Eagles score 38-straight points to roll past ISU and former Eastern head coach Mike Kramer
With records and a winning season, it was a great way to end the season.
Eastern Washington University finished with its 14th winning season in the last 16 years with a 45-14 victory over Idaho State on a record-breaking day for EWU in a Big Sky Conference football game Saturday (Nov. 19) at Holt Arena in Pocatello, Idaho.
Finishing the regular season 6-5 – and with the requisite six wins to be considered for the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision – the Eagles found out the following day that it wasn’t lucky enough to be selected to the 20-team field.
The defending NCAA Division I Champions, the Eagles overcame a rash of injuries to win six of their last seven games after a 0-4 start.
“I’m very proud of our team,” said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin. “Some of the things we’ve overcome after starting 0-4 have been tougher than some of the things we did in 15 games last year. It took a lot of grit and we had to get after it. It took a lot of heart and courage to come back like we did after being 0-4 and having to overcome the injuries. I’m very proud of these players for coming back to win six of their last seven.”
In a match-up against former EWU head coach Mike Kramer, senior quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell accounted for 433 yards of total offense in the victory. He finished with 4,009 passing yards to break the school’s single season school record, and junior wide receiver Nicholas Edwards finished the season with 95 receptions and 19 touchdown catches to break two other school records. Senior kicker Mike Jarrett added the school record for kick scoring, finishing with 236 points.
“The seniors mean everything,” said Baldwin of Mitchell, Jarrett and the other 14 Eastern seniors on his squad. “The only reason we threw a few more times late was for Bo Levi – I have mixed feelings about doing that. At the same time, he’s a senior, he’s battled for two years and he led us to a national title. I felt he deserved a shot at that passing record, and I’m happy that he and the other players were able to break those records.”
Eastern, 6-5 overall and 5-3 in the Big Sky Conference, has now had 12 out of its last 13 seasons conclude with a victory in the team’s final game of the regular season. The Eagles have won 13 of its last 14 regular season games in November.
Kramer, EWU’s head coach from 1995-99, helped get that winning tradition rolling at Eastern. Idaho State finished 1-7 in the league and 2-9 overall under Kramer, who is in his first year at the helm after spending 13 previous seasons as coach at Eastern and Montana State (2000-06).
“I think they are a very good team and we were able to get it rolling a little bit and do some things late,” said Baldwin. “I have a lot of respect for what Mike Kramer has going here and it’s just a matter of time for them. We were able to sustain some things in the second half and I was proud of our players with how they played after halftime.”
Mitchell closed the regular season by completing 37-of-51 passes for 397 yards with four touchdowns and one interception. With outstanding protection all day from his offensive line, he also scrambled his way to another 36 yards rushing.
His 4,009 yards broke the record of 4,003 Erik Meyer had in 2005 when he won the Walter Payton Award given to the top player in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision. His mark ranks 17th all-time in the FCS and is fifth in Big Sky history. Mitchell also established a new record by averaging 364.5 passing yards per game, good for ninth in FCS history and third all-time in the Big Sky.
With a quartet of 400-yard passing performances this season – and four more of at least 300 – Mitchell’s season average of 364.5 ranked ahead of the previous record set in 2005 by Meyer when he averaged 333.6 yards per game. Mitchell’s career average of 288.7 per outing is also a school record and ranks ahead of the 268.4 average of Matt Nichols (2006-09). His career average ranks 19th all-time in the FCS and sixth in the Big Sky.
Despite playing just two seasons at Eastern, Mitchell ranks third in school history for career passing yards (7,505) and third in touchdown passes (70), and he is also third in completions (618), fourth in attempts (1008) and third in passing efficiency rating (141.2). He had 10 300-yard performances in his 26-game EWU career, including four of the 19 400-yard performances in school history.
Junior wide receiver Nicholas Edwards broke Eastern’s school record for receptions in a single season, finishing with 12 catches for 106 yards versus ISU. He finished the season with 95 grabs to break the record previously set by Eric Kimble with 87 in 12 games in 2005. His receptions ranks 20th in FCS history and third all-time in the Big Sky, and his average of 8.64 catches per game is fifth in BSC history.
The 19 touchdown receptions Edwards had equaled the school record of 19 set in 2004 by Kimble, who owns the top two receiving yardage marks with 1,453 in 2004 and 1,419 in 2005. Edwards finished the season with 1,250 yards to rank fifth all-time at Eastern.
Senior kicker Mike Jarrett broke Eastern’s career record for kick scoring, making a 23-yard field goal on the final play of the second half to break the record of 231 held by Troy Griggs (1999-01). Jarrett finished with nine points in the game to give him 236 in his career.
An impressive 16-of-18 kicking field goals this season, Jarrett’s field goal also gave him sole possession of the single season school record for field goals. He finished his career with school records for career extra points made (143) and attempted (150).
The Eagles took a 7-0 lead on Jordan Talley’s 8-yard touchdown run, but the Bengals scored the next 14 to take a 14-7 lead early in the second quarter.
Eastern knotted it with a 68-yard drive, capped by Mitchell’s 13-yard TD pass to Ashton Clark. On the ensuing kickoff, Bo Schuetzle recovered a muffed return and that led to Jarrett’s field goal on the final play of the first half.
The Eagles then scored on an 80-yard drive in the third quarter and a 72-yard drive on its next possessions. Edwards had TD catches of 3 and 4 yards from Mitchell, as EWU took a 3-14 lead with 14:19 to play.
Eastern scored again on defense a few minutes later, as Bobby Gentry returned an interception 15 yards for a score after Jerry Ceja helped break-up the pass. That gave EWU a 38-14 lead with 9:36 to play.
Eastern closed out the scoring with a 60-yard drive, capped by a 4-yard TD toss from Mitchell to Edwards. Eastern’s Greg Herd finished with two catches on the drive, putting him over 1,000 yards for the season – the 11th in school history. He finished the year with 67 catches (ninth-best all-time at Eastern) for 1,022 yards and seven touchdowns.
Safety Jeff Minnerly closed his junior campaign with a career-high 13 tackles in the victory. He also broke-up a pass and had two tackles for loss, as the Eagles out-gained ISU 578-363 in total offense.
The Eagles have dominated the series against Idaho State, winning 24 of the 33 previous meetings with a current six-game winning streak and victories in 13 of the last 16 meetings. Eastern is 9-4 in games played in Cheney, 14-5 in Pocatello and 1-0 at Spokane’s Albi Stadium.