Nationally-Ranked Eagles and Grizzlies Tangle in Cheney

For the 11th time in the last 17 years, No. 7 Eastern and No. 21 Montana will both enter the key Big Sky matchup on Root Sports ranked in the top 25 in FCS

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Eastern Washington Univ. “Eagles”
University of Montana “Grizzlies”

Saturday, Sept. 29, 2012 • 4:15 p.m. Pacific
Roos Field (11,000) • Cheney, Wash.

EWU Coach: Beau Baldwin (Central Washington ‘96)
School Record: 35-17/24-9 Big Sky Conference (5th Season)
Career Record: 45-20 (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: 2-1/1-0 Big Sky Conference
2011: 6-5/5-3 Big Sky Conference
Last Game: Eastern 32, Weber State 26 (Sept. 22 in Ogden, Utah)
TV: Root Sports (Rich Burk, Jason Stiles & Jenny Cavnar)
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: or
Radio iPhone App: Search for “Spokane Radio” and download app. An app is also available for tunein radio.
Webcast: None
Live Stats: (web) or (mobile phones)
Weekly Coaches Show: Mondays 6 p.m. at the Q Sports Bar and Restaurant at Northern Quest Resort & Casino. . . 700-AM ESPN, & via iphone app. (search for “Spokane Radio” and download app).

It’s a long-awaited home opener for the Eastern Washington University football team, but one with plenty on the line.

Meeting for the 11th time in 17 years with both teams nationally-ranked, the No. 7 Eagles host the 21st-ranked Montana Grizzlies Saturday (Sept. 29) in a game televised live regionally on Root Sports. Kickoff at Roos Field in Cheney, Wash., is 4:15 p.m. Pacific time in EWU’s latest home start since 1981.

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 and via iPhone application (search for “700 ESPN” and download the free app). The broadcast is also available via and tunein’s mobile phone app.

The Eagles, ranked seventh in this week’s Sports Network NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Top 25 poll, are 2-1 overall and 1-0 in the Big Sky Conference after last week’s 32-26 escape at Weber State. Eastern scored seven times on offense, but needed a fumble recovery after a sack with 34 seconds to play to preserve the victory.

“More than anything, we are going to keep working on our details and the things we need to improve as a team,” said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin after the narrow win over the winless Wildcats. “We are going to learn from this game very quickly, then we have to move on. The Montana game is a pretty big one for us.”

The Grizzlies, meanwhile, suffered a rare home loss and fell to Northern Arizona 41-31. The Lumberjacks scored 34 unanswered points to drop the Grizzlies to 2-2 overall and 0-1 in the Big Sky Conference. As a result, the Grizzlies fell from 14th to 21st in the Sports Network poll, while NAU jumped into the rankings at 22nd.

Collectively, the two teams have won a trio of NCAA Division I football titles, and have made 31 total appearances in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs. Eastern won the national title in 2010, and have been to the playoffs in 1985, 1992, 1997, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2009 and 2010. The Grizzlies, however, have been to the playoffs a FCS record 23 times, with national titles in 1995 and 2001.


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Quick Hits

* Eastern is ranked a season-high seventh 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. The Eagles moved up two positions after ranking ninth last week following the team’s bye. In the coaches poll, the Eagles are also seventh, after also ranking ninth a week ago. Other Big Sky Conference schools in the top 25 include Montana State (second TSN, second coaches), Montana (21st TSN, 20th coaches) and Northern Arizona (22nd TSN, unranked by coaches).

* Thanks to a win versus a NCAA Football Bowl Division opponent (20-3 over Idaho on Aug. 30) and a near-miss against a Pac-12 Conference member (24-20 loss to Washington State on Sept. 8), the Eagles are the eighth-highest FCS team in the Jeff Sagarin computer ratings. Eastern is 98th overall, with Cal Poly ranking as the next-highest Big Sky school (ninth in FCS, 101st overall). Other highly ranked Big Sky schools include Northern Arizona (14/115), Montana (15/116), North Dakota (18/120) and Montana State (26th/137). After the loss to Washington State, Eastern was ranked a season-high fifth among FCS members.

* Since 1999, the Eagles have lost just twice in their home opener for an 11-2 record in that span. Eastern fell 21-14 to Central Washington in 2006 and 36-21 last season to Montana State.

* In opening its home schedule Sept. 29 versus Montana, this is the latest home start for Eastern since 1981 when EWU hosted British Columbia on Oct. 3.

* Only four times in school history – 1938, 1955, 2011, 2012 – has Eastern opened the season with three-straight road games. In those 12 games, EWU is a respectable 5-6-1.

* Eastern has now won six of its last seven Big Sky Conference openers, with the lone loss coming last year in a 17-14 setback on the road at Montana.

* In what one sportswriter called “déjà EWU,” Eastern used a late fumble on a sack to hold-off Weber State in the final minute for the second-straight season. Eastern took a 20-3 lead on Sept. 22 in Ogden, only to have the Wildcats rally to pull within six. Eastern clinched the 32-26 win when Jerry Ceja had a sack and forced fumble with 34 seconds left, and it was recovered at midfield by Utah native Will Katoa. In the 2011 meeting in Cheney, Weber State rallied from a 24-7 halftime deficit, but Eastern sealed it when Charles Moetului forced a fumble with 21 seconds left that was recovered by teammate Anthony Larry after the Wildcats had driven to the EWU 17-yard line.

* Eastern came a Hail Mary pass away from a victory before falling 24-20 at Pac-12 Conference member Washington State on Sept. 8. Eastern out-gained WSU in total offense 469-355. 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.

* In the first start of his Eastern career, redshirt freshman quarterback Vernon Adams used his arm and his feet to lead EWU to a 20-3 halftime lead at Weber State on Sept. 22. Adams led Eastern to scores on four of five drives in the first half, including a 75-yard touchdown march 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.

* Eastern leads FCS  (along with San Diego) with a perfect 12-of-12 performance thus far in the red zone. Eastern has scored six touchdowns and has kicked six field goals thus far.

* Playing his first games in 11 months, wide receiver Brandon Kaufman already has 16 catches for 416 yards and three touchdowns. He had six catches for 126 yards and a TD versus Weber State on Sept. 22, marking the third time in three games this season – and 11th time of his career – he has eclipsed the 100-yard mark. The 2010 All-American leads the Big Sky and ranks fourth in FCS in receiving yards per game (138.7). 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 144 career catches (12th in school history) for 2,297 yards (ninth) and 20 touchdowns (sixth).

* Despite giving up nearly as many points against Weber State (26) as it had in its first two games of the season (27), Eastern is the early-season Big Sky leader in scoring defense, allowing just 17.7 points per game (20th in FCS).

* The Eagles have showed great improvement on defense thus far in 2012, ranking 25th in FCS and third in the league in rushing defense (112.0 yards per game), and 42nd in FCS in total defense (344.7). A year ago, Eastern was 101st out of 120 FCS schools in total defense (411.9) and 110th in rushing defense (213.2).

* The Eagles are second in the league and 11th in FCS in passing offense (293.3 per game), with junior Kyle Padron also ranking second in the league and 16th nationally (262.7). The Eagles are third in the Big Sky and 16th in FCS in total offense (446.0).

* Jimmy Pavel made all four of his field goals – 25, 19, 29 and 27 yards – in Eastern’s 32-26 victory over Weber State, making him a perfect 6-of-6 for the year. His effort earned him honorable mention Performer of the Week accolades in FCS by College Football Performance Awards. Pavel ranks first in the Big Sky and third in FCS with an average of 2.0 field goals per game. In his first game as EWU’s placekicker at Idaho on Aug. 30, Pavel made both of his field goal attempts and was selected as the Root Sports Big Sky Conference Special Teams Player of the Week. Pavel, who handled kickoff duties a year ago, takes over for Mike Jarrett, who was 16-of-18 kicking field goals as a senior in 2011.

* Junior cornerback T.J. Lee has piled up some impressive statistics already this season, including eight tackles (six unassisted), a pass broken up and a forced fumble on a sack that he also recovered to lead to a field goal 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 78 tackles, three interceptions and five passes broken up in his 23-game career.

* Senior defensive end Jerry Ceja is third in FCS in sacks (1.0 per game, with three total), including a game-clinching sack and forced fumble with 34 seconds left in EWU’s 32-26 win at Northern Colorado on Sept. 22. Now with five forced fumbles in his career – one behind the school record of six shared by four players – Ceja has had five game-changing forced fumbles on sacks in his career. A Colorado native, Ceja made the first start of his career at Northern Colorado (10/16/10) and forced a fumble on a sack late in the game that was picked up by teammate Tyler Jolley and returned 17 yards. That gave EWU the ball 39 yards from the end zone and led to EWU’s winning touchdown with 41 seconds to play in the 35-28 victory. Earlier in the season, Ceja forced a fumble on a sack on the final play of the game that was returned 34 yards for a score by Renard Williams and secured EWU’s 36-27 victory over Montana (9/18/10) in the first game on EWU’s new red Sprinturf surface at Roos Field.

* In other national rankings, Eastern’s Jake Miller is ranked 12th in FCS in punting (43.56 average) and safety Allen Brown is second in the league and 10th in FCS in passes defensed (interceptions and passes broken up) with five passes broken up already this season, including three versus Weber State on Sept. 22.

* Eastern’s running game is much-improved in 2012, with the Eagles ranking 54th in FCS with an average of 152.7 yards per game. Eastern has generated the yardage despite the fact Demitrius Bronson, the projected starter entering the year, has carried just twice and missed EWU’s first two games with a strained hamstring. 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 162 (Idaho) and 206 (Weber State), which are the most  for EWU since the 2010 season. Jordan Talley has rushed for 199 and three touchdowns, and Quincy Forte has 150 with a score. Both players are sophomores who played as true freshmen in 2011. They are now augmented by the additional running threat of quarterback Vernon Adams, who scrambled his way to 62 yards in his starting debut versus Weber State.

* Eastern will face the league’s second-best rushing offense (22nd in FCS) when Montana brings its 207.5 rushing average to Roos Field this week. Dan Moore is third in the league and 24th in FCS in rushing (101.8 per game), and is also second in the league and 17th nationally in all-purpose yards (149.5 per game, with 407 rushing and 191 receiving). Also, Peter Nguyen is second in the Big Sky and 10th in FCS in punt returns (14.7 average, including a 90-yard TD), and Jordan Tripp is third in the league and 36th nationally in tackles (10.0 per game, 40 total).

* This is the first time in school history all 11 Eastern games will be played on an artificial surface. 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.

* 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.

* Featuring an early-season schedule with a familiar feel to it, Eastern opened the 2012 season with three road games and a bye. The Eagles began the 2012 season at former Big Sky Conference rival Idaho, then returned to the Palouse a week later to face Washington State and new head coach Mike Leach. After a bye in the schedule, Eastern opened Big Sky Conference play at Weber State against former EWU assistant coach Jody Sears. Finally, on Sept. 29, the Eagles will play their home opener versus Montana at Roos Field in Cheney, Wash. Two years ago, in the debut of EWU’s red Sprinturf surface in the first game at the re-named field (it was formerly Woodward Field), the Eagles knocked off the Grizzlies 36-27. A year ago, Eastern opened the season with road losses to Washington and South Dakota, then began league play with a loss at Montana and a home setback to Montana State.


Injury Report

* Wide receiver Nicholas Edwards injured his knee on a pass reception on EWU’s first offensive play of the game at Weber State, and missed the rest of the game. He will be out an undetermined amount of time. Linebacker Zach Johnson (hamstring) played in just EWU’s first defensive series before he had to sit out the rest of the game. His backup, J.C. Agen, who started in 2011 after Johnson was lost for the season with a knee injury, missed the first two EWU games with a pectoral injury, but made his season debut in limited action versus Weber State. Pending further evaluation this week, both Johnson and Agen are questionable for the Montana game. Defensive end Paul Ena is also questionable after suffering a wrist injury in the first half against Washington State. He missed the rest of that game, then did not play against 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 WSU, but probably wouldn’t have played if Eastern had a game on Sep. 15. Running back Demitrius Bronson missed the first two games with an injured hamstring, but returned to carry the ball twice versus Weber State.


Series Notes

* In a series full of drama, the 2011 meeting between Eastern and Montana was the 10th time in the last 16 meetings that both teams entered the game nationally ranked. And it went down to the wire as the Eagles lost 17-14 after pulling out a 36-27 victory at home in 2010.

* Below are the 10 matchups in the last 14 seasons when both squads have entered the game nationally ranked. Eastern is 3-7 in those games, with road victories in 1997 and 2005, and a home win in 2010 in the debut of Eastern’s red Sprinturf surface at Roos Field.
2011 - #12 Montana 17, #10 Eastern Washington 14 (in Missoula, Mont.)
2010 - #18 Eastern Washington 36, #6 Montana 27 (in Cheney, Wash.)
2009 - #3 Montana 41, #21 Eastern Washington 34 (in Missoula, Mont.)
2008 - #12 Montana 19, #23 Eastern Washington 3 (in Cheney, Wash.)
2005 - #12 Eastern Washington 34, #2 Montana 20 (in Missoula, Mont.)
2004 - #5 Montana 31, #23 Eastern Washington 28 (in Cheney, Wash.)
2001 - #3 Montana 29, #15 Eastern Washington 26 (2 overtimes in Missoula, Mont.)
2000 - #9 Montana 41, #18 Eastern Washington 31 (in Spokane, Wash.)
1997 - #17 Eastern Washington 40, #2 Montana 35 (in Missoula, Mont.)
1996 - #1 Montana 34, #20 Eastern Washington 30 (in Cheney, Wash.)

* Montana now leads the series 26-11-1, and has won seven of the last nine meetings. In the last 19 meetings since winning three-straight over Montana from 1990-92, Eastern has won just four times -- 40-35 in 1997 (in Missoula), 30-21 in 2002 (at Albi Stadium in Spokane), 34-20 in 2005 (in Missoula) and 36-27 in 2010 (in Cheney). Overall, Eastern is 4-14-1 in Missoula, 6-11 in home games and 1-1 in games played at neutral sites.

* Montana has won 89 percent of its games at Washington-Grizzly Stadium – an impressive record of 173-22 -- since it opened in 1987. Eastern has won four of the 12 meetings there, with victories in 2005, 1997, 1992 and 1990.

* Ten recent games in the series have been decided by margins of 10 points or less. The winner has usually piled up points and yardage by the ton as evidenced by Eastern’s 697 yards of total offense in 1986, 658 yards in 1997 in a 40-35 win, 564 in a 24-23 loss in 2007, 541 yards by the Eagles in a 34-20 win in Missoula in 2005 and 503 in a 2010 victory in Cheney. In fact, in the last 26 meetings the winning team has averaged 33.0 points. In seven of those 26 games the two teams have combined for at least 70 points, including a 41-34 Grizzly win in Missoula in 2009.

* Since 1990, Eastern has won four times on UM’s home field in Missoula, but Eastern had won just twice at home in that span until the 2010 season. The lone win over Montana from 1990-2009 at Roos Field (formerly Woodward Field) came in 1991, and Eastern’s change to a red synthetic Sprinturf surface and change of name altered its success in Cheney where the Eagles had a six-game losing streak. Eastern also won in 2002 in a home game played at Spokane’s Albi Stadium.

* The Eagles shared the 2004 and 2005 Big Sky titles with Montana, but the Grizzlies won or shared every league title from 1998-2009. Eastern remains the last Big Sky school other than Montana to win the outright title, with that coming in 1997 when the Eagles advanced to the semifinals of the FCS Playoffs. That team will be inducted into the Eastern Athletics Hall of Fame on Oct. 6. Montana’s streak of league titles ended at 12 as EWU and MSU shared the 2010 title.

* In last year’s meeting, Eastern fell behind 10-0 to the Grizzlies, but rallied to pull within three points in the fourth quarter. The 10th-ranked Eagles held No. 12 Montana scoreless on its final five possessions of the game, but Eastern was unable to score in its last three. An interception with 25 seconds to play iced the win for the Grizzlies. Montana rushed for 316 yards versus the Eagles, but was held to 34 passing yards and was out-gained in total offense 376-350.

* In 2010, the first football game on Eastern’s new red Sprinturf surface was a huge success as the 18th-ranked Eagles knocked off the No. 6 Grizzlies in the Big Sky Conference opener for both schools on Sept. 18, 2010, at Roos Field in Cheney, Wash. Mike Jarrett nailed a 31-yard field goal with four seconds left to give Eastern a 30-27 lead, then the Eagles iced it on the final play of the game with a 34-yard fumble return for a touchdown by junior defensive tackle Renard Williams after a sack and forced fumble by sophomore end Jerry Ceja with additional pressure by senior Tyler Jolley. Junior All-America running back Taiwan Jones had 305 all-purpose yards -- including 221 rushing yards -- to lead EWU’s 503-yard offensive output. The sold-out stadium featured a crowd of 11,702 as it set a new Roos Field record. The previous record of 11,583 was set on Oct. 7, 2006 versus Montana. Eastern also set a new record for student attendance of 3,105, as the previous high was 2,218 in a 2008 game versus Montana.

* Other games in the series have also been filled with suspense. Eastern knotted the 2009 meeting at 34 with 4:58 to play, only to have the Grizzlies drive for the winning score with 1:18 left in a 41-34 victory. In 2007, Eastern kicked a go-ahead field goal with 2:20 to play before top-ranked Montana kicked the game-winner with 26 seconds to play after converting a fourth-and-10 play. Eastern wide receiver Aaron Boyce had the fourth-best receiving effort in Big Sky Conference history with a school-record 17 catches in the 2007 meeting to earn NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Offensive Player of the Week honors from The Sports Network. His 232 receiving yards were the second-most in school history, and Eagle quarterback Matt Nichols passed for a career-high 451 yards to rank third all-time at EWU (now fourth).

* In 2004, Montana blocked a 28-yard field goal attempt by the Eagles with 18 seconds remaining as the 23rd-ranked Eagles fell to the fifth-ranked Grizzlies 31-28 in a showdown for first place in front of a Roos Field (formerly Woodward Field) record crowd of 10,754.

* In 2002 at Albi Stadium in Spokane, Eastern beat the No. 1 ranked and unbeaten Grizzlies 30-21, ending Montana’s record-tying winning streak in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision at 24 games. It was the first Big Sky Conference loss for UM head coach Joe Glenn, and snapped Montana’s record winning streaks of 25 Big Sky games in a row and 13 league road games in a row. And in the process, the Eagle victory opened the door for Montana State and Idaho State to share the conference title with the Grizzlies.


Eagle-Grizzly Connections

* New Montana offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Timm Rosenbach was an Eastern coach from 2000-2002 under former Eagle head coach Paul Wulff. In fact, current Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin took over as offensive coordinator at EWU in 2003 when Rosenbach left Eastern for a position at his alma mater, Washington State. In his three seasons at EWU, Eastern was 1-2 versus Montana (41-31 loss in Spokane in 2000, 29-26 loss in two overtimes in Missoula in 2001 and a season-ending 30-21 win over the top-ranked and unbeaten Grizzlies in 2002 in Spokane). In his first season as offensive coordinator in 2001, the Eagles led the nation in total offense, averaging 514.5 yards per game and nearly 42 points per contest. Timm’s wife, the former Kim Exner, is a former volleyball player at Eastern (1995-98) and was inducted into the Eastern Athletics Hall of Fame in 2001. They met when Timm was coaching at EWU.

* Eastern has no players from Montana on its roster, but the Grizzlies have 14 from the state of Washington, including a quartet from the Spokane area. In fact, Saturday’s game will be a high school reunion for graduates of Ferris and Bellevue high schools. The Eagles have a trio of Ferris grads on their roster, including Jeff Minnerly, McKenzie Murphy and Jordan Tonani, and Montana has two – starting offensive linemen Kjelby Oiland and Trevor Poole. Eastern’s Rusty Haehl is a 2008 graduate from Bellevue, and Montana’s Peter Nguyen, Cam Warren and John Kanongata’a all attended school there. Kanagata’a intercepted a pass with 25 seconds to play to preserve Montana’s victory in last year’s meeting.

* Eastern standouts Zach Johnson and Brandon Kaufman have had big games against Montana the last two seasons. Johnson had 13 tackles a year ago after having 11 tackles in the debut of EWU’s red Sprinturf surface at Roos Field in 2010. Kaufman caught five passes for 119 yards a touchdown in 2010, and had five catches against UM a year ago. Both players had their 2011 seasons cut short because of injuries.

* Running back Jordan Talley carried 19 times for 114 yards in last year’s game versus UM, the first of two-straight 100-yard games he had as a true freshman in 2011.

* As a senior at Montana State in 2002, EWU receivers coach Junior Adams scored the winning touchdown in a 10-7 victory over rival Montana at Washington-Grizzly Stadium in Missoula that ended MSU’s 16-game losing streak versus the Grizzlies.


Eagles to Watch For

* Transfer quarterback Kyle Padron has passed for 788 yards and four touchdowns in three games as an Eagle. Padron, Eastern’s second-straight transfer from Southern Methodist University, had his first touchdown pass as an Eagle with 3-yard touchdown strike to redshirt freshman Jake Withnell in the second quarter against Idaho. Eastern’s previous SMU transfer, Bo Levi Mitchell, led the Eagles to the 2010 NCAA Division I Championship and won the 2011 Walter Payton Award given to the top player in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision. Padron (pronounced “puh-DRONE”) passed for 5,902 yards and 41 touchdowns in his 24-game career at SMU, including 21 as a starter (12-9 record). He was 5-1 as a freshman, as SMU’s late-season surge helped it beat Nevada 45-10 in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl. Padron passed for a school-record 460 yards and two touchdowns to earn Hawaii Bowl MVP honors, then started all 14 games as a record-breaking sophomore (7-7 record). Mitchell was injured in the 2009 season at SMU and transferred to EWU after Padron secured the starting job mid-way through his freshman season. The same thing happened in 2011 to Padron, who suffered ankle and back injuries and was replaced in the lineup by J.J. McDermott for the final 11 games of the year.

* All-American wide receiver Nicholas Edwards has caught seven passes for 124 yards thus far to move into eighth on Eastern’s all-time receiving yards list with a current total of 2,322 (on 185 catches with 29 touchdowns). The 6-3, 200-pound Edwards is by far the most decorated Eastern player returning, having earned first team NCAA Football Championship Subdivision All-America accolades on seven different teams in 2011 -- American Football Coaches Association, The Sports Network, College Sporting News “Fabulous Fifty”, Walter Camp Football Foundation, Phil Steele Publications, Beyond Sports College Network and College Sports Journal. He also earned second team accolades from Associated Press and after catching a school-record 95 passes for 1,250 yards and 19 touchdowns to lead FCS. Fellow receiver Greg Herd earned Beyond Sports College Network honorable mention All-America recognition, having caught 67 passes for 1,022 yards and seven scores. He was a second team All-Big Sky Conference selection.

* Eastern led the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision in passing offense in 2012, 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.

* Among the injured players returning were five lost for the year early in the 2011 season – All-America wide receiver Brandon Kaufman (knee/hand), guard Ashton Miller (Achilles), guard Steven Forgette (broken fibula), guard Jase Butorac (knee) and linebacker Zach Johnson (knee). All but Butorac started in Eastern’s 2012 opener versus Idaho.

* Eastern regained the services of linebacker Zach Johnson, who was injured as a senior in 2011 and was granted a sixth year by the NCAA to complete four years of eligibility. Johnson had 19 games wiped out, including the entire 2009 season, because of the same knee injury. He has 274 tackles in his career, just 14 from moving into eighth all-time at Eastern. He is only 67 from ranking fifth and equaling the total of 341 by his twin brother Matt Johnson, who now plays for the Dallas Cowboys.

* 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 108 games worth of experience (77 starts), and have collective totals of 440 catches for 6,140 yards and 59 touchdowns. Edwards and Herd are seniors and Kaufman is a junior after he received an injury redshirt in 2011.

* Brandon Kaufman redshirted the 2011 season as an injury hardship case, but in 2010 was a first team All-America selection by the College Sporting News and fourth team from Phil Steele Publications. He was a first team All-Big Sky selection with 76 catches for 1,214 yards and 15 touchdowns as a sophomore when he helped lead the Eagles to the NCAA Division I title.

* Eastern also has lots of experience at tight end, with junior Zack Gehring returning as a starter, sophomore Ryan Seto back after a redshirt season and junior Cody Humphrey getting lots of action in 2011 after moving from the offensive line. Gehring led the tight ends by catching six passes for 63 yards in 2011, and had 12 catches for 173 yards and two scores in 2010.

* Eastern’s top offensive lineman returning is 6-foot-6, 310-pound senior tackle Will Post, who earned honorable mention All-Big Sky Conference honors a year ago. He has started 24 games – the most among Eastern’s offensive linemen and third most overall.

* In the secondary, Eastern is replacing a starting cornerback (Alden Gibbs) and one of three players who shared the starting safety positions last year (Matt Johnson, now with the Dallas Cowboys). Cornerback T.J. Lee III and safeties Jeff Minnerly and Allen Brown return to starting positions. The newcomer, cornerback Ronald Baines, had an interception against Idaho in EWU’s opener to set-up an Eagle field goal. Lee was a first team All-Big Sky selection a year ago, finishing the season with 48 tackles, a pair of interceptions and one pass broken up.

* Running back is another area where the Eagles have plenty of experience, with four players sharing the load last year. That group includes no seniors, and each of the four players – Demitrius Bronson, Mario Brown, Quincy Forte and Jordan Talley -- started at least one game. Talley started six games and rushed for a team-high 413 yards and five touchdowns. Bronson, who has overcome a rash of injuries to claim the starting position heading into 2012, rushed for just 21 yards in 2011. Forte had 270 yards rushing and 215 receiving as a true freshman, while Brown added 141 yards on the ground. Brown is redshirting the 2012 season.

* Jake Miller, after nearly setting a school record with a 44.2 average per punt, was named to the College Sports Journal All-Freshman All-America Team in 2011. He also earned honorable mention All-Big Sky accolades.

* Safety Jeff Minnerly had an honor-filled career as a 4.0 student at nearby Ferris High School in Spokane, Wash., and he has followed that with a variety of athletic and academic awards at Eastern. In 2011, he repeated as a honorable mention All-Big Sky Conference selection and was selected to the Capital One Academic All-District VIII squad for the second-straight year as well. 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. He has a 3.78 grade point average as a finance major. In his 34-game Eastern career – 20 as a starter – he has 139 total tackles with five interceptions, nine passes broken up, two forced fumbles and 10 tackles for loss. Minnerly started eight of 11 EWU games in 2011, and ranked second on the team with 77 tackles.

* Eastern’s defensive line returns honorable mention All-Big Sky Conference end Paul Ena, who finished his junior campaign in 2011 with 48 tackles and three sacks. Another end, senior Jerry Ceja, had a team-leading 5 1/2 sacks and finished with 21 tackles total. First-year starter Evan Day, a sophomore, had 1 1/2 sacks in his starting debut versus Idaho, and Ceja had a pair versus Weber State on Sept. 22.

* Senior linebacker Tyler Washburn battled a knee injury and had only 20 tackles in 2011, but he finished his sophomore season with 54 and had 41 as a freshman in 2009.

* At kicker, Eastern lost senior Mike Jarrett after he broke EWU’s career record for kick scoring (236) and the single season record for field goals (16). An impressive 16-of-18 (88.9 percent) kicking field goals in the 2011 season, Jarrett has been replaced by senior Jimmy Pavel and junior Kevin Miller. Pavel handled kickoff duties for the Eagles in 2011, and Miller held the job the two previous seasons when he also made 2-of-3 field goals. Thus far this season, Pavel is handling placekicking duties and Miller is kicking off.

* Eastern also returns one of the league’s premier long snappers in senior Jake Potter. Potter is inconspicuous, which means he’s good, laughs Baldwin. “It’s kind of nice when you forget about your long snapper, because that means they are so consistently good that you don’t notice them,” he said. “When you aren’t thinking about them, that’s usually a good thing.”

* Three of Eastern’s top four safeties on the depth chart are all graduates of Ferris High School in Spokane, Wash. Senior Jeff Minnerly is a three-year starter, and he is joined this season by redshirt freshman Jordan Tonani and senior McKenzie Murphy.  Murphy, who graduated from Ferris with Minnerly in 2008, played his freshman season at Western Washington in 2008 before it dropped its football program, and remained in school there until transferring last spring to EWU.

* A total of 12 Eastern players received preseason accolades as chosen by a variety of publications, websites and organizations that cover the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision and the Big Sky Conference. Senior wide receiver Nicholas Edwards is among the seven Eagles honored with preseason All-America honors, as he earned recognition on 10 different teams. Eight of the accolades he received were as a first team selection. He was also selected to the Senior Bowl Watch List, a collection of 309 seniors from NCAA FBS and FCS schools. The other preseason All-Americans are junior wide receiver Brandon Kaufman, senior wide receiver Greg Herd, junior cornerback T.J. Lee and sophomore punter Jake Miller, and recent additions in senior offensive tackle Will Post and senior safety Jeff Minnerly.


More Eagle Season Notes

* 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. A year ago, in a 30-27 loss to Washington in Seattle, a similar pass intended for Kaufman was intercepted by the Huskies with 29 ticks left on the clock. 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.

* Junior wide receiver Brandon Kaufman received honorable mention Performer of the Week accolades in FCS by College Football Performance Awards for his performance at Washington State on Sept. 8. He finished with five catches for 142 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Kyle Padron’s 93-yard TD to Kaufman in the first quarter knotted the score at seven, and it equaled the fourth-longest pass play in school history.

* After setting a school record versus Washington State, sophomore punter Jake Miller received honorable mention Performer of the Week accolades in FCS by College Football Performance Awards. Miller averaged 46.3 yards on seven punts, including a school-record 74-yard punt on his first effort of the day against the Cougars. He broke the previous record of 71 yards set in 2006 by Ryan Donckers. His 44.4 average on 52 career punts currently ranks as the school record, placing him ahead of the 42.3 average of Jesse Nicassio (2002-03). Miller, who transferred from WSU and graduated in 2010 from Spokane’s Central Valley High School, averaged 44.3 yards a year ago and thus far has a 43.6 average on 16 boots.

* Only time will tell if EWU’s season-opening, 20-3 victory over Idaho was a renewal of a formerly intense rivalry, or just a mere happenstance meeting as it has been for more than a decade. Eastern defeated its former Big Sky Conference rival for the second-straight time, having also won 8-5 in 2003 in the Kibbie Dome. The two teams played at least once for 17-straight seasons from 1983-1999, but only twice since then. The Vandals left the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (then known as I-AA) for the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly I-A) beginning in the 1998 season. After the dust cleared in the conference shakeups in FBS recently, Idaho has announced it will return to the Big Sky Conference in all sports but football, but will remain a FBS independent at least for the time being.

* After beating Idaho 20-3, Eastern has won seven of its last eight games in domes, with the lone loss in that span a 30-17 loss in the 2011 season at South Dakota. Eastern is 4-8 all-time in the Kibbie Dome, with victories in 1985 (42-38), 1991 (34-31 in two overtimes), 2003 (8-5) and now 2012.

* Wide receiver Brandon Kaufman had five catches for 148 yards in EWU’s 20-3 win over Idaho. That performance, which included grabs of 58, 35 and 33 yards, earned Kaufman FCS National Wide Receiver Performer of the Week accolades from College Football Performance Awards. He earned the same honor from College Sports Madness. His receptions helped set-up an Eastern field goal and touchdown.

* Linebacker Ronnie Hamlin led the way for the Eagle defense in the victory over Idaho with eight tackles and a pass broken up for the Eagles. As a result, he was selected as the Root Sports Big Sky Conference Defensive Player of the Week. Eastern held Idaho to a long rush of 7 yards, forced Idaho to punt nine times and held the Vandals to a 2-of-15 performance on third down. Eastern’s defense allowed just 237 yards, with 66 of that coming through the air on a defensive breakdown by EWU in the first quarter. It was the fewest points allowed by the Eagles since beating Idaho State 38-3 in the 2009 season and Northern Colorado 16-0 two weeks earlier that year.

* Eastern was selected 12th in The Sports Network NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Top 25 preseason football poll as selected by a national panel of sportswriters, broadcasters and sports information directors. In the preseason coaches poll, the Eagles were ranked 15th, and EWU was picked as high as seventh nationally by other preseason publications and websites heading into the 2012 season. The Eagles, who won the 2010 FCS title, were ranked No. 1 in the first two polls of the 2011 season, but were not ranked at the end of the year after finishing 6-5 overall.

* Expecting to be in the hunt for the Big Sky Conference title and yet another playoff berth in the NCAA Championship Subdivision, Eastern is hoping for big things from an experienced team that features eight returning starters on offense and seven on defense, with a total of 48 returning letterwinners. And the last time Eastern had a rash of injuries like they did last season, the Eagles parlayed that experience for younger players into the NCAA Division I title in 2010.

* Among the players lost to graduation were Walter Payton Award-winning quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell, as well as All-Americans Chris Powers (center), Renard Williams (defensive tackle) and Matt Johnson (safety).

* In all, a total of 14 starters – seven on each side of the ball – suffered injuries that kept them out of the lineup in 2011, including seven players lost for the season. Eastern stumbled to a 0-4 start, but the Eagles adjusted well to the injury epidemic and won six of their final seven games to finish with the school’s 14th winning season in the last 16 years.

* Eastern started 46 different players in the 2011 season – 24 on offense and 22 on defense – with only five players starting all 11 games. A total of 21 players made starting debuts during the season, and most of those return for the 2012 campaign.

* 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).

* Although ravaged by injuries in 2011, there is definitely room for improvement on defense, as well as the running game on offense. The Eagles ranked 101st out of 120 FCS schools in total defense, surrendering an average of 411.9 yards per game. Eastern allowed 213.2 yards rushing per game, and only 10 schools in FCS allowed more. On offense, Eastern led FCS in passing offense (368.5 yards per game), but was 112th in rushing with an average of 79.0 per game.

* 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.


Records Watch

* Wide receiver Nicholas Edwards is just 51 receiving yards away from moving into seventh all-time in Eastern history (he currently has 2,322), and is three points away from moving into eighth in points scored (currently he has 176). His 185 career catches ranks fourth in school history (No. 3 has 213) and his 29 TD receptions are second (the record is 46).

* Wide receiver Brandon Kaufman has 144 catches in his career to rank 12th in school history, and is just one grab away from moving into 11th, three from 10th and five from ninth. He is ninth all-time in EWU history with 2,297 reception yards, and is only 25 yards away from teammate Nicholas Edwards (2,322). Kaufman’s 20 touchdown catches are sixth, nine away from the No. 2 position held by Edwards and Aaron Boyce (2006-09). Greg Herd (111 catches for 1,521 yards and 10 touchdowns) should also be among EWU’s career leaders before the season has concluded.

* The 44.1 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 274 tackles in his career, just 14 from moving into eighth all-time at Eastern. He is only 67 from ranking fifth and equaling the total of 341 by his twin brother Matt Johnson, who now plays for the Dallas Cowboys.

* Senior defensive end Jerry Ceja 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)

* The next fumble that defensive end Paul Ena recovers will equal the school record of eight shared by Nicholas Ramos (2006-09) and Steve Mattson (1994-97).


Recent Game Summary

* The ninth-ranked Eagles jumped out to a 20-3 halftime lead and opened the 50th season of Big Sky Conference football with a 32-26 squeaker over Weber State Sept. 22 in Ogden, Utah. Redshirt freshman Vernon Adams made the first start of his career and led Eastern to scores on four of five drives in the first half as the Eagles took a 20-3 lead. 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. Sophomore running back Jordan Talley scored twice and Jimmy Pavel kicked four field goals for the Eagles, who out-gained Weber State 447-422 in total offense. However, the Eagles needed a sack and forced fumble by Jerry Ceja and fumble recovery by Will Katoa at the 50-yard line to clinch the win with 34 seconds remaining. Playing in front of about 50 family and friends, Katoa graduated in 2009 from Judge Memorial High School in Salt Lake City. Talley finished with 60 rushing yards and Quincy Forte had a team-leading 65 as EWU had 206 as a team. It was Eastern’s best rushing performance since the 2010 season -- a year ago, Eastern ranked 112th out of 120 FCS teams with an average of 79.0 per game. Junior wide receiver Brandon Kaufman, who caught 10 passes for 290 yards and a pair of touchdowns in his first two games of the season, added six catches for 126 yards and a TD against Weber State. Quarterback Kyle Padron came off the bench to complete 11-of-17 passes for 149 yards and a TD, and led Eastern to three second-half scoring drives. Junior linebacker Ronnie Hamlin led the Eagles with 11 tackles and senior linebacker Grant Williams added eight. Junior cornerback T.J. Lee had eight tackles (six unassisted), a pass broken up and had a forced fumble on a sack that he also recovered to lead to a field goal. Padron, a transfer from Southern Methodist, started EWU’s first two games of the season, but the continued improvement in practices by Adams earned him the starting nod versus the Wildcats. Adams led Eastern on a nine-play, 75-yard drive on his first possession, including a tackle-breaking, 14-yard scramble on third down for a first down. Padron had a 23-yard touchdown pass to Kaufman in the second half, which came after the fifth interception in the career of senior safety Jeff Minnerly, who also completed a pass on a fake field goal attempt earlier in the game.

* Read more at:



Quoting Coach Beau Baldwin

On Weber State Win: “It was a total team effort and Weber State is a very good football team that we defeated. Any time you find a way to win on the road and get it done, it’s huge.”

On Vernon Adams Starting over Kyle Padron: “This has been more of a battle than people think. I was proud of both quarterbacks tonight. Vernon was doing some great things in the first half and then he was fighting cramps in the second half. Kyle stepped in and made a lot of huge throws.”

On Opening 20-3 Lead at Weber State: “I liked the fact we started fast, got a lead and got up on them. That was something we wanted to improve on based on the beginning of last year when we weren’t doing that.”

On Game-Clinching Fumble at Weber State: “It’s always neat when you get to play in front of your family. When (Will Katoa) got the fumble recovery to ice it, that was beautiful. And with Jerry Ceja, you are almost kind of waiting for that to happen. Ever since he got here, he seems to find a way get a strip and force a fumble – there he was again.”

On Finishing Drives and Games: “Ultimately, we need the ability to finish. We were close finishing but we would make a mistake or have a penalty, and the next thing you know it’s a lot closer than we want. We just have to find a way to finish on both sides of the ball in order to get and keep leads of two or three scores. We’ve done that to ourselves in the past – we’ve found ways to get ourselves in close games. The thing I like about this team is that when they are in these situations, players step up and make plays. We have a lot of guys doing that in crunch time at the end.”



Career Starts

Defense (200 starts by 18 players): Zach Johnson 33, Paul Ena 26, Tyler Washburn 25, Jeff Minnerly 20, Evan Cook 17, Allen Brown 15, David Gaylord 13, Ronnie Hamlin 11, T.J. Lee 10, Cody McCarthy 5, Grant Williams 5 (includes one start on offense in 2009), Ronald Baines 4, J.C. Agen 4, Andru Pulu 3, Evan Day 3, Jerry Ceja 3, Will Katoa 2, Rusty Haehl 1.

Offense (197 starts by 22 players): Nicholas Edwards 40, Brandon Kaufman 25, Will Post 25, Steven Forgette 20, Zack Gehring 15, Greg Herd 12, Brandon Murphy 12, Drew Reynolds 8, Jordan Talley 8, Mario Brown 5, Ashton Miller 4, Ashton Clark 4, Quincy Forte 3, Clay DeBord 3, Ryan Seto 2, Kyle Padron 2, Demitrius Bronson 2, Jase Butorac 2, Cody Humphrey 2, Cory Mitchell 1, Daniel Johnson 1, Vernon Adams 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 debut since the opener was made by quarterback Vernon Adams at Weber State on Sept. 22. The redshirt freshman used his arm and his feet to lead EWU to a 20-3 halftime lead. Adams 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.

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