Eastern Washington's 16-0 win over Big Sky Conference rival Northern Colorado on Saturday, while satisfying to most of those watching from the Woodward Field stands, was far from a masterpiece in the minds of the Eagles' players and coaches.
Granted, the defensive effort was as good as I can recall. But Eastern's offense looked lost, at times, in sputtering its way to a mere 13 first downs and 292 total yards. There were also some obvious problems with the kicking game -- problems that could undoubtedly cost the Eagles'a game down the line.
Read on for more on what was behind EWU's lack of offensive production and several links to related stories about Saturday's game.
For openers, I've included this link to the game story produced by EWU's sports information department and this link to the post-game report -- complete with quotes from Bears coach Scott Downing -- that was filed by UNC's sports information office. You can access a roundup of all of Saturday's Big Sky games that was generated by the league office here, and you can read the game story that appeared in Sunday's Greeley Tribune here.
And now, about the Eagles' offensive shortcomings -- which included far too many momentum-killing penalties, just four of 16 successful conversions on third down and four sacks of senior quarterback Matt Nichols, who seemed to have trouble finding open receivers all afternoon.
Afterward, head coach and play caller Beau Baldwin had this to say about the problems on offense:
"Obviously, the penalties made us stumble in the second quarter. They just kind of stymied some of the rhythm, so we're going to have to go back and look and try to correct the errors that were occurring.
"We obviously have to be more disciplined."
Baldwin added that several of the false starts up front were the result of the defensive calls coming from UNC's defensive linemen.
"Their defense was making a few move calls that can sometimes mess with your cadence," he explained. "We've just got to be more focused on Matt's voice and not hear their defense's voice."
Nichols' inability ot find open receivers was at the root of at least two of his sacks. But on a couple of others, UNC was able to apply good pressure without bring the bltz -- and those fall on EWU's offensive line.
"There were a couple of times when they weren't blitzing but still got a little pressue on me," Nichols said. "But when I did have time, I was going through four or five of my reads and not seeing one person open, so those were more coverage sacks."
Still, the victory helped ease some of the concerns about the offense.
"Just getting the win is a big deal," Nichols added. "It's crucial that we start out 1-0 in league, or else we're playing uphil the rest of the season, trying to get those wins back. The Big Sky is just one of those conferences where you have to win every week to have chance to be there at the end."