-10 at intermission against Portland State on Oct. 30, the Eagles turned a blocked punt by Beaumonte into a recovery for a touchdown by T.J. Lee to increase the advantage to 18. Beaumonte, a 2007 graduate of Clover Park High School in Tacoma, Wash., also had a huge special teams play in EWU’s 36-27 victory over Montana on Sept. 18. He blocked a punt that he returned himself six yards for a score to wipe out Montana’s last lead of the day. It was EWU’s first blocked punt returned for a TD since 2004.

Also a kickoff and punt coverage special teams standout, Beaumonte has been credited with 26 tackles in his career. He had three in 2008, eight in 2009 and 15 in 2010, as he earned first-team All-Big Sky Conference honors and was selected as the team’s Special Teams Player of the Year.

He was a fullback in 2008 as a redshirt freshman, then proved to be more valuable with the ball in his hands and moved to running back the following season. As EWU’s backup running back behind All-American Taiwan Jones, he rushed for 135 yards and a touchdown in 2009 and had 219 yards and a pair of rushing TDs in 2010. When Jones was sidelined because of an injury on Oct. 2 versus Weber State, he responded with a 78-yard rushing performance, scoring once on a rush and another on a TD reception in EWU’s 35-24 win.

In his career, Beaumonte has rushed for 379 yards and three touchdowns, and has caught 16 passes for 132 yards and one more score.

 
 

Notes On Other Eagles

Head Coach Beau Baldwin: Baldwin is entering his fourth season as Eastern Washington's head coach. After guiding the Eagles to a 6-5 record in 2008, he led EWU to the FCS Playoffs with an 8-4 record in 2009 and a 13-2 mark in the 2010 season that included a co-championship with Montana State in the Big Sky. Baldwin served as the head coach at Central Washington in 2007, leading the Wildcats to a 10-3 record and the NCAA Division II quarterfinals. He also was the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for EWU from 2003-06. In a short amount of time, Baldwin has taken a perennial playoff participant and honed it into a national champion. Ironically, many observers didn't even have EWU ranked as a top 25 team before the 2010 season began, but the Eagles finished both the regular season and playoffs ranked No. 1.

Center Chris Powers: Powers has started 27 career games -- the most among all Eastern players on offense. He represents the 17th time an EWU offensive lineman has earned All-America accolades in the last 18 years (1993-2010), with Eastern offensive linemen winning 19 first-team All-Big Sky honors in that same time period. Eastern finished the 2010 season ranked 22nd in the FCS in total offense (397.1 yards per game), as well as rankings of 26th in passing (241.0), 49th in rushing (156.1) and 18th in scoring (31.5).

Safety Jeff Minnerly: The sophomore free safety, a 2008 graduate of Ferris High School in Spokane, Wash., was awarded the “Elite 88” Award by the National Collegiate Athletic Association. He received the award for having the highest cumulative grade point average among the participants in the 2010 NCAA Division I Football Championship Game at Pizza Hut Park in Frisco, Texas. Eastern won that game 20-19, as Minnerly finished with two passes broken up and two tackles.  Minnerly was a 4.0 student at Ferris where he excelled in football and basketball, and is currently a finance major at EWU with a 3.83 grade point average.  Earlier in the 2010 season, Minnerly was honored as an honorable mention All-Big Sky Conference selection and was also chosen for the ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District VIII squad as selected by members of the College Sports Information Directors Association (CoSIDA). He was selected to the Big Sky Conference All-Academic team for the second time in 2010 and was selected as EWU’s Scholar-Athlete for the month of December. He had 48 tackles, three interceptions and four passes broken up for the year.

 
 
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