Having not played at home since Sept. 7, Vernon Adams accounts for five touchdowns as Eastern beats Weber State in EWU's Big Sky opener
Sophomore quarterback Vernon Adams accounted for five touchdowns, Mario Brown rushed for 98 and the defense did the rest as the sixth-ranked Eastern Washington University football tam romped past Weber State 41-19 Saturday (Oct. 5) on Hall of Fame Day at Roos Field in Cheney, Wash.
The Eagles rushed for 279 yards and passed for 214 as they began defense of their Big Sky Conference title with their first home game since Sept. 7. The seventh-largest crowd in Roos Field history of 9,734 watched the Eagles improve to 3-2 on the season and win for the first time since beating Western Oregon 43-14 on Sept. 7.
"They were angry (from losing their last two games on the road), but they were channeling their anger in the right way," Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin said of his team. "They were looking to put a great product on the field, and to have a great day. They did that."
The Wildcats managed only 249 yards – 109 rushing and 140 passing -- against an Eagle defense that allowed 1,086 yards in its last two games. Eastern had a 165-14 advantage in the third quarter as the EWU turned a 15-point halftime lead into a 29-point bulge entering the final quarter.
In just three quarters of action, Adams finished the game 16-of-23 for 194 yards and four touchdowns, and also added 66 yards and a TD on the ground. The Walter Payton Award candidate had entered the game ranked second the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision in points responsible for with an average of 26.0 per game (total of 104 with 15 TD passes, two rushing touchdowns and one two-point conversion). He also entered is third in passing efficiency (189.9), fourth in passing yards (347.5 per game) and second in total offense (394.8).
Redshirt freshman Cooper Kupp led the Eagles with five catches for 87 yards and a pair of first-quarter touchdowns. He has seven TD catches on just 20 catches this season – a TD for every 2.9 catches so far this year. He is averaging 20.9 yards per catch (20-418). He entered the game ranked seventh in FCS with five TD catches.
Brown, a junior running back who redshirted last season, had 10 rushes for 98 yards (9.8 per carry), and added two catches for 20 more yards. The two longest rushes of his career – 37 and 28 – led to Eagle touchdowns.
"They are a tough group and they are competitive," said Baldwin. "The players have been handling things so well in practice. Today was one of those good games. I just feel so confident with whoever is in the ball game. They all bring different things to the table."
Defensively, linebackers Cody McCarthy and Ronnie Hamlin led the Eagles with nine and eight tackles, respectively. Redshirt freshman Miquiyah Zamora added five tackles and an interception in his first career start. Defensive lineman Zackary Johnson had seven tackles with 1 1/2 sacks.
EWU's starting linebackers combined for only 15 tackles and the starting secondary had 29 in last week's 49-34 loss when the then No. 2 Eagles fell to No. 4 Sam Houston State. Against Weber State, the linebackers had 22 and the secondary finished with 16.
Eastern plays at North Dakota (2-3, 1-1) next week before returning home to face Southern Utah on Oct. 19 for Homecoming.
"It feels really good," Baldwin said of his team's all-around performance. "The guys had a hard-fought road trip, and they have had a hard-fought stretch through September. To get home and feel the energy through the crowd (was awesome). To be 1-0 in conference is huge."
Eastern struck first with two quick touchdown passes from Adams to Kupp. The first covered 50 yards on EWU's second play of the game, and a 27-yarder on a 53-yard drive gave EWU a 13-6 lead 6:31 into the contest.
Weber State scored on the first play after an Eastern fumble, but then the Eagles scored 14 more points before halftime to take a 27-12 lead. The first TD came on a 14-yard pass from Adams to Ashton Clark to cap a 58-yard drive. The next score came on a six-play, 66-yard drive that was highlighted by a career-long rush of 37 yards by Brown. A 2-yard run by Adams capped that drive.
The Eagles had a 264-143 advantage in total offense in the first half of action.
The defense took over in the third quarter, holding Weber State to just 14 yards of offense. Meanwhile, Eastern's offense got hot and had 165 yards in the quarter, scoring back-to-back touchdowns on drives of 65 and 71 yards. Bronson scored on a 9-yard run, then Brown caught a 6-yard TD pass from Adams to give EWU a 41-12 lead with 26 seconds left in the third quarter.