Eastern Finishes with 591 yards of total offense and scores on all eight of its possessions in 500th win in school history at expense of No. 4 Montana State
Of all the mind-boggling numbers, the best one of all is 6-0.
With record-breaking quarterback Vernon Adams leading a perfect 8-of-8 scoring performance for the Eagles, the third-ranked Eastern Washington University football team took command of the Big Sky Conference race with a 54-29 victory over fourth-ranked Montana State Saturday (Nov. 9) at sold-out Roos Field in Cheney, Wash.
It was the 500th victory in school history as EWU won for the sixth time in six tries in the league in a battle of 5-0 league teams. Eastern has won six games in a row and is 8-2 on the season, while MSU fell to 7-3 overall. It was the most points EWU has ever scored in the all-time series with MSU, which Eastern leads 27-10.
A crowd of 10,223 – a season high and the seventh most in Roos Field history – attended the sold-out 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. Both games are televised live on ROOT Sports.
The Eagles are now 21-3 all-time on the red turf at Roos Field, as EWU avenged its first-ever loss at “The Inferno.” The Bobcats handily defeated the Eagles 36-21 in Cheney in 2011.
Outside of kneel-down snaps at the end of the game, Eastern scored touchdowns on all eight of its possessions. The Eagles broke a Big Sky record by averaging 12.3 yards per play (591 yards, 48 plays), eclipsing the old record of 11.1 by more than a yard.
Thus far in Big Sky games, Eastern has defeated its six BSC foes by a 261-143 margin – a 43-23 average score. Until Saturday’s loss, MSU had out-scored BSC opponents 202-88, or an average score of 40-17.
“We didn’t punt or have a field goal, so it was a weird game that way,” said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin, who is now 36-10 in league games in six seasons at EWU. “You still have to go back and find things to correct, and there will be plenty of those. I was proud of how the guys played regardless of the stats. I was proud of their mindset, their attitude and their will to go win it. We go out to win games. We don’t try to manage them, and they went out there with that attitude.”
Adams, a candidate for the Payton Award given to the top player in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision, had four touchdown passes 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.
Adams completed his first 10 passes and finished 16-of-18 for 300 yards, no interceptions and a passing efficiency rating of 302.2. 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.).
“Vernon was special and the receivers were special,” praised Baldwin. “I didn’t realize (Vernon) just had 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.”
Now 16-3 as a starter at EWU, it was the ninth 300-yard passing game of his career. He also had his second-most rushing yards with 76, giving him a total of 376 yards of total offense in the game.
The only thing that stopped Adams was lower leg cramping in the second half, which kept him out of EWU’s final touchdown drive of the day. But he engineered seven previous TD drives, including three mid-way through the game when EWU turned a 21-20 deficit into a 40-21 lead late in the third quarter.
Eastern finished with 591 yards of total offense – the 19th-most in school history -- as several Eagles had career days. Junior Quincy Forte had the third 100-yard rushing game of his career with a career-high 123 and two touchdowns. Mario Brown rushed twice for 47 yards, including a 40-yard run on EWU first offensive play.
Sophomore Shaquille Hill had a career-best 172 receiving yards on four catches, and scored on TD plays of 76, 68 and 17 yards. Redshirt freshman Cooper Kupp had a TD catch for his 10th-straight game as an Eagle, finishing with eight catches for 110 yards.
“The offensive line did a great job, and we added a running game that I think surprised Montana State,” added Baldwin. “Quincy and Mario hit some runs on them. The offensive line did a great job.”
Eastern’s defense allowed 505 yards, but seven different Eagles combined for six tackles for loss. Included were three sacks, including the fifth-straight game Evan Day has had one.
Senior cornerback T.J. Lee III, making his first start at safety because of injuries at that position, had the fourth interception of his career and a career-high 14 tackles. Junior linebacker Cody McCarthy equaled his career high with 12 stops.
“I think we were able to hold them to one score in the second half, and that is against a very good offense,” said Baldwin. “I was really proud how we came out after halftime and finished the game on both sides of the ball.”
The first half featured five lead changes, with Montana State taking an early 7-0 lead with a 12-play, 81-yard drive. But the Eagles needed just 13 plays to take a 13-7 advantage.
Both came on touchdown passes for Adams, tying the school record in the process. The first TD was 17 yards to Hill to cap a 76-yard drive. The second came was a 2-yard pass to Jake Withnell on a gutsy fourth-and-1 call.
The two teams then traded touchdowns, with EWU scoring on a 5-yard run by Adams and a 25-yard scamper by Forte. Eastern entered halftime with a 26-21 lead.
The Eagles got the ball to open the second half, and went on an eight-play, 73-yard drive to take a 33-21 advantage. Rushes of 19 yards by Forte and 24 by Adams helped set-up Forte’s 16-yard TD run.
Eastern got the ball back after a missed MSU field goal and scored yet again. A 68-yard TD pass from Adams to Hill gave the Eagles a 40-21 lead with 3:25 to play in the third quarter.
The final TD of the day for Adams came with 11:57 left in the game on a 76-yard TD strike to Hill. After Adams left the game, backup Anthony Vitto found Kupp for a 36-yard TD pass in the fourth quarter for the final margin.