Winless Bears Visit Roos Field for Eastern's 85th Homecoming
Northern Colorado is still looking for its first win of the season, and Eagles are riding a two-game winning streak
Eastern Washington Univ. “Eagles”
University of Northern Colorado “Bears”
Saturday, Oct. 15 • 4:05 p.m. Pacific
Roos Field (8,600) • Cheney, Wash.
EWU Coach: Beau Baldwin (Central Washington ‘96)
School Record: 29-15/20-8 Big Sky Conference (4th Season)
Career Record: 39-18 (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: 2-4/2-2 Big Sky Conference
Last Game: EWU 36, Northern Arizona 28 (Oct. 8 in Flagstaff, Ariz.)
TV: Televised in the Spokane area by SWX (SWX Digital 6.2 in Spokane, 25.3 in the Tri-Cities & 23.3 in the Yakima area; Comcast 115; Time Warner 306; Charter 287, Cable One 466)
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).
The Bears are a hungry team.
But the Eastern Washington University football team doesn’t want to be the first feast of the season for Northern Colorado when the Bears visit Roos Field Saturday (Oct. 15) for EWU’s 85th annual Homecoming Game.
Kickoff on the red Sprinturf surface at “The Inferno” is 4:05 p.m. Pacific time in a Homecoming game with the slogan “Greatest Show on Turf.” Eastern is 49-32-3 in the previous 84 Homecoming games, and have won its last two games this season after opening the year with four-straight setbacks.
This week’s game is also the 200th in the collegiate coaching career of Beau Baldwin, who started his coaching career as quarterbacks coach at Central Washington in 1994. He is in his 18th season as a coach, including nine as an assistant at Central (1994-2002), four as an assistant at Eastern (2003-2006), one as head coach at CWU (2007) and the last four as head coach at EWU (2008-2011). He is 120-78-1 in the previous 199 games, highlighted by a NAIA title with Central in 1995 and a NCAA Division I title with Eastern in 2011.
The game will be televised in the Spokane area and throughout Eastern Washington on SWX (SWX Digital 6.2 in Spokane, 25.3 in the Tri-Cities & 23.3 in the Yakima area; Comcast 115; Time Warner 306; Charter 287, Cable One 466).
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 Bears are winless in six games this season, and are coming off a 14-0 home loss to Sacramento State last Saturday in rainy, windy and cold Greeley, Colo. The Bears managed just 72 yards of total offense as the game featured 13 punts and 10 fumbles (four lost). Sac State, however, had only 177 yards, and only had one pass, and that was wiped out by a pass interference call. It was 37 degrees with 23-mile per hour winds at Nottingham Field.
The Bears will no doubt have to defend a pass or two this week against the Eagles, who are coming off a 36-28 victory at Northern Arizona. Eastern senior quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell passed for 356 yards and three touchdowns, and also rushed for a score. Eastern is averaging 46 passes per game this season.
“We’re excited to be back at home,” said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin. “Our players deserved to win against Northern Arizona – they are fighting through a lot of stuff. We keep fighting one week at a time. We’re back at home and we’re excited about that.”
Since Northern Colorado became a member of the Big Sky Conference in 2006, Eastern has won all five meetings by a collective 133-51 score (an average score of 27-10). Included was a 16-0 shutout the last time to two teams played at Roos Field on Sept. 19, 2009. The Eagles recovered three fumbles and had an interception in Eastern’s first shutout at the stadium since 1983. Eastern held the Bears to a 0-of-4 performance on fourth down, 4-of-14 on third down and had four sacks.
The injury-riddled Eagles picked up their first win of the 2011 season on Oct. 1 with a gut-check 27-21 victory over Weber State, then won on the road for the first time at NAU. Eastern started 0-4 against teams that are a collective 17-6 thus far -- Washington is 4-1, South Dakota is 4-2 and is ranked 15th in this week’s The Sports Network/Fathead.com FCS Top 25 poll, Montana is 4-2 and ranked 14th and Montana State is 5-1 and is No. 3 in FCS. The lone losses for those four teams were to Nebraska (UW), Air Force (USD), Wisconsin (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. Now, the Eagles are hoping this year’s triumph over the Wildcats will catapult them to a seven-game streak to end the season for EWU to have any hopes of advancing to the FCS Playoffs for the sixth time in the past eight seasons.
With wide receiver Brandon Kaufman (broken metacarpal in his left hand), cornerback Alden Gibbs (broken thumb) and linebacker Zach Johnson (knee) some of the latest casualties, Eastern is reeling from a rash of injuries that has reached epidemic proportions. Eight starters already have suffered injuries that have kept them out of the lineup – including six players lost for the season. In fact, only one offensive lineman – senior tackle Gabriel Jackson – has started all six Eastern games, as a total of nine players have started this season along the offensive line.
Eastern returns 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.
PDF Link to Fact Book
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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
The Sports Network (FCS Football) - http://www.sportsnetwork.com/merge/tsnform.aspx?c=sportsnetwork&page=cfoot2/indexpic.htm
NCAA FCS Football - http://www.ncaafootball.com/DivisionIFCS.aspx
NCAA Statistics - http://web1.ncaa.org/mfb/mainpage.jsp?year=2011
College Sporting News - http://www.collegesportingnews.com
Championship Subdivision News - http://www.championshipsubdivisionnews.com
Mitchell Is Big Sky Co-Offensive Player of the Week After Leading Win over Northern Arizona
Fifty career touchdown passes later and senior quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell is finally Big Sky Conference Player of the Week.
En route to sharing the honor with Montana State’s Denarius McGee, Mitchell passed for three touchdowns and rushed for another as EWU defeated NAU 36-28 Oct. 8 in a Big Sky Conference game at the Walkup Skydome in Flagstaff, Ariz.
It was 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 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.
He completed 27-of-40 passes, and his TD rush was the first of his Eastern career. He has now had 50 touchdown passes in his career to move into a tie with Bill Diedrick (1965-67, 1969) for fourth in school history. It was the fifth 300-yard passing game of his career, and his third this season.
“He made a lot of plays for us, but I’m just really happy about the team effort,” said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin. “It’s tough to overcome the amount of guys we’ve lost – we have a lot of young players in the lineup who haven’t played a lot. But they are stepping up and finding a way. These last two wins have had some familiarity from last year – it feels very similar. Just one at a time though – we are excited about next week and playing Northern Colorado.”
Despite playing just two seasons at Eastern, Mitchell already ranks fifth in school history for career passing yards (5,475), and is also fourth in touchdown passes (50, one away from third, currently held by Mark Tenneson from 1989-92), fourth in completions (470), fifth in attempts (781) and sixth in passing efficiency rating (134.0).
Mitchell, Edwards, Team Passing are In Top Five in NCAA Statistics
Eastern’s passing game, featuring quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell and wide receiver Nicholas Edwards, rank in the top five this week in NCAA Football Championship Subdivision statistics. Mitchell is second in passing yards (362.8 yards per game) and is sixth in total offense (321.3), and Edwards is fourth in receptions per game (8.0 with a total of 48) and 11th in receiving yards per game (94.8). Fellow receiver Greg Herd is 34th (5.5 with a total of 33) and 37th (75.0) in those two categories, respectively. Injured receiver Brandon Kaufman no longer has played enough games to qualify, but in statistics released on Oct. 2 was 11th in receiving (7.25 with 29 total) and 14th in receiving yards per game (93.3).
In addition, Jake Miller is an impressive 14th in FCS in punting (42.75 per punt), helping Eastern rank fourth nationally in net punting (40.00). Kicker Mike Jarrett is eighth in field goals (1.67 with a total of 10) and 46th in scoring (7.3 points per game).
The Eagles are ranked fifth in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision in passing offense (329.8 yards per game), but are also just 113th out of 121 FCS teams in rushing offense (66.8). Eastern is 35th overall in total offense (396.7) and 67th in scoring (23.7). Defensively, Eastern is 64th in FCS in total defense, allowing an average of 366.3 yards per game. Eastern is 16th in passing defense (168.8), 104th in rushing defense (197.5) and 68th in scoring defense (27.0). With 10 sacks in its last two games, Eastern now ranks 25th nationally (2.7 per game). The Eagles, however, are just 79th in turnover margin (-0.5 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 as season-low 111th the week before.
Northern Colorado ranks 110th or lower in all major team statistics, except for a ranking of 67th in rushing defense (161.3). Individually, Patrick Walker is 34th in receptions per game (5.5), Dominic Gunn is 26th in kickoff returns (26.75 per return) and Clarence Bumpas is third in tackles (12.67 per game).
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. The Eagles are now 15-0 in the last three seasons when they have won the turnover battle.
“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.
Edwards Continues to Provide Eagles with Big Receiving Statistics
Eastern All-America receiver Brandon Kaufman had a sensational season in 2010, but fellow receiver Nicholas 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, 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 probably apply for a medical redshirt and miss the rest of the season. That has opened the door for Edwards to be Eastern’s premier receiver, and he has responded with 48 catches for 569 yards and five touchdowns. Greg Herd, who had 13 catches for 128 yards and a pair of scores in the final four games of 2010, has added 33 catches for 450 yards and four scores thus far this year.
Mike Jarrett One Extra Point From School Records
Senior kicker Mike Jarrett is nearing school records for extra points made and attempted, as he ranks second in school history in both categories.
He kicked field goals of 27, 47 and 37 yards in EWU’s 36-28 win over Northern Arizona on Oct. 8, and made all three of his extra point attempts. He has now scored 194 points in his career, moving him into seventh in school history (third among kickers). He has now made 119-of-125 extra points, one behind the record for both makes and attempts held by Troy Griggs (120-of-126 from 1999-2001). Jarrett has now made 25 field goals (fifth) on 40 attempts (sixth) in his career, including 10-of-11 this season.
“Mike Jarrett keeps banging them through – those points he gave us were big,” said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin.
Jarrett has made all 14 of his 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.
Record-Tying 18th Interception Proves to Be Elusive for Johnson
The next interception senior safety Matt Johnson gets will be a record-breaker, and he very nearly had a game-clinching pick against Weber State on Oct. 1. On a fourth-and-23 Hail-Mary pass play late in the game, Johnson had the ball barely sail over his outstretched hands for a 51-yard completion for the Wildcats. Eastern, however, forced a fumble with 27 seconds left to preserve the 27-21 victory.
Johnson 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 335 tackles in his career to move into fifth all-time at Eastern – just 11 from moving into fourth (Derek Strey had 346 from 1994-97) and only 12 from third (Jason Marsh had 347 from 1991-93). Johnson had five interceptions in 2010 to help Eastern lead the FCS with 26. So far this season, Johnson has two interceptions and is second on the team in tackles with 46.
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 44-game career, including 45 for losses totaling 235 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.
Talley on Inaugural Jerry Rice Award Watch List
Eastern true freshman running back Jordan Talley is one of 15 players on the inaugural Jerry Rice Award Watch List, which was announced on Sept 28.
The Rice Award, presented by The Sports Network and sponsored by Fathead.com, will honor the outstanding freshman in the 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.
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 six games thus far, Talley has 84 carries for 333 yards and two touchdowns, and 17 catches for 94 yards.
Yardage Better Than Turnovers Thus Far
The Eagles have out-gained opponents in three of six games and have averaged 30 more yards of offense per game, but EWU is behind 12-9 in the turnover department.
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.
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. 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 Returns 30 Players With Combined 335 Starts
The Eagles return 30 players with a combined 335 starts between them entering the 2011 season. Of Eastern’s 19 letter winners lost, 13 combined for 191 starts -- including 22 by Taiwan Jones, who left EWU early to declare 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 (233 starts by 21 players): Matt Johnson 44, Renard Williams 34, Zach Johnson 30, Tyler Washburn 22, Paul Ena 19, Evan Cook 14, Jeff Minnerly 13, David Gaylord 12, Allen Brown 7, Charles Moetului 6, Grant Williams 3 (includes one start on offense in 2009), Alden Gibbs 4, T.J. Lee 5, Ronnie Hamlin 4, Jerry Ceja 3, Anthony Larry 3, Bobby Gentry 2, Jeremy Chaten 3, J.C. Agen 2, Cody McCarthy 1, Will Katoa 1, Rusty Haehl 1.
Offense (234 starts by 21 players): Chris Powers 31, Gabriel Jackson 32, Nicholas Edwards 32, Brandon Kaufman 23, Bo Levi Mitchell 20, Steven Forgette 17, Will Post 17, David Miles 13 (includes eight career starts on defense), Zack Gehring 12, Mario Brown 5, Greg Herd 5, Brandon Murphy 4, Jordan Talley 3, Darriell Beaumonte 3, Tyler Hart 3, Caleb Worthington 2, Jase Butorac 2, Drew Reynolds 3, Patrick Mealey 2, Ashton Clark 1, Demitrius Bronson 1, Ashton Miller 1, Nick Gauthier 1, Ryan Seto 1.
Six Eagles Make Starting Debuts Versus Huskies
Six Eagles made the first starts of their careers versus Washington on Sept. 3, including just two on offense and four on defense.
On offense, sophomore Ashton Miller started at right guard, 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.
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 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.
But until a dramatic turnaround versus Northern Arizona on Oct. 8, the Eagles were down 12-5 in that department and have 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.
But that all changed at NAU when EWU won the turnover battle 4-0, and scored 10 points off those Lumberjacks miscues. It was the first time this season that the Eagles have won the turnover battle, making them 15-0 the last three seasons when EWU has had more turnovers than opponents. In those 15 games, Eastern has had a 59-19 advantage in turnovers (4-0 in 2011, 33-15 in 2010 and 22-4 in 2009).
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).
In the 2009 and 2010 seasons, Eastern was 14-0 when it had fewer turnovers than its opponent. In 2010, the Eagles were 8-0 (11-0 including ties in turnovers with Sacramento State, Portland State and Delaware) after going 6-0 in 2009 when it won the turnover battle.
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 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. Six starters lost for the season says the rest.
With wide receiver Brandon Kaufman (broken metacarpal on his left hand), cornerback Alden Gibbs (broken thumb) and linebacker Zach Johnson (knee) some of the latest casualties, Eastern is reeling from a rash of injuries that has reached epidemic proportions.
Johnson started the surgical parade on Sept. 29, followed by Gibbs and guard Steven Forgette (broken fibula) the very next day. Kaufman, who will probably 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.
Johnson, Kaufman, wide receiver Tyler Hart (knee) and three offensive linemen have already been lost for the season, and a total of eight starters have suffered injuries that have kept them out of the lineup. In fact, only one offensive lineman – senior tackle Gabriel Jackson – has started all five Eastern games, as a total of nine 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 casualty. He missed most of Eastern’s game versus Montana State on Sept. 24 and the two games after that, becoming the fifth Eastern starting offensive lineman to miss action already this year because of injuries. It is hoped that Powers, as well as Gibbs, will be able to return for the Northern Colorado game in a limited capacity on Oct. 15.
Converted from tight end the previous Monday, Patrick Mealey took the place of Powers against MSU, which finished with six 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 is 2-0 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,” said 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 him 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.
Zach Johnson to Miss Rest of the Season with Recurring Knee Injury
For the second time in three seasons, linebacker Zach Johnson will have a season cut short because of the same knee injury, Eastern head football coach Beau Baldwin announced on Sept. 27.
The senior co-captain has been playing this season 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. Johnson then missed the entire 2009 season after a blood clot developed in his leg following the surgery.
Baldwin said 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.
“He just needed to get it done,” said Baldwin of the surgery. “The silver lining is that he has a very good possibility of getting a sixth year and playing next season. I know he’s going to continue to be a great captain this season by encouraging and helping his teammates.”
Through four games he was tied for the team lead in tackles with 30. He has started all 30 games he has played as an Eagle, with 260 career tackles to rank 10th in school history. A second-team All-Big Sky Conference selection in 2010 and a preseason All-American this season, Johnson’s average of 8.7 tackles per game is fourth-best in school history.
“Zach is a great football player and will be missed,” added Baldwin. “But that’s football, and all the injuries we’ve been dealing with this season are part of the game. Every year is different in those regards and we feel bad for Zach, as well as our other injured players. But we’re excited about the opportunity it provides for somebody else to step up into that role.”
Johnson’s twin brother, Matt Johnson, has also started every game he has played as an Eagle. The Johnson twins are both 2007 graduates of Tumwater, Wash., High School.
Eastern Entered 2011 Season 8-0 at the “Inferno”
Eastern is now 1-1 at home this season, giving them a 9-1 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.
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).
Two Wins, But No Winning Rallies Yet For Eagles
Although the Eagles finally have two wins to their credit, Eastern hasn’t been able to produce the magic that propelled the Eagles to the 2010 NCAA Division I title.
Eastern came an interception away -- with 29 seconds left -- from upsetting Washington on Sept. 3, then a week later 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 the Grizzlies, 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.
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 168 consecutive starts (through 10/9/11) 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 10 games, he had 58 tackles to rank second in the CFL. He is teammates at Edmonton with quarterback Matt Nichols and defensive end Greg Peach, who won the Buck Buchanan Award for Eastern in 2008 – two years before Sherritt won the same award. Also in the CFL are veteran defensive lineman Dario Romero (Saskatchewan Roughriders) and veteran defensive back Ryan Phillips (British Columbia Lions), as well as linebacker Shea Emry (Montreal Alouettes).
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.
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. He has 14 tackles, including a pair of sacks on the season.
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 43 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 335 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.
Ena Enters Second Full Season at End After 2009 Move to Linebacker
One of Eastern’s most versatile players, sophomore defensive end Paul Ena made big plays early and often in EWU’s 50-17 victory over Portland State on Oct. 30, 2010.
On PSU’s first possession of the game, he had two quarterback hurries, then recovered a fumble on the ensuing third down play on one of six three-and-outs (plus a four-down turnover on downs) for the Eagles. Three of those three-and-outs came on PSU’s opening three possessions as Eastern jumped out to a 14-0 lead, and at one point had a 183-5 advantage in total offense. Later in the half, he had a 13-yard tackle for loss that led to a punt and a 65-yard scoring run by Taiwan Jones that gave EWU a 28-3 advantage. Ena also combined with J.C. Sherritt for another tackle for loss on that possession, and finished with four tackles in the game, including 2 1/2 for loss.
After starting the season at linebacker, he began his second tour of duty at defensive end for the Eagles, and he started at that position against Weber State on Oct. 2. For the season, Ena had 55 tackles with 8 1/2 for loss including 2 1/2 sacks. He also had five quarterback hurries, an interception and four fumble recoveries. Two of his fumble recoveries came against Villanova on Dec. 17 in the semifinals of the FCS Playoffs.
As a true freshman in 2009, Ena played as a backup defensive end, then started at middle linebacker in the regular season finale against Northern Arizona (11/21/09) and finished with a team-high 16 tackles. He started again in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs against Stephen F. Austin (11/28/09) and had 20 tackles to rank as the sixth-most in recorded school history. He finished the season fifth on the team with a total of 63 tackles.
He was Eastern’s fourth player to be on EWU’s depth chart as a starter at middle linebacker in 2009. Returning starter Zach Johnson did not play because of a blood clot that developed following knee surgery during the summer, then Kyle Wilkins suffered a season-ending knee injury in practice before Eastern’s seventh game. Tyler Washburn started four games until he also suffered a knee injury.
Ena was a linebacker at Inglemoor High School in Seattle, finishing his senior season in fall 2008 with 162 total tackles (65 solo, 97 assisted) and two sacks. His father Tali Ena was a standout running back at Washington State University and went on to play for the Seattle Seahawks.
Jerry Ceja Makes Dreams Come True for Defensive Tackles
Thanks to huge plays made by sophomore defensive end Jerry Ceja, Eastern defensive tackles have some great memories. And those plays helped the Eagles win two games during its trek to the national title.
A sophomore from Aurora, Colo., Ceja made the first start of his career at Northern Colorado on Oct. 16 and he had the team’s defensive play of the game. He forced a fumble on a sack late in the game that was picked up by teammate Tyler Jolley and returned 17 yards. That gave EWU the ball 39 yards from the end zone and led to EWU’s winning touchdown with 41 seconds to play in the 35-28 victory.
Earlier in the season, Ceja forced a fumble on a sack on the final play of the game that was returned 34 yards for a score by Renard Williams and secured EWU’s 36-27 victory over the Grizzlies.
For the season, Ceja had 23 tackles with five sacks, three forced fumbles and three quarterback hurries. Two of his sacks and a hurry came in the semifinals of the FCS Playoffs against Villanova. He is a 2009 graduate of Grandview High School in Aurora, just a short distance from the Oct. 16 game played in Greeley, Colo. His older brother, Dominique Ceja, is 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 five 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 31 career games -- the most among all Eastern players on offense. He represents the 17th time an EWU offensive lineman has earned All-America accolades in the last 18 years (1993-2010), with Eastern offensive linemen winning 19 first-team All-Big Sky honors in that same time period. Eastern finished the 2010 season ranked 22nd in the FCS in total offense (397.1 yards per game), as well as rankings of 26th in passing (241.0), 49th in rushing (156.1) and 18th in scoring (31.5).
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.
Since Northern Colorado became a member of the Big Sky Conference in 2006, Eastern has won all five meetings by a collective 133-51 score (an average score of 27-10). Eastern is 7-1 in the all-time series, including a 4-1 record in Greeley and a 3-0 mark in Cheney.
Last Season in Greeley . . . No. 12 Eagles Score Twice in the Last 3:08 to Beat Bears 35-28
It was the great escape II.
A week after struggling to a 21-14 home win over Northern Arizona, 12th-ranked Eastern Washington University scored twice in the final 3:08 for a 35-28 victory over Northern Colorado on Oct. 16, 2010, in a Big Sky Conference football game at Nottingham Field in Greeley, Colo.
Eastern knotted the score at 28 with 3:08 left in the game with a 12-play, 80-yard drive, then scored again with 41 seconds left on a 24-yard run by Taiwan Jones, who finished with 168 yards rushing and three scores. That came after a sack by Colorado native Jerry Ceja that was recovered by senior Tyler Jolley and returned to the UNC 39-yard line.
“We have a veteran group on defense and some leaders on defense, and they made a few plays in the stretch run that obviously helped us,” said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin, who knew the Eagles pulled a rabbit out of their hat for the second-straight week.
“It was one of those games where we just sputtered quite a bit in the second half. We talked about it and it didn’t matter -- we couldn’t change that. All we could control is what we did in the last seven or eight minutes. Our team found a way and my hat is off to the players for that.”
Jones had nearly half of his yards on a 73-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. As an Eastern cornerback as a freshman in 2008, Jones returned a kickoff 93 yards for a touchdown versus Northern Colorado in Greeley.
Eastern had just 16 first downs and 381 yards of total offense, and had a nearly 14-minute deficit in time of possession. Northern Colorado finished with 362 yards of offense while running 20 more plays than Eastern (76-56). Eastern had only 28 yards of offense in the third quarter, but did win the turnover battle 3-2 thanks to the two late miscues by the Bears.
“We’re just a little sporadic right now - we have to find that consistency,” said Baldwin. “That’s on all of us. We’re still searching for our identity on offense and at times we have done a good job this season -- even at times today. It was a strange game for a number of reasons. I was really disappointed in how we operated in the third quarter and beginning of the fourth. The first half was kind of a strange half.”
J.C. Sherritt had 14 tackles, a sack and a victory-sealing interception in the final seconds versus UNC. Junior linebacker Zach Johnson added 13 tackles, and also had an interception.
Eastern junior quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell had been very accurate in his previous two outings versus Weber State and Northern Arizona, completing 69 percent of his passes (43-of-62) with seven touchdowns, three interceptions, an average of 312.5 yards per game and a passing efficiency rating of 181.61. He was 16-of-25 for 172 yards against the Bears, with many of those completions and yards coming in EWU’s game-tying drive.
The Bears took an early 14-7 lead on drives of 52 and 73 yards, with Eastern’s lone score coming on a 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by senior Jesse Hoffman. Hoffman rushed for 124 yards and a touchdown as a true freshman for EWU in a 34-0 win at Northern Colorado in 2006.
A 38-yard pass play from Mitchell to Colorado native Brandon Kaufman helped set-up a 1-yard TD run by Jones to knot the score at 14, and on EWU’s next offensive play, Jones turned an inside handoff into a 73-yard scoring run with 10:26 to play in the second quarter.
But Eastern wouldn’t score again until 3:08 remained in the game. Kaufman, who led the Eagles with five catches for 94 yards and a touchdown, scored the game-tying TD on a 4-yard pass from Mitchell.
Meanwhile, Northern Colorado scored on two short drives of 36 and 47 yards, the first coming after a fumbled kickoff return to open the second half. The Bears took a 28-21 lead with 12:07 remaining in the game.
Last Time in Cheney . . . Eastern Registers 16-0 Shutout in Big Sky Opener
The defense forced four turnovers and was equally effective on fourth down as Eastern Washington University shut-out Northern Colorado 16-0 on Sept. 19, 2009, in the Big Sky Conference football opener for both schools at Woodward Field in Cheney, Wash.
The Eagles recovered three fumbles and had an interception in Eastern’s first shutout at Woodward Field since 1983. The Eagles have had six other shutouts since then either on the road or in Spokane, including a 34-0 win over UNC in 2006. Eastern also held the Bears to a 0-of-4 performance on fourth down, 4-of-14 on third down and had four sacks.
“We made a point of emphasis to let the players play,” EWU head coach Beau Baldwin said of his team’s defensive effort. “At times the opponents might get a little bit, but we’re not giving up the big play. We’re making them earn everything. And when we get down in the red zone we are stingy and we’re also doing a great job of ripping on the ball and creating turnovers.
“Obviously coach (John Graham) and the defensive staff did an incredible job of preparing for this ballgame,” he continued. “Ultimately, players made plays on the field. I was proud of their effort.”
Senior quarterback Matt Nichols had two touchdown passes in EWU’s win over the Bears, and Mike Jarrett added a 28-yard field goal. But the Eagles managed only 292 yards of total offense while holding Northern Colorado to 238.
Nichols finished 14-of-25 for 146 yards, but was sacked three times. Taiwan Jones rushed for 95 yards on 18 carries for EWU, with Aaron Boyce and Tony Davis each catching four passes.
Jones, who finished with 164 yards of all-purpose yards, also had an 85-yard kickoff return for a touchdown shortened to 52 yards because of an illegal block penalty. Eastern finished the game with 10 penalties for 79 yards, but had no turnovers.
The rest of the day belonged to the Eagle defense, as the Big Sky’s leading tackler -- linebacker J.C. Sherritt -- finished with 16. He also recovered a fumble, and three of his tackles were for loss. Middle linebacker Kyle Wilkins added 11 tackles.