December 10, 2012

Bearkats and Eagles Tangle Saturday in FCS Semifinals

Returning to the scene of the crime of epic 2004 playoff game, Big Sky nemesis Sam Houston State will also play Eagles in regular season meetings each of the next two years

Complete Weekly Release in .pdf format


Eastern Washington Univ. “Eagles”
versus
Sam Houston State University “Bearkats”

Saturday, Dec. 15, 2012 • 1:05 p.m. Pacific
Roos Field (8,600) • Cheney, Wash.

EWU Coach: Beau Baldwin (Central Washington ‘96)
School Record: 44-18/30-10 Big Sky Conference (5th Season)
Career Record: 54-21 (6th Season -- was 10-3 at CWU in 2007, 6-5 at EWU in 2008, 8-4 at EWU in 2009, 13-2 in 2010, 6-5 in 2011)
2012: 11-2/7-1 Big Sky Conference (co-champ; FCS Playoffs automatic berth)
2011: 6-5/5-3 Big Sky (T-3rd)
Last Game: Eastern 51, Illinois State 35 (Dec. 8 in Cheney, Wash.)
TV/Webcast: ESPNU. Talent: Joe Davis, Jay Walker, Jill Montgomery.
Radio: 700-AM ESPN in Spokane. Larry Weir returns for his 22nd season calling the play-by-play, with analysis handled by Paul Sorensen and sideline commentary by Keith Osso. Osso will also serve as host of the Eagle Tailgate Show, starting 1 1/2 hours prior to kickoff.
Internet Radio: www.700espn.com or www.tunein.com
Radio iPhone App: Search for “Spokane Radio” and download app. An app is also available for tunein radio.
Live Stats: http://www.ncaa.com
Weekly Coaches Show: Monday, Dec. 17, 6 p.m. (video at 5:30 p.m.) at the Q Sports Bar and Restaurant at Northern Quest Resort & Casino. . . 700-AM ESPN, www.700espn.com & via iphone app. (search for “Spokane Radio” and download app). NOTE: No show week of Dec. 10.


While three Big Sky Conference schools would like to forget about the Bearkats, the Eastern Washington University football team is about to become quite familiar with Sam Houston State.

The Eagles will host the Bearkats at Roos Field Saturday (Dec. 15) at 1:05 p.m. Pacific time in the semifinals of the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs, with a berth in the championship game on the line. This week’s meeting, a rematch of an epic battle between the two schools in the 2004 quarterfinals in Cheney, will be televised on ESPNU.

The winner of this week’s game punches its ticket to a repeat trip to Texas to play for the NCAA Division I title. The championship game is Jan. 5 in Frisco, Texas, at 10 a.m. Pacific time on ESPN2. Eastern played and won in the game in 2010; Sam Houston State played and lost in last year’s title tilt.

The radio broadcast of this week’s game, featuring Larry Weir, Paul Sorensen and Keith Osso, starts 1 1/2 hours prior to kickoff with the Eagle Tailgate Show. It may be heard on 700-AM ESPN, via the web at www.700espn.com and via iPhone application (search for “700 ESPN” and download the free app). The broadcast is also available via www.tunein.com and tunein’s mobile phone app.

Second-seeded Eastern, which ranked fourth in the final regular season Sports Network Top-25 poll, advanced to the semifinals with a wild 51-35 victory over Illinois State on Dec. 8, and will enter this week’s game 11-2. The Eagles, who have won five games in a row, defeated Wagner 29-19 in the second round on Dec. 1.

The 10-3 Bearkats ended the regular season ranked fifth and are unseeded in the playoffs, but have knocked off Big Sky foes Cal Poly (18-16) and Montana State (34-16) in consecutive weeks. A year ago, the Bearkats eliminated MSU in the quarterfinals (49-13) and Montana in the semifinals (31-28).

Both teams have advanced to the national championship game in the past two years, with EWU defeating Delaware 20-19 for the 2010 title and Sam Houston State falling to North Dakota State 17-16 in 2011.

“They are a great football team and they’ve done well against a lot of teams, not just against the Big Sky,” said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin. “They’ve played well in big ballgames and you have to give them a ton of credit for that.”

The triple-option attack of the Bearkats helped them out-gain Montana State 458-292 in total offense in the easy quarterfinal victory. For the season, SHSU ranks in the top 12 in FCS in both total offense and total defense, and has out-scored opponents by an average score of 41-18.

They were 1-2 after road losses to Baylor and Central Arkansas, but their only loss since then was a 47-28 setback at nationally-ranked FBS opponent Texas A&M on Nov. 17.

“They have talent, speed and athleticism throughout their team,” said Baldwin, who is in his fifth season as head coach at Eastern and ninth overall at EWU. “They are right up there as one of the fastest teams we’ve seen since I’ve been here. You have to play assignment-sound defense against their offense, and they throw the ball better than most teams out of that style. On defense, they are well-coached, talented and athletic enough to be very aggressive and good.”

This week’s EWU-SHSU meeting is only the beginning, as the two teams announced last June that they will start a home-and-home series beginning in the 2013 campaign. Eastern will travel to Huntsville, Texas, to play Sam Houston State on Sept. 28, 2013. The Bearkats will then play in Cheney at Roos Field on Sept. 13, 2014.

A year ago, Eastern won six of its last seven games, and narrowly missed the playoffs with a 6-5 record. Meanwhile, Sam Houston State rolled to 14 consecutive football victories and its first outright Southland Conference football title. The Bearkats were the No. 1 seed in the playoffs and advanced to the championship game in Frisco, Texas, located just 200 miles from their campus.

A year earlier, Eastern finished the 2010 season with 11-straight wins, including a 20-19 victory over Delaware in the title tilt in Frisco. Sam Houston, meanwhile, was 6-5 in its first season under head coach Willie Fritz.

“Matching up in a non-league contest versus an incredible program like Sam Houston State will be a huge challenge for us,” said Baldwin when the regular season series was announced.  “The run they went on in 2011 was very impressive, and I know Coach Fritz will keep doing things at a high level.  Home and home matchups like this will only help the overall product of FCS football.”

Eastern has made nine playoff appearances (1985, 1992, 1997, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2012), while the Bearkats have now made six (1986, 1991, 2001, 2004, 2011, 2012).

The two schools staged an epic postseason battle in Cheney on Dec. 5, 2004, when Sam Houston State rallied in the fourth-quarter to steal a 35-34 victory over the Eagles. The Bearkats won on the game’s final play, scoring three touchdowns in the last 11:04 after Eastern had taken a 34-14 fourth-quarter lead.

Baldwin was the offensive coordinator in that game, and his quarterback was current student assistant coach Erik Meyer. Meyer completed 21-of-30 passes for 233 yards as EWU finished the season 9-4 and ranked eighth. The following season, Meyer won the Walter Payton Award given to the top player in FCS.

That game is the only previous meeting between the two schools, and, interestingly, was the final game in the Eastern career of current Tennessee Titan Michael Roos. Since then, Roos has had the stadium re-named after him (it was formerly Woodward Field) because of his philanthropic efforts on behalf of EWU, including a $500,000 donation toward the red Sprinturf surface at the “Inferno.”

Just over six years later, Eastern had a dramatic rally of its own, scoring all 20 of its points in the final 16:48 to beat Delaware for the national championship.

Expected to be a sellout like last week’s EWU-Illinois State game, tickets for Saturday’s game went on sale Monday (Dec. 10) at 10 a.m. For fans who agreed to purchase tickets to all three playoff games, the cost is $20 for premium seating in sections C&D, $15 for sections A/B/E&F, $15 for end zone and $10 for east side seating (behind visitor bench) The cost will be $5 more per ticket for first-time buyers. Tickets may be purchased via www.ticketswest.com or 1-800-325-Seat.

A limited number of free student tickets will be available starting Monday at 10 a.m. at the EWU Bookstore in Cheney. A valid student ID is required to obtain the tickets, which are underwritten by the Associated Students of EWU.

 

PDF Link to Fact Book

The complete version of the 2012 EWU football fact book may be found at:
http://goeags.com/trads/ewas-factbooks.html

 

More Eagle Football Links and Headlines

EWU Football Web Page - http://goeags.com/sports/m-footbl/index
EWU Football News & Notes - http://www.goeags.com/sports/m-footbl/2012-13/news
EWU Season Outlook - http://www.goeags.com/sports/m-footbl/2012-13/Releases/12fbSEASONOUTLOOK1
Link to Football Ticket & RV Parking Information: http://www.goeags.com/newtickets/tickets.html
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
700 ESPN – http://700espn.com
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 (2012) - http://web1.ncaa.org/mfb/mainpage.jsp?year=2012
NCAA Statistics (2011) - http://web1.ncaa.org/mfb/mainpage.jsp?year=2011
College Sporting News - http://www.collegesportingnews.com
College Sports Journal - http://www.college-sports-journal.com
College Football Performance Awards – http://www.collegefootballperformance.com

 
 

Quick Hits

* The Eagles are 7-0 at Roos Field, and are 17-2 at The Inferno since 2010 when the red turf was installed and the stadium was renamed to Roos Field (formerly Woodward Field). Eastern was 8-0 at home during the debut year when EWU won the NCAA Division I title.

* In all, Eastern has won six games this season when trailing in the third quarter (Montana, Montana State, Sacramento State, UC Davis, Portland State, Wagner). Since 2010, Eastern has won 11 games when they’ve trailed or been tied in the fourth quarter, including three this season (Montana, Montana State, UC Davis).

* Eastern captured a share of the Big Sky Conference title and the league’s automatic playoff berth with a 7-1 league record. Of Eastern’s seven Big Sky wins this season, six came by a combined margin of 28 points – one by seven points, two six-point wins and a trio by just three points. On the other side of the coin, the Eagles are only seven points from an unbeaten season, having last-possession chances to pull out wins in both of their losses.

* With Eastern’s 51-35 win against Illinois State in the quarterfinals of the 2012 FCS Playoffs, the Eagles improved to 11-2 on the season, marking just the third time in school history EWU has had 10 or more wins in a single season. Eastern finished the 2010 National Championship season at 13-2, and the 1997 season at 12-2.

* In November and beyond, Eastern is 13-0 since 2010 and 22-3 since 2007. Since 2010, EWU is 25-2 after Oct. 1, including an 11-0 mark two years ago, 6-1 last year and 8-1 this season. The lone losses were a 43-26 home loss in 2011 versus Portland State and a 30-27 road setback at Southern Utah on Oct. 27, 2012.

* In this week’s Jeff Sagarin computer ratings, Eastern is fifth overall in FCS (82nd overall). North Dakota State is first among FCS schools, followed by Sam Houston State, Georgia Southern, South Dakota State, EWU, Montana State (84th overall) and Cal Poly (87th). Other highly-ranked Big Sky schools include Northern Arizona (18/112), Southern Utah (26/134), North Dakota (33/144) Sacramento State (35/149), Montana (36/151), UC Davis (41/158) and Portland State (44/161). The Eagles were a season-high second nationally among FCS schools at one point this season.

 
 

High-Flying Eagles

* Junior two-time All-American Brandon Kaufman is on the cusp of a FCS record after breaking the Big Sky Conference record for single season receiving yards during EWU’s 51-35 victory over Illinois State. He finished with nine catches for 191 yards and three touchdowns, and his 17-yard TD catch in the third quarter gave EWU a 38-17 lead and broke the previous Big Sky record of 1,525 set by Weber State’s Tim Toone in 2008. Earlier in the game, Kaufman broke the school record of 1,453 set by Eric Kimble in 2004. Kaufman’s current total of 1,635 yards ranks fifth in FCS history, just 77 yards from the record of 1,712 yards set in 1998 by Delaware’s Eddie Conti. This season, Kaufman has 84 catches (fourth in school history), 13 touchdowns (fourth in school history) and an average of 19.5 yards per catch (sixth in school history). In his last three games, Kaufman has 28 catches for 526 yards (18.8 per catch). The first team All-Big Sky performer had career highs of 11 catches for 201 yards (fifth-most in school history) versus Southern Utah on Oct. 27. He had 10 catches for 174 yards against Wagner on Dec. 1, and before that had nine catches for 161 yards against Portland State on Nov. 17 in which he had two sensational, highlight-reel catches after tipped balls. Kaufman has gone over the 100-yard mark 10 times this season and 18 times in his career. He leads the Big Sky and ranks third in FCS in receiving yards per game (125.8). Because of hand and knee injuries requiring surgery, Kaufman received an injury redshirt in the 2011 season after playing in the first four games of the year. Kaufman, who is from Denver, Colo., and is a 2009 graduate of Heritage HS, now has 212 career catches (fifth in school history, ninth in Big Sky history) for 3,516 yards (third) and 30 touchdowns (third).

* Junior cornerback T.J. Lee has joined four other Eagles as All-Americans this season, with Lee earning second team honors from The Sports Network. Wide receiver Brandon Kaufman and kicker Jimmy Pavel were named to the Sports Network second team as well, and defensive end Jerry Ceja has also received All-America recognition this season. Lee has piled up some impressive statistics in 2012, ranking second on the team with 83 tackles. The two-time first team All-Big Sky selection also has a team-leading 11 passes broken up, 2 1/2 sacks, eight total tackles for loss, an interception, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. In the quarterfinals of the FCS Playoffs against Illinois State on Dec. 8, Lee had eight tackles, a forced fumble and two passes broken up. Versus Portland State on Nov. 17, he had eight tackles (one for loss) and broke-up three passes. He had nine tackles and a sack versus Southern Utah on Oct. 27, and eight tackles, a pass broken up and a forced fumble on a sack that he also recovered versus Weber State on Sept. 22. One game earlier against Washington State, he had six tackles and an interception, as the Eagle defense pitched a shutout in the second half and kept the Eagles in the game. His interception in the fourth quarter came at the Eastern 7-yard line and helped thwart one of two potential scoring drives for the Cougars late in the game. A first team All-Big Sky selection a year ago, Lee now has 142 tackles, three interceptions, 14 passes broken up and 2 1/2 sacks in his 33-game career (19 starts).

* Eastern senior offensive tackle Will Post was chosen to the American Football Coaches Association All-America team. His is the 17th AFCA honor won by 16 different players in Eastern history, but he is the first offensive lineman to be recognized since Michael Roos (now with the Tennessee Titans) in 2004. The Eagles have now had 19 offensive linemen earn All-America accolades in the last 20 years (1993-2012) while winning 21 first team All-Big Sky Conference honors (1993-2012), including Post this season. Post has started every game at right offensive tackle in 2012, with a total of 35 career starts in 44 games played. The first team All-Big Sky selection and team co-captain allowed just one sack in the regular season (opponents had a total of 24). He consistently grades out in the high 80’s and low 90's according to offensive line coach Aaron Best. The Eagles had a season-best 542 total yards versus Cal Poly on Nov. 3 and are now fourth in the Big Sky and 19th in FCS in total offense (435.8), seventh in FCS in passing offense (306.4 per game) and 22nd in scoring offense (33.1). The 6-foot-6, 315-pound Post is from Portland, Ore., and graduated from Southridge High School in 2008.

* Two other FCS All-America teams for the 2012 season have been released. On the College Sports Madness (collegesportsmadness.com) squad, junior wide receiver Brandon Kaufman was selected to the first team, senior defensive end Jerry Ceja was selected to the second team and senior kicker Jimmy Pavel was picked for the third team. On the team selected by Beyond Sports College Network (bsncollege.com), Kaufman and Pavel were on the first team, and offensive tackle Will Post was on the second team. A year ago, there were nine All-America teams selected, including those by the AFCA, The Sports Network, Associated Press and the Walter Camp Football Foundation. Others are College Sporting News, Phil Steele Publications, College Sports Journal, Beyond Sports College Network and College Sports Madness.

* Senior safety and hometown product Jeff Minnerly became the eighth EWU player in school history since 1989 to be honored on the Capital One Academic All-America Division I football team as selected by the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA). He earned the honor after advancing to the national ballot following his third All-District VIII honor announced earlier this season. Minnerly, who currently has a 3.78 grade point average with a double major in finance and electrical engineering, was selected to the second team. Minnerly joins a group of high-achieving Eagle football players which include previous recipients Jeff Ogden, Steve Mattson, Kyler Randall, Jacob Kragt, Kurt Schulz, Mike MacKenzie and Lance Ballew. Along with Minnerly, they have combined to win 10 Academic All-America honors (Mattson and Randall were two-time winners). Kragt, a defensive end from Ritzville, was EWU’s most recent recipient in 2009. Minnerly broke his collarbone against Montana on Sept. 29, and didn’t return until Senior Day versus UC Davis on Nov. 10. He has started 23 of 39 games he has played in his career, with career totals of 154 tackles, five interceptions, nine passes broken up and two forced fumbles. He has 27 tackles, an interception and a pass broken up this year so far. Minnerly had an honor-filled career as a 4.0 student at Ferris High School in Spokane, Wash., and he has followed that with a variety of athletic and academic awards at Eastern. He will earn his fourth Big Sky Conference All-Academic award this year, and in 2011, he repeated as an honorable mention All-Big Sky Conference selection and was chosen to the NCAA Championship Subdivision Athletic Directors Academic All-Star Team. In the 2010 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. His long hair has been a trademark of his, as a friendly wager between teammates is now in year three. During the 2010 season, Minnerly and linebacker Ronnie Hamlin challenged each other to see who could go the longest without cutting their hair. Linebacker Zach Johnson was also in on the wager, but dropped out after EWU won the NCAA Division I title.

* Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin and freshman quarterback Vernon Adams were finalists for national awards presented by The Sports Network in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision. Baldwin was one of 20 coaches on the voting list for the Eddie Robinson Award, given to the national coach of the year in FCS. Adams was one of 20 players on the ballot for the Jerry Rice Award, given to the top freshman in FCS. Adams ranks 11th in FCS in passing efficiency (150.76), and is the only freshman in the top 24 of the rankings. In nine games as a starter and two as a sub, he has completed 62 percent of his passes for 1,597 yards, 14 touchdowns and six interceptions. The Jerry Rice Award, in its second year, is named for legendary wide receiver Jerry Rice, who was a two-time first-team All-American in the FCS (then Division I-AA) at Mississippi Valley State. The Robinson award is named for Eddie Robinson, the College Football Hall of Fame coach, who retired in 1997 after 56 years at Grambling State University. Both awards – as well as the Walter Payton Award (top player in FCS) and the Buck Buchanan Award (top defensive player) -- was voted on by a national panel of about 160 sports information and media relations directors, broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries. The awards will be presented at the FCS Awards Banquet and Presentation on Dec. 17 in Philadelphia.

* A total of 22 Eastern football players were selected to the All-Big Sky Conference team as selected by the league’s head coaches. The first team selections include junior wide receiver Brandon Kaufman, junior cornerback T.J. Lee senior kicker Jimmy Pavel, inside linebacker Ronnie Hamlin and senior offensive tackle Will Post.

* After directing Eastern to a 9-2 regular season record and its sixth Big Sky Conference title in school history, head coach Beau Baldwin was selected as the league’s co-Coach of the Year in a vote of the Big Sky’s fellow head coaches. Baldwin is also one of 20 coaches on the voting list for the Eddie Robinson Award, given to the national coach of the year in FCS. Baldwin coached in his 100th Eastern game when the Eagles rallied to beat Montana 32-26 earlier this season. He is now 44-18 in four-plus seasons as a head coach (2008-12), and was 25-22 as EWU assistant coach for four seasons (2003-06), for a collective total of 69-40. His .750 winning percentage in Big Sky Conference games (30-10) is the best-ever by an Eastern head coach and currently ranks eighth in the 50-year history of the Big Sky Conference. His .710 percentage overall is 10th.

* Eastern transfer quarterback Kyle Padron has passed for 1,066 yards (355.3 per game) in his last three games, with a completion rate of 66 percent, nine touchdown passes and two interceptions. In a 51-35 victory over Illinois State on Dec. 8 in the quarterfinals of the FCS Playoffs, he passed for 358 yards and a school-record six touchdown passes. He completed 19-of-33 passes, and his six touchdowns tied the EWU previous single-game record held by Matt Nichols (8/31/07 vs. Montana-Western) and Rob James (11/1/86 vs. Weber State).One game earlier, he had 327 yards and a touchdown in EWU’s 29-19 victory over Wagner on Dec. 1. He directed EWU on touchdown drives of 80 and 75 yards in the first half, then scoring marches of 75 and 73 in the second half as the Eagles rallied from a 19-14 deficit. Making just his third start of the season and first since EWU’s second game of the season, Padron completed 26-of-36 (72.2 percent) of his passes with one touchdown. No stranger to big games, Padron came off the bench to lead the Eagles to a 41-34 win at Portland State on Nov. 17 and clinch a share of the Big Sky title for EWU. As a result, Padron was Root Sports Offensive Player of the Week as selected by the league, joining Vernon Adams as a winner of that award in the 2012 season. Eastern scored the winning points on an eight-play, 94-yard drive to break a 34-all tie with 1:25 remaining in a steady downpour. Padron passed for 380 yards and a pair of touchdowns as Eastern rallied from season-high deficits of 13 and 12 points. A junior who transferred this year from Southern Methodist, he completed 26-of-38 passes for 381 yards and two touchdowns, and also rushed for one. He led Eastern on touchdown drives of 42, 62, 76, 49 and 78 yards prior to the game-winning 94-yard drive, in which he was 5-of-5 for 73 yards. Padron is the only Eastern player in school history to be MVP in a bowl game, let alone play in one. In 2009 while at SMU, he was MVP of the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl after passing for a school-record 460 yards and two TDs in SMU's 45-10 win over Nevada. Current Portland State head coach Nigel Burton was the defensive coordinator for Nevada in that game. For the season, Padron has started four times and come off the bench in six games, and was a 21-game starter at SMU. He has completed 59.6 percent of his passes for a team-leading 2,374 yards, 17 touchdowns and six interceptions. Until a third-quarter interception versus Wagner on Dec. 1, Padron hadn’t thrown an interception in 121 attempts dating back to Sept. 22 against Weber State.

* Since returning to the lineup on Nov. 3, senior linebacker Zach Johnson has 38 tackles, two interceptions and a pair of pass deflections in five games. He had seven tackles against Illinois State, and 11 in EWU’s 29-19 win over Wagner – the 14th of his career with at least 10 stops. One game earlier, he had a pair of interceptions in the fourth quarter to help preserve Eastern’s come-from-behind 41-34 victory over Portland State on Nov. 17. The second team All-Big Sky Conference performer also had three tackles in the game, which clinched a share of the Big Sky title for the Eagles. His first interception came with 12:01 to play, and led to a seven-play, 49-yard touchdown drive that gave the Eagles a 34-26 lead. After EWU took a 41-34 lead with a TD with 1:25 to play, Johnson had his second interception of the day on a third-down play from the PSU 48-yard line. One game earlier, he finished with a team-leading 10 tackles in EWU’s 31-28 victory over UC Davis on Nov. 10. He has now started every game he has played in his Eastern career – 38 – and has 52 tackles in eight games played this year. He missed five games and most of a sixth with a hamstring injury, but returned against Cal Poly on Nov. 3 to finish with seven tackles, a pass broken up and a key third down tackle in the third quarter with the Mustangs at the EWU 1-yard line. Johnson, a sixth-year senior who has missed 24 total games in his career because of injuries, now has 312 tackles, five interceptions, 14 passes broken up and 6 1/2 sacks as an Eagle. He is just one tackle from moving into seventh all-time at Eastern, and is 29 away from the total of 341 by his twin brother Matt Johnson, who now plays for the Dallas Cowboys.

* An All-American and second team All-Big Sky selection, starting defensive end Jerry Ceja had three sacks and five quarterback hurries in two playoff games thus far, including a sack and three hurries versus Illinois State and two sacks and a hurry against Wagner. He is seventh in FCS and is third in the league with an average of 0.92 sacks per game (total of 12 to rank fifth in school history). He has 43 total tackles this season with 16 for loss, and also has nine quarterback hurries, two passes broken up and a pair of forced fumbles to help him equal the school record with six in his career. He is sixth all-time in career sacks with 23 1/2. Ceja had two sacks versus Wagner on Dec. 1, Montana State on Oct. 13, North Dakota on Oct. 6 and Weber State on Sept. 22. As a team, the Eagles are fourth in the league and 27th nationally with an average of 2.46 per game.

* An incredible scramble and touchdown throw by Vernon Adams against Sacramento State on Oct. 20 was a finalist for the GEICO Play of the Year. For eight weeks, fans voted for the GEICO Play of the Year, and Adams won the Play of the Year voting for Week 8. The eight weekly winners were shown on GEICO Best of College Football 2012 on CBS on Nov. 23. The winner of the GEICO Play of the Year was a one-handed catch by Ohio State’s Devin Smith.

* Senior Jimmy Pavel, an All-American and  first team All-Big Sky pick, made a 20-yard field goal against Illinois State on Dec. 8 to earn sole possession of EWU’s single season school record with 17 for the season. His 45-yard field goal against UC Davis on Nov. 10 equaled the record of 16 set last year by Mike Jarrett. But because of Eastern’s offensive efficiency in ending drives with nine touchdowns, Pavel didn’t attempt a field goal in his next two games. The Eagles have 18 as a team for the season, breaking the previous team record of 16 set last year. An impressive 17-of-18 on the season, Pavel ranks 18th in FCS with an average of 1.31 field goals per game. His .944 percentage is the best in FCS among kickers with at least 11 attempts this season. Pavel made kicks of 45 and 23 yards against Southern Utah on Oct. 27 to improve to 13-of-13 on the year, but missed his first attempt of the season on a 37-yarder that would have broken a 27-27 tie with 2:51 left in the game. Pavel, who handled kickoff duties a year ago, took over this season for Mike Jarrett, who made a school-record 16 field goals in just 18 attempts as a senior in 2011. Pavel missed his only attempt in the 2011 season, a 52-yarder. Thus, including a field goal Kevin Miller made earlier this season, the Eagles have made 34 of 38 field goal attempts the last two seasons for 89.5 percent. Pavel has also assumed part of EWU’s punting duties the last three games, and currently has a 42.4 average on 17 punts with three downed inside the opponent 20-yard line.

 
 

Series Notes

* In the only previous meeting between the two schools, the Eagles and Bearkats staged an epic postseason battle in Cheney on Dec. 5, 2004, when Sam Houston State rallied in the fourth-quarter to steal a 35-34 victory over the Eagles. The Bearkats won on the game’s final play, scoring three touchdowns in the last 11:04 after Eastern had taken a 34-14 fourth-quarter lead.

* Eastern is 3-5 all-time against current members of the Southland Conference, with all but two of those meetings taking place in the playoffs. The Bearkats are 9-10 overall against schools from the Big Sky.

* Dustin Long completed a 7-yard touchdown pass to Jason Mathenia on the final play of the game as ninth-ranked Sam Houston State rallied from a 20-point deficit to stun 14th-ranked Eastern Washington 35-34 in the quarterfinals of the FCS Playoffs (then known as I-AA) on Dec. 4, 2012, at Roos Field (then Woodward Field). The touchdown capped an eight-play, 75-yard drive in the final 43 seconds. The score came after Eastern Washington had a 37-yard field goal blocked by Vincent Cartright that would have all but clinched the win for the Eagles. The ninth-ranked Bearkats advanced to the semifinals in Missoula, Mont., against seventh-ranked Montana, which eventually lost in the FCS title game. Instead of taking on its Big Sky rival in a rematch of a one-point regular season victory by the Grizzlies over the Eagles, Eastern had to settle for a 9-4 finish. Long, one of three finalists for the Payton Award, completed 38-of-61 passes for 478 yards and three scores. Eastern's Erik Meyer completed 21-of-30 passes for 233 yards, and senior running back Darius Washington rushed 35 times for 156 yards and three scores. Mathenia finished with 13 catches for 226 yards and two touchdowns, while a trio of Eagle receivers -- Eric Kimble, Washington and Chris Cwik -- had four catches each. Ryan Phillips led the Eagles with 10 tackles and a pair of passes broken up. Late in the third quarter, the Eagles drove 66 yards to take a 34-14 lead on a 9-yard run by Washington with 14:54 to play in the game. The Bearkats then scored the final three times they had the ball in the fourth quarter on drives of 70, 83 and 75 yards. Eastern punted and missed a field goal on its final two possessions. In the fourth quarter alone, Long completed 22-of-31 passes for 220 yards and two scores. Mathenia had eight catches for 99 yards and the game-winning touchdown in the quarter. Sam Houston State was just 1-of-6 on third downs in the quarter, but a perfect 5-of-5 on fourth down.

 
 

Eagles in the Playoffs

* Eastern has now advanced to the semifinals in the FCS Playoffs three times (1997, 2010, 2012), and has won its opener six times (1985, 1997, 2004, 2007, 2010, 2012). The Eagles have an 11-7 record in nine playoff appearances (1985, 1992, 1997, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2012). Only 15 teams have made more playoff appearances than the Eagles. The 2012 season marked EWU’s sixth appearance in the quarterfinals, and 2010 was EWU’s first appearance in the championship game.

* Eastern is making its ninth appearance in the playoffs, ranking the Eagles among a select group of 20 schools with at least that many berths. The other appearances for the Eagles came in 1985, 1992, 1997, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2009 and 2010. With a 6-5 record during an injury-ravaged season in 2011, Eastern fell a victory shy of making its first back-to-back-to-back appearances.

* This is EWU’s sixth playoff berth in a nine-year span, ranking the Eagles as one of only five schools among 121 in FCS to accomplish that feat. The only other four teams to have qualified six of the last nine years are Appalachian State (2005-06-07-08-09-10-11-12), Montana (2004-05-06-07-08-09-11), New Hampshire (2004-05-06-07-08-09-10-11-12) and Southern Illinois (2004-05-06-07-08-09).

* The Eagles received the No. 2 seed in the playoffs, with North Dakota State getting the top seed, followed by EWU, Montana State, Old Dominion and Georgia Southern. The top five teams are seeded 1-5, and are guaranteed home games as long as they are the higher-seeded team in their match-up and have met NCAA guidelines to host. In 2010, Eastern was the No. 5 seed, and because of higher-seeded teams losing in the early rounds, hosted three games at Roos Field.

• Seeded fifth, Eastern won four-straight games to win the 2010 NCAA Division I National Championship. The top-ranked Eagles defeated #9 Southeast Missouri State (37-17), #25 North Dakota State (38-31 in overtime) and defending champion #10 Villanova (41-31) in three home playoff games, then defeated #5 Delaware (20-19) in the championship game on Jan. 7, 2011, in Frisco, Texas. Quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell was selected as the game’s Most Outstanding Player after throwing three touchdowns passes in the final 16:48 as EWU rallied from a 19-0 deficit.

* In 2009, the 13th-ranked Eagles lost at No. 12 Stephen F. Austin 44-33 in the first round. In 2007, the Eagles handed second-seeded and No. 3 ranked McNeese State its first loss of the year in a 44-15 first-round victory. Eastern then lost in the quarterfinals at two-time defending champion Appalachian State. In 2004, Eastern defeated No. 1 ranked and top-seeded Southern Illinois 35-31 in the first round and then lost 35-34 to Sam Houston State in the quarterfinal round in EWU’s first-ever playoff game at Roos Field (formerly Woodward Field) in Cheney, Wash. In both 2004 and 2007, Eastern entered the playoffs ranked 14th nationally.

* Until 2004, Eastern hadn’t appeared in the FCS playoffs since 1997 when the Eagles advanced to the semifinals where it lost to Youngstown State 25-14 at Albi Stadium in Spokane, Wash. Eastern played two early-round games at Albi, defeating Northwestern State 40-10 and Western Kentucky 38-21.

* Eastern also participated in the playoffs in 1985 (won at Idaho 42-38 and lost at Northern Iowa 17-14) and 1992 (lost at Northern Iowa 17-14). The school’s only other postseason experience came in 1967 when Eastern advanced to the NAIA Championship game where it lost to Fairmont State 28-21. Eastern has won three previous national titles, but none in head-to-head competition or at the NCAA Division I level. Eastern won the 1977 NAIA wrestling title, the 1982 NCAA Division II men’s cross country championship and the 1970 Class II national championship for women’s collegiate gymnastics programs.

Here is a complete list of EWU’s FCS playoff games (EWU received a first-round bye in 2010, the first year the playoffs were expanded to 20 teams):
2012 – Illinois State – W, 51-35 (Quarterfinals/Cheney)
2012 – Wagner – W, 29-19 (Second Round/Cheney)
2010 - Delaware - W, 20-19 (Championship/Frisco, Texas)
2010 - Villanova - W, 41-31 (Semifinals/Cheney)
2010 - North Dakota State - W, 38-31 in OT (Quarterfinals/Cheney)
2010 - Southeast Missouri State - W, 37-17 (Second Round/Cheney)
2009 - at Stephen F. Austin - L, 33-44 (First Round)
2007 - at Appalachian State - L, 35-38 (Quarterfinals)
2007 - at McNeese State - W, 44-15 (First Round)
2005 - at Northern Iowa - L, 38-41 (First Round)
2004 - Sam Houston State - L, 34-35 (Quarterfinals/Cheney)
2004 - at Southern Illinois - W, 35-31 (First Round)
1997 - Youngstown State - L, 14-25 (Semifinals/Spokane)
1997 - Western Kentucky - W, 38-21 (Quarterfinals/Spokane)
1997 - Northwestern State - W, 40-10 (First Round/Spokane)
1992 - at Northern Iowa - L, 14-17 (First Round)
1985 - at Northern Iowa - L, 14-17 (Quarterfinals)
1985 - at Idaho - W, 42-38 (First Round)

 
 

The Senior Class

* Eastern’s roster includes 16 seniors, with 10 starting at least five games this season for the Eagles (three on offense, seven on defense). The list also includes the team’s starting long-snapper and kicker. Those 16 seniors have combined for 601 games worth of experience, and have 283 starts between them. A total of 12 of them will finish their careers as four-year letterwinners. More importantly, they have helped Eastern win 25-of-32 Big Sky Conference games and 38 overall the last four seasons, and 14 were a part of EWU’s NCAA Division I Championship in 2010. The senior class represents the first recruiting class for head coach Beau Baldwin in February of 2008. Below is the complete list with the number of games played/started listed at the end of each player’s roster information.
13 - Scott Burgett - Linebacker - 6-2 - 210 - Sr. - 3L* - Peoria, Ariz. (Centennial HS ’08) - 6/0
^91 - Jerry Ceja – Defensive End - 6-3 - 220 - Sr. - 3L - Aurora, Colo. (Grandview HS ’09) - 47/13
^56 - Evan Cook – Defensive Tackle - 6-3 - 280 - Sr. - 3L*  - Federal Way, Wash. (Todd Beamer HS ’08) - 39/27
^11 - Nicholas Edwards – Wide Receiver - 6-3 - 200 - Sr. - 3L* - Tacoma, Wash. (Foss HS ’08) - 49/44
^44 - Paul Ena – Defensive End - 6-2 - 240 - Sr. - 3L - Kenmore, Wash. (Inglemoor HS ’09) - 50/36
43 - Rusty Haehl - Linebacker - 5-11 - 215 - Sr. - 3L*  - Bellevue, Wash. (Bellevue HS ’08) - 45/1
^3 - Greg Herd – Wide Receiver - 6-3 - 200 - Sr. - 3L - Tacoma, Wash. (Steilacoom HS ’09) - 46/21
^10 - Zach Johnson - Linebacker - 6-1 - 225 - Sr. - 3L* - Tumwater, Wash. (Tumwater HS ’07) – 38/38
32 - Chase King - Linebacker - 6-1 - 215 - Sr. - 1L*  - Federal Way, Wash. (Decatur HS ’08) - 23/0
^7 - Jeff Minnerly – Safety - 6-1 - 200 - Sr. - 3L*  - Spokane, Wash. (Ferris HS ’08) - 39/23
27 - McKenzie Murphy - Safety - 5-9 - 190 - Sr. - TR* - Spokane, Wash. (Ferris HS ’08 / Western Washington) - 11/0
99 - Jimmy Pavel – Kicker  - 5-11 - 195 - Sr. - 1L* - Molalla, Ore. (Central Catholic HS ’08 / Boise State) – 23
^76 - Will Post – Offensive Tackle - 6-6 - 310 - Sr. - 3L*  - Portland, Ore. (Southridge HS ’08) - 44/35
54 - Jake Potter – Long Snapper - 6-2 - 200 - Sr. - 2L* - Kennewick, Wash. (Kamiakin HS ’08) – 42
^55 - Tyler Washburn - Linebacker - 6-1 - 230 - Sr. - 3L*  - Sammamish, Wash. (Skyline HS ’08) – 50/35
^18 - Grant Williams - Linebacker - 6-1 - 225 - Sr. - 3L*  - Puyallup, Wash. (Rogers HS ’08) – 49/10
^Has started at least five games this season.

 
 

More Game Notes

* Big Sky Conference Coach of the Year Beau Baldwin has now been a part of four Big Sky Conference championships as either an Eastern assistant coach (2004, 2005) or head coach (2010, 2012). In addition, he has been a part of five FCS Playoff berths – two as an assistant (2004, 2005) and three in four seasons as head coach (2009, 2010, 2012). In receiving the Big Sky Coach of the Year honor for the first time, Baldwin is the fourth coach in school history to win the award. His predecessor, Paul Wulff, won in 2001, 2004 and 2005. Current Idaho State head coach Mike Kramer won in 1997 and Dick Zornes was Eastern’s first in 1992. The Eagles won league titles and advanced to the playoffs in all of those years except for 2001.

* The Eagles are now second in the league and seventh in FCS in passing offense (306.4 per game), as quarterbacks Vernon Adams and Kyle Padron are each averaging at least 173.9 yards of total offense per game. Padron, who has started four games and has played six others as a sub, has completed 59.6 percent of his passes for a team-leading 2,374 yards, 17 TDs and six interceptions, and ranks 26th in FCS in passing yards per game (237.4). Adams ranks 11th in FCS in passing efficiency (150.76), and is the only freshman in the top 24 of the rankings. In nine games as a starter and one as a sub, he has completed 61.9 percent of his passes for 1,597 yards, 14 touchdowns and six interceptions. Adams has rushed for 316 yards and is averaging 173.9 yards of total offense per game, and Padron has 42 rushing and averages 241.6 yards of offense. The Eagles had a season-best 542 total yards versus Cal Poly on Nov. 3 and are now fourth in the Big Sky and 19th in FCS in total offense (435.8). Eastern is also 15th in passing efficiency (146.92) and 22nd in scoring offense (33.1).

* The Eagles, an early leader in the Big Sky Conference in scoring defense, are now fourth in the league. They have allowed 23.9 points per game, which ranks 48th in FCS.

* Eastern is now 57th in FCS in rushing defense (159.2), having given up only 336 rushing yards total in its first three games and just 70 versus Montana State. Eastern is also 79th in total defense (394.1). Before Montana rushed for 407 yards against EWU on Sept. 29, the Eagles ranked 25th in FCS and third in the league in rushing defense (112.0 yards per game). A year ago, Eastern was 101st out of 120 FCS schools in total defense (411.9) and 110th in rushing defense (213.2).

* Redshirt freshman Shaquille Hill, who had a 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against North Dakota on Sept. 6, ranks 22nd in FCS with an average of 26.1 yards per kickoff return. He would have had another TD in the FCS Playoffs against Illinois State, but the video replay official determined he dropped the ball a yard shy of the end zone and it became a non-scoring 93-yard return. He earned honorable mention All-Big Sky Conference honors. As a team, Eastern is 13th in FCS with a 23.8 average, as Cory Mitchell added a non-scoring 67-yard return in the Illinois State game.

* Eastern has perhaps the top wide receiver trio in all of FCS, with three players who have all earned All-America accolades and have 1,000-yard seasons in their careers -- Nicholas Edwards, Greg Herd and Brandon Kaufman. They have combined for 136 games worth of experience (100 starts), and have collective totals of 587 catches for 8,403 yards and 78 touchdowns. Edwards and Herd are seniors and Kaufman is a junior after he received an injury redshirt in 2011. Junior Ashton Clark, who had a career-high 11 catches versus Southern Utah on Oct. 27, has 78 catches for 956 yards and eight touchdowns in his career.

* The Eagles have a quartet of linebackers who have combined for 161 games of experience (104 starts) in their careers, with a collective total of 932 tackles. Zach Johnson (38 games played/38 starts) has 312 tackles, Tyler Washburn (50/35) has 253, Ronnie Hamlin (24/21) has 212 and Grant Williams (49/10) has 155. In addition, sophomore Cody McCarthy (18/5, 84 tackles) has seen significant action for EWU since he played as a true freshman in 2011.

* Eastern’s running game is much-improved in 2012, with the Eagles ranking 84th in FCS with an average of 129.4 yards per game. A year ago, Eastern ranked 112th out of 120 FCS teams with an average of 79.0 per game. Only once last year did Eastern have more than 139 yards rushing in a single game and EWU already has performances of 290 (North Dakota), 254 (Cal Poly), 206 (Weber State) and 162 (Idaho). The 290 yards versus UND are Eastern’s most since it had 307 versus Montana-Western in 2007, and the most versus an FCS opponent since running for 295 against Weber State in 2004.

* Eastern, Montana State and Cal Poly all finished 7-1 in the Big Sky Conference to share the league title. The Eagles won the tiebreaker to determine the automatic berth in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs. Montana State and EWU both defeated Sacramento State, and Cal Poly lost to Sac State, thus eliminating Cal Poly from the tie. EWU won the automatic berth because of its head-to-head win over MSU, but EWU also defeated Cal Poly in a non-conference game that wasn’t utilized in the tiebreaker.

* Besides sending the seniors out with a victory on Senior Day on Nov. 10, Eastern finished the regular season 5-0 at home at Roos Field. The Eagles then improved to 7-0 at “The Inferno” with a 29-19 victory over Wagner in the second round of the FCS Playoffs and a 51-35 triumph over Illinois State in the quarterfinals. Since the red Sprinturf surface was installed in 2010, Eastern is now 17-2 at “The Inferno,” with one of the losses a 43-26 setback to PSU on Senior Day last season. Eastern’s Nov. 3 game versus 16th-ranked Cal Poly was sold out, with an announced attendance of 8,644 – the seventh-largest non-Montana crowd in Roos Field history. A sold-out crowd of 7,512 was on hand for the Illinois State playoff game.

* Eastern ranked fourth in the final regular season Sports Network NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Top 25 poll, with fellow Big Sky co-leaders MSU (2nd), Cal Poly (12th) and NAU (20th) also ranking in the top 25. Sam Houston State ranked fifth in the final regular season poll. After losing 30-27 to Southern Utah on Oct. 27, Eastern fell from first to seventh. Previously, a 27-24 victory over then second-ranked Montana State on Oct. 13 catapulted the Eagles from sixth to the top spot for two weeks. It’s the third-straight year Eastern has been ranked No. 1 at one point in the season. Eastern ended the 2010 regular season with its first No. 1 ranking in school history, and remained in that position after winning the NCAA Division I Championship. The Eagles were also ranked first in the 2011 preseason poll, as well as after the Eagles narrowly lost its opener last season at Washington, 30-27.  The Eagles were also No. 1 for two weeks in the coaches poll and in rankings released by College Sports Journal and College Sports Madness.

* In the final regular season coaches poll, the Eagles moved up one spot to fourth, after ranking No. 5, No. 6, No. 8 and No. 1 the previous four weeks. Other Big Sky Conference schools in the coaches top 25 included Montana State (2nd), Cal Poly (12th) and Northern Arizona (19th). Sam Houston State was ranked fifth.

* This is the first time in school history all Eastern games have been played on artificial surfaces. Eastern played on grass just once in 2010 (Weber State) and 2011 (Cal Poly). Prior to having red Sprinturf installed in 2010, Eastern’s Roos Field (formerly Woodward Field) was a grass surface.

* Eastern led the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision in passing offense in 2011, averaging 368.5 yards per game. In Beau Baldwin’s previous four years as Eastern’s head coach, the Eagles have ranked in the top 10 in FCS in passing offense three times and total offense twice. In EWU’s last eight seasons (1994-2011), including seven with Baldwin on the coaching staff, EWU has ranked in the top 10 in passing six times and total offense on five occasions (Eastern is currently seventh in passing and 19th in total offense).

* Eastern’s fourth quarter magic dating back to 2010 is alive and well. In the last three seasons (2010-12), the Eagles have had 11 victories when they’ve trailed or been tied in the final stanza, and that doesn’t include a 41-34 victory over Portland State on Nov. 17 when EWU rallied from season-high deficits of 13 (first half) and 12 points (second half). In the next game versus Wagner, Eastern trailed by five heading into the final play of the third quarter before winning 29-19. The latest fourth quarter comeback came on Nov. 10 when EWU trailed by 11 at halftime and four entering the final quarter, but rallied to beat UC Davis 31-28. Vernon Adams scored the go-ahead points with 8:13 left in the game, then David Gaylord blocked a field goal with 41 ticks of the clock remaining to preserve EWU’s victory. In a 27-24 victory over second-ranked Montana State on Oct. 13, the sixth-ranked Eagles trailed 17-13 in the fourth quarter before scoring two non-offensive touchdowns within a span of 59 seconds. The Eagles blocked a punt (Dylan Zylstra) and recovered it for a touchdown (Evan Day), then returned an interception for a score (Jordan Tonani). On Sept. 29, Eastern scored two touchdowns in the final 2:19 as the No. 7 Eagles rallied for a 32-26 victory over the 21st-ranked Montana Grizzlies. A year ago, a touchdown pass by wide receiver Greg Herd sparked Eastern to scores on four consecutive plays (two touchdowns and two conversions) in the second and third overtimes as the Eagles prevailed 53-51 over Cal Poly on Nov. 12, 2011. Eastern sent the game into overtime with a 10-play, 80-yard drive to score with 1:51 to play. Just two games earlier, Eastern rallied from a 15-point deficit to defeat Sacramento State 42-35 in overtime Oct. 22, 2011, at Hornet Stadium. The victory kept EWU perfect in 11 tries versus the Hornets in Sacramento. In 2010, Eastern was no stranger to narrow victories, with six victories when trailing in the fourth quarter. In fact, nine of its 13 wins during the national championship season were nailbiters -- 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 over Delaware in the national championship game when the Eagles rallied from a 19-0 deficit to score three touchdowns in the final 16:48.

* For the second-straight year, a pass in the end zone in the final seconds against a Pac-12 Conference opponent didn’t result in an Eagle touchdown, and the Eagles fell to Washington State 24-20 Sept. 8 at Martin Stadium in Pullman, Wash. A 12-play, 99 yard drive pulled Eastern to within three with 2:17 to play on the second of two Kyle Padron to Brandon Kaufman touchdown passes on the day. Eastern got the ball back with 1:29 left and converted a pair of fourth-down conversions, but Padron, who finished with 379 yards passing, had his final desperation pass batted away in the end zone. Eastern out-gained WSU in total offense 469-355. A sell-out crowd of 33,598 witnessed the game, only the third time the two teams have met and the first time since 1908. A year ago, in a 30-27 loss to Washington in Seattle, a pass into the end zone intended for Kaufman was intercepted by the Huskies with 29 ticks left on the clock.

* Besides 1997 when it entered the postseason 10-1, the only other times Eastern has won nine games in the regular season came in 2010 (9-2 before finishing 13-2). Since becoming a member of FCS in 1984, Eastern has started the season 5-1 in 1997, 1996 and 1985. However, the only time the Eagles have gone 6-1 until this season came in 1997 when the Eagles were 12-1 before losing to Youngstown State 25-14 in the semifinals of the FCS Playoffs.

* Since current Tennessee Titan Michael Roos became an offensive lineman as a sophomore at Eastern Washington University in 2002, he started every football game he played from 2002-12 as a collegian or professional until an appendicitis attack and subsequent surgery ended his streak on Oct. 28. Here’s the math: 35 starts at EWU (3 seasons, 2002-04) + 34 preseason NFL Games (8 seasons, 2005-12) + 119 regular season NFL Games (7 1/2 seasons, 2005-11) + 2 NFL Playoff Games (2007 & 2008) +1 NFL Pro Bowl Game (February 2009) = 191-Straight Starts (through 10/21/12)

 
 

More Player Notes

* First team All-Big Sky linebacker Ronnie Hamlin has 127 tackles this season to rank ninth in school history, and his average of 9.77 per game ranks 27th in FCS and third in the Big Sky. He has had four performances of at least 11 tackles, including 15 in Eastern’s 27-24 win at Big Sky co-champion Montana State on Oct. 13. He also had a key interception in that game to earn Root Sports Defensive Player of the Week as selected by the Big Sky and national FCS recognition as one of four College Sporting News National All Stars. Hamlin was also honored by the Big Sky as player of the week after finishing with eight tackles and a pass broken up in a season-opening 20-3 victory over Idaho. A 20-game starter for the Eagles, Hamlin has 212 tackles already in his 24-game EWU career. After having his first two seasons (2009 and 2010) wiped out because of knee injuries, Hamlin will eventually apply to the NCAA to receive his sixth year. In anticipation of that appeal, he will be listed as a junior again on EWU’s roster next season.

* Junior Allen Brown is third on the team with 82 tackles this season to help him earn second team All-Big Sky honors. He is also second on the team with seven passes broken up to go along with a pair of forced fumbles. He has started 25 of the 38 games he has played in his career, with totals of 172 tackles, two interceptions and 12 passes broken up.

* A part of Eastern’s Ferris High School connection in the secondary, redshirt freshman Jordan Tonani has made his mark as an injury replacement for safety Jeff Minnerly, who suffered a broken collarbone against Montana on Sept. 29. An honorable mention All-Big Sky pick, Tonani finished with seven tackles, his third interception of the season and a pass broken up in EWU’s 31-28 victory over UC Davis on Nov. 10. One game earlier, he had a pick and eight tackles versus Cal Poly, earning College Sports Madness Big Sky Defensive Player of the Week accolades. On Oct. 13, with EWU clinging to a 20-17 lead over Montana State, Tonani stepped in front of a MSU receiver on an out route for an interception he returned 21 yards for a touchdown with 11:15 to play, becoming the winning points in a 27-24 victory over the second-ranked Bobcats. He also had eight tackles, and as a result, was selected as the College Sports Madness National FCS Defensive Player of the Week, as well as their same honor for the Big Sky Conference. One game earlier in his first collegiate start, Tonani had a team-leading 11 tackles as the Eagles held North Dakota scoreless in the second half of a 55-17 win. Entering the game, UND had 37 plays of 20 or more yards on offense this season, and EWU’s goal was to hold North Dakota to three or less. The Eagles did better than that, holding UND to just one – a 24-yard pass play in the third quarter after EWU had already opened a 34-17 lead. Interestingly, Tonani and Minnerly are from the same high school in Spokane, Wash. Tonani graduated from Ferris in 2011; Minnerly graduated in 2008, along with EWU backup safety McKenzie Murphy. Murphy broke his thumb against North Dakota, and despite wearing a padded cast, had an interception Oct. 27 against Southern Utah after missing the Montana State and Sacramento State games. Minnerly, who returned to start against UC Davis on Nov. 10, was also Eastern’s leading tackler in his first career start, finishing with eight tackles in a 49-24 loss at Nevada on Sept. 2, 2010.

* A quartet of Eagle seniors have been selected as Eastern’s co-captains for the 2012 season. They include defensive end Paul Ena, linebacker Zach Johnson, wide receiver Nicholas Edwards and offensive tackle Will Post. Johnson was a senior captain last year before an injury cut short his season, but he was granted a sixth year by the NCAA to complete four years of eligibility. Featured on the school’s schedule poster and in other publications, all four suffered injuries this season. Injuries to Edwards (knee) and Ena (hand) caused them to miss the first games of their careers, and Johnson (hamstring) is a sixth-year senior who has now missed 24 games because of an injury-plagued career. Post (high ankle sprain) was injured in practice the week of the North Dakota game, but was able to start versus UND.

* Eastern senior safety Jeff Minnerly has “three-peated” on the Capital One Academic All-District VIII squad, joining teammates Ashton Miller and Jordan Talley on the team selected by members of the College Sports Information Directors Association (CoSIDA). Minnerly currently has a 3.78 grade point average with a double major in finance and electrical engineering. Miller, a junior offensive center, has a 3.66 GPA and is majoring in management. Talley is a sophomore running back, and is a pre-medicine major with a 3.49 GPA. Eastern football players have now been honored 56 times since 1989 on the All-District VIII squad, and eight players have gone on to win 10 Academic All-America honors. The District VIII university division includes all NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) and Bowl Subdivision (FBS) teams from nine western states, including Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Utah and Washington.

 

All-Big Sky Team

* Returning to his 2010 form after a pair of injuries sidelined him a year ago, junior wide receiver Brandon Kaufman headlines a group of 22 Eastern Washington University football players who have been selected to the All-Big Sky Conference team as selected by the league’s head coaches. Kaufman, Eastern’s nominee as the league’s Big Sky Offensive Player of the Year, was a unanimous choice on the first team. He was an injury redshirt in the 2011 season following a spectacular 2010 season when he earned All-America and first team All-Big Sky honors in helping lead EWU to the NCAA Division I Championship.

* Kaufman was joined on the first team by junior cornerback T.J. Lee, a repeat first team selection from 2011. The others on the first team this season were senior kicker Jimmy Pavel, inside linebacker Ronnie Hamlin and senior offensive tackle Will Post, who earned honorable mention in 2011.

* Second team selections included sixth-year outside linebacker Zach Johnson, who was a second team choice in 2010 and honorable mention as a freshman in 2008. Junior offensive guard Steven Forgette, an honorable mention selection a year ago, also earned second team honors this season, as well as senior defensive end Jerry Ceja and safety Allen Brown.

* Earning honorable mention on offense were junior running back Demitrius Bronson, junior center Ashton Miller and senior wide receivers Nicholas Edwards and Greg Herd. Edwards was a first team choice last season, and Herd earned second-team All-BSC honors in 2011. Seven players on defense earned honorable mention, including senior defensive end Paul Ena, who was a repeat selection from a year ago. Also on the squad were senior inside linebacker Tyler Washburn, senior outside linebacker Grant Williams, junior defensive tackle Andru Pulu, junior cornerback Ronald Baines, sophomore defensive tackle Dylan Zylstra and redshirt freshman safety Jordan Tonani. Also selected to the honorable mention list were senior special teams standout Chase King and redshirt freshman return specialist Shaquille Hill.

 
 

Injury Report

* Eastern suffered several injuries against Illinois State, but only cornerback T.J. Lee (back) is listed as questionable for this week’s meeting with Sam Houston State. Shaquille Hill (shoulder), Zach Johnson (shoulder) and Chase King (mild concussion) are probable for this week. Starting running back Jordan Talley (concussions) has missed eight total games this season, and is again questionable for the Sam Houston State game. Backup offensive tackle T.J. Boatright (knee) missed six games and is questionable this week. A concussion suffered by backup safety McKenzie Murphy kept him from playing versus Portland State on Nov. 17, but has returned for the playoffs. Senior safety Jeff Minnerly suffered a fractured collarbone against Montana, but returned to start on Senior Day against UC Davis on Nov. 10. Linebacker Zach Johnson (hamstring) returned against Cal Poly and has kept his streak of starting every game he’s played alive (now 38). He played in just EWU’s first defensive series against Weber State before he had to sit out the rest of the game, and missed five full games (total of 24 in his career). Starting defensive tackle Andru Pulu (ankle) and starting tight end Zack Gehring (shoulder) missed the Southern Utah game because of injuries suffered against Sacramento State, but returned to play versus Cal Poly. Linebacker Cody McCarthy also played versus the Mustangs after missing the Sacramento State and Southern Utah games with a knee injury. He originally hurt the knee in practice and missed the Montana game, but returned to play the next week versus North Dakota. J.C. Agen, who started in 2011 after Johnson was lost for the season with a knee injury, will be out the rest of the season. He missed the first two EWU games with a torn pectoral muscle, but made his season debut in limited action versus Weber State. However, he missed every game since for an injury that required surgery. Murphy also broke his thumb against North Dakota and subsequently had surgery, and missed the Montana State and Sacramento State games. He returned to play against Southern Utah, and had an interception despite wearing a padded cast. Minnerly and Murphy are both 2008 graduates of Ferris High School in Spokane, Wash. Starting offensive tackle Clay DeBord missed the Sacramento State game with an ankle injury, but returned to play at Southern Utah. Wide receiver Nicholas Edwards returned to play against Montana State after missing two games because of a knee sprain on a pass reception on EWU’s first offensive play of the game at Weber State. Defensive end Paul Ena returned to start versus Montana after a wrist injury in the first half against Washington State sidelined him for the rest of that game, as well as Weber State. Ena, the lone returning starter on the defensive line, started against Idaho on Aug. 30 despite suffering an elbow injury in practice about a week earlier. Wide receiver Greg Herd played against Weber State after suffering a concussion versus Washington State, but probably wouldn’t have played if Eastern would have had a game on Sept. 15. Running back Demitrius Bronson missed the first two games with an injured hamstring, but returned to carry the ball twice versus Weber State.

 
 

Records Watch

* Having already set the Big Sky and school records for single season reception yards, junior Brandon Kaufman now has the FCS record within reach. He has 1,635 this season to rank fifth in FCS history, just 77 yards from the record of 1,712 yards set in 1998 by Delaware’s Eddie Conti. Kaufman is only 29 yards from fourth (Eric Lora, Eastern Illinois, 1,664 in 2012), 47 from third (Jerry Rice, Mississippi Valley, 1,682 in 1984) and 69 from second (Tramon Douglas, Grambling, 1,704 in 2002). He now has 212 career catches (fifth in school history, ninth in Big Sky history) for 3,516 yards (third) and 30 touchdowns (third). In two of the categories, teammate Nicholas Edwards is right ahead of him with 214 catches and 32 touchdowns. This season, Kaufman has 84 catches (fourth in school history), 13 touchdowns (fourth in school history) and an average of 19.5 yards per catch (sixth in school history).

* Senior Jimmy Pavel, an All-American and  first team All-Big Sky pick, made a 20-yard field goal against Illinois State on Dec. 8 to earn sole possession of EWU’s single season school record with 17 for the season. His 45-yard field goal against UC Davis on Nov. 10 equaled the record of 16 set last year by Mike Jarrett. But because of Eastern’s offensive efficiency in ending drives with nine touchdowns, Pavel didn’t attempt a field goal in his next two games. The Eagles have 18 field goals as a team for the season, breaking the previous team record of 16 set last year.

* Linebacker Ronnie Hamlin has 127 tackles this season to rank ninth in school history, and is just one tackle from the No. 8 position (128 by Derek Strey in 1997), five from No. 7 (132 by Greg Belzer in 1998), seven from No. 6 (134 by Zach Johnson in 2010), eight from No. 5 (135 by Evan Brady in 1994) and 11 from No. 4 (138 by Jason Marsh in 1991). Hamlin’s 212 career tackles are 25th and are just 10 from the No. 21 position held by Jackie Kellogg (1990-93). Both Kellogg and Brady are expected to be at EWU’s semifinal game versus Sam Houston State.

* Senior defensive end Jerry Ceja ranks fifth in school history with 12 sacks this season, needing just a half-sack to move into fourth and one to move into third.  He is also sixth all-time in career sacks with 23 1/2, and is 1 1/2 from moving into fifth. Ceja also has six forced fumbles in his career, equaling the school record shared by Matt Johnson (2008-11), Renard Williams (2008-11), J.C. Sherritt (2007-10) and Chris Scott (1994-97).

* Other 2012 performances ranking on EWU’s single season statistical leaders lists include Vernon Adams in passing efficiency (eighth, 150.98); Brandon Kaufman in all-purpose yards (eighth, 1,635); Jake Miller in punting average (third, 43.2); Shaquille Hill  in kickoff returns (third, 31) and kickoff return yards (fifth, 809); Jimmy Pavel in scoring (11th, 95) and extra points made (seventh, 44); and T.J. Lee in passes broken up (10th, 11).

* Wide receiver Nicholas Edwards is now fifth all-time in Eastern history in receiving yards with 2,627, and is seventh in points scored with 196. His 214 career catches ranks third in school history (No. 2 has 222) and his 32 TD receptions are second (the record is 46).

* Senior wide receiver Greg Herd has moved onto EWU’s all-time leaders list for career catches. His 161 grabs ranks ninth, and is five receptions from eighth. His catches have been good for 2,260 yards to rank 12th in school history, and he also has 16 touchdowns (unranked).

* The 43.7 career punting average of sophomore Jake Miller currently ranks ahead of the school record. Jesse Nicassio had a 42.3 average in two seasons from 2002-03. Miller had a school-record 74-yard punt versus Washington State on Sept. 8, breaking the previous record of 71 set in 2006 by Ryan Donckers.

* Linebacker Zach Johnson has 312 tackles in his career to rank eighth all-time at Eastern. He is just one tackle from moving into seventh all-time at Eastern, and is 29 away from the total of 341 by his twin brother Matt Johnson, who now plays for the Dallas Cowboys.

* Senior linebacker Tyler Washburn is now in the top 20 in career tackles in Eastern history, currently ranking 11th with 253. He is 10 from the No. 10 position.

* Defensive end Paul Ena recovered a fumble and returned it 40 yards against Montana State on Oct. 13, equaling the school record for career fumble recoveries. He shares the school record of eight with Nicholas Ramos (2006-09) and Steve Mattson (1994-97). Ramos, in fact, was at the MSU game and was a guest on EWU’s pre-game radio show.

* Junior quarterback Kyle Padron had six touchdown passes against Illinois State on Dec. 8 and tied the EWU previous single-game record held by Matt Nichols (8/31/07 vs. Montana-Western) and Rob James (11/1/86 vs. Weber State).

 
 

Recent Game Summary

* The Eagles had scoring runs of 28 and 14 unanswered points – and withstood an 18-point Redbird onslaught in the second half -- to defeat Illinois State 51-35 in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs Dec. 8 at Roos Field. Junior quarterback Kyle Padron passed for 358 yards and a school-record six touchdown passes, including three to junior wide receiver Brandon Kaufman, who finished with nine receptions for a 191 yards. In the process, Kaufman broke the EWU and Big Sky single season records for reception yards with a current total of 1,635 yards. The two teams combined for 998 yards of offense – Eastern had 478 and Illinois State finished with 520.

* Eastern trailed in the second quarter 17-10, but was able to take a 24-17 lead at halftime with a touchdown with 10 seconds left. Taking advantage of a Redbird interception in the third quarter by Eastern junior Ronnie Hamlin, Kaufman then caught TD passes of 47 and 17 yards within 15 seconds of each other to give EWU a 38-17 lead. But after Illinois State scored 18 unanswered points to pull within 38-35, Kaufman struck again with a 76-yard TD reception. Padron added a 10-yard TD pass to Ashton Clark with 7:42 left to close out the scoring.

* Kaufman had just three catches for 20 yards in the first half, then exploded with six grabs for 171 yards in the second half. His 191 yards ranks as the 12th most in school history. Padron completed 19-of-33 passes, and his six touchdowns tied the EWU previous single-game record held by Matt Nichols (8/31/07 vs. Montana-Western) and Rob James (11/1/86 vs. Weber State).

* Sophomore running back Quincy Forte added 116 yards on just seven carries (16.6 per carry), including a 57-yarder. Senior Greg Herd added four catches for 74 yards, and Clark, tight end Zack Gehring and Daniel Johnson also had touchdown catches from Padron. Hamlin finished with 10 tackles to go along with his interception, and junior safety Allen Brown had nine stops. Junior cornerback T.J. Lee had eight tackles, a forced fumble and two passes broken up. Eastern’s defensive line also recorded a pair of sacks and the Eagles finished with seven quarterback hurries. Senior defensive end Jerry Ceja had three of the hurries and a sack.

* Read more at: http://www.goeags.com/sports/m-footbl/2012-13/Releases/12fbDec8IllinoisStateRecap

 

Quoting Coach Beau Baldwin

On Chase to National Title: “You don’t go to the bottom of Mount Rainier and say you are going to take it one step at a time – you go to climb to the top of it. That’s my mindset -- I am going to climb to the top of the mountain, but the question is how are we going to get to the top? It’s the team that takes care of each step. You have your eye on that prize, but you have to understand the process.”

On Kaufman and Padron Versus Illinois State: “Their talent is obvious. You can see the talent in both these two guys. More than anything, they have guts and heart. That’s what means the most. It’s going to come down to guts, heart and mental toughness when things are on the line. When we needed it the most they stepped up and made those types of plays. They took shots to the face, broke tackles, and did whatever they had to do. They will be the first to say they are not the only two. It took a total team effort. It took all sorts of guys on both sides of the football and special teams to get this done. These two guys were great in terms of their guts and mental toughness.”

On Winning After Giving Up 18-Straight Second-Half Points:  “I am just so proud of the guys for how hard they fought and how they kept responding. When you get down to the final eight in the country, you know there are going to be some highs and lows in a football game. That game had a lot of emotion, momentum swings and things that happened. Our guys found ways to make plays whenever it felt like we were losing the momentum. No one panicked on the sideline.”

On Long Kickoff Returns and High-Scoring Game: “Sometimes those things happen. Games are different. I tell guys I don’t worry if we find a way to win 17-14 or if we find a way to win 51-35. It doesn’t matter. Every game is different no matter how good your offensive line or defensive line is -- you sometimes get in different types of ball games. This was one where there were some explosive things happening. I think we had three times as many possessions in this game opposed to last week. Last week felt like it went by so fast. This week it felt like there were a number of possessions going back and forth. It was unique, especially the third quarter where there was a lot of explosion, and they made plays. Again, when it came down to make sure we make a play and not give up a lead, we were able to do that.”

On Worrying About Close Games: “They asked me two years ago if it was going to catch up with us. I don’t really worry about it. I really don’t -- you can’t worry about it. You could say it caught up with us against Southern Utah because we didn’t win that game. That’s just football. I tell our guys we are in a tough conference and now we are in the playoffs, which is tough. So you are not going to blow people out. You’re not. No one is around the country. North Dakota State, the No. 1 team in the country, won 14-7. I would rather be the type of team that finds more ways to win in those tough types of ball games than the type of team where in five different games were five points away from a winning record. I don’t worry about whenever it catches up with us. We are just going to come back next week, go to work and try to find a way to win more of those than we lose.”

On Going to Kaufman More in Second Half: “Our offense is not necessarily built to say we are going to get the ball to Brandon – he would be the first to tell you that. We have Nick Edwards, Greg Herd, Ashton Clark and we found a play for Daniel Johnson early. We have a lot of guys that can make plays. Our offense is about taking certain things that they give us. If they get in situations where they are leaving a guy like Brandon or any of our guys single covered, we are going to go after them. We are going to take those shots. That’s why you saw some drives in my opinion, especially in the second half, where it seemed like a sputter three and out, but also some big plays because they were playing that style at that point. They were putting all their chips in. When you run into that sometimes they are going to shut some things down, and they are going to stuff you. They were not in a bend don’t break mode, they we were in a more of a ‘we are coming after you’ mode. Sometimes you are going to get stuffed. We were talking to Kyle on the sideline when it was 38-35. We had gone through a couple three and outs, and they had sacked us one time. I said we are going to hit a couple big more plays. They are coming again; we just have to think that way. I think it was them adjusting some of the stuff they were doing that said to us, ‘okay, we are going to take that matchup’ -- as opposed to the first half where they were still playing off and keeping things in front of them.”

On Eastern Defense: “There were huge stops. You cannot get caught up looking at the total points. Every game is different. You are going to get in certain games where it is like this. You have to remember there were a couple of special teams plays (that changed field position), so you cannot get caught up in the 35 points as being an offensive shootout. There were plays being made all over, and the defense definitely made some stops. We made some huge plays in terms of turnovers. We again had some key stops in the red zone and some key fourth down stops late. There were a lot of good things being done. We need to remember this is a team that just put 38 points up against Appalachian State at their place a week ago. They have a tremendous offense. I was so proud of our guys on defense for the opportune times they made plays. Again, there will be things we need to correct on film, but I love correcting stuff on film when there are only four teams left in the country.”

On Momentum Swings: “No matter what side of the ball is struggling, it is the job of the other side to pick them up. We have had plenty of that. You do not have to go back too far to one of our biggest wins of the year, Montana State, to see that. You saw our defense and special teams pick up the offense. It sometimes goes the other way -- the defense is struggling and the offense will go answer. (Illinois State) had scored some quick ones, but we also were putting them back on the field quickly too. Part of that is credited to Illinois State and what they were doing. You were able to feel that momentum get grabbed again. You were able to feel that and they feel that. You feed off that -- you are human. (Our offense) fed off that and went back out there and extended that lead a little bit more. We kept getting those key stops at the end. If they score one more touchdown and make a two pointer they are down by eight. They were never able to get that because of the key stops late.”

On Hill Dropping Ball Short of Goal Line and TD: “It’s a learning lesson. I can tell him what everyone else can tell him -- run across the end line with the ball. He knows that. It was just one of those heat-in-the-moment deals where he was excited and he dropped it early. He knows it -- I know it. I just told him be ready to hand it to the ref the next time you are in the end zone. We try to not make that a big deal, but it’s something you use to teach. There is no point in screaming at him at that point, you just grab him off to the side. I bet he will never do that again. I bet he will go high and tight whenever he goes to the end zone. Sometimes you learn from things like that when those things happen.”

On Wagner Win: “I’m really proud of our guys. I’m probably most proud of the fact that we weathered a much early storm. When I say early, I mean early in the third quarter. It was a type of storm in terms of things not going right. A lot of times you can find you are on the wrong end of the ballgame because of it. Our defense showed resilience. The biggest difference was our red zone defense --  we had a blocked field goal early and then we were able to hold them to field goals rather than touchdowns. They did what they do. I set my mind to the fact that we were going to win the turnover battle, but instead we lost it 3-0. Our guys were able to weather that storm. You don’t win too many games when you lose the turnover battle 3-0. They are a very disciplined team and a very physical team. They just understand exactly who they are and do a great job of it. It was a battle for our guys all night long.”

On Team Responding: “We just respond - that’s our word. We talk about it all the time -- respond, respond, respond. We don’t jerk react to things. We don’t panic, we don’t think. We just think in terms of responding. You always have to be ready to respond. I think if you are doing a bunch of screaming and yelling on Saturday, you have not done a good job during the week -- that’s my opinion. You have to prepare, not just with the plays and that, but also mentally on how they are going to handle those types of situations because they are coming. I put signs up in the locker room – ‘adversity is coming this weekend.’ It is about how are we going to handle it, and our team continues to handle it in a mature fashion. It doesn’t mean you are going to win every one. I thought we handled the adversity in both our losses well too -- against Southern Utah and WSU. We came up short, but you never felt like we were panicking or we were out of it. It does not mean you are automatically going to win – you’ve heard me say it a hundred times. The defense could have felt like, ‘woe is me what is going on we have to go back on the field.’ But instead, they felt like, ‘let’s go -- this is an opportunity. This is an opportunity to make a big play and have a sudden change.’ One of our mottos is ‘no victims.’ Basically by that we are never going to act like a victim no matter what happened and no matter who is injured.”

On Help of the Crowd: “I thank the fans and I thank the student support. We felt it. I don’t pay much attention because we are so locked in, but today at different times I heard it, especially late when they were trying to throw the ball and when they were trying to get snaps. We appreciate it so much. They have done an amazing job of supporting us all year. Believe me, we feed off that. We feed off that big-time. You try to tell your guys it doesn’t matter if there are a thousand fans and to just play our game, but we are human. Those players are human. When you have that type of atmosphere and that type of support it means a lot. So thank you to the fans and students because it played a part. It always does.”

On Seeing Former Players Back: “It means (a lot) to me that those guys (come back). That’s what we talk about. All our seniors want this to go as long as we can take it. When their time is done they are always going to be Eagles. I tell those guys that. You are always Eagles, and I want you back at practice. Bo Levi (Mitchell) was out at our practice the other day and brought them up and talked to the team a little bit. I love that. That’s what it’s about. It’s not just about the four or five years you are here. It’s not.  It’s about a lifetime. When you are able to see those guys, guys get excited. Our players and coaches have so much respect for those guys and what they did. They are a big reason and part of why we are where we are today with everything -- facilities, success and all that stuff. You just appreciate what they did to help put us where we are today. They are definitely part of that. Our players see those guys when they come back and they want to show them something special. It means something to us.”

On Happiness For Kyle: “I’m happy for him, no question. I’ve had respect for him like no other player I’ve had, and I’ve had a lot of respect for a lot of players. I admire how he handles situations that don’t go right, and not just his own. If you watch him in games like Montana State where things were not always going right, you see how he handles the situations even when he is not directly involved. It just says so much about his character. So yes, I am extremely happy for him. He deserves it. He’s a great person -- we have a ton of those. At the same time I put my arm around Vernon Adams. You guys have all watched him when he is not in the ballgame. You are talking about a player who is really into the game. You are talking about a guy who is patting the defense on the back. The situation with those two, their stats and being where we are, it couldn’t happen if it wasn’t for their attitudes and who they are as people. They’ve made that work. I think it’s made us better when it’s all said and done.”

On Similarities to 2010 Team: “It’s different. In a weird way there are certain parts of this season that are more gratifying because two years ago we went out saying we were the hunters. This year, we felt like we were being hunted – we were getting everyone’s best shot. That’s part of it and we embrace that – we want that. That’s the type of program we want to be. I do not do too much comparing very often, but there were parts of this season that were even more gratifying than the first time. They are each their own.”

On Home Field Advantage: “It helps a ton to know you are not traveling. It helps to know that every game will be at home as long as you take care of your end of things. It is fun for the fans and we have such amazing fan support. We are close to setting records for attendance and the student support. It gives them an opportunity to keep watching games without spending an arm and a leg to try to go across the country. We are excited for that and we are going to need them. We appreciate so much the boost and lift they have given us. It’s different around here than it’s been in the past, and a big part of that is just our fan base.”

On Winning Close Games: “Every time you go through more of those moments you keep building a belief that it’s going to be okay. No matter what just happened we are going to move forward, we are going to pick each other up and we are going to stay together. We have had that type of motto all the time around here. I think more often than not it breeds success.”

On Being in the Spotlight After National Title: “They love it, but they are pretty low-key though. You see very few of them wearing their ring from two years ago. They appreciate it and love it, but at the same time, they are just about going day-to-day and enjoying the process. We don’t get caught up in it -- if we do good things and the attention comes our way that’s great, but that is not the most important thing.”

On All-Big Sky Team: “A lot of our players were recognized, which is exciting and deserving because I know how much hard work they put in. I know how many great players there are in this conference, so to be recognized at any level says a lot about the success they had on the field. And adding four more teams to the league makes it that much bigger of an award. It’s an honor to be nominated, let alone win first team honors like five of our players received.”

On Winning Big Sky Title: “It feels great, knowing that a lot of work goes into this. Winning the Big Sky title is what we talk about. It’s a big deal, and it’s not easy to do. You lose track of that because of what happened two years ago (in winning the national title). (Winning the Big Sky title) was still was the goal for us and it’s tough to do, but we were able to get it done. They are rare. We want to make them the norm, but it’s not easy. When you win a Big Sky title it’s special and you feel good about it.”

On Winning on Senior Day: “It means a lot and these players have helped pave our way. I joked earlier that every one of those guys played on a grass field which was sometimes sloppy with a small scoreboard – that wasn’t that long ago. Now, all of a sudden, look where we are. Every young player needs to recognize that the benefits they are reaping – including the red turf -- were all paved by those seniors. They did some great things in ‘09 and helped us spring into ’10 with the red turf, a national championship and now the new videoboard. I am so appreciative of that group for what they have done to help us and help our program. They are a group of great young men. On the field they have been amazing, and hopefully we can see how far we can go with them. They’ve been amazing off the field too, carrying a 3.0 grade point average as a team. They have paved the way for what it is to be an Eastern football player. And this Senior Day means a little bit more because it was our first signing class. They are all special, but this one just that much more.”

 
 

Quoting Quarterback Kyle Padron

On Kaufman’s play: “He is definitely a special receiver -- one of the best I have had the opportunity to play with. He’s one of those guys that if you put it in his area he will come down with it. I think it takes a mentality. It says something about him and the drive it has. He does not just show up on Saturday -- it’s throughout the week. You see the work he puts in and it speaks a lot about him.”

On Hard Hit On 76-Yard TD Pass: “It was a little underthrown. He is a 6-5 and he went out and got it, shook a couple guys off, and ran for about forty yards. I didn’t do a whole lot. I watched from about sixty yards away. It made my job a lot easier. He (the defensive player) got me pretty good on that one.”

On Six Touchdown Passes: “That’s the first time I’ve thrown six touchdowns. One yard or eight yards, I did not do a whole lot on those. It’s more praise to them (the receivers) than me.”

On Converting Third and 17 Play in Third Quarter: “It was huge for us. Obviously it would have been a lot bigger if we had come out and scored right away at the beginning of the second half. It was huge for us to take the momentum into the locker room and make the adjustments that we can. Coach B (Baldwin) made some calls tonight that took a lot of guts. I am thankful to be in this offense where you take shots on third downs. He gives me the freedom to make some checks too.”

On His First Playoff Win: “I didn’t think we would have as much adversity to overcome, but you have to hand it to those guys from Wagner. They were very intense up front. We tried to dominate the line of scrimmage and they made that tough on us. That is a great team. They’ve won nine games in a row, and they definitely made it tough on us. It was a fun game to play.”

On If He Came to Eastern to Win Playoff Games: “Well there were a few other reasons, but yes. I was able to watch this playoff system in 2010, and through my relationship with Bo (Levi Mitchell), I saw what he was able to accomplish and the fire in these guys when I came on my visit. Definitely playing home games on the Inferno in playoff time is exciting. We are hopefully going to have a wider margin of victory on the red turf sometime soon, but we’ll keep taking the small wins.”

On Bo Levi Mitchell Being at Games: “I actually talked to him during the (Wagner) game. I threw a ball to Zach Gehring to the half-yard line, and I saw Bo over there. Then we were able to punch it in, and he was excited and fired up for us. I have been spending time with him a little bit throughout the week, but it’s always great to see an old friend.”

On Advantage At Home: “The Inferno speaks for itself. Our fans have been great all year. There is excitement around campus and everything is buzzing. It will be fun to get out there and play in front of our fans.”

On Difference Between Playoffs and Bowl System: “When you become bowl eligible, you only have one game left. In the playoffs, the better we play the better chances we have of playing an extra game. You have to be 1-0 every week. That’s what it comes down to.”

On Winning Championship After Transferring From SMU: “Being at a Conference USA school, I never really had a chance to think about that. Coming here, that was definitely one of the goals. My teammates have made that a dream for me with the way we’ve played all year. It’s an honor to be a part of this team and we are excited about our chances.”

On Winning Games From Behind: “We would have liked to blow out a few more teams than we did. It’s the way we are I guess -- we play close games. We find a way to win those games, which is pretty huge in the playoffs. You need a lot of character and a lot of drive. You can’t get too high with the highs and too low with the lows. It shows a lot about our team to win those close games.”

On Comparison to 2010 Team: “We have been hearing that a lot throughout the entire season, but we are trying to make our own identity. We are not trying to be the 2010 team at all. What they were able to do was pretty special and obviously that’s the ultimate goal, but we are going to be our own team and have our own identity.”

 
 

Quoting Wide Receiver Brandon Kaufman

On Play in Playoffs: “Obviously, I think it is an overall team effort. Balls are being thrown in the right places. I just have a fight that I did not necessarily know that I have. I am just working as hard as I can for these seniors. I am working as hard as I can for Nick Edwards, as hard as I can for Greg Herd, and as hard as I can for this university. They have given me everything. I am just trying to dig deep and give everything I have.”

On Difference in the Two Halves: “When it comes down to the playoffs, you don’t see the team during the year that you play. The first half is a struggle to try to get going and trying to get a real groove going. You might have some big plays here and there, but you do not necessarily know exactly what they are doing until you take a step back around halftime or the second quarter. Once we realized that what we were getting was different from what we saw on film, we were able to settle down, get our play calls ready and convert them.”

On Setting School and Big Sky Records: “I did not realize it was happening until I caught the second touchdown. (On the sideline) some reporters told me I only needed one more yard to break it. All the credit goes to someone like Kyle, the line and our other receivers. They open me up as much as they can -- them being the threats they are. Like I said earlier, this university has given me so much I just want to pay it back.”

On Similarities to 2010 Team: “The similarities would be in the leadership we have on this team, and also, everyone feeling responsible for their own role. Everyone takes so much onto themselves individually. Everyone feels like they need to perform individually to help the team. Everyone just plays with grit and toughness and it’s exciting to watch other people play because of that.”

On Magic at Roos Field: “As far as home field, that crowd is great. We have the music playing and that crowd is just going crazy. They’re so into it and so passionate. I think for us just keeping calm and not letting anything affect us either way. Not getting too excited and not getting too down. I think that is the magic because a lot of teams don’t have that ability, and we do.”

 
 

Quoting Defensive End Jerry Ceja

On Advantage of Playing Close Games: “I think being in those close games helps us deal with adversity because every game is different. You can’t go in thinking that you are going to win, but you go into each game taking it one play at a time. And whatever happens, happens. There are going to be ups and downs in every game, and having those close games all season long helps us in the long run.”

On Being Down This Road Before: “For some of the veteran players, it does help give us the right mindset to figure out how to get back to the national championship. But at the same time, it is not going to be the same route as last time. We are going to have to take a whole new approach to this playoff.”

On Playing a Home Game Instead of Going on the Road: “I think it’s a lot easier. Traveling takes its toll on the body and it takes its toll on the team -- and on everybody, even the fans. It’s hard for them to get out and travel to every single away game. I think it gives us quite an advantage being at home during the playoffs.”

 
 

Career Starts

Defense (310 starts by 22 players): Zach Johnson 38, Paul Ena 36, Tyler Washburn 35, Evan Cook 27, Allen Brown 25, Jeff Minnerly 23, Ronnie Hamlin 21, T.J. Lee 19, David Gaylord 13, Ronald Baines 13, Jerry Ceja 13, Andru Pulu 12, Grant Williams 10 (includes one start on offense in 2009), Jordan Tonani 7, Cody McCarthy 5, J.C. Agen 4, Evan Day 3, Will Katoa 2, Dylan Zylstra 1, Rusty Haehl 1, Miles Weatheroy 1, Christian Hudnell 1.

Offense (307 starts by 23 players): Nicholas Edwards 44, Brandon Kaufman 35, Will Post 35, Steven Forgette 30, Brandon Murphy 22, Zack Gehring 21, Greg Herd 21, Ashton Miller 14, Clay DeBord 12, Jordan Talley 9, Vernon Adams 9, Drew Reynolds 8, Demitrius Bronson 8, Ryan Seto 7, Quincy Forte 6, Ashton Clark 6, Mario Brown 5, Kyle Padron 4, Jake Withnell 3, Cody Humphrey 2, Daniel Johnson 2, Jase Butorac 2, Cory Mitchell 1, T.J. Boatright 1.

* Four Eagles made starting debuts against Idaho on Aug. 30. On defense, Washington transfer Andru Pulu made his first start at defensive tackle and had one tackle, and sophomore Evan Day had 1 1/2 sacks in his starting debut at an end position. On offense, SMU transfer Kyle Padron completed 13-of-33 passes for 260 yards and a touchdown in his Eagle debut, but previously started 21 games at the NCAA FBS level at Southern Methodist. Also making his starting debut was left offensive tackle Clay DeBord.

* The only other starting debuts since the opener have been made by quarterback Vernon Adams at Weber State on Sept. 22, Jake Withnell against Montana on Sept. 29, Jordan Tonani against North Dakota on Oct. 6, offensive tackle T.J. Boatright against Sacramento State on Oct. 20, defensive tackle Dylan Zylstra  versus Southern Utah on Oct. 27 and cornerbacks Miles Weatheroy and Christian Hudnell against Cal Poly on Nov. 3. In an unannounced and surprise start, Adams used his arm and his feet to lead EWU to a 20-3 halftime lead versus Weber State. The redshirt freshman led Eastern to scores on four of five drives in the first half, including a 75-yard touchdown mark on his first drive as an Eagle. He finished the game 7-of-12 for 75 yards, and ran five times for 62 yards, but missed most of the second half with cramping. Of his five rushes, four were for first downs; of his seven completions, four more resulted in EWU first downs. Tonani, starting because of broken collarbone suffered by Jeff Minnerly, had 11 tackles in his starting debut, then had eight with an interception return for a touchdown the next game in a 27-21 win over second-seeded Montana State. Boatright started as an injury replacement for Clay DeBord (ankle) and Zylstra started in place of an injured Andru Pulu (ankle). Weatheroy and Hudnell started when three other cornerbacks had to miss the first series against the Mustangs for being late for a weightlifting session earlier in the week.

 
 
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