September 1, 2006

Eagles Open Season With Loss to Oregon State

Sept. 1, 2006

Final Stats

Corvallis, Ore. -

This time, the Beavers provided the wake-up call.

Four Eagle turnovers helped Oregon State open a 35-0 lead in the first half en route to an easy 56-17 non-conference football victory over Eastern Washington Thursday (Aug. 31) at Reser Stadium in Corvallis, Ore.

The Eagles had three fumbles and an interception in their first seven possessions of the game, and the Beavers converted three of them into touchdowns. The game was the season-opener for both teams as the NCAA Division I-AA Eagles and I-A Beavers of the Pacific 10 Conference matched-up for the second time in school history.

In that first meeting, the Beavers edged the Eagles 21-19 on Sept. 2, 2000. That near-miss by the Eagles was a wake-up call for OSU, which finished 11-1, beat Notre Dame 41-9 in the Fiesta Bowl and was ranked fourth nationally.

"I'm pretty disappointed because the avalanche started so soon," said Wulff. "We just got so far behind so quickly. The encouraging thing was that the kids kept playing and there was improvement throughout the game. But it was a heckuva lot more sloppier than we wanted and that has to get fixed."

Eastern's schedule doesn't get any easier next week. Eastern plays at West Virginia on Sept. 9 in a difficult match-up against the fifth-ranked Mountaineers. West Virginia was 11-1 last year and defeated Georgia 38-35 in the Nokia Sugar Bowl after winning the Big East Conference title with a perfect 7-0 record.

Eastern managed only 126 yards of offense while Oregon State finished with 483. It was the lowest total for the Eagles since finishing with 132 in a 37-10 loss to Idaho in 1995. The 56 points allowed and 39-point losing margin was the worst since Eastern fell to Montana 63-7 later in the year in 1995.

Eastern's minus-14 rushing yards -- including five sacks allowed -- was its lowest total in at least the last 20 years. In each of the last two seasons, Eastern ranked fourth nationally with an average of more than 475 yards of offense per game.

Eastern's two quarterbacks -- junior Chris Peerboom and freshman redshirt Matt Nichols -- combined for 12-of-26 passing for 140 yards. Peerboom was 3-of-8 for 23 yards and Nichols finished 9-of-18 for 117 yards and an interception.

Eastern senior running back Ryan Cole, who played for the Beavers before transferring to EWU for the 2005 season, rushed for 29 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries. Freshman redshirt Aaron Boyce led the Eagles with four catches for 41 yards, and Shane Eller had three catches for 44 yards in his Eagle debut.

Senior safety Brandon Keeler led the Eagle defense with six tackles. Safety Bryan Jarrett added four tackles and a forced fumble.

Eastern turned the ball over on its second offensive play of the game, and OSU quickly turned it into a score less than two minutes into the game. The Beavers scored two more times for a 21-0 lead after just eight minutes.

"The turnover that set the tone was probably the first one," said Wullf. "Somehow the exchange wasn't good. It took awhile for us to settle down and the avalanche to stop. The first four times our defense was on the field they were probably inside our 20 every time. When that happens to it's a huge uphill battle."

Oregon State continued the onslaught, taking a 35-0 lead just 19 minutes into the game. Eastern forced a turnover of its own -- an interception by Anthony Dotson -- that led to Eastern's lone touchdown of the half. The Eagles drove 51 yards in four plays and scored on a 9-yard run by Cole.

Eastern scored again early in the second half on a 39-yard field goal by Brett Bergstrom. That came after an Oregon State fumble on the first offensive play of the second half. Jarrett forced the fumble and it was recovered by Keith Grennan.

Freshman redshirt Tony Davis scored Eastern's final touchdown on a 60-yard punt return in the fourth quarter. He also had three catches for 22 yards and returned four kickoffs for 91 yards and a long of 40.

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