Saturday’s Big Sky Conference openers between preseason favorites Montana and Eastern Washington played out in spectacular fashion in front of a record crowd at newly renamed Roos Field.
Read on for game-related links and some additional thought and comments from EWU coach Beau Baldwin.
Let’s start with this link to the game story that ran in the Spokesman-Review, and this link to what S-R columnist John Blanchette had to say about the outcome. You can take a look at the splendid work S-R photographer Chris Anderson at Saturday’s game here, and you can see what Montana beat writer Fritz Neighbor wrote about the game here.
Fritz also filed this post-game notebook for the Missoulian.
You can access the roundup of Saturday’s other games involving Big Sky Conference teams here,
And here are some addition comments from Beau Baldwin following Saturday’s victory:
On EWU’s special-teams play: “It was huge. We put an emphasis on special teams this year. We’re giving out special team awards and doing everything, from them eating first when we go to team meals, because we feel we needed to improve on that.
“That was an area, in the past, I sometimes felt Montana had an edge on us — going back to last year when (Marc) Mariani returned the punt for a touchdown late when it was tied. We weren’t perfect on special teams (tonight), but I felt like maybe we created it to be — just based on what I saw live — we created it to be an advantage for us.”
On Eastern’s 3-for-15 third-down defensive conversion effort: “That was a goal for us. I still want to better on third down, offensively, and we still need to improve in that area. But that was a goal.
“We set team goals everyweek and we change them every week … with the culmination being that game. And one of our gals — and a big goal — was to improve on both side of the ball on third down. I’m not sure where we were offensively (just 2 of five conversions) — not as good, I’m sure as to what I would like — but, defensively, we definitely stepped up in that area, and it proved to be huge.
“That’s the way, though, a Montana-Easter game might go. There are going to be some times where it’s a grind, and defensive teams are going to be the difference. I thought our defense carried us tonight.”
On digging out of an early 14-0 hole: “The best thing I can say about that was the attitude of the guys on the sidelines. No one panicked. No one thought, ‘Oh, no, w’ere done.’ It was similar to MSU last year when we were down 10 late. Everyone just believed and stayed with it. We didn’t try to abandon the run game and we didn’t try to change what we were doing. We just felt if we kept chipping away, we could get back in and eventually on top.
On last drive that set up Mike Jarrett’s late-game field goal: I told (quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell), ‘We just need to get into field goal range. We don’t need to score a touchdown, we can trust it.’ If a touchdown (opportunity) presents itself, then we can take a shot at it, but it never did. They kept their defense back, and as you saw, we chipped away with some underneath stuff — the dump-off (pass) to Taiwan and the slant to Greg Herd — and got ourselves into field goal range.”
On what he said to Jarrett before his field-goal try: “I don’t like to take to kickers at that point. Let them do their thing. I swear, though, that I heard that (thump) from way down here (on the sidelines). It was lound. He hit that thing perfect. That’s like when you need that drive on the last hole as a golfer to win a playoff and you just hit it pure.
“It was hit so pure, and I was just happy for the young man, because he’s worked so hard to get to this point.”
On whether this first win on the red turf might be the start to a tradition: “You know, it’s one game. Obviously, it was a huge game — you couldn’t have drawn it up any better in terms of winning — but it’s still one game. What we have to be sure of is that we don’t have kind of hangover going into next week. We have things going on — school starts next week — and we play an incredibly good Montana State team.
“So, we’d better enjoy it right now — we they should, they deserve it — and be ready and strapped on for a focused week agaiins Montana State.”