Trip to No. 23 Portland State Next Up for Eagles
Oct. 16, 2006
Focus, intent and purpose are the newest catchwords for the Eastern Washington University football team.
Coming off a 34-0 shellacking of Northern Colorado, the Eagles make a second-straight road trip when they play at 23rd-ranked Portland State Saturday (Oct. 21). Kickoff at PGE Park in Portland, Ore., is 6:05 p.m. Pacific time.
Eastern, now 2-5 overall and 2-2 in the Big Sky, is hoping last week's convincing victory will help turn the season around. Such a turnaround could have easily occurred one week prior when Eastern fell to Montana 33-17 at home on Oct. 7. But costly, critical mistakes -- including six turnovers and some long kick returns by the Grizzlies -- are what has turned every game into a must-win situation for Eastern to remain in the hunt for the Big Sky title.
"For two weeks in a row we've been focused and playing pretty good football," said EWU head coach Paul Wulff. "We just turned the ball over too much against Montana and that cost us the game. But our focus, intent and purpose were pretty consistent in our last two games. And you give yourselves a chance to win when you don't turn it over. We'll need to play that same way against Portland State."
A near-perfect first half opened a 31-0 lead at halftime against Northern Colorado. It was Eastern's first shutout in 215 games dating back to a 3-0 win over Stephen F. Austin in 1987. The Bears ended drives in Eastern territory just three times, including two inside the 26. Both of those ended in interceptions with the deepest penetration to Eastern's 17.
Eastern scored four touchdowns in the first 19 minutes of the game as redshirt freshman quarterback Matt Nichols led four touchdown drives of 81, 72, 37 and 14 yards. Eastern's 291 yards of offense in the first half was more than the 288.7 Eastern was averaging entering the game. Eastern finished the game with a season-high 478 yards of total offense while holding the Bears to 169.
Portland State, meanwhile, also got back on the winning track in decisive fashion last week. The Vikings, 3-2 in the league and 4-3 overall, beat Idaho State 34-13 after dropping games to Montana State (14-0) and Montana (26-20) the previous two weekends. Portland State had opened conference play with a 45-3 win over Northern Colorado and a 20-10 victory over Weber State.
"They are healthier and are very physical," said Wulff. "Defensively they are very talented and are very tough at home. Nobody beats them there very often. It's about what we have to do this week to find a way to play well on the road in a very tough environment. It's always tough to play in Portland."
The Eagles return to Cheney, Wash., for games Oct. 28 versus Northern Arizona and Nov. 11 against Idaho State. Thus far, Eastern is 0-3 at home.
Woodward has been kind thus far to opponents. Besides the Montana loss, EWU fell 21-14 to Central Washington Sept. 16 and 21-20 to Sacramento State on Sept. 30. Montana jumped out to a 21-0 lead in the first quarter, but in the two previous losses Eastern relinquished second-half leads. Central and Sac State scored 36 of their 42 combined points in the second half.
The Eagles will have to win their last four games if they are to continue their current streak of seven-straight winning seasons. The streak of winning seasons started in 1999, a year after Eastern began the season 0-3 but recovered well enough to finish 5-6. Eastern has never overcome a 0-3 start to finish with a winning record.
Eneberg and Bergstrom Earn Player of the Week Honors Again: There is a definite pattern.
Linebacker David Eneberg and kicker Brett Bergstrom both earned Big Sky Conference Player of the Week honors for the second time this season after helping Eastern defeat Northern Colorado 34-0 last Saturday (Oct. 14) in Greeley, Colo.
Both were also honored three weeks ago after Eastern's only other victory this season at Montana State on Sept. 23. Eneberg is from Mukilteo, Wash., and is a 2002 graduate of Kamiak High School. Bergstrom is from North Bend, Wash., and graduated the same year from Mount Si High School before playing two seasons at Shasta Junior College in California.
"It's awesome and a little bit ironic," said Eagle head coach Paul Wulff of the twin honors for the pair. "In our two conference road wins, David and Brett have played big, big roles in those victories."
Eneberg had six tackles, an interception, a forced fumble and had two passes broken up in EWU's first shutout in 20 years against Northern Colorado. All of his statistics except for one tackle came during a near-perfect first half when Eastern opened a 31-0 lead at halftime.
"David played one of his best games," said Wulff. "He made a lot of big plays and tackled very well. He's a great leader."
Bergstrom made long field goals of 56 and 47 yards against the Bears. His 56-yard field goal is the second-longest in school history, ranking behind the 57-yarder Eric Stein had 20 years ago against Montana State on Sept. 25, 1987.
"We try not to make them too long," laughed Wulff. "But we feel confident -- and I know he does -- that he can make them from there. And he did.
"We still have four games left," said Wulff after Saturday's game, "and we need him to continue to help us win."
Eastern takes its 2-2 Big Sky record and 2-5 overall mark into its game this Saturday (Oct. 21) at Portland State. The game begins at 6:05 p.m. at PGE Park in Portland, Ore., as the Vikings, ranked 23rd in this week's Sports Network NCAA Division I-AA, enter the contest 4-3 overall and 2-2 in the conference.
"They have played really good football in those two conference games on the road," added Wulff of the pair of seniors. "I know they will come back and play good this week along with all of our players. We've made some improvement and now we need to go on the road again against a very, very good football team in Portland State."
Eneberg is on the verge of breaking into the top 25 in career tackles in EWU history. With a team-leading 53 this season, he now has 197 in his career. He needs just two to move into 25th. At his current pace of 7.6 per game (currently sixth in the Big Sky), he would finish with 83 this season and 230 in his career to rank 14th.
Although he is no longer perfect, Bergstrom more than made up for a missed 39-yard attempt in the first half against the Bears. He has now made 11-of-12 field goal attempts and all 11 extra points as he ranks sixth in I-AA with an average of 1.57 field goals per game. He is also averaging 60.1 yards on 28 kickoffs this season, including 13 touchbacks.
His 11 field goals made already ranks eighth in school history with four games left to play. He is just four from the school record shared by three players -- Josh Atwood in 1997, Alex Lacson in 1991 and Jason Cromer in 1990.
In Eastern's 19-10 league victory at Montana State, Eneberg had 13 tackles and Bergstrom kicked four field goals. Bergstrom's field goals included a 53-yarder that at the time was the fourth-longest in school history (now fifth).
Those honors were the first player of the week honors for both players. Eneberg was an honorable mention All-Big Sky selection last year and Bergstrom is in his first year as Eastern's placekicker after previously spending time at safety, wide receiver and defensive end in the Eagle program.
Eastern Records First Shutout in 20 Years: Eastern's 34-0 victory at Northern Colorado on Oct. 14 was the first time in 215 games that EWU has recorded a shutout. The Bears, who finished with just 169 yards of total offense, ended drives in Eastern territory just three times, including two inside the 26. Both of those ended in interceptions with the deepest penetration to Eastern's 17.
The last time EWU had a shutout was a 3-0 win over Stephen F. Austin in 1987. Eastern came close twice in the previous two seasons. On Nov. 19, 2005, at home against UC-Davis and Oct. 23, 2004, at Weber State, the Eagles held their opponents without an offensive score. Versus UC Davis, the Aggies scored on a 50-yard interception return in the third quarter. Against Weber State, the Wildcats scored a touchdown on a fumble recovery with just 4:43 left to play.
Eastern had held opponents to single digits in 23 games since the last shutout, but wasn't able to shut them out. On Sept. 18, 2004, in a 39-8 victory, Eastern held Central Washington to eight points as the Wildcats scored with 4:52 left in the third quarter. Holding Idaho scoreless for the final 54:29 in an 8-5 victory in 2003 was about as close as Eastern has come to a shutout, as well as a 1994 game when Cal Poly scored with 21 seconds left in Eastern's 61-7 blowout win. The five points Idaho scored were the fewest Eastern had allowed since beating Idaho State 37-3 in 1992. The 13 combined points were the fewest in an EWU game since the 3-0 win over Stephen F. Austin.
More From the Irony Department: The come-from-behind victory by the Seattle Seahawks over the St. Louis Rams on Oct. 15 included a game-winning drive that was amazingly similar to Eastern's drive a day earlier to end the first half versus Northern Colorado. Eastern used an eight-play, 48-yard drive in the last 1:42 of the half to set-up a 56-yard field goal by Brett Bergstrom. The Seahawks ended the final 1:44 of its game with an eight-play, 47-yard drive that ended with a game-winning 54-yard field goal by Josh Brown.
Eagles & Vikings in NCAA Statistics: Eastern continues to climb in NCAA Division I-AA statistics, with a current ranking of 70th out of 116 I-AA teams in total offense (315.7 yards per game). Eastern, which finished the last two seasons ranked fourth nationally in offense, was 112th after three games this season. Eastern is currently 95th in rushing (102.4), 28th in passing (213.3) and 84th in scoring (17.7).
Defensively, Eastern is 82nd in total defense (362.1) while ranking 94th in rushing defense (177.0), 76th in passing efficiency defense (130.1) and 91st in scoring defense (27.6). Eastern is third nationally with 11 interceptions, ranking only behind Portland State (15) and Sacramento State (12). The Eagles are also ranked 41st nationally in net punting (33.5).
Kicker Brett Bergstrom, who is 11-of-12 kicking field goals this season, is sixth in field goals (1.57 per game). Punter Ryan Donckers is 11th in punting with a 42.6 average. Quarterback Matt Nichols is 37th in total offense with an average of 198.1 yards per game. Tony Davis is 62nd in receiving (4.4 per game), 86th in receiving yards (52.6 per game) and 86th in all-purpose yards (95.1 per game).
Portland State is just 105th nationally in total offense (262.3) and is 57th in scoring (21.7), but is coming off a 34-point performance at home against Idaho State. The Vikings are also 105th in rushing offense (92.1) and 74th in passing offense (170.1). Defensively, PSU is 37th in total defense (306.7), 18th in scoring defense (16.3), 39th in rushing defense (121.9) and ninth in passing efficiency defense (94.9). The Vikings lead I-AA with 15 interceptions and are also second in turnover margin with a plus 1.57 per game. They also rank 25th in net putting (34.4), 26th in kickoff returns (21.6) and 25th in sacks (2.3 per game).
Individually, Odell Jackson and Dominic Dixon are tied for 14th in I-AA with four interceptions each (0.57 per game). Andrew Levers is 17th in punting (40.9) and Eric Azorr is 21st in field goals (1.14 per game). Adam Hayward is 24th nationally and fourth in the Big Sky in tackles (9.9 per game) and D.J. Robinson is tied with EWU's David Eneberg for sixth in the league (7.57).
Total of 17 Players Have Made Starting Debuts in 2006: A total of 17 players have made starting debuts in the 2006 season. The latest was sophomore Adam Macomber, who started in the secondary against Northern Colorado. Not included is receiver Charles Searcy, a former Eastern defensive back who made his first start on offense against Montana on Oct. 7.
Two Eagles made the first starts of their careers in Eastern's loss to Sacramento State. Freshman redshirt guard Ryan Forney started at guard, taking the place of two other players who didn't start for disciplinary reasons. True freshman Jeffrey Solomon started at wide receiver as the Eagles began the game in a four receiver lineup.
The Eagles had a shake-up in their starting lineup after the team's 0-3 start, with six players making their EWU starting debuts at Montana State on Sept. 23. Some were because of injuries but others were designed to improve Eastern at various positions. Those six players included wide receiver Brynsen Brown, offensive tackle Julian Stewart, wide receiver Shane Eller, nose tackle Josh Jacobson, rover Anthony Dotson and linebacker Makai Borden. In addition, Davis started at the tailback position but quickly gave way to Toke Kefu, who came off redshirt to play versus the Bobcats.
Prior to that, eight starting debuts were made by Eagles in Eastern's first three games. Five players -- two on defense and three on offense -- made their starting debuts in the opener against Oregon State. Sophomore Shea Emry started at middle linebacker where he replaces 2005 Big Sky Defensive Player of the Year Joey Cwik, who started 40 games and never missed a game in his EWU career. The other debut on defense was made by junior Ira Jarmon at cornerback. On offense, quarterback Chris Peerboom filled the starting position held for 35 games the past three seasons by 2005 Walter Payton Award winner Erik Meyer. Freshman redshirt wide receiver Aaron Boyce and sophomore fullback Alexis Alexander also made their starting debuts. Alexander transferred from Washington State where he was a scout team linebacker and prior to that played three seasons of minor league baseball.
In all, the Eagles opened the 2006 season with 25 players with starting experience, amounting to 225 starts between them. Five players entered with between 22 and 24 starts each.
Last year, 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.
Here are the number of career starts by Eastern players in the 2006 season:
Defense (176 starts by 18 players): Nick Denbeigh 31, Brandon Keeler 30, David Eneberg 22, Greg Peach 12, Bryan Jarrett 11, Keith Grennan 11, DeNique Ford 10, Jason Belford 9, Gene Piffero 8, Ira Jarmon 7, Gregor Smith 6, Lance Witherspoon 4, Shea Emry 4, George Lane 3, Makai Borden 3, Anthony Dotson 2, Josh Jacobson 2, Adam Macomber 1.
Offense (203 starts by 24 players): Harrison Nikolao 30 (includes 23 on defense), Rocky Hanni 29, Matt Alfred 29, Zach Wasielewski 19, Tim Calhoun 18, Ryan Cole 14, Chris Carlsen 11, Aaron Boyce 7, Tyler Coleman 5, Charles Searcy 5 (includes four starts on defense), Matt Nichols 6, Charlie Wulff 6, Tony Davis 4, Brynsen Brown 4, Tom McAndrews 4, Dale Morris 2, Toke Kefu 2, Alexis Alexander 2, Dezmon Cole 1, Chris Peerboom 1, Julian Stewart 1, Shane Eller 1, Jeffrey Solomon 1, Ryan Forney 1.
Nichols Assumes Starting Quarterback Position: Freshman redshirt Matt Nichols has secured the starting quarterback position, helping his cause with an improved performance against Montana State on Sept. 23. He is the first freshman quarterback to start for the Eagles since Griffin Garske in 1996.
Nichols, making just the fourth start of his career, had the first 300-yard passing game in his career as he finished 21-of-42 for 329 yards, a touchdown and three interceptions against Sacramento State. A week earlier against Montana State he completed 10 of his last 14 passes and in the game was 11-of-19 for 176 yards. His most accurate game came Oct. 21 versus Northern Colorado when he completed 16-of-21 passes for 259 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
In seven games thus far, Nichols is 103-of-182 (56.6 percent) for 1,370 yards, five touchdowns, 13 interceptions and a passing efficiency rating of 114.6.
Entering the season, Nichols shared time with junior Chris Peerboom in hopes of finding a full-time starter. Peerboom started against Oregon State and directed Eastern's offense in six possessions before leaving the game early in the second half with a concussion that kept him out of two games. He didn't play again until the Montana game.
Eastern utilized two quarterbacks at the start of the 2003 season when Erik Meyer and Skyler Allen were battling for the job. They shared possessions and each started one game before Meyer, then a sophomore, won the job against Central Washington and started his last 34 games for the Eagles (35 total). He concluded his record-breaking career by winning the 2005 Walter Payton Award as the top quarterback in NCAA Division I-AA.
Eagle Tidbits: Punter Ryan Donckers has been consistent in his three seasons as Eastern's punter with a 39.0 average in both 2004 and 2005, and a current average of 42.6 this season. His career average of 40.2 currently ranks fifth in school history. In his last five games, he has a 46.1 average in 25 punts with eight downed inside the opponent 20-yard line and a long of 66 . . . Eastern is 0-3 at Woodward Field this season after entering the year with a 35-9 record in the last nine seasons. Of the 12 losses EWU has suffered there since 1997, three of them have been against Sacramento State. The others are Portland State (2), Weber State (2), Montana (2), Idaho State, Sam Houston State and Central Washington . . . The largest crowd in Woodward Field history -- 11,583 -- attended the Eastern-Montana game on Oct. 7. The previous most came two years ago against the Grizzlies when 10,754 attended the game . . . Rover Brandon Keeler has 41 tackles this season, giving him 217 in 39 games as an Eagle. He ranks 17th in Eastern history, moving past the 215 of Anthony Griffin (1998-01), who now plays for the Spokane Shock in Af2. The next player to catch is former Canadian Football League and NFL Europe star Jackie Kellogg (1990-93) with 222. At his current pace of 5.9 tackles per game, Keeler would finish with 64 tackles this season and 240 in his career which would rank 10th on Eastern's all-time leaders lists. The senior also has four interceptions (one this year versus Central Washington) and seven passes broken up . . . Since coming off his redshirt year versus Montana State, Toke Kefu has rushed for a team-leading 256 yards and three touchdowns. He had 98 yards against Sacramento State and 93 versus Montana State, giving him four performances in his 25-game career of between 89 and 98 yards . . . Running back Ryan Cole went over the 1,000-yard rushing mark in his career versus Central Washington. He now has 1,051 yards in 19 career games with 17 total touchdowns (16 rushing) . . . Freshman redshirts Matt Nichols and Aaron Boyce hooked-up for a 9-yard touchdown pass against Central Washington. It was the first career touchdown pass for Nichols and the first career touchdown reception for the 6-foot-2 Boyce, who has caught three of the five TD passes Nichols has had thus far. Boyce is a former basketball teammate of EWU standout Rodney Stuckey at Kentwood High School in Kent, Wash., where they helped lead their team to the State 4A title in 2004. . . Another redshirt freshman receiver, Tony Davis, is still looking for his first career touchdown reception. He came within inches of scoring against Montana State on a 28-yard pass from Nichols. He is the team's leading receiver with 31 catches for 368 yards. His first career touchdown was a 60-yard punt return for a touchdown versus Oregon State in his first game as an Eagle . . . Boyce, Davis and Brynsen Brown -- all redshirt freshmen receivers -- have combined for 75 catches for 1,026 yards and four touchdowns thus far. All three have between 320 and 368 yards receiving thus far. Brown had his first touchdown catch as an Eagle versus Montana on Oct. 7 . . . Eastern has had 11 interceptions this season, including two by senior DeNique Ford, junior Gregor Smith and junior Anthony Dotson. The others have been recorded by David Eneberg, Makai Borden, Nick Denbeigh, Ira Jarmon and Brandon Keeler . . . Eastern had just four sacks in its first five games, then had five versus Montana and one versus Northern Colorado. End Greg Peach leads the team with 2 1/2, and tackle Keith Grennan and linebacker David Eneberg each have two . . . True freshman Jesse Hoffman had 124 yards on 16 carries against Northern Colorado for the top performance on the team this season. Said Wullf: "We know he has a lot of talent. It's just a matter of giving him more and more carries in tighter ballgames. When you have a true freshman at that position, you're a little leery sometimes. But we know he has great potential and is only going to get better."
EWU Injury Report: Eagle head coach Paul Wulff reports that tight end Tim Calhoun will miss his second-straight game this week after undergoing surgery to repair ligament damage following a thumb injury he suffered against Montana on Oct. 7.
Safety Nick Denbeigh was questionable for the Northern Colorado game on Oct. 14 after suffering an elbow injury against Montana, but was able to play and even start after a brace was shipped directly to Greeley, Colo., where the game was played. His injury against Montana came after he intercepted a pass earlier in the game despite having a heavily-wrapped hand because of a broken bone he suffered in EWU's season opener at Oregon State. For four games, Denbeigh played with a cast.
Free safety Bryan Jarrett (ankle) and linebacker Shea Emry (hip flexor) returned against Montana after suffering injuries against Central Washington. Center Chris Carlsen (knee) is also back after suffering his injury at Oregon State. And running back Dale Morris (foot) started against Montana at running back after missing the first five games with a pre-season injury.
2006 Eagles at a Glance: Eastern is coming off back-to-back seasons in which it won a share of the Big Sky Conference title and advanced to the NCAA Division I-AA Playoffs. Eastern returned 41 letter winners from that team, including 19 on offense, 20 on defense, its kicker and its punter. In all, 14 starters are back, with experience heaviest at safety and along the offensive and defensive lines.
But replacing the incredible contributions of eight amazingly productive seniors will prove to be difficult indeed. Eastern lost the 2005 Walter Payton Award winner and Big Sky Offensive MVP (quarterback Erik Meyer), the Big Sky Defensive MVP (middle linebacker Joey Cwik), a two-time All-America receiver (Eric Kimble), three other wide receivers and a pair of starting cornerbacks.
Wulff has replaced Meyer with junior Chris Peerboom and freshman redshirt Matt Nichols. They were to split playing time early in the season to see which quarterback leads the offense the best, but Peerboom missed two games with a concussion suffered in the opener against Oregon State. Replacing the play-making abilities of Kimble will be equally difficult.
"They are two of the best players to ever play in this conference," said Wulff. "But in the game of football there are 11 players on the field, and we feel like we have a program that can be extremely successful with whatever 11 players we put out there. That's not going to change."
Among the players returning are 11 players who earned All-Big Sky Conference accolades in 2005. First team selections included safety Bryan Jarrett and offensive guard Matt Alfred, who also earned a pair of All-America accolades as well.
Second team choices returning include former OSU running back Ryan Cole, who rushed for 879 yards and 14 touchdowns for the Eagles last year. Safety Brandon Keeler, tight end and Tim Calhoun, defensive lineman Harrison Nikolao were also second team picks, but Nikolao has moved over to a starting offensive guard position for his senior season.
Honorable mention All-Big Sky picks a year ago included Rocky Hanni (offensive guard), Nick Denbeigh (outside linebacker), David Eneberg (inside linebacker), Sheldon Weddle (kicker) and Shea Emry (special teams). As a freshman in 2004, Hanni was honored as an All-American after earning Big Sky Conference Newcomer of the Year honors -- the only offensive lineman in the history of the award to win that honor. He has moved to tackle this season.
"Our goals are to win the conference championship, get to the playoffs and make a run for the national championship," said Wulff before the season began. "Our seniors sure as heck want to push it as long and far as we can take it. We expect that and our players know what it takes to get there. Anything other than that is contrary to what our goals are."
"Is it going to happen? . . . you never know. But it is a realistic goal for us."
Last season, Eastern garnered the automatic berth with a 7-4 record overall and 5-2 conference mark following an eventful final two weeks of the regular season. The 21st-ranked Eagles defeated the 11th-ranked Bobcats 35-14 on Nov. 12 and the following week MSU upset Montana 16-6 to force a three-way tie for the title and give EWU the automatic berth by virtue of a season sweep over the Montana schools.
In the Big Sky Conference preseason polls, Eastern was picked to finish second by the coaches and sixth by the media. Montana State was picked third by the coaches and second by the media. Montana, which shared the conference title last year with EWU and MSU, was picked first in both polls.
Bill Diedrick Jr. to be Inducted Into Hall of Fame: It's an overdue honor, but only because Bill Diedrick Jr. is usually a little busy in the fall.
The Spokane native and former Eastern All-America quarterback will be inducted into the Eastern Athletics Hall of Fame on Oct. 28 as part of EWU's Homecoming Football game against Northern Arizona at Woodward Field in Cheney, Wash. A reception will take place at 11 a.m. that day at Reese Court, and the public is invited to attend (RSVP to 509-359-2463).
Diedrick led Eastern to the NAIA Championship game in 1967, earning All-America honors for a squad that was the inaugural team inducted into Eastern's Hall of Fame in 2001. Established in 1996, the Hall of Fame currently includes three teams and Diedrick will become the 35th individual member. He was selected for induction in 2005, but was unable to attend the semi-annual induction ceremonies because of his coaching commitments.
Besides being a record-breaking quarterback at Eastern, Diedrick has spent more than 30 years coaching high school, collegiate and professional football. He went on to an illustrious collegiate coaching career with stops at Montana State, Idaho, Washington State, Washington, Stanford, Notre Dame and the Canadian Football League. Currently, he is coaching quarterbacks and wide receivers for the Calgary Stampeders in the Canadian Football League.
"Spending 36 years in coaching have given me a lot of wonderful honors and opportunities," said Diedrick, who has had 13 different stops in his coaching career. "But none compare to the three honors I received as a player -- playing for a national championship, being named an All-American and now being selected into the Hall of Fame at Eastern."
Calgary, currently 10-7 with the second-most wins in the league, ends its regular season on Oct. 21 and the playoffs begin on Nov. 5. That enabled him to return to the Spokane area where his mother Lillian still resides.
Bill's father, Bill Diedrick Sr., passed away on April 3, 2005, and is already a member of the Inland Northwest Hall of Fame Scroll of Honor in recognition for the 70 years he spent in the region as an athlete, coach, trainer and groundskeeper. A 1942 Eastern graduate, "Mouse" was also inducted into the Washington State Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 1979.
Diedrick was a second team NAIA All-America selection for Eastern in 1967 when he quarterbacked the team to an 11-1 record and an appearance in the NAIA Championship game. Eastern lost that game 28-21 to Fairmont State, but it marked the high point in a revival of Eastern football under head coach Dave Holmes. Before the arrival of Holmes -- who is an inaugural member of Eastern's Hall of Fame -- Eastern was winless in the 1961 and 1962 seasons.
"I truly believe the lessons we were taught by our coaches have really been the foundation and guiding focus in my coaching career," said Diedrick.
A graduate of Spokane's North Central High School, Diedrick played for Eastern in 1965 (8-1), 1966 (7-1-1), 1967 (11-1) and 1969 (4-5) for a collective record of 30-8-1. In his career he completed 274-of-532 passes (51.5 percent) for 4,076 yards, 50 touchdowns and 27 interceptions. His career passing efficiency rating of 136.7 stood as a record for nearly 30 years, as did his single season rating of 157.0 in 1967.
He completed 121-of-221 passes (55 percent) for 1,995 yards and 25 touchdowns in 1967, with his touchdown total standing as a school record for 34 years until being broken in the 2001 season.
"I recall the closeness and chemistry we had as a team," said Diedrick of the Eastern teams he played on. "We were a collection from all over the state of Washington -- mostly from small communities and a few of us from larger cities. We cared about one another and the only important thing was playing well, not letting your teammates down and winning. We had some very intense rivalries with Central and Western. Years later, many of these hated players from opposing teams became very close friends in the coaching ranks."
Diedrick also played baseball at Eastern, and was the school's batting champion in 1969 with a .298 average. He graduated from Eastern in 1970, and received his master's degree in 1971 from the University of Hawaii where he served as a graduate assistant under Holmes.
"I will always treasure my days at Eastern," he said, "from my first training camp as a young freshman to the day I departed Cheney to begin my coaching career."
More on Diedrick and the Eastern Athletics Hall of Fame can be found at: http://goeags.cstv.com/hallfame/ewas-hallfame.html
SERIES HISTORY & NOTES
Series History: Portland State leads the series 15-12-1. Eastern is 6-6 against the Vikings in Portland and 6-9-1 at home against them. The road team has won five of the last nine meetings.
In 2004, Eastern used a fast start to record a 41-21 victory over the Vikings in Portland. The Eagles opened a 27-point lead in the second quarter en route to taking a 34-7 lead at halftime. Eastern outscored PSU 27-0 in the second quarter. Erik Meyer was 16-of-21 for 233 yards and three touchdowns in the first half, and finished the game with a then career-high 325 yards and four touchdowns on 22-of-30 passing. Eastern converted 5-of-6 third down conversions in the first half. Junior Eric Kimble had a career-high 10 catches for a then career-high 161 yards and one touchdown. Viking running back Ryan Fuqua didn't play after rushing for 768 yards and six touchdowns in three previous meetings against the Eagles.
In 2003 in Cheney, quarterback Erik Meyer and running back Reggie Witherspoon each accounted for three touchdowns as Eastern Washington rolled past Portland State 42-16. Meyer completed 17-of-22 passes for 272 yards and a touchdown, and rushed for another 33 yards and two touchdowns. His favorite receivers were Kyler Randall with seven catches for 98 yards and Raul Vijil with five grabs for 121 yards. Witherspoon rushed for three touchdowns and 134 yards, with touchdown runs of 23, 42 and 5 yards. The Eagles finished with 517 yards of total offense against PSU, but perhaps most importantly held Viking running back Ryan Fuqua in check for the most part. The junior, who had rushed for 657 yards in two previous games against the Eagles, finished with 111 yards after having 94 in the first half alone. The Eagles held PSU to 322 yards offense, and forced three turnovers.
In 2002, Ryan Fuqua rushed for 264 yards a pair of touchdowns -- including a back-breaking 77-yarder in the fourth quarter -- as 14th-ranked Portland State held-off Eastern 34-31 in Portland. Although they fell behind 24-7 in the first half, Eastern battled back in the second half. Trailing by just three, Eastern got the ball back twice in the last 3:49 but poor field position hurt Eastern's chances to get a drive going. Eastern started those possessions at the 3-yard line and the 8-yard line, and PSU held both times. Fuqua's 77-yard run with 10:58 to play was the killer, and provided the winning points for PSU. Eric Kimble had an 80-yard punt return with 7:16 to play to give Eastern its final points. Not including Fuqua's 77-yard run, in the second half Eastern held Portland State to 139 yards of offense on 28 plays and Fuqua had just 32 yards on 13 carries. Eastern meanwhile, had 224 of its 419 yards of total offense after halftime. Eastern's Darius Washington finished with 71 yards of rushing, but had three fumbles on the night, losing one. In all Eastern fumbled five times and lost two of them.
In 2001, freshman Ryan Fuqua rushed for the third-most yards in NCAA Division I-AA history -- second in the Big Sky Conference -- with 393 as the Vikings opened a 34-3 halftime lead and held off Eastern Washington 37-22. Fuqua had 243 yards and all three of his touchdowns in the first half, and carried a total of 45 times against the Eagles. Portland State finished with 533 yards of total offense, compared to 435 for the Eagles. Although the Eagles outscored the Vikings 19-3 in the second half, it was a pair of non-scoring drives in the third and fourth quarters by PSU that clinched the win. The Vikings took 12:26 off the clock in those two drives alone, which both ended on failed fourth down tries. Eastern's Jesse Chatman finished with 173 rushing yards. He also caught five passes for 94 yards and a 12-yard touchdown when he hurdled over an opponent at the 5-yard line and then walked into the end zone. Fred Salanoa completed 22-of-33 passes for 249 yards and three touchdowns, and also rushed for 32 yards. Joe Levens was the team's leading receiver with seven catches for 64 yards and a touchdown. Middle linebacker Luke Vincent led the Eagles defensively with 11 tackles.
In 2000, Eastern clinched a second-place finish in the Big Sky Conference as the Eagles closed their season with a 27-24 victory over PSU in Hillsboro, Ore. Jesse Chatman fumbled on his first carry of the game, but came back to rush for 145 yards and three touchdowns. Fred Salanoa completed 26-of-32 passes for 295 yards, but in the second half alone he was 14-of-15 for 177 yards. Eastern overcame three turnovers in the first half and costly penalties in the third quarter en route to the win. But when it counted the most, Eastern's offense scored on three-straight possessions in the second half to open a 27-17 lead. And the defense, playing against an extremely talented Viking offense, held PSU scoreless on two-straight possessions during the same stretch. The Eagles held Portland State to 88 yards rushing, 372 total yards and 24 points. Entering the game, PSU was among the national leaders in all four categories with averages of 184.0 rushing, 423.8 in total offense and 35.4 points.
In 1999, Eastern overcame a disastrous second quarter, but couldn't quite get over the hump in the second half and was upended by Portland State 48-39. The Vikings scored touchdowns on five of six possessions in the first half and took a 34-19 lead at halftime. Eastern's defense stiffened in the second half, pulling to within 41-33 on a 7-yard pass from Fred Salanoa to Joe Levens with 10:48 to play. Four minutes later, Jeff Allen recovered an errant Viking lateral pass, and Eastern went on a 12-play, 51-yard touchdown drive that was capped by a 1-yard touchdown run by Jesse Chatman. On the conversion attempt, Fred Salanoa's pass in the corner of the end zone was just off the fingertips of Keish Levingston. The Vikings sealed the win when Orshawante Bryant picked up Eastern's onside kickoff and returned it 43 yards for a score. Sophomore running back Jovan Griffith rushed for 185 yards and Chatman had 108 as they helped Eastern rush for 304 yards in the game. At the time it was the most rushing yards for the Eagles in their last 20 games dating back to a 319-yard performance versus Idaho State in 1997. Griffith carried 24 times with a long rush of 45 yards and a 7.7 average per rush
In 1998, then-Eastern head coach Mike Kramer used words like "devastation" and "bitter" to describe Eastern's overtime loss to Portland State that was broadcast live on Fox Sports Net Northwest. Here are the reasons for Kramer's disappointment: Eastern kicker Josh Atwood missed three second half field goals of 33 yards or less, including a 25-yarder with one second left that could have won the game. LeVar McClary returned a blocked field goal 38 yards to the PSU 22-yard line to set-up the attempt. The block by Jeff Allen came on a PSU 51-yard field goal attempt with 32 seconds to play. Furthermore, Eastern senior Mike MacKenzie fumbled the ball away twice in PSU territory to stop drives. And penalties hurt the Eagles in key situations as Eastern was whistled for seven penalties for 74 yards. The Eagles had 383 yards of total offense to PSU's 439. But the Eagles had 19 less plays than the Vikings while averaging 6.3 yards per play to PSU's 5.5. The highlight for the Eagles of the game was the pair of punts for touchdowns Bashir Levingston returned against the Vikings. He had a 62-yarder in the second quarter, and added a 68-yarder with 7:18 left in the fourth quarter that gave the Eagles a 24-17 lead. However, Portland State came back to score a touchdown with 4:28 to play, and in overtime the Vikings scored a touchdown after an Eagle field goal.
Last Year - #14 Eastern Washington 42, Portland State 24: Running back Ryan Cole rushed for a career-high 154 rushing yards and five touchdowns, and quarterback Erik Meyer broke the school's career passing yardage record as Eastern Washington surged past Portland State 42-24 Oct. 1 at Woodward Field in Cheney, Wash.
Cornerback Jesse Hendrix added a pair of interceptions and three passes broken up as the 14th-ranked Eagles outscored the Vikings 21-0 in the fourth quarter. The Eagle outburst broke open a close game, played on a slippery field left muddied by two days of rain.
"I'm very proud of these guys," said Eagle head coach Paul Wulff. "They fought hard today under bad field conditions. But they rallied and did a great job."
Cole, a transfer from Oregon State, carried the ball 25 times and scored on runs of 3, 36, 2, 52 and 8 yards. He had just 175 yards in his first three games as an Eagle, with his previous best game at OSU a 104-yard effort against Washington State on Oct. 23, 2004.
"It was a good game for Ryan," Wulff said. " The more carries he gets the stronger he gets. That's the type of running back he is."
Meyer completed 19-of-31 passes for 266 yards, giving him 7,626 yards in his 34-game Eagle career. He broke the previous record of 7,492 held by Mark Tenneson (1989-92). Meyer also had a career-high 68 rushing yards, surpassing the 44 he had as a sophomore in 2003 against Central Washington.
Meyer had one touchdown pass, a 23-yarder to fellow All-American Eric Kimble. It was Kimble's 38th career touchdown catch, moving him into seventh on the NCAA Division I-AA all-time list. Jerry Rice owns the record with 50.
Eastern, finished with 488 yards of total offense, including 222 rushing. Eastern entered the game ranked eighth in I-AA in total offense (485.3 per game) and first in passing offense (381.3), but was just 96th out of 116 I-AA teams in rushing offense (104.0). Eastern entered the game with just four rushing touchdowns, and Cole eclipsed that with five versus the Vikings.
Portland State, meanwhile, finished with just 315 yards of total offense, including 201 on the ground. Joe Rubin finished with 182 yards and a touchdown on 40 carries, a week after earning national player of the week honors when he had 356 yards in a 41-17 romp over Northern Colorado.
Eastern jumped out to a quick 14-0 lead in the first quarter, scoring on a pair of 80-yard drives. The Vikings scored 17-straight points to take a 17-14 lead late in the half, but EWU went on a quick, five-play, 79-yard drive to re-gain a 21-17 advantage at halftime.
Portland State took the lead with 6:33 left in the third quarter, but that was its last score of the day as Eastern held the Vikings scoreless in their last four possessions, including a pair of punts and an interception by Hendrix.
Eastern, meanwhile, put the game away with touchdowns on three of its last four possessions -- all scored by Cole. His 2-yard run on the first play of the fourth quarter capped a 49-yard drive and gave Eastern the lead for good. His 52-yarder with 8:32 to play capped an 82-yard drive, and Hendrix's interception led to Cole's 8-yard scamper with just 17 seconds remaining.
Hendrix also had an interception at the end of the first half at the EWU 13-yard line. All three of the passes he broke-up came on third down, with those PSU possessions ending with a punt, on downs and a field goal.
Eastern held PSU quarterback Sawyer Smith to 114 yards through the air on 10-of-28 passing. The Eagles finished with nine passes broken up.
Paul Wulff QUOTES
On Running Game Helping Passing Game Versus Montana State: "There is no question that the running game loosens up the other team's defense. Their pass rush isn't as effective and gives our quarterback more time to throw the ball. It gave Matt Nichols some confidence. What he didn't do against Central but did against Montana State was step up in the pocket. It's a credit to him that he stepped up and made plays."
On Playing I-A Opponents: "All of the coaches in our conference take pride in playing I-A programs. At the end of the game those opposing players and coaches realize we are well-coached and play good football. Generally we garner a lot more respect after we played them than entering the ballgame. At the same time you want to take care of your team first and get better."
On Inexperienced Players: "It's one of those situations where it's going to be baptism by fire, and we'll just have to find out. I think our players will go in, play well, compete and learn a lot. We are going to make plays and we're going to make mistakes too. But I'm excited, and in the big picture, those games will help us once we get into conference play."
On Secondary: "I think our safety position is the best it's ever been at this university. We have some great players there. We feel very comfortable with one cornerback and need to develop one more, but I think our safeties are outstanding."
On Big Sky Race: "This is going to be a year where some teams are going to emerge halfway to three-quarters through the season. I'll be honest, I think it can be any one of eight teams -- I don't think anybody knows. Teams change throughout the season."
On Legacy Left by Erik Meyer and Eric Kimble: "They provided a different level of play in terms of performance, excitement and higher expectations. They left a mark that will never be taken away. The provided expectations and competitiveness that other players can look up to. They can see what it takes to be a great player and what it takes to be a trendsetter. Those guys were."
On Offensive Line: "I think there is potential to be really good, but to be honest, they have yet to prove that they are really good. It's all based on speculation and returning veterans with experience. They have not gelled and they have not had the opportunity to really do great things yet. And this season we need them to and we are really hoping they develop into a fine unit. Ultimately we need them to help us win ballgames."
On Defense in the Big Sky: "We have some very good defenses this year. I think defense is going to be the strong point of this conference."
On Building Streak of Seven-Straight Winning Seasons: "It's what you work a lot of long hours for over the course of time to develop your program. By no means we where we want to be, but we have definitely made some steps and we are going in the right direction. We've made some strides and we need to keep moving forward."
On Standouts from First Game: "For a freshman, Tony Davis did some nice things. So did Aaron Boyce and Shane Eller. These are players who never played college football in their lives, and they had the opportunities to make a few big plays in the game. Brandon Keeler had a solid game and we need him to play well all season. He did some good things in the ballgame and that was encouraging. Alexis Alexander did well playing in his first game since high school (in 2000) and was our offensive player of the week and special teams player of the week. We had a lot of players getting their first taste of college football against Oregon State and they did some darn good things. Now they need to take it to the next level and improve on their first-game experience."
PRE-SEASON RANKINGS & INDIVIDUAL HONORS
Eagles Unranked in Pre-Season Poll: After spending the entire 2005 season and most of 2004 nationally-ranked, Eastern Washington started the 2006 season out of the Sports Network NCAA Division I-AA Top 25 Poll. That snapped a string of 20-straight polls in which EWU was ranked by the media members and sports information directors who vote in the TSN poll.
However, the Eagles received enough votes to rank 26th. Eastern was ranked 23rd in the AGS (Any Given Saturday) pre-season poll and was also ranked 23rd in the pre-season by the Football Gazette. Eastern's 2006 opponents in the TSN pre-season poll include Montana (2nd) and Montana State (17th).
The Eagles finished 13th in the final Sports Network NCAA Division I-AA Poll of the 2005 season. Eastern entered 2005 ranked fourth nationally, but slipped to sixth after losing its season-opener at San Jose State. Eastern was fifth for two-straight weeks before a loss at Idaho State dropped it to 14th. Eastern spent one week at 15th before moving up to 12th prior to knocking off Montana, which catapulted the Eagles into sixth. But a 28-23 home loss to Weber State on Oct. 22 dropped the Eagles eight spots to 14th before jumping up to 11th a week later. A 40-35 loss at Cal Poly dropped Eastern to 21st -- the lowest ranking for the Eagles all season. Eastern moved to 19th after a 35-14 home win over 11th-ranked Montana State, then was 15th after closing the regular season with a win over UC Davis.
Eastern finished the 2004 season ranked a season-high seventh, thanks to a victory over No. 1 ranked and top-seeded Southern Illinois in the first round of the NCAA Division I-AA Playoffs. Eastern ranked in the top 25 seven times in the 2004 season, including the last six times the poll was released.
Coaches Pick Eagles Second: The Eastern Washington University football team has been picked to finish anywhere from second to fifth as the Big Sky Conference preseason coaches and media polls were released July 17 at the Big Sky Conference Summer Kickoff in Park City, Utah.
The Eagles, who shared Big Sky titles the last two years and advanced to the NCAA Division I-AA Playoffs both seasons, were picked second by the coaches and fifth by the media. In 2005, Eastern was picked to win the title it eventually shared with Montana.
The uncertainty, however, is created by the fact the Eagles lost Payton Award-winning quarterback Erik Meyer, four receivers including record-breaking Eric Kimble, a pair of cornerbacks and middle linebacker Joey Cwik, who was the Big Sky's Defensive Player of the Year. But with 41 letter winners back -- including 10 who earned All-Big Sky Conference recognition a year ago -- the Eagles expect to contend for the title once again in 2006.
"I think this will be a year where we will surprise a lot of teams," said Eagle lineman Harrison Nikolao, who was Eastern's player representative at the Summer Kickoff. "Everyone has lost a lot of players throughout the conference. People look at us and see that we lost Erik Meyer, Eric Kimble and the core of our wide receivers. Teams are going to look at us as being suspect in certain things and weak in certain areas, which we are. But we're going to be stronger as a team this year than in the past three years."
The 6-foot-2, 295-pound Nikolao will be a key figure in that strength. He was a second team All-Big Sky defensive lineman last year, but has moved to an offensive guard position heading into his senior season. The 2002 graduate of Lincoln High School in Tacoma, Wash., has a team-high 24 games of starting experience as an Eagle, including a stint as a two-way player in 2004.
"We thrive on competing and that is not going to change," Nikolao added. "We are only going to improve. That's what Eastern Football is all about."
In the coaches poll, Montana was picked to win the title and received eight of the nine first-place votes. Montana State was picked third and plays the Eagles in the league opener for both teams on Sept. 23 in Bozeman, Mont. Portland State was picked fourth followed by Idaho State, Weber State, Northern Arizona, Sacramento State and league newcomer Northern Colorado.
The media poll also had Montana on top, with the Grizzlies receiving 28 of 32 first-place votes. Montana, which plays at Eastern on Oct. 7, was followed by Montana State, Weber State, Portland State, Idaho State, Eastern, Northern Arizona, Sacramento State and Northern Colorado.
Alfred and Hanni Earn Pre-Season All-America Honors From The Sports Network and I-AA.Org: After two productive seasons as underclassmen, Eastern Washington University offensive linemen Matt Alfred and Rocky Hanni have been selected as pre-season All-Americans by The Sports Network and its NCAA Division I-AA executive director Matt Dougherty. Later, that same duo earned the same honor as first team All-America selections by I-AA.Org.
Alfred, a 6-foot-3, 300-pound guard from Gig Harbor, Wash. (Gig Harbor HS '03), was selected to the first team. The 6-5, 290-pound Hanni earned honorable mention, and is from Sumner, Wash. (Sumner HS '03).
Alfred was a first team All-America and All-Big Sky pick in 2005 after helping the Eagles rank fourth nationally in total offense with an average of 477.8 yards per game. He has started as either a guard or tackle in Eastern's last 22 games the past two seasons as EWU has won a share of two Big Sky Conference titles, made two appearances in the I-AA Playoffs and has a 16-9 record.
As a freshman in 2004, Hanni was the first-ever offensive lineman to win Big Sky Newcomer of the Year honors. The 6-5, 290-pound Hanni also earned All-America honors that season and has started all 23 games as an Eagle. He moved from tackle to guard as a sophomore, but is expected to return to tackle in 2006.
Football Gazette Honors Seven In-State Eagles: Seven Eastern Washington University football players -- all from the state of Washington -- have been selected to the Football Gazette preseason NCAA Division I-AA All-America team.
The remainder of players recognized received honorable mention. They included tight end Tim Calhoun from Zillah, Wash., offensive tackle Rocky Hanni from Sumner, Wash., linebacker David Eneberg from Mukilteo, Wash., defensive back Bryan Jarrett from Puyallup, Wash., and Brandon Keeler from Federal Way, Wash.
Trio of Eagles on Preseason All-Big Sky team: Eastern Washington senior tight end Tim Calhoun, junior offensive guard Matt Alfred and junior safety Bryan Jarrett have been selected to the preseason All-Big Sky Conference team as selected by members of the media.
All three players received All-Big Sky recognition a year ago when Calhoun was selected to the second team and Alfred and Jarrett were both first team selections. Alfred also earned All-America honors.
Calhoun is a 2002 graduate from Zillah, Wash., High School, and has caught 46 passes for 591 yards and five touchdowns in his career. He earned honorable mention All-Big Sky honors as a true freshman before missing the 2003 and 2004 seasons because of injuries.
Alfred has started 22 career games as a guard and tackle, and is a 2003 graduate of Gig Harbor, Wash., High School. In each of the last two years, Eastern has ranked fourth in NCAA Division I-AA in offense with averages of nearly 500 yards per game. His younger brother Kenny is an offensive lineman at Washington State University.
Jarrett transferred to Eastern after playing one season at Western Washington University, and is a 2003 graduate of Puyallup, Wash., High School. He had 59 tackles, two passes broken up and an interception as an eight-game starter in his first season as an Eagle in 2005.
Those players helped lead the Eagles to a second-straight league title and NCAA Division I-AA Playoff berth in 2005.
Eagles Announce Spring Award Winners: At Eastern's Red-White Spring Football game, head coach Paul Wulff announced that junior guard Matt Alfred and senior linebacker David Eneberg will serve as co-captains in the 2006 season. Alfred is a 2003 graduate of Gig Harbor, Wash., High School, and Eneberg graduated in 2002 from Kamiak High School in Mukilteo, Wash.
Also at the game, Wulff handed out strength and conditioning awards to Alfred, running back Ryan Cole, cornerback Adam Macomber and defensive end Jason Belford. Selected as most improved were cornerback Anthony Dotson and offensive guard Julian Stewart. Winning the "Iron Eagle" awards for academic and athletic achievement during the year were tight end Tom McAndrews and defensive back Bryan Jarrett.
OTHER NOTES & QUOTES
Eastern 1-5 Start Rare: Starting the season 1-5, you have to go back to 1983 to find a year when the Eagles had won just once in six games to start the season. That year the Eagles were 0-5 before winning their last five games. This week, Eastern will try to avoid a 1-6 start that hasn't occurred since 1963. The year before that 3-6 season, Eastern was 0-8-1.
In 1995, Eastern had a young and inexperienced team at several positions much like this year's team. That squad won its first two games, then lost eight of its final nine to finish 3-8. Two years later in 1997, Eastern finished 12-2 and advanced to the semifinals of the NCAA Division I-AA Playoffs.
A Taste of the Eagle-Grizzly Rivalry: In a series that has provided plenty of drama over the years -- including 2005 -- Montana now leads the all-time series 22-10-1. Eastern is 4-11-1 in Missoula, 5-10 in home games and 1-1 in games played at neutral sites. In six of the last 11 meetings between the two teams, both teams have entered the game nationally-ranked.
Seven 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 21 times in 32 meetings. The winner has usually piled up points and yardage by the ton as evidenced by Eastern's 653 yards of total offense in 1997 in a 40-35 win, 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 34.3 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 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 NCAA Division I-AA record-tying winning streak 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 10 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.)
Eneberg and Bergstrom Win Big Sky Honors: A week earlier, Eagle senior linebacker and team co-captain David Eneberg helped organize a closed-door, players-only team meeting. On Sept. 23, he and kicker Brett Bergstrom were reveling in the results.
Eneberg was selected as the Big Sky Conference Defensive Player of the Week on Sept. 25 and Bergstrom earned the same award on special teams. Eneberg had 13 tackles and Bergstrom kicked four field goals in Eastern's 19-10 league victory at Montana State Sept. 23.
Eneberg is from Mukilteo, Wash., and is a 2002 graduate of Kamiak High School. Bergstrom is from North Bend, Wash., and graduated the same year from Mount Si High School before playing two seasons at Shasta Junior College in California.
The honors were the first player of the week honors for both players. Eneberg was an honorable mention All-Big Sky selection last year and Bergstrom is in his first year as Eastern's placekicker after previously spending time at safety, wide receiver and defensive end in the Eagle program.
"Both are deserving of those awards," said Eagle head coach Paul Wulff. "David had a great week of practice and it showed in the ballgame. Without a question he's one of our best team leaders."
Eneberg also had a sack and pass broken up against the Bobcats, and both came on third down plays that forced punts in the first half as EWU opened a 9-0 lead at halftime it wouldn't relinquish. Eastern won for the fourth-straight time over MSU and the 5-foot-11, 210-pound Eneberg has played big roles in all four.
As a freshman in 2003, he intercepted a pass that helped seal Eastern's 35-25 win at Albi Stadium in Spokane. A year later, he batted-down a fourth-and-goal pass in overtime to secure Eastern's come-from-behind 51-44 victory that gave Eastern a NCAA Division I-AA Playoff berth. He had four tackles and broke-up a pass in last year's 35-14 victory at Woodward Field.
Eneberg's performance helped Eastern's defense allow just 10 points and 235 yards versus MSU. In the first three games, Eastern allowed an average of 43.0 points and 471.0 yards per game.
"Our defense was much-improved," added Wulff. "We're still not playing championship football yet. But it was an improved effort and now we need to step it up that much more going into game five."
A senior who had never attempted an EWU field goal prior to this season, Bergstrom kicked field goals of 21, 53, 39 and 30 yards versus the Bobcats, with his 53-yarder ranking as the fourth-longest in school history. Three of the kicks came in the first half to give Eastern a 9-0 lead at halftime. His fourth helped Eastern re-gain a nine-point lead in the second half.
Bergstrom Finally Finds His Niche: It took a few years and a few positions, but Eagle senior Brett Bergstrom has found his niche.
A senior who had never attempted an EWU field goal prior to this season, Bergstrom kicked four field goals in Eastern's 19-10 victory at Montana State on Sept. 23. He kicked field goals of 21, 53, 39 and 30 yards versus the Bobcats, with his 53-yarder ranking as the fourth-longest in school history. Three of the kicks came in the first half to give Eastern a 9-0 lead at halftime.
"He's a veteran player and has a strong leg," said Eagle head coach Paul Wulff. "We really feel like we have a player that can help us win games. And he did against Montana State."
Not bad for a player who came to Eastern three years ago and went through three positions before finding his calling. He redshirted as a safety in 2004, moved to receiver and even tried defensive end before earning the kicking job.
"It was very frustrating because I thought I had a chance at playing as a safety," Bergstrom said. "But things happen, so I changed positions."
Bergstrom was a kicker at Mount Si High School in North Bend, Wash., then went to Shasta Junior College in California for two seasons. He kicked there too, but initially didn't ask his Eastern coaches to give him an opportunity to kick until about a year ago.
"I never really showed them that I could kick," he said. "But last year I asked them if I could try it, and now I have the chance."
The strong-legged Bergstrom specialized in kickoffs in 2005 before edging out fellow senior Sheldon Weddle for this year's placekicking chores. He averaged 61.0 yards per kickoff as a junior with 23 touchbacks.
Kicking camps in Texas, California and Boise, Idaho, helped him hone his skills in summer 2006. His improvement has turned the kicking game into a strength for the Eagles.
"It does feel good," he said. "At first I didn't really like it because it wasn't that much fun. But I finally got into it this past summer and worked hard at it. I have a lot more things to work on and I just want to get better from here."
Eastern's field goal record is 57 yards set by Eric Stein in a 1986 game at Montana State. That record could be in jeopardy if game situations give Bergstrom the opportunity.
"He kicked a 58-yarder in the rain and wind in our practice at Montana State," added Wulff. "He is certainly capable of kicking it from 60."
"It's all about confidence," added Bergstrom. "You just can't have any doubt that you're going to make it. If you do, you are going to miss it."
Rule Change Means Quicker Games: In a rules change designed to speed up play -- but as a result will provide for less plays in the game -- the game clock will be started sooner in several situations. In most circumstances the clock will start on a change of possession on the ready-for-play signal instead of when the ball is snapped. It will also start when the ball is kicked on free kicks (kickoffs), where previously it started when the ball was touched in play.
Thus far, there have been an average of 125.6 plays per game (both Eastern and its opponents). Last year, there were an average of 147.0 plays and the year before that the average was 146.5.
Wulff on Rule Changes Regarding Game Clock for 2006: "They expect there will be anywhere from 20 to 25 less plays in a game, and that's a big impact. You have to be that much more efficient and maximize your plays. I think it will affect the game."
Eagles 0-2 Start Rare, 0-3 Even Rarer: Only four times since 1963 have the Eagles started the season 0-3. Eastern has never overcome a 0-3 start to finish with a winning record.
In 1998, Eastern lost its first three games of the season after going a school-record 12-2 the year before and advancing to the semifinals of the I-AA Playoffs. The Eagles started the 1988 season with a tie, then lost their next two games en route to a 2-8-1 finish. In 1983, EWU lost its first five games then won its last five to finish 5-5. Before 2004, the 1982 season was the last time Eastern started 0-2 and finished with a winning season as the Eagles won their final eight games to finish 8-2.
This is just the third time since 1983 that the Eagles have started the season 0-2 (EWU became a member of NCAA Division I-AA in 1984). The last time came in 2004 when the Eagles opened with losses at Nicholls State and Humboldt State. The Eagles went on to win nine of their next 10 games -- starting with a victory over Central Washington -- to advance to the quarterfinals of the NCAA Division I-AA Playoffs.
Eagle head coach Paul Wulff has lost his opening game in six of his seven seasons at the helm, but five of those games were against NCAA Division I-A opponents. In 2001, Eastern opened the season with a 35-17 win at I-A Connecticut.
EWU Play in Front of Largest Crowd in School History: Eastern's 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 is now the third-largest at 38,071. Below is a list of the 12 crowds in excess of 20,000 the Eagles have ever played against.
Attendance - Opponent - Date - Result
59,504 - at West Virginia - Sept. 9, 2006 - :L, 3-52
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
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
Wulff on West Virginia Crowd: "It was loud, but I thought it was a good crowd. Our players handled it extremely well. We play in a very loud environment too at the University of Montana. More and more the last few years our players have been exposed to these types of crowds and so they are able to adapt to it."
Eagles Versus I-A Members: Since 1982 when it became a member of NCAA Division II (the Eagles became a I-AA team in 1983), Eastern is now 8-13 all-time versus I-A teams. A 35-17 win over Connecticut on Sept. 8, 2001, snapped a five-game losing streak versus I-A foes. Here is Eastern's complete list of games versus NCAA Division I-A 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
Nichols and Wulff Get First Starts Against Sixth-Ranked Mountaineers: Quarterback Matt Nichols and center Charlie Wulff couldn't have asked for a tougher assignment in their first starts of their careers against sixth-ranked West Virginia.
Nichols started in place of Chris Peerboom, whose concussion suffered in the Oregon State game kept him from making the trip to Morgantown, W.Va. Wulff started in place of Chris Carlsen, who suffered a minor knee injury against the Beavers and also didn't play at WVU. Wulff is the nephew of Eagle head coach Paul Wulff.
Matt Nichols on Starting Debut Against West Virginia: "It's easy when you have a great offensive line and good players around you. I had confidence from the coaches and that makes it easy to have confidence in the game plan. Our offensive line played absolutely amazing. They gave up no sacks and we moved the ball. Our running game was a lot better than Oregon State. We did what we were taught on our (scoring) drive. We just have to finish them."
Eastern Surrenders Lots of Points, But Doesn't Cough Up Ball Against Mountaineers: Although Eastern was out-scored 108-20 in the two games against I-AA opponents, the Eagles improved significantly in turnovers from one game to the next.
Against Oregon State, Eastern fumbled away the ball on the second offensive play of the game, then had three more turnovers in its next six possessions. The Beavers turned three of them into touchdowns en route to a 35-0 lead after the first 19 minutes of the game.
Eastern had just one turnover against West Virginia, and none of them were fumbles. An interception thrown by Matt Nichols was Eastern's only miscue as EWU made the Mountaineers earn their points.
"We'll see how we respond from it as the season goes along," Wulff said of playing at West Virginia a week after playing OSU. "I think it was great for our players. I'm a big picture kind of guy -- I'm not always looking at whether we win all the time because there are a lot of other factors in life. Our players had a great experience coming across the country, and played good, hard football and lost."
"We are going to learn from it," he added. "We have a chance to win a conference championship and compete for a national championship in I-AA. Those are our program goals, and this game gave us a flavor of how to play at a high, high level. We need to do that."
Eagles Play Nationally-Ranked I-A Opponent for Second Time: Playing the likes of a nationally-ranked West Virginia was virtually uncharted territory for the Eagles. Eastern is 7-13 all-time versus NCAA Division I-A schools, and the only other time the Eagles played a ranked I-A opponent came in 1990 when Eastern fell 84-21 to Houston. That game was played in the Houston Astrodome as the Cougars finished the season ranked 10th in the Associated Press poll.
Eastern lost 52-3 to a West Virginia team that was 11-1 last year and defeated Georgia 38-35 in the Nokia Sugar Bowl after winning the Big East Conference title with a perfect 7-0 record. The win over the Eagles was the 28th in 32 games for the Mountaineers.
Eastern played in Morgantown 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.
Incidentally, Eastern's two trips to Morgantown are half of the four the Eagles have made previously East of the Mississippi River. 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 I-A, and the meeting came four seasons before they joined the Big East Conference in 2005.
Matt Nichols on Playing I-A West Virginia: "We just played a top-five team that has a chance to win the national championship. That will help when we drop back down and play in our division. It helps us get used to the speed of the game, especially for myself and our redshirt freshmen wide receivers. It's a great experience to see how major college football is played."
Ryan Cole on EWU's Performance at OSU: "We came in prepared, but we didn't execute. We had some mistakes and physical errors in the first quarter, and it snowballed from there. We weren't really able to come back and rebound. But it's a first game of the season. We knew we weren't going to play our best football because I don't believe any team plays its best football in the first game of the season. But it was a harsh loss and we made them look good.
Ryan Cole on Returning to OSU Where He Previously Played: "It was great to see some familiar faces after the game. I applaud Oregon State because they played a heckuva game. I wish them the best of luck and hopefully they can be successful in the Pac 10 and be league champs. I always wish them the best."
Term I-AA Eliminated in December: At the conclusion of this season, the term I-AA will no longer be used by the NCAA in distinguishing teams in I-AA Football. The NCAA Board of Directors approved on Aug. 3 two new labels for NCAA Division I football. Schools in I-A will now be referred to as the "Football Bowl Subdivision" and I-AA will change to "NCAA Football Championship Subdivision." The Collegiate Commissioners Association helped develop the new labels.
The new term is designed to distinguish Division I institutions for purposes of governing football, the only sport for which such a distinction is necessary. Members felt the old nomenclature inaccurately tiered Division I institutions in all sports, not just football, and produced instances in which media outlets and other entities incorrectly cited institutions as being Division I-AA in basketball or baseball, for example.
"All Division I institutions, regardless of whether they sponsor football, are in fact and should be referred to as Division I members," said Board Chair and University of Connecticut President Philip Austin. "The only reasons for labeling are the need to distinguish the two football subdivisions for the purpose of governing the sport and to maintain separate statistics. The Board is stressing that the nomenclature reflect the totality of the Division I membership whenever possible and that the subdivision labels be used sparingly. Still, there are instances in which we need to use them, and we feel the new labels are more accurate."
Eagles in the Playoffs: Eastern's 2005 appearance in the NCAA Division I-AA Playoffs was the school's fifth berth in school history, and the first time the Eagles have made back-to-back appearances.
Eastern's 2004 appearance in the second round was the third time Eastern advanced past the first round. Eastern now has a 4-5 record in five playoff appearances after losing at Northern Iowa 41-38 in the first round of the 2005 playoffs. 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.
Eastern hadn't appeared in the I-AA 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:
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)
Eagles in I-AA Statistics in 2005: After leading NCAA Division I-AA in offense much of the year, the Eagles finished fourth with an average of 477.8 yards per game.
Quarterback Erik Meyer was second in I-AA in individual total offense as the Payton Award candidate averaged 352.0 yards per game, just behind Grambling's Bruce Eugene at 367.0 per game. Meyer also finished fourth nationally in passing efficiency with a 169.3 rating, and his average of 333.6 passing yards per game was second. Meyer became just the 12th player in I-AA history to throw for at least 4,000 yards in a single season (he finished with 4,003).
Eastern finished second in I-AA in passing offense at 341.8, just behind Grambling (357.7). Eastern finished the season as the I-AA leader in total offense in both 1997 (505.6) and 2001 (514.5), and has now led the Big Sky Conference in total offense in four of the last five years.
Eastern was also 14th in scoring (35.0) and seventh in passing efficiency (161.4). The Eagles were 69th out of 116 I-AA teams in rushing (136.1 per game), up from 96th (104.0 per game) after three games.
Defensively, Eastern finished 15th nationally in pass efficiency defense (103.3) after entering the playoffs ranked fifth (97.3). The Eagles finished 62nd overall in defense (363.2), 60th in rushing defense (160.1) and 45th in scoring defense (23.4).
Eagle receiver Eric Kimble finished fifth in receiving yards (118.3) and fifth in receptions (7.3) per game. Raul Vijil was right behind Kimble, ranking 12th in receiving yards (90.0) and 16th in receptions (6.0). That duo ranked first and second in the Big Sky in both categories. Kimble also closed the year ranked 13th in all-purpose yards with an average of 142.2 per game.
Defensively, cornerback Jesse Hendrix was 10th in passes defended with a total of 16 (1.33 per game), with 14 passes broken up and two interceptions.
Injury Epidemic in 2005: A total of 20 key players -- 15 of them starters at one time during the season -- lost playing time and practice time after being injured since the season started in September. In all, those 20 players missed a total of 90 games and a total 55 starts. Early in the year the injury rate was severe, with nine players suffering injuries in Eastern's first three games (three in each game) that kept them out of practice and games.
Here is a list of the injured players in 2005 that are on EWU's 2006 roster.
Name -Played/Starts -Games/Starts Missed
TOTALS (20 Players) - 90/55
LB David Eneberg (ankle) - 11/10 -1/2 (UCD, UNI)
NG Harrison Nikolao (sternum) - 12/10 - 0/2 (Sac, CP)
TE Tom McAndrews (knee) - 7/1 - 5/0 (Sac, CP, MSU, UCD, UNI)
RB Dale Morris (knee) - 9/1 - 3/0 (UM, WSU, Sac)
S Gregor Smith (knee) - 7/4 - 5/8 (NAU, UM, WSU, Sac, CP)
DE Jason Belford (calf) - 3/2 - 9/9 (lost for season after PSU game)
DT Keith Grennan (back) - 10/4 - 2/0 (PSU, Sac)
DE Jacob Kragt (shoulder) - 2/0 - 10/0 (redshirted)
QB Chris Peerboom (finger tendon) - 3/0 - 8/0 (WOU through CP)
Eagles Fall Short of 1,000: Always proud of its running game with outstanding running backs and offensive linemen, Eastern has now had a 1,000-yard rusher for nine of the last 11 seasons from 1995-2004, including six different players. In 2005, the Eagles just missed having a running back finish with 1,000 as Ryan Cole finished with 879.
Darius Washington finished with 1,127 yards in 12 games in the 2004 season. 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 other 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)
Former Office Mates Wulff and Kramer Share 2005 Coach of the Year Honor: Former co-workers Paul Wulff and Mike Kramer were riding high a year ago after each won a share of the Big Sky Conference title as well as the league's Coach of the Year honor.
Wulff directed the Eagles to their second-straight Big Sky Conference co-championship in 2005 and a second-straight NCAA Division I-AA Playoff berth. Kramer, a former Eastern head coach and assistant, led Montana State to a season-ending 16-6 victory over Montana as the Eagles, Bobcats and Grizzlies shared the 2005 title.
Back in 1993 when Wulff was a first-year volunteer assistant coach and Kramer was the team's offensive line coach, that duo shared an office and coached the line together. When Kramer took over as EWU's head coach in 1994, Wulff became his offensive line coach. Wulff took over as Eastern's offensive coordinator under Kramer in 1998 and 1999, then took over as head coach in 2000 when Kramer left for Bozeman.
"It's great to share the honor with him," said Wulff. "He's a great friend and does a great job at Montana State. He has done wonders for my career since the day I became a coach at Eastern. He gave me a lot of leeway and helped me out so much."