Sorry about the late post, but a late night in Missoula, followed by a leisurely drive back to Spokane put me a little behind. And by the time wrapped up some quality times with the grandkids and was finally able to acess the S-R’s website it was time for dinner.
Still, I’ve gone ahead and posted some links to stories about Eastern Washington’s hard-luck football loss to Montana on Saturday, along with some additional post-game quotes from Eagles coach Beau Baldwin and a couple of his players.
Read on. And be sure to leave any thoughts you might have about Saturday’s game — or the guys that offciated it — right here.
For openers, I’ve posted this link to the game story that appeared in Sunday’s S-R, along with the link to what our columnist John Blanchette thought of the game and the fact that Eagles quarterback Matt Nichols — despite his terrific career as four year started — finsihed 0-4 against the Grizzlies.
You can read what The Missoulian’s Fritz Neighbor wrote about theh game here; you can access the post-game report filed by EWU’s sports information office here, and you can find out more on the other Big Sky games that took place on Saturday right here.
On a bit of a different tangent, I’ve also added this link to a Missoulian story on Montana coach Bobby Hauck’s recent run-in with the school’s student newspaper for its decision to publish a story about the alleged assault by a pair of Grizzly players.
As for those additional post-game comments I mentioned …
On the game in general: “Like I told our guys in the locker room, obviously, it comes down to a play here or there in a ballgame like that, and it can be on any unit at any time on any play. But I was really proud of the way our guys competed when we got down.
“That doesn’t mean there’s any such thing as moral victories. We knew it was going to be an absolute fight, and they made one more play than we did at the end.”
When asked about which play, specifically: ”You can go back to a lot of different plays. I mean, there was the punt (return) — it could be any thing and any time that sometimes doesn’t even stand out, even to that fourth down (completion on Montana final scoring drive) where there were two flags on the play. I mean, that was kind of a weird deal at the end. But that’s football, and you have to rebound from whatever situation comes up.
On halftime adjustments: “We didn’t make a ton of adjustments. We were able to have some success early, and then we just weren’t able to finish some drives in the red zone. But (placekicker Mike) Jarrett did a good job of still getting us some points — right up until halftime when he made that big kick for us and made it a one-score game.
“In the second half, we stayed with the game plan we had worked on. You still have a few tweaks here adn there, but we just went to a few things we hadn’t gotten to in the first half. And our offensive line did a great job protecting on a few of those, and Matt (Nichols) made some great throws downfield that were big for us at that point.”
When asked if he was surprised that Montana went for it on 4th and 2 from near midfield to keep its late game-winning scoring drive alive: “A little bit. It was a great call (short pass play), and I give them credit for taking that shot. It takes guts, and I give them credit for making that call and making that play.”
On remaining goals, now that post-season play seems unlikely: “Our goal is to win this week’s game, and that’s been our goal every week. We’ve gone into this year with the mentality that we’re going to make small-term goals — spring goals, fall camp goals and weekly goals.
“We go in with ideas of things we want to improve on going into the week. Some of the things we wanted to improve on this week was cleaning up little things and certain focus — things I think hurt us in the Weber game, and I thought, for the most part, we did. Obviously, you’re going to get some false starts — they love those here (in Missoula) — but it’s the reality of it. There are going to be a few of those. But I felt lilke, with the exception of the early (punt) snap over the head (and out of the end zone for a safety), we stayed relatively clean in a lot of situations, so I was pround of our guys for doing that.
“So, going into next week, we’re trying to win. We’re trying to win next week, and then we’ll see where that puts us. It’s not going to be an easy task, because we’ve got another great ball club (Montana State) we’re going to be up against.
On Marc Mariani’s 82-yard punt return that resulted in a touchdown and gave Montana a 34-27 lead with 10:11 left in the game: “It was huge. It was a big play. Give him credit. We’ll go back and look at the film, and we’re obviously going to be upset with ourselves because we probably had shots at making a tackle and stopping him. But at the same time, I give the player credit. He was able to make a play, and he certainly did. He’s a great player and I have a lot of respect for the way he plays the game and for his effort and his character.
“He was out there and made a play, but it was one of those things where we were able to still respond from that (with a 74-yard scoring drive that tied the game at 34 with 4:58 left), and that’s what you’ve got to find out. That’s what I love about our group, is that no matter what the situation, everyone stayed together and found a way to respond. Yeah, they ended up making more more play, and I give them credit. But in a lot of situations — beind down two scores in the second half on the road and in an environment like that (at Washington-Grizzly Stadium), a lot of teams might think, “Okay, this is it,” and they’re going to pack it in.
“But I was proud of our guys for stepping up in that environment, and in that situation.”
On Aaron Boyce’s ruptured Achilles tendon, which ended the senior wide receiver’s college career: “I feel bad for him, because he’s a senior and he’s put so much time in. He’s one of those guys where football for him is more December to August than for most players. He puts time in in the film room, and he absolutely loves the game, so feel for him.
“I feel truly bad, but I know he is going to (still) be a great leader for those young guys in the meeting room and out on the practice field. Aaron is going to keep being a captain, I know he is. ”
SENIOR QUARTERBACK MATT NICHOLS
On the game in general: “There’s not much you can really do other than be disappointed and think back on some things you could have done a little bit better. I knew it was going to be this kind of a game coming into it; I knew it was going to be a little bit of a shootout.
“Obviously, (the Grizzlies) have some very talented players. Their tight end (Steven Pfahler) made some amazing catches. They made a lot of plays, and so did we. We knew it was going to come down to teh end, and for some reason, Montana always seems to come out on top in these kinds of games, and they did it again, so give them credit.”
On the loss of Boyce: “The loss of the game, obviously it stings. But I think the loss of Aaron is going to ahve a little bit of a ripple effect the rest of the season. He’s been my go-to guy for three and a half seasons now, and they’re telling me he’s probably out for the season.
“It was one of those things, where at the end of the game, we had a couple of freshmen receivers (Nicholas Edwards and Brandon Kaufman) out there. They were steppoing up and making some plays, and they were fired up and ready to play. We have some gusy who can fill in a little bit, and there some guys to lean on in my other two senior receivers (tight end) Nathan Overbay and (slotback) Tony Davis so we’re going to be just fine. But having an all-American like (Boyce) go donw is never an easy thing to deal with.”
On where the Eagles go from here: “Obviously, we’re in a situation where we have to regroup at wide receiver because of the loss of Aaron. That’s going to be a little bit more on me — to be able to tell those freshmen receivers where they’re supposed to be. And it’s something — being a four-year started here — that I’ll be able to do. Those two (Edwards and Kaufman) are very athletic, very talented and they’re going to be able to get it done.
“They made some plays today when they were kind of thrown into the fire a little bit. This is not an easy place to come out and all of sudden be taking all the reps and not just coming in to spell somebody. They were coming in and having to make plays at the end of the game. Those guys are competitive. They want the football and they’re always talking to me on the sidelines.
“It’s one of those situations where we’ll probably be very disappointed for a couple of day adn then come back for practice on Tuesday and be ready to go. I’ve been in these situations more than once, so I know how to respond to it. I know we’re going to go out and just try to play our best game agaisnt Montana State next week.”