Tests Continue for No. 3 Eastern at FCS Rushing Leader
Eagles can clinch at least a share of their seventh Big Sky title this week, but will have to cope with the triple-option attack of Cal Poly, averaging more than 300 rushing yards per game
#3 Eastern Washington Univ. "Eagles"
Cal Poly "Mustangs"
Saturday, Nov. 16, 2013 • 12:40 p.m.
Alex G. Spanos Stadium (11,075) • San Luis Obispo, Calif.
Gameday Central: www.goeags.com/gamedaycentral
EWU Coach: Beau Baldwin (Central Washington ‘96)
School Record: 52-21/36-10 Big Sky Conference (6th Season)
Career Record: 62-24 (7th Season -- was 10-3 at CWU in 2007, 6-5 at EWU in 2008, 8-4 in 2009, 13-2 in 2010, 6-5 in 2011, 11-3 in 2012)
2013: 8-2/6-0 Big Sky
2012: 11-3/7-1 Big Sky Conference (co-champ; FCS Playoffs semifinals)
Last Game: #3 EWU 54, Montana State 29 (Nov. 9 in Cheney, Wash.)
TV: Televised live regionally by ROOT Sports & DirectTV Audience Network 101. Talent: Tom Glasgow (play by play), Jason Stiles (analyst), Jen Mueller (sideline)
Radio: 700-AM ESPN in Spokane. Larry Weir returns for his 23rd 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 Washington Trust Bank Tailgate Show, starting 1 1/2 hours prior to kickoff.
Internet Radio: www.700espn.com or www.tunein.com.
Radio iPhone App: Search for “700 ESPN” and download app. An app is also available for tunein radio.
Live Stats: http://livestats.prestosports.com/calpoly
Weekly Coaches Show: Mondays 6 p.m. at “Epic” at Northern Quest Resort & Casino (formerly the “Q”) . . . 700-AM ESPN, www.700espn.com & via iphone app. (search for “Spokane Radio” and download app).
Watch Parties: Consult EWU social media outlets for details the Friday before games. Those who may carry EWU games include “Epic” at Northern Quest Casino and Resort in Airway Heights, the Swinging Doors in North Spokane and at Eagles Pub in Cheney.
Fresh off their 54-29 dismantling of previously fourth-ranked Montana State, the Eagles play at NCAA Football Championship Subdivision rushing leader Cal Poly on Saturday (Nov. 16). Kickoff is 12:40 p.m. Pacific time for the second of three-straight EWU games televised on ROOT Sports
The Eagles are 8-2 overall and a perfect 6-0 in Big Sky Conference play for the first time in school history. Eastern hasn’t lost since falling at Sam Houston State 49-34 on Sept. 28 and are ranked third in The Sports Network FCS Top-25 Poll for the fourth-straight week.
Eastern can wrap-up at least a share of their seventh Big Sky Conference title in school history with a win this week. The Eagles can clinch the automatic berth in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs with a victory and a Northern Arizona loss. A win and losses by both NAU and Montana State would clinch the outright title. The Eagles shared the title with Cal Poly and Montana State last year, and have also won league titles in 1992, 1997, 2004, 2005 and 2010.
“We have to go play a really good Cal Poly team on the road and that is all that matters,” said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin. “Whether we are 5-1, 4-2, or 6-0 in the Big Sky, this is a big game coming up. It is huge to get this win and to get in this position. We control our own destiny which is all you can ask for this late in the year. But with all that being said, we are playing a Cal Poly team that is really impressive, especially defensively.”
The triple-option attack of Cal Poly is averaging 308.6 rushing yards per game to lead FCS, and had 424 in an easy 42-7 home win over Sacramento State last week. The Hornets had just 258 yards of offense, as Cal Poly enters this week’s game ranked 34th in FCS in total defense (350.0 per game) and 16th in scoring defense (21.0).
But the Mustangs, who earlier this year were ranked six-straight times by The Sports Network, are this year’s hard-luck Big Sky team. Two of their losses were to NCAA Football Bowl Division teams (nationally-ranked Fresno State 41-25 and Colorado State 34-17), as well as narrow losses to then No. 9 Montana (21-14 in overtime) and No. 16 Northern Arizona (17-13). Cal Poly also fell at home to Yale (24-10).
“We are going to play a really good Cal Poly team, and it is a really tough atmosphere to play in,” said Baldwin. “They are a couple nail-biters away from being in this race.”
Eastern, meanwhile, tries to keep on its current roll which has seen the Eagles score a combined 109 points in back-to-back games. That is unprecedented in the school’s history in the Big Sky, and the best for an Eastern team since 1966. EWU has scored 151 in the last three games, also its best since 1966. Eastern is just 80 points from the school record of 488 set in 2004.
During its current six-game winning streak – all against Big Sky foes -- Eastern has outscored its opponents by a 261-143 margin – a 43-23 average score. The last loss for EWU was 49-34 at Sam Houston State on Sept. 28, and its other loss was 33-21 to NCAA Football Championship Subdivision foe Toledo.
“We just have to stay on course,” added Baldwin. “We are in a great position, but at the same time, it is going to take an even better week during practice. We can’t have any emotional letdown coming off the Montana State win because Cal Poly is very good.”
Following this week’s game, Eastern closes the regular season with Senior Day at Roos Field versus Portland State on Nov. 23 at 2:45 p.m. Playoff pairings are announced the following day at 8 a.m. Pacific time on ESPNU.
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* The Eagles are trying to become the first Big Sky team to finish the league season undefeated and win the outright league title since Montana did it in 2009. The Grizzlies are the only team to win the outright league title since 1997, having accomplished that feat in 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2006 and 2007 and 2009. Eastern won the title in 1997 with a 7-1 record.
* The Eagles set a Big Sky Conference record by averaging 12.3 yards per play (591 yards, 48 plays) in a 54-29 win over Montana State in a matchup of the Nos. 3 and 4 teams in FCS on Nov. 9. The previous record was 11.1 set in a 62-14 victory by Northern Arizona over Portland State in 2010. Outside of kneel-down snaps at the end of the game, Eastern scored touchdowns on all eight of its possessions. Since 1996, only six times has EWU averaged 9.0 yards per play, and two of them have come in the last two games. Eastern had a school-record 743 yards against Idaho State on Nov. 2 for an average of 9.6 per game. Three of those performances were against non-FCS foes, and the other was a 9.9 average in a 50-17 win over Portland State in 2010 (523 yards on 53 plays).
* Hit hard by injuries in recent weeks, all the starting positions in Eastern’s secondary had new personnel in EWU’s 54-29 win over Montana State. In fact, all four are normally cornerbacks and combined for 34 tackles and three career-high performances in the win. Most notable was the move to free safety of senior All-American T.J. Lee III, a starter a cornerback for 29 previous games. He responded with a career-best 14 tackles and the fourth interception of his career. Strong safety was manned by converted cornerback Miles Weatheroy, and he finished with a career-high eight stops. Ronald Baines remained at cornerback, but moved from the field position to the boundary position. And making the first start of his career was senior Bo Schuetzle at field cornerback. Baines finished with a season-high seven tackles and Schuetzle had a career-high five. Eastern played the second-straight game without starting strong safety Allen Brown (hamstring) and backup safety Todd Raynes (hamstring). UCLA transfer and starting free safety Tevin McDonald suffered a broken fibula against Idaho State on Nov. 2 and will be lost for at least the remainder of the regular season and first part of the FCS Playoffs. Eastern allowed 504 total yards against Montana State, but just 23 rushing yards in the second half after allowing 151 in the first 30 minutes.
* In November and beyond, Eastern is 15-1 since 2010 and 24-4 since 2007. Since 2010, EWU is 31-3 after Oct. 1, including an 11-0 mark two years ago, 6-1 in 2011, 8-2 in 2012 and 6-0 thus far in 2013. The lone losses were a 43-26 home loss in 2011 versus Portland State, a 30-27 road setback at Southern Utah on Oct. 27, 2012 and a 45-42 playoff loss to Sam Houston State.
* The Eagles are now 21-3 all-time on the red turf at Roos Field since 2010 when the stadium was renamed to Roos Field (formerly Woodward Field). Eastern avenged its first-ever loss at “The Inferno” with a 54-29 victory for the third-ranked Eagles over the fourth-ranked Bobcats on Nov. 9, 2013. Montana State handily defeated the Eagles 36-21 in Cheney in 2011, and the only other losses on the red turf were a 43-26 loss to Portland State on Oct. 29, 2011, and a 45-42 setback to Sam Houston State in the semifinals of the FCS Playoffs on Dec, 15, 2012. Eastern was 8-0 at home during the debut year when EWU won the NCAA Division I title, 2-2 in 2011, 7-1 in 2012 and 4-0 thus far in 2013.
* Just a few tickets are available for EWU’s Senior Day game Nov. 23 versus Portland State. Eastern’s last three games have been sellouts, with crowds of between 9,734 and 10,223. Eastern is averaging 9,110 fans per game in four games at Roos Field thus far, and is on pace to break the record of 8,898 in the 2011 season. Last season, when EWU played eight home games, EWU averaged 8,089 fans per game.
* Ranked for the 26th-consecutive time, Eastern remained third this week in The Sports Network Top 25 FCS Poll released Monday (Nov. 11). Eastern is behind top-ranked North Dakota State and Eastern Illinois. Other Big Sky schools in this week’s rankings include Montana (#7), Montana State (#8) and Northern Arizona (#12). Eastern is third in the FCS Coaches Poll, followed by Montana (#8), MSU (#10) and NAU (#13).
* Reaching a milestone and equaling a school record against Montana on Oct 26, Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin is now 52-21 in five-plus seasons as a head coach (2008-13) and 36-10 in Big Sky Conference games. His .783 winning percentage in league games is the best-ever by an Eastern head coach and currently ranks sixth in the 50-year history of the Big Sky Conference. His 36 Big Sky victories are a school record, two better than the EWU head coach he previously served under, Paul Wulff (2000-2007). Baldwin’s .712 percentage overall is 10th in league history.
* As a team, EWU is leading FCS in passing efficiency (191.5), and is third in total offense (535.9 per game), fourth in passing (350.4), 37th in rushing (185.5) and eighth in scoring (40.8). Defensively, EWU is 95th in total defense (441.2), 58th in rushing (165.0), 117th in passing (276.2) and 75th in scoring (28.5). In addition, the Eagles are the fourth-most efficient team in red zone offense (91.7 scoring percentage), fifth in third-down conversions (50.4 percent), sixth in passing yards per completion (15.6) and 11th in pass completion percentage (67.5 percent).
* Cal Poly is leading the nation in rushing offense, averaging 308.6 yards per game. The Mustangs are 26th in FCS in total offense (441.7), 117th in passing (133.1) and 56th in scoring (27.8). Defensively, Cal Poly ranks 34th in total defense (350.0), 27th in rushing (130.6), 61st in passing (219.4) and 16th in scoring (21.0). Individually, Kristaan Ivory is 35th in rushing yards per game (94.0 with a total of 940). Nick Dzubnar is 21st in tackles (9.9 per game with a total of 99) and 19th in forced fumbles (0.3 per game with a total of three). Sullivan Grosz is 50th in sacks (0.6 per game with a total of 6 1/2).
* Eastern has had 15 of its 21 sacks in the last five games, with those 12 recorded by nine different players. For the season, 12 players have been in on sacks. A year ago, 15 Eagles contributed toward EWU’s total of 33.
* Eastern’s kickoff coverage team held Montana State to just 192 yards on nine kickoff returns (21.3 average). The Bobcats had entered the game ranked No. 1 in FCS in kickoff returns with an average of 29.0 yards per return. The average field position for the Bobcats – all after kickoffs – was their own 22-yard line, including the first three inside the 20.
* Eastern has outscored opponents 232-144 in the first half (119-56 in the first quarter) and have had leads at intermission in all of its wins. Eastern is 0-2 when it trails at halftime and the Eagles have a 176-141 scoring edge in the second half.
* The Eagles have already won a nailbiter in 2013, and have now won 12 games since 2010 when trailing or tied in the fourth quarter. Besides a 49-46 victory over 25th-ranked Oregon State in 2013, Eastern won three in 2012 (Montana, Montana State, UC Davis), two in 2011 and six in the 2010 national title season.
* Eastern’s 49-46 victory at No. 25 Oregon State on Aug. 31, 2013, was just the fourth time since the division was created in 1978 that a FCS (formerly known as I-AA) team defeated a ranked FBS opponent. The other times that feat occurred came in 1983 (Cincinnati def. #20 Penn State 14-3), 2007 (Appalachian State def. #5 Michigan 34-32) and 2010 (James Madison def. #13 Virginia Tech 21-16).
Player Fast Facts
* For directing a perfect 8-for-8 performance by the offense in third-ranked Eastern Washington University’s 54-29 victory over fifth-ranked Montana State, sophomore quarterback Vernon Adams has been selected by The Sports Network as its co-National Offensive Player of the Week. Adams, a 6-foot, 190-pound sophomore from Pasadena, Calif., also earned national player of the week honors from College Sports Madness and Beyond Sports Network, and was the College Football Performance Awards FCS Quarterback Performer of the Week. In addition, he was selected as the Big Sky Conference Offensive Player of the Week for the third time this season and fifth time of his career. The Walter Payton Award candidate completed 16-of-18 passes for 300 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions against the Bobcats, and also rushed for 76 yards and a touchdown. Adams finished with an efficiency rating of 302.2, barely missing on school and Big Sky Conference records. “Vernon was special and the receivers were special,” praised Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin. “Just two incompletions -- that is impressive. That is just the type of player he is. He keeps getting better, and he keeps working at it.”
* McKenzie Murphy, a safety on last year’s Eagle squad and former player on the now-defunct Western Washington football program, applied for and was granted a waiver by the NCAA to play the remainder of the season for the Eagles. He was granted the waiver for personal circumstances that were not within his control, and was given the ruling on Nov 8. He will practice this week and travel to this week’s game at Cal Poly where he may play for the injury-ravaged Eagle secondary and on special teams. In his sixth academic year since graduating in 2008 from Ferris High School in Spokane, Wash., Murphy played the 2008 season at Western, which dropped its program the following January. He stayed at Western and eventually received his degree in accounting, and is now pursuing his master’s degree at EWU in computer science. Murphy, who turned 24 on Oct. 20, transferred to EWU in January 2012 and played for EWU that fall. Despite missing two games with a broken thumb that required surgery and one with a concussion, he played in 11 games as a backup safety and had 13 tackles and a pair of interceptions. One of his picks was against Southern Utah when he was playing with a heavily-padded cast. While at Ferris, Murphy was an Associated Press first team All-State selection and was the Greater Spokane League Defensive MVP. He had 120 tackles and three interceptions as a senior.
Murphy said he originally started the appeal process in the summer to get the waiver, but an academic internship conflicted with early-season practices. He said the NCAA responded quickly upon presenting his final documentation, and within 24 hours was eligible again. “I wanted to progress my career outside of football, and I had time constraints with the internship that wouldn’t allow me to play,” Murphy said. “But when the injuries starting occurring, the coaches and I started joking about my eligibility and I completed the appeal.”
* In just the last three games alone, Eastern sophomore wide receiver/kickoff returner Shaquille Hill has been involved in long plays of 44, 68, 76, 80 and 86 yards – including four from sophomore quarterback Vernon “Big Play V.A.” Adams. Included were TD receptions of 68 and 76 yards last week against Montana State, and an 86-yard TD catch versus Montana. All three rank in the top 50 in school history, and the 86-yard catch is eighth. In all, Hill has nine plays of at least 40 yards in his young career, including kickoff returns of 99, 93 and 80 yards. He had a non-scoring kickoff return of 80 yards against Idaho State on Nov. 2 and later scored on a 44-yard pass as he finished the game with 144 all-purpose yards on just three touches (two kickoff returns and one reception) for an average of nearly 50 yards per touch. One game earlier versus Montana, Hill had an 86-yard TD catch to rank as the eighth-longest in school history.
* Now 16-3 as a starter at EWU, Vernon Adams has 26 pass completions already in his career of at least 40 yards, including 17 for touchdowns. All but four of those have come this season. For the second-straight year, Adams was a finalist for Geico Play of the Year (winner announced Nov. 29). Jerry Rice Award candidate Cooper Kupp is just 104 yards from breaking the FCS record for single season receiving yards by a freshman, and is also on the verge of equaling the FCS record for most consecutive games with a touchdown catch. He already has 60 catches for 1,092 yards and 14 touchdowns, and has had at least one TD reception in all 10 of the games he has played in his young career. Appalachian State’s Sean Price holds the FCS freshman record for catches (81) and yards (1,196) in a season in 2012. Randy Moss holds the FCS record for most touchdown catches by a freshman with 19 during the 1996 season at Marshall. The FCS record for most consecutive games with a TD catch is 11 set by Moss in 1996, Cal Poly’s Ramses Barden in 2008 and EWU’s Brandon Kaufman in 2010.
* In the last three games, Vernon Adams has passed for 1,189 yards and 15 touchdowns, and in the last four, Cooper Kupp has caught 38 passes for 665 yards and six TDs. Adams completed his first 10 passes and finished 16-of-18 for 300 yards, no interceptions and a passing efficiency rating of 302.2 against Montana State on Nov. 9. He nearly broke the Big Sky and school record of 310.4 set by Eastern’s Mark Tenneson versus Sonoma State in 1992 (10-of-14/71 percent, 265 yards, 4 TDs, 0 Int.). One game earlier, Adams passed for 432 yards and five touchdowns in a 55-34 win over Idaho State on Nov. 2 and he had the fifth-best performance in school history one week earlier with 457 against Montana. Kupp has had performances of 11, 11, 8 and 8 catches in his last four games, with yardage total of 168, 182, 205 and 110. His 205 yards against Idaho State ranks as the sixth-most all-time at EWU.
* Vernon Adams, a candidate for the Payton Award given to the top player in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision, had four touchdown passes in EWU’s 54-29 win over Montana State to give him 39 and break the school-record of 37 held by Bo Levi Mitchell in 2010. Adams now ranks second in Big Sky history behind the 42 Brian Ah Yat for Montana had in 1996. It also ranks 14th in FCS history. Jimmy Garoppolo from Eastern Illinois currently has 40 to rank ninth. Ah Yat is seventh, with the record 56 shared by Willie Totten of Mississippi Valley (1984) and Bruce Eugene of Grambling (2005). Adams is on pace to set the school record for passing efficiency (192.2) and is currently second in passing yards per game (337.8), with his total of 3,378 passing yards and 3,848 yards of total offense ranking eighth and seventh, respectively.
* With at least one TD reception in every game thus far, redshirt freshman Cooper Kupp has 14 TD catches (second in FCS) on 60 catches this season – a TD for every 4.3 catches so far. The next-best freshman in FCS has seven receiving TDs. A candidate for the Jerry Rice Award given to the top Freshman in FCS, Kupp is averaging 18.2 yards per catch (60-1092). He is sixth in FCS and tops among freshmen in receiving yards per game (109.2), fourth in receiving yards and 26th in receptions per game (6.0). His TD catch total already ranks fifth all-time at EWU (the school record is 19), his yardage is eighth and his catches are 15th.
* Buck Buchanan Award candidate Ronnie Hamlin needs just one tackle to become only the ninth player in school history to record 300 career tackles. He had 10 tackles against Idaho State on Nov. 2 and a key third-quarter interception that led to an Eagle TD. His 10 tackles was the 12th time in his now 35-game career (32 as a starter) he has had double figures in tackles. One game earlier against Montana, Hamlin also had 10 tackles in EWU’s 42-37 victory. He helped the Eagles hold Montana to 140 rushing yards, well below the 214.6 the Grizzlies were averaging entering the game and the 407 they had against EWU a year ago. In the decisive third quarter when EWU took a 42-17 lead, Eastern out-gained the Grizzlies in total offense 214-46.
* Vernon Adams is ranked No. 1 again this week in passing efficiency in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision. With a 67.4 percent completion rate (213-of-316 to rank seventh in FCS), 3,378 yards (third), 39 touchdowns (second) and nine interceptions for the season, he has a rating of 192.2. Eastern also leads the nation with a 191.5 team rating. Adams is second in FCS in points responsible for with an average of 26.2 per game (total of 260 to rank first, with 39 TD passes, four rushing touchdowns and one two-point conversion). He is also second in FCS in total offense per game (384.8) and third in passing yards per game (337.8 per game).
* In other individual national rankings senior receiver Ashton Clark is 14th in punt returns with an average of 11.2 per return and a career-long of 30 against Idaho State. Clark is also 36th in receiving yards (77.7 per game, with a total of 777 to rank 36th) and 54th in receptions (5.2 per game, with a total of 52). Sophomore Shaq Hill is 48th in all-purpose yards per game (116.8, with totals of 586 receiving and 463 on kickoff returns). Senior cornerback T.J. Lee, who is now tied for the school record for career forced fumbles with six, has three this season to rank 19th in FCS in average per game (0.30). He also is 27th in fumble recoveries per game (0.30), with a total of three.
* Junior running back Quincy Forte has had back to back career days, including 123 and two touchdowns against Montana State on Nov. 9. One game earlier he had 119 rushing yards on just six carries (19.8 per rush) versus Idaho State. He had an 83-yard touchdown that ranks as the ninth-longest rush in school history, and the longest since Taiwan Jones had a school-record 96-yarder at Idaho State on Oct. 3, 2009.
* Boise, Idaho, native Cody McCarthy had had 23 tackles in his last two games, including a career-high 12 versus Montana State on Nov. 9 and 11 one game earlier against Idaho State. He now has four performances of at least 10 stops in his 29-game career (15 as a starter).
* Senior cornerback T.J. Lee had a trio of passes broken up at Idaho State on Nov. 9, giving him 21 in his career and moving into seventh in school history. He had a career-high 14 tackles and the fourth interception of his 44-game career (30 as a starter) one game later against Montana State in his first-ever start at safety for the Eagles.
* Safety Allen Brown missed the first game of his Eastern career at Idaho State because of a hamstring injury suffered versus Montana. Nearing the school record of 51 games played, he had played in 48 of a possible 48 games in his career (34 as a starter) until the ISU game, and also missed EWU’s game versus Montana State.
* Junior defensive end Evan Day has had a sack in each of EWU’s last five games, giving him five on the season and 13 in his 33-game career (13 as a starter).
Quoting Coach Baldwin
On Shuffle in Secondary Versus MSU: “I thought they all played great. T.J. was playing out of position, and a couple of other corners were playing more than they have all year. I thought they did great, especially with their response in the second half. We were still able to hold them to one score in the second half and that was big.”
On Sweeping Montana: “We are coming a long way. I have a lot of respect for those Montana programs like a lot of other programs. Those two Montana programs are huge, so to win the last four against them in back-to-back years is special. It is a combination of a lot of things helping us to get to that point. I couldn’t be happier for all the people that are a part of it.”
On Eastern’s 500th Win All-Time in Victory Over MSU: “I can’t think of a better way (to have the 500th win). I just thank the fans, the guys that went out there and played, and our coaches. It was a total team effort, and the environment was awesome. I can’t think of a better way to win. Montana State is a very good football team. We were able to really play a great football game and finish, especially in the second half.”
On Getting His 50th EWU Win in Missoula: “It wasn’t anything I was thinking about before the game, but after the fact it was a pretty cool deal to end up hitting that 50th win in that stadium. I have so much respect for the Montana program and that atmosphere.”
On Importance of Winning in Missoula to Seniors: “Twice in your career you get an opportunity to play there. To get that victory for our seniors was special, and now our program has beaten Montana three of the last four years. It’s been a long time (since 1992) that Eastern has beaten Montana in back-to-back seasons. There are a lot of things from that victory that are special to our seniors and program.”
On Importance of Montana Win in FCS: “It was a huge league game and it had national implications. Whether we are from the same league or not, it was a game between two top 10 teams. Our players embrace coming into (tough) environments and love the challenge of that. We loved the challenge going into this and we knew it was going to be tough to find a way to win.”
On Vernon Adams: “People want to look at the big plays and those are great, but we have a player with guts to take shots and go for it. If he gets a pick or two, so be it. But he has the guts to go win games and stand in there. Sometimes when quarterbacks are so athletic like Vernon, they don’t get the credit for being a 68 percent passer and standing in the pocket and taking shots. That’s what I appreciate so much. He’s right up there with Matt Nichols for being the smartest quarterback I’ve had as a sophomore in terms of thinking quick, his understanding and getting things right on the field. It’s a lot of fun to coach that type of player.”
On Preseason Schedule: “This was definitely the toughest preseason schedule we’ve had since I’ve been here in terms of the first four games. But I invite it – I love it. It’s helped us be battle-tested because we’ve been in some serious wars. It’s tough and it’s a challenge. We were put on a stage on the road against one of the top teams at our level and now we have move forward in a very tough conference.”
On Being Fourth FCS School to Defeat a Ranked FBS Team: “It’s big and shines a light on our program, even more than before. I’m not going to undersell it – it’s huge for the program and what it does in recruiting and the image of who we are.”
On Victory Over No. 25 Oregon State: “I’m proud of our players. We’ve come up short before in games like this, but I’m proud when I see them out there fighting, not getting wide-eyed and attacking the situation. When things don’t go right, we want them to be ready to respond. And our team did that against a very good Oregon State football team. Winning the ballgame is huge, but I was just proud of how our team handled every situation that came up in the game.”
On Coaching Eagle Players: “The best part about coaching to me is working with 18 to 23-year-old student-athletes and getting a chance to make an impact in their lives. We get to watch them grow, and it’s fun to be a part of that process. The culture and attitude that has been built over the years has grown to a new level. We’ve had great players and leaders here before, but this group has learned from past teams and players on how to prepare in the offseason and what to do in the summer. The makeup and mental attitude of our players has grown. If you have that, you have a chance to be successful and the more enjoyable it is to coach.”
Defense (237 starts by 20 players): Allen Brown 34, Ronnie Hamlin 32, T.J. Lee 30, Ronald Baines 23, Andru Pulu 23, Anthony Larry 17, Cody McCarthy 15, Evan Day 13, Will Katoa 11, J.C. Agen 8, Tevin McDonald 8, Jordan Tonani 7, Miquiyah Zamora 6, Dylan Zylstra 2, Zach Bruce 1, Zackary Johnson 1, Todd Raynes 1, Miles Weatheroy 2, Christian Hudnell 1, Bo Schuetzle 1, Frank Cange 1.
Offense (284 starts by 25 players): Steven Forgette 41, Brandon Murphy 33, Zack Gehring 30, Ashton Miller 25, Clay DeBord 22, Vernon Adams 19, Quincy Forte 13, Ashton Clark 12, Cooper Kupp 10, Demitrius Bronson 9, Jordan Talley 9, Drew Reynolds 8, Cory Mitchell 9, Ryan Seto 7, Cassidy Curtis 8, Jake Withnell 7, Mario Brown 6, Shaq Hill 3, T.J. Boatright 2, Cody Humphrey 2, Daniel Johnson 2, Jase Butorac 2, Jake Rodgers 2, Jabari Wilson 2, Zach Wimberly 1.
* Only four positions had players making their first starts as Eagles against Oregon State, and two were manned by former starters in the Pac-12 Conference. Redshirt freshman Cooper Kupp started at wide receiver and redshirt freshman Jabari Wilson started at running back. Jake Rodgers, a 12-game starter at Washington State last season, started at right tackle in his Eagle starting debut. The other Eagle starting debut was by safety Tevin McDonald, who started 24 games the past two seasons at UCLA. Sophomore wide receiver Shaq Hill made the first start of his career in EWU’s second game of the season against Western Oregon, and offensive tackle Cassidy Curtis and fullback/tight end Zach Wimberly made their first starts at Toledo. Linebacker Miquiyah Zamora made the first start of his career against Weber State and responded with five tackles (1 1/2 for loss) and had his first career interception, which led to an EWU touchdown. Against North Dakota, safety Todd Raynes and defensive end Zackary Johnson made the first starts of their careers. Raynes had a team-high seven tackles with a pass broken up in his debut, and Johnson finished with three tackles. No starting debuts were made in the Southern Utah and Montana games, but safety Zach Bruce made his first career start against Idaho State. Eastern had two new cornerbacks start against Montana State – senior Bo Schuetzle made his first career start when T.J. Lee was moved to safety and Frank Cange started when Ron Baines was late for a meeting earlier in the day.
Safeties Allen Brown (hamstring), Todd Raynes (hamstring) and Isaiah Jenkins (shoulder) missed the Montana State game, as did linebacker J.C. Agen (quadriceps). Agen is probable this week, but the other three are listed as questionable. Brown, nose tackle Will Katoa (knee) and offensive tackle Clay Debord (ankle) were all injured at Montana and missed the Idaho State game. Their collective 65 starts at the time were replaced by a trio of players with a combined two starts entering the ISU game. Until he missed the ISU game, Brown played 48 of a possible 48 games in his career, and is nearing the school record of 51. Agen and Raynes also missed the game at ISU, a game in which safety Tevin McDonald was lost for an indefinite time with a broken fibula. Wide receiver and kickoff returner Shaq Hill (knee sprain), who was injured against North Dakota and did not play versus Southern Utah, returned to play against Montana on Oct. 26 and had an 86-yard touchdown catch. Starting offensive tackle Jake Rodgers (knee sprain) and running back Jabari Wilson (shoulder) were both injured against Western Oregon on Sept. 7, but both returned to play against Montana after missing five games each. Running back Jalen Moore missed the North Dakota and Southern Utah games with a hip pointer and kidney stones. Defensive lineman Jordan Pulu had arthroscopic knee surgery on Aug. 29 and made his season debut against Weber State on Oct. 5. But he suffered a shoulder injury in that game and will have surgery. He is expected to apply for a medical hardship to receive his year of eligibility back. True freshman wide receiver Kendrick Bourne (ankle) missed the UND game but played against Southern Utah and caught a 31-yard TD pass. Offensive lineman Drew Reynolds (knee) also made his season debut against WSU after missing EWU’s first five games. Running back Demitrius Bronson (high ankle sprain) suited up versus Toledo, but sat out for the third-straight game. He carried five times and scored twice in his season debut against Sam Houston State on Sept. 28. Running back Quincy Forte (hamstring) missed the Oregon State game, but returned to rush for 99 yards against Western Oregon. Senior tight end Cody Humphrey suffered a dislocated patella in practice on Aug. 21 and required surgery, and is out for the season. As a result, defensive lineman Zach Wimberly was moved to tight end, and Ryan Seto will play as both a wide receiver and tight end. Before the season began, freshman All-America safety and Ferris HS graduate Jordan Tonani began surgical treatment for a hip ailment that will cost him the 2013 season. Tonani’s painful hip injury is called hip joint acetabular impingement, and the ailment requires surgery to both hips with six months of rehabilitation required for each. His first surgery on his left hip took place on July 29, and also included a labral tear that was repaired. He had the second surgery on his right hip on Sept. 16. He would have competed for a starting position at safety, but should return fully healthy in spring 2014.
More Player Notes
* Team co-captains for the 2013 season include a quartet of seniors from high schools in the state of Washington -- center Ashton Miller, senior wide receiver Ashton Clark, senior safety Allen Brown and junior linebacker Ronnie Hamlin. The players were selected by a vote of their teammates.
* Currently on the 2013 Buck Buchanan Watch List, senior linebacker Ronnie Hamlin has 299 tackles already in his 35-game EWU career (32 starts) to rank ninth in school history. Hamlin also has four career interceptions, and his momentum-changing 77-yard return for a touchdown against North Dakota (10/12/13) was the 10th-longest in school history. With UND driving for a potential game-tying score late in the third quarter, he leaped high to snag the third interception of his career, ran over one would-be tackler, then returned it down the sideline for his first pick-six as an Eagle. He also had a diving interception against Idaho State (11/2/13) to squelch an ISU drive and lead to an EWU TD and 45-27 lead. Despite being listed as a senior, Hamlin will eventually apply to the NCAA to receive his sixth year. After redshirting the 2009 season because of the bum knee, the injury also kept him from playing during Eastern’s national championship season in 2010. If he does get the extra year back, he could challenge the school record of 432 tackles set by 2010 Buck Buchanan Award winner J.C. Sherritt. Hamlin earned All-America honors in 2012 from Phil Steele Publications (fourth team) and was a first team All-Big Sky Conference selection. He had 136 tackles in 2012 to rank fifth in school history, and his average of 9.71 per game ranked 31st in FCS and fourth in the Big Sky.
* Senior cornerback T.J. Lee now has 221 tackles, four interceptions, 21 passes broken up and 3 1/2 sacks in his 44-game career (30 starts). He is just the 35th Eagle in school history to have 200 career tackles (currently ranked 23rd). He shares the school record with five other Eagles for most career forced fumbles with six, and his 21 passes broken up ranks seventh. Three times in his career he has forced and recovered the same fumble, with two of them occurring on quarterback sacks. One of those three came this season against North Dakota (10/12/13) when he also finished with six tackles and a pass broken up. Lee earned All-America honors in 2012 from The Sports Network (second team), and was also honored on the College Sporting News “Fabulous 50” All-America squad. He piled up some impressive statistics in 2012, ranking third on the team with 90 tackles and finishing with 11 passes broken up to rank 10th in school history. His average of 6.4 tackles per game ranked 29th in the Big Sky and his total of 11 passes broken up were second. The two-time first team All-Big Sky selection also had 2 1/2 sacks, nine total tackles for loss, an interception, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. As a sophomore in 2011, Lee was a first team All-Big Sky selection, finishing the season with 48 tackles, a pair of interceptions and one pass broken up.
* Senior offensive guard Steven Forgette earned honorable mention All-America honors in 2012 from the College Sports Journal and second team All-Big Sky accolades. He was also named to the Big Sky Conference All-Academic team. Despite missing most of the 2011 season because of an injury, Forgette’s 41 career starts are the most among all Eastern players. The only game he didn’t start in his 42-game career was to allow a senior to start on Senior Day in 2010. Forgette helped EWU rank seventh in the FCS in 2012 in passing yards per game (318.9), 14th overall in total offense (442.0) and 17th in scoring (33.7). He started all 14 Eastern games at left offensive guard a year after breaking his fibula against Montana (9/17/11) and missing the rest of the season. He earned honorable mention All-Big Sky honors as a redshirt freshman in 2010 when the Eagles won the NCAA Division I title.
* Vernon Adams currently has a career passing efficiency rating of 179.5 which ranks as the school record (64.8 percent, 5,339 yards, 59 TD, 17 INT). A starter in 19 of the 22 games he has played in his career, Adams has a career average of 242.7 passing yards per game to currently fifth all-time at EWU. His 59 TD passes are already fourth, his 5,339 yards are sixth and his 6,151 yards of total offense are fifth. He is now 16-3 as a starter, with his lone losses coming against Southern Utah in 2012 and Toledo and Sam Houston State in 2013. Adams was selected as the Freshman of the Year on the College Sporting News “Fabulous 50” All-America team in 2012, and was also on the College Sports Journal Freshman All-America squad. Adams was also one of 20 players on the ballot for the Jerry Rice Award, given to the top freshman in FCS by The Sports Network (he finished sixth in the voting, which occurred prior to the playoffs). Adams ranked fourth in FCS in passing efficiency (160.80), and was the only freshman in the top 24 of the rankings. His efficiency rating also ranked fourth all-time in school history. In nine games as a starter and three as a sub, he completed 60.9 percent of his passes for 1,961 yards, 20 touchdowns and eight interceptions.
* The Eagles finished seventh in FCS in passing offense (318.9 per game) in 2012, as returning starter Vernon Adams combined with Kyle Padron to lead EWU to the school record for passing yards. The Eagles finished with 4,469 yards, breaking the previous record of 4,102 yards in 2005. Padron started five games and played six others as a sub, and completed 59.1 percent of his passes for a team-leading 2,491 yards, 17 TDs and seven interceptions, and ranked 29th in FCS in passing yards per game (226.5). In back-to-back games in the FCS Playoffs, each had a school-record six touchdown passes -- Padron versus Illinois State (12/8/12) in the quarterfinals and Adams against Sam Houston State (12/15/12) in the semifinals. Adams completed 14-of-26 passes for 364 yards – all after intermission --- as EWU scored 42 points in the second half to rally from a 35-0 halftime deficit and nearly pull off an improbable rally.
* Despite standing just 5-foot-10, 170 pounds, senior safety Allen Brown played in 48 of 48 games in his career (34 as a starter) until missing the Idaho State game (11/2/13) with a hamstring injury. He is just three games behind the school record of 51 shared by three players. He has career totals of 218 tackles, four interceptions and 14 passes broken up. He is the 34th Eagle in school history to have 200 career tackles, and currently ranks 24th. He needs four passes broken up to rank on EWU’s top 10 list in that category. He has 34 career starts, ranking first on the defense and second overall (Steven Forgette has 41). At the end of spring practices, Brown was the recipient on defense of the “Iron Eagle” Award for achievements in the off-season in strength and conditioning and the classroom. He finished second on the team with 91 tackles in 2012 to help him earn second team All-Big Sky honors. Brown was also second on the team with seven passes broken up to go along with a pair of forced fumbles. His average of 6.5 tackles per game in 2012 ranked 28th in the Big Sky. He was also second on the team with seven passes broken up to go along with a pair of forced fumbles.
* Redshirt freshman Shaq Hill currently has the fifth-best career kickoff return average in school history (25.9) and is fifth in kickoff return yards (1,375). He was a member of the College Sports Journal Freshman All-America team and earned honorable mention All-Big Sky Conference honors in 2012. Hill, who had a 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against North Dakota (10/6/12), finished ranked 17th in FCS with an average of 26.8 yards per kickoff return. On EWU’s single season leaders lists, he finished the 2012 season ranked in the top 10 in kickoff returns (third, 34), kickoff return yards (second, 912) and kickoff return average (10th, 26.8). As a backup wide receiver, he caught seven passes for 66 yards. Hill would have had another TD in the FCS Playoffs against Illinois State (12/8/12), but the video replay official determined he dropped the ball a yard shy of the end zone and it became a non-scoring 93-yard return. He earned honorable mention All-Big Sky Conference honors. As a team, Eastern was 14th in FCS with a 23.5 average, as Cory Mitchell added a non-scoring 67-yard return in the Illinois State (12/8/12) game.
* The 43.2 career punting average of sophomore Jake Miller currently ranks as a school record, placing him ahead of the 42.3 average of Jesse Nicassio (2002-03). He has had 23 punts of 50 yards or more in his career and 10 of at least 55, including a school-record 74-yarder. He owns eight punts ranked in the top 34 in school history, with boots of 74, 59 (twice) and 57 (five times). Named to the Big Sky Conference All-Academic team in 2012, Miller had a school-record 74-yard punt versus Washington State (9/8/12), breaking the previous record of 71 set in 2006 by Ryan Donckers. Miller’s average of 43.3 yards per punt in 2012 ranks third all-time in EWU history, just behind his No. 2 ranking with a 44.2 average in 2011 (the school record is 44.4). Of his 40 punts in 2012, six were for at least 50 yards and 15 were downed inside the opponent 20-yard line.
* Ronnie Hamlin’s long hair has been a trademark of his, and a friendly wager between teammates lasted three years. During the 2010 season, Hamlin and safety Jeff Minnerly challenged each other to see who could go the longest without cutting their hair. Linebacker Zach Johnson was also in on the wager, but dropped out after EWU won the NCAA Division I title. Minnerly eventually cut his hair on Dec. 17, 2012 -- just two days after his career and the 2012 season concluded -- and donated the hair to Locks of Love.
* The top plays and honors of sophomore quarterback Vernon Adams have been encapsulated in a new web site located at www.BigPlayVA.com. Featured are some of the top plays by Adams, including his incredible scramble and touchdown throw against Sacramento State on Oct. 20, 2012, which was one of eight finalists for the GEICO Play of the Year. His game-winning touchdown run against Oregon State on Aug. 31, 2013, is also on the site. He had a school-record of 518 yards of total offense in the 49-46 upset over the Beavers in only the fourth-ever win by a NCAA Football Championship Subdivision school over a ranked member of the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision. The many accolades Adams won as a result of the OSU victory are also featured, as well as an interview on the Jim Rome Show. His complete bio, statistics and information on EWU tickets and the Gateway Project are also prominent.
* Junior safety Tevin McDonald had 135 tackles in 27 career games (24 as a starter) at UCLA, plus four interceptions and 14 passes broken up. He is the son of six-time NFL All-Pro safety Tim McDonald, who is currently the defensive backs coach for the New York Jets where he coaches former Eagle Isaiah Trufant (2002-05). Tevin’s brother, Tim, Jr., (goes by T.J.), was a senior All-America safety at USC in 2012 and was drafted in the third round of the 2013 NFL Draft by St. Louis. Tevin was with Eastern during 2013 spring practices after getting dismissed from UCLA’s squad for violating team policy.
* Another talented transfer joining the Eagles in 2013 is offensive lineman Jake Rodgers, a 12-game starter at Washington State last fall. He started at right guard in the team’s season-opener at BYU, then started at left guard in WSU’s 24-20 win over Eastern Washington. He started a total of three games at right guard (BYU, UNLV, Colorado), one at left guard (EWU), five at right tackle (Oregon, Oregon State, California, Stanford, Utah) and the final three games of the season at left tackle (UCLA, Arizona State, Washington).
* Lost for the 2013 season with a painful hip injury that required surgery to both hips, Jordan Tonani had a sensational redshirt freshman season for the Eagles in 2012. As an injury replacement for senior safety Jeff Minnerly, Tonani earned a spot on the College Sports Journal Freshman All-America squad and was awarded with honorable mention All-Big Sky honors. He started seven games and finished the year sixth on the team with 68 tackles, and also had a team-leading three interceptions with five passes broken up and a fumble recovery. In one of many impressive performances during his debut season, Tonani’s 21-yard interception return for a touchdown with 11:15 to play became the winning points in a 27-24 victory over second-ranked Montana State (10/13/12). 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.
* For the second time this season, sophomore quarterback and Walter Payton Award candidate Vernon Adams earned National Player of the Week honors from College Sports Madness for his performance against Montana on Oct. 26. He also repeated as a College Sporting News National All Star and one six recipients of Beyond Sports Network FCS Offensive Player of the Week, in addition to earning FCS Offensive Player of the Week accolades from USA Football. He completed 27-of-40 passes for a career-high 457 yards, ranking as the fifth-most in school history. His six TDs tied the school record set on five previous occasions, including once by Adams in the second half alone of last year’s loss in the semifinals of the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs.
* Redshirt freshman Cooper Kupp earned Co-Freshman of the Week honors from The Sports Network for his 11-catch, 182-yard receiving performance against Montana on Oct. 26. He was also the FCS Wide Receiver Performer of the Week as selected by College Performance Awards. In back-to-back games versus Southern Utah on Oct. 19 and against Montana, Kupp had 11 catches to equal the 12th-best in school history tied with 10 others, including teammate Ashton Clark with 11 grabs versus SUU a year ago. Kupp finished with 168 yards and a score against the Thunderbirds and versus the Grizzlies he had two touchdowns and 182 yards to rank 18th all-time at EWU. Kupp had five catches for 119 yards and two touchdowns in his debut as an Eagle against Oregon State on Aug. 31. He spent part of the summer in 2013 working at the Manning Passing Academy as a college counselor/coach. While in high school he previously attended the camp, which is run by Archie Manning, the father of NFL quarterbacks Eli and Peyton Manning. Archie is a former New Orleans Saints teammate of Cooper’s grandfather, Jake Kupp.
* Sophomore quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. and several other Eagles helped at the Russell Wilson Passing Academy in Spokane this past summer. Adams and Wilson – the starting quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks -- are similar in stature and ability, and will continue to draw comparisons as Adams’ career progresses. Adams, in fact, is now wearing jersey No. 3 for the Eagles – the same number Wilson wears -- after donning No. 16 as a redshirt freshman last season. The switch is unrelated to Wilson -- Adams wore No. 3 in high school and asked for that number after it became available when wide receiver Greg Herd graduated.
* A total of 15 Eastern players were honored on preseason All-America lists, All-Big Sky Conference teams and positional rankings released this summer by NCAA Football Championships Subdivision media outlets. Preseason All-America accolades were received by cornerback T.J. Lee III, offensive lineman Steven Forgette and linebacker Ronnie Hamlin, who was also named to the watch list for the Buck Buchanan Award presented by The Sports Network to the top defensive player in FCS.
More Team Notes
* 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, 2012, 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 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 rushed for 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.
* In EWU’s 2011 heart-stopping victory at Cal Poly, a touchdown pass by wide receiver Greg Herd sparked Eastern Washington to scores on four consecutive plays (two touchdowns and two conversions) in the second and third overtimes as the Eagles prevailed 53-51 at Alex G. Spanos Stadium. Coming on what appeared to be a designed reverse, Herd’s 25-yard TD toss to fellow wide receiver Nicholas Edwards helped send the game into a third overtime. After a game-tying point after conversion by Mike Jarrett, Bo Levi Mitchell passed 25 yards to Herd on the very next play for the go-ahead score to begin the third OT. Mitchell then scrambled his way into the end zone for the all-important two-point conversion. Cal Poly scored on the next possession, but Alden Gibbs broke up a pass on the two-point conversion to preserve Eastern’s victory. A trade of field goals – including a school-record 15th on the season by Jarrett – opened the overtime. Eastern sent the game into overtime with a 10-play, 80-yard drive to score with 1:51 to play on a 22-yard pass play from Mitchell to his older brother Cory Mitchell, who finished the game with seven catches for 132 yards.
* The Eagles registered their 500th victory all-time when the third-ranked Eagles beat fourth-ranked Montana State at Roos Field on Nov. 10. Now in its 105th year of football, Eastern is 500-401-23 (.554) in 924 games. Eastern’s game at North Dakota on Oct. 12 was Eastern’s 200th Big Sky Conference game since joining the league in 1987. As the Big Sky celebrates its 50th anniversary this season, the Eagles are in their 27th year as a member and have a current record of 119-85 (.583).
* When the No. 3 Eagles played No. 4 Montana State, only one other regular season game in EWU history has matched two higher-ranked FCS teams than this week. And that came earlier this season when the No. 2 Eagles fell at No. 4 Sam Houston State 49-34. Until this season, the previous biggest game of such magnitude came last year when second-ranked MSU lost at home 27-24 to the sixth-ranked Eagles. And in 12 of the last 18 seasons Eastern has entered the Montana game with both teams nationally-ranked, but the highest collective rankings were 13 this year when the third-ranked Eagles beat the 10th-ranked Grizzlies 42-37 in Missoula, and 14 in 2005 when the No. 12 Eagles beat No. 2 Montana 34-20 in Missoula. The previous biggest non-conference game in school history was in 1992 when the 18th-ranked Eagles lost at No. 3 Northeast Louisiana (now Louisiana-Monroe) 41-31. In the FCS Playoffs, Eastern was top-ranked when it defeated fifth-ranked Delaware 20-19 in the 2010 Championship Game. In last year’s EWU-SHSU matchup in the semifinals of the FCS Playoffs, the Eagles were fourth and Sam Houston was fifth.
* Eastern had a school-record 743 yards of offense in EWU’s 55-34 victory over Idaho State Nov. 2, with 432 through the air and 311 on the ground. The Eagles broke the previous record of 740 set in 1997 against Rocky Mountain. The coach for EWU in that game was Mike Kramer, now the head coach at ISU. Eastern’s 311 rushing yards were the most for the Eagles in their last 117 games dating back to a 331-yard performance against Idaho State on Sept. 25, 2004, in a 47-22 win.
* Eastern, which ranked fourth in the final regular season Sports Network Top-25 poll and was seeded second in the playoffs, finished the 2012 season 11-3. It was the fourth 10+ win in school history (joining the 2010, 1997 and 1967 squads), and came on the heels of EWU’s sixth Big Sky Conference Championship in football. Eastern entered the 2013 season ranked fourth in The Sports Network preseason Top-25 poll, and was ranked third by the coaches.
* The Eagles are one of just five schools in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision to advance to the playoffs six times in the last nine seasons (2004-2012), and EWU hopes to add to that this year. Eastern’s 2012 season ended with a 45-42 loss to Sam Houston State in the semifinals, denying the Eagles a repeat trip to Texas to play for the NCAA Division I title they won in 2010.
* Among the returning letterwinners are seven starters on offense and 5 1/2 on defense, as well as the school’s punter and kickoff specialist. Three All-Americans (linebacker Ronnie Hamlin, cornerback T.J. Lee, offensive guard Steven Forgette) and three others who earned Freshman All-America accolades (quarterback Vernon Adams, safety Jordan Tonani and return specialist Shaq Hill) are among the returning players. Tonani, a seven game starter in 2012, will miss the 2013 season because of hip surgery.
* Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin is back for his sixth season at the helm after being selected as one of 20 coaches on the voting list for the 2012 Eddie Robinson Award, given to the national coach of the year in FCS. He finished fifth in the voting, and was also the Big Sky Conference Coach of the Year for the first time. Baldwin has now been a part of four Big Sky Conference championships as either an Eastern assistant coach (2004, 2005) or head coach (2010, 2012). In addition, he has been a part of five FCS Playoff berths – two as an assistant (2004, 2005) and three in four seasons as head coach (2009, 2010, 2012). In receiving the Big Sky Coach of the Year honor for the first time, Baldwin is the fourth coach in school history to win the award. His predecessor, Paul Wulff, won in 2001, 2004 and 2005. Current Idaho State head coach Mike Kramer won in 1997 and Dick Zornes was Eastern’s first in 1992. The Eagles won league titles and advanced to the playoffs in all of those years except for 2001. Baldwin coached in his 100th Eastern game when the Eagles rallied to beat Montana 32-26 earlier in the 2012 season.