It's Montana Week for Eastern Washington, and we have some links below to Saturday's Big Sky showdown between the Eagles and Grizzlies in Missoula.
But the big news of the day is that the name of Eagles linebacker J.C. Sherritt, who is leading the Big Sky in tackles after his single-game school-record effort in last Saturday's home loss to Weber State, has been added to the Buck Buchanan Award Watch List.
You can read more on the announcement here, and you get an early read on the feature story on J.C. that will run in Friday morning's S-R below, as well.
There won't be any battle of the unbeatens in the Big Sky Conference. Weber State made sure of that by dumping the Eagles 31-13 last weekend. So, Saturday's matchup between Eastern and unbeaten Montana might be as good as it gets.
You can check out was EWU coach Beau Baldwin has to say about the unbeaten Grizzlies in this Big Sky notebook that ran in Thursday morning's S-R. In addition, Eastern's sports information department put out these notes on the upcoming game and this Q&A piece on Eagles quarterback Matt Nichols, who will get his last shot at beating the Griz.
I'll be back with more of Baldwin's thoughts on Saturday's game, and how the Eagles plan to operate out of their no-huddle offense in front 25,000 hostile fans in Washington-Grizzly Stadium on Friday. In the meantime, feel free to leave your thoughts on the upcoming game or anything else Eastern right here.
As promised, here's the feature story on Sherritt that will run in Friday morning's S-R:
Sherritt earns his bruises
Sunday soreness is a simple fact of life for most college football players.
But last Sunday’s soreness reached a new level for
“It was a tough morning all around,” admitted the Eagles’ junior strong-side linebacker. “I was definitely beat up and moving a little slow, but that’s what happens.”
Especially when you get involved in 24 tackles like Sherritt did against the Wildcats, setting a single-game school record, while also intercepting a pass and returning it 36 yards for one of only two EWU touchdowns.
The 5-foot-10, 210-pounder from
Even those who watch him at practice each day have trouble determining Sherritt’s greatest attribute as a sideline-to-sideline defender. But they all agree he has a special talent for running down ball carriers and closing the deal once he arrives.
“He has a great knack for sniffing out the football, and once he gets to it, he makes the play,” said Beau Baldwin, the Eagles’ second-year head coach. “He does not miss tackles.”
Linebackers coach Jeff Schmedding is a big fan of Sherritt’s non-stop motor.
“He doesn’t necessarily have that great size or blinding speed, but he plays full tilt for four quarters,” he explained. “You never see him jogging anywhere. He’s not tall, but he’s strong. He also has a good burst that always seems to get him around the football, and when you’re around the football, good things tend to happen.”
As a senior at
“We liked him a lot, and we knew he was going to be a good football player,”
What Baldwin and the rest of the coaches didn’t envision back then was Sherritt becoming one of the school’s all-time best at his position.
“Obviously, we didn’t put him in the realm of leading the league in tackles and being among the national leaders back then,”
“That’s why I give J.C. credit. We knew he could be a good football player here, but the reason he’s become a great football player is because of what he’s done on his own since he arrived.”
With 170 career tackles, Sherritt needs only 30 more to move into the top 25 on EWU’s list of leading career tacklers. And with another year of eligibility remaining, he is poised to eventually challenge Belzer’s career tackles record of 399.
Sherritt is quick to admit, however, that much of his success is directly related to the play for the four guys in front of him.
“Our front four right now is creating so much havoc that teams are having to focus double-teams on them,” he explained, “which makes getting to tackles a lot easier.”
But 24 in a single game?
“I really had no idea,” Sherritt said of his record performance against Weber. “I remember coming off the field and having (injured linebacker) Zach Johnson say, ‘Man, you’re making a lot of tackles out there.’ Even then, though, when my dad told me after the game how many I had, I was amazed.”
Unlike Schmedding, it would seem.
“Our scheme gives J.C. the freedom to run to the ball,” he explained, “and not many guys do that better than him. Obviously, being voted a captain, he does things right off the field, too. But when J.C. is on the field, he plays the way you always talk to your players about playing."
“He’s something special.”