Sept. 22, 2008
It will be an emotional weekend on the field, on the sidelines and in the stands at Woodward Field in Cheney, Wash., this Saturday (Sept. 27) on Hall of Fame/"100 for 100" Weekend at Eastern Washington University.
The 11th-ranked Eastern football team opens Big Sky Conference play against Idaho State in a game that will match first-year EWU head coach Beau Baldwin against his mentor for six years at Central Washington, John Zamberlin. The game will start at 12:37 p.m. Pacific time and is televised regionally on Altitude Sports and Entertainment (DirecTV 681/682; Dish Network 410; and Comcast Cable in Spokane Channel 79).
Besides the game -- the league opener for both the 0-3 Bengals and 1-2 Eagles -- Eastern will introduce pre-game (about 12:15 p.m.) the "100 for 100" All-Time Team that was selected this past summer to commemorate the 100th year of football at Eastern. Nearly 50 of those players, plus about 10 representatives, are expected to return to campus.
At halftime, four new members of the Eastern Athletics Hall of Fame will be inducted, including former Eastern All-America and NFL offensive lineman Kevin Sargent. Another is Jack Benson, a former Eastern gymnastics athlete, coach and physical education instructor who has spent the past two decades as a timer at EWU football games. The other two inductees are golf pro Gary Lindeblad and gymnastics coach Maxine Davis.
While Idaho State is 0-3 with losses to Boise State (49-7), Idaho (42-27) and North Dakota (38-35), EWU fared a little better in its third game. The Eagles defeated NCAA Division II Western Washington 52-31 after battling 12th-ranked Texas Tech (49-24) and Colorado (31-24) to the wire before falling.
"The league is going to be really tough, and it starts right away with our first game," said Baldwin. "You can’t be fooled by Idaho State’s record -- they have talent all over the field. Everybody, no matter what their record is, is jacked up because they are 0-0 heading into league play. Every team in this conference has the ability to knock off anybody at any time. You have to come in with the right mindset because if you have any kind of letdown you will get beat."
Junior Matt Nichols and senior Greg Peach -- a pair of candidates for national player of the year awards -- sparked Eastern in the fourth quarter in the win over Western. Nichols passed for 281 yards and three touchdowns as the Eagles improved to 1-2 on the season. The Walter Payton Award candidate completed 18-of-24 passes in the game, and was 6-of-7 for 109 yards and a touchdown in the decisive fourth quarter.
Peach had a hand in all four Eastern sacks in the game, and his total of three gave him 20 1/2 in his career and move him into seventh on Eastern’s career leaders list. Two of the sacks came on third down and led to Western Washington punts, including one in the fourth quarter in which he combined with Jason Belford. At the time, Eastern led 38-31 with just over 11 minutes to play, and the Eagles would go on to score twice more in the fourth quarter. The Buck Buchanan Award candidate finished with eight total tackles.
Tied at 31 in the third quarter, Eastern came alive to score 21 points in the fourth quarter in a span of 7:11. Aaron Boyce caught a 10-yard touchdown pass from Nichols and Tyler Hart had touchdown runs of three and 30 yards. At that point, Eastern had a 197-27 advantage in total offense in the quarter, but was out-gained 515-506 in the game.
"That was what I was most proud of our guys about," said Baldwin of his team’s performance in the final quarter. "We were in a dogfight with Western and a lot of people didn’t expect that -- but I knew they were going to come in and play their best football. I give Western a lot of credit and they did some good things. But it was good to see us finish it, which was something we didn’t do against Colorado two weeks earlier."
Eastern will enter this week’s game ranked 11th in The Sports Network NCAA Football Subdivision rankings. This will be the 30th meeting between the Eagles and Bengals, with Eastern winning the last two meetings by a combined score of 74-13 and leading the series 20-9.
"We have to do some of the same things we did on offense against Western from the standpoint of having no turnovers and being effective in the red zone," said Baldwin of the keys for his team against the Bengals. "We just have to stay on the field a little more. We try to play fast, but at times that can be a detriment if you’re not picking up first downs. We have to improve on third downs too -- we took a step forward against Colorado (11-of-19) but took a step back against Western (3-of-9).
"Defensively, we need to focus on assignments and alignment, and make sure we’re in the proper places," he added. "Effort is not the issue. It just happened that Western got into a nice rhythm against us and we didn’t make some plays we probably should have."
-- Ahead For the Eagles -- Following Saturday’s game, Eastern continues Big Sky Conference play at Portland State on Oct. 4 before returning home for the Eastern-Montana showdown on Oct. 11 at Woodward Field.
Besides Idaho State and Montana, Eastern plays league home games in 2008 against Sacramento State (Nov. 1) and Northern Arizona (Nov. 15). Eastern’s four Big Sky opponents at home had a collective 23-22 record overall and 18-14 league mark in 2007, led by Montana’s 11-1 record overall and perfect 8-0 record in the BSC. Eastern’s 2008 road opponents were 15-30 overall and 12-20 in the conference.
-- Roots to Baldwin vs. Zamberlin Match-Up Started Back in 1992 -- The roots of Saturday’s Beau Baldwin vs. John Zamberlin match-up started back in 1992-94 when Zamberlin was an assistant coach at Eastern. In 1997, he became head coach at Central Washington and for six years Baldwin was his quarterbacks coach and co-offensive coordinator.
Baldwin would leave to become Eastern’s offensive coordinator for four seasons, including 2006 when a youthful Eastern team finished just 3-8. One of EWU’s losses that season was a 21-14 loss to the NCAA Division II Wildcats, a victory that helped secure Zamberlin the job at ISU for the 2007 season. And it was Baldwin who filled the head coaching vacancy at CWU.
Finally, when Eastern’s Paul Wulff left to become head coach at Central Washington, Baldwin returned as head coach at Eastern. And he quickly circled Sept. 27 on his calendar as not only his first-ever meeting against his former mentor, but his Big Sky debut as a head coach as well.
"It’s against Idaho State and a person I have a lot of respect for," Baldwin said. "That will be a fun game. He came to Central in 1997 and retained three of us that were on staff. That was good of him to do that and that he had faith in us and trusted us. We were fortunate to have a coach come in from all the way across the country and keep us."
Zamberlin also knows most of Eastern’s coaching staff from his days at Central -- include John Graham, Ryan Sawyer, Torey Hunter and Nat Conley who were either coaches, players or both under him. Likewise, the ISU coaching staff is a who’s who of former Eastern assistants, including Steve Amrine, Mike Orthmann and Brian Strandley.
"That part is going to be fun, but we probably won’t talk much this week," added Baldwin. "But before the game it will be good to see those guys. They are a great staff, and coach Zamberlin treated me well through the years -- I have a lot of respect for him. It will be fun to compete against them."
-- EWU Individual Leaders -- The Eagles had plenty of individual performances to be proud of in their first two games, and added more versus Western Washington.
Of note, junior quarterback Matt Nichols had a pair of 300-yard passing performances, and junior receiver Tony Davis has already caught 28 passes after a shoulder injury held him to 35 all of the 2007 season. After three games, Nichols leads the Big Sky and ranks sixth in FCS in total offense per game (308.3). Davis is seventh nationally and second in the league in receptions per game (9.3), ranking behind Idaho State’s Eddie Thompson (10.7 to rank second nationally).
In addition, kicker Felipe Macias already has field goals of 55 and 52 yards to his credit -- the only player to have made a 50-yarder in the first two weeks of the season. Through week three, he still has the two longest field goals in FCS and is the only player with two of 50-plus yards. Punter Fritz Brayton has also been impressive, averaging 42.0 yards per kick to rank 20th in FCS.
Defensively, senior cornerback Ryan Kelley is tied for second in the Big Sky in tackles with 25 (average of 8.3 per game). Twins Matt Johnson and Zach Johnson, a pair of freshman redshirts, have combined for 49 tackles thus far, with Zach also tied for second in the Big Sky (8.3 per game) and Matt ranking fifth (8.0). Zach also has three passes broken up and Matt has three interceptions to rank second in FCS (1.0 per game).
Senior defensive Greg Peach had all three of his sacks against Western Washington and now ranks seventh nationally and first in the Big Sky (1.0 per game). Fellow defensive end Jason Belford had a pair of sacks against Colorado and three total this season to hold the same rankings as Peach.
-- Nichols Has Seventh and Eighth 300-Yard Passing Games -- Junior quarterback Matt Nichols had the seventh 300-yard passing game in his career when he completed 36-of-61 passes for 335 yards and a touchdown against Texas Tech on Aug. 30. Currently on the 2008 Walter Payton Award Watch List, his completions and attempts in that game both ranked as the second-most in school history.
He had his eighth 300-yard passing game when he finished with 303 at Colorado on Sept. 6 in his 26th game as an Eagle.
On EWU’s career passing lists, Nichols ranks in the top five in all categories, including third in passing yards (6,412), average yards per game (237.5) and total offense (6,925). He is also fifth in efficiency rating (136.6), fifth in touchdown passes (44), third in completions (509) and fifth in attempts (835).
Below is a complete list of his 300-yard outings:
300-Yard Passing Games for Nichols
451 - 37x59, 2td - Montana - 10/6/07 (#3 in school history)
434 - 34x44, 2td - McNeese State - 11/24/07 (#6 in school history)
363 - 19x30, 2td - Portland State - 9/29/07 (#25 in school history)
335 - 36x61, 1td - Texas Tech - 8/30/08 (#38 in school history)
329 - 21x42, 1td - Sacramento State - 9/30/06
328 - 20x29, 3td - Sacramento State - 10/27/07
316 - 17x22, 5td - Northern Arizona - 11/10/07
303 - 32x51, 1td - Colorado - 9/6/08
300-Yard Total Offense Games for Nichols
478 - 451 passing, 27 rushing - Montana - 10/6/07
459 - 434 passing. 25 rushing - McNeese State - 11/24/07
370 - 363 passing, 7 rushing - Portland State - 9/29/07
359 - 256 passing, 103 rushing - Weber State - 11/17/07
359 - 329 passing, 30 rushing - Sacramento State - 9/30/06
364 - 316 passing, 48 rushing - Northern Arizona - 11/10/07
355 - 328 passing, 27 rushing - Sacramento State - 10/27/07
322 - 335 passing, -13 rushing - Texas Tech - 8/30/08
314 - 303 passing, 11 rushing - Colorado - 9/6/08
-- Wide Receiver Trio Ahead of Previous Quartet -- Eastern’s receiving corp in 2008 includes three juniors – Tony Davis, Brynsen Brown and Aaron Boyce – who have started since they were freshmen in 2006. In their careers, that trio has already combined for 346 catches for 4,735 yards and 30 touchdowns in 77 games worth of experience (63 starts). They combined for 118 catches for 1,539 yards and eight touchdowns as redshirt freshmen in 2006, then combined for 172 catches for 2,561 yards and 18 scores in 2007.
That trio is a reminder of a recent quartet of players that began playing with quarterback Erik Meyer in 2002. Eric Kimble, Raul Vijil, Richmond Sanders and Craig McIntyre had career totals of 503 catches for 7,858 yards and 74 touchdowns in 156 games worth of experience (74 starts). But after their first two seasons as Eagles, that quartet had just 121 catches, for 1,774 yards and 17 touchdowns -- less than half of the production that Davis, Brown and Boyce had in their first two years.
In 2005, Meyer and his teammates won their second-straight Big Sky Conference title and appeared in the playoffs for the second-straight season. Meyer would go on to win the Walter Payton Award in 2005 as the top player in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision.
100-Yard Receiving Games for Tony Davis
150 (6 catches, 0 TD) - Idaho State - 9/22/07
131 (8 catches, 1 TD) - McNeese State - 11/24/07
126 (6 catches, 1 TD) - Western Washington - 9/20/08
114 (13 catches/#2 in school history, 1 TD) - Texas Tech - 8/30/08
112 (6 catches, 0 TD) - Central Washington - 9/16/06
100-Yard Receiving Games for Aaron Boyce
232 (17 catches/#1 in school history, 1 TD) - Montana - 10/6/07 (#2 in school history)
186 (9 catches, 2 TD) - Sacramento State - 10/27/07 (#10 in school history)
135 (9 catches, 1 TD) - Brigham Young - 10/20/07
126 (5 catches, 0 TD) - Montana State - 10/13/07
119 (6 catches, 1 TD) - Portland State - 9/29/07
107 (9 catches, 0 TD) - UC Davis - 9/15/07
100-Yard Receiving Games Brynsen Brown
139 (5 catches, 0 TD) - Portland State - 9/29/07
138 (9 catches, 2 TD) - Northern Arizona - 10/28/06
104 (7 catches, 0 TD) - McNeese State - 11/24/07
104 (5 catches, 0 TD) - Sacramento State - 9/3/06
99 (6 catches, 1 TD) - Weber State - 11/17/07
-- Davis Has Second-Best Receiving Performance in School History -- Junior Tony Davis, who missed four games last season with a shoulder injury, led the Eagles with 13 catches for 114 yards and a touchdown in Eastern’s 49-24 loss to Texas Tech on Aug. 30. His catch total equaled the second most in school history, ranking only behind the 17 teammate Aaron Boyce had in 2007 against Montana. Davis, a 2005 graduate of Capital High School in Olympia, Wash., had 126 yards and a touchdown on six catches versus Western Washington on Sept. 20. Davis now has five 100-yard receiving performances in his Eastern career.
-- Macias Follows 55-Yarder With 52-Yarder -- Senior kicker Felipe Macias booted a 55-yard field goal against Texas Tech on Aug. 30 to pull Eastern to within 28-17 at halftime. He then had a 52-yarder against Colorado, giving him the only 50-yard field goals in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision after the first two weeks of the season.
His kick versus TTU was the third-longest in school history behind boots of 57 and 56 yards. Brett Bergstrom kicked a 56-yarder in 2006 while the school record is a 57-yarder that Eric Stein had in 1987. However, both of those kicks came at much higher altitudes and thinner air. Bergstrom’s was in Greeley, Colo. (elevation 4,711), and Stein’s was in Bozeman, Mont. (4,872). Macias kicked his in high humidity in Lubbock, Texas (elevation 3,222), but did have the wind at his back.
His kick at Colorado, at an elevation of 5,387 feet, was the ninth-longest in school history. It gave the Eagles a 24-17 lead with 3:57 to play.
-- Baldwin Likes Team’s Character and Leadership -- With 15 starters and 43 total letter winners returning from last year’s squad, Eastern is hoping to continue the momentum from the 2007 season when the Eagles returned to the top of the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision scene with a 9-4 finish after a dismal 3-8 record the year before. Eastern advanced to the FCS Playoffs for the third time in the last four seasons and closed the year ranked eighth in the final Sports Network poll of the year.
"I like the makeup of our team a lot," said Baldwin. "Not only do we have great talent, but we have great character and leadership. Those are things your team has to have if they don’t want to be just good but strive to be great. We are nowhere near that at this moment, but in my opinion we have the right makeup to be consistent throughout the year."
-- Five Players Make Starting Debuts -- Five players, including three on defense and two on offense, made their starting debuts at Texas Tech on Aug. 30.
The defensive debuts were made by weak-side outside linebacker J.C. Sherritt, strong-side inside linebacker Zach Johnson and strong safety Matt Johnson. Sherritt is a sophomore from Pullman, Wash. (Pullman HS ’06) and the Johnson twins are redshirt freshmen from Tumwater, Wash. (Tumwater HS ’07). The Johnson twins were playing in their first collegiate football game.
On offense, both new starters were offensive guards. Ryan Forney, a junior from Silverdale, Wash. (Central Kitsap ’05) started at left guard and Bryan Smith, a senior from Enumclaw, Wash. (Enumclaw HS ’04) started on the right.
-- Starting Experience Leads to Wins -- Returning starts -- and the experience that goes along with them -- can sometimes be a good gauge of how many wins can be expected on the field. In the last six years, EWU’s top three win-loss records (collective 25-13) were recorded by teams that returned at least 245 starts. The worst three records (collective 15-18) were by teams with 225 returning starts or fewer.
The Eagles entered the 2008 season with 26 players returning with starting experience totaling 272 starts. Broken down, Eastern returns 136 starts on both defense and offense (13 players each) for a total of 272 starts returning.
By contrast, Eastern entered the 2007 season with 31 players returning with starting experience and a total of 245 starts. Of the total, just 80 were on the defensive side and 165 were by offensive players. The Eagles opened the 2006 season with 25 players with starting experience, amounting to 225 starts between them.
The Eagles entered the 2005 season with 23 players with starting experience (280 total starts). Just five players made their starting debuts for the Eagles in the season opener, but 13 made starting debuts after that because of a large amount of injuries the Eagles suffered.
The Eagles opened the 2004 season with 29 players with starting experience (271 starts), and in 2003 they had 28 players with starting experience (168 starts). However, Eastern had just 17 players with a combined 108 starts between them entering the 2002 season.
In both the 2003 and 2004 season openers, the Eagles had six new starters in the lineup. In 2002, 13 players made starting debuts in Eastern’s 38-2 loss at Arizona State.
Below is a breakdown by year of the returning starters Eastern has had and the record the Eagles ended up with.
Year - Players With Starting Experience - Total Starts - New Starters in Opener - Record
2008 - 26 - 272 - 5 - ?
2007 - 31 - 245 - 6 - 9-4 (total of 11 new starters used during the year)
2006 - 25 - 225 - 5 - 3-8 (total of 21 new starters used during the year)
2005 - 23 - 280 - 5 - 7-5 (total of 18 new starters used during the year)
2004 - 29 - 271 - 6 - 9-4
2003 - 28 - 168 - 6 - 6-5
2002 - 17 - 108 - 13 - 6-5
Here are the current number of career starts by Eastern players on the 2008 roster -- Defense (169 starts by 18 players) -- Greg Peach 32, Jason Belford 28, Lance Witherspoon 21, Makai Borden 16, Kevin Hatch 16, Shawn Powell 12, Lonnie Hosley 11, Ryan Kelley 8, Marcus Walker 5, Josh Jacobson 5, Tyler Jolley 3, Matt Johnson 3, Zach Johnson 3, J.C. Sherritt 2, Adam Macomber 1, Jacob Kragt 1, Renard Williams 1, Kyle Wilkins 1.
Offense (169 starts by 15 players) -- Matt Nichols 26, Aaron Boyce 25, Charlie Wulff 23, Brynsen Brown 23, Tony Davis 15, Dale Morris 15, Chris Thomas 10, Alexis Alexander 9, Nathan Overbay 5, Brice Leahy 4, Bryan Smith 3, Ryan Forney 3, Toke Kefu 3, A.J. Jimerson 3, Matt Martin 2.
-- Injury Report -- Freshman redshirt cornerback Taiwan Jones, who broke his fibula the first week of pre-season practices, could make his Eagle debut this week against Idaho State. He is listed as questionable for this week’s game.
Eastern came out of its first three game fairly healthy. The only player to leave the Texas Tech game with an injury was Alexis Alexander, who sat out the Colorado game and returned to play against Western. Linebacker J.C. Sherrit left the Colorado game with a sprained ankle suffered on his 48-yard interception return for a touchdown. He missed the Western game but is expected back this week. Head coach Beau Baldwin reported no new injuries from the Western game that could keep players out of the ISU contest.
Senior starting nose tackle Shawn Powell suffered a knee injury before practices even began and is out for the season.
Interestingly, injuries to Alexander and Sherritt both occurred on touchdowns. Last year, Tony Davis injured his shoulder on a touchdown reception versus Portland State and missed four games.
-- Half of "100 for 100" Team to Return -- About 50 players and 10 representatives will return to be honored at Eastern Washington University this week as the school commemorates the 100th year of football on the campus in Cheney, Wash.
Earlier this summer, the athletic department named 100 of the top players in school history to the "100 for 100" All-Time Football Team. Players on the squad will be honored during pre-game ceremonies on Eastern Athletics Hall of Fame/"100 for 100" Day on Sept. 27, 2008, in conjunction with EWU’s Big Sky Conference football game with Idaho State.
Besides the announcement of the team, fan voting took place through Sept. 21 for the top player by position. Nearly 700 votes were cast, and, interestingly, all 100 of the 100 players received votes. The top players by position will be announced during the EWU-ISU game, which is televised regionally on Altitude Sports and Entertainment.
Four new members of the Eastern Athletics Hall of Fame, will be honored in halftime ceremonies on Sept. 27. Besides the game, the inductees and "100 for 100" team will be honored with a breakfast and ceremony that starts at 9 a.m. on Sept. 27 at the Pence Union Building. The public is invited to attend (RSVP to 509-359-2463 or 1-800-648-7697) and the cost is $15 per person.
The new inductees include former Eastern All-America football player and National Football League offensive tackle Kevin Sargent, who is also a member of the "100 for 100" team. Besides Sargent, other former players who spent time with NFL clubs expected back for the "100 for 100" recognition include Kurt Schulz, Jeff Ogden, Ed Simmons, Tom Ackerman, Trent Pollard, Joey Cwik, Derek Strey, Craig Richardson, Eric Stein, Scott Garske, Herm Pein and 2005 Walter Payton Award winner Erik Meyer.
Other former Eagles who went on to professional careers scheduled to return include Jackie Kellogg, Harry Leons, Tony Brooks, Jason Marsh, Tommy Williams and Raul Vijil. In addition, 91-year old Dick Maurstad will be among the total of about 50 "100 for 100" players returning.
The other Hall of Fame inductees include the current head professional at Indian Canyon Golf Course in Spokane, Wash., Gary Lindeblad. Lindeblad competed at the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Championships all four years he was at Eastern.
The other two inductees were gymnastics coaches at Eastern, including men’s coach Jack Benson and women’s coach Maxine Davis. Benson also competed in gymnastics for Eastern, and in 1962 competed in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Championships. Benson has also spent the last two decades as a timer at Eastern football games, but will be given the day off to share his time with his family and several of his former gymnasts returning.
Legendary basketball coach Chuck Randall, the inventor of the collapsible basketball rim, will also be recognized on Sept. 27 as this year’s recipient of the Eastern Washington University Athletics Hall of Fame Service and Contribution Award.
Established in 1996, this year’s inductees will bring the total number of individuals in the Hall of Fame to 45. Five teams have also been inducted. More information on the Hall of Fame and the "100 for 100" team may be found at: http://goeags.cstv.com/hallfame.
Beau Baldwin QUOTES
-- On Eagles After Three Pre-Season Games -- "We need a lot of improvement. It's one of those things where every week, in the Big Sky, there is anyone top to bottom that can beat anyone. And I really believe that, maybe this year more than ever. Some of those teams that were considered lower-level Big Sky teams in the last few years, those coaches are (in their) second year. Every one of those Big Sky teams is better than I think they probably were the year before. So, top to bottom, this conference is tough, and every week, if you have any sort of letdown, you will find yourself losing a ballgame."
-- On EWU’s Defensive Line -- "They are always going to be the meat and potatoes of our defense. We are going to be as good as our defensive line -- we are going to be in ballgames later on that are 17-10 or 13-7. You never know, those type of games happen too. We just have to make sure we're on the right end of those. I don't care what the final score is as long as we are on the right end."
-- On Narrow Loss to Colorado -- "It’s a sting, especially when you have to come back and watch the video. When you watch it you realize the things that might have been a little different could have helped us come out on top. But that’s part of it. We need to learn from it and move forward."
-- On Starters Playing All Eight Quarters in Openers -- "Our players are in great shape -- maybe even better shape than I might have thought. And they play with tremendous heart, so we have a group of players who dig deep. Despite the circumstances they found a way to do that, particularly in coming back from the Texas Tech game to do it again against Colorado. We were a little short in the end, but it’s still something we can build from and come out with a lot of positive things."
-- On Two Weeks Before Western Game -- "We want to correct some little things, but more than anything we want to challenge them from a conditioning standpoint. We’ll stay away from a lot of banging during the bye week. I’m pretty confident in our players, particularly the veterans, that understand what it’s like to hit and tackle in a game. We want them in a position headed into Western where their shoulders are rested up and they feel fresh again."
-- On Defensive Positives -- "The defensive line has stood out like we expected them to, maybe even more than we expected. They’ve provided a lot of push and pressure on the opposing team. We haven’t had a lot of sacks, but their quarterbacks have been hurried. Overall from a defensive standpoint, we’ve flown around and guys are playing fast. We’re playing at a level where we didn’t feel out of place against Big 12 teams."
-- On Offensive Positives -- "Like the defense, our offense was flying around and didn’t feel out of place. Against Colorado we played a lot better at receiver and made a lot of plays, and that started with our first series. We started the game a lot faster on offense, which was huge. And the offensive line overall has done a great job with pass protection after two games, especially with as much as we’ve thrown against two Big 12 teams. But we have to become more balanced, and I wish we could have squirted a couple of more runs against Colorado. At the same time, if we keep working on it, it will come."
-- On Battling Back Versus Texas Tech -- "You go down 21-0 to any team -- let alone Texas Tech -- and it’s going to be hard to try to fight back from that. But our guys did. They fought back and made a few plays. We kept believing and that was the key thing. I’m not into moral victories, but I was very proud of the way our guys left it on the field."
-- On Second Half Versus TTU -- "We had basically won the second quarter 17-7, and there was no reason why we couldn’t win the third quarter 17-7 or something along those lines. We wanted to keep building momentum -- we had it in the second quarter and I told our team to do everything they could to keep that momentum. We knew Texas Tech was too well-coached and had too many good football players not to come out angry after halftime. It was going to be a tough fight, no question. But we kept fighting in that third quarter, and because of a few plays here and there it just slipped away from us in the end."
-- On Red Raider Defense -- "Texas Tech has a really good scheme with really good players. Their secondary is extremely athletic and its tough to get open against them. We saw that on film from last year -- it was tough for all teams in the Big 12 to run routes and get open against their defensive backs. So that’s going to be a challenge for any receiver."
-- Baldwin on Preseason National Polls -- "There is some merit to be near the top because that can help you when it comes to the playoffs. That can sometimes make it a little easier to stay in the top 16 rather than to have to climb all the way into it."
-- Baldwin on Improvement by Nichols in 2007 -- "I wouldn’t say it totally surprised me by any stretch. That’s especially true when you understand how hard he works in the off-season and how hard he works the week before games. Once the games got going last season, he was just having fun. He put in a lot of time understanding what he had to do to be successful."
-- Baldwin on Nichols -- "You never expect a freshman that struggles a little bit to come back and be Player of the Year in the Big Sky. But if you would have asked me going into last year if he had the talent to do that, I would have said yes. And he obviously proved that."
-- Baldwin on Nichols Wanting Big Sky Title -- "I think he would trade 100 Big Sky MVP trophies for one Big Sky championship. That’s just his mindset."
-- Baldwin on Future Improvement of Nichols -- "He can just keep getting better and better. There were times last year when there were things he could have done to spread the ball out even more, and that’s something I want to see him do better this season. Sometimes you get comfortable with a certain player, and he and Boyce, obviously, had a special connection. I think Matt will be that much better if he can use his other receivers even more."
-- Baldwin on Nichols to Boyce Passing Combo -- "It’s pretty special -- they’ve developed an incredible rapport and had a great year. But I’ve talked to both guys about the fact we’ll be even more successful in some ways if there are less pass completions between Matt Nichols and Aaron Boyce. The more we can spread it out and involve seven, eight or nine players catching balls in the passing game, we will be that much better. Both Aaron and Matt might have better years even if their stats aren’t as good. I think we can become better as an offense because of that."
-- Baldwin on Boyce and Receiving Corp -- "I’m excited to coach Aaron again, and the rest of the receiving corp. It’s a good group and has a lot of relatively young players."
-- Baldwin on Nichols and Boyce -- "You not only are talking about talented players, but you’re talking about two mature student-athletes. They are great people and that is part of the reason for their success. They have great character off the field as well, and that will help keep those two grounded and keep them progressing. You don’t want them to get their heads in the clouds thinking they have it all figured out, and then all of the sudden an off year slaps you right in the face. I don’t see that happening to those two guys."
-- Baldwin on Future of Talented Junior Class -- "Each year is different, and a lot of things happen between your sophomore year and junior year, and your junior year and senior year. You can never predict the future. But I’m very fortunate to be in this situation. We have a ton of great weapons on offense."
-- Baldwin on Defensive Line -- "There are seniors up there who have all played significant roles since as far back as 2005. They are a veteran group. No matter how young you are at linebacker and in the secondary, if you are good on the defensive line you give those back seven guys a great chance to be successful. And vice versa -- if you’re not good on the defensive line, even All-America corners can’t cover for eight seconds. It’s huge for us from a defensive standpoint to have an experienced defensive line. All the great defenses are always going to start with the guys up front."
-- Baldwin on Offensive Changes -- "To an outsider looking at our team, you’re probably not going to see a lot of changes. There are some subtle changes we are making that are things I believe in and want to do. But it’s not going to be an overhaul. I don’t think you come into a program with a lot of success and make 180-degree changes. If you do, I think you’re letting your ego get in the way a little bit. I want to keep a lot of things familiar for those guys."
-- Baldwin on Defensive Changes -- "We have a new defensive coordinator, so it will be a little different. In the past we’ve started with a one-high safety philosophy and now we’ll use two high safeties as our base. We’ll still have the ability to roll down to an eight-man front. Our defense will probably have more changes than our offense from a scheme standpoint."
-- Baldwin on Winning Big Sky -- "The Big Sky is such a great league and such a fun league to compete in. No matter what you do in your non-league schedule, you still have a new opportunity when the league schedule starts. It’s always an exciting time for us as coaches and players."
-- Series History -- Eastern leads the series 20-9, including a current two-game winning streak and streaks of six-straight (1996-2001) and seven-straight (1984-1990). The Eagles have now won nine of the last 12 meetings, with the winning team averaging 40.7 points in those last 12 meetings. Eastern has outscored ISU 74-13 in the last two games in the series.
The six-game winning streak was snapped in 2002 with a 21-14 home loss to the Bengals, who would go on to share the Big Sky title with Montana and Montana State. The Eagles are 12-5 in games played in Pocatello and 8-4 in home games versus the Bengals.
In 2006 in Cheney, Eastern out-gained Idaho State 364-179 in total offense as the Eagles ended its 2006 football season with a 40-6 victory over Idaho State and avoided going winless at home. Eastern finished the year 3-8 overall and 3-5 in the Big Sky. Senior kicker Brett Bergstrom tied the single season school record for field goals when he made a 28-yarder in the third quarter. Walk-on Nicholas Ramos scored on a 28-yard pass and a 35-yard reverse, and starting quarterback Matt Nichols passed for a score and rushed for another. He finished the game 11-of-19 for 94 yards and an interception, and rushed five times for 66 yards. Eastern finished with 226 rushing yards against an Idaho State team that went into the game ranked 11th nationally in rushing defense (103.0 yards per game). Eastern also registered a safety on a sack by sophomore Greg Peach.
In 2005 in Pocatello, fifth-ranked Eastern Washington rallied from a 17-point deficit in the second half but fell to unranked Idaho State 34-30. Idaho State scored 24 unanswered points to take a 24-7 lead at halftime. Eastern out-gained Idaho State 425-301 in total offense – including 263-88 in the second half. But EWU couldn’t overcome four turnovers, 12 penalties for 99 yards and 198 ISU yards on kickoff and punt returns. Quarterback Erik Meyer completed 31-of-47 passes for 364 but was sacked seven times and was pressured into interceptions in EWU’s last two possessions of the game. Eric Kimble caught seven passes for 91 yards and a touchdown.
In 2004, senior running back Darius Washington rushed for 228 yards and four touchdowns as the Eagles beat the Bengals 47-22 in Cheney. Washington's performance was the seventh-best in school history as Eastern finished with 612 yards of total offense -- the seventh-most in school history. Eastern had 331 yards on the ground and 281 through the air. With Washington rushing for 117 yards in the first half, the Eagles jumped out to a 26-6 lead early in the second quarter -- just 15 minutes and 21 seconds into the game. Eastern led by no less than 17 the rest of the way. Eastern's 331 rushing yards were the most in its last 30 games since rushing for 363 against Cal State Northridge in 2001. Its total offense total was the most since finishing with 630 against Western Oregon in 2002, and the most against a NCAA Division I school since finishing with 618 against Idaho State in 2001.
In Pocatello in 2003, Idaho State rallied from a two-touchdown deficit in the fourth quarter, and went on to defeat Eastern Washington 55-52 in double overtime. Erik Meyer passed for 312 yards and four touchdowns -- including a key 23-yard scoring toss on a fake field goal attempt in the fourth quarter that gave the Eagles a 42-28 lead. But Eastern was unable to run out the clock on its final three possessions, resulting in a pair of ISU touchdowns in the final 5:01 of the game. Both teams scored touchdowns in the first overtime, then EWU's Rich Heintz kicked a field goal to give the Eagles a three-point lead. But ISU, aided by a pass interference penalty on a third down play, scored the winning points on a 1-yard touchdown run by Isaac Mitchell. On his way to a career night, Eastern sophomore wide receiver/running back Eric Kimble was lost for the game after suffering a concussion early in the second quarter on a 25-yard run that resulted in an ISU facemask penalty. He didn't return, and finished the game with 134 yards of all-purpose yardage on just 12 plays. Eastern finished with 452 yards of total offense, with ISU finishing with 506 -- 508 in the last three quarters and overtime alone.
In 2002, the Eagles were unable to capitalize on three Idaho State turnovers in the first half and lost their Big Sky Conference opener 21-14. The Bengals scored two of its touchdowns in a 2:51 span in the third quarter. All five touchdowns scored in the game were pass plays of 39 yards or longer. Eastern scored on plays of 39 and 55 yards, and the Bengals had touchdown passes of 70, 85 and 58 yards. Idaho State out-gained the Eagles in total offense 431-276 after the Eagles entered the game ranked third in I-AA with an average of 499 yards per game. Eastern was also ranked fifth in scoring offense at 39.0 points per outing. Throw away Idaho State's three scoring plays, and Eastern's defense was superb. Eastern allowed 431 yards of total offense on 72 plays (6.0 per play), but 213 of those yards came on the three long touchdown passes. Throw out those three plays and the Eagles allowed just 218 yards on 69 plays (3.2 per play).
In 2001, Troy Griggs kicked a 41-yard field goal with a new shoe with eight seconds remaining as the Eagles downed Idaho State 48-45 at Holt Arena. Eastern running back Jesse Chatman finished his career with 212 yards and three touchdowns on the ground for the Eagles. Quarterback Fred Salanoa finished with 360 yards -- 12th-best in school history -- and three touchdowns passing. As a team, Eastern finished with 618 yards to give them a school record 5,659 for the season (record 514.5 per game). Griggs scored a total of 12 points in the game to finish his season with a school-record 93 points, but amazingly was playing the game with a new kicking shoe he used for the first time during pre-game warmups. His normal kicking shoe apparently fell out of his travel bag during Eastern's plane flight from Spokane to Salt Lake City, Utah, and his mother purchased a $10 pair of shoes on the morning of the game. With five kickoff returns for 150 yards, Lamont Brightful maintained his I-AA record for career average per kickoff return. His 53-yarder on the final return of his career gave him a 30.0 average in 65 career returns to break the record of 29.688 held by Marshall's Troy Brown (1991-92).
In 2000, Eastern nearly doubled the offensive output of Idaho State and came away with a 38-7 victory at Woodward Field in Cheney. With Jesse Chatman rushing for 143 yards and Jovan Griffith adding another 99, the Eagles out-gained the Bengals 482-245. The Eagles rushed for 153 yards in the second half as they had a 267-97 edge in total offense after halftime. The Eagles scored the final 28 points in the game, including 21 in the second half.
Fourth downs, and not so much the offenses and definitely not the defenses, told the story in Eastern’s narrow 45-38 win over Idaho State in 1999. The two teams combined for 1,109 yards of offense, with ISU finishing with 604 total and 477 through the air. Eastern ended up with 505, including 295 on the ground. The difference in the game might be best found in the fourth-down conversions category. ISU was 1-of-4, including three misses in the last 18 1/2 minutes of the game. Eastern was 2-of-2, with one conversion a touchdown and the other leading to a TD. Two touchdown runs in the second quarter by Jesse Chatman gave Eastern a 21-10 lead it would never relinquish. But ISU battled back with 320 yards of offense in the second half. In ISU’s last six possessions of the game, three ended in touchdowns and three ended when Eastern’s defense stopped the Bengals on downs.
In 1998 Eastern triumphed 44-13 in Pocatello and out-gained the Bengals 456-247. In 1997 in Cheney, Eastern beat ISU 51-7. The Eagles led 20-0 at halftime and 41-0 after three quarters in a game regionally televised on Fox Sports Northwest. Senior-led in that game, Eastern's Rex Prescott rushed for 171 yards, Harry Leons passed for 230 and Jeff Ogden caught seven passes for 147 yards. Greg Belzer had five tackles and scored on a 42-yard interception return for a touchdown. Eastern had 546 yards in total offense to the 183 of ISU, whose only points came on a fourth-quarter fumble recovery for a touchdown. A year earlier in a difficult trip to Pocatello, Eastern prevailed 31-17. Eastern's chartered airplane flight to Pocatello, Idaho, was canceled because of mechanical problems. Alaska Airlines, with the help of Seattle Seahawks executive Gary Wright, was eventually able to end the 6 1/2 hour ordeal by securing a plane and crew for a late-night flight to Pocatello. Eastern arrived at their motel in Pocatello at about 4 a.m. Mountain time, just 10 hours before kickoff.
-- Looking Back to 2007/No. 25 Eagles Open Big Sky Play with 34-7 Win -- Sophomore quarterback Matt Nichols passed for 232 yards in the first half to stake Eastern to a 27-0 lead and the Eagles went on to open Big Sky Conference play with a 34-7 football victory over Idaho State Sept. 22 at Holt Arena in Pocatello, Idaho.
Running back Alexis Alexander added three rushing touchdowns as the 25th-ranked Eagles had 285 yards in the first half and a total of 418 in the game. Eastern’s defense did its part in the win as it forced four first-half turnovers, held the Bengals without a point for the first 50:51 of the game and allowed 104 yards in the decisive first half and 404 in the game.
Nichols finished the game 17-of-30 for 285 yards and one touchdown. Sophomore receiver Tony Davis had six catches for 150 yards, including four grabs for 126 yards in the first half. Senior Shane Eller added three catches for 52 yards, and Aaron Boyce had three grabs for 46 yards and a touchdown.
Alexander led the running game with 57 yards, but 38 of those came in one carry. Sophomore cornerback Lonnie Hosley had two interceptions, two passes broken up and five tackles. Idaho State scored its first points with 9:09 left in the game on a 92-yard drive. Although Eastern was out-gained 296-133 in the second half, the Eagles allowed just one score.
Linebacker Marcus Walker led the Eagles with 10 tackles and Ira Jarmon had eight tackles and an interception. Senior Bryan Jarrett also had an interception, and sacks were recorded by Josh Jacobson, Greg Peach, Jason Belford and Tyler Jolley.
Idaho State had three turnovers in the first 18 minutes and Eastern turned them into points to take a 13-0 lead. An interception by Jarrett led to a 21-yard field goal by Felipe Macias.
Another ISU turnover, this time an interception in EWU’s own end zone by Hosley, resulted in a seven-play, 80-yard drive for the Eagles. Alexander ran the final 38 yards for the score.
Another Macias field goal, this time from 50 yards, came after a fumble that was forced by Makai Borden and recovered by Belford. The field goal equaled the 15th-longest in school history and gave Eastern a 13-point cushion with 10:47 left in the second quarter.
Eastern added two more scores before halftime on impressive drives after ISU punts. The first was highlighted by a non-scoring 78-yard pass from Nichols to Davis and capped by a 1-yard run by Alexander.
The Eagles took a 27-0 lead on a nine-play, 74-yard drive, with Nichols passing 27 yards to Boyce for the touchdown. At that time, just 27:36 into the half, Eastern had a 291-100 advantage in total offense.
A 44-yard rush on a reverse by Boyce led to Eastern’s lone score in the third quarter. Alexander scored his third touchdown of the day on a 3-yard run with 5:21 left in the period, giving Eastern a 34-0 advantage.
MORE 2008 NOTES
-- Eastern Has 45-35 Advantage in Five Quarters versus Texas Tech and Colorado -- The Eagles opened the season with a 49-24 loss at 12th-ranked Texas Tech when EWU battled back from a 21-0 deficit. Eastern then took a 21-7 lead into the second half against Colorado, meaning the Eagles had a 45-35 advantage against the upper division foes in a five-quarter span. In those two games, Eastern’s starters were on the field for all but the final possession against TTU.
"Our team believed they could win and we obviously proved we could have won that game," said Baldwin of the 31-24 Colorado loss, in which Eastern took a 24-17 lead with 3:52 to play. "We feel like we let one slip away. We have to come back and learn from it because the reality is that we’re 0-2. We don’t like that taste and we don’t like that feel, so we have to change that fast."
"We have a good team and we were executing," added Baldwin, whose team had only a field goal in the second half against the Buffaloes and gave up two touchdowns in the final 2:05. "I don’t think Colorado wasn’t ready or not taking us serious -- we were just making plays in the first half.
"No matter who we are playing, we have to find a way to make plays in the fourth quarter. There are no excuses to it -- we just have to find a way to make a few more plays in the fourth quarter and finish the ballgame."
After falling behind 21-0 to TTU, the Eagles won the second quarter 17-7 and stayed within striking distance of the Red Raiders for most of the second half. Eastern finished with 364 yards of total offense against the Red Raiders, including 341 through the air as Eastern tied a school record with 38 pass completions. Eastern out-gained Texas Tech in the second quarter 134-107. After falling behind by three touchdowns, Eastern was only outscored 28-24 the rest of the game.
However, Eastern had three turnovers, including an interception on the first offensive play of the game after the ball went through an Eastern receiver’s hands. That helped the Red Raiders open their early 21-0 lead. Defensively, Eastern surrendered 639 yards to TTU, including 536 through the air against a program that led FBS in passing offense and ranked second in total offense in 2007.
"We left it out of the field for the last two weeks against some big-time opponents," added Baldwin. "It’s tough and it’s hard on their bodies and hard mentally. They are worn out a little bit. The bye came at a good time for us. We just need to re-charge ourselves for Western Washington and then get ready for the league after that."
Eastern is now 7-17 all-time versus FBS opponents, but hasn’t won its last seven meetings since beating Idaho 8-5 in 2003. Eastern also lost in 2007 to Brigham Young 42-7, and the year before that in losses to Oregon State (56-17) and sixth-ranked West Virginia (52-3). Several current Eagles played in those FBS games in 2006 and 2007, including Matt Nichols, who made his starting debut against West Virginia.
-- Matt Nichols on 2008 Eagles After First Two Games -- "I think this team’s so special. It’s a real family experience. We have a team bond other teams don’t have. We’re truly a family. These first two games don’t mean anything, they don’t count towards our conference. We can still go 9-2 and have home-field advantage in the playoffs."
-- Twin Stat Line for Johnson Twins in Debut -- The stat lines were nearly the same for twin brothers Matt Johnson and Zach Johnson as both had impressive collegiate debuts in Eastern’s 49-24 loss at Texas Tech on Aug. 30. Both 2006 graduates of Tumwater, Wash., High School, Matt started at strong safety and Zach started at strong-side inside linebacker.
The Johnson brothers finished with a combined 18 tackles, including eight tackles and three passes broken up by Zach. Matt had a team-high 10 tackles and a game-changing interception in the second quarter. The Eagles trailed 21-0 when Matt intercepted a pass and returned it 47 yards to the TTU 7-yard line. Two plays later, Alexis Alexander scored from one yard out to give EWU its first score.
"They are great players and have bought right in," said Baldwin of the twins. "They’re coachable, they can run, they can tackle -- they have all the tools to be great defensive players in this league. They left it on the field and went hard. There was no question that a lot of young players stepped up against Texas Tech."
-- Eagles Versus Football Bowl Subdivision Members -- Since 1982 when it became a member of the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision, Eastern is now 7-17 all-time versus Football Bowl Subdivision teams. A 35-17 win over Connecticut on Sept. 8, 2001, snapped a five-game losing streak versus FBS foes. Here is Eastern’s complete list of games versus FBS members since 1983.
Year - Opponent - Result
1983 - Cal State-Long Beach - W, 20-17
1985 - at Cal State-Long Beach - W, 30-23
1986 - at Cal State-Long Beach - L, 34-35
1990 - at #10 Houston - L, 21-84
1994 - at Utah State - W, 49-31
1996 - at Boise State - W, 27-21
1996 - at Idaho - L, 27-37
1997 - Idaho - W, 24-21
1998 - at Idaho - L, 14-31
1999 - Idaho - L, 21-48
1999 - at Boise State - L, 7-41
2000 - at Oregon State - L, 19-21
2000 - at Boise State - L, 23-41
2001 - at Connecticut - W, 35-17
2002 - at Arizona State - L, 2-38
2003 - at San Diego State - L, 9-19
2003 - at Idaho - W, 8-5
2004 - at Air Force - L, 20-42
2005 - at San Jose State - L, 21-35
2006 - at Oregon State - L, 17-56
2006 - at #6 West Virginia - L, 3-52
2007 - at Brigham Young - L, 7-42
2008 - at #12 Texas Tech - L, 24-49
2008 - at Colorado - L, 24-31
-- EWU Plays in Front of Largest Crowds in School History in 2006-2008 -- Four of the six largest crowds Eastern has ever played in front of have come in the last three seasons. The 49,887 on hand in Lubbock, Texas, for EWU’s 2008 game versus Texas Tech was third in history and the 46,417 one week later in Boulder, Colo., for the EWU-Colorado game ranks fourth.
Eastern’s 2007 game at BYU in sold-out LaVell Edwards Stadium broke the year-old record for the largest crowd the Eagles have ever played in front of. Strong winds, rain, snow and temperatures ranging from 37-45 degrees didn’t keep many fans at home as the announced crowd of 64,522 was even larger than the stadium’s listed capacity of 64,045.
Eastern’s 2006 game versus West Virginia at sold-out Milan Puskar Stadium was attended by 59,504 fans -- the largest crowd by nearly 20,000 fans the Eagles have ever played against. The previous record was 39,581 set at Arizona State in 2002. Eastern’s game at Oregon State in 2006 is now the sixth-largest at 38,071. Below is a list of the 16 crowds in excess of 20,000 the Eagles have ever played against.
Attendance - Opponent - Date - Result
64,522 - at Brigham Young - Oct. 20, 2007 - L, 7-42
59,504 - at West Virginia - Sept. 9, 2006 - L, 3-52
49,887 - at Texas Tech - Aug. 30, 2008 - L, 24-49
46,417 - at Colorado - Sept. 6, 2008 - L, 24-31
39,581 - at Arizona State - Aug. 31, 2002 - L, 2-38
38,071 - at Oregon State - Aug. 31, 2006 - L, 17-56
34,389 - at Air Force - Sept. 11, 2004 - L, 20-42
30,782 - at Oregon State - Sept. 2, 2000 - L, 19-21
27,323 - at U.S. International - Oct. 28, 1967 - W, 44-19
25,493 - at Boise State - Oct. 14, 2000 - L, 23-41
23,739 - at Montana - Oct. 15, 2005 - W, 34-20
23,329 - at Montana - Nov. 15, 2003 - L, 10-41
23,226 - at Montana - Oct. 6, 2007 - L, 23-24
21,981 - at Boise State - Oct. 9, 1999 - L, 7-41
21.487 - at Boise State - Sept. 21, 1991 - L, 17-31
21,145 - at San Diego State - Aug. 30, 2003 - L, 9-19
-- Eagles Picked to Finish as Big Sky Runner-up -- Preseason predictions aside, there is no doubt the Eastern Washington University football team believes it can win the Big Sky Conference title in the 2008 season.
The Eagles have been picked to finish second behind 10-time defending champion Montana by both the media and the league’s head coaches in polls released July 22 at the Big Sky’s Summer Kickoff in Park City, Utah.
"Our expectations are extremely high," said Eastern fullback/running back Alexis Alexander, who was Eastern’s player representative in Park City. "We discovered how good of a team we were last year and our confidence levels are up there. We plan on winning the Big Sky Conference -- we talk about that every day.
"When we’re in the weight room and running, we talk about what we are putting in all the hard work for," said the 2001 graduate of Medical Lake, Wash., High School. "We know we have the personnel to win the conference if we can stay healthy and go out and execute."
Montana earned 23 first-place votes and 361 total points by the media, with Eastern close behind with 19 first-place votes and 350 points overall. In the coaches’ poll, Montana received seven of the nine first-place votes and had 63 points. Eastern had one first-place vote and 52 points overall.
"It’s flattering and humbling in a lot of ways," said first-year head coach Beau Baldwin. "And it’s a compliment to our players for what they accomplished last year and what they are capable of this season. But the goal is to be up there at the end of the year in the middle of November. That’s obviously what really matters."
With a large group of players returning, Eastern is hoping to continue the momentum from the 2007 season when the Eagles returned to the top of the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision scene with a 9-4 finish after a dismal 3-8 record the year before. Eastern advanced to the FCS Playoffs for the third time in the last four seasons and closed the year ranked eighth in the final Sports Network poll of the year. The Eagles won their last five conference games of the year to finish the league season 6-2.
"Honestly, a let down is not an option," said the confident Alexander, who played three years of minor league baseball before returning to football. "This is my senior year and we have a number of other seniors on this team, and we sit down and talk all the time. We know we can do it, and it’s all about staying healthy and executing our assignments. If we do all the things we’re supposed to do, I don’t think anybody can beat us."
Last year, Montana finished the regular season 11-0 and 8-0 in the Big Sky before losing in the first round of the NCAA Football Championships Subdivision Playoffs. The Grizzlies have won 16-straight league games, including last season’s 24-23 victory over EWU in Missoula in which the Eagles out-gained the Grizzlies 565-289. Eastern kicked a go-ahead field goal with 2:20 to play before top-ranked Montana kicked the game-winner with 26 seconds to play after converting a fourth-and-10 play.
While Eastern has 15 starters returning to its team this year, Montana has just 10.
"They’ve earned that right," added Baldwin of Montana’s No. 1 ranking. "I don’t care if they lose every player at every position, they’ve proven they are the team to beat year after year."
In 2008, the Grizzlies and Eagles meet at Woodward Field in Cheney, Wash., on Oct. 11 in an early showdown between Big Sky rivals. Eastern was the last team besides Montana to win the outright Big Sky title, with that coming in 1997. Since then, the Grizzlies have won or shared the league title the past 10 seasons, including 2004 and 2005 when Eastern also won a piece of the title. The Grizzlies have advanced to the FCS Playoffs 15-straight seasons.
Last season, Eastern was picked to finish fifth in the league. In 2005, Eastern was picked to win the title in both polls, but had only one-point advantage in the media poll and received five more votes from the coaches. Both teams finished as league co-champions.
-- Nichols and Peach on Watch Lists -- The Sports Network has released its Payton Award and Buchanan Award "Watch Lists" for the 2008 season, and Eagles have been selected to each list of the top 16 defensive players and top 16 offensive players in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision.
Junior quarterback Matt Nichols has been named to the watch list for the Walter Payton Award, an honor given to the top player in FCS. That award was won in 2005 by the EWU quarterback Nichols replaced, Erik Meyer. Senior defensive end Greg Peach was picked for the Buck Buchanan Award, which is presented to the top defensive player in FCS.
Nichols finished the 2007 season ranked in the top eight in three statistical categories in FCS. He was eighth in FCS in passing efficiency rating (156.5), fifth in passing offense (288.0) and fifth in total offense (318.2) to lead the Big Sky in all three categories.
Nichols completed 64 percent of his passes for 3,744 yards, a school-record 34 touchdowns and had just nine interceptions in 2007. The 6-foot-2, 220-pound Nichols also broke the school’s single season rushing record for quarterbacks as he finished with 392 yards.
Peach helped the Eagles rank 38th last season in FCS in rushing defense a year ago (144.1) en route to earning first team All-Big Sky Conference honors. Peach finished with 63 tackles, including 11 sacks to rank as the fifth-best performance in school history and 11th in FCS (0.85 per game). He entered his senior season with 17 1/2 sacks that rank ninth in school history.
The Payton and Buchanan awards will undergo two revisions, one in October and one in November, before ballots are sent out to a panel of sports information directors, broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries on Nov. 24. The Sports Network awards banquet will be held Dec. 18 in Chattanooga, Tenn., on the eve of the FCS national championship game.
The Eddie Robinson Award, which goes to the FCS national coach of the year will also be awarded that night. The Robinson Award ballot will be announced in November.
The Sports Network established the Payton and Robinson awards in 1987, and began sponsoring the Buchanan Award in 1995. Georgia Southern quarterback Jayson Foster was the 2007 Payton Award winner, while Montana defensive end Kroy Biermann took home the Buchanan Award.
Walter Payton Award Watch List
Ramses Barden, WR, Cal Poly, 6-5, 230, Senior
Nathan Brown, QB, Central Arkansas, 6-2, 209, Senior
Liam Coen, QB, Massachusetts, 6-2, 220, Senior
Herb Donaldson, RB, Western Illinois, 5-11, 225, Senior
Armanti Edwards, QB, Appalachian State, 6-0, 185, Junior
Terrell Hudgins, WR, Elon, 6-3, 235, Junior
Rashad Jennings, RB, Liberty, 6-1, 230, Senior
Rodney Landers, QB, James Madison, 6-1, 220, Senior
Corey Lewis, RB, Northern Iowa, 6-0, 197, Senior
Mike McLeod, RB, Yale, 5-11, 200, Senior
Matt Nichols, QB, Eastern Washington, 6-2, 220, Junior
Dominic Randolph, QB, Holy Cross, 6-3, 223, Senior
Andre Roberts, WR, The Citadel, 5-11, 175
Tyler Roehl, RB, North Dakota State, 5-10, 232, Senior
Jordan Scott, RB, Colgate, 5-11, 205, Senior
Javarris Williams, RB, Tennessee State, 5-11, 215, Senior
Buck Buchanan Award Watch List
Bobby Abare, LB, Yale, 6-2, 210, Senior
Colt Anderson, SS, Montana, 5-11, 185, Senior
Pierre Banks, LB, Appalachian State, 6-0, 210, Senior
Jovan Belcher, DE, Maine, 6-2, 228, Senior
Mario Brown, LB, Gardner-Webb, 6-2, 230, Senior
Bobby Daly, LB, Montana State, 6-1, 226, Senior
Zach East, LB, Prairie View, 6-2, 230, Senior
John Faltoese, DT, UC Davis, 6-3, 290, Senior
Cyrus Mulitalo, LB, Sacramento State, 6-1, 245, Senior
Greg Peach, DE, Eastern Washington, 6-3, 255, Senior
Andy Romans, LB, Lafayette, 5-11, 215, Senior
Andy Schantz, LB, Portland State, 6-1, 235, Senior
Pierre Walters, DE, Eastern Illinois, 6-5, 261, Senior
Lardarius Webb, FS, Nicholls State, 5-11, 180, Senior
Jason Williams, LB, Western Illinois, 6-3, 235, Junior
Terrell Whitehead, Norfolk State, 6-2, 200, Junior
-- Four Eagles on Preseason All-America Team -- Like all preseason predictions, it’s how you’re regarded at the end of the season that counts most.
However, a quartet of Eastern Washington University football players -- equaling the most from any one school among the 125 NCAA Football Championship Subdivision teams -- have been selected to The Sports Network’s preseason All-America team released Aug. 22.
Senior defensive end Greg Peach was honored on the second team while junior wide receiver Aaron Boyce, senior defensive tackle Lance Witherspoon and senior fullback Alexis Alexander were on the third team. All four played high school football in the State of Washington.
Peach and Boyce were also second team selections on the College Sporting News Preseason All-America team. In addition, Eastern Witherspoon was on the third team.
In addition, quarterback Matt Nichols was selected as the FCS Offensive Player of the Year by Lindy’s Football Preview and was ranked as the fourth-best FCS quarterback by The Sports Network. Boyce received second-team preseason All-America honors from Phil Steele’s College Football and Peach earned the same honor from Lindy’s.
Also, Nichols, Boyce, Peach and Witherspoon were selected to the preseason All-Big Sky Conference squad.
Boyce (Kent, Wash. - Kentwood HS ’05), Peach (Vancouver, Wash. - Evergreen HS ‘05) and Witherspoon (Federal Way, Wash. - Decatur HS ‘04) earned season-ending All-America honors a year ago. Alexander (Medical Lake, Wash. - Medical Lake HS ’01) was a second-team All-Big Sky fullback in 2006 before being slowed by a sports hernia in 2007.
Peach and Witherspoon helped the Eagles rank 38th in FCS in rushing defense a year ago (144.1) en route to earning first team All-Big Sky Conference honors. Peach finished with 63 tackles, including 11 sacks to rank as the fifth-best performance in school history and 11th in FCS (0.85 per game). He will enter his senior season with 17 1/2 sacks that rank ninth in school history. Witherspoon, a former walk-on, ended the 2007 season with 44 tackles, a sack and 12 total tackles for loss to earn second team All-BSC accolades.
Boyce had 85 catches for 1,308 yards and 10 touchdown receptions to rank 14th in FCS in receptions (6.5 per game) and sixth in receiving yards (100.6). His catch total ranked second all-time at EWU and his yardage total was fourth.
Boyce had a record-breaking performance at Montana on Oct. 6 and was selected by The Sports Network as the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Offensive Player of the Week. A first team All-Big Sky selection in 2007, Boyce had the fourth-most catches in Big Sky history with a school-record 17 against the Grizzlies.
Alexander saw action at tailback a year ago after starting as EWU’s fullback. He had 267 rushing yards and five touchdowns, and also caught five passes for 61 more yards and a score. He has started a total of nine games in his career.
Alexander, a transfer in 2006 from Washington State University, played three years of minor league baseball before returning to football. Alexander, who will turn 26 in November, nearly signed a letter of intent out of high school to play football for Big Sky rival Montana.
The Big Sky Conference dominated the All-America Team with 18 picks, including four each by Eastern and fellow league member Northern Arizona.
-- Eagles Seventh in The Sports Network Preseason Poll -- The Eagles were ranked seventh in The Sports Network preseason NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) poll announced on Aug. 19. The Eagles were one notch ahead of Big Sky Conference rival Montana, which was ranked eighth.
Eastern opens the season on Aug. 30 against a Texas Tech team that was ranked 12th in last week’s Associated Press preseason poll for the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS).
"There is some merit to be near the top because that can help you when it comes to the playoffs," said first-year EWU head coach Beau Baldwin. "That can sometimes make it a little easier to stay in the top 16 rather than to have to climb all the way into it."
Eastern Washington was picked to finish second behind Montana by the coaches and the media in the Big Sky Conference preseason polls, but those positions were reversed nationally. The Eagles received 1,951 total points from The Sports Network in the poll of media and sports information directors, while Montana received 1,848 points.
Eastern finished the 2007 season 9-4 and ranked eighth in the final poll of the year. The Eagles lost in the FCS Playoff quarterfinals by three points to eventual national champion Appalachian State. The Mountaineers are the three-time defending national champion and began the 2008 season ranked No. 1. The Mountaineers earned 97 of the 101 first-place votes, and 2,546 total points. North Dakota State was ranked second, followed by Northern Iowa, Richmond and Massachusetts.
James Madison was sixth, followed by EWU and Montana. Rounding out the top 10 were Delaware and McNeese State, which was unbeaten in 2007 until EWU beat them 44-15 in the first round of the FCS Playoffs.
Montana is gunning for its 11th straight Big Sky Conference title. Montana went 11-1 in 2007, losing in the first round of the FCS playoffs to Wofford. The Grizzlies, who play at EWU on Oct. 11, ended 2007 ranked 10th in the nation.
Three other Big Sky teams also received votes in the poll as Northern Arizona just missed out on cracking the top 25. The Lumberjacks earned 249 total points, most among teams not in the top 25. Montana State received 146 points (32nd), while Weber State received 17 (47th).
In addition, Eastern was ranked eighth in the FCS Coaches Poll. Earlier in the summer, EWU was listed at No. 6 in the consolidation of rankings distributed by College Sporting News. Eastern’s highest preseason ranking came from The Sporting News, which has Eastern fifth. Three organizations -- Lindy’s Preview, Phil Steele’s College Football and Sports Media Entertainment Network -- all rank the Eagles sixth. Anygivensunday.com rated Eastern as the ninth-best team in FCS and the SME Network (http://www.smebroadcasting.com) picked Eastern as the favorite to unseat Montana as Big Sky champions.
-- Coaching Staff Mostly New -- There are lots of familiar faces in the Eagle program, but the coaching staff is a different matter. Five new coaches will don the red and white of Eastern after coming from nearby Central Washington where they wore red and black. Included is new Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin, who directed the Wildcats to a 10-3 record and its own quarterfinal appearance in the NCAA Division II Playoffs.
Baldwin is no stranger to EWU’s program, and particularly the offense, which welcomes back six starters from one of the top-producing offensive units in the country. Baldwin spent four years as Eastern offensive coordinator before departing for CWU, and his past tutelage of quarterback Matt Nichols -- the 2007 Big Sky Conference Offensive MVP -- is a major reason why he returned. Baldwin takes the reins from former Eagle head coach Paul Wulff, who left to become head coach at Washington State University.
Baldwin, who was named as EWU’s head coach on Jan. 4, has four coaching carryovers from EWU’s staff from last year -- Joe Wade, Chris Hansen, Jeff Schmedding and Chris Peterson -- while Aaron Best returns after one year away. The new additions from CWU include John Graham, Ryan Sawyer, Torey Hunter and Nat Conley.
Wade will take over as offensive coordinator and will also coach quarterbacks. Hansen, a cornerbacks coach last year, will coach tight ends and handle administrative duties such as recruiting and helping with coordination of summer camps. Schmedding will move from safeties to linebackers and Peterson will move from running backs to wide receivers. Schmedding and Peterson will co-coordinate special teams.
Best, a former EWU All-America center who spent the 2007 season as an assistant coach with the Toronto Argonauts in the Canadian Football League, will return for his eighth season as an EWU offensive line coach.
Graham will be the team’s defensive coordinator after spending the last 13 seasons at Central. Sawyer will coach the defensive line, Hunter will direct EWU defensive backs and Conley will coach running backs.
Besides Hansen taking over coordination of recruiting, other administrative duties will be handled by Best (academics), Peterson (camps), Hunter (travel), Schmedding (video) and Wade (pro football liaison).
-- Boyce in Top 14 Nationally in Receptions and Yards in 2007 -- With one of the most productive receiving seasons in school history, receiver Aaron Boyce had 85 catches for 1,308 yards and 10 scores in 2007. In Football Championship Subdivision statistics, Boyce was 14th in receptions (6.5 per game) and sixth in receiving yards (100.6).
His catch total ranked second all-time at EWU and his yardage total was fourth. His catch total ranks only behind the 87 catches Eric Kimble had in 12 games in 2005. Boyce’s yardage total ranks behind the 1,453 yards Kimble had in 13 games in 2004, the 1,419 Kimble had in 2005 and the 1,376 Jeff Ogden had in 14 games in 1997.
Boyce had a record-breaking performance at Montana on Oct. 6 and was selected by The Sports Network as the NCAA Football Championships Subdivision Offensive Player of the Week. Boyce, a 2005 graduate of Kentwood High School in Kent, Wash., had the fourth-most catches in Big Sky history with a school-record 17. He finished the 24-23 loss to top-ranked Montana with 232 receiving yards to rank second in school history.
Boyce played just one year of high school football, but was a standout on the basketball court. As a junior, he teamed with former Eastern standout and current Detroit Pistons guard Rodney Stuckey to lead Kentwood to the 2004 State 4A Championship.
Boyce, whose top yardage performance as a freshman in 2006 was 96 yards, had six 100-yard receiving performances in 2007. His teammates added five more 100-yard performances (plus one of 99) to give EWU a total of 11 in the 2007 season.
-- Other EWU Statistical Leaders in 2007 -- Eastern Washington averaged a league-leading 462.3 yards of offense after 13 games, good for fifth in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision. Eastern was also 18th in scoring offense (33.6), eighth in passing offense (295.4) and 50th in rushing offense (166.8). Eastern was also 10th in passing efficiency (155.6) with a school-record 36 touchdowns and just 11 interceptions. The Eagles, behind a veteran offensive line that included four senior starters, allowed 25 quarterback sacks to rank 62nd nationally (1.9 sacks per game), down from third after the Idaho State game when EWU had allowed just one in its first three games.
Defensively, Eastern was 80th in total defense (390.7), 30th in scoring defense (22.2), 38th in rushing defense (144.1), 104th in passing defense (246.6) and 24th in passing efficiency defense (112.3).
Through its first four games of the season, the Eagles had a plus 2.5 margin per game to rank first in turnover margin among the 116 teams in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision. Eastern finished 20th with 21 turnovers (11 interceptions and 10 fumbles) while opponents had 33 (22 interceptions and 11 fumbles). Eastern ranked third in interceptions (total of 22), with 12 different players picking off passes. In 2006, the Eagles forced 26 turnovers and had 24 themselves.
Junior Dale Morris, who had 512 yards rushing and eight touchdowns in Eastern’s last six games, was 71st in rushing (71.5 per game). He finished just 70 yards from the 1,000-yard mark for the season. Punter Fritz Brayton ranked 47th nationally (39.8 per punt) and kicker Felipe Macias was 64th in scoring (6.9) and 58th in field goals (0.85, total of 11). Junior defensive end Greg Peach was 11th in sacks (0.85 per game, total of 11).
-- Morris Puts Injury Woes Behind Him -- The injury woes of running back Dale Morris went in a different direction in 2007. The brother of Seattle Seahawks running back Maurice Morris, he missed 12 of a possible 23 games in his first two seasons as an Eagle with a knee injury as well as a painful Lisfranc foot sprain. However, he was at full strength again in 2007 after bio-mechanics rehabilitation to help the foot become flexible again and distribute weight evenly to the metatarsals. He finished the season with 930 yards rushing, including 512 yards and eight touchdowns in Eastern’s last six games. He also had 11 catches for 77 yards and a score.
-- Kefu Takes Advantage of New Rule -- Thanks to a revised NCAA rule, running back Toke Kefu is able to return for the 2008 season. Kefu was injured in Eastern’s fourth game of the 2007 season versus Portland State, and in any other year previous to that he would have played one too many games to be eligible for an automatic injury hardship. However, NCAA rules were revised in 2007 and enabled football players to play in as many as four games and be able to get the year back.
-- A Former Minor League Baseball Player, Alexander Sees Action at Running Back -- A 2001 graduate of Medical Lake, Wash., High School who will turn 26 during the season, Alexis Alexander nearly signed a letter of intent out of high school to play football for Big Sky rival Montana. Now, seven years later, the 25-year-old Alexander found himself the butt of good-natured ribbing from other Big Sky players during the Big Sky Conference Summer Kickoff he attended as EWU’s player representative.
"All the other players were making fun of me, saying, "Oh my god, are you really that old?" laughed Alexander, whose nicknames at EWU are grandpa and pops. "They saw me eating fruit and told me I needed to eat that way to stay healthy and asked if I wanted some calcium to keep my bones healthy. They were all over me but I told them that I’m used to it by now.
"Go ahead and give it to me -- I’m old, I’m old," he continued. "I’ll be 26 in November playing against 18-year-olds. They call me old until I hit them."
As a fullback new to the EWU program in 2006, Alexander earned second team All-Big Sky Conference honors and was honored as the team’s Offensive Player of the Year. He also saw action at running back in the 2007 season, and had 122 yards and a touchdown against UC Davis on Sept. 15, 2007. However, he missed EWU’s last five games after suffering an abdominal injury that was later diagnosed as a hernia.
He started six games in 2006 at fullback, including the last five games of the season. He made his Eagle debut against Oregon State (8/31/06) when he played in his first football game in six years dating back to his senior season in high school in 2000.
He originally came to Eastern as a linebacker after transferring from Washington State University. He was a defensive scout team player in 2004 for the Cougars after going from receiver to defensive back to linebacker. He was an 18th-round draft choice by the Kansas City Royals in the 2001 Major League Baseball draft. He hit .225 in 355 career at bats, with five home runs and 22 stolen bases. He spent the 2002 season with the Spokane Indians of the Class A Northwest League.
-- Noteworthy Relatives -- A quartet of Eagles have some noteworthy coaching relatives. Center Charlie Wulff is the nephew of former Eagle head coach Paul Wulff, who is now at Washington State. The father of linebacker Marcus Walker is former Washington State University assistant coach Mike Walker. The elder Walker, whose children Marcus, Taylor (daughter), Payton (daughter) and were named after NFL standouts Marcus Walker, Lawrence Taylor and Walter Payton, respectively, is now on the coaching staff for the Toronto Argonauts in the Canadian Football League.
Also, tight end Nathan Overbay is the nephew of Major League Baseball player Lyle Overbay of the Toronto Blue Jays. And punter Fritz Brayton, a transfer from WSU, has three notable relatives. His father, Fritz Sr., was a wide receiver at WSU from 1971-73. The junior Brayton is the grandson of WSU baseball legend Bobo Brayton and his cousin Tyler Brayton plays in the NFL for the Carolina Panthers after previously playing for the Oakland Raiders and in college at Colorado.
-- A Taste of the Eagle-Grizzly Rivalry -- In a series that has provided plenty of drama over the years -- including 2007 -- Montana now leads the all-time series 23-10-1. Eastern is 4-12-1 in Missoula, 5-10 in home games and 1-1 in games played at neutral sites. In six of the last 12 meetings between the two teams, both teams have entered the game nationally-ranked.
Eight recent games in the series that have been decided by margins of 10 points or less are the exclamation points in a rivalry that has seen the Grizzlies come out on top 23 times in 34 meetings. The winner has usually piled up points and yardage by the ton as evidenced by Eastern’s 697 yards of total offense in 1986, 658 yards in 1997 in a 40-35 win, 564 in a 24-23 loss in 2007 and 541 yards by the Eagles in a 34-20 win in Missoula in 2005. In fact, in the last 22 meetings the winning team has averaged 33.9 points. In six of those 22 games the two teams have combined for at least 70 points, including a 41-31 Grizzly win at Spokane’s Albi Stadium in 2000.
As for suspense, that one’s covered too. In 2007, Eastern kicked a go-ahead field goal with 2:20 to play before top-ranked Montana kicked the game-winner with 26 seconds to play after converting a fourth-and-10 play. Eastern wide receiver Aaron Boyce had the fourth-best receiving effort in Big Sky Conference history with a school-record 17 catches to earn NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Offensive Player of the Week honors from The Sports Network. His 232 receiving yards was the second-most in school history, and Eagle quarterback Matt Nichols passed for a career-high 451 yards to rank third all-time at EWU.
In 2004, Montana blocked a 28-yard field goal attempt by the Eagles with 18 seconds remaining as the 23rd-ranked Eagles fell to the fifth-ranked Grizzlies 31-28 in a showdown for first place in front of a Woodward Field record crowd of 10,754. In 2002, Eastern beat the No. 1 ranked and unbeaten Grizzlies 30-21, ending Montana’s record-tying winning streak in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision at 24 games. It was the first Big Sky Conference loss for UM head coach Joe Glenn, and snapped Montana’s record winning streaks of 25 Big Sky games in a row and 13 league road games in a row. And in the process, the Eagle victory opened the door for Montana State and Idaho State to share the conference title with the Grizzlies.
Here are the six matchups in the last 12 seasons when both squads have entered the game nationally-ranked:
2005 - #12 Eastern Washington 34 at #2 Montana 20 (in Missoula, Mont.)
2004 - #5 Montana 31, #23 Eastern Washington 28 (in Cheney, Wash.)
2001 - #3 Montana 29, #15 Eastern Washington 26 (overtime in Missoula, Mont.)
2000 - #9 Montana 41, #18 Eastern Washington 31 (in Spokane, Wash.)
1997 - #17 Eastern Washington 36, #2 Montana 35 (in Missoula, Mont.)
1996 - #1 Montana 34, #20 Eastern Washington 30 (in Cheney, Wash.)
-- Eagles Looking for 1,000 -- Always proud of its running game with outstanding running backs and offensive linemen, Eastern has had a 1,000-yard rusher for nine of the last 13 seasons from 1995-2007, including six different players. Eastern had eight-straight seasons with a 1,000-yard rusher from 1995-2002.
The last time it happened came in 2004 when Darius Washington finished with 1,127 yards in 12 games. Because of a shoulder injury, he had just 16 yards in his last two regular season games, but had 257 yards in a pair of playoff games. The Eagles came up short in 2003 as Reggie Witherspoon finished with 766 after Washington’s season came to a premature end with a knee injury in Eastern’s second game of the season.
Joe Sewell started the string of 1,000-yard rushers with 1,025 in 1995, then had 1,094 in 1996. In 1997, Rex Prescott rushed for what was then a school-record 1,793 and Mike MacKenzie accumulated 1,058 in 1997 and 1,396 in 1998. Jovan Griffith finished with 1,275 in 1999, and Jesse Chatman had 1,188 in 2000 and a remarkable 2,096 in the 2001 season that surpassed Prescott’s single season school record. The eighth-straight performance was by Griffith with 1,130 yards as he went over the 1,000-yard mark with a 199-yard performance in Eastern’s season-ending 30-21 victory over No. 1 ranked Montana on Nov. 16, 2002. In Eastern’s first 86 years of football, only three 1,000-yard performances have been recorded – 1,238 by Mel Stanton in 1965, 1,049 by Meriel Michelson in 1950 and 1,114 by Jamie Townsend in 1985.
-- Eagles 6-4 in Overtime Games -- After defeating Montana State 51-44 in overtime on Nov. 13, 2004, Eastern Washington is now 6-4 in overtime games. The Eagles are 4-1 in single overtime games, 1-3 in double overtime, and 1-0 in triple overtime contests. Here is the complete list of EWU overtime games:
2004 - at Montana State - W, 51-44 (one overtime)
2003 - at Idaho State - L, 52-55 (two overtimes)
2001 - at Sacramento State - W, 42-35 (one overtime)
2001 - at Montana - L, 26-29 (two overtimes)
2000 - at Weber State - W, 27-24 (one overtime)
1998 - Portland State - L, 27-30 (one overtime)
1994 - Montana State - W, 34-31 (three overtimes)
1991 - at Idaho - W, 34-31 (two overtimes)
1990 - Montana State - L, 25-28 (two overtimes)
1990 - at Idaho State - W, 33-26 (one overtime)
-- Watch Out for Eagles in 2017 -- Eastern has had three of its best seasons in school history in years that end in "7," so the Eagles can expect big things from their football program 10 years from now in 2017.
Eastern’s 9-4 record in 2007 included a quarterfinal appearance in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs. Ten years ago in 1997, Eastern was 12-2 and advanced to the semifinals. Thirty years prior to that, Eastern advanced to the NAIA Championship game and finished 11-1.
The 1987 (4-7) and 1977 (5-4) teams didn’t fare as well. But Eastern also had some pretty good teams in 1957 (5-2-1), 1947 (6-1-1) and 1937 (6-1).
-- Eagles in the Playoffs -- Eastern’s 2007 appearance in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs was the school’s sixth berth in school history. It was also the third in the last four years as EWU’s appearances in 2004 and 2005 were the first time the Eagles had ever made back-to-back appearances.
Eastern has now advanced past the first round four times (1985, 1997, 2004, 2007) and has a 5-6 record in six playoff appearances.
In 2007, the Eagles handed second-seeded and No. 3 ranked McNeese State its first loss of the year in a 44-15 first-round victory. Eastern then lost in the quarterfinals at two-time defending champion Appalachian State. In 2004, Eastern defeated No. 1 ranked and top-seeded Southern Illinois 35-31 in the first round and then lost 35-34 to Sam Houston State in the quarterfinal round in EWU’s first-ever playoff game at Woodward Field in Cheney, Wash. In both 2004 and 2007, Eastern entered the playoffs ranked 14th nationally.
Until 2004, Eastern hadn’t appeared in the FCS playoffs since 1997 when the Eagles advanced to the semifinals where it lost to Youngstown State 25-14 at Albi Stadium in Spokane, Wash. Eastern played two early-round games at Albi, defeating Northwestern State 40-10 and Western Kentucky 38-21.
Eastern also participated in the playoffs in 1985 (won at Idaho 42-38 and lost at Northern Iowa 17-14) and 1992 (lost at Northern Iowa 17-14). The school’s only other post-season experience came in 1967 when Eastern advanced to the NAIA Championship game where it lost to Fairmont State 28-21.
Here is a complete list of EWU’s playoff games:
2007 - at Appalachian State - L, 35-38 (Quarterfinals)
2007 - at McNeese State - W, 44-15 (First Round)
2005 - at Northern Iowa - L, 38-41 (First Round)
2004 - Sam Houston State - L, 34-35 (Quarterfinals/Cheney)
2004 - at Southern Illinois - W, 35-31 (First Round)
1997 - Youngstown State - L, 14-25 (Semifinals/Spokane)
1997 - Western Kentucky - W, 38-21 (Quarterfinals/Spokane)
1997 - Northwestern State - W, 40-10 (First Round/Spokane)
1992 - at Northern Iowa - L, 14-17 (First Round)
1985 - at Northern Iowa - L, 14-17 (Quarterfinals)
1985 - at Idaho - W, 42-38 (First Round)
-- EWU Playoff Tidbits -- The 2007 playoff appearance was EWU’s sixth playoff appearance and third in the last four seasons under former EWU head coach Paul Wulff. Only 10 teams out of the 116 schools in FCS in 2007 played in three of the last four tournaments.
The 2007 season was Eastern’s fourth time advancing to the second round, but only once has Eastern won a quarterfinal game. In 1997, Eastern beat Western Kentucky 38-21 before bowing out of the playoffs with a loss to eventual champion Youngstown State in the semifinals.
Eastern earned one of eight at-large playoff berths in 2007 after winning its last four games overall and last five league games. The only loss for the Eagles in their last six outings of the regular season was a 42-7 setback on Oct. 20 at Brigham Young, which ranked 14th in the final Associated Press NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision poll of the season. The Cougars finished the regular season 10-2 and advanced to the Las Vegas Bowl.
A regular season-ending 38-16 win over Weber State was EWU’s fifth-straight Big Sky victory in 2007, matching Eastern’s winning streak in 1997 when the Eagles won their last five league games en route to a 12-2 finish and semifinal appearance in the FCS Playoffs. Even in EWU’s playoff years in 1992, 2004 and 2005, Eastern was not able to win four-straight league games.
-- Eastern Repeats History -- In the process of beating McNeese State 44-15 in the first round of the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs in 2007, Eastern repeated a bit of history.
In 2004, in the first of what is now three playoff berths in the last four seasons for the Eagles, Eastern drew No. 1 ranked and top-seeded Southern Illinois. The Eagles went on to defeat the Salukis 35-31 before falling at home in the quarterfinals to Sam Houston State.
In both upset victories, Eastern entered the game ranked just 14th nationally.
Eastern also avoided a bit of history in the win over the Cowboys. Eastern held a 22-point lead early in the fourth quarter, but based on the last two EWU playoff games, that wasn’t necessarily a good omen.
In the loss to Sam Houston State, Eastern led 34-14 with 14:54 left before falling 35-34. The next year, in a first round game at Northern Iowa, the Eagles led 38-24 with 11:03 remaining but lost 41-38.
This time, Eastern held McNeese State scoreless the final 24:12 of the game and the Eagles scored their final touchdown in the fourth quarter on an 80-yard drive that took more than six minutes off the clock. That clinching score followed an interception by senior Bryan Jarrett, who redshirted at EWU in 2004 and played in the disappointing loss the following season at Northern Iowa.
Eastern’s 626 yards of total offense against McNeese State was the most for the Eagles in 10 years against a FCS opponent, and the most in five years overall. At one point, Eastern scored on five-straight offensive possessions behind an offensive line that featured four senior starters. The defense, with four senior starters, forced three turnovers as EWU won the turnover battle 3-2 against a team that ranked fourth nationally with a plus 1.64 margin per game (plus 18 overall). Eastern’s defense was right behind at 10th nationally entering the game (1.27 per game, plus 14 overall). Eastern held McNeese State to just 312 yards of offense.
-- Bracketology -- Apparently, Eastern’s upset over McNeese State was too much for the NCAA to believe. For a short time after EWU’s 44-15 win, a bracket on the NCAA’s web site mistakenly listed the Cowboys as the winner.
-- Well-Wishes from the NFL -- During EWU’s 44-15 win over McNeese State, Eastern received a well-wishes via text messaging from a pair of former Eagles now in the NFL. Tennessee Titans offensive tackle Michael Roos listened to the radio broadcast via internet in Cincinnati where he was preparing to play the Bengals and said he "just wanted to wish EWU good luck the rest of the game." Former Eastern assistant coach Keith Murphy, now an assistant coach with the St. Louis Rams, texted his "congrats" while the Eagles were safely ahead.
-- EWU East of the Mississippi -- Eastern had never played a team from the Southern Conference until its quarterfinal round game of the playoffs against Appalachian State on Dec. 1, 2007. In fact, it was just the fifth time Eastern has played a game East of the Mississippi.
The most recent came on Sept. 9, 2006, when Eastern lost 52-3 at West Virginia, which was ranked sixth at the time in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision. That game marked the starting debut for current Eastern quarterback Matt Nichols.
The others were at Eastern Illinois in 1991 (a 30-12 loss) and at Connecticut to open the 2001 season (a 35-17 victory). The game against UConn came during the second year the Huskies were members of FBS, and the meeting came four seasons before they joined the Big East Conference in 2005.
Eastern also played in Morgantown, W.Va., at Mountaineer Stadium in the NAIA Championship Game in 1967, where it lost 28-21 to Fairmont State. Eastern was actually known as the Eastern Washington State College Savages at the time.