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Eags hold final preseason scrimmage

Eastern Washington University held its final football scrimmage of fall camp on Saturday, and head coach Beau Baldwin once again used the hour-long scrimmage to get a closer look at some of the young players on his roster.

You can read an unedited version of the story that will appear in Sunday’s S-R below.  And check back on Tuesday night for a first-read of the EWU season preview that is scheduled to run in Wednesday’s S-R.



Second-year head coach Beau Baldwin once again put the football in the hands of his lesser experienced players on Saturday as Eastern Washington University staged its final scrimmage of fall camp in front of a intimate gathering of interested onlookers who found their way to the school’s Sports and Recreation Center practice fields.



The 59-play scrimmage, featuring a large cast of backups still hoping to work their way onto the preseason depth chart, was scheduled to be held at Woodward Field, where the Eagles will open their 2009 season against Western Oregon next Saturday.



But Baldwin, after checking the Woodward turf following Friday night’s rain showers, decided to take the scrimmage back to the practice fields – which ended up being one of the biggest disappointments of the day.



“The only real downside was not being able to be on the game field,” Baldwin said following the scrimmage, which lasted about an hour.  “That would have been better, because sometimes it’s harder for guys to get as jacked up when the have to come back to the same practice fields they’ve been on for 20 days, or whatever.



“But once they got started, and once they got competing, I thought they competed well.”



Senior quarterback Matt Nichols, a three-year starter who watched last Saturday’s scrimmage from the sidelines, did so again on Saturday as Baldwin continued auditions for the role of Nichols’ backup.



And a pair of redshirt freshmen – Jeff Minnerly and Scott Burgett – did what they could to take advantage of another opportunity. The two combined for 187 yards of total offense, with Minnerly, a former Ferris High School standout, completing seven of 13 passes for 41 yards, and rushing for 21 more and a touchdown.



Burgett connected on just two of seven passes for 35 yards, but helped ease the sting of his lone interception by connecting with senior wideout Brynsen Brown on a 15-yard scoring play.



Both Baldwin and Nichols seemed genuinely impressed by the improvement of the Eagles’ young quarterbacks since last Saturday.



“I didn’t think any of the groups last week on offense operated very well,” Baldwin said, “and I’m not saying they operated great today by any stretch.  But both Scott and Jeff led long drives and were able to operate better and move the chains. And they were less sloppy in certain areas.”



Nichols also felt his two main understudies have made some big strides in recent weeks.



“Last week they seemed, maybe, a little bit in over their heads in kind of forgetting the things that come along with a live situation,” he said. “I know how you can sometimes get into that old practice mode where you’re never going to get hit, no matter what, and there’s no play clock and not much pressure.



“That all changes in scrimmages like this, though, and I felt Scott and Jeff both went through some learning pains last weekend. But today, they came out and really took control of the offense.”



Minnerly, who set up his own 2-yard scoring run with a 28-yard pass to freshman Nicholas Edwards, said he has tried to make the most out of the opportunities he has gotten the past two weekends.



“I approach these scrimmages like they’re my game days,” explained the 6-foot-1, 190-pounder. “It’s what the coaches want, I know, and it helps me get a lot out of them.



“There’s going to be situations that arise during the season where some guys without a lot of experience are going to need to step in and perform, and his is a good time to get some of us guys some valuable experience.”






Redshirt freshman running back Chase King carried eight times for 27 yards to lead all rushers and remains in the battle for a backup position behind sophomore Taiwan Jones, who was held of out Saturday’s scrimmage because of a mild groin pull, and sophomore Tyler Hart. … Senior linebacker Makai Borden (hamstring) and sophomore linebacker Zach Johnson (blood clots in leg) both missed Saturday’s scrimmage and will not play in next Saturday’s season opener against Western Oregon. Baldwin said Borden might return for the Eagles’ non-conference road game against California on Sept. 12, but added it could be mid-October, or later, before Johnson is cleared to play again. … Despite some other nagging injuries, Baldwin expects to have all of projected starters – except Borden and Johnson – available next Saturday. … Junior cornerback Will Edge, who suffered a dislocated ankle and broken fibula in his left leg last spring and was expected to miss most of the 2009 season, has made a remarkably quick recovery from his gruesome injuries and played in Saturday’s scrimmage.




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Jacob Thorpe (@JacobThorpe) Sports reporter Jacob Thorpe covers Washington State University athletics. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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