Nov. 12, 2007
Slowing down Weber State wasn't such a difficult task a month ago.
But that has changed with the emergence of a new quarterback for the Wildcats, and the Eastern Washington University football team -- with a playoff berth on the line -- closes the 2007 regular season against one of the hottest teams offensively in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision and the Big Sky Conference.
It will be a blockbuster game with a playoff feel as 15th-ranked Eastern hosts Weber State at 2:05 p.m. Pacific time at Woodward Field in Cheney, Wash. A total of 12 Eastern seniors will be honored in pre-game introductions as the Eagles seek to lay claim on an at-large berth in the FCS Playoffs that start on Nov. 24.
In a spoiler role this week, the Wildcats have scored 173 points in their last three games -- 57.7 per game -- after scoring just 110 in their first seven. Weber State, led by freshman quarterback Cameron Higgins, has won its last three games, including last week's 48-3 non-conference romp over Fort Lewis College in Colorado. The Wildcats have won four of their last five Big Sky contests, with the lone loss a 29-20 setback to Northern Arizona on Oct. 20. The Wildcats are currently 5-5 overall and 4-3 in the league.
Eastern is coming off a decisive 52-24 victory at Northern Arizona that helped the Eagles take over sole possession of second place in the Big Sky Conference standings. The Eagles, who scored 28 points and had 278 yards of offense in the first quarter against NAU, improved to 7-3 overall and 5-2 in the league standings.
The 16-team playoffs include eight league champions who receive automatic berths and Montana has secured that spot for the Big Sky. That leaves eight at-large berths, and Eastern seems to have history on its side if it can win this week. At least two teams from the Big Sky have been selected for the FCS playoffs in each of the past eight seasons. And since the playoffs expanded to 16 teams in 1986, the league's runner-up (including tiebreakers) has always been selected with an 8-3 record or better.
But standing in Eastern's way is a Weber State offense averaging 399.6 yards per game -- not all that impressive except for the fact the Wildcats have had a renaissance in the last three games. Weber State is averaging 57.7 points and 602.7 yards of offense in the last three games after averaging just 312.6 yards and 15.7 points in its first seven.
Higgins will prove to be a big challenge for the Eagles to stop as he has passed for 776 yards and eight touchdowns in his last two Big Sky outings. He passed for 432 yards in a 52-37 victory over Idaho State on Oct. 29 and the week before had 342 in a record-breaking 73-68 shootout victory over Portland State. He had four touchdown passes in each game as Weber State had 586 yards of total offense versus ISU and 687 against PSU.
Weber State's running game is maybe even more of a threat, led by the 1,230 yards and six touchdowns by Trevyn Smith. As a freshman last season, Smith rushed for 203 yards in a 19-14 win over EWU.
Smith is coming off a 186-yard effort against Fort Lewis, and Higgins added 242 yards and three touchdowns through the air. In that game, Weber State out-gained Fort Lewis 535-11 in total offense, as the Wildcats allowed a negative two rushing yards, gave up only one first down, forced 12 punts and had six sacks.
Eastern's offense has been potent all season behind the arm of sophomore quarterback Matt Nichols. He completed 17-of-22 passes for 316 yards and five touchdowns versus Northern Arizona for an efficiency rating of 273.3. For the season, he has completed 64 percent of his passes for 2,869 yards, 26 touchdowns, just six interceptions and a passing efficiency rating of 163.6 that ranks fifth in FCS. The Eagles are averaging 459.0 yards of offense per game (sixth in FCS), including 296.7 passing (eighth) and 162.3 rushing (55th).
Eastern's victory over Northern Arizona was EWU's fourth-straight Big Sky victory, something that has happened just twice since becoming a league member in 1987. The Eagles won their last four games in 1993 to just miss the playoffs with a 7-3 record, and in 1997 the Eagle won their last five league games en route to a 12-2 finish and semifinal appearance in the FCS Playoffs. Even in EWU's playoff years in 1992, 2004 and 2005, Eastern was not able to win four-straight league games.
Eagle Head Coach Paul Wulff on Wildcats: "They found a quarterback. It just shows what good performance at quarterback can do for you. They have a great running game, a great quarterback and great speed at receiver. So they are causing trouble for everybody they play."
12 Eagle Seniors Honored in Pre-Game Introductions: A group of 12 EWU seniors will be honored in pre-game introductions this week before the Weber State game as they play their final regular season game in an Eagle uniform at Woodward Field in Cheney, Wash.
Of the 12, six of them will earn their fourth varsity letter at Eastern this fall. Four of them are offensive linemen as Matt Alfred, Chris Carlsen, Rocky Hanni and Zach Wasielewski have combined for 134 starts in their careers. The other two four-year letter winners are cornerback Ira Jarmon (21 career starts) and tight end Tom McAndrews (10 career starts). In all, the seniors have combined for 219 starts heading into the Weber State game.
One senior who won't be honored will be Gregor Smith, who is applying for a sixth year as an injury hardship case. Smith missed the 2007 season with a torn labrum in his shoulder that had already kept the 2003 graduate of nearby Lakeside High School (Nine Mile Falls, Wash.) out of 11 of 36 EWU games in his career. He had his third surgery on the shoulder on Oct. 31, 2007, and hopes to return to the lineup if his petition for a sixth year is approved.
Another senior who also won't be honored this week -- thanks to a revised NCAA rule -- is fullback Toke Kefu. Kefu was injured in Eastern's fourth game of the season versus Portland State, and in any other year previous to 2007 he would have played one too many to be eligible for an automatic injury hardship. However, NCAA rules were revised this year that enables football players to play in as many as four games and be able to get the year back.
Here is the complete list of seniors on EWU's 2007 roster:
No. - Name - Position - Height - Weight - Year - Experience - Hometown (Previous Schools)
66 - Matt Alfred - OL - 6-3 - 300 - Sr. - 3L* - Gig Harbor, Wash. (Gig Harbor HS '03)
53 - Chris Carlsen - OL - 6-3 - 270 - Sr. - 3L* - Poulsbo, Wash. (North Kitsap HS '03)
30 - Dezmon Cole - LB - 5-7 - 190 - Sr. - 2L* - Lacey, Wash. (North Thurston HS '03)
4 - Anthony Dotson - DB - 5-9 - 185 - Sr. - 2L* - Federal Way, Wash. (Federal Way HS '03)
26 - Shane Eller - WR - 5-11 - 185 - Sr. - 1L - Corning, Calif. (Red Bluff HS '04 & Butte JC)
77 - Rocky Hanni - OL - 6-5 - 290 - Sr. - 3L* - Sumner, Wash. (Sumner HS '03)
2 - Ira Jarmon - DB - 5-8 - 190 - Sr. - 3L* - Lakewood, Wash. (Clover Park HS '03)
6 - Bryan Jarrett - DB - 5-11 - 210 - Sr. - 2L* - Puyallup, Wash. (Puyallup HS '03 & Western Wash. Univ.)
50 - Jared Kuhl - LB - 6-0 - 230 - Sr. - 1L* - Hillsboro, Ore. (Hillsboro HS '03 & Col. of the Siskiyous JC)
80 - Tom McAndrews - TE - 6-0 - 240 - Sr. - 3L* - Spokane, Wash. (Mead HS '03)
37 - Brady Smith - DB - 5-10 - 185 - Sr. - 1L* - Spokane, Wash. (Rogers HS '03 & Santa Monica JC)
64 - Zach Wasielewski - OL - 6-4 - 290 - Sr. - 3L* - Seattle, Wash. (Chief Sealth HS '03)
EWU Tries to Extend Four-Game BSC Winning Streak Into Five: Since Eastern Washington joined the Big Sky Conference in 1987, the Eagles have won or shared Big Sky titles in 1992, 1997, 2004 and 2005. In all four of those years, Eastern advanced to the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs.
However, Eastern has won four-straight Big Sky Conference games only once among those four seasons and now just three times overall in 21 years as a league member. Besides this year's current four-game streak, the Eagles won their last four games in 1993 to just miss the playoffs with a 7-3 record. In 1997 the Eagles won their last five league games en route to a 12-2 finish and semifinal appearance in the FCS Playoffs.
This year's Eagle team has already won four-straight league games and would like to extend that to five this week. Eastern opened the year with a win over Idaho State, but followed that with losses to Portland State and Montana. After knocking off 11th-ranked Montana State, Eastern dropped a non-league game at Brigham Young before reeling off wins over Sacramento State, Northern Colorado and Northern Arizona.
Last year's 3-8 finish and this year's season thus far are similar to the pre-1997 building seasons the Eagles had when they had similar youth and inexperience. In 1995, the Eagles were 3-8 and in 1996 the Eagles were 6-5 with four of their five losses by a combined total of 19 points. In 1997, the senior-laden team lost one league game (17-7 to Montana State) and fell to Youngstown State 25-14 in the semifinals of the playoffs. Eastern finished 12-2 that season, setting a school record for victories.
Eagles Up Four Spots to a Season-High 15th: Eastern moved up five spots to a season-high 15th as the Eagles are ranked for the sixth time this season in The Sports Network NCAA Football Championships Subdivision top 25 poll of sportswriters, broadcasters and sports information directors.
Last week, Eastern was 20th before routing Northern Arizona 52-24. The week prior, the Eagles were 24th and edged Northern Colorado 17-7, but the previous two times EWU was ranked it suffered defeats. Most recently, a 35-13 victory over 11th-ranked Montana State on Oct. 13 put the Eagles back into The Sports Network rankings at No. 22. But a 42-7 loss to Brigham Young on Oct. 20 knocked the Eagles back out of the rankings.
Before that, Eastern's convincing 34-7 victory over Idaho State on Sept. 22 helped Eastern move up four spots to a season-high 21st, but the Eagles dropped out after losing to Portland State 28-21 on Sept. 29. When EWU was ranked 25th on Sept. 17, the Eagles earned their first national ranking since 2005 in the TSN poll. Eastern hadn't been nationally ranked since it finished the 2005 season 13th in the TSN poll.
In the Sagarin computer ratings released after EWU's win at Idaho State, Eastern was No. 6 among FCS schools to rank three spots ahead of No. 9 Montana. Following the PSU loss, Eastern fell to 19th in the Sagarin ratings and have fallen to current ranking of 24th as the rest of the Big Sky falls as well. Montana is unbeaten but is only ranked 13th.
Here is a listing of EWU's 2007 opponents in this week's FCS rankings (four polls are distributed nationally on a weekly basis), in addition to the Sagarin computer ratings:
The Sports Network: 1. Northern Iowa; 3. Montana; 15. Eastern Washington; 42. Montana State.
FCS Coaches: 1. North Dakota State; 3. Montana; 15. Eastern Washington; 29. Montana State; 45. Northern Arizona.
AGS (anygivensaturday.com): 1. Northern Iowa; 4. Montana; 18. Eastern Washington.
Football Gazette Top 40 Rankings: 1. North Dakota State; 3. Montana; 14. Eastern Washington; 27. Northern Arizona.
Sagarin Computer Ratings Among FCS Schools (overall rank including FBS schools): 1. Northern Iowa (35th overall); 13. Montana (97th overall); 24. Eastern Washington (132nd overall); 40. UC Davis; 47. Northern Arizona; 55. Montana State; 60. Weber State; 72. Portland State; 77. Sacramento State; 87. Idaho State; 97. Northern Colorado. Also, 36. (overall) Brigham Young.
Shhhhh! Playoff Talk Not Allowed: With its 52-24 romp at Northern Arizona, Eastern Washington was happy to win a game decisively after struggling to wins the previous two weekends over the bottom two teams in the Big Sky Conference. Eastern held off Sacramento State 38-30 and then edged Northern Colorado 17-7.
Playoff talk was part of the blame, and Eastern head coach Paul Wulff tried to put an end to it. But he'll have a hard time stopping the questions this week as the Eagles are one victory away from a probable at-large berth in the NCAA Football Subdivision Playoffs.
"I think we lost some focus talking about something that is way out there, and it still is," said Wulff. "We aren't good enough to play poorly and win. If we lose any kind of focus and our mind isn't right, then we're going to stub our toe. There was too much talk of that going into the Sac State and Northern Colorado games. We won the games but we didn't play as well as we should have."
"After we lost to BYU we knew we had to win our next four to go to the playoffs," added quarterback Matt Nichols. "But there hasn't been talk in our locker room about playoffs because that is something our coaches told us not to talk about. Now we just have an 0-0 record and we have to go beat Weber State."
Selection Show on Sunday, November 18: The 16-team NCAA Football Championship Subdivision bracket will be announced on ESPNU at approximately 12:30 p.m. Pacific time on Sunday, Nov. 18. There are no satellite coordinates that can be distributed because ESPNU is a scrambled satellite signal. ESPNU can be found on DirecTV at channel 609 and on Dish Network at channel 148. In addition, some cable systems carry the ESPNU signal. Immediately after the announcement the bracket will be available at www.ncaasports.com. The bracket announcement will be replayed later in the day on ESPNews.
Eagles in the Playoffs: Eastern's 2005 appearance in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision 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 FCS playoffs since 1997 when the Eagles advanced to the semifinals where it lost to Youngstown State 25-14 at Albi Stadium in Spokane, Wash. Eastern played two early-round games at Albi, defeating Northwestern State 40-10 and Western Kentucky 38-21.
Eastern also participated in the playoffs in 1985 (won at Idaho 42-38 and lost at Northern Iowa 17-14) and 1992 (lost at Northern Iowa 17-14). The school's only other post-season experience came in 1967 when Eastern advanced to the NAIA Championship game where it lost to Fairmont State 28-21.
Here is a complete list of EWU's playoff games:
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)
Belford Honored by Big Sky: Defensive end Jason Belford was selected as the Big Sky Conference Defensive Player of the Week after he intercepted a pass and returned it for a touchdown barely a minute into the game in Eastern's 52-24 win at Northern Arizona on Nov. 10.
The 2004 graduate of Lincoln High School in Tacoma, Wash., also had eight tackles, including three for losses totaling eight yards.
"He was always around the ball and made a lot of tackles," said EWU head coach Paul Wulff of Belford. "He played well."
Eastern allowed Northern Arizona to finish with 469 yards of offense, but the Eagles did a good job of containing NAU running back Alan Henderson. He entered this year's meeting with 838 yards and six touchdowns this season, and had 265 yards and two touchdowns for NAU last year against EWU. He finished with just 70 on 17 carries in this year's meeting.
Nichols Big Sky Player of the Week and Ranks in Top Seven Nationally in Three Passing Categories: Sophomore quarterback Matt Nichols was selected as Big Sky Conference Offensive Player of the Week for the second time this season after his performance in EWU's 52-24 win over Northern Arizona on Nov. 10.
He sophomore from Cottonwood, Calif., passed for 316 yards, 186 in the first quarter alone, as EWU ended the game with 556 yards of total offense. Nichols completed 17-of-22 passes for 317 yards and five touchdowns with no interceptions for an impressive efficiency rating of 273.3.
Nichols also had 48 yards on the ground to finish with 365 yards of total offense. It was the fifth 300-yard passing game in his 20-game career, including his fourth this season.
"He did a nice job taking care of the football," praised EWU head coach Paul Wulff. "He didn't force anything, which was important. He had a good game, but if we are going to win games, he has to."
Eastern had 280 of its offensive yards in the first quarter on just 19 plays as EWU scored 28 points. 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 ranks in the top seven in three statistical categories in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision. He is fifth in FCS this week in passing efficiency rating (163.6), sixth in passing offense (286.9) and seventh in total offense (307.9).
Nichols has now passed for 2,869 yards, 26 touchdowns and six interceptions this season after having 17 interceptions and eight touchdowns as a redshirt freshman. His yardage total is already the seventh-best in school history -- easily the most-ever for an EWU sophomore (Erik Meyer had 2,301 as a sophomore in 2003). His average of 286.9 yards per game is currently fourth and his 3,079 yards of total offense is sixth.
At his current pace, he will finish an 11-game season ranked sixth in school history in passing yards (3,155), fourth in total offense (3,386), fourth in TD passes (28) and third in passing efficiency. In most categories, he would rank just behind the quarterback he replaced -- Erik Meyer, the 2005 winner of the Walter Payton Award.
Nichols has thrown just six interceptions in 317 attempts this season after throwing a school-record 17 interceptions a year ago. His ratio last season was an interception every 15.2 attempts and this year thus far it is one for every 52.8 attempts. His passing efficiency rating thus far is 163.6 compared to a 109.0 rating as a freshman.
Nichols was 15-of-24 for 257 yards and three touchdowns in an Oct. 13 win over Montana State, and added 43 rushing yards. He had a school-record 37 completions on 59 attempts for 451 yards -- third best in school history -- in Eastern's disappointing 24-23 loss to Montana on Oct. 6. He completed 19-of-30 passes against Portland State, and his 363 yards ranks as the 24th best in school history. His previous career high was 329 as a freshman against Sacramento State.
Nichols completed 17-of-30 passes for 285 yards and one touchdown in Eastern's 34-7 victory at Idaho State on Sept. 22. On Aug. 31, Nichols earned Big Sky Conference Offensive Player of the Week honors when he had a school-record six touchdown passes against Montana-Western.
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)
363 - 19x30, 2td - Portland State - 9/29/07 (#24 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
Boyce in Top Eight Nationally in Receptions and Yards: Sophomore receiver Aaron Boyce already has 73 catches for 1,194 yards and nine scores. In Football Championship Subdivision statistics, Boyce is eighth in receptions (7.3 per game) and third in receiving yards (119.4).
His catch total already ranks third all-time at EWU and his yardage total is fourth. At his current pace, he will finish an 11-game season ranked third in school history for catches (80) and third in receiving yards (1,313). He would rank only behind the 87 catches Eric Kimble had in 12 games in 2005 and the 1,453 yards Kimble had in 13 games in 2004, the 1,419 Kimble had in 2005 and the 1,376 Jeff Ogden had in 14 games in 1997.
Boyce had a record-breaking performance at Montana on Oct. 6 and was selected by The Sports Network as the NCAA Football Championships Subdivision Offensive Player of the Week. Boyce, a 2005 graduate of Kentwood High School in Kent, Wash., had the fourth-most catches in Big Sky history with a school-record 17. He finished the 24-23 loss to top-ranked Montana with 232 receiving yards to rank second in school history.
Boyce played just one year of high school football, but was a standout on the basketball court. As a junior, he teamed with former Eastern standout and current Detroit Pistons guard Rodney Stuckey to lead Kentwood to the 2004 State 4A Championship.
Boyce, whose top yardage performance as a freshman in 2006 was 96 yards, has had six 100-yard receiving performances this season. Here is a complete list:
100-Yard Receiving Games for Boyce
232 - Montana - 1td
186 - Sacramento State - 2td
135 - Brigham Young - 1td
126 - Montana State - 0td
119 - Portland State 1td
107 - UC Davis - 0td
Nichols on Boyce: "Aaron is amazing. At any time I can really just throw the ball up and Aaron can make a play. It's great having a guy like that. Not every quarterback gets that luxury. If I get in trouble, I'm going to No. 9 and he gets open. Teams know where he is on the field and double team him, but he still gets open."
Other EWU Statistical Leaders: Eastern Washington is averaging 459.0 yards of offense after 10 games, good for sixth in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision. Eastern is also 22nd in scoring offense (32.0), eighth in passing offense (296.7) and 55th in rushing offense (162.3). Eastern is also seventh in passing efficiency (162.1) with 28 touchdowns and just eight interceptions. The Eagles, behind a veteran offensive line that includes four senior starters, has allowed 21 quarterback sacks to rank 81st nationally (2.3 sacks per game), down from third after the ISU game when EWU had allowed just one in its first three games.
Defensively, Eastern is 80th in total defense (391.3), 33rd in scoring defense (21.9), 29th in rushing defense (135.5), 108th in passing defense (255.8) and 26th in passing efficiency defense (112.1).
Through its first four games of the season, the Eagles had a plus 2.5 margin per game to rank first in turnover margin among the 116 teams in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision. Currently, Eastern is 12th with 16 turnovers this season (eight interceptions and eight fumbles) while opponents have 28 (19 interceptions and nine fumbles). Eastern ranks fourth in interceptions (total of 19), with 12 different players picking off passes. Last season, the Eagles forced 26 turnovers and had 24 themselves.
Junior Dale Morris, who had 92 rushing yards against Sacramento State on Oct. 27, 65 versus Northern Colorado and 109 against Northern Arizona, is 76th in rushing (68.4 per game). Punter Fritz Brayton ranks 37th nationally (40.1 per punt) and kicker Felipe Macias is 69th in scoring (6.8) and 50th in field goals (0.9, total of nine). Junior defensive end Greg Peach is 11th in sacks (0.8 per game, total of eight).
Weber State National Leaders: The Wildcats are balanced on offense, ranking 38th in FCS in total offense (399.6), 49th in rushing offense, 34th in passing offense (228.4) and 43rd in scoring offense (28.3). Defensively, Weber State is 37th in total defense (339.7), 26th in rushing defense (131.9), 65th in passing defense (207.8), 73rd in passing efficiency defense (130.0) and 71st in scoring defense (28.6). In addition, the Wildcats are third in kickoff returns (26.5 per return), 28th in punt returns (11.0) and eighth in sacks allowed (0.9 per game, total of nine).
Individually, Trevyn Smith is 12th in rushing (122.6) and Higgins is 12th in passing efficiency (154.2), 54th in total offense (189.5) and 54th in passing yards (172.1). Bryan Eteuati leads FCS in all-purpose yards (rushing, receiving, returns) with an average of 212.4 yards per game. He is 11th in kickoff returns (28.6 per return) and 31st in punt returns (10.6). Mike Snoy ranks 11th in punting (42.5).
Alfred and Hanni Have Each Started More Than 40 Games: Eastern offensive linemen Rocky Hanni and Matt Alfred have each started more than 40 games dating back to their freshman seasons in 2004. Alfred hasn't missed a start since early in the 2004 season, giving him a streak of 43-straight starts. Hanni started the first four games of his career, missed two games with a concussion and had started every game since (38 consecutive) until missing the Northern Arizona game on Nov. 10 with a sprained ankle.
Five Eagles Selected Academic All-District VIII: Five EWU football players, the most in school history, have been selected to the ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District VIII team released Nov. 8 as selected by members of the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA).
Those honored on the first team include senior tight end Tom McAndrews, who owns a perfect 4.0 grade point average at EWU. Senior offensive lineman Chris Carlsen and junior defensive lineman Jacob Kragt were also honored on the first team, and join McAndrews as nominees for Academic All-America honors which will be announced later this month.
Second team selections were receiver Tony Davis and defensive back Brett Igbinoba. To qualify, players must have at least a 3.2 grade point average and play in at least half of the team's games, as well as be a significant contributor to the squad.
McAndrews is a double major in finance and economics, and is a 2003 graduate of Mead High School in Spokane, Wash. Carlsen, a mechanical engineering major with a 3.60 GPA, is from Poulsbo, Wash., and graduated from North Kitsap HS in 2003. Kragt is a 2005 graduate of Ritzville, Wash., High School and is a 3.84 student majoring in biology.
Igbinoba is also a biology major and has a 3.21 grade point average after graduating from Cheney, Wash., High School in 2005. Davis is another 2005 graduate from Olympia, Wash., and Capitol High School, and has a 3.27 GPA while majoring in interdisciplinary studies.
District VIII 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 46 times since 1989 on the All-District VIII squad, and six players have gone on to win eight Academic All-America honors. Eastern has had four players honored previously in a single season but never five.
Eastern nominated one player for every position the Eagles had a student-athlete who qualified. Here is the complete list:
Tight End - Tom McAndrews - Finance and Economics - Senior - Spokane, Wash.
Offensive Line - Chris Carlsen - Mechanical Engineering - Senior - Poulsbo, Wash.
Wide Receiver - Tony Davis - Interdisciplinary Studies - Sophomore - Olympia, Wash.
Linebacker - Marcus Walker - Interdisciplinary Studies - Junior - Pullman, Wash.
Running Back - Toke Kefu - Health and Fitness - Senior - San Mateo, Calif.
Defensive Line - Jacob Kragt - Biology - Sophomore - Ritzville, Wash.
Quarterback - Alex Smart - Interdisciplinary Studies - Junior - North Bend, Wash.
Defensive Back - Brett Igbinoba - Biology - Sophomore - Cheney, Wash.
Wide Receiver Quartet Ahead of Previous Quartet: Eastern's returning receiving corp includes a senior and five sophomores who are learning their trade via trial by fire. Three of the sophomores - Tony Davis, Brynsen Brown and Aaron Boyce - combined for 118 catches for 1,539 yards and eight touchdowns as redshirt freshmen in 2006. Jeffrey Solomon added seven catches as a true freshman but is redshirting in 2007. So far in their careers, Davis, Brown and Boyce have combined for 247 catches for 3,554 yards and 23 touchdowns in 59 games worth of experience (46 starts).
Those four young players are reminders 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).
In 2005, Meyer and those players 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.
"They are not at that level yet, but at the same stage of their careers, they are clearly ahead of those guys," said Eagle head coach Paul Wulff of his corp of sophomore receivers early in the 2007 season. "Whether they can continue to make themselves better and get them to play at a higher level, that remains to be seen. But there is talent there, and if they are mature about how they handle their business, then they have a chance to really improve. As much as the coaches drive them and push them, ultimately it's their responsibility to make themselves better athletes, better players and ultimately better people."
Nichols on Receiving Corp: "We have a great group of receivers, including our starting sophomore corp. They are really talented and find holes, especially with a year under our belts. We know how to work against defenses a lot better than we did last year. I think that really showed in our first few games. We know how to find holes and know where the weaknesses are in certain coverages."
EWU Injuries Mount After Portland State Loss: Eastern has now lost eight players for the season because of injuries, with most of the injuries occurring against Portland State on Sept. 29.
In that game, eight players left the field with injuries. Among them were wide receiver Tony Davis (shoulder), center Chris Carlsen (knee), fullback Toke Kefu (hand), tight end Nathan Overbay (hand), long snapper Mark Lathim (shoulder) and free safety Kevin Hatch (shoulder). Even rover Anthony Dotson (knee) and kicker Felipe Macias (knee) were helped off the field with injuries, but both were able to return.
In addition, starting strong-side linebacker Makai Borden (toe) was injured in practice before the PSU game and missed that game, as did starting defensive tackle Lance Witherspoon (ankle). Both returned to play sparingly against Montana and returned to starting positions versus Montana State.
Carlsen missed a pair of games and Davis missed four. Davis returned to play sparingly against Northern Colorado. Kefu and Overbay are now able to play with their injuries, however, Kefu will limit his action to the scout team as he uses an injury redshirt to return in 2007.
Besides Kefu, the list of players out for the season includes several significant starters or backups. Safeties Ethen Robinson (Achilles tendon) and Jesse Hoffman (elbow) were lost for the season with injuries suffered in Eastern's season-opener against Montana-Western. Jesse's brother, wide receiver Shane Hoffman (toe), is also out for the year. Before the season started, senior safety Gregor Smith was lost for the year with a nagging shoulder injury. Sophomore wide receiver Jeffrey Solomon is redshirting after a back injury that has kept him sidelined since practices began in August. The other players lost for the year were freshman redshirt Joe Beitinger (shoulder) and true freshman Chris Powers (shoulder).
Six Players Make Starting Debuts for Eagles in Opener: Just six position players made their starting debuts for Eastern Washington when the Eagles hosted Montana-Western on Aug. 31.
Powell is a junior two-year letter winner who graduated in 2004 from Shadle Park High School in Spokane, Wash. Hatch is a sophomore from Freeman (Wash.) High School, and lettered as a backup and special teams player last year. Hosley is a 2005 graduate of Evergreen High School in Vancouver, Wash.
A freshman redshirt, Leahy is a 2006 graduate of Gig Harbor (Wash.) High School, the same school that produced All-America guard Matt Alfred (2003 graduate). Overbay, whose uncle Lyle Overbay plays for the Toronto Blue Jays, is from Chehalis, Wash., and graduated in 2005 from W.F. West High School. Martin, a freshman redshirt from La Crosse-Washtucna (Wash.) High School, made his debut when the Eagles started in a two tight end formation.
Hatch and Leahy are taking the place of returning veterans who have to miss the season. Offensive tackle Julian Stewart is academically ineligible and free safety Gregor Smith will miss the year with a nagging shoulder injury.
Besides those new starters, Eastern has new special teams players. Taking over at kicker is Felipe Macias, a junior college transfer from Moorpark College in California. Washington State transfer Fritz Brayton takes over at punter.
Since the opener, only four Eastern players have made starting debuts this season. Against UC Davis on Sept. 15, sophomore left tackle Chris Thomas made the first start of his career. Thomas is a 2004 graduate of Sumner (Wash.) High School, the same school senior Rocky Hanni graduated from in 2003. A.J. Jimerson made the first start of his career at fullback in EWU's win at Sacramento State on Oct. 27. Jimerson is a 2004 graduate of Garfield High School in Seattle. Junior college transfer Ryan Kelley made the first start of his career against Northern Colorado on Nov. 3 and had an interception and six tackles. Tyler Jolley, a 2006 graduate of Spokane's East Valley High School, made his first career start as a defensive tackle in EWU's 52-24 win at Northern Arizona.
Here are the number of career starts by Eastern players in the 2007 season:
Defense (190 starts by 19 players): Greg Peach 24, Bryan Jarrett 24, Jason Belford 22, Ira Jarmon 21, Lance Witherspoon 15, Anthony Dotson 12, Makai Borden 11, Jared Kuhl 10, Kevin Hatch 10, Shawn Powell 9, Lonnie Hosley 8, Gregor Smith 7, Josh Jacobson 5, Marcus Walker 4, Ryan Kelley 2, Adam Macomber 1, Jacob Kragt 1, Tyler Jolley 1, Dezmon Cole 1 (includes one start on offense).
Offense (275 starts by 21 players): Matt Alfred 43, Rocky Hanni 42, Zach Wasielewski 32, Aaron Boyce 20, Matt Nichols 20, Chris Carlsen 17, Charlie Wulff 17, Brynsen Brown 17, Tom McAndrews 10, Alexis Alexander 9, Tony Davis 9, Dale Morris 9, Chris Thomas 7, Shane Eller 7, Julian Stewart 4, Toke Kefu 3, A.J. Jimerson 2, Nathan Overbay 2, Matt Martin 2, Brice Leahy 1, Jeffrey Solomon 1, Ryan Forney 1.
Series History: Weber State has a slight 13-12 edge in the series after the Wildcats have won three of the last four following a streak of four-straight wins for the Eagles. Eastern has a 6-8 record on the road and a 6-5 mark in home games.
In 2005 in Cheney, Ian Pizarro found Wiley King for fourth-quarter touchdown passes of 45 and 69 yards as Weber State rallied for a 28-23 victory over sixth-ranked Eastern Washington Oct. 22 in front of a stunned Homecoming crowd of 8,696 at Woodward Field in Cheney, Wash. The Eagles took a 23-14 lead in the fourth quarter on a Lars Slind 3-yard run, but the Wildcats scored the next two times they had the ball. King's first touchdown came with 10:05 left, and the game-winner was with 6:20 to play. Eastern's offense had three-and-outs on two of its last three possessions. Erik Meyer completed 20-of-34 passes for 301 yards and one touchdown for EWU, but was sacked five times. Weber State's Brady Fosmark had three of the sacks as he finished with a team-high 11 tackles. Ryan Cole added 111 yards rushing on 26 carries, and Eagle receivers Eric Kimble and Raul Vijil combined for 165 yards and 13 receptions. Eastern had 421 yards of total offense after it entered the game leading NCAA Division I-AA with an average of 511.3 per game. Weber State finished with 426 yards as Pizarro passed for 292 yards and four touchdowns.
In 2004, Eastern scored 28 points in an 8:53 span in the second quarter and went on to defeat the winless Wildcats 51-7. Eastern scored its five first-half touchdowns on two touchdown runs, an interception return, a blocked punt recovered for a touchdown and a 73-yard punt return for a touchdown by junior scoring machine Eric Kimble. With senior running backs Darius Washington and Reggie Witherspoon nursing injuries, sophomore Dezmon Cole received the first start of his career. He finished with 199 yards, including 67 on a touchdown run on Eastern's first offensive play of the second half. True freshman Toke Kefu added 89 yards rushing. Eastern's other offensive standouts -- quarterback Erik Meyer and Kimble -- hardly broke a sweat. Meyer completed 5-of-7 passes for 68 yards and Kimble caught just one pass for four yards. In all, Eastern out-gained Weber State in total offense 416-147, with Eastern rushing for 295 yards.
In 2003 in Cheney, Nick Chournos had 176 of his 194 rushing yards in the second half -- and also added a 19-yard touchdown pass for good measure -- as Weber State defeated Eastern Washington 35-23 in the Big Sky Conference football opener for both teams. Weber State scored 21 unanswered points to overcome an early 10-0 Eagle lead. Sophomore Erik Meyer passed for 270 yards and accounted for two touchdowns for the Eagles, and junior Reggie Witherspoon added a career-high 135 rushing with another score. Eastern had 442 yards of total offense to Weber State's 414. However, the Wildcats had 172 net rushing yards in the second half on 25 carries (6.9 per carry) after getting just 71 in the first half on 17 carries (4.2 per carry).
In 2002 in Ogden, Eastern scored 24-straight points in the middle portion of the game to defeat Weber State 38-20. Jovan Griffith rushed for 163 yards and three touchdowns and Josh Blankenship completed 25-of-38 passes for 300 yards and two touchdowns in the win. Griffith and Blankenship accounted for 463 of Eastern's 499 offensive yards in the game. Eric Kimble caught four passes for 101 yards, including a 46-yard touchdown pass from Blankenship. Joey Cwik led the Eagles with seven tackles and had one of five sacks the Eagles recorded against WSU. Freshman cornerback Jesse Hendrix added six tackles, and deflected a pass that was intercepted by fellow freshman cornerback Isaiah Trufant.
In 2001, the number 22 was as lucky as lucky can be for record-breaking running back Jesse Chatman. On his 22nd birthday in his 22nd game as an Eagle on the 22nd of September, Chatman rushed for 206 yards and two touchdowns as the Eagles rolled past Weber State 50-32. Eastern scored all 10 times it had the ball (with the exception of a 36-second possession to end the game) as Troy Griggs kicked a school-record five field goals en route to 565 yards of total offense by the Eagles. Quarterback Fred Salanoa completed 25-of-36 passes for 313 yards and four touchdowns. He hit true freshman tight end Chris Cwik for a 1-yard touchdown pass in the first half before hitting Lamont Brightful for a 15-yard score. Chatman's first touchdown gave Eastern a 24-6 lead. Weber State came no closer than 11 the rest of the way.
In 2000, Troy Griggs kicked a 23-yard field goal to end the second overtime period and help Eastern Washington pull out a 27-24 victory over Weber State in Ogden. Down 17-10 in the last minute, the Eagles drove 71 yards to score a game-tying touchdown with 16 seconds to play and send the game into overtime. Quarterback Chris Samms, filling in for starting quarterback Fred Salanoa who suffered a minor concussion in the first quarter, started the drive with three incompletions. But he completed six of his next seven passes, capped by a 14-yard touchdown pass to Lance Ballew with 16 seconds to play. Griggs kicked the extra point to send the game into overtime. In the first overtime, Samms passed to Shaylon Reed for nine yards before hitting him again with a 10-yard touchdown. However, Weber State sent the game to a second overtime when Johnnie Gray scored from two yards out. The Wildcats got the ball to start the second overtime, and on their second play at Eastern's 10-yard-line, Ole Olesen stepped in front of a Wildcat receiver to intercept a pass, setting up the game-winning field goal.
In a season-ending dogfight in 1999 at Albi Stadium in Spokane. Eastern scored 16-straight points in the second half to overcome a 20-14 deficit, then held on for the 30-27 win. Eagle punter Nick Reynolds had perhaps the biggest play of the game when he booted a 47-yard punt with 9:41 to play that was downed at the Wildcat 2-yard line. The Eagles forced WSU to punt, then scored on their next possession to take a 10-point lead with 2:25 to play. Eastern had 325 yards of total offense, including 156 rushing yards and three touchdowns by Jovan Griffith. Quarterback Chris Samms completed 12-of-20 passes for 170 yards and a 49-yard touchdown to Joe Levens, who finished the game with five catches for 115 yards. The Wildcats had 357 yards of total offense and had just one turnover, but that was a costly fourth-quarter fumble forced by Brad Packer and recovered by Greg Belzer.
In 1998, Weber State countered a go-ahead Eagle touchdown in the fourth quarter with a touchdown of its own with 2:24 left to take the lead for good and defeat Eastern Washington 27-23 in Ogden. Freshman Dan Curley caught six passes for 117 yards and a touchdown for the Eagles. The game featured six lead changes, including four in the second half. In all four of Eastern's Big Sky losses that season, the Eagles took a fourth-quarter lead only to have the opponent regain the lead for good on the next possession. Those four losses were by a total of just 13 points, including a trio of three-point setbacks.
In Eastern's 1997 win, Mike MacKenzie rushed for 172 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries. He also caught three passes for 44 more yards as the Eagles finished with 534 yards of total offense (255 rushing, 279 passing). Steve Correa, who would go on to serve as an assistant coach at Weber State, caught five passes for 119 yards and two touchdowns, and Harry Leons completed 18-of-31 passes for 279 yards. The Eagles held the Wildcats to a net 22 yards on the ground as they recorded eight quarterback sacks.
In the 1996 game in Ogden, the Eagles led 20-13 in the fourth quarter before the Wildcats rallied for the win. Scott Shields had eight tackles, an interception and punted twice for a 39.5 average to go along with three field goals including the game winner. In 1997 he had 14 tackles, an interception and fumble recovery, plus kicked one field goal and had a 44.1 average in seven punts. As a freshman in 1995, Shields kicked two field goals in the 40-30 Wildcat win.
Last Season -- Weber State 19, Eastern Washington 14: Weber State's vaunted defense flexed its muscles in the second half as it rallied from a 14-10 deficit at halftime to defeat Eastern Washington 19-14 in a Big Sky Conference football game Nov. 4 in Ogden, Utah.
The Wildcats held Eastern to just 32 yards in the second half as they outscored the Eagles 9-0 after halftime. Weber State had a 254-32 advantage in total yards in the second half, including 160-2 in the third quarter. A knee injury in the first half to starting offensive tackle Zach Wasielewski didn't help matters for an Eastern team already missing senior offensive guard Harrison Nikolao with a shoulder injury.
"They played better than us," said EWU head coach Paul Wulff of the second-half turnaround. "There were no adjustments -- they just whipped us. We lost Wasielewski so we had to shuttle some offensive linemen in there. We didn't block very well and we didn't execute."
"It's frustrating when you do bone-headed things and don't give yourself a chance," he added. "It gets a little tiresome when you don't execute very well."
Senior running back Ryan Cole and freshman redshirt quarterback Matt Nichols helped lead Eastern to a pair of first-half touchdowns with drives of 59 and 85 yards. Cole finished the game with 65 rushing yards and a touchdown on 17 carries. Nichols completed 10-of-18 passes for 93 yards and a touchdown.
But most of that production came in the first half against a Weber State defense that entered the game allowing just 284.3 yards per game to rank 24th in NCAA Division I-AA and second in the Big Sky behind league unbeaten Montana (260.2). Opponents were averaging just 22.8 points per game versus the Wildcats.
Eastern finished with 211 yards of total offense while Weber State closed the game with 443. Eastern's defensive effort was much-improved from its last two games when it allowed a collective 78 points in losses to Northern Arizona and Portland State. Just three games ago, Eastern was celebrating the school's first shutout in 215 games with a 34-0 whitewashing of Northern Colorado.
Weber State scored its touchdowns on a flea flicker play and a punt return. Because of Eastern's troubles on offense -- including eight Eagle punts -- the Wildcats had a 6 1/2-minute edge in time of possession. Safety Bryan Jarrett led the Eagles with nine tackles, and safety Brandon Keeler and cornerback DeNique Ford each had seven.
"They didn't do bad," said Wulff of his defense. "They gave up some yardage at times, but they were on the field a long time because the offense couldn't get anything going. Weber State scored on a trick play and a punt return, so defensively we really didn't give up a touchdown on a long drive."
Eastern had a 30-yard kickoff return by true freshman Jesse Hoffman on the opening kickoff, then drove 59 yards on nine plays to take an early 7-0 lead. Cole rushed for 27 yards on the drive, which was capped by a 17-yard touchdown pass from Nichols to Tony Davis. Nichols passed just twice -- both completions -- on the drive.
A 61-yard punt return by Tim Toone knotted the score at seven before Eastern took a 14-7 lead with another scoring drive generated by Cole and Nichols. Cole scored on a 4-yard run to cap a 14-play, 85-yard drive that took 6:21 off the clock. Cole rushed for 34 yards on that drive and Nichols had a 20-yard scramble while also completing 3-of-4 passes.
Eastern led 14-10 at halftime as Weber State kicked a field goal with just five seconds remaining before intermission. Eastern had 179 yards of total offense at halftime, with 136 coming on the two scoring drives. The Wildcats had 189 and missed a pair of field goals, one that was blocked by Nick Denbeigh.
Weber State kicked a field goal in the third quarter to pull within 14-13, then scored the winning touchdown on a 49-yard flea flicker pass play from Ian Pizarro to a wide open Terry Larsen. That came with just 18 seconds to play in the third quarter.
"We're going to talk about it and try to get it fixed," added Wulff. "Our effort is good and we're playing hard. But we're just not finishing drives and didn't tackle well on defense. We didn't give up touchdowns, but you can see we missed a lot of tackles and allowed them to get a lot of yardage. Offensively, we couldn't block in the second half. When you don't do those things you aren't going to execute."
EAGLES IN PRO FOOTBALL
Starting Dolphins Running Back Jesse Chatman Featured Twice in Sports Illustrated: Now a starting running back for the Miami Dolphins, former Eastern running back Jesse Chatman had a full-page spread in the Oct. 1 issue of Sports Illustrated talking about how he lost 60 pounds after eating himself out of the National Football League.
He made his first NFL start on Oct. 28 in a 13-10 loss to the New York Giants in the first-ever NFL regular season game at Wembley Stadium in London. He finished with 79 yards on 16 carries (4.9 per carry), and had three catches for 21 yards.
Injuries caused him to starting gaining weight when he played for the San Diego Chargers in 2004, and subsequently he was released and did not play in 2005 and 2006. He ballooned to a high as 283 pounds before diet and exercise helped him lose the weight. Chatman started working out at all hours, and switched from fried food all the time to oatmeal, spinach and stir-fry.
Eventually, he signed a contract with the Miami Dolphins and is the team's backup running back behind Ronnie Brown and is returning kickoffs. Now weighing 223 pounds, he earned a roster spot in the preseason when he had a team-leading 116 rushing yards (6.4 per carry) with two touchdowns, and added six receptions for 52 yards.
During the preseason, he was listed in the "Who's Hot" section in the Aug. 20 issue of Sports Illustrated magazine. Here's what the magazine had to say about Chatman, who rushed for 4,173 yards and 53 touchdowns from 1999-2001 at Eastern:
"Running back Jesse Chatman gained 392 yards (on just 65 carries) for the Chargers in 2004. Then he gained 50 pounds and missed two seasons. Now looking svelte in a Dolphins uni, he broke off a 74-yard TD run last Saturday. Chatman: "I'm not going to take this for granted."
Three Players Remain on NFL Rosters: Michael Roos (Tennessee Titans), running back Jesse Chatman (Miami Dolphins) and defensive end Keith Grennan (San Diego Chargers) all secured spots on NFL teams when final cuts were announced in early September in the 2007 season. Roos and Chatman are on the active roster and Grennan is a practice squad player.
In his team's 2007 opener, Chairman rushed seven times for 15 yards and caught six passes for 48 yards in an overtime loss to the Washington Redskins. Roos helped the Titans rush for a club-record 282 yards in a 13-10 win over Jacksonville.
Former Eastern football star Erik Meyer was one of seven former Eagles who started the 2007 season with NFL teams. The others three were kicker Brett Bergstrom (New Orleans Saints), safety Brandon Keeler (Arizona Cardinals) and offensive lineman Harrison Nikolao (Cincinnati Bengals). Those three, as well as Grennan, were rookies after playing for Eastern in 2006.
Meyer capped a record-breaking year in NFL Europa by signing a free agent contract with the Seattle Seahawks during the summer. He attended Seattle's training camp in Kirkland, Wash., in August, a camp that formerly took place in EWU's hometown of Cheney, Wash.
A year ago, Meyer was with Cincinnati before getting cut and Eric Kimble was with Miami. Kimble suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon and missed the 2006 season, then was released on March 1, 2007.
Other current pros include Jesse Hendrix who is now in Montreal of the Canadian Football League, along with fellow Alouettes Luke Fritz and Dario Romero. Lamont Brightful started the 2007 season with Montreal and is now with Calgary. Other former Eagles still active in the CFL are Ryan Phillips (British Columbia) and Bashir Levingston (Toronto). Isaiah Trufant is in the ArenaFootball League, joining the Kansas City Brigade in 2007 after playing for the Spokane Shock in af2. Raul Vijil is a current member of the Shock, and other current af2 players include Josh Blankenship (Tulsa Talons) and Muhammad Shamsid-Deen (Tri-Cities Fever).
Several former EWU coaches have also spent time in the professional ranks, including Jimmy Lake, Jim McElwain, Keith Murphy, Randy Hansen, Bill Diedrick Jr., and Aaron Best. Diedrick, a 2007 inductee into the Eastern Athletics Hall of Fame, and Best are now offensive coaches for the Toronto Argonauts in the CFL.
Meyer Sets NFL Europa Completion Percentage Record That Will Never Be Broken: Former Eastern quarterback Erik Meyer completed 68.8 percent of his passes in the 2007 season for the Cologne Centurions, setting a NFL Europa record that will never be broken. Shortly after the season ended, the National Football League decided to cease existence of the league.
Meyer led the Centurions to a 6-4 record. He ranked second among NFLE quarterbacks with a passer rating of 101.1. He completed 141-of-241 passes for 1,612 yards, 13 touchdowns and six interceptions. Meyer also added 138 rushing yards and one touchdown. Shortly after the season, he signed a free agent contract with the Seattle Seahawks.
He was NFL Europa's Player of the Week after his performance for the Cologne Centurions in a key victory over the Amsterdam Admirals on June 9. He completed 21-of-29 passes for 287 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions during Cologne's 31-13 victory. That performance gave him a league-best quarterback rating of 138.1 in the game, edging his previous league-best performance of 136.9 earlier this season against Berlin.
He earned the starting position in week three with a 14-6 victory over the Rhein Fire. At the time, the win moved the Centurions into second place in the standings behind the defending champion Frankfurt Galaxy.
While at EWU, Meyer was named the Big Sky Offensive MVP in 2004 and 2005 and his senior year was named the Walter Payton Award winner. He helped lead Eastern to back-to-back Big Sky Conference co-championships and two NCAA Championship Subdivision playoff berths.
He broke the NCAA Championship Subdivision record for efficiency rating (166.5) by quarterbacks with at least 400 completions. He had 10,261 yards and 84 touchdowns in 42 career games.
Blankenship Helps Tulsa Advance to ArenaCup8 Title: Former Eastern quarterback Josh Blankenship helped the Tulsa Talons to the championship game of the af2 indoor football league. However, a mid-season injury made his contribution minimal after leading Tulsa to victories in its first seven games of the season. Tulsa won the title with a 73-66 victory over Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, but Blankenship did not play.
Blankenship, who earned honorable mention All-America honors and was the Big Sky Conference Offensive Player of the Year for EWU in 2002, passed for 43 touchdowns in those first seven games before suffering a foot injury (strained arch support). He played in just five games after that as Justin Allgood took over as the starter and has held that position ever since. In 12 games, Blankenship has completed 54 percent of his passes for 2,365 yards, 54 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. Tulsa is 17-2 this season, including three playoff victories.
MORE SEASON NOTES
Wulff Wins 50th: Eastern head coach Paul Wulff, currently in his eighth season at the helm, won his 50th game as head coach at EWU when the Eagles edged Northern Colorado 17-7 on Nov. 3, 2007. His total is third-best in school history behind record-holder Dick Zornes (89 victories in 15 seasons from 1979-93) and Red Reese (66 wins in 13 seasons from 1930-41 and 1946).
Wulff owns Eastern's record with 32 Big Sky Conference victories, and his .561 winning percentage (32-25) is tops among the three coaches who have coached the Eagles since EWU became a league member in 1987. Zornes was 26-28 (.481) from 1987-93 and Mike Kramer was 37-32 (.522) from 1994-99.
In addition, the victory over UNC assured Eastern of a winning season, its seventh in eight seasons under Wulff. It was also EWU's 12th winning season in the last 16 years, with Kramer having four winning seasons (in six years) and Zornes finishing his career with a pair of winning seasons. Eastern failed to have a winning record overall in EWU's first five seasons as a member of the Big Sky.
In the last 16 seasons, EWU has won four Big Sky Conference titles and advanced to the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs all four of those seasons (1992, 1997, 2004, 2005). Wulff has been at Eastern for the last 15 years, joining Eastern's staff as a volunteer assistant in Zornes' last season in 1993.
Happy Homecoming for Californians: It was a happy homecoming for several Eagles playing in their home state of California, including quarterback Matt Nichols, in Eastern's 38-30 victory over Sacramento State on Oct. 27.
Nichols is a 2005 graduate of Cottonwood High School, located just 131 miles from Sacramento. Other Eagles returning included receiver Shane Eller (Corning), center Charlie Wulff (Woodland), receiver Nicholas Ramos (Winters), kicker Felipe Macias (Oxnard), cornerback Ryan Kelley (Los Angeles) and safety Terry Mixon (Compton). In addition, head coach Paul Wulff is a 1985 graduate of nearby Davis High School in Davis, Calif.
Eastern's entire allotment of 150 complimentary tickets were used by players and coaches, but many more EWU fans also attended to give Eastern one of its best-ever road crowds among the total of 4,706 that were in attendance. In fact, one player purchased additional tickets for the approximately 30 family and friends who were on hand.
Nichols, who shook hands along the railing after the game with the 100 family and friends on hand to watch him play, said it was a "very good feeling" to come away with a victory in his first visit to California as EWU's starting quarterback. "It was a big day for me to be able to come back here and compete," he said. "I had a good game in front of them and I had a lot of fun."
On Eastern's pre-game radio show, Nichols and Eller recalled competing against each other in high school in 2004 while Eller was at Red Bluff High School. Red Bluff beat Cottonwood earlier in the season, but in the playoffs, Nichols was victorious. Eller intercepted Nichols in the playoffs but was hurt on the return and did not play the remainder of the game as Red Bluff suffered its first defeat of the season.
4.0 Student Tom McAndrews Semifinalist for Draddy Trophy: Senior 4.0 student-athlete Tom McAndrews was one of 153 semifinalists -- 40 from the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision -- for The National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame (NFF) 2007 Draddy Trophy, presented by HealthSouth.
As one of those 153 student-athletes, he was among the candidates for the NFF 2007 National Scholar-Athlete Awards. However, he was not among the list of finalists announced on Oct. 25.
McAndrews, a 6-foot, 240-pound tight end is a double major in finance and economics at EWU. He will complete his bachelor's degree in December 2007, and then begin work sometime soon on his master's in business administration.
With a perfect 4.0 grade point average, he has been named to the Dean's List 12 out of a possible 12 quarters at Eastern. He is expected to be selected to the Big Sky Conference All-Academic team for the fourth-straight year in 2007. He will be nominated for ESPN The Magazine Academic All-America honors and for a NCAA Postgraduate scholarship.
McAndrews was the 2006 recipient of the "Iron Eagle" Award for EWU Football academic and athletic achievement. He was awarded a Trustee's Scholarship (2006), Washington Promise Scholarship (2003) and Red Reese Scholarship (2003). He also became a member of Beta Gamma Sigma Honor Society (2007).
He scored the first touchdown of his Eastern career against UC Davis on Sept. 15, 2007, on an 8-yard reception in the fourth quarter of the 41-31 win. Mainly used as a blocking tight end, fullback and on special teams, he entered the 2007 season with 12 catches for 125 yards in 29 games played (five as a starter). In 2005 he was EWU's Most Improved Player and helped Eastern Washington win Big Sky Conference titles in 2004 and 2005, earning berths in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs both seasons.
His community service activities include serving as a PLUS (Program Leading to Undergraduate Success) Facilitator in business law for the EWU Academic Support Center (2006). He was an intern as Community and Economic Development Assistant for the Cheney community/EWU campus development group called Pathways to Progress (2005). He has also been a volunteer for Harvest Food Bank, Spokane Guild School, Habitat for Humanity and the Cheney School District.
McAndrews was also a 4.0 student at Mead High School in Spokane, Wash., where he was the 2003 Valedictorian.
Wulff on Resiliency of His Team: "There is great resiliency on this football team. They are a great team -- they get along with each other and they enjoy being around each other. These players are a lot of fun for the coaching staff to be around. We have faced a lot of obstacles over time, so being behind doesn't faze them. We were down 14 at Montana and came back without any hesitation. I didn't feel like it would be any different against BYU. Despite the margin, I didn't think we ever went into a shell."
Eagles Versus Football Bowl Subdivision Members: Since 1982 when it became a member of the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision, Eastern is now 7-15 all-time versus Football Bowl Subdivision teams. A 35-17 win over Connecticut on Sept. 8, 2001, snapped a five-game losing streak versus FBS foes. Here is Eastern's complete list of games versus FBS members since 1983.
Year - Opponent - Result
1983 - Cal State-Long Beach - W, 20-17
1985 - at Cal State-Long Beach - W, 30-23
1986 - at Cal State-Long Beach - L, 34-35
1990 - at #10 Houston - L, 21-84
1994 - at Utah State - W, 49-31
1996 - at Boise State - W, 27-21
1996 - at Idaho - L, 27-37
1997 - Idaho - W, 24-21
1998 - at Idaho - L, 14-31
1999 - Idaho - L, 21-48
1999 - at Boise State - L, 7-41
2000 - at Oregon State - L, 19-21
2000 - at Boise State - L, 23-41
2001 - at Connecticut - W, 35-17
2002 - at Arizona State - L, 2-38
2003 - at San Diego State - L, 9-19
2003 - at Idaho - W, 8-5
2004 - at Air Force - L, 20-42
2005 - at San Jose State - L, 21-35
2006 - at Oregon State - L, 17-56
2006 - at #6 West Virginia - L, 3-52
2007 - at Brigham Young - L, 7-42
EWU Plays in Front of Largest Crowds in School History in 2006 and 2007: Eastern's 2007 game at sold-out LaVell Edwards Stadium broke the year-old record for largest crowd the Eagles have ever played in front of. Strong winds, rain, snow and temperatures ranging from 37-45 degrees didn't keep many fans at home as the announced crowd of 64,522 was even larger than the stadium's listed capacity of 64,045.
Eastern's 2006 game versus West Virginia at sold-out Milan Puskar Stadium was attended by 59,504 fans -- the largest crowd by nearly 20,000 fans the Eagles have ever played against. The previous record was 39,581 set at Arizona State in 2002. Eastern's game at Oregon State in 2006 is now the fourth-largest at 38,071. Below is a list of the 14 crowds in excess of 20,000 the Eagles have ever played against.
Attendance - Opponent - Date - Result
64,522 - at Brigham Young - Oct. 20, 2007 - L, 7-42
59,504 - at West Virginia - Sept. 9, 2006 - L, 3-52
39,581 - at Arizona State - Aug. 31, 2002 - L, 2-38
38,071 - at Oregon State - Aug. 31, 2006 - L, 17-56
34,389 - at Air Force - Sept. 11, 2004 - L, 20-42
30,782 - at Oregon State - Sept. 2, 2000 - L, 19-21
27,323 - at U.S. International - Oct. 28, 1967 - W, 44-19
25,493 - at Boise State - Oct. 14, 2000 - L, 23-41
23,739 - at Montana - Oct. 15, 2005 - W, 34-20
23,329 - at Montana - Nov. 15, 2003 - L, 10-41
23,226 - at Montana - Oct. 6, 2007 - L, 23-24
21,981 - at Boise State - Oct. 9, 1999 - L, 7-41
21.487 - at Boise State - Sept. 21, 1991 - L, 17-31
21,145 - at San Diego State - Aug. 30, 2003 - L, 9-19
Big Sky Defensive Player of the Week Lance Witherspoon and Quarterback Matt Nichols Lead Eastern to Impressive Win: Sophomore quarterback Matt Nichols returned from a stomach contusion to throw for 257 yards and three touchdowns to help the Eagles pull away from 11th-ranked Montana State for a 35-13 Big Sky Conference football victory Oct. 13. But the play of Big Sky Conference Defensive Player of the Week Lance Witherspoon was also very noteworthy as he earned the league's defensive player of the week honor for his efforts.
Witherspoon, who missed one full game and parts of two others with a high ankle sprain, led the defensive charge as Eastern out-gained MSU 475-315 in total offense. In the second half, the Eagles had a 248-101 advantage as they scored the final 21 points of the game.
Nichols completed 15-of-24 passes a week after throwing 59 times at Montana in a 24-23 loss. He finished with 300 yards of total offense against the Bobcats as the Eagles rushed for an additional 183 yards en route to a 475-yard day on offense. He had 203 yards of offense in the second half alone, and was not sacked in the second half after getting sacked twice in the first half.
"We had to settle him down at halftime," said Wulff. "I am really proud of him because he came back and played well in the second half after being rattled physically. He ran the ball effectively to get us some key first downs and he was accurate, so he did a really good job."
Witherspoon returned to his starting position to register a team-high and career-high 10 tackles in the win. He was credited with four unassisted tackles and six assisted stops. He had one sack for a loss of eight yards, and three other tackles for loss totaling 10 yards. His sack came on third down and led to a MSU punt with Eastern leading 28-13 in the third quarter.
"It's nice to have Lance back -- we have missed him for awhile now and it hurts our defense not having him," said Wulff of the junior from Federal Way, Wash. "Having him back, we are a better defense."
Boyce Selected as National Offensive Player of the Week by The Sports Network: For years, Aaron Boyce has watched his good friend Rodney Stuckey take his tremendous basketball ability to the national stage. Now it's Boyce's turn.
After a record-breaking performance at Montana on Oct. 6, the sophomore wide receiver was selected by The Sports Network as the NCAA Football Championships Subdivision Offensive Player of the Week.
Boyce, a 2005 graduate of Kentwood High School in Kent, Wash., had the fourth-most catches in Big Sky history with a school-record 17. He finished the 24-23 loss to top-ranked Montana with 232 receiving yards to rank second in school history.
"It's pretty rewarding, but it would have felt better with a win," said Boyce, whose team had a 565-289 advantage in total offense in the game. "It was a frustrating game to lose and sort of puts a chip on our shoulder. We came up short but that adds to our hunger to play better and win next time."
Boyce played just one season of football at Kentwood and was better known there as a teammate of Stuckey, who led Kentwood to the Washington State 4A Championship in the 2003-04 season. Stuckey went on to earn national Freshman of the Year honors at Eastern, as well as a pair of honorable mention All-America accolades, before becoming a first-round draft choice by the Detroit Pistons in last June's NBA Draft.
"Aaron is a converted basketball player who is becoming a really good football player," said Eagle head coach Paul Wulff. "He has a lot of upside and still has room for improvement. He has a bright future ahead of him if he keeps working hard."
Boyce had long catches of 41, 37 (touchdown), 28 and 24 yards, and caught six passes for 116 yards in the third quarter alone against the Grizzlies. He only had one catch for seven yards in the first quarter. He played much of the game at an inside receiver position usually held by fellow sophomore Tony Davis, who missed the game with shoulder injury.
"He had a great day, especially considering he was playing a new position," said Wulff. "He did a great job adapting and caught everything that was thrown his way. It was a very solid performance."
Boyce was four catches away from the Big Sky single game record of 21 set by David Pandt of Montana State against Eastern Washington in 1986. The previous school record for catches was 13 set on three previous occasions -- 1968 by Bob Picard, 1976 by Tom Bassett and 1986 by Jon Vea.
His yardage mark ranks only behind the record of 264 set by Jason Anderson in 1994 against Montana when he had a 99-yard pass reception. Eastern lost that game to the Grizzlies, also in Missoula, by a 49-29 margin.
"I've never been around a receiving performance like that, let alone a game when a team has thrown it 59 times," added Wulff. "Hopefully we'll see that kind of production down the road as those players and our offense continues to develop."
Nichols and Boyce Produce Record-Breaking Game to Remember: A victory would have made it that much sweeter, but at least the sophomore passing duo of Matt Nichols-to-Aaron Boyce has a couple of school records to show for a disappointing 24-23 loss to Montana on Oct. 6. But best of all, the pair of sophomores will have two more cracks at the Grizzlies ahead of them in the next two seasons.
Nichols had a school-record 37 completions on 59 attempts for 451 yards -- all career highs in just the 15th start of his EWU career. His yardage total was the third-most in school history and just 35 yards from the school record of 486 set by Todd Bernett against Montana in 1994.
Sophomore receiver Aaron Boyce had the fourth-most catches in Big Sky history with a school-record 17. The record is 21 set by David Pandt of Montana State against Eastern Washington in 1986. The previous school record for catches was 13 set on three previous occasions.
Boyce finished with 232 receiving yards to rank second in school history behind the record of 264 set by Jason Anderson in 1994 against Montana. Eastern lost that game to the Grizzlies, also in Missoula, by a 49-29 margin.
Thanks to a defense that was dominant against the Grizzlies, Eastern had a huge, 565-289 advantage in total offense. Eastern had 26 more offensive plays than Montana and had a six-minute edge in time of possession. But Eastern couldn't establish a consistent running attack and that led to Nichols throwing the ball 59 times while the team rushed just 29 times. The Eagles were scoreless the first six times they had the ball, then scored on four-straight possessions to take a 20-14 lead. However, Eastern managed only a single field goal in its last six times with the ball and came up a single point short in its upset bid.
Only two other times has an Eastern quarterback attempted more passes -- Rick Worman versus Nevada (10/12/85) and Tommy Thompson against Puget Sound (11/16/68). The previous record for completions was by Josh Blankenship against Western Oregon (9/14/02). The only Eastern quarterbacks to throw for more yards were Bernett and the player Nichols replaced, Erik Meyer, who had 470 against Sacramento State (10/29/05).
Boyce had long catches of 41, 37 (touchdown), 28 and 24 yards, and caught six passes for 116 yards in the third quarter alone. He only had one catch for seven yards in the first quarter. Nichols had just 22 yards in the first quarter, but then had 185 in the second quarter, 163 in the third and 82 in the fourth.
Nichols' totals for passing yards and total offense (478) are both the top performances in the Football Championship Subdivision thus far this season. Boyce also has the top performances for catches and yards. Interestingly, No. 2 in passing yards is Portland State's Brian White (442) and second in receiving yards is PSU's Tremayne Kirkland (225 on 14 catches) with performances they had in a one-point, 44-43 loss to Northern Arizona on the same day as the EWU-Montana contest.
Wulff on Receiver Aaron Boyce and Passing Game Versus Montana: "We felt like we could throw the ball if we could protect the quarterback and if Matt figured out where he was hot and where he wasn't. Some of the routes were designed to go to Aaron. When it was there, Matt hit him. Matt is very comfortable with Aaron. When you do that there are going to be some statistical numbers out there, but I'm not a big fan of statistics. I'm a big fan of winning."
Boyce on His Big Day: "With the zone coverage Montana was playing, in film study we saw that we could take advantage of that. We just ran the routes we had practiced all week. Our coaches had a great game plan that put us in spots to make plays. I'm always thinking I can get open, but I wasn't paying much attention (to how many catches I had). I was just running what we practiced. It just happened to be my day today."
Nichols on Performance Against Montana: "I calmed myself down and played like it was practice. I didn't let any of the pressure of the crowd get to me. I just made plays when they were there. Our line protected me well all day and our receivers were getting open. I felt like I had it -- almost every pass I threw was on target."
Nichols on Scoring 20 Points in Four-Straight Possessions: "We felt like our passing game was going well. We felt like we could move down the field whenever we wanted. Momentum was just going our way."
A Taste of the Eagle-Grizzly Rivalry: In a series that has provided plenty of drama over the years -- including 2007 -- Montana now leads the all-time series 23-10-1. Eastern is 4-12-1 in Missoula, 5-10 in home games and 1-1 in games played at neutral sites. In six of the last 12 meetings between the two teams, both teams have entered the game nationally-ranked.
Eight recent games in the series that have been decided by margins of 10 points or less are the exclamation points in a rivalry that has seen the Grizzlies come out on top 23 times in 34 meetings. The winner has usually piled up points and yardage by the ton as evidenced by Eastern's 697 yards of total offense in 1986, 658 yards in 1997 in a 40-35 win, 564 in a 24-23 loss in 2007 and 541 yards by the Eagles in a 34-20 win in Missoula in 2005. In fact, in the last 22 meetings the winning team has averaged 33.9 points. In six of those 22 games the two teams have combined for at least 70 points, including a 41-31 Grizzly win at Spokane's Albi Stadium in 2000.
As for suspense, that one's covered too. In 2007, Eastern kicked a go-ahead field goal with 2:20 to play before top-ranked Montana kicked the game-winner with 26 seconds to play after converting a fourth-and-10 play. In 2004, Montana blocked a 28-yard field goal attempt by the Eagles with 18 seconds remaining as the 23rd-ranked Eagles fell to the fifth-ranked Grizzlies 31-28 in a showdown for first place in front of a Woodward Field record crowd of 10,754. In 2002, Eastern beat the No. 1 ranked and unbeaten Grizzlies 30-21, ending Montana's record-tying winning streak in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision at 24 games. It was the first Big Sky Conference loss for UM head coach Joe Glenn, and snapped Montana's record winning streaks of 25 Big Sky games in a row and 13 league road games in a row. And in the process, the Eagle victory opened the door for Montana State and Idaho State to share the conference title with the Grizzlies.
Here are the six matchups in the last 12 seasons when both squads have entered the game nationally-ranked:
2005 - #12 Eastern Washington 34 at #2 Montana 20 (in Missoula, Mont.)
2004 - #5 Montana 31, #23 Eastern Washington 28 (in Cheney, Wash.)
2001 - #3 Montana 29, #15 Eastern Washington 26 (overtime in Missoula, Mont.)
2000 - #9 Montana 41, #18 Eastern Washington 31 (in Spokane, Wash.)
1997 - #17 Eastern Washington 36, #2 Montana 35 (in Missoula, Mont.)
1996 - #1 Montana 34, #20 Eastern Washington 30 (in Cheney, Wash.)
Brynsen Brown and Tony Davis Have Two of EWU's Longest Non-Scoring Plays: Sophomores Brynsen Brown and Tony Davis now own two of the longest non-scoring plays in school history after having long receptions in back-to-back games against Idaho State and Portland State.
Davis had a non-scoring 78-yard reception from quarterback Matt Nichols against ISU on Sept. 22 that ranked as the second-longest non-scoring pass play in school history. It ranks only behind the 82-yard connection from Erik Meyer to Raul Vijil in Eastern's 2004 playoff victory over No. 1 ranked and top-seeded Southern Illinois.
In Eastern's next game against PSU on Sept. 29, Brown had a non-scoring 85-yard reception that broke Vijil's record. Eastern's longest non-scoring rush in recorded school history was 80 yards, so Davis and Brown own two of the four longest non-scoring plays in recorded school history.
From 0-3 to 3-0: Eastern, 3-0 on the season, matched its win total from a year ago with a 34-7 victory over Idaho State on Sept. 22. Eastern had a 27-0 lead at halftime and had a 391-100 advantage in total offense when it took that advantage.
It was Eastern's first road trip of the season, and the Sept. 22 date equals EWU's latest road opener since 1987. Each of Paul Wulff's seven previous seasons as head coach had begun with games on the road.
Eastern hasn't started a season 3-0 since beginning the 1997 season with four-straight wins en route to a 12-2 finish. The Eagles were just 3-8 overall and 3-5 in league play last season after winning Big Sky Conference titles and earning NCAA Football Championship Subdivision playoff berths each of the previous two seasons.
Eastern started the 2006 season with losses to NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision opponents Oregon State and West Virginia, as well as a setback to NCAA Division II Central Washington.
Wulff on 3-0 Start Setting Up Team for a Successful Season: "It sure does. It gives us an opportunity to have success, it helps the program to grow, it helps recruiting and it helps the school. It's very challenging when you have to play a very difficult schedule early in the year. It feels like you are always trying to make it up the whole year. It's all about direction and what you are trying to accomplish with your program."
Wulff on Nichols After Three Games: "He's done a nice job and has worked hard. He's very committed to being a good football player and his commitment has shown up by his improvement. He still has a lot of things to get better at, but hopefully we can build off each week's performance. It's very important that we do that. He's one of the hardest-working guys I've ever been around."
Happy 60th Birthday Coach Wulff!: Paul Wulff won't be 41 until Feb. 25, 2008, but that didn't stop his players from giving him a birthday wish on the plane flight home from EWU's game at Pocatello. The flight attendant wished Wulff a happy 60th birthday over the loudspeaker, which resulted in a roar of applause and laughter from the team. Upon arrival in Spokane, Wulff began an immediate investigation to identify and punish the culprit. Initial reports blamed the quarterback.
Brayton Big Sky Special Teams Player of the Week: Junior Fritz Brayton was selected as the Big Sky Conference Special Teams Player of the Week after his performance in Eastern's 34-7 victory over Idaho State.
Brayton punted six times for a 47.7 average, with a long punt of 53 yards and two downed inside the Idaho State 20-yard line. The average field position for ISU was their own 20-yard line. In the second half, he had punts that were downed at the ISU 8 and 9 yard lines.
Brayton is a transfer from Washington State University and 2004 graduate of Westview High School in Portland, Ore. He is taking the place this season of Ryan Donckers, who averaged 42.4 yards per punt as a senior to rank third in school history. His career average of 40.5 also ranks third.
Brayton's father, Fritz Sr., was a wide receiver at Washington State from 1971-73. The junior Brayton is the grandson of WSU baseball legend Bobo Brayton and his cousin Tyler Brayton plays in the NFL for the Oakland Raiders.
Jarrett Helps Lead Impressive Effort by Defense: Safety Bryan Jarrett, one of just four seniors on the starting defense, had seven tackles and a key first-half interception in Eastern's 34-7 road win at Idaho State.
His interception at mid-field and 36-yard return led to a field goal that gave Eastern a 3-0 lead. He also had a touchdown-saving tackle in the second half, and had two other tackles that led to an Idaho State punt (in the first half) or loss of the ball on downs (in the second half).
Eastern would go on to score 24 more points -- including 10 more points off turnovers -- to take a 27-0 lead at halftime. When Eastern took its 27-0 lead, the Eagles had a 291-100 advantage in total yards. Idaho State scored its first points with 9:09 left in the game on a 92-yard drive. Idaho State finished with 400 yards, but 296 came in the second half.
The Eagles forced five turnovers against ISU, including three in the first 18 minutes of the game.
Jarrett, a 2003 graduate of Puyallup, Wash., High School, hopes to put an injury-plagued 2006 season behind him. He started Eastern's first three games and last three games in 2006 at free safety, and finished the season with 48 tackles despite missing two games and five starts with an ankle injury. He had 16 tackles in back-to-back games late in the season versus Northern Arizona (10/28/06) and Weber State (11/4/06), finishing with a season-high nine stops against the Wildcats. As a junior, he earned first team All-Big Sky Conference honors. He started Eastern's last eight games at whip safety, taking over for injured starter Gregor Smith and then never relinquishing his position. Jarrett played the 2003 season at Western Washington University where he started four of the nine games he played.
Eagles Add JC All-America Safety: Two-time junior college All-America defensive back Terry Mixon joined the Eastern football program on Sept. 11 and was able to play for the Eagles four days later against UC Davis. He finished with five tackles in his Eagle debut.
"He did well with the limited plays he received," Eagle head coach Paul Wulff said. "But that's how it is going to have to work for him right now. We'll try to get him a little more each game and get him ready. He's not in great shape but he's getting there. And he has to learn the system a little bit. Obviously he will be a great benefit for us."
Mixon left the Washington State University program the previous week after coming to the Cougars from Grossmont Community College near San Diego. Since classes don't start at EWU until Sept. 26, Eagle head coach Paul Wulff was able to get Mixon admitted and enrolled at EWU. It was a much-needed boost for an Eastern team that lost three safeties for the season after just the first game of the year because of injuries.
"We were very fortunate to acquire somebody on such late notice," said Wulff, who lists Mixon as 6-foot-1, 225 pounds. "We have a huge need right now at safety because of the three season-ending injuries we've already had at that position."
Wulff said Mixon could possibly play at free safety, but most likely the rover (strong safety) position. Senior Gregor Smith (shoulder), sophomore Jesse Hoffman (elbow) and freshman redshirt Ethen Robinson (Achilles) have been lost for the season at free safety.
In 2006 as a sophomore at Grossmont, Mixon was ranked by JCFootball.com as the No. 1 safety in the nation. As a sophomore, he repeated as both an All-Foothill Conference first team pick and junior college All-America selection. He was All-California Region III first team and helped his team to 10-2 record and a second-round berth in state playoffs. He was named conference player of the week three times.
As a freshman, he helped Grossmont to a 13-1 record and the California State Championship. He was a four-time Foothill Conference Player of the Week. He earned all-conference first team honors and was named a junior college All-American.
Mixon was a quarterback and defensive back at Dominguez High School in Compton, Calif. He started at quarterback as a senior and rushed for almost 800 yards and 12 touchdowns and added 12 touchdown passes. He was a SuperPrep All-Far West selection (No. 70) as a defensive back. He had over 100 tackles, along with five interceptions, four forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries.
He was born Dec. 20, 1985, in San Diego, Calif. His parents are Timothy Mixon and Betty Randall.
First Big Sky Player of the Week Won by Nichols: One game doesn't make a season, but the sophomore football campaign for Eastern Washington University's Matt Nichols has gotten off to an impressive start after a not-so-impressive season as a freshman redshirt.
The quarterback from Cottonwood, Calif., equaled a 20-year school record with six touchdown passes to lead Eastern to an easy 52-13 non-conference football victory over Montana-Western in EWU's season-opener Aug. 31 at Woodward Field in Cheney, Wash.
As a result, he was awarded with the first Big Sky Conference Offensive Player of the Week honor of the 2007 season. It was the first of what is hopefully many conference honors in the still young career of Nichols. He also earned team offensive player of the week accolades as well.
Nichols completed 20-of-26 passes for 229 yards against the Bulldogs as he tied the TD passes record originally set by Rob James in 1987 against Weber State. His passing efficiency rating of 227.06 was much better than the 109.0 rating he had in 2006 as a redshirt freshman.
"He did good things, he was very accurate and he ran the offense like we coached him to do," said EWU head coach Paul Wulff. "I think he's gained some confidence."
In his debut season, Nichols had just eight touchdowns the entire season and equaled a school-record 17 interceptions. The first start of his career came against nationally-ranked West Virginia on Sept. 9, 2007, when he completed 13-of-25 passes. His talent allowed him to start 10 games in 2006, but his inexperience and inconsistency caused him to be replaced in five of those outings.
Wulff on Sophomore Debut for Nichols: "The way he was practicing we thought there was a chance he would do well in this first game. We felt like we had better athletes outside at the receiver positions, and we knew that if we gave him enough time, he would be able to hit them. And that's what he did. His accuracy was good and I think of the six incompletions he had, three were dropped balls -- they were right in their hands."
Wulff on Reason for Early Success for Nichols: "The (biggest reasons) are last year's experience and the amount of work he has put in to get better. He's gotten to know his teammates better and doesn't have receivers that are freshmen to throw to. That is just part of college football and the maturation you have to go through. We went through that last year and we're better now because of it."
Lower Division Opener Something New: For a change, Eastern got to see how it feels to open the season on the other end of the collegiate football food chain.
A 52-13 win over Montana-Western marked the first lower division opener for Eastern since 1997. It was also the first time Eastern opened the season at Woodward Field since 1997, when Eastern finished 12-2 and advanced to the "Final Four" of the Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs.
In eight of nine seasons from 1997-2006, Eastern opened the season on the road against a Football Bowl Subdivision foe (formerly I-A). Just once in those nine seasons -- a 35-17 victory at Connecticut -- has Eastern opened the season with a victory.
Eastern Has Burning Desire to Improve: Eastern is coming off a 3-8 finish last year that included a 3-5 record in Big Sky Conference play after losing all three of its non-conference games. Eastern head coach Paul Wulff is expecting his team to be championship contender once again after sharing the Big Sky Conference title in both 2005 and 2006 and advancing to the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs both seasons.
"I think there is a burning desire to get back to playing well and playing good football," he said. "That includes coaches and players. We have built enough expectations of success in our program that last year was not acceptable. We will prepare ourselves as well as we possibly can to come back this season and play better."
Eagles Are Still Youthful: Eastern enters the season with much more experience under its belt than last year, but the Eagles are still young. In the team's opener against Montana-Western, only three seniors were in the team's starting lineup on defense and four were on the starting offense.
All four of those seniors on offense are linemen as Eastern returns a pair of past All-Americans (Matt Alfred in 2005 and Rocky Hanni in 2004), as well another All-Big Sky tackle in Zach Wasielewski. The lone non-starting senior on the offensive line, Julian Stewart, is academically ineligible to play in 2007 and has been replaced by freshman redshirt Brice Leahy and sophomore Chris Thomas.
"That was a little bit of a hit, but we do have some experience there and it is an area that needs to be a strength," said Wulff of losing Stewart. "They are a group that should play well and get us out of the gate and play well early. There is a lot of pressure on those guys to perform well."
Eastern's offense will be led by sophomore quarterback Matt Nichols and five other sophomores expected to play key roles as offensive skill players. They include wide receivers Tony Davis, Aaron Boyce, Jeffrey Solomon and Brynsen Brown, as well as tight end Nathan Overbay. Solomon is injured and will probably redshirt.
"All of those youthful players have good experience," Wulff said. "We are still going to be a youthful football team, but I do believe we should be a good football team. How fast we grow as the season progresses is really going to be the indicator of how well we end up doing at the end of the season."
Wulff on Progress of Team: "This team continues to grow. We aren't there yet but we're on the right track. I think as we go along this year and in the next couple of years, this team is going to be pretty good."
Wulff on Alexis Alexander and Dale Morris: "They are emerging as our best ballcarriers. Toke Kefu gives us good balance in there with those two guys. We have a good chance to be very good at that position. But they have to stay healthy and to continue to work hard to get themselves in great condition. And our offensive line has some work to do but the makings are there. We have to get them rolling and executing a little better."
Wulff on Young Receivers: "They've worked hard and put themselves in a position to make a lot of improvement. Now it's about producing on game day. We expect big things from them and we should. They have some youth, but they also have some experience. We are going to need them to make plays. Tony Davis is going to do a lot of different things. I think that fits his talent."
Wulff on Applying for Sixth Year for Gregor Smith: "We don't even have the results from his MRI yet to know exactly what the possibility is to get himself healthy again. We have to go back through and look at all the time he's missed -- counting this year. I don't know all the rules and details yet to see if he qualifies for a sixth year, but I would like to think he does and we will apply for it."
Wulff on Alexander Earning Repetitions at Running Back: "He's handled it great -- he gets to carry the ball more. It was becoming clearer that when we put the ball in his hands more good things happen. It's something we've thought about over the summer and has evolved in camp. We have to get the ball in his hands. He's good enough to catch it and good enough to run it. As long as he keeps producing and playing at a high level he's going to carry the ball. We'll make sure he helps this football team and he clearly does. He's a tough guy to tackle."
Wulff on Dale Morris: "So far Dale is healthy and getting in football shape. He's missed a tremendous amount of football -- it's basically been a year since he even put his pads on. But anybody who misses a year in their sport is going to be a little rusty. Hopefully as the season progresses we'll see him continue to improve and break off a lot of that rust. He's doing a nice job in camp to get himself in shape."
Eagles Play Six Home Football Games: Eastern will open a six-game home schedule on Friday, Aug. 31, with a non-conference home game versus Montana-Western. After a bye week, Eastern plays another non-conference game against UC Davis on Sept. 15.
Big Sky Conference play begins at Idaho State on Sept. 22, followed by the EWU Athletics Hall of Fame Game on Sept. 29 against Portland State. After playing at Montana on Oct. 6, Eastern hosts Montana State on Oct. 13.
A difficult road trip at NCAA Division I Bowl Division (formerly I-A) member Brigham Young follows on Oct. 20, then the Eagles play at Sacramento State on Oct. 27. Eastern's Homecoming game is Nov. 3 against Northern Colorado, and the Eagles conclude the regular season with a road game at Northern Arizona on Nov. 10 and a home game versus Weber State on Nov. 17.
Last season, Eastern finished 3-8 overall and 3-5 in the Big Sky Conference with a schedule that included two NCAA Division I Bowl Division members West Virginia and Oregon State. The Eagles, young and inexperienced at several positions including quarterback and wide receiver, closed the year with a convincing 40-6 victory over Idaho State.
Eastern is 7-0 all-time against Western Montana, but hasn't played the Bulldogs since 1982 when both were affiliated with NAIA. Montana-Western is still a NAIA member while Eastern is now a member of the NCAA Division I Championship Division (formerly I-AA).
UC-Davis is also in the NCAA Division I Championship Division and is a member of the Great West Conference. The Aggies, who were 6-5 in 2006, will be eligible for the postseason for the first time since 2002 when it was still a member of NCAA Division II. In the only meeting between the two teams, Eastern beat UC Davis 24-6 on Nov. 19, 2005, at fog-shrouded Woodward Field.
Brigham Young finished the 2006 season ranked 15th in the USA Today Coaches Poll and 16th in the Associated Press top 25. The Cougars won their final 10 games, including a 38-8 victory over Oregon in the Pioneer PureVision Las Vegas Bowl to finish the season with an 11-2 record.
The Cougars finished the season ranked fourth nationally in passing offense (323.5 yards per game) and total offense (465.5). The BYU offense also ranked fifth in scoring offense with an average of 36.8 points per game. Additionally, the Cougars had a 167.08 passing efficiency rating on the season to rank second nationally.
Defensively, the Cougars finished the season ranked 10th in scoring defense, allowing just 14.7 points per game. BYU ranked 16th in passing efficiency defense (106.2) and 38th in total defense (319.2).
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 Bowl Division teams. A 35-17 win over Connecticut on Sept. 8, 2001, snapped a five-game losing streak versus I-A foes. Eastern has lost its last four since beating Idaho 8-5 in 2