Wolves first test for Eagles

Eastern Washington University will open it's 2009 football season against Western Oregon, an NCAA Division II school based in Monmouth, Ore., at Woodward Field on Saturday. Kickoff is set for 12:05 p.m.

Due to the shrinking news hole in The Spokesman-Review, we will not be running detailed game advances on Eastern, Idaho or Whitworth on Saturdays this fall.  Those advances will be replaced by short, overviews that will run as part of our new scaled-down GameDay page.  So, rather than give you blog readers a early read of Eastern's overview, I will attemt to post a more in-depth weekly look at the Eagles upcoming game and opponent.

Read on, and please feel free to leave any thoughts you might have on Eastern right here.



Despite its lesser classification as an D-II school, Eastern coach Beau Baldwin expects Western Oregon to offer his veteran teams some imposing challenges -- much like Central Washington did when it upset the Eagles 21-14 in 2006 and much like Western Washington did last season when it played EWU to a 31-31 standoff for three quarters before eventually losing 52-31.

Western, which finished 7-4 overall and 5-3 in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference last fall, suffered some key graduation losses, but returns most of its top skill players -- including senior quarterback Josh Ridell and one of his favorite targets, wideout Shaun Kauleinamoku -- from its 2008 team.

Ridell, a 6-foot, 205-pounder, completed 58.2 percent (177-304) of the passes the threw last fall for 2,775 yards and 25 touchdowns.His efficienty rating, which includes 18 interceptions, was 150.2, and 37 of his passes went to Kauleinamoku, who piled up 573 yards in receptions and caught eight touchdowns throws.

The Wolves also return their top rusher in Ben Kuenzi, a 5-10, 225-pound senior, who ran for 751 yards and six TDs last fall.

You can access more on the Wolves here, and take a look at their 2008 team and individual statistics here.

"Playing (Western Oregon) is a great opportunity,"  Baldwin said. "They have a senior quarterback and a big receiver, and they're a great foot ball team; well-coached.  So, I think it's going to be a tremendous challenge for us and our guys, and we better not -- in any way -- get caught up in their classification."

Eastern's senior quarterback Matt Nichols insists the Eagles' are not overlooking the Wolves.

"I think we've attacked this game in the right way," he said. "Last year, we might have been talking a little too much about what was goign to happen at the end of the season, and the playoffs and kind of having this ultimate goal.

Right now, though, our sole focus is on Western Oregon. They're the only team I've watched on film. I haven't watched any film, really, on Cal (the Pacific-10 Conference power the Eagles will play in Berkeley, Calif., next Saturday) or team in our conference."

Nichols added he felt the Eagles are "a team that is ready to go out and play a game and see what happens."

You can access the weekly press release produced by EWU's sports information department here, and the Big Sky Conference's weekly football press release here.

Personally, I'm looking forward to seeing how Eastern's offensive line operates and what kind of holes it can carve out for Taiwan Jones, who could have a monster debut.

Again, feel free to share you opinions on all things Eags right here.




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