April 25, 2009
There weren’t any points on the scoreboard, but there was no doubt that senior quarterback Matt Nichols was the MVP and senior tight end Nathan Overbay was a close runner-up as a healthy offense took on an injury-depleted defense in Eastern Washington University’s annual Red-White Spring Football Game Saturday (April 25) at Woodward Field in Cheney, Wash.
The "Red" squad consisted of the Eagle offense against the "White" team consisting of the team’s defense. Because of depth issues at some positions -- mostly on defense -- the Eagles utilized the annual game as a situational scrimmage of 51 plays. The offense accumulated 361 yards (7.1 per play) with four impressive scoring drives of 65 yards or longer.
Nichols completed his first 13 passes of the scrimmage and finished 19-of-22 for 221 yards and three touchdowns. His scoring tosses were of 13 yards to junior Matt Martin, 17 to sophomore Taiwan Jones and 15 to Overbay, who finished with six catches for 91 yards.
"We played at a pace that I liked on offense," said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin. "We needed to step that up and play a little faster."
Jones, converted from cornerback this spring, also had a 17-yard touchdown catch from freshman redshirt Scott Burgett, who completed 5-of-6 passes for 64 yards. Jones also rushed for a scrimmage-high 33 yards, but had a fumble.
"He still has a long way to go to be a complete back," said Baldwin of Jones. "He has to work on the little things -- things like assignment and ball leverage and those types of things. But the natural ability is something you can’t teach. Once he gets the other things down, he’s going to be very special."
Sophomore running back Tyler Hart added three catches for 28 yards and rushed for 24 yards on five carries. Senior Tony Davis had five catches for 43 yards and senior Aaron Boyce added four catches for 45 yards. But the catches downfield by Overbay were what really stood out.
"He is such a big target," said Baldwin. "For a tight end to be that big and have such soft hands, he’s hard to guard. He can be covered and open, so to speak. So as accurate as Matt can throw it in spots, it is just tough to defend, just like that touchdown. You can probably go back and you can say that the defense was in pretty good position, but he’s down the middle."
Eastern’s injury-decimated defense, which had just 20 available players for the start of the second half, was led by freshman redshirt defensive lineman Evan Cook. He finished with a pair of sacks, two forced fumbles and three total tackles. Senior safety Kevin Hatch had a scrimmage-high seven tackles and also had a forced fumble.
"Like I said last week, we are really thin on defense," said Baldwin. "It’s going to be a combination of getting guys healthy on the offseason and hopefully none of the other injuries will linger into the summer workouts. We have a lot of other players that will be coming in that we have recruited on defense so we can balance it out. Now, it is hard to go a long scrimmage from a defensive stand point with the number of bodies we have. "
The Red-White game concluded the third week of spring practices for the Eagles, who open their season at home on Sept. 5 against Western Oregon. The Eagles conclude this week with practices on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
"I’m really excited," the second-year coach added. "It is never as good as it seems and it is never as bad as it seems. We will go back and watch film and we’ll find plenty of things that we still need to work on going all the way into next fall camp. There is definitely a difference between this year and last year as far as just being together and for myself, being with them another year. We’re getting a good feel with being on the same page."
Matt Martin 13 pass from Matt Nichols (Mike Jarrett kick)
Taiwan Jones 17 pass from Nichols (Jarrett kick)
Nathan Overbay 15 pass from Nichols (Ryan Schuh kick)
Taiwan Jones 8 pass from Scott Burgett (Schuh kick)
Rushing: Taiwan Jones 5-33, Tyler Hart 5-24, Darriell Beaumonte 4-12, Tony Davis 1-12, Matt Nichols 3-10, Jeff Grant Williams 1-minus-2, Minnerly 3-minus-1, Nick Gauthier 1-minus-5, Scott Burgett 3-minus-10, Team 1-minus-2, Totals - 27-71 (including four sacks for minus 28 yards)
Tackles: Kevin Hatch 7, Dante Calcote 6, Brandon Jimenez 5, J.C. Sherritt 5, John Roberts 4, Kyle Wilkins 4, Makai Borden 4, Josh Jacobson 4, Evan Cook 3, Jeremy Chaten 3, Levi Reynolds 2, Erich Armstrong 2, Matt Johnson 2, Jeff Young 1, Bobby Gentry 1, Bryan Karwacki 1, Rusty Haehl 1, Renard Williams 1, Jacob Kragt 1.
Sacks: Cook 2, Jacobson 1, Team 1.
Interceptions: Gentry 1.
Passes Broken Up: Roberts 1, Armstrong 1, Jimenez 1.
Forced Fumbles: Cook 2, Hatch 1.
Fumble Recoveries: Williams, Roberts.