Ranked Foes Square Off For Another Showdown in Missoula
For the sixth-straight year, No. 3 Eagles and No. 10 Grizzlies both enter nationally-ranked and with championship aspirations
#3 Eastern Washington Univ. “Eagles”
#10 University of Montana "Grizzlies"
Saturday, Oct. 26, 2013 • 12:40 p.m.
Washington-Grizzly Stad. (25,217) • Missoula, Mont.
EWU Coach: Beau Baldwin (Central Washington ‘96)
School Record: 49-21/33-10 Big Sky Conference (6th Season)
Career Record: 59-24 (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: 5-2/3-0 Big Sky
2012: 11-3/7-1 Big Sky Conference (co-champ; FCS Playoffs semifinals)
Last Game: #4 EWU 34, Southern Utah 10 (Oct. 19 in Cheney, Wash.)
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: http://www.gogriz.com/ot/mont-gametracker.html
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.
It’s just another day at the office for this year’s edition of the Eagle-Griz football showdown in Missoula.
For the 12th time in the last 18 years, No. 3 Eastern Washington and No. 10 Montana will both enter their key Big Sky Conference matchup ranked in the top 25 in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision. Kickoff Saturday (Oct. 26) at Washington-Grizzly Stadium is 12:40 p.m. Pacific time in a game regionally televised by ROOT Sports.
Collectively, the two teams have won a trio of NCAA Division I football titles, and have made 30 total appearances in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs. Eastern won the national title in 2010, and have been to the playoffs in 1985, 1992, 1997, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2012. The Grizzlies have been to the playoffs a FCS record 21 times, with national titles in 1995 and 2001. Montana did not qualify for the playoffs a year ago and had a streak of 17-straight berths snapped in 2010.
Needless to say, this week’s game has plenty of championship and postseason implications. Both teams have been nationally-ranked in the last five meetings, but only once – 2009 – have both teams advanced to the playoffs. And in none of those years did the EWU-UM loser win a share of the Big Sky title.
“We definitely will be gearing up to play an incredibly talented Montana football team in Missoula,” said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin, who was an EWU assistant the last time EWU won in Missoula in 2005 (34-20). “Obviously, it is a tough place to play, but we love going to Missoula.”
In last year’s 32-26 Eastern home win, the No. 7 Eagles scored two touchdowns in the final 2:19 to pull out the win over 21st-ranked Montana. The two scores, aided by a successful onside kick, came within 1:26 of each other.
Following last week’s 34-10 home win over Southern Utah, Eastern is currently tied atop the Big Sky standings at 3-0 with Montana State, and EWU is 5-2 overall. The Grizzlies are 6-1 overall and 3-1 in the conference after edging Cal Poly at home in overtime, 21-14.
The Grizzlies have won 88 percent of their games at Washington-Grizzly Stadium, which was opened in 1986. Montana is 175-24 there (not including four vacated wins in 2011). Eastern has won four of the 12 meetings there, with victories in 2005, 1997, 1992 and 1990.
“It’s very difficult to play in Missoula – their crowd does a great job and their players feed off of it,” said Baldwin. “Their team has a lot of pride to play at Washington-Grizzly Stadium. You have to be able to handle certain things on the road in terms of your snap count and the emotion of what the place feels like. We’ve had some tough losses in Missoula, but we love going in there and competing.”
The Eagles moved up one spot to third in The Sports Network FCS top-25 poll after previous No. 2 Sam Houston State lost at McNeese State, which moved to fourth this week. Eastern Illinois is No. 2, Montana State is fifth, Montana is 10th and Northern Arizona is 16th. The Eagles are seeking a seventh league title, with previous titles in 1992, 1997, 2004, 2005, 2010 and 2012.
After this week’s game, the Eagles play at Idaho State and current ISU and former EWU head coach Mike Kramer on Nov. 2 in Pocatello. Eastern also takes on fifth-ranked Montana State and Cal Poly in November before ending the regular season at home against Portland State on Nov. 23. Eastern’s resume this season has included a 49-46 victory at Pac-12 Conference member Oregon State, and narrow road losses to Toledo (33-21) and Sam Houston State (49-34).
Official Social Media Sites
Facebook:EWU Football, EWU Athletics
PDF Link to Fact Book
The complete version of the 2013 EWU football fact book may be
More Eagle Football Links and Headlines
EWU Football Web Page - http://goeags.com/sports/m-footbl/index
EWU Football News & Notes - http://www.goeags.com/sports/m-footbl/2013-14/news
Link to Football Ticket & RV Parking Information: http://www.goeags.com/tickets
Big Sky Conference Football - http://www.bigskyconf.com/index.aspx?tab=football&path=football
Spokane Spokesman-Review EWU Football Page - http://www.spokesman.com/eagles
700 ESPN – http://700espn.com
The Sports Network (FCS Football) - http://www.sportsnetwork.com/merge/tsnform.aspx?c=sportsnetwork&page=cfoot2/indexpic.htm
NCAA FCS Football - http://www.ncaafootball.com/DivisionIFCS.aspx
NCAA Statistics (2013) - http://stats.ncaa.org/rankings?sport_code=MFB&division=12
NCAA Statistics (2012) - http://web1.ncaa.org/mfb/mainpage.jsp?year=2012
College Sporting News - http://www.collegesportingnews.com
College Sports Journal - http://www.college-sports-journal.com
College Football Performance Awards – http://www.collegefootballperformance.com
College Sports Madness - http://www.collegesportsmadness.com/fcs-football
* Eastern’s game against Southern Utah was an early sellout the week of the game, and the same will be true for EWU’s game versus Montana State on Nov. 9. No tickets are currently available for the game, 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.
* Nearing a school record, Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin is now 49-21 in five-plus seasons as a head coach (2008-13) and 33-10 in Big Sky Conference games. His .767 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. He is just one victory from the EWU record of 34 held by the EWU head coach he previously served under, Paul Wulff (2000-2007). Baldwin’s .700 percentage overall is 11th in league history, just ahead of Montana State’s Rob Ash, who is 55-24 overall (.696 to rank 12th in BSC history) and 38-13 in league games (.745 to rank 10th). Baldwin was 25-22 as an EWU assistant coach for four seasons (2003-06) under Wulff, for a collective total of 74-43 at EWU.
* 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 26th year as a member and have a current record of 116-85 (.577). Later this season, the Eagles could win their 500th game all-time. Now in its 105th year of football, Eastern is 497-401-23 (.552) in 921 games.
* Ranked for the 23rd-consecutive time, Eastern moved up to third this week in The Sports Network Top 25 FCS Poll released Monday (Oct. 21). Eastern is behind top-ranked North Dakota State and Eastern Illinois, but moved past Sam Houston State after the Bearkats lost to McNeese State, which is now fourth. Other Big Sky schools in this week’s rankings include Montana State (#5), Montana (#10) and Northern Arizona (#16). Eastern is fourth in the FCS Coaches Poll, followed by MSU (#5), Montana (#10) and NAU (#19).
* Sophomore quarterback and Walter Payton Award candidate Vernon Adams is ranked No. 1 again this week in passing efficiency in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision. He completed 25-of-35 passes (71 percent) for 298 yards and three touchdowns against Southern Utah last week. With a 67 percent completion rate (144-of-214 to rank eighth in FCS), 2,189 yards, 24 touchdowns and six interceptions for the season, he has a rating of 184.6. Eastern also leads the nation with a 181.6 team rating. Adams is third in FCS in points responsible for with an average of 23.4 per game (total of 165 with 24 TD passes, three rushing touchdowns and one two-point conversion). He is second in touchdown passes (24), fourth in total offense (358.1) and seventh in passing yards (312.7 per game).
* In other individual national rankings, redshirt freshman receiver Cooper Kupp is fifth in FCS with nine touchdown receptions, and is also 26th in receiving yards per game (85.0) and 72nd in receptions (4.7 per game). Senior receiver Ashton Clark is 23rd in receiving yards (86.3) and 40th in receptions (5.4 per game). 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 sixth in FCS in average per game (0.43). He also is 15th in fumble recoveries per game (0.43), with a total of three.
* As a team, EWU is leading FCS in passing efficiency (181.6), and is sixth in total offense (497.9 per game), eighth in passing (324.0), 55th in rushing (173.9) and 18th in scoring (36.7). Defensively, EWU is 76th in total defense (407.6), 65th in rushing (173.0), 78th in passing (234.6) and 60th in scoring (26.4). In addition, the Eagles are the 23rd-most efficient team in red zone offense (88.0 scoring percentage) and seventh in third-down conversions (50.6 percent).
* Like the Eagles, Montana is one of the most efficient passing teams in FCS, ranking fifth as a team (170.7) behind the accurate arm of Jordan Johnson. Johnson is fifth individually in efficiency (170.9), completing 59 percent of his passes for 1,564 yards, 18 touchdowns and only one interception. Montana leads FCS in fewest interceptions with one. Ellis Henderson is sixth in FCS with eight touchdown receptions on just 17 catches (363 yards and 21.4 average per catch).The Grizzlies are sixth in FCS in turnover margin with an average of plus 1.4 per game (total margin of plus 10). Montana is 22nd in total offense (451.0), 44th in passing (236.4), 22nd in rushing (214.6) and 17th in scoring (38.0). Defensively, the Grizzlies are 26th in total defense (346.4), 42nd in passing (204.0), 37th in rushing (142.4) and seventh in scoring (17.0).
* Redshirt freshman Cooper Kupp has nine TD catches (fifth in FCS) on just 33 catches this season – a TD for every 3.7 catches so far this year. He is averaging 18.0 yards per catch (33-595). Against Southern Utah on Oct. 19, Kupp had 11 catches for 168 yards and a score. Kupp’s performance equaled the 12th-best in school history tied with 10 others, including teammate Ashton Clark with 11 grabs versus SUU a year ago. 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.
* Senior cornerback Ronald Baines finished the Southern Utah game on Oct. 19 with a key interception, four tackles and two other passes broken up. Early in the third quarter and EWU clinging to a 14-3 lead, his interception came deep in EWU territory at the 15. The resulting eight-play, 85-yard drive helped give EWU momentum in the 34-10 win, as EWU’s defense held SUU to 368 yards of offense. Baines has 26 tackles, an interception and four passes broken up this season, and 118 tackles, two interceptions and eight passes broken up in his 43-game career (21 as a starter).
* Eastern has had nine of its 15 sacks in the last two games, with those nine 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 147-82 in the first half 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 110-103 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).
* 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.
* 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 Hamilton. The players were selected by a vote of their teammates.
* 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.
* 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 Shaquille 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.
* 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 Confidence and Talent of Montana: “You can see it in their mentality and in their veteran players. They are playing with a passion and energy – their players, staff and leadership are doing a great job in Missoula. They play with a certain attitude and swagger, and produce week-in and week-out. Even against Cal Poly they found a way to drive the ball down the field and score at the end, and then won the game in overtime. They are going to be a tough, tough opponent to beat in Missoula, but our players like that challenge.”
On UM Quarterback Jordan Johnson: “He’s a general and a leader, and they follow him. He knows how to play the position, he’s talented and he can produce yards with his feet. And he can certainly beat you with his arm as well. He’s the complete package at quarterback and is playing at an extremely high level.”
On Grizzly Defense: “They are really letting their defensive front just play football. They also have a great linebacker corp, and they have some veterans in the secondary. But their front seven dictates the tempo and really go to work. Not only are they very talented, but they are intelligent. They know their responsibilities and they perform them really well. They have next-level players all over the field on defense. There is some serious talent there.”
On Playing in Missoula: “It’s an atmosphere that is very special. You work all year and you only get so many guaranteed Saturdays, and only twice in four years you get to play in Missoula. You put a lot of time into those three hours, and it means something to our players.”
On Big Sky Race So Far: “It’s kind of what I expected. There are a lot of close games and you are going to have battles with a lot of teams. It’s a typical Big Sky year and doesn’t shock me at all there are only two undefeated teams. There are a lot of great teams in this conference and some very good teams with one loss that are absolutely still in the hunt for the championship.”
On Surging Past Southern Utah in Second Half: “I certainly was (proud of our finish). I know we had the quick three and out on the first possession of the second half, but then we scored on three-straight possessions. Southern Utah is a team that has not given up a lot of points and they held the best offense in our conference statistically to seven points (in a 17-7 win over Portland State). They know how to grind out games.”
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 (204 starts by 18 players): Allen Brown 33, Ronnie Hamlin 29, T.J. Lee 27, Ronald Baines 21, Andru Pulu 20, Anthony Larry 14, Cody McCarthy 12, Evan Day 10, Will Katoa 9, J.C. Agen 8, Jordan Tonani 7, Tevin McDonald 6, Miquiyah Zamora 3, Zackary Johnson 1, Todd Raynes 1, Dylan Zylstra 1, Miles Weatheroy 1, Christian Hudnell 1.
Offense (251 starts by 25 players): Steven Forgette 38, Brandon Murphy 30, Zack Gehring 27, Ashton Miller 22, Clay DeBord 20, Vernon Adams 16, Ashton Clark 11, Quincy Forte 11, Demitrius Bronson 9, Jordan Talley 9, Drew Reynolds 8, Cooper Kupp 7, Ryan Seto 7, Cory Mitchell 6, Cassidy Curtis 5, Mario Brown 5, Jake Withnell 5, Shaquille Hill 3, Cody Humphrey 2, Daniel Johnson 2, Jase Butorac 2, Jake Rodgers 2, Jabari Wilson 2, Zach Wimberly 1, T.J. Boatright 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 Shaquille 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.
Wide receiver and kickoff returner Shaquille Hill (knee sprain), who was injured against North Dakota and did not play versus Southern Utah, is probable for this week’s game. Starting offensive tackle Jake Rodgers (knee sprain) and running back Jabari Wilson (shoulder) were both injured against Western Oregon on Sept. 7 and have missed five games since. Both are also probable for the Montana game. Another running back available this week 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.
* Currently on the 2013 Buck Buchanan Watch List, senior linebacker Ronnie Hamlin has 271 tackles already in his 32-game EWU career (29 starts) to rank 10th in school history. He also has three 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. 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 192 tackles, three interceptions, 18 passes broken up and 3 1/2 sacks in his 41-game career (27 starts). He is just eight tackles from becoming the 34th Eagle in school history to finish with 200 career tackles. He shares the school record with five other Eagles for most career forced fumbles with six, and his 18 passes broken up ranks ninth. 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 38 career starts are the most among all Eastern players. The only game he didn’t start in his 39-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 172.7 which ranks as the school record (64 percent, 4,150 yards, 44 TD, 14 INT). A starter in 16 of the 19 games he has played in his career, Adams has a career average of 218.4 passing yards per game to currently fifth all-time at EWU and his 44 TD passes are already seventh. He is now 13-3 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 has played in 46 games in his career (33 as a starter), with 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 33 career starts, ranking first on the defense and second overall (Steven Forgette has 38). 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 Shaquille Hill currently has the sixth-best career kickoff return average in school history (25.8) and is seventh in kickoff return yards (1,085). 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 43.1 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 21 punts of 50 yards or more in his career, including a school-record 74-yarder. He owns seven of the top 34 punts in school history, with boots of 74, 59 (twice) and 57 (four 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.
EWU vs. Grizzlies
* Below are the 11 matchups in the last 17 seasons when both squads have entered the game nationally ranked. Eastern is 4-7 in those games, with road victories in 1997 and 2005. Eastern also picked up a home win in 2010 in the debut of Eastern’s red Sprinturf surface at Roos Field and in 2012 in the debut of EWU’s new videoboard.
2013 - #3 Eastern Washington vs. #10 Montana (in Missoula, Mont.)
2012 - #7 Eastern Washington 32, #21 Montana 26 (in Cheney, Wash.)
2011 - #12 Montana 17, #10 Eastern Washington 14 (in Missoula, Mont.)
2010 - #18 Eastern Washington 36, #6 Montana 27 (in Cheney, Wash.)
2009 - #3 Montana 41, #21 Eastern Washington 34 (in Missoula, Mont.)
2008 - #12 Montana 19, #23 Eastern Washington 3 (in Cheney, Wash.)
2005 - #12 Eastern Washington 34, #2 Montana 20 (in Missoula, Mont.)
2004 - #5 Montana 31, #23 Eastern Washington 28 (in Cheney, Wash.)
2001 - #3 Montana 29, #15 Eastern Wash. 26 (2 overtimes in Missoula, Mont.)
2000 - #9 Montana 41, #18 Eastern Washington 31 (in Spokane, Wash.)
1997 - #17 Eastern Washington 40, #2 Montana 35 (in Missoula, Mont.)
1996 - #1 Montana 34, #20 Eastern Washington 30 (in Cheney, Wash.)
* In last year’s game, Eastern prevailed 32-26, scoring twice in the last 2:19 to pull out the victory. The game in 2011 also went down to the wire as the Eagles lost 17-14 after edging Montana 36-27 in 2010 in the first game on the red Sprinturf surface at Roos Field.
* Montana now leads the series 26-12-1, and EWU has won two of the last three. But prior to that, Montana had won six of the previous seven meetings. In the last 20 meetings since winning three-straight over Montana from 1990-92, Eastern has won just five times -- 40-35 in 1997 (in Missoula), 30-21 in 2002 (at Albi Stadium in Spokane), 34-20 in 2005 (in Missoula), 36-27 in 2010 (in Cheney) and 32-26 in 2012 (in Cheney). Overall, Eastern is 4-14-1 in Missoula, 7-11 in home games and 1-1 in games played at neutral sites.
* Eleven recent games in the series have been decided by margins of 10 points or less. The winner has usually piled up points and yardage by the ton as evidenced by Eastern’s 697 yards of total offense in 1986, 658 yards in 1997 in a 40-35 win, 564 in a 24-23 loss in 2007, 541 yards by the Eagles in a 34-20 win in Missoula in 2005 and 503 in a 2010 victory in Cheney. In 2012, the two teams combined for 980 total yards. In the last 27 meetings the winning team has averaged 33.0 points. In seven of those 27 games the two teams have combined for at least 70 points, including a 41-34 Grizzly win in Missoula in 2009.
* Since 1990, Eastern has won four times on UM’s home field in Missoula, but Eastern had won just twice at home in that span until the 2010 season. The lone win over Montana from 1990-2009 at Roos Field (formerly Woodward Field) came in 1991, but Eastern’s change to a red synthetic Sprinturf surface and change of name altered its success in Cheney home wins in both 2010 and 2012. Eastern also won in 2002 in a home game played at Spokane’s Albi Stadium.
* The Eagles shared the 2004 and 2005 Big Sky titles with Montana, but the Grizzlies won or shared every league title from 1998-2009. Eastern remains the last Big Sky school other than Montana to win the outright title, with that coming in 1997 when the Eagles advanced to the semifinals of the FCS Playoffs. That team was inducted into the Eastern Athletics Hall of Fame in 2012. Montana’s streak of league titles ended at 12 as EWU and MSU shared the 2010 title.
* In the 2011 meeting in Missoula, Eastern fell behind 10-0 to the Grizzlies, but rallied to pull within three points in the fourth quarter. The 10th-ranked Eagles held No. 12 Montana scoreless on its final five possessions of the game, but Eastern was unable to score in its last three. An interception with 25 seconds to play iced the win for the Grizzlies. Montana rushed for 316 yards versus the Eagles, but was held to 34 passing yards and was out-gained in total offense 376-350.
* In 2010, the first football game on Eastern’s new red Sprinturf surface was a huge success as the 18th-ranked Eagles knocked off the No. 6 Grizzlies in the Big Sky Conference opener for both schools on Sept. 18, 2010, at Roos Field in Cheney, Wash. Mike Jarrett nailed a 31-yard field goal with four seconds left to give Eastern a 30-27 lead, then the Eagles iced it on the final play of the game with a 34-yard fumble return for a touchdown by junior defensive tackle Renard Williams after a sack and forced fumble by sophomore end Jerry Ceja with additional pressure by senior Tyler Jolley. Junior All-America running back Taiwan Jones had 305 all-purpose yards -- including 221 rushing yards -- to lead EWU’s 503-yard offensive output. The sold-out stadium featured a crowd of 11,702 as it set a new Roos Field record. The previous record of 11,583 was set on Oct. 7, 2006 versus Montana. Eastern also set a new record for student attendance of 3,105, as the previous high was 2,218 in a 2008 game versus Montana.
* Other games in the series have also been filled with suspense. Eastern knotted the 2009 meeting at 34 with 4:58 to play, only to have the Grizzlies drive for the winning score with 1:18 left in a 41-34 victory. In 2007, Eastern kicked a go-ahead field goal with 2:20 to play before top-ranked Montana kicked the game-winner with 26 seconds to play after converting a fourth-and-10 play. Eastern wide receiver Aaron Boyce had the fourth-best receiving effort in Big Sky Conference history with a school-record 17 catches in the 2007 meeting to earn NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Offensive Player of the Week honors from The Sports Network. His 232 receiving yards were the second-most in school history, and Eagle quarterback Matt Nichols passed for a career-high 451 yards to rank third all-time at EWU (now fourth).
* In 2004, Montana blocked a 28-yard field goal attempt by the Eagles with 18 seconds remaining as the 23rd-ranked Eagles fell to the fifth-ranked Grizzlies 31-28 in a showdown for first place in front of a Roos Field (formerly Woodward Field) record crowd of 10,754.
* In 2002 at Albi Stadium in Spokane, Eastern beat the No. 1 ranked and unbeaten Grizzlies 30-21, ending Montana’s record-tying winning streak in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision at 24 games. It was the first Big Sky Conference loss for UM head coach Joe Glenn, and snapped Montana’s record winning streaks of 25 Big Sky games in a row and 13 league road games in a row. And in the process, the Eagle victory opened the door for Montana State and Idaho State to share the conference title with the Grizzlies.
* Scoring two touchdowns in the final 2:19, the No. 7 Eagles rallied for a 32-26 victory over 21st-ranked Montana Grizzlies Saturday (Sept. 29) at Roos Field in Cheney, Wash. The two scores, aided by a successful onside kick, came within 1:26 of each other. The Eagles allowed 407 rushing yards, and at one point in the second half UM had 169 total yards compared to a minus-4 for EWU. But Eastern put together an 82-yard scoring drive to pull within two points on a 30-yard touchdown pass from Vernon Adams to Brandon Kaufman. After Shaquille Hill successfully recovered an onside kick for the Eagles, Eastern scored again on a 20-yard TD pass from Adams to Ashton Clark with 53 seconds to play.
* Adams completed 25-of-41 passes for 353 yards and three touchdowns in his second career start for EWU, and also added a team-leading 54 yards rushing. He overcame an interception and a fumble in the fourth quarter to become one of several heroes for the Eagles. In the final quarter alone, Adams was 13-of-21 for 171 yards and a pair of scores. Kaufman finished with eight catches for 138 yards and a pair of scores as he had his fifth-straight 100-yard receiving game. Clark, taking the place of injured All-American Nicholas Edwards, added six grabs for 89 yards.
* Four Eagles finished in double figures in tackles, including linebackers Ronnie Hamlin (14), Grant Williams (13) and Tyler Washburn (12). Safety Allen Brown had 11 stops, and redshirt freshman Jordan Tonani added eight tackles after starter Jeff Minnerly broke his collarbone on EWU’s first defensive series. Montana rushed 61 times and had three players with 95 yards or more. The 407 yards were the most against the Eagles since Southern Utah rushed for 535 yards in the final game of the 1998 season.
* The game was Eastern’s home opener -- EWU’s latest home start since 1981. The game also marked the debut of a new scoreboard and videoboard at The Inferno, two years after the Eagles unveiled their new red Sprinturf surface at Roos Field in a 36-27 victory over UM. The “men in black” also played in new black helmets, to go along with black pants and black jerseys.