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EWU sports live chat transcript (Sept. 15)

Jim: Hello, Eastern fans (and all the rest of you). Let's talk Eagle football!

Casey (guest): How hurt is Kupp? I'm hearing it’s going to be a number of weeks. I can understand the team trying to keep the info under wraps.

Jim: Hello, Casey. Kupp's status is the talk of Cheney. He had a Grade 1 shoulder sprain, which is the mildest of three grades. That's the good news. Bad news is he isn't practicing; Baldwin mentioned on Tuesday that Kupp's status is uncertain for Saturday's game against Northern Iowa.

Jim: But please share what you're hearing.

Casey (guest): I know Baldwin downplays virtually everything, and rightfully so, but how concerned should they be about the defense?

Jim: Very concerned, as usual. One starting LB (Kacmarcik) is out with a concussion and the other (Zamora) is questionable with a strained hammy. That's huge against a mobile quarterback like Aaron Bailey of UNI.

Casey (guest): I heard, hearsay of course, that reports from his hometown are of up to 8 weeks. That it’s a pretty serious injury.

Jim: "Reports"?

Jim: I've checked the media in Yakima (Kupp's hometown) and I'm not seeing anything. The word from EWU is "wait and see."

Guest6104 (guest): Receiving corps solid. I’m more worried about "D" injuries. Update?

Jim: Yes, they are! Did you catch what Spokane product Stu Stiles did last week at NDSU? Incredible, and it speaks to the development of almost all of the receivers under Baldwin and WR coach Nick Edwards.

Guest6104 (guest): So Calhoun and Kupp has been playing great seems like we may be getting thin at LB

Jim: Yes, that's my main concern right now: linebacker depth.Calhoun and Ketner Kupp were solid against NDSU, but another injury at LB would be scary.

Guest6104 (guest): Looks like weather went to hell. Hope Gage has big hands haha

Jim: Yeah, the weather forecast for Saturday is depressing: high of 65 with showers. That's down 15 degrees from what I saw just yesterday - weird. That won't help EWU.

Casey (guest): Someone that spoke with his mom apparently... lol I'm not putting any stock into it obviously but thought I would ask. I agree...our receiving core is solid.

Jim: Still, that's hearsay.

Guest9573 (guest): The defense looks better than last year but still getting burned on third downs that are keeping drives alive for opposing offenses. Any chance we see our defense bring more pressure?

Jim: It depends on the opponent. Bringing pressure was the thing to do against a pocket passer like Luke Falk at WSU - not so much against Stick last week. The UNI QB is probably the best runner EWU will face but a mediocre passer - thoughts on that?

Guest6104 (guest): Might as well broadcast to all opponents that Coop is not well, not practicing. They have to prepare for him either way.

Jim: They will anyway - trust me!

KHatch_Brecek: Isn’t that an advantage for us, though? UNI plays in a dome.

Jim: I'm thinking that bad weather favors a running team like UNI.

Guest6104 (guest): KHB again with great point

Jim: Upcoming are some questions about the EWU defense, so let's switch gears ...

Guest1767 (guest): I think the reason for our porous-looking defense is the fact our offense either scores so fast or they go 3 and out, the defense is out there constantly. Any defense will give up yards when that happens

Casey (guest): Injuries are never great to deal with, especially at LB,but I'm concerned that our game plan is going to be "bend not break" strategy that we seem to employ all the time. We rarely bring pressure even on 3rd and long. That's asking a lot of the secondary.

Jim: Third down has been a sore subject for Eagle fans since the debacle of last November, when NAU, Montana and PSU went a combined 34-for-50 (68 percent). Not surprisingly, EWU lost all three games.

KHatch_Brecek: There wasn't much pressure on the 3rd down at NDSU. Why wouldn't be rush Easton and make him move, or throw quicker?

Casey (guest): I'm not trying to be harsh about the defense. I think we have solid personnel. It’s just frustrating to watch year after year that our game plan rarely changes. "Hold on and hope the offense doesn't make any mistakes and can outscore them." We need a running game that can chew some clock occasionally.

Jim: That trend is continuing, as EWU ranks next to last in FCS in third-down conversion defense (giving up 19 for 29). And that's despite some good pressure at WSU. Being thin at LB won't help that.

 

Jim: Also that starting roverback Cole Karstetter is out for the year with a torn Achilles.

Guest6104 (guest): I hate bend not break I want more attack and nasty

KHatch_Brecek: Yes, agree with Casey. Our offense doesn't give the defense a lot of time to rest.

Guest9573 (guest): I would say the defense has been in a funk since the Towson late game winning TD drive

Casey (guest): All the more reason to bring some pressure.

Jim: Ohh, that Towson game. .. Even worse was the Illinois State playoff game in 2014, when EWU just looked helpless. That game may have prompted to change in defensive coordinator.

Jim: My point is that Jeff Schmedding is in his second year as DC and may feel confident enough with his secondary to bring more pressure. You must have faith in your corners, and I think Eastern's are pretty good.

Casey (guest): Our 1st and 2nd down calls are great. 3rd down we seem to forget what we did the first two downs. Like a guy having a great date and then suddenly farts during dessert.

Jim: Interesting analogy, Casey - please stick around for the whole hour!

Casey (guest): We were in a funk that entire Towson game. We couldn't get a stop to save our lives. It started before that though.Can you remember the last time you had faith in the defense getting a stop? I can...2010. Changing DC didn't change the game plan unfortunately. I was excited for Schmedding to take over...but still...no pressure

KHatch_Brecek: How did you feel we looked on Saturday overall, Jim?

Jim: I saw what you guys did - Eastern struggling against a mobile quarterback. What bothered me more was seeing Montana hold UNI to 14 points last week. Is Montana's defense that good, or was UNI in a funk after winning the week before at Iowa State?

Guest1767 (guest): Jim, has Schlicting (sp?) been practicing? If not is one of the freshman OL suiting up

Jim: My apologies, I didn't check on that at practice. For what it's worth, Schlichting is still atop the depth chart at left guard.

Casey (guest): I'm not going anywhere. I love EWU football and the university as a whole. Travel to games, season tickets, all the goodies. Just feel like I'm watching a rerun. I don't want to get excited about our high flying offense when we know come November we will need stops to win games. No doubt we can score points but we cannot win shootouts every week.

Jim: Actually, the defense came through big time last year at Sac State, Idaho State and also in that crazy, windswept 14-13 win over Weber State. By that time, the offense was stagnating,remember?

Guest6104 (guest): Are we getting Sommer back this week?

Jim: Strange how this supposed mild knee injury has kept him out of two games. I recall talking to Matt during the final scrimmage - he thought he'd be playing at WSU.

Casey (guest): I do remember. I also seem to remember those teams not sniffing the playoffs. Its the inconsistency that is maddening.Like the coaches get scared against good teams and play "prevent"defense.

Jim: Good point, Casey, which IMO also is related to the Sommer injury. Without him, EWU is much less beefy on the D-line. They did well at WSU, but took a step backward at NDSU, I think. Too many backups are undersized.

Casey (guest): We have some guys that can play and wreak some havoc on defense. Turn em loose every once in a while. Even if it only forces the other teams to prepare for it. No team in the sky is worried about pressure from our defense.

Guest9573 (guest): Another issue with our defense is the lack of creating turnovers. Again, I think that coincides with our defense not being aggressive enough

Jim: I was about to bring that up. For several years, this team has struggled to force turnovers. Last year they had just 7 INTs and overall the Eagles were minus-7 in turnover margin.

Jim: This year, EWU is already minus-2 and has just one takeway. That was the Fettig INT just before halftime at WSU -huge because it set up a field goal that proved to be the difference.

Guest6104 (guest): Always remember we have it great... we could be WSU 0-2 and blaming everything else. Great time to be an eagle

Casey (guest): YES!!!

Jim: Yes, how about those Cougs? You should be following our excellent coverage of their woes on and off the field.

Guest9573 (guest): True, we could have the attitude of a JC softball team

Guest1767 (guest): Jim, where are you getting the depth chart? I can't find it on the website

Jim: My tip of the week: to get the EWU depth chart, you need to click on the PDF version of the weekly release.

Casey (guest): I don't buy that line of thinking. We should be thrilled because we aren't the Cougars? Our expectations should be higher. Last week we were competitive but we SHOULD have won the game.

 

Jim: Oddmakers (the guys who make a lot of money setting lines) had EWU a 23-pt underdog at WSU and a 20-pt dog at NDSU. If you look at it that way ...

Jim: On the other hand, nobody likes to play your guts out and lose in OT to the kings of FCS football.

Guest6570 (guest): Creating no turnovers and allowing 65% on 3rd down is a great recipe for losing games. We also had two great chances at game sealing picks that we just didn't make in Fargo.

Casey (guest): I think you can look at the Cougs vs the Bison and point directly to coaching. Leach was moronic with his defense while we drove down the field late. The Bison coach was wise to use up all 4 minutes on their final drive and ensure that no matter what our offense didn't get the ball back. We don't get to face Leach every week.

Casey (guest): They didn't make any money setting those lines.

Jim: Well, not THOSE lines. - Good point

Casey (guest): My hope is that we learn from last week and don't sit back this week and let NIU run all over us. When we force them into 3rd and long we need to bring pressure. Mix it up and give our defense a chance to force turnovers. On the bright side, our tackling has been much better this year.

Jim: Yes, very good tackling so far. I know that sounds odd after giving up 92 points in two games, but there seems to be more energy.

Guest9573 (guest): Agreed that our tackling is leaps and bounds better. Mitch Fettig has been a beast this year

Jim: UNI is an interesting offense. Most times, their QB either runs it or chucks it deep. That didn't work against Montana. How does Eastern handle that?

Guest6104 (guest): thanks Jim, I have been looking for the Depth Charts all fall.

Casey (guest): Our offense plays with a lot of confidence because we take shots and are aggressive. Our defense would benefit from the same attitude.

Jim: By "taking shots," do you mean bringing more pressure? I can't recall the last time Eastern was beaten deep - but does that mean they aren't taking enough chances?

Guest6570 (guest): Hope we can get off the field somehow on third downs! Remember last year their backup came in and started dealing and bailed them out.

Jim: That guy graduated.

Casey (guest): Have any of the guys in the backfield solidified the opportunity to tote the rock more? Or will it still be a committee.

Jim: At this point, senior Jabari Wilson is the main guy, but Baldwin prefers RB by committee. True freshmen Tamarick Pierce and Antoine Custer have impressed, so the future is bright.

Casey (guest): Is your question how will they handle it, or how could they handle it? I would say we load the box and make them beat us deep. I don't know that we would try that though. "Too risky." Yes by take shots I mean bring some pressure. Take some chances and make them beat us.

Jim: That's right - bring some pressure and make him beat you deep. I haven't seen much of that in the last two-plus seasons.

Guest9573 (guest): From what I read from the Montana game, UNI's qb couldn't hit the broad side of a barn. I say bring pressure and let him try to beat us with his arm

Jim: Yes, he was way off. I don't know enough about Montana's defense, however.

Guest6570 (guest): Good to see Pierce punch one in. Future might be bright at the RB position. Missed the first few minutes but Stu Stiles!!!!!

Casey (guest): Our backs look pretty solid. Would be nice to see one get in a groove. Build some confidence.

Jim: Incredibly, we haven't mentioned Gubrud, who after two games is the runaway passing leader in FCS. A strong game at NDSU, but down slightly from the WSU game. How do you think he does against a tough front seven from UNI?

Guest6570 (guest): Bailey really struggled throwing against us last year. Hope to see the trend continue!

David C. Edwards: I believe we will be fine this week. Next week in the Walk-Up (at Northern Arizona) is where I am really worried...domedhttps://chatroll.com/t.gifdoomed lately.

Guest1767 (guest): I see more of the same from Gubrud. He has that it factor going for him much like Bo Levi

Casey (guest): Stiles was great. If Kupp is 50/50 we should sit him as we are good enough at WR and we will need him later in the season. Our chances of winning the game will hinge on the defense and whatever game plan Schmedding comes up with.

Jim: Gotta make that QB beat you with his arm! He's a beast of a runner, and I dare say the most athletic opposing QB I've seen.

Casey (guest): I think we aren't mentioning him because we are neither concerned, nor super impressed. We sling the ball around the field every year and he has been tremendous but I think we expect that from our QB. That's why West was so disappointing last year.

Guest6104 (guest): I have confidence in any of the QB's. Gage makes good decisions missed a few throws last week but not a concern

Guest9573 (guest): Obligatory question about stadium renovations. I know the Gateway project is done but any word about Roos renovations?

Jim: Gateway hinged on getting a huge donation from one rich guy, and it didn't happen. After 4 1/2 years, we are back at the rumor stage; the latest ones are that they will stick with the existing stadium and make improvements at some point. The biggest problem IMO is getting athletic and academic sides on the same page - bureaucracy!

Guest9573 (guest): Love Gubrud, a good passing qb with the threat to run fits best into our offensive scheme. West was too much of a statue last year.

Guest6570 (guest): Great front 7 but question marks in the back end. Gage's stats are crazy right now!

https://chatroll.com/t.gifDavid C. Edwards: I thought the D played well last week. A couple calls here and there would have been a different game.

Jim: Agreed.

Jim: Three minutes left before I get back to my feature on an Eastern running back who offers a great lesson in perseverance – Jabari Wilson.

Guest6570 (guest): Thanks as always!

KHatch_Brecek: This team has some real heart. The adversity they overcame at NDSU was unreal.

Casey (guest): Our D played well on 1st and 2nd down. Unfortunately there is that other down that we have to play.

Jim: Score predictions? I got ribbed for not submitting one last week, so here goes: EWU 38, UNI 27

Guest1767 (guest): EWU 35 NI 24

Guest6104 (guest): 42-32 Eags win @ the Inferno

Guest9573 (guest): Prediction: EWU wins by two scores although it's a close game throughout.

Guest6570 (guest): I think they were 70% plus on third down. I'd have to look.

Guest6104 (guest): Thanks again Jim.

Guest6570 (guest): Bailey still can’t throw, we play some inspired run D. Eags win 35-30.

Casey (guest): 12 of 19 I think on 3rd down. That means we are forcing 3rd down A LOT but can't get off the field. NIU will be in more 3rd and short and that isn't good for us.

https://chatroll.com/t.gifCasey (guest): EWU 45-38. Thanks Jim!

Guest9573 (guest): Thanks Jim!

Guest8457 (guest): thanks Jim

Jim: Thanks, everyone - We'll do it again next week.




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Jim Allen
Jim Allen joined The Spokesman-Review in 1984. He currently covers K-12 education and women's basketball.

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