With Goals Readjusted, Eagles Play at Cal Poly
Although chances of defending its national title are dashed, Eastern’s hopes for a 14th winning season in 16 years are still alive
Eastern Washington Univ. “Eagles”
Cal Poly San Luis Obisbo “Mustangs”
Saturday, November 12 • 6:05 p.m.
Alex G. Spanos Stadium (11,075) • San Luis Obispo, Calif.
EWU Coach: Beau Baldwin (Central Washington ‘96)
School Record: 31-16/22-9 Big Sky Conference (4th Season)
Career Record: 41-19 (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 BSC (co-champions)
2011: 4-5/4-3 Big Sky Conference
Last Game: Portland State 43, EWU 26 (Oct. 29 in Cheney, Wash.)
TV: Televised in Central California by KSBY TV.
Watch Parties: All road games will be available to watch at the Q Sports Bar and Restaurant at Northern Quest Resort & Casino in Airway Heights, the Swinging Doors in North Spokane and Northern Lights Brewery in downtown Spokane.
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.
Internet Radio: www.espnnorthwest.com
Radio iPhone App: Search for “Spokane Radio” and download app
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 & via iphone app. (search for “Spokane Radio” and download app).
With their goals readjusted, there is still a lot for the Eastern Washington University football team to play for. Namely, its winning tradition.
The Eagles begin the final stretch run of the season by playing at future Big Sky Conference member Cal Poly this Saturday (Nov. 12) in a non-league game at 6:05 p.m. Pacific time at Alex G. Spanos Stadium. Eliminated from contention to defend the NCAA Division I title it won last season, Eastern ends the year Nov. 19 at Idaho State.
The radio broadcast of the game, featuring play-by-play announcer Larry Weir, may be heard on 700-AM ESPN "The Ticket", via the web at www.espnnorthwest.com and via iPhone application (search for “Spokane Radio” and download the free app). The game is televised in Central California by KSBY TV.
Coming off a bye week, Eastern enters the Cal Poly game 4-5 overall and 4-3 in the Big Sky Conference. The Eagles lost 43-26 at home to Portland State in its most recent action on Oct. 29, as 16 Eagle seniors were honored in pre-game introductions in EWU’s final home game at Roos Field. Eastern closes the season Nov. 19 at Idaho State, coached by former Eagle head coach Mike Kramer.
“It is a challenge to keep the team motivated, but we have to reset our goals,” said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin. “I think a bye was needed. A bye week gave us a chance to refocus our goals, work on some fundamentals and get ready for Cal Poly.”
Against the Mustangs, Eastern will be trying to keep alive its chances of having a 14th winning season in the last 16 years (1996-2011). That includes seven straight winning seasons (1999-2005), a feat that hadn’t been accomplished since the Red Reese era when Eastern had a string of 11-straight winning seasons from 1931-1941. Also, from 1999-2010, 11 out of 12 seasons have concluded with a victory in the team’s final game of the regular season, and the Eagles would like to add to that impressive run as well.
In the past 15 years (1997-2011), the Eagles have won 61 percent (108-68) of their games overall and 64 percent (73-41) in Big Sky Conference play. Included are four Big Sky titles and four runner-up finishes, as well as 12 winning seasons, six NCAA Championship Subdivision Playoff berths and the 2010 FCS title.
The Mustangs have some rather impressive history themselves, having participated in the playoffs in 2005 and 2008. They are currently 5-4, and were ranked 26th in both The Sports Network/Fathead.com Top 25 Poll and the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Coaches Poll before falling 24-17 to UC Davis on Nov. 5. That loss ended a four-game winning streak for Cal Poly, which one game earlier knocked off 17th-ranked South Dakota 27-24 -- a team the Eagles lost to 30-17 on Sept. 10.
The Mustangs, who are coached by former Portland State head coach Tim Walsh, will join the Big Sky Conference as a football-only member in 2012. Cal Poly fell to Montana 37-23 in Missoula on Sept. 10 in its only other meeting against a current Big Sky member this season.
Before the PSU loss, the Eagles had won four-straight games after a 0-4 start. But Eastern couldn’t survive its injury woes, as PSU out-gained Eastern 338 to minus-1 in rushing yards to spoil a 440-yard passing performance by Eagle senior Bo Levi Mitchell.
A total of 13 starters already have suffered injuries that have kept them out of the lineup – including seven players lost for the season. In fact, only one offensive lineman – senior tackle Gabriel Jackson – has started all nine Eastern games, as a total of 10 players have started this season along the offensive line.
Eastern has started 44 different players this season – 23 on offense and 21 on defense – with only five players (Jackson, quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell, wide receiver Nicholas Edwards, defensive tackle Charles Moetului and defensive end Paul Ena) starting all nine games thus far. A total of 19 players have made starting debuts this season.
By contrast, 40 different players started in EWU’s 15 games in 2010’s national title run, including three who made their lone starts on Senior Day. Eastern had 10 players start all 15 games a year ago, and five more started 14.
Eastern started 0-4 against teams that are a collective 28-10 thus far -- Washington is 6-3 and was ranked 22nd in the Associated Press Football Bowl Division poll before losing to Stanford on Oct. 22. South Dakota is 5-4 and has ranked as high as 15th in FCS (currently 24th). Montana is 8-2 and is currently ranked eighth and Montana State is 9-1 and is No. 2 in FCS. The lone losses for those four teams were to Oregon (UW), Stanford (UW), Nebraska (UW), Air Force (USD), Wisconsin (USD), Illinois State (USD), Cal Poly (USD),Tennessee (UM), Sacramento State (UM) and Utah (MSU),
Last year, Eastern beat Weber State 35-24 in Ogden in the first of 11-straight victories on Eastern’s way to the NCAA Division I Championship. The Eagles finished the season 13-2 after defeating Delaware 20-19 in the national championship game.
Eastern returned 15 starters from last year’s team that finished with a school-record 13 wins and just two losses. Twelve Eagle players garnered preseason honors, including seven who 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. Only Mitchell and Jackson have remained injury free this season, with the Johnson twins and Kaufman lost for the season with injuries.
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The complete version of the 2011 EWU football fact book may be
Football Links and Headlines
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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
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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
Mitchell Continues to Lead in NCAA Statistics
Quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell continues to lead the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision in passing through games of Nov. 5. The senior from Katy, Texas, is averaging 352.9 yards per game to rank slightly ahead of the 340.8 average of Lehigh’s Chris Lum. As a team, the Eagles are second nationally with an average of 354.9 yards per game, just behind Morehead State’s 357.2 average.
Mitchell is also second nationally in total offense (346.1) and 24th in passing efficiency (142.0). Receivers Nicholas Edwards and Greg Herd rank in the top 20 in FCS in both receptions per game and receiving yards. Edwards is fifth in catches (8.1 with a total of 73) and fourth in receiving yards per game (112.0), while Herd is 17th (6.22 with a total of 56) and eighth (98.4) in those two categories, respectively. Edwards also has a FCS-best 14 touchdown receptions, with the next-best mark 12. Injured receiver Brandon Kaufman no longer has played enough games to qualify, but in statistics released on Oct. 2, he was 11th in receiving (7.25 with 29 total) and 14th in receiving yards per game (93.3).
In addition, freshman punter Jake Miller does not meet the minimum of 3.6 punts per game this week to qualify, but if he did, he would rank seventh nationally with a 43.4 average per punt. He has 31 attempts and would need 33 to qualify. Kicker Mike Jarrett is ninth in field goals (1.56 with a total of 14) and Edwards is sixth in scoring (9.3 points per game).
Eastern, however, is just 116th out of 120 FCS teams in rushing offense (67.0). Eastern is 21st overall in total offense (421.9) and 42nd in scoring (28.7). Defensively, Eastern is 96th in FCS in total defense, allowing an average of 407.4 yards per game. Eastern is 50th in passing defense (201.6), 107th in rushing defense (205.9) and 86th in scoring defense (29.7). Eastern is also 25th nationally in sacks (2.56 per game).
With a 8-4 advantage in turnovers the last four games, the Eagles are now 74th in turnover margin (-0.33 per game) after ranking 17th in FCS last year and sixth in 2009. Through its first five games of the 2011 season, EWU was 109th in turnover margin (-1.4 per game) after ranking a season-low 111th the week before.
Cal Poly’s top individuals in the national rankings are kickoff returner Asa Jackson (31st with an average of 25.1 yards per return) and Jake Romanelli in rushing (39th with an average of 87.4 yards per game). The Mustangs rank eighth in FCS in rushing (241.3 per game), and are 49th in total offense (373.7) and 34th in scoring (29.3). Cal Poly is 91st in total defense (400.4), and also ranks 46th in kickoff returns (21.5) and 33rd in punt returns (10.3).
Mitchell On Pace to Set School Record for Average Passing Yards Per Game
With a trio of 400-yard passing performances this season – and three more of at least 300 – senior quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell is on pace to break the school record for both single season and career passing yards per game. His current season average of 352.9 ranks ahead of the current record set in 2005 by Walter Payton Award winner Erik Meyer when he averaged 333.6 yards per game. Mitchell’s career average of 278.0 per outing ranks ahead of the 268.4 average of Matt Nichols (2006-09).
Mitchell is coming off a 440-yard performance against Portland State on Oct. 29, an output that ranks eighth in school history. That gives him 3,176 yards for the year – just the 11th performance by an Eagle of at least 3,000 passing yards in a single season. His yardage ranks eighth in school history, and he is on pace to finish with 3,881, which would rank fifth.
Despite playing just two seasons at Eastern, Mitchell already ranks fourth in school history for career passing yards (6,672), and is also third in touchdown passes (61), fourth in completions (547), fourth in attempts (907) and fourth in passing efficiency rating (138.6). He now has eight 300-yard performances in his 24-game EWU career, including three of the 18 400-yard performances in school history.
Earning his second-straight Big Sky Conference Offensive Player of the Week honor, Mitchell had an even 400 passing yards in EWU’s 48-27 win over Northern Colorado on Oct. 15., finishing with three touchdowns through the air and one on the ground. He completed 28-of-39 passes with no interceptions. His passing efficiency rating of 183.3 was the second-best performance in his 22-game career, ranking only behind the 192.7 rating he had last season versus Northern Arizona (20-of-26, 288 yards, three touchdowns, two interceptions).
Mitchell followed his performance against UNC with a 357-yard effort against Sacramento State, throwing four touchdown passes to Nicholas Edwards en route to a 42-35 come-from-behind overtime victory.
In a 36-28 win at Northern Arizona on Oct. 8, Mitchell passed for 356 yards – accounting for all of EWU’s touchdowns and all but 34 of Eastern’s total of 390 yards of offense. One of his TD passes was a 17-yard completion to his older brother Cory Mitchell, who leaped high in the air to pull down the pass that Bo Levi admitted later was intended for another receiver.
As a result, Mitchell was selected as Big Sky Conference co-Offensive Player of the Week -- the first such honor for the senior from Katy, Texas. A year ago, he was an honorable mention All-Big Sky Conference selection and was the Most Outstanding Player in the NCAA Division I Championship Game won by the Eagles 20-19 over Delaware.
Mitchell’s career-high for passing yards was 473 in EWU’s season-opener this year against Washington on Sept. 3 when he completed 39-of-69 passes to rank second in school history for yards, completions and attempts.
Nicholas Edwards Is on Pace to Break Season Receptions Record
Junior Nicholas Edwards is on pace to break Eastern’s school record for receptions in a single season, which is currently owned by Eric Kimble with 87 in 2005. Edwards has 73 catches this season (8.1 per game), and is on pace to finish with 89. His 1,008 total yards and 14 touchdown receptions rank 10th and third, respectively, all-time at EWU. Kimble holds the touchdowns record with 19 in 2004.
Edwards earned a variety of national NCAA Football Championship Subdivision honors, including The Sports Network/Fathead.com co-National Player of Week, after tying a school record with four touchdown receptions in EWU’s 42-35 come-from-behind overtime victory over Sacramento State on Oct. 22. He also earned National Performer of the Week and National Wide Receiver of the Week from College Football Performance Awards. Edwards was named Big Sky Conference Offensive Player of the Week as well, giving EWU a string of three-straight weeks in winning the award. Quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell won the previous two BSC awards for the Eagles.
Edwards finished with 11 catches for a career-high 192 receiving yards, and had TD catches of 35, 16, 39 and 22 yards from Mitchell. Jamie Buenzli had four touchdown catches versus Nevada on Sept. 12, 1987, and Joe Pierce had four against Central Washington on Sept. 13, 2003.
Three of his TD catches came in the fourth quarter, and he added a 17-yard reception in overtime that set-up a go-ahead 1-yard touchdown run by Jordan Talley. The 11 catches for Edwards versus the Hornets equaled the 11th-most in school history and his yards ranks eighth. The 2008 graduate of Foss High School in Tacoma, Wash., has had performances of 13 catches (second in school history), 12 (eighth), 11 (11th) and 10 (19th) earlier this season, and had nine catches for 166 yards and three touchdowns in his most recent outing versus Portland State on Oct. 29.
“When you have on your team Jerry Rice, I mean Nick Edwards, it’s hard not to get him the ball,” joked Mitchell after the Sac State win, in which the Eagles rallied from a 28-13 deficit. “He works hard and puts in the effort and time. He deserves everything he gets and deserves the credit for this win. The plays he made were just ridiculous.”
He ranks fifth in FCS in receptions per game (8.1) and is fourth in receiving yards per game (112.0). In his career, Edwards already has 24 touchdown receptions to rank fifth in school history, and has caught a total of 156 passes (eighth all-time at EWU) for 1,956 yards.
Eastern All-America receiver Brandon Kaufman had a sensational season in 2010, but Edwards produced even bigger numbers for the Eagles in the latter stages of 2010 and the first part of the 2011 season. In the last four games of last year and first four this season before he was lost for the season with a hand injury, Kaufman caught 50 passes for 565 yards and six touchdowns, while Edwards caught 59 for 647 and eight touchdowns in the same time frame.
Kaufman broke a metacarpal in his left hand in the Montana State game on Sept. 24, and will apply for a medical redshirt and miss the rest of the season. That, and a season-ending injury to senior Tyler Hart, has opened the door for Edwards and Greg Herd to become EWU’s premier receivers this season.
Herd Also Coming Up With Big Receiving Numbers
Junior Greg Herd, who had 13 catches for 128 yards and a pair of scores in the final four games of 2010, has added 56 catches for 886 yards and six scores thus far this year.
In EWU’s most recent outing versus Portland State on Oct. 29, Herd had five receptions for 196 yards, which ranks sixth in school history -- just two spots ahead of the 192 yards teammate Nicholas Edwards had a week earlier versus Sacramento State. Herd’s yardage included a 96-yard pass play from Bo Levi Mitchell, and was sprung by a key block downfield by Edwards. It was the second-longest pass play in school history, ranking behind the record of 99 on a pass from quarterback Todd Bernett to Jason Anderson against Montana on Sept. 17, 1994. Herd also had receptions of 49 and 41 yards versus the Vikings.
Herd currently ranks 17th in FCS in receptions per game (6.22) and is eighth in receiving yards per game (98.4). But the impressive numbers don’t stop with Edwards and Herd. Sophomore Ashton Clark, buried in the depth chart and with no career catches entering the season, has 24 grabs for 328 yards and a pair of scores thus far.
Mike Jarrett Only One Field Goal from School Record After Earning BSC Player of the Week Honors
An impressive 14-of-16 kicking field goals this season, senior kicker Mike Jarrett is only one field goal from setting the single season school record for field goals, and 13 points from EWU’s career record for kick scoring. He made field goals of 28 and 41 yards in EWU’s come-from-behind 42-35 win in overtime over Sacramento State on Oct. 22 to earn Big Sky Conference Special Teams Player of the Week honors.
The school record for field goals of 15 is currently owned by a quartet of players -- Brett Bergstrom (2006), Josh Atwood (1997), Alex Lacson (1991) and Jason Cromer (1990). Jarrett is currently fifth in school history for career scoring -- second all-time at EWU for kick scoring – with a current total of 218 points. The kick scoring record is currently 231 held by Troy Griggs (1999-01).
With a pair of field goals and six extra points – his second-straight game of scoring 12 points – Jarrett broke Eastern’s record for extra points and extra points attempted in EWU’s 48-27 win over Northern Colorado. Now 131-of-138 in his career, he broke the previous records of 120 makes and 126 attempts set by Griggs. Jarrett has now made 29 field goals (fifth) on 45 attempts (fourth) in his career, and has made 26-of-27 extra point attempts this season. His brother, Bryan, was an All-Big Sky Conference safety for the Eagles in 2005 and 2007 after transferring from Western Washington University.
Rushing Offense, Defense Struggling
Eastern Washington’s rushing offense and rushing defense have been particularly impacted by the team’s rash of injuries this season, not to mention the early departure of two-time All-America running back Taiwan Jones, now with the Oakland Raiders. Jones was on hand on Oct. 29 when the Eagles finished with 440 yards passing, minus 1 rushing and allowed 338 rushing yards in a 43-26 home loss to Portland State.
A year ago, Eastern averaged 156.1 rushing yards per game and allowed only 139.6 each outing. However, this year the Eagles are averaging only 67.0 offensively to rank 116 out of 120 NCAA Football Championship Subdivision teams, and 205.9 on defense to rank only 106th.
Historically, only three times in recorded school history have Eastern teams averaged less than 100 rushing yards per game – 98.5 in 2008, 92.1 in 1987 and 99.0 in 1994. Defensively, Eastern allowed an all-time high of 206.1 rushing yards per game in 1988.
16 Seniors Honored Versus PSU
A total of 16 seniors – including a pair who hope to return in an Eagle uniform next season – were honored Oct. 29 when the Eagles hosted Portland State.
The 16 seniors were all members of Eastern’s team that won the NCAA Division I title a year ago and finished with a 13-2 record. Seven of the seniors have lettered the three previous seasons at EWU, helping EWU win a total of 31 games -- six games in 2008, eight in 2009, 13 a year ago and four thus far this season.
Two of the seniors – linebacker Zach Johnson and wide receiver Tyler Hart -- will appeal to the NCAA in the offseason to grant them a sixth year to complete their four years of eligibility. Another one of the seniors, Ethen Robinson, had his appeal for a sixth year approved by the NCAA a year ago.
Here is the list of EWU’s seniors in 2011:
#30 - Darriell Beaumonte - RB - 6-0 - 210 - 3L*
- Lakewood, Wash. (Clover Park HS ’07)
#29 - Jeremy Chaten - DB - 6-1 - 170 - 2L* - Seattle, Wash. (Franklin HS ’07)
#8 - Nick Gauthier - QB - 6-1 - 200 - 1L* - Valencia, Calif. (Saugus HS ’07 / Bakersfield College)
#47 - Bobby Gentry - LB - 5-11 - 200 - 3L* - Seattle, Wash. (Kennedy HS ’07)
#4 - Alden Gibbs - DB - 6-3 - 190 - 1L* - Brooklyn, N.Y. (Canarsie HS ’07 / College of the Siskiyous)
#33 - Tyler Hart - WR - 5-10 - 200 - 3L* - Friday Harbor, Wash. (Friday Harbor HS ’07)
#92 - Mike Jarrett - K - 5-9 - 165 - 2L* - Puyallup, Wash. (Puyallup HS ’07)
#60 - Gabriel Jackson - OL - 6-4 - 280 - 3L* - Tacoma, Wash. (Mount Tahoma HS ’07)
#5 - Matt Johnson - DB - 6-2 - 220 - 3L* - Tumwater, Wash. (Tumwater HS ’07)
#10 - Zach Johnson - LB - 6-1 - 225 - 2L* - Tumwater, Wash. (Tumwater HS ’07)
#97 - David Miles - TE - 6-4 - 255 - 3L* - Maplewood, Minn. (Roseville HS ’07)
#9 - Bo Levi Mitchell - QB - 6-2 - 210 - 1L - Katy, Texas (Katy HS ’08 / Southern Methodist)
#95 - Charles Moetului - DL - 6-3 - 275 - 2L* - North Bend, Wash. (Mount Si HS ’07)
#23 - Ethen Robinson - DB - 5-10 - 200 - 1L* - Spokane, Wash. (Lewis & Clark HS ’06)
#78 - Chris Powers - OL - 6-2 - 285 - 2L* - Black Diamond, Wash. (Tahoma HS ’07)
#98 - Renard Williams - DL - 6-2 - 300 - 3L* - Port Orchard, Wash. (South Kitsap HS ’07)
Flashback From 2010 as Eagles Rally for 42-35 Overtime Win
Eastern’s comeback magic – this time Mitchell-to-Edwards Magic -- is alive and well.
Thanks to a record-setting four touchdown receptions by Nicholas Edwards on passes from Bo Levi Mitchell, Eastern rallied from a 15-point deficit to defeat Sacramento State 42-35 in overtime Oct. 22 at Hornet Stadium. The victory kept EWU perfect in 11 tries versus the Hornets in Sacramento.
In a flashback to last season when Eastern rallied for six victories after trailing in the fourth quarter, Jordan Talley provided the winning points with a 1-yard TD run to open overtime. Eastern’s defense held on a fourth-and-goal play from its own 3-yard line to preserve Eastern’s fourth-straight victory.
Mitchell, who engineered all six of EWU’s comebacks last season, completed 29-of-45 passes for 357 yards and touchdowns of 35, 16, 39 and 22 yards to Edwards. Edwards finished with 11 catches for 192 yards as he tied a school record for TD receptions in a single game.
The comeback magic wasn’t alive earlier in the season. Eastern came an interception away -- with 29 seconds left -- from upsetting Washington on Sept. 3, then a week later, EWU failed to rally from a 21-0 deficit in a 30-17 loss to South Dakota. Eastern trailed by 10 against the Coyotes and was driving for a score in the fourth quarter, but an interception and 66-yard return was the big blow in squelching that EWU comeback attempt.
Eastern fell behind 10-0 to Montana, but rallied to pull within three points in the fourth quarter. The 10th-ranked Eagles held No. 12 Montana scoreless on its final five possessions of the game, but Eastern was unable to score in its last three. An interception with 25 seconds to play iced the win for the Grizzlies.
And Eastern pulled to within 26-21 early in the fourth quarter versus Montana State, but the Bobcats scored the final 10 points of the game and out-gained the Eagles 129-56 in the final stanza.
Eastern out-gained Washington 504-250 in total offense, but lost the turnover battle 4-0 and narrowly lost to the Huskies 30-27 in front of 58,088 fans at Husky Stadium in Seattle, Wash. The Eagles had a chance to win the game, but Washington’s Desmond Trufant – the younger brother of former Eagle Isaiah Trufant – intercepted a pass in the end zone with 29 seconds left to ruin Eastern’s upset bid. The loss spoiled a remarkable performance by senior quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell, who had the second-most passing yards in school history with 473.
A year ago, Eastern was no stranger to narrow victories. In nine of their wins last season, the Eagles trailed or were tied in the fourth quarter of six of them, in one they trailed in the third quarter and in the other two they were scoreless in the final stanza. Included was a 20-19 victory in the national championship game when the Eagles rallied from a 19-0 deficit to score three touchdowns in the final 16:48.
Matt Johnson Suffers Same Fate as His Twin Brother
Eastern Washington University’s injury woes in the 2011 football season have been painful enough to witness let alone play with, and finally, the pain became too much for All-America strong safety Matt Johnson to cope with.
Playing with a painful biceps tendon injury since the second game of the season, Johnson underwent surgery Oct. 27 as his illustrious 45-game career has come to a premature ending, Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin announced Oct. 19.
“What he’s been able to accomplish here has been amazing, both individually and what he has helped us accomplish as a team,” said Baldwin. “He can certainly hold his head up high – he’s a great ambassador for our program.”
On Sept. 27, Baldwin announced the season-ending knee injury of Matt’s twin brother, Zach Johnson, an Eastern linebacker who graduated with his brother in 2007 from Tumwater (Wash.) High School. Before the season began, the Johnson twins were selected as Eastern’s two defensive co-captains for the 2011 season, and were preseason All-Americans.
Matt Johnson ends his career as the fifth-leading tackler in school history with 341, and also finishes second on the school’s all-time lists for interceptions (17) and interception return yards (219). After starting every game Eastern has played the last four seasons – with a collective record of 30-15 -- he exits tied as the all-time leader in career forced fumbles with six.
Eastern has now had seven starters lost for the season because of injuries, including a pair of All-Americans off last year’s NCAA Division I Championship team. Besides the Johnson twins, the others include All-America wide receiver Brandon Kaufman, wide receiver Tyler Hart and offensive guards Ashton Miller, Steven Forgette and Jase Butorac.
“We’re losing a player who has been a big part of our program,” Baldwin said. “It’s hard on all the other players we’ve lost, but with Matt you are talking about a four-year starter who wanted to finish his senior season playing in the last game that we have the opportunity to play in.”
According to Eastern head athletic trainer Brian Norton, Johnson suffered a subluxating biceps tendon injury in his left shoulder when EWU played at South Dakota on Sept. 10. Norton said surgery was the only way to repair the damage, but that Johnson elected to play with the pain for the next five games.
A bonafide professional prospect, at the time of his injury Johnson was the team’s second-leading tackler with 52, including a team-high eight tackles for loss. He had 1 1/2 sacks, two interceptions, two forced fumbles and a quarterback hurry.
He finished his career just one interception away from the school record of 18 set by Mike Richter from 1971-75. Johnson is currently tied with 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. Johnson was also only nine interception return yards from the record of 219 held by Schulz, and his six career forced fumbles are tied for the school record along with J.C. Sherritt (2007-10) and Chris Scott (1994-97).
Johnson had 341 tackles in his career to move into fifth all-time at Eastern – just five from moving into fourth (Derek Strey had 346 from 1994-97) and only six from third (Jason Marsh had 347 from 1991-93). Johnson had five interceptions in 2010 to help Eastern lead the FCS with 26.
Less than a month earlier, the circumstances were similar for Zach Johnson when he elected to end his season. He had been playing with a chronic tear in his left patellar tendon, but the pain became too much to tolerate and he had surgery on Sept. 29. It’s the same injury that required surgery to repair on June 30, 2009. He then missed the entire 2009 season after a blood clot developed in his leg following the surgery.
Zach Johnson and EWU will appeal to the NCAA in the offseason to grant him a sixth year to complete his four years of eligibility. He will eventually have at least 19 games wiped out because of injuries -- 12 in 2009 and seven remaining regular season games this season.
Through four games, Zach was tied for the team lead in tackles with 30. Like his brother, he has started every game he has played as an Eagle – at total of 30 thus far. He has 260 career tackles to rank 10th in school history, and his average of 8.7 tackles per game is fourth-best in school history and slightly better than the 7.6 average of Matt.
Freshman Jake Miller Joins Talley on Jerry Rice Award Watch List
Eastern freshman redshirt punter Jake Miller is one of 18 players on the revised Watch List for the inaugural Jerry Rice Award, The Sports Network announced on Oct. 18. True freshman running back Jordan Talley was on the original list of candidates, but is no longer a finalist.
The Rice Award, presented by The Sports Network and sponsored by Fathead.com, will honor the outstanding freshman in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision. A national panel of sports information and media relations directors, broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries will select the award winner after the regular season. The legendary Rice, who played in the FCS at Mississippi Valley State, will present the award at the national awards banquet on Jan. 6 in Frisco, Texas.
Miller does not meet the minimum of 3.6 punts per game this week to qualify, but if he did, he would rank seventh nationally with a 43.4 average per punt. He has 31 attempts and would need 33 to qualify. The highest-ranked freshman in NCAA statistics has a 41.7 average. A transfer from Washington State who graduated in 2010 from Central Valley High School in Spokane, Wash., Miller has had six punts of at least 50 yards, with a long of 59. Eight of his 31 punts have been downed inside the opponent 20-yard line.
After a pair of early-season 100-yard rushing games, Talley was one of 15 players on the initial Watch List announced on Sept 28. Talley is a 5-foot-10, 180-pound running back from Jesuit High School in Portland, Ore.
He recorded back-to-back 100-yard rushing games, starting with 114 yards on 19 carries in a 17-14 loss to Montana on Sept. 17. In the first start of his career on Sept. 24 versus Montana State, he gained 108 yards on 19 carries with two touchdowns. In nine games thus far, Talley has 101 carries for 359 yards and three touchdowns, and 19 catches for 109 yards.
Fellow true freshman Quincy Forte has also been impressive for the Eagles. In nine games he has rushed 43 times for 216 yards and a touchdown, and has caught 12 passes for 152 yards. Forte had a season-high 170 all-purpose yards in EWU’s 48-27 romp over Northern Colorado on Oct. 15, rushing for 50 yards on nine carries, catching three passes for 69 yards and returning three kickoffs for 51 yards. That earned him his first career start versus Sacramento State on Oct. 22, finishing with 87 yards rushing on just 11 carries (7.9 per carry).
Currently, Eastern quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell is on the Watch List for the Walter Payton Award, given to the top player in FCS. Safety Matt Johnson is on the list for the Buck Buchanan Award, presented to the top defensive player in FCS. A year ago, linebacker J.C. Sherritt won the Buchanan Award, which was also won by defensive end Greg Peach in 2008. Quarterback Erik Meyer won the Payton in 2005.
True Freshman Cody McCarthy Has Back-to-Back Double-Digit Tackle Performance
In what is expected to be the first of many impressive tackle performances in his Eagle career, true freshman Cody McCarthy had a team-high 12 tackles in EWU’s 42-35 overtime win over Sacramento State on Oct. 22. He added 10 a week later versus Portland State to give him 40 in six games played this season to rank fifth on the team.
McCarthy had arthroscopic knee surgery during the preseason and didn’t make his Eagle debut until the Montana game on Sept. 17. He made the first start of his career Oct. 8 at Northern Arizona and had four tackles in his starting debut, a week after having seven against Weber State.
One of the highest-rated recruits by scouting services that Eastern has ever signed, Scout.com rated him as a three-star recruit and the No. 52 linebacker in the nation. Rivals.com rated him as the No. 36 linebacker nationally. A two-time first-team All-State selection and a second-team pick as a sophomore, he was picked as Idaho’s Gatorade Football Player of the Year in 2010 after leading his school to the 4A State title. He was also selected as one of 50 players nationally as Old Spice National Player of the Year. As a senior, the Idaho Statesman picked him as its State 4A Player of the Year. McCarthy was a four-year starter in high school and set school tackle records in a career (377), season (177) and single game (24).
Ena Now One Fumble Recovery From School Record
One of Eastern’s most versatile players, junior defensive end Paul Ena had fumble recoveries in back-to-back games on Oct. 8 and Oct. 15, giving him seven in his career and putting him one away from the school record.
He had six tackles to lead the Eagles in EWU’s 48-27 win over Northern Colorado on Oct. 15. Ena also had the seventh fumble recovery in his career to move into third in school history, and four of his tackles were for losses, including 1 1/2 sacks. His fumble recovery came on a sack and forced fumble by Anthony Larry, and led to a touchdown that gave EWU a 48-20 lead. He is now just one recovery away from the record of eight held by Nicholas Ramos (2006-09) and Steve Mattson (1994-97).
A week earlier in a 36-28 road win over Northern Arizona, Ena also had a fumble recovery. He has 28 tackles, 1 1/2 sacks and two fumble recoveries this season, and 150 tackles and six sacks in his 35-game career.
In the most productive game of his career, 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.
He began his second tour of duty at defensive end for the Eagles after originally beginning the season at linebacker, and he started at end 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.
Williams Up to 20 1/2 Career Sacks
Eastern defensive tackle Renard Williams had his first sack of the year against Montana State on Sept. 24 and has had 1 1/2 since, giving him 20 1/2 in his career to rank eighth in school history. Constantly drawing double teams from opposing teams, Williams has 131 tackles in his 45-game career, including 46 for losses totaling 233 yards. He also has six forced fumbles in his career, ranking second in school history behind the seven of teammate Matt Johnson.
Williams 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 had nine sacks to earn first-team All-Big Sky Conference honors in 2009.
EWU Has Out-Gained Opponents in Four of Nine Games
The Eagles have out-gained opponents in four of nine games and have averaged 421.9 yards of offense per game (opponents have averaged 407.4).
A week after out-gaining Washington 504-250 in total offense, Eastern had a 380-324 edge versus South Dakota. However, the Coyotes rushed for a back-breaking 230 yards, compared to a paltry 11 yards for EWU. Eastern had 376 total yards – including 139 rushing -- versus Montana, and held UM to 34 yards passing. But the Grizzlies had 316 of their 350 yards on the ground – the first time Eastern has surrendered 300 rushing yards in a game since the 2009 season-opener against California when the Bears finished with 342. Eastern had a 315-287 advantage in total offense through three quarters versus Montana State, but ended up getting out-gained 416-371.
Against Weber State, Eastern opened a 24-7 lead – and a 267-99 advantage in total offense -- before Weber State rallied in the second half. Eastern sealed the victory when Charles Moetului forced a fumble with 21 seconds left that was pounced on immediately by teammate Anthony Larry after the Wildcats had driven to the EWU 17-yard line. Eastern finished with a 377-359 disadvantage in total offense, but was 11-of-15 on third down compared to 7-of-15 for the Wildcats.
The Eagles followed that win with a 38-26 victory over Northern Arizona in which the Eagles won the turnover battle 4-0. Eastern was out-gained in total offense 481-390, but EWU had a 374-319 advantage through three quarters. The turnovers forced included an interception in EWU’s end zone by Jeff Minnerly with just 2:35 left in the game.
Eastern also won the turnover battle against Northern Colorado on Oct. 15 by a 3-0 margin, and out-gained the Bears 522-425 in total offense. The Eagles were out-gained 545-456 by Sacramento State on Oct. 22 and lost the turnover battle 1-0, but rallied from a 28-13 deficit to win 42-35 in overtime.
A 440-yard passing day was the highlight for Eastern versus Portland State on Oct. 29, but the Eagles finished with a minus 1 yard rushing. Portland State rushed for 338 yards, had 495 total yards and won the turnover battle 3-1, including an interception returned for a touchdown in the 43-26 Viking win.
Eagles Go From Seldom Leading to Seldom Trailing
Eastern led nearly the entire way in its 27-21 victory over Weber State on Oct. 1, but leads were extremely rare in EWU’s first four games. Eastern led 10-7 for a total of 4:49 in the first and second quarters against Washington on Sept. 3, and 14-10 versus Montana State for 3:52 in the second quarter. The Eagles never led versus South Dakota and Montana.
Against WSU, Eastern took the lead for good with 5:27 left in the first quarter and took a 24-7 lead at halftime, then held on in the second half for the win. Northern Arizona had the lead for 28:33 against EWU on Oct. 8, but the Eagles led for 25:11 – including the last 18:01 of the game. Eastern trailed for 8:59 against Northern Colorado on Oct. 15, but EWU led for 45:56 – including the last 41:54 of the game.
Eastern never led in regulation against Sacramento State on Oct. 22, but scored first in overtime in its 42-35 victory. There were four lead changes in the first half of EWU’s 43-26 loss to Portland State on Oct. 29, but the Vikings took the lead for good with two seconds left in the first half.
Eastern Returned 30 Players With Combined 335 Starts
The Eagles returned 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 himself eligible for the NFL Draft.
There were 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 2011 roster.
Defense (266 starts by 22 players): Matt Johnson 45, Renard Williams 36, Zach Johnson 30, Tyler Washburn 22, Paul Ena 22, Jeff Minnerly 15, Evan Cook 14, David Gaylord 12, Allen Brown 10, Charles Moetului 9, Ronnie Hamlin 7, Alden Gibbs 7, T.J. Lee 6, Anthony Larry 6, J.C. Agen 4, Cody McCarthy 4, Jeremy Chaten 4, Jerry Ceja 3, Grant Williams 3 (includes one start on offense in 2009), Bobby Gentry 3, Will Katoa 2, Ronald Baines 1, Rusty Haehl 1.
Offense (267 starts by 24 players): Gabriel Jackson 35, Nicholas Edwards 35, Chris Powers 33, Brandon Kaufman 23, Bo Levi Mitchell 23, Will Post 20, Steven Forgette 17, David Miles 15 (includes eight career starts on defense), Zack Gehring 12, Greg Herd 8, Brandon Murphy 7, Drew Reynolds 6, Mario Brown 5, Jordan Talley 4, Patrick Mealey 3, Darriell Beaumonte 3, Tyler Hart 3, Demitrius Bronson 2, Ashton Clark 2, Caleb Worthington 2, Jase Butorac 2, Quincy Forte 2, Cody Humphrey 1, Daniel Johnson 1, Ashton Miller 1, Nick Gauthier 1, Ryan Seto 1.
Total of 19 Eagles Make Starting Debuts in 2011
Six Eagles made the first starts of their careers versus Washington on Sept. 3, including just two on offense and four on defense. Since then, another 13 have made their starting debuts in the 2011 season.
On offense, sophomore Ashton Miller started at right guard versus the Huskies, but his debut had a horrible finish. As he was helping Eastern toward a convincing 504-250 advantage in total offense, he suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon that will sideline him for the rest of the season. He is from Vancouver, Wash., and graduated from Evergreen High School in 2009.
The other starting debut on offense was by offensive tackle Caleb Worthington, who was an injury replacement for injured starter Will Post. Worthington is a sophomore from Boise, Idaho, and graduated from Mountain View High School in 2007. All other offensive players had made at least one start in their careers.
On defense, a pair of senior cornerbacks made their starting debuts – Jeremy Chaten and Alden Gibbs. Chaten is a 2007 graduate of Seattle’s Franklin 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 started at defensive tackle in his first start in the 30th collegiate game of his career. Senior Bobby Gentry played in his 36th career game, and made the first start of his career at weak-side outside linebacker. Moetului is a 2007 graduate of Mount Si High School and is from North Bend, Wash., while Gentry is a 2007 graduate of Seattle’s Kennedy HS. Eastern’s strong-side linebacker position was manned by junior Grant Williams, who started once before as a fullback in 2009 but made his first start on defense versus UW. He is a 2008 graduate of Rogers High School in Puyallup, Wash.
Against South Dakota on Sept. 10, cornerback T.J. Lee and offensive guard Jase Butorac made their first career starts. Lee is a 2009 graduate of West Seattle High School. Butorac and defensive linemen Evan Day are both 2010 graduates of Skyline High School in Sammamish. Day had his first career sack and forced fumble versus the Huskies, and had another sack the following week versus South Dakota.
Washington transfer Demitrius Bronson made his Eagle debut on Sept. 3 against Washington after playing previously for the Huskies. The 2008 graduate of Kentwood High School in Kent, Wash., made the first start of his career at Montana on Sept. 17. Also making his starting debut against the Grizzlies was sophomore linebacker Ronnie Hamlin, a 2009 graduate of Timberline High School in Lacey, Wash. After missing his redshirt freshman season with a knee injury, Hamlin had a team-leading eight tackles in his collegiate debut versus the Huskies, four against South Dakota and seven in his starting debut at Montana.
Because of injuries, Drew Reynolds received his first career start against Montana State on Sept. 24. He is a 2009 graduate of Foss High School in Tacoma, Wash., and his older brother, Levi, lettered as a senior for the Eagles in 2010. True freshman running back Jordan Talley rushed for 114 yards against Montana on Sept. 17, and a week later received his first career start versus MSU. A 2011 graduate of Jesuit High School in Portland, Ore., Talley rushed for 108 yards and two touchdowns in his starting debut.
The most unlikely starting debut occurred on Oct. 1 against Weber State when converted tight end Patrick Mealey received his first career start – at center. When All-America starter Chris Powers was sidelined with a knee injury against MSU, Mealey was inserted into the lineup because all three of the backups for Powers were also sidelined with injuries and lost for the season. Mealey is a 2008 graduate of Central Valley High School in Spokane, Wash. He redshirted at Idaho in 2008, played seven games for the Vandals in 2009 and then lettered as a reserve tight end for the Eagles in 2010.
Also making the first start of his career versus Weber State was sophomore linebacker J.C. Agen, a 2009 graduate of Central Valley High School in Spokane, Wash. He had a career-high eight tackles versus the Wildcats.
In Eastern’s game Oct. 8 at Northern Arizona, true freshman Cody McCarthy made the first start of his career. The 2011 graduate of Bishop Kelly High School in Boise, Idaho, had four tackles in his starting debut, a week after having a season-high seven against Weber State. Versus NAU, sophomore wide receiver Ashton Clark received his first start as an Eagle. The 2009 graduate of Heritage High School in Vancouver, Wash., finished the game with three catches for 76 yards and a TD.
Versus Northern Colorado, Daniel Johnson from San Jose, Calif., received his first career start as EWU started in a four receiver set. And in EWU’s next game against Sacramento State, true freshman running back Quincy Forte from Fairfield, Calif., and tight end Cody Humphrey made their first starts. Humphrey is a converted offensive lineman from Hermiston, Ore.
Washington State transfer Jake Miller and Boise State transfer Jimmy Pavel saw their first action as Eastern’s punter and kickoff specialist, respectively, in Eastern’s opener against Washington.
Turnovers a Key to Eagle Success
Eastern is 16-1 the last three seasons when EWU has had less turnovers than opponents. In those 16 wins, Eastern has had a 62-19 advantage in turnovers (7-0 in 2011, 33-15 in 2010 and 22-4 in 2009). The lone loss was a 44-33 loss in the FCS Playoffs at Stephen F. Austin when EWU had two turnovers to SFA’s four.
So far this season, EWU is 2-0 when it has fewer turnovers than opponents, 0-1 when tied and 2-4 when it has lost the turnover battle. In the 2009 and 2010 seasons, Eastern was 14-1 when it had fewer turnovers than its opponent, 5-1 when it was tied and 2-4 when it lost the turnover battle. In 2010, the Eagles were 8-0 when it won the turnover battle (11-0 including ties in turnovers with Sacramento State, Portland State and Delaware), and 2-2 when it didn’t. In 2009, Eastern was 6-1 when he had fewer turnovers, 0-2 when it had more and 2-1 when it was tied.
But until a dramatic turnaround in games versus Northern Arizona on Oct. 8 and Northern Colorado a week later, the Eagles were down 12-5 in that department and had given up 37 points off turnovers, while scoring 10 off the turnovers they’ve forced. At the time, out of 121 teams in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision, Eastern was just 109th in turnover margin (-1.4 per game) after ranking 17th in FCS last year and sixth in 2009.
That all changed at NAU when EWU won the turnover battle 4-0, and scored 10 points off those Lumberjacks miscues. The following week, Eastern didn’t have a turnover again and forced three that it turned into 14 points. Those were the first games this season in which the Eagles have won the turnover battle.
Eastern dominated Washington in total offense 504-250, but lost the turnover battle 4-0 as the Huskies capitalized with two short touchdown drives coming after turnovers by EWU’s punt return unit. An interception also led to a Husky field goal, and UW clinched the win with an interception in the end zone with 29 seconds left. South Dakota returned an interception for a touchdown, then turned another interception into a 66-yard return and eventually a field goal that gave the Coyotes a 13-point lead. Eastern had two interceptions and intercepted one versus Montana on Sept. 17, then a week later both teams had two turnovers in the MSU-EWU game. Eastern had two interceptions on Oct. 1 against Weber State, which had its first and only miscue on its final offensive play of the game with 21 seconds to go to preserve EWU’s 27-21 victory.
In 2010, 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).
To illustrate its importance, in four-straight games in the 2010 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 head coach Beau 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.”
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.”
Four surgeries in a five-day span says a lot. Seven starters lost for the season and a total of 13 starters kept out of the lineup with injuries says the rest.
All-America defensive tackle defensive tackle Renard Williams (ankle) and linebacker J.C. Agen (ankle) are the latest casualties, having missed the Portland State game on Oct. 29. Strong safety Matt Johnson (shoulder), cornerback T.J. Lee (ankle), defensive end Evan Day (ankle) and tight end Zack Gehring (shoulder) all missed the Sacramento State game on Oct. 22. Gehring also missed the Northern Colorado game on Oct. 15 and Johnson has been lost for the season.
But even before the recent ankle ailments, Eastern was reeling from a rash of injuries that has reached epidemic proportions. The current tally is seven starters on offense and six on defense missing action.
Wide receiver Brandon Kaufman (broken metacarpal on his left hand), cornerback Alden Gibbs (broken thumb) and linebacker Zach Johnson (knee) are some of the other more recent casualties. Johnson started the surgical parade on Sept. 29, followed by Gibbs and guard Steven Forgette (broken fibula) the very next day. Gibbs missed two games, but returned to his starting position on Oct. 15 versus Northern Colorado. Kaufman, who will apply for a medical redshirt and miss the rest of the season, had his surgery on Oct. 3. Previously, guard Ashton Miller (Achilles tendon) had surgery, and in the preseason true freshman linebacker Cody McCarthy (knee) was operated on. And finally, Matt Johnson had surgery on Oct. 27 to repair a biceps tendon injury.
The Johnson twins, Kaufman, wide receiver Tyler Hart (knee) and three offensive linemen have already been lost for the season. In fact, only one offensive lineman – senior tackle Gabriel Jackson – has started every Eastern game, as a total of 10 players have started this season along the offensive line.
Eastern’s offensive line is the hardest hit, with All-America senior center Chris Powers (knee) the latest to be injured. He missed most of Eastern’s game versus Montana State on Sept. 24 and the three games after that, becoming the fifth Eastern starting offensive lineman to miss action already because of injuries. Powers returned to his starting position on Oct. 22.
Converted from tight end the previous Monday, Patrick Mealey took the place of Powers against MSU, which finished with five sacks and three quarterback hurries. Mealey made an unlikely starting debut on Oct. 1 against Weber State because all three of the backups for Powers were also sidelined with injuries and lost for the season, and Mealey started again there versus Northern Arizona on Oct. 8. In fact, EWU was 3-0 with Mealey as a starter.
Starting guards Forgette and Jase Butorac (knee) suffered injuries against Montana on Sept. 17 and are lost for the season. Butorac was already taking the place of Miller, who was lost for the season with a ruptured Achilles tendon in EWU’s opener against Washington. In the middle of the UM game, Eastern pulled former offensive lineman Brandon Murphy away from the defensive line to fill-in for Butorac. Murphy has started each game since then and will now remain on the offensive line for the remainder of the season. Sophomore Drew Reynolds filled in for Forgette and made his Eagle starting debut against MSU.
Offensive tackle Will Post (ankle), who missed EWU’s first two games, fortunately returned to play versus the Grizzlies. Miller is a 2009 graduate of Evergreen High School in Vancouver, Wash., and was making his first-ever start for the Eagles in the game versus the Huskies, in which EWU outgained UW in total offense 504-250.
“It’s really interesting with the offensive line, to say the least,” Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin said earlier this season. “I’m just so proud of the players that have stepped in there. I mean we’re talking about a guy who stepped in from tight end to play center. Do you know the difficulty of that? It’s unreal. And then we’ve got a couple other guys switching positions, whether that be tackle to guard or defensive tackle to guard. It’s not easy. I’ve been proud of those guys, but it’s a challenge.”
Besides the offensive line, Eastern has also had to deal with several injuries at linebacker. Zach Johnson continued to play on his injured knee, but saw limited action versus Montana State before hanging it up for the season. His backup, Bobby Gentry (bicep) played sparingly against MSU and the next game versus Weber State. McCarthy had arthroscopic knee surgery during the preseason and made his Eagle debut versus Montana on Sept. 17, but since then has seen significant action – including Oct. 8 versus Northern Arizona in the first start of his career.
Receiver/returner Tyler Hart (knee) missed EWU’s first three games, but returned to catch a nine-yard pass versus Montana State. But he lasted only three plays against the Bobcats before he was injured again and lost for the season. Like senior linebacker Zach Johnson, the Eagles will appeal to the NCAA in the offseason to grant Hart a sixth year to complete his four years of eligibility. Besides playing in only one game this season, Hart was lost for the year with a broken scapula in EWU’s fourth game of the 2008 season. Hart entered the 2011 season expected to be Eastern’s punt returner, and his absence versus the Huskies hurt EWU. Eastern’s punt return unit had two turnovers and a mental error late in the game.
Eastern Entered 2011 Season 8-0 at the “Inferno”
Eastern is now 2-2 at home this season, giving the Eagles a 10-2 all-time record on the red Sprinturf surface at “The Inferno.” Eastern’s first-ever loss on the red rug came to fourth-ranked Montana State on Sept. 24, 2011, by a 36-21 score, but the Eagles rebounded the next week for a 27-21 win over Weber State and followed that win a 48-27 home win on Oct. 15 versus Northern Colorado. But the Eagles ended their home schedule with a 43-26 setback to Portland State on Oct. 29.
Finishing 8-0 at home in the 2010 season, the Eagles were 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.
Enrollment at EWU Tops 12,000 for First Time
Eastern Washington University's fall enrollment has surpassed the 12,000 student mark for the first time in school history, marking the third consecutive year of record enrollment at EWU.
The overall headcount, which includes all students who take classes at every level at Eastern, is 12,130. This is a headcount increase of more than five percent, or nearly 600 students, over the fall 2010 quarter (when EWU welcomed 11,534 students).
10 Former Eagles Currently in the NFL or CFL
Eastern has four former players currently playing in the National Football League and another six currently in the Canadian Football League.
A newcomer in the NFL is 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. A veteran in the NFL is offensive tackle Michael Roos (Tennessee Titans), who now has 171 consecutive starts (through 11/6/11) dating back to his 2002 season at EWU. The third is cornerback Isaiah Trufant, who is back with the New York Jets -- a team he started his NFL career with in 2009. And tight end Nathan Overbay is now on the practice squad for the Detroit Lions.
After being waived by the Philadelphia Eagles on Aug. 30, Trufant flew home to the Seattle area, but was then signed by the Jets. Though he made New York’s initial 53-man roster after final cuts, he was waived Sept. 4 before being signed to the practice squad the following day. He was activated to the 53-man roster 24 hours before NBC’s Sunday night national telecast of New York’s season opener versus Dallas on Sept. 11. He had two tackles, and returned a blocked punt 18 yards for a touchdown that knotted the score at 24 with 5:08 left in the 27-24 Jets win. Trufant’s older brother, Marcus, plays for the Seattle Seahawks and his younger brother, Desmond, plays for Washington. Desmond had the victory-clinching interception in the end zone with 29 seconds left in EWU’s 30-27 loss to the Huskies.
The week prior to the EWU-Washington game on Sept. 3 was particularly tough for a pair of other former Eagles. Cornerback Jesse Hoffman was with the Seattle Seahawks before being cut on Aug. 29, just four days before Seattle hosted Jones and Oakland (and the night before Eastern played Washington). Overbay (Tampa Bay Buccaneers) was also cut that week, but was later assigned to the practice squad for the Detroit Lions.
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 16 games, he had 72 tackles to rank seventh in the CFL (he had 58 after 10 games to rank second at the time). 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).
Former Eagle Tony Brooks on Commercial for State Farm Insurance
Former Eastern all-time leading receiver Tony Brooks is a State Farm Insurance agent, and he plays one in a popular television commercial for State Farm. In it, he is credited for buying a couple a live falcon because he saved the family so much on insurance. The video may be viewed at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i7ZpWFTUz34
Brooks lettered for Eastern from 1990-93 and is from Tacoma, Wash., and Mount Tahoma High School. He was a third team NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (then known as I-AA) All-American in 1993. He finished his career with a record 167 receptions (now fifth) for 3,013 yards and 26 touchdowns. He played on Eastern’s 1992 squad that shared the Big Sky Conference title with Idaho and advanced to the FCS Playoffs. He signed a contract with Winnipeg of the CFL in 1994 before going into the insurance business. Eastern selected him to its “100 for 100” All-Time Team in 2008. In 1999, Dick Zornes selected him to the "Z" Team consisting of 36 players that he felt were the best players and made the largest contributions toward the 158 games Eastern won in Zornes' 26-year association with Eagle Football.
MORE PLAYER NOTES
2010 All-America Recap
Six Eagles earned All-America honors in 2010, including four who returned for 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.
Minnerly Has Huge Pick in Win over NAU
The biggest turnover in EWU’s 36-28 victory at Northern Arizona came with 2:35 to play when junior free safety Jeff Minnerly had a diving interception in the EWU end zone to squelch a potential game-tying NAU scoring threat. Minnerly, who finished with a team-high and career-high 12 tackles, recorded his first interception of the season and the fourth of his career on the first-and-10 play from the Eastern 18.
For the first time this season, Eastern won the turnover battle, 4-0, including a pair of fumbles recovered and an interception in the fourth quarter.
“We made some key stops – Jeff’s pick down there was huge,” said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin. “But there were other turnovers we created that were a major factor in this game. That’s what we’ve been preaching. If you start to get some injuries and get thin in spots, you have to find other ways to manufacture points and change field position. And our players did a great job of that against NAU.”
A 2008 graduate of Ferris High School in Spokane, Wash., last season Minnerly 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.
Anthony Larry Co-Big Sky Defensive Player of the Week
Capping an impressive game by Eastern’s entire defensive line, sophomore backup defensive end Anthony Larry was selected as the Big Sky Conference co-Defensive Player of the Week for games played on Oct. 1, becoming the first Eagle to be honored by the league in 2011.
Larry, a 6-foot-3, 250-pound graduate of Luther Burbank High School (2009) in Sacramento, Calif., had the game-clinching fumble recovery with 21 seconds left in EWU’s 27-21 victory over Weber State on Oct. 1. The Wildcats were at the Eastern Washington 23-yard line and in position for a game-winning touchdown when teammate Charles Moetului forced WSU quarterback Mike Hoke to fumble, and Larry quickly pounced on the ball. Larry finished the game with six tackles – one for loss – a quarterback hurry and the fumble recovery. Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin has continually preached the importance of turnover margin, and the Eagles took it to heart in the 2009 and 2010 seasons.
Collectively, Eastern’s defensive line was selected as EWU’s defensive player of the week, and finished the WSU game with four sacks and three quarterback hurries. Senior All-American Renard Williams had a sack and two of the hurries.
Five Eagles Named as Co-Captains for 2011 Season
Five seniors who all earned preseason All-America honors have been selected by their teammates as Eastern Washington University’s co-captains for the 2011 football season, head coach Beau Baldwin has announced.
The players include one returning captain, quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell from Katy, Texas. The other two offensive captains include center Chris Powers and tackle Gabriel Jackson. Powers is from Black Diamond, Wash., and graduated from Tahoma High School in 2007. Jackson is from Tacoma, Wash., and graduated in 2007 from Mount Tahoma HS.
Captains on defense are twins Matt and Zach Johnson, who both graduated from Tumwater (Wash.) High School in 2007. Matt is a four-year starter at strong safety and Zach Johnson is a three-year starter at linebacker, with his entire 2009 season wiped out with a blood clot in his leg.
“This team is full of a lot of good leaders,” said Baldwin. “As we get into the early part of the season, we know there are going to be some tough moments. Our goal in each game on our schedule is to be focused and win, but even during great weeks you are going to have a lot of moments of adversity and when things are not going right. I think our good leaders are going to develop into great leaders when we have to battle through some things. I’m excited to see who emerges.”
All five players earned preseason All-America honors as selected by various news services as they entered the season with a combined 131 starts in their careers. Matt Johnson led the way with 38 starts, followed by Powers with 27, Jackson and Zach Johnson with 26 apiece, and Mitchell with 14 in his first season after transferring from SMU. The Johnson twins have started every game they have played as Eagles.
Powers and Matt Johnson were both All-Americans last season when they helped lead Eastern to the NCAA Division I Championship. Mitchell was named as the Outstanding Player in the title game when Eastern rallied for a 20-19 victory over Delaware.
Eagles on Watch Lists for Top Honors
Eagle senior quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell and junior wide receiver Brandon Kaufman were selected during the summer as two of the 20 players on the “Watch List” for the 2011 Walter Payton Award given annually by The Sports Network to the top player in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision.
A week later, safety Matt Johnson and defensive tackle Renard Williams were named to the 20-player preseason watch list for the 2011 Buck Buchanan Award given by The Sports Network to the top defensive player in FCS. The Buchanan Award was won last year by Eagle J.C.Sherritt, and two years before that by his former Eagle teammate and current Edmonton Eskimos teammate, Greg Peach.
On Oct. 4, 2011, Kaufman and Williams were dropped off the Watch List by The Sports Network, but Mitchell and Johnson remained.
Both awards are sponsored by Fathead.com. The Payton Award will celebrate its 25th anniversary this season and be presented at The Sports Network National Awards Banquet on Jan. 6 in Frisco, Texas, on the eve of the NCAA Division I Championship Game. Last season, Eastern won the title in Frisco with a come-from-behind 20-19 victory over Delaware. The Buchanan Award is in its 17th season and will also be presented at TSN’s national awards banquet on Jan. 6 in Frisco, Texas.
Both watch lists will undergo revision during the 2011 season. Ballots will be sent to a panel of about 200 sports information and media relations directors, broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries after the regular season on Nov. 21. Three finalists will be announced on Dec. 1 and invited to The Sports Network/Fathead FCS Awards Presentation.
The Sports Network also presents the Jerry Rice and Eddie Robinson awards which are sponsored by Fathead.com. The Robinson Award (FCS coach of the year) is also celebrating its 25th anniversary, while the Rice Award (FCS freshman of the year) is in its inaugural season.
Former Eagle Erik Meyer, who is now the starting quarterback for the Spokane Shock in the Arena Football League, won the Payton Award in 2005. Jesse Chatman (2001), Matt Nichols (2009) and Taiwan Jones (2010) all finished fourth in the voting for the prestigious award.
Mitchell and Kaufman hooked-up nine times for 120 yards and two touchdowns in the FCS Championship Game, including the game-winning TD with 2:47 left. Kaufman finished the 2010 season with 76 receptions for 1,214 yards and 15 scores, and all but one of his grabs (a non-scoring 11-yard completion) came from Mitchell.
Kaufman received All-America accolades on the College Sporting News “Sweet 63” All-America Team and on the Phil Steele Publications All-America fourth team, as well as earning first-team All-Big Sky Conference accolades. Kaufman, who had 23 receptions for 294 yards and a touchdown as a freshman in 2009, was selected as the NCAA Championship Subdivision Playoffs MVP by College Sporting News.
Both Kaufman and Mitchell received Big Sky All-Academic accolades in 2010, and Mitchell was an All-Big Sky Conference honorable-mention selection. He then had a triumphant return to his home state when he passed for 302 yards and three touchdowns to earn Most Outstanding Player in the FCS Championship Game.
Mitchell transferred to Eastern from Southern Methodist in spring 2010, and quickly won the starting job. He completed 59 percent of his passes to finish with 3,496 yards, a school-record 37 touchdown passes and 15 interceptions as a junior.
Mitchell was 13-2 as a starter in 2010, and six times Eastern rallied for victories when trailing or tied in the fourth quarter. And most of the time, it was Mitchell who led the Eagles back from the depths of despair. In addition, Eastern was 3-0 in games when All-America running back Taiwan Jones did not play, and Mitchell had 11 touchdowns and 932 total passing yards in those games, with 11 touchdown drives of at least 63 yards.
Johnson, a 6-foot-2, 220-pounder who graduated from Tumwater (Wash.) High School in 2007, entered the 2011 season with the most starting experience on EWU’s entire roster with 38 career starts. He entered his senior season with 289 tackles, 15 interceptions and 13 passes broken up in his career, including 105 tackles, five interceptions and eight passes broken up in 2010.
A year ago, Johnson was selected to the College Sporting News “Sweet 63” All-America Team, and was a second-team selection on the Phil Steele Publications All-America squad and a third-team pick on The Sports Network’s A-A team. He also earned first-team All-Big Sky Conference honors after starting all 15 Eastern games at safety.
Williams also earned All-America honors from College Sporting News in 2010 and is a two-time first team All-Big Sky Conference selection. He had 54 total tackles with 6 1/2 sacks and four forced fumbles, as a junior after finishing with 9 1/2 sacks as a sophomore.
Featuring his signature celebratory salute following a big play he makes for Eastern, Williams entered the 2011 season with 18 sacks in his career to rank 10th in school history. Constantly drawing double teams from opposing teams, he entered his senior campaign with 116 tackles in his 38-game career (29 as a starter), including 40 for losses totaling 204 yards.
Kaufman Gathers In Trio of Game-Winners in 2010
Brandon Kaufman proved to be Eastern’s go-to receiver as a sophomore 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.
In his career, Kaufman has 128 receptions for 1,881 yards and 17 touchdowns, and is nearing Eastern’s top 10 all-time lists in all three categories.
He had caught a pass in 18-straight games before his streak was broken versus North Dakota State on Dec. 11, 2010, 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
Safety Matt Johnson and his twin brother Zach Johnson, a starting 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 45 and Zach now with 30. Matt now ranks second in school history in interceptions with 17, and he is just one interception away from the school record of 18 set by Mike Richter from 1971-75. He is currently tied with 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. Johnson is also only nine interception return yards from the record of 219 held by Schulz, and his six career forced fumbles is tied for the school record along with J.C. Sherritt (2007-10) and Chris Scott (1994-97).
Matt has 341 tackles in his career to move into fifth 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 260 career tackles to rank 10th all-time at Eastern, and his average of 8.7 tackles per game (fourth all-time in EWU history) is slightly better than the 7.6 average for his brother.
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 Year Later, Wager Continues Between Minnerly and Hamlin
A friendly wager between teammates is now in 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.
Gibbs First to Letter in Both Football and Basketball Since Bob Picard in 1973
After lettering in basketball for Eastern Washington in the 2009-10 season, Alden Gibbs switched to football and lettered on special teams for the Eagles in 2010. Now a starting cornerback, Gibbs is the first Eagle to letter in both sports since Bob Picard in the early 1970’s.
Picard lettered in football in 1968, 1969, 1971 and 1972, and also lettered in basketball in the 1972-73 season. Picard held Eastern’s career receiving record for 21 years with 166 catches (now sixth) that were good for 2,373 yards and 19 touchdowns. His receiving record was broken by Tony Brooks in 1993. Picard had his No. 84 jersey retired, was inducted into the Eastern Athletics Hall of Fame in 2003 and was selected to the "100 for 100" All-Time Football Team in 2008 to help commemorate the 100th year of football at Eastern. In 27 career basketball games, Picard averaged 3.0 points, 3.4 rebounds and 1.6 assists. He went on to play three seasons (54 career games) in the National Football League for the Philadelphia Eagles, and ended his career at the first training camp of the expansion Seattle Seahawks in 1976.
Several other Eagles have played both football and basketball since Picard, but none have lettered in both. Wide receiver Jerrold Jackson lettered in football from 1993-96, and played one minute for the hoop squad in the 1995-96 season. All-America quarterback Harry Leons lettered in football for three seasons from 1995-97, and was also on the basketball roster for a short time but did not play. Henry Bekkering lettered in basketball for Eastern in the 2004-05 and 2005-06 seasons, and was also on the football roster in 2003. He played in four football games that season as a non-lettering squad member, and averaged 56.5 yards on 27 kickoffs, while routinely kicking the ball into the end zone.
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 an offensive lineman for Northern Colorado,
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. So far in the 2011 season, he has nine tackles on special teams.
Notes On Other Eagles
Head Coach Beau Baldwin: Baldwin is in 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 33 career games -- the third-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).
Kicker Kevin Miller: The Eagles are redshirting the strong-legged Miller, who 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 true freshman in 2009, he averaged 63.0 yard per kick with 14 touchbacks on 47 kickoffs.
Eastern is 2-2 against Cal Poly, and the home team has won all four games. Eastern beat the Mustangs 61-7 in the first-ever NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (then known as I-AA) game for Cal Poly to open the 1994 season. That game was also the head coaching debut of former Eagle Mike Kramer, who is now head coach at Idaho State. Eastern was blasted 52-35 in San Luis Obispo to end the 1995 season and lost there 40-35 in 2005 in a game matching the 11th-ranked Eagles and the 18th-ranked Mustangs. Eastern defeated the Mustangs in Cheney by a 38-21 score in 2004, when Cal Poly entered the game ranked 11th nationally and EWU was 21st.
2005 in San Luis Obispo -- #18 Cal Poly 40, #11 Eastern Washington 35
Cal Poly jumped out to a 20-0 lead in the first half and held off a late Eastern Washington rally as the 11th-ranked Eagles lost to the 18th-ranked Mustangs 40-35 in a non-conference college football game Nov. 5, 2005, at Mustang Stadium in San Luis Obispo, Calif.
It was Eastern’s second loss in the last three games and seriously damaged its chances at an at-large berth in the playoffs. However, season-ending victories over Montana State and UC Davis helped catapult the Eagles into the postseason for the second-straight season.
Cal Poly snapped a two-game losing streak to improve to 6-3 for the season. Before the losing streak, the Mustangs were the third-ranked team in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (then known as I-AA). In 2004, Eastern knocked off Cal Poly 38-21 as the Eagles eventually received an at-large playoff berth while the Mustangs stayed home with a 9-2 mark.
Eastern quarterback Erik Meyer was held to 103 passing yards in the first half, but finished 26-of-38 for 428 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. Under a steady rush throughout the game, at one point in the first half he was just 5-of-13 for 65 yards and an interception. But he completed 21 of his last 25 passes for 363 yards and three scores.
Meyer was sacked six times by the Mustangs, who entered the game with the 18th-best defense in FCS (304.6 per game). Ryan Cole added 78 rushing yards and two touchdowns.
Eastern had three receivers with at least 100 yards in receptions. Senior receiver Raul Vijil led the Eagles with 164 yards on nine receptions, and Craig McIntyre added seven for 160 yards and a pair of scores. Eric Kimble also had a touchdown catch -- the 43rd of his Eagle career -- and finished with eight receptions for 101 yards.
The Eagles closed the game with 521 yards of total offense after entering the game leading FCS with an average of 506.9 per game. However, EWU couldn’t stop the option attack of Cal Poly, which finished with 529 yards of offense. James Noble rushed for 221 yards, including a back-breaking 74-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter. The Mustangs were coming off a 20-17 loss at UC-Davis the previous week when Cal Poly finished with just 113 yards of total offense.
Eastern allowed Noble to rush for 108 first-half yards as the Mustangs jumped out to a 20-0 lead. At one point in the half, the Mustangs had a 244-100 advantage in total offense.
2004 in Cheney - No. 21 Eastern Washington 38, No. 11 Cal Poly 21
Erik Meyer passed for 417 yards and four touchdowns, and Eric Kimble caught nine passes for 151 yards and three of the scores as 21st-ranked Eastern Washington upset 11th-ranked Cal Poly 38-21 Nov. 6, 2004, at Roos Field (then Woodward Field) in Cheney, Wash.
In winning for the seventh time in eight games, Eastern handed Cal Poly its second-straight loss after a 7-0 start that had them ranked fifth in the country two weeks earlier.
The performance by Meyer was then the fifth-best in school history as he finished with 431 yards of offense despite getting sacked six times. He completed 21-of-32 passes with one interception, and scrambled for 48 yards of gains while getting sacked for 34 yards of losses.
Eastern piled-up a season-high 573 yards of total offense as it had 417 passing and 156 rushing. Eastern entered the game averaging 449.9 yards per game to rank sixth in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (then known as I-AA). Cal Poly was 11th nationally in scoring defense (16.5 per game), 34th nationally in defense (318.3 yards per game) and third in rushing defense (80.1). In addition, Cal Poly was 17th in passing efficiency defense, holding opponents to a 50.5 completion percentage and intercepting 18 passes.
Defensively, Eastern held Cal Poly to 343 yards of offense, including just two yards rushing. That concluded a three-week span in which Eastern held opponents to a collective total of minus two yards -- Weber State had just 30 rushing yards on Oct. 23 and Sacramento State had minus 34 on Oct. 30.
Freshman running back Toke Kefu finished with 89 yards on 24 carries. Junior Craig McIntyre added five catches for 69 yards, and Raul Vijil added a non-scoring 77-yarder that led to an Eagle score.
Brandon Keeler led the Eagle defense with nine tackles, an interception and one pass broken up. Nick Denbeigh and David Eneberg each had a sack and seven total tackles, and Garrett Quinn finished with five tackles and a pair of sacks. Ryan Phillips had two interceptions and two passes broken up.