Nov. 10, 2008
This week’s appearance at Woodward Field in Cheney, Wash., is of the utmost importance for the Eastern Washington University football team.
For 18 seniors, including 11 four-year letter winners, it’s a chance to end their careers on their home field on a high note when Northern Arizona visits Saturday (Nov. 15) in a game that begins at 2:05 p.m. Pacific time.
"Every game means something and means something to our seniors," head coach Beau Baldwin said. "Our seniors are a group of great players and great people, and I want our team to do everything in our power to make sure we’re fighting and scrapping to win. They only have (two) more opportunities to play college football, and they deserve every ounce of energy out of every one of us."
Eastern hasn’t fared very well at Woodward in the last two games -- a 19-3 loss to Montana on Oct. 11 and a 15-13 setback to Sacramento State on Nov. 1. But this week is a chance for redemption for the Eagles as they seek their first home victory since Sept. 27.
The Eagles, a disappointing 4-5 on the season and 3-3 in the Big Sky Conference, need victories in their last two games to salvage the school’s 11th winning season in the last 13 years. When the season began, Eastern was hoping for its fourth berth in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs in the last five years.
"Pride is one thing, but I have two games left in my career so I’m going to play as hard as I can," said Greg Peach, one of the four-year letter winners and EWU’s single season (16) and career sacks (33 1/2) record-holder. "I love my teammates and I play hard for them."
Eastern Washington’s recent agony, which included three losses in a four-game stretch from Oct. 4 to Nov. 1, was eased some with a convincing 31-16 victory at Northern Colorado last week. Northern Arizona, meanwhile, is in the midst of its own agony as it comes off back-to-back-to-back losses after a six-game winning streak had propelled them into the national rankings and to the top of the league standings.
Both the Lumberjacks and Weber State were 4-0 in the Big Sky before then 16th-ranked Weber State’s surprisingly easy 42-14 victory at then 15th-ranked Northern Arizona on Oct. 25. The Lumberjacks followed that with a 45-10 loss to Montana and a 25-23 setback to Montana State. That leaves the Lumberjacks 6-4 overall and 4-3 in the league with this week’s game the last on their schedule.
Part of the agony for both teams has been their lack of defense against the pass. This week’s game features the bottom two teams in FCS in passing defense -- Eastern is 118th out of 118 teams with an average of 345.1 yards allowed per game and NAU is 117th with a 286.1 average.
Baldwin is hoping for a fast finish. Not only are the Eagles hoping for a winning season, but for momentum heading into the off-season.
"These last two games are against very quality opponents -- obviously we know that," said Baldwin. "Each game is going to be a challenge. We’ll prepare for NAU as best we can and see what happens. It’s a huge game."
In 13 seasons since 1997, only twice has EWU failed to end the regular season with a victory (1998 and 2003). Eastern has ended the regular season with a victory the last four seasons -- as well as seven of the last eight -- including a 40-6 win over Idaho State to end the 2006 campaign. Eastern finished 3-8 that year before rebounding for a 9-4 finish in 2007.
"There are plenty of opportunities to get better," Baldwin said of the last two games. "Regardless of how our year has gone, the end of the season can have a huge impact on our off-season. I really think winning our last game against Idaho State in 2006 in a game that, quote, unquote, didn’t mean anything, had an impact for our young players."
-- Eastern Stands in Way of Weber State Winning Outright Title and Possibly Montana Winning 11th-Straight Title -- Griz Nation is probably going to become fans of Eagle Nation on Nov. 22.
Weber State is Eastern’s season-ending opponent that day in Ogden, Utah, and the Wildcats have already clinched at least a share of the Big Sky title and ensured them the league’s automatic berth in the FCS Playoffs. A Weber State win over EWU would give the Wildcats the first outright championship for a league team other than Montana since the Eagles won it in 1997. Montana has won or shared the Big Sky title each of the last 10 seasons, but needs to win its final two games against Idaho State and Montana State, and hope for an Eastern victory over WSU, to keep that streak intact.
Weber State defeated ISU 59-27 last week, and enters its last game versus EWU atop the Big Sky with a 7-0 record (9-2 overall). Montana is solidly in second in the standings at 5-1 (9-1 overall). Both teams appear to be bound for the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs, with seedings and home field advantage yet to be determined. In this week’s Sports Network Top 25 rankings, Montana is fifth and Weber State is eighth.
-- Seniors a Collection of an Players With an Abundance of Experience -- Of the 18 Eastern seniors playing in their last home game on Nov. 15 against Northern Arizona, 11 of them will be four-year letter winners in the 2008 season. Of those 11, nine played and/or redshirted during EWU’s Big Sky Conference Championship season in 2004 that included a berth in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs. All 11 of the four-year letter winners played in 2005 and 2007 when EWU made repeat appearances in the playoffs, as well as winning another Big Sky title in 2005. The Eagles have won 32 games in the past five seasons -- nine in 2004, seven in 2005, three in 2006, nine in 2007 and four thus far in 2008.
A 12th four-year letter winner would have been defensive lineman Shawn Powell, but he was injured before preseason practices even started and missed the season. The 2004 graduate of Spokane’s Shadle Park High School will serve as one of this week’s co-captains, although there is a slim chance he could get
The 18 seniors have a collective 208 starts heading into the Northern Arizona game. In addition, the Eagles will lose its starting kicker, punter and long snapper to graduation.
No. - Name - Position - Height - Weight - Letters Won - Hometown (Previous Schools) - Starts
4 - Jason Belford - DL - 6-1 - 240 - Sr. - 4L* - Tacoma, Wash. (Lincoln HS ’04) - 34
5 - Toke Kefu - RB - 5-10 - 240 - Sr. - 4L* - San Mateo, Calif. (San Mateo HS ’04) - 5
62 - Mark Lathim - LS - 6-0 - 225 - Sr. - 4L* - Connell, Wash. (Connell HS ’04)
22 - Dale Morris - RB - 5-9 - 205 - Sr. - 4L* - Chester, S.C. (Marist HS ’04) - 20
12 - Alex Smart - QB - 6-3 - 220 - Sr. - 4L* - North Bend, Wash. (Mount Si HS ’04)
67 - Bryan Smith - OL - 6-3 - 280 - Sr. - 4L* - Enumclaw, Wash. (Enumclaw HS ’04) - 9
8 - Marcus Walker - LB - 5-11 - 210 - Sr. - 4L* - Pullman, Wash. (Pullman HS ’04) - 7
55 - Lance Witherspoon - DL - 6-2 - 275 - Sr. - 4L* - Federal Way, Wash. (Decatur HS ’04) - 27
61 - Charlie Wulff - OL - 6-0 - 270 - Sr. - 4L* - Woodland, Calif. (Woodland HS ’04) - 28
35 - Adam Macomber - DB - 5-6 - 170 - Sr. - 4L - Port Angeles, Wash. (Port Angeles HS ’05) - 1
94 - Greg Peach - DL - 6-3 - 255 - Sr. - 4L - Vancouver, Wash. (Evergreen HS ’05) - 38
42 - Shawn Powell - DL - 6-1 - 250 - Sr. - 3L* - Spokane, Wash. (Shadle Park HS ’04) - 12
44 - Alexis Alexander - RB - 5-10 - 230 - Sr. - 3L* - Medical Lake, Wash. (Medical Lake HS ’01 & Washington State Univ.) - 10
10 - A.J. Jimerson - RB - 6-1 - 215 - Sr. - 3L* - Seattle, Wash. (Garfield HS ’04) - 3
3 - Ryan Kelley - DB - 5-10 - 190 - Sr. - 2L* - Los Angeles, Calif. (Serra HS ‘03, College of San Mateo JC & Montana State) - 14
46 - Fritz Brayton - P - 6-3 - 190 - Sr. - 2L* - Portland, Ore. (Westview HS ’04 & Washington State Univ.)
96 - Felipe Macias - K/P - 5-9 - 220 - Sr. - 2L - Oxnard, Calif. (Channel Island HS ’05 & Moorpark College)
23 - Shane Hoffman - WR - 6-0 - 190 - Sr. - 1L* - Seattle, Wash. (Shorecrest HS ’04 & Orange Coast CC)
*Used redshirt year.
-- National Leader Peach Adds EWU Season Record Career Mark -- Highlighted by the fifth multiple sack game of the season, senior defensive end Greg Peach set the single season school record for sacks in EWU’s 31-16 victory over Northern Colorado on Nov. 8. A leading candidate for the Buck Buchanan Award given to the nation’s top defensive player, Peach tied the record with his 15th sack and broke it with his 16th. His 16 sacks rank third in Big Sky history and ninth in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision. His 33 1/2 career sacks are also a school record and rank third all-time in the league and fifth in FCS.
"It’s a surreal feeling," said Peach. "Those two are records every defensive lineman wants to break in their career. I was fortunate to break them both -- it’s exciting."
Peach leads the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision in both sacks (1.78 per game) and tackles for loss (2.22 per game). He has a total of 16 sacks for the season, with 13 being the next-best overall mark in FCS and 1.44 the next-best per game average. He has a total of 20 tackles for loss, with the next-highest total 17.5 overall and the highest average at 1.94.
After failing to get a sack in his first two games of the season, Peach had three against Western Washington (9/20/08) and Idaho State (9/27/08), then had one against Portland State (10/4/08). He registered four versus Montana (10/11/08) for the top performance in a single game in FCS this season, then had three versus Montana State (10/18/08) to break the school’s career record. He broke the previous career record of 30 set by Frank Staudenraus (1982-85), who also held the single season record with 15 in 1985.
"I’m really proud of him and it’s an honor to coach Greg," said Baldwin after the Northern Colorado game. "He’s a hard worker and was a winner in high school playing for a state championship team. He’s deserved every bit of it, and everything that has come to Greg he’s earned. He deserves the records."
"It was great to see," Baldwin said following Peach’s record-setting day against MSU. "Greg Peach is having a great season, he’s had a great career, and he just keeps going. Obviously, he’s a tremendous player. Teams that play against him know where he is. He’s not someone who is coming out of nowhere on them. They know where he is and they know whether they can game plan around it, but they are still unable to stop him from putting up the numbers that he is. It helps him to have the guys he has around him."
Below are his single season and career ranks for sacks in Big Sky and NCAA Football Championship Subdivision history (since the 2000 season when the NCAA began recognizing sacks, tackles and tackles for loss as official statistics):
Big Sky Conference Single Season Sacks
1. Andy Petek, Montana - 2000 - 19
2. Jared Allen, Idaho State - 2003 - 17.5
3. Greg Peach, Eastern Washington - 2008 - 16
Big Sky Conference Career Sacks
1. Jared Allen, Idaho State - 2000-03 - 38.5
2. Tim Bush, Montana - 2000-03 - 34.5
3. Greg Peach, Eastern Washington - 2008 - 33.5
FCS Single Season Sacks
1. Chris Gocong, Cal Poly - 2005 - 23.5
t2. Robert Mathis, Alabama A&M - 2002 - 20
t2. Eric Bakhtiari, San Diego - 2007 - 20
4. Andy Petek, Montana - 2000 - 19
t5. Jared Allen, Idaho State - 2003 - 17.5
t5. Chris Gocong, Cal Poly - 2004 - 17.5
t7. Andrew Hollingsworth, Towson - 2000 - 17
t7. Brent Hawkins, Illinois State - 2005 - 17
t9. Greg Peach, Eastern Washington - 2008 - 16
t9. Odain Mitchell, Sacred Heart - 2002 - 16
FCS Career Sacks
1. Chris Gocong, Cal Poly - 2001, 03-05 - 42
2. Robert Mathis, Alabama A&M - 2000-02 - 39
3. Jared Allen, Idaho State - 2000-03 - 38.5
4. Tim Bush, Montana - 2000-03 - 34.5
5. Greg Peach, Eastern Washington - 2005-08 - 33.5
-- EWU in National Statistics -- The Eagles feature the sixth-best passing offense in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (301.2 yards per game) and are also 33rd in total offense (388.4) and 38th in scoring offense (29.1).
However, a minus 31 yards of rushing offense against Sacramento State has helped drop Eastern to 103rd among 118 teams in FCS in rushing with an average of just 87.2 yards per game. The performance against the Hornets included a season-high five sacks allowed -- in EWU’s first seven games of the season the Eagles had allowed just nine. The rushing total was Eastern’s lowest in at least the last 245 games and fewest in 164 Big Sky Conference games since EWU joined the league in 1987. The fewest previously in a Big Sky game were 14 in 1994 versus Portland State. Twice in that span EWU has been held to negative rushing yards, but both times it occurred against a Pacific 10 Conference foe (minus 14 versus Oregon State in 2006 and minus 13 versus Arizona State in 2002).
Defensively, Eastern remains last among 118 teams in FCS in passing defense (345.1), and is 110th in total defense (443.6) and 80th in scoring defense (28.4). Oddly enough, Eastern is an impressive 19th in rushing defense (98.4), seventh in sacks (3.0 per game) and fourth nationally in tackles for loss (8.4 per game). However, the most important statistic might be turnover margin, and Eastern is 91st in FCS with a negative 0.44 turnovers per game. In Eastern’s four wins the Eagles are a plus five in turnover margin (four giveaways and nine takeaways), but in their losses EWU is a negative nine in turnover margin (15 giveaways and six takeaways).
Peach, a senior defensive end on the Buck Buchanan Award watch list, had 14 of his 16 sacks in a five-game stretch from Sept. 20 to Oct. 18. He had four in the Montana game on Oct. 11 and three against Western Washington, Idaho State and Montana State. Although he had none versus Sacramento State, he had two at Northern Colorado to maintain his FCS lead in that category (1.78 per game). He also leads FCS in tackles for loss (2.22 per game) and is 16th in the Big Sky in tackles (6.4).
A junior on the Walter Payton Award watch list, Nichols has already had five 300-yard passing performances, and is sixth in FCS in passing offense (300.6). He is also sixth nationally in total offense (298.7) and 44th in passing efficiency (131.5).
Junior receiver Aaron Boyce, with 22 catches for 316 yards and four touchdowns in back-to-back games earlier this season against PSU and Idaho State, is 29th in FCS in receptions per game (5.8). He is also 44th nationally in reception yards per game (72.4). Brynsen Brown, with career bests of 11 catches for 147 yards against Sacramento State, is now 36th in receptions per game (5.6) and 31st in receiving yards (81.4). Although he missed the Portland State game on Oct. 4 with a sprained ankle, junior receiver Tony Davis has already caught 43 passes after a shoulder injury held him to 35 all of the 2007 season. Davis is 46th nationally in receptions per game (5.4) and 69th in receiving yards (61.4).
In addition, kicker Felipe Macias 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. Entering this week’s action, he still has the two of the three longest field goals in FCS and is one of only two players with two of 50-plus yards.
Punter Fritz Brayton has also been impressive on special teams, averaging 42.4 yards per kick to rank 13th in FCS. And Davis has averaged 10.6 yards per punt return to rank 24th in FCS.
Defensively, twins Matt Johnson and Zach Johnson, a pair of redshirt freshmen, have combined for 149 tackles thus far to rank 1-2 on the team. Zach is third in the Big Sky (9.0 per game) and 32nd nationally, and Matt is seventh in the league (7.6). Zach also has six passes broken up and ranks 59th nationally and seventh in the league in tackles for loss (1.2 per game). Matt has three interceptions to rank 68nd in FCS and eighth in the league (0.33 per game).
Linebacker J.C. Sherritt missed one game with an ankle injury, but is 11th in the Big Sky in tackles per game (6.8). Ryan Kelley also has had three interceptions -- all in back-to-back games against Montana State and Sacramento State -- and is 18th in the league in tackles (6.3). Defensive end Jason Belford has five total sacks this season to rank 50th in FCS and eighth in the league (0.56 per game).
-- Northern Arizona in National Statistics -- The Lumberjacks are the FCS leader in sacks (4.2 per game) and are second in rushing defense (56.7). They are 54th in total defense (342.8) and 55th in scoring defense (24.5), but are 117th out of 118 FCS teams in passing defense (286.1 per game). Offensively, NAU is 22nd in FCS in total offense (410.2), 34th in rushing (175.5), 39th in passing offense (234.7) and 33rd in scoring offense (30.3). The Lumberjacks are also 18th in net punting (34.9).
Individually, Robbie Dehaze leads FCS in punting (45.6) and is ninth in field goals (1.4 per game). K.J. Gerard is 10th in interceptions (0.5 per game) and Deonte Williams is 33rd in rushing (91.6). Lance Kriesien is 32nd in passing efficiency and 73rd in total offense (176.2).
-- EWU Outscores Opponents 59-10 in Fourth Quarter in Wins; Outscored 60-24 in Losses -- If Eastern wins, it usually includes a huge fourth-quarter surge. At least that’s been the trend so far this season as the Eagles have out-scored opponents 59-10 in the fourth quarter in their four wins this season over Western Washington, Idaho State, Montana State and Northern Colorado. However, in losses to Texas Tech, Colorado, Portland State, Montana and Sacramento State, EWU has been out-scored 60-24 in the final stanza.
-- Defense On Four-Game Roll Seen Only Once in Last 25 Years -- Having allowed point totals in the teens of 19, 17, 15 and 16 in the last four games, Eastern’s defense has had just one other stingy stretch like that in 25 seasons as a member of the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision.
Eastern also had a four-game stretch of allowing fewer than 20 points in 1997 when EWU finished with a school-record 12 victories, but that was the only other time it has occurred since moving to FCS in 1984. Eastern has not had a five-game stretch of allowing fewer than 20 points since that time, but they’ll try for that feat this week against Northern Arizona.
Eastern’s defense gave up 623 passing yards and 597 total yards five games ago in a 47-36 loss at Portland State on Oct. 4. But in the four games since, the Eagles have surrendered just 67 points (16.8 per game), 999 passing yards (249.8), 498 rushing yards (124.5) and 1,497 total yards (374.2).
"The defense has done a great job," said Baldwin, who is in his first season as head coach along with defensive coordinator John Graham. "They’ve found a way to get better and better. It takes time sometimes. It was the same players but it’s a new system and new terminology. It’s a group coming together and understanding what their roles are in each situation."
"Our defense has made some good adjustments since the Portland State game," added defensive end Greg Peach. "We have a lot of young guys playing well. The season hasn’t gone quite as we expected, but we’re playing hard and we’ll keep playing hard these last two games too."
-- Twin Stat Lines Becoming Commonplace for Johnson Twins -- Since the first game of their careers against Texas Tech in August, twin brothers Zach Johnson and Matt Johnson have been producing some incredible defensive numbers as redshirt freshmen.
Most recently, they combined for 27 tackles in EWU’s 31-16 victory over Northern Colorado on Nov. 8. Zach had 15 tackles and a key interception in the third quarter while Matt finished with 12 tackles.
"There was no question Zach had a huge pick against Northern Colorado," said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin of the 2006 graduates of Tumwater, Wash., High School. "He did a great job and is a great player. Both of the Johnson twins are great players. At different times this year they’ve both been a little banged up because they’ve played a lot of snaps, but these guys keep coming to play."
They have combined for 149 tackles thus far to rank 1-2 on the team. Zach is third in the Big Sky (9.0 per game) and 32nd nationally, and Matt is seventh in the league (7.6). Zach also has six passes broken up and ranks 59th nationally and seventh in the league in tackles for loss (1.2 per game). Matt has three interceptions to rank 68nd in FCS and eighth in the league (0.33 per game).
Both had impressive collegiate debuts in Eastern’s 49-24 loss at Texas Tech on Aug. 30. With Matt starting at strong safety and Zach 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 after the Texas Tech game. "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."
-- Kragt and Thomas Selected Academic All-District VIII -- A pair of Eastern Washington University biology majors have been selected to the ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District VIII football team released Nov. 6 as selected by members of the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA).
Junior defensive lineman Jacob Kragt is a repeat selection on the squad, and is joined by offensive lineman Chris Thomas. Kragt, a biology major with a 3.85 grade point average, is from Ritzville, Wash., and is a 2005 graduate of Lind-Ritzville High School. Thomas is a 2005 graduate of Sumner, Wash., High School and has a 3.77 GPA as a biology/pre-med student.
The qualifying standards include a minimum 3.3 grade point average at Eastern and be a significant contributor to the team. Kragt and Thomas now advance to the national ballot, with the Academic All-America teams announced on Nov. 25.
The District VIII university division includes all NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) and Bowl Subdivision (FBS) teams from nine western states, including Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Utah and Washington.
Eastern football players have now been honored 48 times since 1989 on the All-District VIII squad, and six players have gone on to win eight Academic All-America honors.
Kragt is expected to be named to the Big Sky All-Academic squad for the third-straight season. He plans to become the ninth family member, spanning three generations, to become a chiropractor. Thomas is also expected to be named to the Big Sky All-Academic squad for the third-straight season.
Besides Kragt and Thomas, three other Eastern players were nominated for Academic All-America honors Only one Eastern player per position was nominated among those who met the criteria. Below is the list:
Linebacker - Marcus Walker - Sr. Pullman, Wash. (Pullman HS ’04) - Interdisciplinary Studies
Wide Receiver - Tony Davis - Jr. - Olympia, Wash. (Capital HS ’05) - Interdisciplinary Studies
Tight End - Matt Martin - So. - La Crosse, Wash. (La Crosse-Washtucna HS ’06) - Communications Studies
Offensive Line - Chris Thomas - Jr. Sumner, Wash. (Sumner HS ’05) - Biology/Pre-Medicine
Defensive Line - Jacob Kragt - Jr. - 2L* - Ritzville, Wash. (Lind-Ritzville HS ’05) - Biology
-- Nichols Has Five 300-Yard Passing Games -- Junior quarterback Matt Nichols has had five 300-yard passing games this season, giving him a total of 11 in his 32-game career thus far. His latest was a 363-yard effort versus Sacramento State (11/1/08). He had 418 yards against Portland State (10/4/08) to rank as the third-best in his career and 10th-best in school history. A week earlier, he had 382 and five touchdowns against Idaho State (9/27/08) as he earned Big Sky Conference Offensive Player of the Week honors. Currently on the 2008 Walter Payton Award Watch List, his completions (36) and attempts (61) against Texas Tech on Aug. 30 both rank as the second-most in school history.
On EWU’s career passing lists, Nichols ranks in the top five in all categories, including second in total offense (8,688) as he passed Mark Tenneson (7,428 from 1989-92) versus Portland State. Nichols is now also second in passing yards (8,198), surpassing Tenneson’s mark of 7,492 versus Montana State. The record holder for both passing yards and total offense is 2005 Payton Award winner Erik Meyer (2002-05) with 10,261 passing yards and 10,942 yards of total offense. Meyer is the player Nichols replaced in 2006 as Eastern’s starting quarterback.
Nichols is also sixth in efficiency rating (136.3), second in touchdown passes (59, ranking only behind the 84 of Meyer), second in completions (656), third in attempts (1,075) and third in interceptions (37).
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)
418 - 34x55, 2td - Portland State - 10/4/08 (#10 in school history)
382 - 26x40, 5td - Idaho State - 9/27/08 (#18 in school history)
363 - 29x43, 1td - Sacramento State - 11/1/08 (#27 in school history)
363 - 19x30, 2td - Portland State - 9/29/07 (#27 in school history)
335 - 36x61, 1td - Texas Tech - 8/30/08 (#41 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
435 - 418 passing, 17 rushing - Portland State - 10/4/08
376 - 382 passing, -6 rushing - Idaho State - 9/27/08
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
320 - 363 passing, -43 rushing - Sacramento State - 11/1/08
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 435 catches for 5,976 yards and 40 touchdowns in 94 games worth of experience (79 starts). This season they have combined for 145 passes already for 1,876 yards and 14 touchdowns. 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 13 games in 2007.
Boyce has already moved onto EWU’s career lists, ranking second in catches (172), fourth in touchdown catches (21) and fifth in receiving yards (2,431). The only player ahead of him on the career catches list is Eric Kimble (253 from 2002-05). Interestingly, all of Boyce’s touchdown catches have come from Matt Nichols. Of the 40 touchdowns total Boyce, Brown and Davis have caught, all but two of them have come from Nichols (Brown and Davis each caught a TD pass from Chris Peerboom in 2006).
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 Aaron Boyce
232 (*17 catches, 1 TD) - Montana - 10/6/07 (#2 in school history)
186 (9 catches, 2 TD) - Sacramento State - 10/27/07 (#10 in school history)
181 (#13 catches, 1 TD) - Portland State - 10/4/08 (#14 in school history)
135 (9 catches, 3 TD) - Idaho State - 9/27/08
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
*School record. #Second in school history.
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, 1 TD) - Texas Tech - 8/30/08
112 (6 catches, 0 TD) - Central Washington - 9/16/06
#Second in school history behind Aaron Boyce.
100-Yard Receiving Games Brynsen Brown
147 (%11 catches, 1 TD) - Sacramento State - 11/1/07
139 (5 catches, 0 TD) - Portland State - 9/29/07
138 (9 catches, 2 TD) - Northern Arizona - 10/28/06
104 (4 catches, 1 TD) - Idaho State - 9/27/08
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
%Ninth in school history.
-- Boyce and Davis Have Second-Best Receiving Performances 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.
Aaron Boyce, meanwhile, duplicated the 13-catch feat against Portland State on Oct. 13. He finished with 181 receiving yards to rank as the 14th-most in school history. The 2007 All-American caught just 13 passes for 123 yards and one touchdown in his first three games of the 2008 season, but in his next two he caught 22 for 316 yards and four scores.
Not to be outdone, Brynsen Brown had his own double-digit receiving performance on Nov. 1 against Sacramento State. He had 11 catches to rank ninth in school history and his 147 yards receiving were a career high.
-- 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.
Since then, only seven new starting debuts have been made. Sean Rock started at center versus Idaho State and defensive nose tackle Renard Williams and linebacker Kyle Wilkins both made their starting debuts against Western Washington. Against Portland State on Oct. 4, Will Edge started as a nickel back as the Eagles faced the No. 1 passing offense in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision. Freshman redshirt Taiwan Jones made the first start of his career against Montana on Oct. 11 after missing EWU’s first four games of the season with a broken fibula suffered in preseason practices. Against Montana State on Oct. 18, Ashton Gant made his starting debut when EWU started the game with four wide receivers. Gabriel Jackson started as an injury replacement at offensive tackle against Sacramento State on Nov. 1.
-- 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 (235 starts by 20 players) -- Greg Peach 38, Jason Belford 34, Lance Witherspoon 27, Kevin Hatch 22, Makai Borden 18, Ryan Kelley 14, Lonnie Hosley 13, Shawn Powell 12, Matt Johnson 9, Zach Johnson 9, J.C. Sherritt 8, Marcus Walker 7, Tyler Jolley 5, Josh Jacobson 5, Renard Williams 5, Taiwan Jones 4, Kyle Wilkins 2, Adam Macomber 1, Jacob Kragt 1, Will Edge 1.
Offense (235 starts by 18 players) -- Matt Nichols 32, Aaron Boyce 31, Brynsen Brown 29, Charlie Wulff 28, Dale Morris 20, Tony Davis 19, Chris Thomas 16, Alexis Alexander 10, Nathan Overbay 10, Brice Leahy 9, Bryan Smith 9, Ryan Forney 9, Toke Kefu 5, A.J. Jimerson 3, Matt Martin 2, Ashton Gant 1, Sean Rock 1, Gabriel Jackson 1.
-- Injury Woes at Middle Linebacker -- At middle linebacker, Makai Borden returned to the starting lineup against Sacramento State on Nov. 1 after missing his previous three starts with an ankle injury. That came a year after fighting toe and foot injuries. In his last two seasons at EWU, the Eagles are 11-4 when he is in the starting lineup and 2-5 when he is not. A 34-17 win over Montana State on Oct. 18 is the first time the Eagles have won when he hasn’t started, and a 15-13 loss to Sacramento State on Nov. 1 is the first time EWU has lost when he’s been in the starting lineup. Eastern also won on Nov. 8 at Northern Colorado when senior Marcus Walker started.
"That’s a compliment to what Makai brings to our team," said Baldwin. "He’s a great player, but he also brings a lot of emotion to the defense."
Making the injury to Borden that much more difficult was a shoulder injury to Walker that limited him to one series in those same three weeks that Borden was out. As a result, Eastern moved linebackers from other positions -- namely freshman Zach Johnson and junior Kyle Wilkins -- to fill that role in the middle. Wilkins, at 5-foot-9, 200 pounds, held his own with seven tackles versus Montana on Oct. 11 and four at Montana State a week later.
"Kyle Wilkins did a great job against Montana despite playing very little middle linebacker," praised Baldwin. "Without Makai and Marcus in there, I was proud of the way Kyle came in and battled at a position where he has had very few reps."
-- Injury Report -- An open date on the schedule on Oct. 25 helped return the Eagles to full strength for the stretch run. Only starters Lonnie Hosley (foot) and Bryce Leahy (ankle) missed the Sacramento State game on Nov. 1 because of injuries suffered previously. Leahy returned to action against Northern Colorado and Hosley is listed as questionable.
The bye week, in particular, helped linebackers Marcus Walker and Makai Borden. Walker suffered a shoulder injury against Idaho State on Sept. 27 and did not play against Portland State and Montana State, and played just one series versus Montana on Oct. 11. Borden suffered an ankle injury before the PSU game and missed three games.
Besides Walker and Borden, running back Dale Morris (knee) didn’t play versus Montana State but returned against Sac State.
Two others were also injured in practice the week of the PSU game and didn’t play against the Vikings, including starting wide receiver Tony Davis (ankle) and backup receiver Ashton Gant (hamstring). Davis returned to play versus Montana, but Gant also missed the Montana game.
Redshirt freshman cornerback Taiwan Jones, who broke his fibula the first week of pre-season practices, made his Eagle debut against Portland State and his starting debut versus Montana. He had even more playing time versus PSU than what was expected when cornerback Lonnie Hosley left the game with a foot injury. Hosley missed the Montana, Montana State and Sacramento State games.
Redshirt freshman Tyler Hart is out for the season with a broken scapula suffered against Idaho State on Sept. 27. Hart has played as a backup running back as well as returning punts and kickoffs.
Eastern came out of its first three games 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 returned to play against Idaho State.
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.
Beau Baldwin QUOTES
-- On Matt Nichols-to-Aaron Boyce Touchdown Passes Against Northern Colorado -- "Matt and Aaron did a great job to make some big plays. We were able to establish a running game to help open some of that up. Matt and Aaron made plays when we needed to. When the shots were there for touchdowns they took advantage of them."
-- On Montana State Win -- "I knew that going into it that it might be a little bit of a slugfest so to speak. A couple of people asked me what were going to be important aspects of winning that ballgame, and I thought turnover margin and special teams. Both of those things really proved to be a huge factor in the outcome of that game. Obviously, we would have liked to perform a little better offensively in that first half. We were just not efficient on third down -- we were just short by a yard on a few of them. The good thing is that our defense was able to play great on the road and our special teams were solid all day. Once we got rolling on offense, it wasn’t a game that was already out of hand or you are having to come from behind. Our whole team was staying with it, staying with it."
-- On Losing Turnover Battle 5-1 Versus PSU -- "The turnovers were huge and that’s a big part of any game. In my opinion, there is no excuse on either side of the ball. Four of our turnovers were at very critical times offensively. On defense we have to create more turnovers, especially against a team that throws it 70-plus times. Whatever we have to do to change it we will, and that has to be our mindset. There is no question turnovers can be the difference in a season, and that’s the statistic that means the most when you look at a win-loss record. Most of the time the winner of the turnover battle is the winner of the game."
-- On Big Sky Race -- "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 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."
-- 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 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."
-- 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 we’re 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."
-- Series History -- Eastern leads the overall series 15-10, and has won eight of the last 11 meetings. Eastern is 9-4 at home (7-3 at Woodward Field, 2-1 at Albi Stadium) and 6-6 on the road against NAU.
In 2006 in Cheney, Northern Arizona piled up 541 yards in the game and scored 24-straight points in the second half to hold off Eastern 44-36. Eastern rallied behind backup quarterback Chris Peerboom with two touchdowns in the last 8:49 of the game. But Northern Arizona made big plays down the stretch to hold off the rally. The two teams combined for 1,005 yards of offense, with Eastern finishing with 464 after managing only 164 a week earlier in a 34-0 loss to Portland State. Peerboom rotated at quarterback with starter Matt Nichols, who left the game for good at the end of the third quarter with an injury. Peerboom completed 13-of-23 passes for 179 yards and three touchdowns, while Nichols was 10-of-21 for 117 yards and a score. Nichols also scrambled for 42 net rushing yards despite getting sacked twice. Freshman redshirt Brynsen Brown led the Eagles with nine catches for 138 yards and a pair of scores, and senior Ryan Cole rushed for 79 yards on 17 carries.
In 2005 in Flagstaff, Eastern Washington out-gained Northern Arizona 583-185 in total offense and the 15th-ranked Eagles surged past the Lumberjacks 42-14 on Oct. 8. The Eagles scored the first two times they had the ball in each half en route to the easy win. Ryan Cole rushed for 158 yards and a touchdown versus the Lumberjacks. Erik Meyer added 314 passing yards on 23-of-31 passing, with wide receiver Eric Kimble finishing with seven catches for 95 yards and a touchdown. The Eagles finished with 35 first downs -- just four from the school record -- while limiting NAU to only nine. Eastern rushed for 261 yards and had 322 passing, while NAU finished with 69 on the ground and 116 through the air. Eastern’s defense had three sacks and held NAU to 11-of-24 passing. Eastern had the ball for 41:58 and ran 100 plays. Northern Arizona had the ball for just 18:02 and had just 40 offensive plays. The 28-point win was Eastern’s largest victory in 12 games in Flagstaff, with the previous best a 28-6 victory in 1986. The last time Eastern played at NAU, the Lumberjacks scored 54 points on the Eagles in a 54-31 blowout.
In 2004, Erik Meyer and Eric Kimble connected on three first-half touchdown passes to lead Eastern to a 45-14 victory over 16th-ranked Northern Arizona. Meyer was nearly perfect in Eastern's fourth-straight victory, completing 19-of-21 for 290 yards and four touchdowns (passing efficiency rating of 269.3). Kimble finished with five catches for a then career-high 165 yards. He started his day with an 81-yard touchdown reception from Meyer, and added touchdown catches of 28 and 39 yards. Senior Darius Washington rushed for 127 yards on 23 carries for EWU. Eastern finished with 557 yards of offense, and the Eagles held the Lumberjacks to 209 yards.
In 2003 in Flagstaff, NAU took advantage of early Eastern Washington punting mistakes to score the first five times it had the ball as the 14th-ranked Lumberjacks went on to a 54-31 victory in Eastern's 800th game of all-time. The Lumberjacks out-gained Eastern 570-395 in total offense, and held the Eagles to 33 yards rushing after allowing a net of zero at halftime. Eastern's woes started with its punt team as a 15-yard punt by Jesse Nicassio, a fumbled snap by Nicassio and a 30-yard punt return by the Lumberjacks helped NAU to a quick 13-0 lead. Meyer completed eight of his first nine passes in the game, and finished 22-of-33 for 300 yards and an 83-yard touchdown pass to Kyler Randall. Randall caught nine passes for 139 yards. NAU true freshman Jason Murrietta finished the game 21-of-36 for 360 yards, two touchdowns passing and two rushing.
In the 2002 meeting, senior quarterback Josh Blankenship passed for 378 yards and five touchdowns as the Eagles held on to defeat the 16th-ranked Lumberjacks 41-29. Eastern took a 25-point lead, allowed NAU to score 23-straight points, then regained its composure to put the Lumberjacks away in the fourth quarter. With Eastern held to single digit rushing yards much of the game, Blankenship's arm was called on to lead the Eagles. He had three touchdown passes in the first half as Eastern jumped out to 28-3 lead in the second quarter. But NAU scored 20 points in a 1:04 span in the third quarter to pull within 28-26. However, Blankenship responded by completing 6-of-7 passes for 79 yards on an important eight-play, 80-yard drive that gave Eastern some breathing room with 13:19 to play. After a Northern Arizona field goal, Eastern's four-play, 65-yard drive provided the final points of the game with 4:42 left. Eastern receiver Eric Kimble caught seven passes for 153 yards and touchdown passes of 14 and 37 yards from Blankenship.
In 2001, NAU's Marcus King rushed for 248 yard and three touchdowns as Northern Arizona overcame a 21-7 deficit and then held off Eastern Washington 42-33 in Flagstaff. NAU's offense finished with 509 yards of offense against an Eastern defense missing four starters out with injuries. Eastern, meanwhile, had 481 yards of offense and three crucial turnovers. Standout Eagle running back Jesse Chatman finished with 104 yards on 23 carries, but was held 94 yards below his season average. The Eagles scored the first three times they had the ball, scoring on drives of 80, 78 and 21 yards to score three touchdowns in a span of just 4:46.
In 2000, Jesse Chatman rushed for 196 yards and all four of Eastern's touchdowns as the Eagles broke open a close game in the fourth quarter to defeat Northern Arizona 27-9 at Woodward Stadium. After a scoreless third period, the Eagles scored twice within a two-minute span in the fourth quarter. After driving 85 yards on 12 plays to take a 20-9 edge with 7:26 left, NAU fumbled away the ensuing kickoff. Chatman scored again five plays later, giving Eastern an insurmountable 27-9 lead with 5:33 to play. Eastern rushed for 239 yards and passed for 165 to finish with 404 for the game. Eastern held the Lumberjacks to 236 yards of total offense, including 98 on the ground and 138 through the air.
In 1999, with the odds stacked against it, Eastern’s defense had a memorable performance against Northern Arizona in leading the Eagles to a 14-10 win in Flagstaff. Eastern entered the game having allowed averages of 450.8 yards and 37.8 points per game for the season, and had given up 89 points in its last two Big Sky outings. Eastern had the league’s worst pass defense, allowing opponents to pass for a .632 completion percentage, 1,075 yards and 14 touchdown passes, while intercepting just one pass in 114 opponent throws. Furthermore, the Eagle defense was missing four starters who were out with injuries. However, the Eagles responded to allow just 377 yards of total offense and intercept four Lumberjack passes. The Eagles allowed 296 passing yards, but just 81 on the ground. The Lumberjacks put together an 11-play, 74-yard scoring drive to open the game with a field goal, but after that their longest drive of the game was 56 yards. NAU’s only other score came on a two-play, 23-yard drive that came after an Eastern interception. After NAU took a 10-0 lead in the first quarter, Eastern shut-out the Lumberjacks in their final nine possessions. Britt Lentz had the first interception of his career in the second quarter, and returned it 15 yards to the NAU 1-yard line to set-up a 1-yard touchdown run by Jesse Chatman. At the end of the first half, Claude Jean-Baptiste had an interception at the goal line that stopped a potential NAU scoring drive. And in the third quarter, Julian Williams had the second pick of his career to give Eastern the ball at the NAU 35-yard line. The Eagles followed with the final points of the day with 6:04 left in the quarter on a 23-yard touchdown pass from Chris Samms to Dan Curley that capped a four-play, 35-yard drive. Injury replacement Travis Reed led the Eagles with a career-high 13 tackles, and Lentz added 12.
In 1998, the clock was Eastern Washington's best friend as the Eagles held off Northern Arizona 21-17 in Cheney. Taking over on their own 26-yard line with 3:10 left to play, the Lumberjacks drove the ball deep in Eastern territory. On the 14th play of the drive, Ole Olesen stopped NAU quarterback Clay Brown after a 4-yard gain to the Eagle 8-yard line with less than 10 seconds to play. But the Lumberjacks, who had no timeouts remaining, were unable to run another play before time ran out. The Eagles led from start to finish, taking a 21-7 lead before NAU scored the final 10 points of the game. Eastern scored with 13 minutes left in the third quarter on a 45-yard touchdown catch and run by Lamont Brightful from Griffin Garske. The Eagles were unable to score again in the game as NAU outgained Eastern in total offense 379-343. Greg Belzer, who suffered a concussion on the third-to-last play of the game, had 14 tackles to lead the Eagle defense.
Eastern's 31-14 victory over the Lumberjacks in Flagstaff, Ariz., in 1997 snapped a three-game losing streak to NAU and clinched at least a share of the Big Sky Conference title. Rex Prescott scored on an 80-yard run on the second play of the game, and the Eagles led the rest of the way. Prescott finished with what was then an EWU single-game rushing record of 272 yards on 25 carries as the Eagles finished with 592 yards of total offense. Eastern held NAU to 295 total yards, and had five sacks, limiting Travis Brown to 18-of-42 passing for 221 yards. Josh Martin and Britt Lentz each had sacks for the Eagles, and Jimmy Lake had eight tackles. Eastern lost to NAU in Cheney 30-16 in 1995 and 13-10 in 1996. In the 1996 game, NAU's Mark Jagodzinski kicked a 28-yard field goal with nine seconds left to give the Lumberjacks the victory.
-- 2007 Revisited -- #20 Eastern Washington 52, Northern Arizona 24 -- It’s always nice when your offense hits the field with a lead.
That’s what happened to 20th-ranked Eastern Washington University as the Eagles kept their playoff hopes alive by rolling past Northern Arizona 52-24 in a Big Sky Conference football game Nov. 10 at the Walkup Skydome in Flagstaff, Ariz.
Defensive end Jason Belford intercepted a pass and returned it for a touchdown barely a minute into the game, and Eastern’s offense did the rest of the damage in a 28-point first quarter explosion. Matt Nichols passed for 316 yards, 186 in the first quarter alone, as EWU ended the game with 556 yards of total offense.
Eastern had 278 of those offensive yards in the first quarter on just 19 plays. Eastern added 21 points in the third quarter as the 52 points EWU scored was the second most in a Big Sky Conference victory and equaled the third-most overall in 158 Big Sky games all-time for the Eagles.
Nichols completed 17-of-22 passes for 317 yards and five touchdowns with no interceptions for an impressive efficiency rating of 273.3. He also had 48 yards on the ground to finish with 365 yards of total offense.
Seven different Eastern receivers caught passes from Nichols, led by the four catches for 67 yards and a touchdown by Aaron Boyce. Junior Dale Morris added 109 yards rushing and a touchdown rushing and a touchdown receiving as Eastern finished with 240 yards on the ground. It was his second 100-yard rushing game as an Eagle, but first against a NCAA Division I opponent.
Defensively, Belford also finished with eight tackles, including three for losses totaling eight yards. Bryan Jarrett led the Eagles with 10 tackles and a pass broken up.
Eastern had a monstrous first quarter, piling up 280 yards of offense on just 19 plays. Eastern scored its 28 points in the quarter in just 2:36 of possession time as Nichols completed 8-of-9 passes for 186 yards in the first quarter alone and Morris had 77 of his rushing yards.
Belford started EWU’s first-quarter scoring barrage just 1:11 into the game when he stepped intercepted a NAU screen pass and stepped into the end zone for a 4-yard touchdown return.
Eastern scored on its first offensive possession to take a 14-0 lead as Tom McAndrews recovered a fumble in the end zone after a 17-yard catch by Boyce. After NAU scored, Eastern responded with an 80-yard touchdown catch and run by Shane Eller. Later in the quarter, after 52-yard run by Morris, Boyce hauled in a 21-yard touchdown catch from Nichols to give the Eagles a 28-7 advantage.
The two teams traded field goals in the second quarter as Eastern led 31-10 at intermission.
The Eagles scored on back-to-back possessions in the third quarter to take a 45-10 lead with 7:30 left to play in the period. A drive of 66 plays was capped by a 3-yard touchdown run by Morris. On EWU’s next possession, Nichols found A.J. Jimerson for an 18-yard touchdown pass to cap a short, 47-yard drive.
Eastern closed its scoring on an 8-yard TD pass from Nichols to Morris that came after an interception and 10-yard return by EWU’s Makai Borden.