I’m about to load up the company rig and set out on the six-hour drive back from Bozeman to Spokane, so any definitive word on the health status of Eastern Washington running back Taiwan Jones probably won’t come until Monday.
Stay turned, and read on for more about the Eagles’ 30-7 Big Sky Conference loss to Montana State in which Jones sustained a still-undiagnosed injury to his midsection and played only one down in the second half.
For openers, I’ve included some links to stories about Saturday’s loss. You can read my gamer that ran in Sunday morning’s S-R here, and you can access the game story that ran in the Bozeman Daily Chronicle here. I’ve also included this link to a notebook filed by MSU beat writer Will Holden, along with this link to a column written by Chronicle sports editor Tim Dumas.
Among my personal observations about Saturday’s loss were:
— The Eagles offensive line, despite the post-game praise handed out by quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell, was overmatched against a big, physical Montana State defense that kept Mitchell scrambling for his life on way too many plays. And while there were some holes opened for the running, they seemed to close too quickly for anyone other than Jones to exploit.
— The kicking game is worrisome at best, and it’s difficult, from the press box, to know why. Mike Jarrett has plenty of leg, but his two field-goal misses — from 38 and 27 yards — were weak attempts, which might have been the result of suspect snaps. In any event, its something that needs to be shored up in a hurry if the Eagles hope to improve their productivity in the red zone.
— MSU pretty much abused Eastern’s secondary, which had no answer for the Denarius McGhee-to-Elvis Akpa passing combination. Akpa, who came into the game with only eight catches in the Bobcats’ first three games, hauled in five for 117 yards in the first half, alone, helping set up two of MSU’s three first-half touchdowns. Akpa did not have a catch in the second half, however, after the Eagles started giving senior cornerback Jess Hoffman some much needed help over the top.
— Few defensive linemen impact a game the way MSU’s Zach Minter did on Saturday. The 6-foot-1, 265-pound sophomore not only picked off a Mitchell pass and returned it 53 yards for a first-quarter touchdown, but also batted down two crucial third-down passes at the line of scrimmage in the third quater.
—This is a loss the Eagles can handle, considering the difficult nature of their early Big Sky Conference schedule, which continues next Saturday at Weber State. Montana, Eastern, Montana State and Weber were the four teams picked to finish in the top four in a preseason poll of both Big Sky coaches and members of the media who cover the league.
— The loss of Jones for any considerable amount of tiime would be a loss the Eagles could not handle.