Offense versus Defense in Saturday's Red-White Game

April 23, 2009

The key number will be "50" and not what’s on the scoreboard.

A healthy offense will take on an injury-depleted defense in Eastern Washington University’s annual Red-White Spring Football Game Saturday (April 25) at 2 p.m. at Woodward Field in Cheney, Wash.

The "Red" squad consisting of the Eagle offense will take on the "White" team consisting of the team’s defense. Because of depth issues at some positions -- mostly on defense -- the Eagles will utilize the annual game as a situational scrimmage of about 50 plays.

There is no charge to attend and the game is followed at 4:30 p.m. by the Orland Killin Dinner, Dance and Auction taking place in partnership with the Michael Roos Foundation. Limited tickets are still available for $75 each by calling 509-359-2463.

"We want to try to run 50 plays -- however long it takes and however we get there," explained head coach Beau Baldwin. "We don’t have enough players to break up into teams, and I’ve never seen a perfect scoring formula to play the offense versus the defense. So we’re going to do it by series and control what we do."

Roos, a former Eagle who is now an All-Pro offensive tackle for the Tennessee Titans of the National Football League, will be on hand Saturday. Other former Eagles with NFL experience attending the event are Keith Grennan (currently with the San Diego Chargers) and Tom Ackerman (formerly with the New Orleans Saints and the Titans). Also on hand will be former NFL defensive lineman Steve Emtman, who played at Cheney High School and the University of Washington.

Baldwin’s offense has been impressive in three scrimmages thus far, accumulating 757 yards of offense on 115 plays (6.6 per play). But the defense, which was impressive to end the 2008 season, has been hit hard by minor injuries -- and one major one to safety Will Edge (dislocated ankle and broken fibula) -- and that has affected the depth and performance on that side of the ball.

Thus, Baldwin doesn’t want to over-extend the defense Saturday, plus, already knows what to expect out of an offense led by seniors Matt Nichols (quarterback), Aaron Boyce (wide receiver), Tony Davis (wide receiver), Brynsen Brown (wide receiver), Nathan Overbay (tight end) and Chris Thomas (offensive tackle).

"I expect to be able to lean on them at times," Baldwin said of that experienced senior unit on offense. "We should be able to put in things schematically where they can handle it in a short amount of time. They can make game-time adjustments on the run because they’ve played together since 2005 when they were redshirts. There is definitely a continuity there that I’m excited about, but when you mix in the running game with that it really helps."

Four quarterbacks have helped the offense complete 37-of-60 passes for 499 yards (8.3 per play), with six touchdowns and one interception.

But the most encouraging signs on offense have been in Eastern’s running game, with 258 yards on 55 rushes for a 4.7 average per carry (including sacks). Last year, Eastern averaged just 98.5 yards per game and 3.6 yards per carry for Eastern’s lowest average per game since 1987 when Eastern played the first of what is now 22 seasons as a member of the Big Sky Conference.

Converted cornerback Taiwan Jones has been impressive at running back, with 101 yards on 11 carries (9.2 per carry) and three touchdowns in the scrimmages thus far. He had scoring runs of 41 and 39 yards in last week’s scrimmage, but EWU’s other running backs are also thriving behind an offensive line led by 2008 honorable mention All-Big Sky tackles Brice Leahy and Thomas.

"The offensive line is definitely improved and is a year older too," said Baldwin. We lost two seniors, but a lot of our starters and backups played for the first time last year. They are working together better than they were last year."


Remaining 2009 Spring Practice Schedule:
(begin at 4 p.m.; Media Interviews at 3:45 p.m. or after practice at approximately 6 p.m.)
Thursday, April 23
Tuesday, April 28
Wednesday, April 29
Thursday, April 30

Remaining 2009 Spring Scrimmages:
Saturday, April 25 - Red-White Game - 2 p.m. (Woodward Field)


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