#3 Eastern Goes for 500th Win in Showdown With #4 MSU
First place in the Big Sky Conference and the inside track to the league title will go to the winner of Saturday’s game at sold-out Roos Field
#3 Eastern Washington Univ. "Eagles"
#4 Montana State University "Bobcats"
Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013 • 12:10 p.m.
Roos Field (8,600) • Cheney, Wash.
Gameday Central: www.goeags.com/gamedaycentral
EWU Coach: Beau Baldwin (Central Washington ‘96)
School Record: 51-21/35-10 Big Sky Conference (6th Season)
Career Record: 61-24 (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: 7-2/5-0 Big Sky
2012: 11-3/7-1 Big Sky Conference (co-champ; FCS Playoffs semifinals)
Last Game: #3 EWU 55, Idaho State 34 (Nov. 2 in Pocatello, Idaho)
TV: Televised live regionally by ROOT Sports & DirectTV Audience Network 101. Talent: Tom Glasgow (play by play), Jason Stiles (analyst), Brad Adam (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: ewulive.statb.us (web) or ewustats.com (mobile phones)
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.
Roos Field has yet another date with destiny this week.
The Eastern Washington University football team will try to secure the 500th win in school history when fourth-ranked Montana State visits the third-ranked Eagles in an epic showdown in the Big Sky Conference. Kickoff Saturday (Nov. 9) at Roos Field in 12:10 p.m. Pacific time in a battle between a pair of 5-0 league teams.
The sold-out game will be televised live on ROOT Sports, as the Eagles will end the regular season with three-straight games on the regional network. The Eagles and Bobcats are each 7-2 on the season, and this is the first matchup between Big Sky teams ranked in the top five in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision since 1994 when No. 1 Montana hosted No. 3 Idaho and won 45-21.
“It’s definitely a huge game,” said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin. “It doesn’t matter who it is, it would be a huge game. We’re both undefeated coming into it so it makes it that much bigger.”
Both teams are on a roll, with EWU entering with a five-game winning streak after last week’s 55-34 victory over Idaho State. The Bobcats, meanwhile, knocked off Northern Colorado 35-28 and has also won five-in-a-row. In fact, the last losses for both schools came more than a month ago at the hands of Southland Conference schools – EWU 49-34 at Sam Houston State on Sept. 28 and MSU seven days earlier by a 52-38 score to Stephen F. Austin. Eastern’s other loss was 33-21 to NCAA Football Championship Subdivision foe Toledo, and MSU’s other loss was 31-30 at SMU, another FBS foe.
Thus far in the Big Sky Conference games, MSU has out-scored opponents 202-88, or an average score of 40-17. Eastern has defeated its five BSC foes by a 207-114 margin – a 41-22 average score.
“Once you get down to a game on that particular day, it’s its own game,” Baldwin said. “No matter what happened in the weeks prior to it, it can go a lot of different directions just on a few plays early.”
In last year’s meeting, the Eagles scored only one offensive touchdown and kicked two field goals in a 27-24 victory over the second-ranked Bobcats. Eastern, ranked sixth at the time, scored on a blocked punt by Dylan Zylstra that was recovered for a touchdown by Evan Day, and then Jordan Tonani returned an interception 21 yards for a touchdown to rally EWU from a 17-13 deficit entering the fourth quarter.
Tonani, who is redshirting this season after surgery to both hips, was just the first of a recent epidemic of injuries at safety. Most recently, free safety Tevin McDonald was lost with a broken fibula, leaving a converted cornerback (Miles Weatheroy) and a walk-on redshirt freshman (Zach Bruce) to take over those positions.
“We have to keep getting the next player up and ready to go,” said Baldwin. “We are definitely in a spot right now where we will be playing some young players and some guys might be moving position-wise. But that’s football. Certain years you have certain positions that get hit a lot harder by injuries. Other players have to step up and find a way. We’ll be fine.”
Following this week’s game, Eastern closes the regular season with a road game at Cal Poly on Nov. 16 and Senior Day at Roos Field versus Portland State on Nov. 23.
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EWU Football News & Notes - http://www.goeags.com/sports/m-footbl/2013-14/news
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NCAA Statistics (2013) - http://stats.ncaa.org/rankings?sport_code=MFB&division=12
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College Football Performance Awards – http://www.collegefootballperformance.com
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* No tickets are currently available for Eastern’s game on Nov. 9 versus Montana State, which will feature a crowd of upwards of 10,000 at the Inferno. However, the release of tickets from group holds is possible and availability will be announced via EWU’s social media outlets.
* The Eagles are one win away from their 500th victory all-time. Now in its 105th year of football, Eastern is 499-401-23 (.553) in 923 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 118-85 (.581).
* With the No. 3 Eagles taking on the No. 4 Bobcats, only one other regular season game in EWU history has matched two higher-ranked FCS teams than this week. And that game came just over a month ago 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.
* Reaching a milestone and equaling a school record against Montana on Oct 26, Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin is now 51-21 in five-plus seasons as a head coach (2008-13) and 35-10 in Big Sky Conference games. His .778 winning percentage in league games is the best-ever by an Eastern head coach and currently ranks seventh in the 50-year history of the Big Sky Conference. His 35 Big Sky victories are a school record, one better than the EWU head coach he previously served under, Paul Wulff (2000-2007). Baldwin’s .708 percentage overall is 10th in league history, two positions ahead of Montana State’s Rob Ash, who is 57-24 overall (.704 to rank 12th in BSC history) and 40-13 in league games (.755 to rank eighth).
* Ranked for the 25th-consecutive time, Eastern remained third this week in The Sports Network Top 25 FCS Poll released Monday (Nov. 4). Eastern is behind top-ranked North Dakota State and Eastern Illinois, but is ahead of fourth-ranked Montana State. Other Big Sky schools in this week’s rankings include Montana (#10) and Northern Arizona (#14). Eastern is fourth in the FCS Coaches Poll, followed by MSU (#5), Montana (#12) and NAU (#14).
* 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.
* As a team, EWU is leading FCS in passing efficiency (183.3), and is fifth in total offense (529.8 per game), third in passing (350.8), 51st in rushing (179.0) and 11th in scoring (39.3). Defensively, EWU is 93rd in total defense (434.2), 56th in rushing (164.0), 111th in passing (270.2) and 72nd in scoring (28.4). In addition, the Eagles are the fifth-most efficient team in red zone offense (90.6 scoring percentage), ninth in third-down conversions (49.6 percent), sixth in passing yards per completion (15.3) and 11th in pass completion percentage (66.0 percent).
* Montana State is leading the nation in kickoff returns (29.0 average per return), and is fourth in turnover margin (+1.3 per game with 21 takeaways and nine giveaways) and 10th in red zone offense (89.5 percent). The Bobcats are 25th in FCS in total offense (441.1), 31st in rushing (203.3), 39th in passing (237.8) and 19th in scoring (37.6). Defensively, MSU ranks 38th in total defense (360.1), 34th in rushing (137.7), 65th in passing (222.4) and 22nd in scoring (21.7). Individually, Cody Kirk is 28th in rushing (99.3 per game) and fifth in rushing touchdowns (16). Denarius McGhee is 67th in passing yards (175.9) and 21st in efficiency (148.4). Shawn Johnson leads FCS with two kickoff returns for touchdowns and his average per return (33.4) is fourth. Brad Daly is leading FCS in sacks (1.3 per game with a total of 12) and tackles for loss (1.9 per game with a total of 17 1/2). Deonte Flowers has one interception and 12 passes broken up to rank sixth in passes defensed (1.4 per game).
* Eastern has had 12 of its 18 sacks in the last three games, with those 12 recorded by eight 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 has outscored opponents 206-123 in the first half (106-49 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 slight 148-133 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
* In the last two games, Vernon Adams has passed for 889 yards and 11 touchdowns, and in the last three, Cooper Kupp has caught 30 passes for 555 yards and five TDs. For the second-straight year, Adams is a finalist for Geico Play of the Year. Fans can vote for his game-winning touchdown run at Oregon State via Facebook on the “GEICO Best of College Football” page through Nov. 11.
* Sophomore quarterback Vernon Adams is just two touchdowns from Eastern’s single season record for touchdown passes of 37 set in 2010 by Bo Levi Mitchell. Adams passed for 432 yards and five touchdowns in a 55-34 win over Idaho State on Nov. 2, bringing his TD total to 35 for the season. In that game alone, he moved from seventh to second on EWU’s single season leaders list for TD passes. Adams completed 26-of-44 passes for the eighth 300-yard performance of his career and third with at least 400. His passing performance was the 12th-most in school history, with his 457 a week earlier at Montana ranking fifth.
* With at least one TD reception in every game thus far, redshirt freshman Cooper Kupp has 13 TD catches (second in FCS) on 52 catches this season – a TD for every 4.0 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 18.9 yards per catch (52-982). He had eight catches for 205 yards and a pair of scores in EWU’s 55-34 win over Idaho State as he had the eighth-most receiving yards in school history. Kupp already has 13 TD catches for the season to rank fifth all-time at EWU (the school record is 19). Randy Moss holds the FCS record for most touchdown catches by a freshman with 19 during the 1996 season at Marshall. Appalachian State’s Sean Price set the FCS freshman record for catches (81) and yards (1,196) in 2012. 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. Kupp had a 35-yard TD pass against ISU that gave EWU the lead for good at 31-24 near the end of the second quarter. Kupp closed out the scoring with a sensational catch and run for a 54-yard TD with 9:37 left in the game.
* Buck Buchanan Award candidate Ronnie Hamlin needs just nine tackles to become only the ninth player in school history to record 300 career tackles. He had 10 tackles against Idaho State and a key third-quarter interception that led to an Eagle TD. His 10 tackles was the 12th time in his 34-game career (31 as a starter) he has had double figures in tackles. His diving interception deep in Eastern territory was followed by an 83-yard touchdown run by Eagle Quincy Forte to open a 45-27 lead for the Eagles. 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 66.1 percent completion rate (197-of-298 to rank 12th in FCS), 3,078 yards (fourth), 35 touchdowns (second) and nine interceptions for the season, he has a rating of 185.6. Eastern also leads the nation with a 183.3 team rating. Adams is third in FCS in points responsible for with an average of 25.6 per game (total of 230 to rank second, with 35 TD passes, three rushing touchdowns and one two-point conversion). He is also third in FCS in total offense per game (385.8) and fifth in passing yards per game (342.0 per game).
* In other individual national rankings, redshirt freshman receiver Cooper Kupp is second in FCS with 13 touchdown receptions, nearly double the next-best freshman with seven. He is also sixth overall and tops among freshmen in receiving yards per game (109.1, with a total of 982 to rank fourth) and 29th in receptions (5.8 per game, with a total of 52). Senior receiver Ashton Clark is 14th in punt returns with an average of 11.6 per return and a career-long of 30 against Idaho State. Clark is also 26th in receiving yards (85.6 per game, with a total of 770 to rank 22nd) and 38th in receptions (5.6 per game, with a total of 50). 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 17th in FCS in average per game (0.33). He also is 23rd in fumble recoveries per game (0.33), with a total of three.
* Junior running back Quincy Forte had a career-high 119 rushing yards on just six carries (19.8 per rush) versus ISU. 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.
* Senior tight end Zack Gehring more than doubled his previous career high for catches with seven for 63 yards at Idaho State. A veteran of 44 Eagle games (29 starts), his previous high was three on several occasions.
* Boise, Idaho, native Cody McCarthy led the Eagles with 11 tackles at Idaho State, giving him four performances in his career of at least 10 stops. He has played in 28 games, including 14 as a starter.
* Senior cornerback T.J. Lee had a trio of passes broken up at Idaho State, giving him 21 in his career and moving into seventh in school history.
* 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.
* Sophomore Shaq Hill returned a kickoff 80 yards against Idaho State to set-up EWU’s game-tying 4-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter. Later, he 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.
* Junior defensive end Evan Day has had a sack in each of EWU’s last four games, giving him four on the season and 12 in his 32-game career (12 as a starter).
* Kicker Kevin Miller made both of his field goal attempts – 26 and 42 yards – and converted all seven of his extra point attempts versus Idaho State. He also averaged 65.0 yards on 10 kickoffs, including eight touchbacks. The only two kickoff returns ISU had were of 25 and 13 yards after boots to the goalline. Miller has made 5-of-7 field goals this season, including all three of his attempts in EWU’s opener at 25th-ranked Oregon State on Aug. 31. He had missed both of his attempts since then until the ISU game.
* 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.
Quoting Coach Baldwin
On MSU: “We know it’s a challenge. Montana State is undefeated in the conference for a reason. Consistently they have been a top-tier team in this conference for a lot of years. Coach Ash and his staff do a great job. They have great players all over the field. They have a quarterback who has been one of the best in this conference throughout his career, and along with that a running back who finds ways to get into the end zone and churn yards. They lean on that run, but they can set you up offensively. Defensively, they do a great job of tackling. They do a great job of finding ways to put pressure on the quarterback – they are one of the top teams in the league. And they tackle really well in space. Those are the signs of very good, well-coached and disciplined football players. You have to earn it all against Montana State.”
On ISU Win: “Our players found a way and got into maybe more of a shootout than we thought we would. We still found a way to respond, and that’s what I said to the players. We responded when guys went down and we responded in the first half when we were behind. We were certainly explosive and our players made plays. We got more out of our running game, which was huge. We just have to come back and correct things from this game. Wins or losses, you have to find a way to get better the next week. But any time you go on the road in this conference and find a way to get a win, it’s huge.”
On Getting 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 (226 starts by 19 players): Allen Brown 34, Ronnie Hamlin 31, T.J. Lee 29, Ronald Baines 23, Andru Pulu 22, Anthony Larry 16, Cody McCarthy 14, Evan Day 12, Will Katoa 10, J.C. Agen 8, Tevin McDonald 8, Jordan Tonani 7, Miquiyah Zamora 5, Dylan Zylstra 2, Zach Bruce 1, Zackary Johnson 1, Todd Raynes 1, Miles Weatheroy 1, Christian Hudnell 1.
Offense (273 starts by 25 players): Steven Forgette 40, Brandon Murphy 32, Zack Gehring 29, Ashton Miller 24, Clay DeBord 21, Vernon Adams 18, Quincy Forte 13, Ashton Clark 12, Cooper Kupp 9, Demitrius Bronson 9, Jordan Talley 9, Drew Reynolds 8, Cory Mitchell 8, Ryan Seto 7, Cassidy Curtis 7, Jake Withnell 6, Mario Brown 5, 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 Zach Bruce made his first career start against Idaho State.
The Eagles played the Idaho State game without three starters – safety Allen Brown (hamstring), nose tackle Will Katoa (knee) and offensive tackle Clay Debord (ankle), who were all injured at Montana and have a collective 65 starts in their careers. They were replaced by a trio of players with a combined two starts entering the ISU game. In addition, key defensive backups were injured against UM and missed the ISU game -- linebacker J.C. Agen (quadricep) and safety Todd Raynes (hamstring). Then, safety Tevin McDonald was lost for an indefinite time with a broken fibula against ISU. This week, DeBord is probable, Brown and Katoa are questionable and Raynes is doubtful. 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. Wide receiver and kickoff returner Shaq Hill (knee sprain), who was injured against North Dakota and did not play versus Southern Utah, played 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. Another running back now available is Jalen Moore, who 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 291 tackles already in his 34-game EWU career (31 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 207 tackles, three interceptions, 21 passes broken up and 3 1/2 sacks in his 43-game career (29 starts). He is just the 35th Eagle in school history to finish with 200 career tackles (currently ranked 30th). 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 40 career starts are the most among all Eastern players. The only game he didn’t start in his 41-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 175.2 which ranks as the school record (63.9 percent, 5,039 yards, 55 TD, 17 INT). A starter in 18 of the 21 games he has played in his career, Adams has a career average of 240.0 passing yards per game to currently fifth all-time at EWU. His 55 TD passes are already fourth, his 5,039 yards are sixth and his 5,775 yards of total offense are sixth. He is now 15-3 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 finish with 200 career tackles, and currently ranks 23rd. 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 39). 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.
* Returning players Ashton Miller and Jordan Talley were selected to the 2012 Capital One Academic All-District VIII squad, which is selected by members of the College Sports Information Directors Association (CoSIDA). They joined Eastern senior safety Jeff Minnerly, who “three-peated” on the squad. Miller, a senior offensive center, has a 3.67 GPA and is majoring in business administration. Talley is a sophomore linebacker who formerly played running back, and is a pre-medicine major with a 3.55 GPA. Eastern football players have now been honored 56 times since 1989 on the All-District VIII squad, and eight players have gone on to win 10 Academic All-America honors. The District VIII university division includes all NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) and Bowl Subdivision (FBS) teams from nine western states, including Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Utah and Washington.
* Redshirt freshman Shaq Hill currently has the fourth-best career kickoff return average in school history (26.4) and is sixth in kickoff return yards (1,269). He has long returns of 99 (TD), 83 and 80 yards in his career. 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.
* 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
* 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.