April 15, 2009
There were only 26 plays, but a trio of Eastern Washington University quarterbacks -- none of them named Matt Nichols -- made them count.
A trio of backups led the offense to scores and 193 yards of total offense as the Eagles had a mid-week 26-play scrimmage Wednesday (April 15) at the EWU Sports and Recreation Center practice fields. Eastern rushed for 124 yards as the Eagles continued their second week of their month-long spring practice session.
Nichols, entering his fourth year as a starter, sat out the scrimmage to allow Jeff Minnerly, Scott Burgett and Nick Gauthier to receive much-needed repetitions. Minnerly and Burgett are redshirt freshmen battling for the backup job, and Gauthier is a transfer from Bakersfield Junior College in California who will redshirt the 2009 season.
"It’s good competition right now," said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin. "They are fighting through the learning curve and things that come with being a freshman. I can remember back to Matt’s spring as a freshman -- it’s a time to learn and get better every day. At times they are swimming upstream, but they are competing well."
Burgett completed 3-of-4 passes for 36 yards, and led the offense on a seven-play, 39-yard drive that ended with a 42-yard field goal by Ryan Schuh. Minnerly, a 2008 graduate of Spokane’s Ferris High School, completed just 1-of-3 passes for six yards, but he led the offense on a five-play, 65-yard drive that was capped by a 1-yard touchdown run by Taiwan Jones.
Gauthier followed, and led the offense on an eight-play, 65-yard scoring march. He was 2-of-4 for 27 yards and concluded the scrimmage with a 17-yard scoring strike to Ashton Gant.
Gant had a pair of catches for 20 yards and Nick Edwards caught two for 16 yards.
But the majority of the offensive production was created b a quartet of running backs, including sophomore Tyler Hart. He had 55 yards on just two carries, including a 51-yard run that set-up the TD by Jones, who had 15 yards on four carries. Grant Williams added 30 yards on a pair of carries.
"I’m excited about our young running backs," said Baldwin. "They have huge shoes to fill -- we had great senior running backs last year."
Linebacker Bryan Karwacki, a 2008 graduate of Spokane’s Gonzaga Prep High School, had three tackles for the Eagle defense. Four other Eagles had two tackles, including local products Tyler Jolley (East Valley HS) and John Roberts (Colville HS). Kyle Wilkins and Jeremy Chaten broke-up passes.
Eastern will have a full scrimmage this Saturday (April 18) at 12:30 p.m. before playing its annual Red-White Game on April 25 at 2 p.m. at Woodward Field. Spring practice concludes on April 30.
"We played a decent amount of young players on both sides of the ball and we were able to some live looks in the middle of the week, which was nice," said Baldwin of Wednesday’s performance. "I didn’t think we had a very good practice on Tuesday at all. We came back with a better performance today. Sometimes that can occur after a couple of days off, so I was happy to see some improvement. Hopefully we’ll be crisp on Thursday and roll into a good scrimmage on Saturday."
Wednesday’s scrimmage was actually the resumption of last Saturday’s scrimmage (April 11) that was halted when safety Will Edge suffered a dislocated left ankle and broken fibula. The injury resulted in Saturday’s scrimmage to end prematurely while medical personnel tended to Edge, who will probably miss the 2009 season and may be out for as much as a year.
Edge was on hand to watch practices on both Tuesday and Wednesday.