Fifth-Ranked EWU Hosts UC Davis on Senior Day
Eastern bids farewell to 16 seniors, but with a great finish to the season, there may be more football on the horizon for the Eagles
Eastern Washington Univ. “Eagles”
UC Davis “Aggies”
Saturday, Nov. 10, 2012 • 1:35 p.m.
Roos Field (8,600) • Cheney, Wash.
EWU Coach: Beau Baldwin (Central Washington
School Record: 40-18/28-10 Big Sky Conference (5th Season)
Career Record: 50-21 (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: 7-2/5-1 Big Sky Conference
2011: 6-5/5-3 Big Sky Conference
Last Game: Eastern Washington 30, Cal Poly 27 (Nov. 3 in Cheney, Wash.)
TV: Televised in Eastern Washington by SWX - SWX Digital 6.2 in Spokane, 25.3 in the Tri-Cities & 23.3 in the Yakima area; Comcast 115; Davis Cable 514/81.2/12; Time Warner 306; Charter 287, Cable One 466; Northland Cable 115 (Greg Heister, Bill Ames)
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: ewulive.statb.us (web) or ewustats.com (mobile phones)
Weekly Coaches Show: Mondays 6 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).
The No. 5 Eagles are in position, but now they need to continue to rise back to the top.
The first of two giant steps to extend a promising 2012 season takes place this Saturday (Nov. 10) when the Eastern Washington University football teams hosts UC Davis on "Senior Day” at Roos Field in Cheney, Wash. Kickoff at “The Inferno” is 1:35 p.m. Pacific time as the Eagles bid farewell to 16 EWU seniors.
But it won’t be easy, and the 3-6 overall record for the Aggies is deceiving. Eastern will be the fifth team they’ve faced this season currently ranked in the top 19 of The Sports Network NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Top 25 poll.
Eastern is hoping favorable results in this week’s game and the regular season finale at Portland State on Nov. 17 will extend EWU’s season – hopefully at home. Now 7-2 overall after a 34-17 trouncing of 16th-ranked Cal Poly last week, the Eagles are in position to garner one of 20 spots in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs. The pairings are announced on Nov. 18 and begin six days later.
This week’s game is televised live by SWX (SWX Digital 6.2 in Spokane, 25.3 in the Tri-Cities & 23.3 in the Yakima area; Comcast 115; Davis Cable 514/81.2/12; Time Warner 306; Charter 287, Cable One 466; Northland Cable 115) and via webcast at www.bigskytv.org.
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.
Besides trying to send the seniors out with a victory, Eastern is hoping to finish the regular season 5-0 at home. Since the red Sprinturf surface was installed in 2010, Eastern is 14-2 at “The Inferno.” Last week’s game was sold out, with an announced attendance of 8,644 – the seventh-largest non-Montana crowd in Roos Field history.
With an average of 9,133 fans attending four home games thus far, the Eagles are on pace to set the school’s single season record for average attendance set last season of 8,898 per game. Eastern would need to have 7,957 fans attend the UC Davis game to equal the mark, although possible home playoff games would factor into that as well.
“I love being here and I love the fans,” said Baldwin. “I know we had another sellout, and even when the weather wasn’t great you still felt them here -- that’s big. There is nothing like being at home. We can’t wait to be here against UC Davis.”
The Aggies, who are 3-6 overall and 2-4 in their first year as a member of the Big Sky Conference (football only), are coming off a bye week. They are a hard-luck team with an excruciating schedule, and suffered narrow losses by eight points or less to three nationally-ranked teams -- Cal Poly (28-20), Montana State (48-41) and South Dakota State (12-8). They also lost just 21-7 on the road to nationally-ranked Big Sky leader Northern Arizona.
As a result of losses by EWU and Cal Poly on Oct. 27, Northern Arizona controls its own destiny toward the outright Big Sky title, with league games remaining for NAU at home versus Southern Utah and Cal Poly. The Lumberjacks, who trounced Idaho State 50-10 on the road last week, are now 8-1 overall and 6-0 in the league.
Baldwin is pleased with the way his team – and in particular his veteran leaders – responded to the challenge following its frustrating 30-27 loss at Southern Utah, which cost the Eagles their No. 1 ranking in FCS.
“They answered it,” he said. “The season is long and the Big Sky is tough. When you have a game like we had when a few things didn’t go right and Southern Utah did a great job against us, the best thing you can do is learn from it and then move on. Even if we had won that game, you get to Monday and you move forward. That’s what you have to do. You can’t ever hold on to a win, and you can’t let a loss beat you twice. I’m saying something that every coach says and there is a truth to it. There is a reason everyone says that. It’s one thing to say it and it is another thing to have a bunch of leaders in the locker room who truly come back and act that way.”
Because last week’s game versus Cal Poly was a non-conference meeting, both the Mustangs and Eagles still have hopes for winning a sixth Big Sky title. A possible scenario, if NAU falls to Cal Poly on Nov. 17 and EWU wins out, is a four-way tie for the title at 7-1 between EWU, Cal Poly, NAU and possibly Montana State.
Tiebreakers only come into play for the league’s automatic berth in the FCS Playoffs, and the EWU-Cal Poly game would only be used in the event of an unlikely head-to-head Eagle-Mustang tie for the Big Sky title.
Regardless, those four teams are in prime position to capture berths in the 20-team FCS Playoffs. Eastern will be seeking its ninth berth, and first since winning the NCAA Division I title in 2010. The first round of teams seeded 13-20 play on Nov. 24, with eight games in the round of 16 played on Dec. 1. The quarterfinals are Dec. 7-8, the semifinals are Dec. 14-15 and the championship game is Jan. 5 in Frisco, Texas.
After losing 30-27 to Southern Utah on Oct. 27, Eastern fell from first to seventh in The Sports Network NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Top 25 poll. This week the Eagles are fifth. 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.
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* A week after falling from its perch as the top-ranked team, Eastern is back up to fifth in this week’s Sports Network NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Top 25 Poll as selected by a national panel of sportswriters, broadcasters and sports information directors. A 30-27 loss by the Eagles at Southern Utah dropped EWU to No. 7 and allowed defending champion North Dakota State to take over the top spot. In the coaches poll this week, the Eagles are up two spots to sixth, after also earning a No. 1 ranking two weeks in a row earlier this season. Other Big Sky Conference schools in this week’s top 25 include Montana State (2nd TSN, 2nd coaches), Northern Arizona (11th TSN, 11th coaches) and Cal Poly (19th TSN, 19th coaches). Eastern’s 27-24 victory over Montana State on Oct. 13, as well as losses by the top three ranked teams, catapulted EWU to the top of the rankings for two weeks. This is the third-straight season EWU has been ranked No. 1. 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 rankings released by College Sports Journal and College Sports Madness.
* One of the potential tiebreakers used to determine the Big Sky Conference’s automatic berth in the FCS Playoffs is the Jeff Sagarin ratings, and Eastern currently is the top-rated team in the league and fifth overall in FCS. North Dakota State is first among FCS schools, followed by Sam Houston State, Indiana State, Northern Iowa, Eastern, Georgia Southern, Montana State and Northern Arizona. Eastern is 86th overall in the ratings, with MSU ranking 91st and NAU 93rd. Other highly-ranked Big Sky schools include Cal Poly (12/99), Montana (32/142), Southern Utah (36/147), North Dakota (38/151), Portland State (40/153), Sacramento State (41/154) and UC Davis (46/166). The Eagles were a season-high second nationally among FCS schools at one point this season.
* In November and beyond, Eastern is 9-0 since 2010 and 18-3 since 2007. Since 2010, EWU is 21-2 after Oct. 1, including an 11-0 mark two years ago, 6-1 last year and 4-1 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.
* Eastern welcomed back senior linebacker Zach Johnson against Cal Poly to keep his streak of starting every game he’s played – 34 -- alive. He has played sparingly this season with a hamstring injury, but returned from a five-game absence 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. Eastern then made a stop on fourth down to preserve EWU’s 31-10 lead in the 34-17 victory. Johnson, a sixth-year senior who has missed 24 total games in his career because of injuries, now has 281 tackles, three interceptions, 13 passes broken up and 6 1/2 sacks as an Eagle. He is just seven tackles from moving into eighth all-time at Eastern, and is 60 from ranking fifth and equaling the total of 341 by his twin brother Matt Johnson, who now plays for the Dallas Cowboys.
* Eastern redshirt freshman quarterback Vernon Adams is this week’s ROOT Sports Offensive Player of the Week after accounting for 356 yards of offense in EWU’s 34-17 win on Nov. 3 versus Cal Poly. Adams is also making a good push at winning the Jerry Rice Award given annually by The Sports Network to the top freshman in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision. He ranks eighth in FCS in passing efficiency (155.05), and is the only freshman in the top 18 of the rankings. In seven games as a starter and one as a sub, he has completed 63.6 percent of his passes for 1,362 yards, 14 touchdowns and six interceptions. In a 34-17 win over Cal Poly on Nov. 3, he led the Eagles with 288 yards passing and 68 on the ground, as the Eagles finished with a season-high 542 as a team. He completed 19-of-29 passes and had three touchdown tosses, and also rushed for 68 yards. Eastern’s scoring drives in the game were of 81, 66, 74, 69, 41 and 83 yards. For his effort, he also received honorable mention Performer of the Week accolades in FCS by College Football Performance Awards.
* An incredible scramble and touchdown throw by Vernon Adams against Sacramento State on Oct. 20 is 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 will be shown on GEICO Best of College Football 2012 on CBS on Nov. 23 at 10:30 a.m. Pacific time. Voting for the GEICO Play of the Year takes place through Nov. 12 and ballots may be cast at: http://www.facebook.com/bestofcollegefootball
* Eastern has already tied the school record for single season field goals with 16, and senior Jimmy Pavel is just one away from the individual record of 16. An impressive 15-of-16 on the season, Pavel ranks fourth in FCS with an average of 1.67 field goals per game. His .938 percentage is the best in FCS among kickers with at least 11 attempts this season. He made field goals of 38 and 33 yards in EWU’s 34-17 win over Cal Poly on Nov. 3, and also punted three times for a 45.7 average with a long of 51 and one downed at the Mustang 1-yard line. 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, a 52-yarder, in the 2011 season. Thus, including a field goal Kevin Miller made earlier this season, the Eagles have made 32 of 36 field goal attempts the last two seasons for 88.9 percent.
* Starting defensive end Jerry Ceja is sixth in FCS and is second in the league with an average of 1.00 sacks per game (total of nine). Ceja had two sacks versus 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 18th nationally with an average of 2.67 per game, and this week goes against a UC Davis team ranked 114th among 121 FCS schools with an average of 3.44 allowed per game (total of 31).
* With a 6-5 record in 2011, Eastern fell a victory shy of its sixth playoff berth since 2004. Although the Eagles came up short, EWU is one of just seven schools among the 120 in FCS to have advanced to the playoffs five times in the last eight seasons (2004, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2010).
The Senior Class
* Eastern’s roster includes 16 seniors, with 10 starting
at least three 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 541
games worth of experience, and have 251 starts between them. A
total of 12 of them will finish their careers as four-year
letterwinners. More importantly, they have helped Eastern win
23-of-30 Big Sky Conference games and 34 overall the last four
seasons, and 14 were a part of EWU’s NCAA Division I
Championship in 2010. Below is the complete list with the number of
games played/started listed at the end of each player’s
13 - Scott Burgett - Linebacker - 6-2 - 210 - Sr. - 3L* - Peoria, Ariz. (Centennial HS ’08) - 5/0
^91 - Jerry Ceja – Defensive End - 6-3 - 220 - Sr. - 3L - Aurora, Colo. (Grandview HS ’09) - 43/9
^56 - Evan Cook – Defensive Tackle - 6-3 - 280 - Sr. - 3L* - Federal Way, Wash. (Todd Beamer HS ’08) - 35/23
^11 - Nicholas Edwards – Wide Receiver - 6-3 - 200 - Sr. - 3L* - Tacoma, Wash. (Foss HS ’08) - 45/41
^44 - Paul Ena – Defensive End - 6-2 - 240 - Sr. - 3L - Kenmore, Wash. (Inglemoor HS ’09) - 46/32
43 - Rusty Haehl - Linebacker - 5-11 - 215 - Sr. - 3L* - Bellevue, Wash. (Bellevue HS ’08) - 41/1
^3 - Greg Herd – Wide Receiver - 6-3 - 200 - Sr. - 3L - Tacoma, Wash. (Steilacoom HS ’09) - 42/18
^10 - Zach Johnson - Linebacker - 6-1 - 225 - Sr. - 3L* - Tumwater, Wash. (Tumwater HS ’07) – 34/34
32 - Chase King - Linebacker - 6-1 - 215 - Sr. - 1L* - Federal Way, Wash. (Decatur HS ’08) - 19/0
^7 - Jeff Minnerly – Safety - 6-1 - 200 - Sr. - 3L* - Spokane, Wash. (Ferris HS ’08) - 35/21
27 - McKenzie Murphy - Safety - 5-9 - 190 - Sr. - TR* - Spokane, Wash. (Ferris HS ’08 / Western Washington) - 8/0
99 - Jimmy Pavel – Kicker - 5-11 - 195 - Sr. - 1L* - Molalla, Ore. (Central Catholic HS ’08 / Boise State) – 19
^76 - Will Post – Offensive Tackle - 6-6 - 310 - Sr. - 3L* - Portland, Ore. (Southridge HS ’08) - 40/31
54 - Jake Potter – Long Snapper - 6-2 - 200 - Sr. - 2L* - Kennewick, Wash. (Kamiakin HS ’08) – 38
^55 - Tyler Washburn - Linebacker - 6-1 - 230 - Sr. - 3L* - Sammamish, Wash. (Skyline HS ’08) – 46/31
^18 - Grant Williams - Linebacker - 6-1 - 225 - Sr. - 3L* - Puyallup, Wash. (Rogers HS ’08) – 45/10
^Has started at least three games this season.
More Game Notes
* Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin coached in his 100th Eastern game when the Eagles rallied to beat Montana 32-26. He is now 40-18 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 64-40. His .737 winning percentage in Big Sky Conference games (28-10) is the best-ever by an Eastern head coach and currently ranks 10th in the 50-year history of the Big Sky Conference. His .690 percentage overall is 11th.
* Junior Brandon Kaufman has 51 catches for exactly 1,000 yards (19.6 per catch) and 10 touchdowns thus far, including career highs of 10 catches for 192 yards versus Southern Utah on Oct. 27. Kaufman has gone over the 100-yard mark six times this season and 14 times in his career. The 2010 All-American leads the Big Sky and ranks ninth in FCS in receiving yards per game (111.1), and his 10 TD receptions are sixth in FCS. 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 179 career catches (fifth in school history) for 2,881 yards (fourth) and 27 touchdowns (fourth).
* Following a 288-yard day against Cal Poly on Nov. 4 and a 404-yard effort at Southern Utah on Oct. 27, the Eagles are now fourth in the league and 15th in FCS in passing offense (286.9 per game). Vernon Adams ranks eighth in FCS in passing efficiency (155.05). In seven games as a starter and one as a sub, he has completed 63.6 percent of his passes for 1,362 yards, 14 touchdowns and six interceptions. Kyle Padron, who started the first two games and has played four others as a sub, has completed 54 percent of his passes for 1,201 yards, seven TDs and four interceptions. The Eagles had a season-best 542 total yards versus Cal Poly and are now third in the Big Sky and 17th in FCS in total offense (439.11). Eastern is also 27th in passing efficiency (140.40) and 28th in scoring offense (30.9).
* The Eagles, an early leader in the Big Sky Conference in scoring defense, are now third in the league. They have allowed 21.67 points per game, which ranks 38th in FCS.
* Eastern is now 63rd in FCS in rushing defense (159.1), having given up only 336 rushing yards total in its first three games and just 70 versus Montana State. Eastern is also 66th in total defense (383.1). 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).
* Freshman Shaquille Hill, who had a 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against North Dakota on Sept. 6, ranks 24th in FCS with an average of 25.8 yards per kickoff return. Eastern is fourth in FCS with a 25.4 average. UC Davis is 10th nationally in kickoff returns with a 24.91 average.
* In other national rankings, Eastern is 21st in turnover margin (+0.67 per game). Eastern’s Jake Miller is eighth in punting (43.53), although teammate Jimmy Pavel handled the punting chores in EWU’s latest game versus Cal Poly. Cal Poly is first nationally in net punting (40.09) and the 43.59 punting average by Colton Schmidt is seventh in FCS. The top rankings nationally for UC Davis offensively or defensively are 37th in sacks (2.22 per game) and 39th in passing offense (233.1).
* The 2012 season was the first time the Eagles have started the Big Sky Conference season 4-0, and the Eagles bettered that with a 5-0 start. The last time EWU was 3-0 in conference play was in 2009, joining 2004, 1996 and 1992 as the only teams to accomplish that feat. Only in 1992 and 2004 did EWU go on to win the Big Sky Conference title, sharing those championships with Idaho and Montana, respectively.
* Overall, 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.
* 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 124 games worth of experience (90 starts), and have collective totals of 518 catches for 7,283 yards and 72 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 68 catches for 836 yards and seven touchdowns in his career.
* The Eagles have a quartet of linebackers who have combined for 145 games of experience (92 starts) in their careers, with a collective total of 834 tackles. Zach Johnson (34 games played/34 starts) has 281 tackles, Tyler Washburn (46/31) has 234, Ronnie Hamlin (20/17) has 175 and Grant Williams (45/10) has 144. In addition, Cody McCarthy (14/5, 70 tackles) and J.C. Agen (24/4, 46 tackles) have seen significant action for EWU since last season.
* Junior cornerback T.J. Lee has piled up some impressive statistics already this season, including 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 114 tackles, three interceptions, eight passes broken up and 2 1/2 sacks in his 29-game career (15 starts).
* 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. Tonani had his second interception of the season and eight tackles on Nov. 3 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 is also out indefinitely, 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.
* Although it took a week off against Southern Utah, Eastern’s fourth quarter magic dating back to 2010 is alive and well. In the last three seasons (2010-12), the Eagles have had 10 victories when they’ve trailed or been tied in the final stanza. 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. 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 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 nail-biters -- 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.
* Eastern’s running game is much-improved in 2012, with the Eagles ranking 59th in FCS with an average of 152.2 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.
* This is the first time in school history all 11 Eastern games will be 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.
* 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 have suffered injuries already 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 led the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision in passing offense in 2011, averaging 368.5 yards per game. In Beau Baldwin’s 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.
* The weekly Gridiron Power Rankings are released every Tuesday by College Sporting News (www.collegesportingnews.com), and last week the top eight teams were North Dakota State, Georgia Southern, Montana State, Sam Houston State, Indiana State, Eastern Washington, Cal Poly and Northern Arizona. This week’s ratings should be released by Nov. 6.
* Despite coming off a 6-5 season, the Eastern Washington University football team has been picked to finish second in the Big Sky Conference. Two-time defending co-champion Montana State has been selected first by the media and the coaches in the polls. MSU, which has finished 7-1 in the conference in each of the past two seasons and advanced to the playoffs, earned seven first-place votes in the coaches poll and a total of 136 points. In the media poll, the Bobcats received 30 of 40 first-place votes and 502 total points. Eastern garnered four first-place votes and 131 total points from the coaches. In the media poll, the Eagles earned three first-place votes and 453 total points. A year ago, the Eagles were picked to win the league title after they had won the 2010 Big Sky championship and went on to win the NCAA Division I title. But an 0-4 start and a rash of injuries led to a 6-5 finish overall and 5-3 mark in the Big Sky in 2011.
* 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)
* Starting running back Jordan Talley (concussion) remains out, having missed the Cal Poly, Southern Utah, North Dakota and Montana State games already. Senior safety Jeff Minnerly suffered a fractured collarbone against Montana and has been out since. Both Talley and Minnerly are doubtful for this week’s game versus UC Davis, as well as backup offensive tackle T.J. Boatright (knee). Linebacker Zach Johnson (hamstring) returned against Cal Poly to keep his streak of starting every game he’s played – 34 -- alive. 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. Johnson’s backup, 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 has missed every game since and will undergo surgery soon. Backup safety McKenzie Murphy 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.
* The Eagles and Aggies have faced each other just twice before, including the notorious “Fog Bowl” in 2005. That 24-7 game at fog-shrouded Roos Field (then Woodward Field) featured near-zero visibility from the pressbox. It was also Eastern’s 100th win all-time at its Cheney stadium, and also helped clinch the Big Sky Conference co-championship with Montana and Montana State, and clinch EWU the automatic berth in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs (then known as I-AA). The Bobcats upset Montana 16-6 in Bozeman that same day, opening the door for the Eagles to garner its second-straight league title and playoff berth. The Eagles found out the outcome of the MSU-UM game in the second quarter, then rested many of its starters in the second half. In the other meeting, Eastern won in Cheney in 2007 by a 41-31 score.
* In the 2005 meeting, Eastern scored four-straight times in the first half and went on to defeat UC-Davis 24-7. Eastern quarterback Erik Meyer, who would go on to win the Payton Award, left the game for good late in the second quarter after completing 11-of-19 passes for 134 yards and two touchdowns. Plus, he had a 67-yard run on his only carry of the game that set-up an Eagle score. All-America wide receiver Eric Kimble also left the game before halftime after finishing with five catches for 61 yards and a touchdown. His touchdown gave him 44 in his career and moved him into second behind the 50 of Jerry Rice on the I-AA all-time pass receptions touchdowns list. Eastern punted on its first possession, then scored touchdowns on drives of 45, 80 and 78 yards. UC Davis scored its only touchdown on a 50-yard interception return by Nolan De Graff in the third quarter. Eastern finished with 329 yards of total offense, while UC Davis finished with 308.
* In 2007, Eastern had 478 yards of offense and two interceptions on defense that led to second-half touchdowns to defeat UC Davis 41-31 on Sept. 15. The two teams combined for nearly 1,000 yards of offense as UC Davis finished with 517. However, a third-quarter interception by sophomore Kevin Hatch and a fourth-quarter interception by freshman redshirt Lonnie Hosley turned out to be the biggest plays of the game for the Eagles. Eastern trailed early 14-6, but roared back behind three rushing touchdowns by junior Dale Morris. Morris had 85 yards rushing on 17 carries, and Alexis Alexander added 122 yards and a touchdown, also on 17 carries. Eastern also had a good day through the air as sophomore quarterback Matt Nichols completed 25-of-42 passes for 252 yards and two touchdowns. Fellow sophomores Aaron Boyce (9-107), Brynsen Brown (7-82) and Tony Davis (5-35) combined for 21 receptions for 224 yards.
Eagle-UC Davis Connections
* UC Davis has no players from the state of Washington on its roster, with 100 percent of its squad hailing from California. Mustang senior safety Phillip Thrappas and Eastern backup wide receiver Daniel Johnson both graduated in 2009 from Valley Christian High School near San Jose. They led the Warriors to a 10-3 record and a Central Coast Section championship in 2008. UC Davis senior Andrew Benjamin graduated in 2008 from Jesuit High School near Sacramento, the same school Eastern reserve cornerback Christian Hudnell graduated from one year later. Also, Eastern reserve quarterback Anthony Vitto graduated from Chaminade College Prep near Los Angeles in 2009, one year after UC Davis starting left offensive guard Sean Davies did.
* Wide receiver Brandon Kaufman has 179 catches in his career to rank fifth in school history, and now is chasing teammate Nicholas Edwards (201) for fourth. Kaufman is fourth all-time in EWU history with 2,881 reception yards, and is now 132 yards away from third (Tony Brooks, 1990-93, 3,013). Kaufman’s 27 touchdown catches are fourth, two away from the No. 3 position of 29 held by Aaron Boyce (2006-09) and three behind the No. 2 position held by teammate Nicholas Edwards (30).
* Wide receiver Nicholas Edwards is now seventh all-time in Eastern history in receiving yards with 2,476, and is just 48 from the No. 6 position and 90 from No. 5. He is also just two points away from moving into eighth in points scored (currently he has 184). His 201 career catches ranks fourth in school history (No. 3 has 213) and his 30 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 138 grabs ranks 15th, and is just one reception from 14th, two from 13th and seven from the No. 12 position. His catches have been good for 1,926 yards and 15 touchdowns, and he could also be among EWU’s career leaders in those categories before the season has concluded.
* The 43.9 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 281 tackles in his career, just seven from moving into eighth all-time at Eastern. He is 60 from ranking fifth and equaling 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 16th with 234. He is one from the No. 15 position, two from No. 14 and nine from ranking 13th.
* 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.
* Senior defensive end Jerry Ceja is ninth all-time in career sacks with 20 1/2, and needs only a half-sack from moving into eighth and 1 1/2 from seventh. Ceja also has five forced fumbles in his career, just one behind the school record of six shared by four players. The players who own the record are Matt Johnson (2008-11), Renard Williams (2008-11), J.C. Sherritt (2007-10) and Chris Scott (1994-97).
Recent Game Summary
* Coming up with big drives on offense and big stops on defense, the seventh-ranked Eagles rolled past 16th-ranked Cal Poly 34-17 in a non-conference college football game Nov. 3 at Roos Field in Cheney, Wash. Redshirt freshman quarterback Vernon Adams led the Eagles with 288 yards passing and 68 on the ground, as the Eagles finished with a season-high 542 as a team. He completed 19-of-29 passes and had three touchdown tosses, and also rushed for 68 yards. Eastern’s scoring drives in the game were of 81, 66, 74, 69, 41 and 83 yards.
* Eastern had its second-best rushing effort of the season with 254 yards versus Cal Poly, with sophomore Quincy Forte finishing with 83 and junior Demitrius Bronson adding 82 and a score. Defensively, the Eagles allowed the vaunted Cal Poly triple-option attack to rush for 251 yards and finish with 411 yards total. The Mustangs were at one point in the game 9-of-13 on third down, but converted just one of its last five. The Eagles forced Cal Poly to punt five times, and also had a 3-1 advantage in turnovers forced.
* Senior Nicholas Edwards had a team-leading five catches for 55 yards, with junior Brandon Kaufman adding four for 88 yards and a pair of scores. Senior Greg Herd added four catches for 74 yards and a one-handed TD grab. Junior offensive guard Brandon Murphy also had a key play with a forced fumble the Eagles recovered after EWU’s only turnover of the game on an interception.
* Senior defensive end Paul Ena had a team-high nine tackles, and redshirt freshman safety Jordan Tonani and junior linebacker Ronnie Hamlin each had 10. Linebacker Zach Johnson, who has played sparingly this season with a hamstring injury, returned from a five-game absence to finish with seven tackles, a pass broken up and a key third down tackle in the third quarter.
Quoting Coach Beau Baldwin
On Cal Poly Victory: “I couldn’t be more proud of our players. They responded in every way you can talk about from the beginning of the week, to scouting, to how they approached meetings, film and practice. This was not a response to an average football team -- it was a response to a team that was 7-1 coming in here. I couldn’t be happier. The guys deserved this and they worked for this.”
On Win in Race to Postseason Berth: “It’s a monster win. It’s huge. It’s our seventh win of the season in week nine which is big. It was against an opponent that I expect to be in the playoffs. Two teams that potentially have a chance to be in the playoffs went against each other today so it’s a big win.”
On Out-Rushing Cal Poly: “No, I did not (expect us to match rushing yards with Cal Poly). I felt like we could do some things running the football. Our guys knew the plan and they went in there and just executed it. It was nice to play a ballgame like that against a really good opponent.”
Defense (266 starts by 22 players): Zach Johnson 34, Paul Ena 32, Tyler Washburn 31, Evan Cook 23, Jeff Minnerly 21, Allen Brown 21, Ronnie Hamlin 17, T.J. Lee 15, David Gaylord 13, Grant Williams 10 (includes one start on offense in 2009), Ronald Baines 9, Jerry Ceja 9, Andru Pulu 8, Cody McCarthy 5, Jordan Tonani 5, J.C. Agen 4, Evan Day 3, Will Katoa 2, Dylan Zylstra 1, Rusty Haehl 1, Miles Weatheroy 1, Christian Hudnell 1.
Offense (263 starts by 23 players): Nicholas Edwards 41, Brandon Kaufman 31, Will Post 31, Steven Forgette 26, Zack Gehring 19, Greg Herd 18, Brandon Murphy 18, Ashton Miller 10, Jordan Talley 9, Drew Reynolds 8, Clay DeBord 8, Vernon Adams 7, Quincy Forte 6, Mario Brown 5, Ashton Clark 5, Ryan Seto 5, Demitrius Bronson 4, Jake Withnell 2, Cody Humphrey 2, Kyle Padron 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).