Jim: Greetings, Eagle fans - let's chat!
Steven Christopher: Hi Jim! How about the Eagles' fantastic defensive turnaround last Saturday?!
Jim: Great third quarter - I'm curious how many people saw that coming, especially four straight three-and-outs.
KHatch_Brecek: What an ending!!!!
Guest33 (guest): So, how about a report on a certain shoulder. Know anything?
Jim: If you read the paper or follow me on Twitter you would know the answer. Which is that Cooper Kupp's status for NAU is a "game-day decision," according to Baldwin.
Steven Christopher: How about that Eagles defense last Saturday?
Jim: That's right ...after the game, LB Miquiyah Zamora told me that Custer's 2nd-half KO return was a huge emotional lift. Taking away the option by the UNI quarterback made a difference too.
EdubU10 (guest): Who's your money on to start at QB this week?
Jim: Baldwin didn't say, but I guess it's Gubrud - perhaps with a shorter leash, depending on how the game is going. What do you folks think?
Guest33 (guest): So impressed the defense in the second half! Haven't seen that in awhile! Questionable it is, huh?
Jim: Trivia question: What's the only Big Sky team that currently has a winning streak (that is more than one game) against the Eagles?
EdubU10 (guest): NAU
Jim: That's right: 28-27 two years ago and that 52-30 whipping last year at Roos.
KHatch_Brecek: Gubrud. The wind was a huge factor, don't you think?
Guest33 (guest): Gubrud starts with a shorter lease makes a lot of sense. That would be the ‘Jacks with winning the last two.
Jim: Back to QBs... The wind was a factor, because I think Gubrud seems like more of a finesse passer, with less power.
EdubU10 (guest): I think you go with Gage, but last week was a 180 compared to WSU
Jim: Also press coverage by the UNI defensive backs. Remember, WSU was playing off the receivers, allowing more underneath routes that play to Gubrud's strength. That was poor strategy by the Cougars, I think. I wonder what NAU will do after seeing film.
Steven Christopher: I'm wondering how long Jordan West will believe he is one of three equal possibilities when he never gets to play a down.
Jim: You have to feel for Jordan. He was the heir apparent to Vernon Adams, and even started four games in 2014, then got off to a great start last year before it all fell apart last November. And now it's his senior year and he's third behind two sophs.
EdubU10 (guest): Can we get the running game going this week?
Guest33 (guest): Now that the Eags are done with BCS front sevens, can they establish a little run game?
Jim: This is still a pass-first offense. I like that the coaches are giving the true freshmen RBs (Custer and Pierce) a chance to show what they can do. Custer offers a breakaway threat the Eagles haven't had since Forte in 2014.
Steven Christopher: Or really, since Taiwan in 2010.
Guest3669 (guest): What is the report on Jerrod Jones? Any freshmen OL making the trip to NAU?
Jim: Jones is listed as questionable with a knee injury suffered vs. UNI. That means he probably makes the trip. Sophomore Spencer Blackburn is the top backup and think true freshman Will Gram could make the trip because he can back up center and right guard.
Jim: Of course, the coaches don't share that info with me. I'll try to report that at the game via Twitter.
Guest33 (guest): Have to be excited for the future with the young line improving, and exciting frosh backs. I like how Custer is getting involved in the passing game and special teams.
Jim: "Involved" in special teams is an understatement. EWU doesn't win that game without Custer’s 93-yard KO return to start the second half. Anybody want to disagree with that?
Guest33 (guest): No disagreement here! What a spark!
EdubU10 (guest): It's great to have Shaq Hill back, he's having a great season so far. Really missed him last year.
Guest33 (guest): It's great to watch Shaq's comeback year
Jim: Shaq is off to a great start, with 16 catches for 213 yards. He's showing no ill-effects from the ACL injury.
prenny (guest): crazy how stacked we are at WR.... almost don’t miss Kupp.
Jim: I wouldn't go that far, but yes, talent abounds at WR.
KHatch_Brecek: Jim, what are your thoughts on the OL?
Jim: I think the OL seems to get better through the course of each game, especially the last two. The future looks bright -solid pass blocking so far; run blocking is a work in progress, IMO.
EdubU10 (guest): Also, it's nice to have a pass rush this year.
Jim: It was interesting how UNI struggled on offense after EWU took away the QB option.Made Bailey a thrower, and he didn't look as comfortable.
Steven Christopher: Don't you think NAU is kind of difficult to evaluate so far this season? I ask because they have played two FBS schools and done poorly, and then blew out a Division II school.
Jim: Actually, their second game was a 34-20 loss at FCS Western Illinois. But you're right: It's tough to gauge with that schedule.
Jim: Last year, NAU also started slow before hitting its stride in November. Their QB Case Cookus is quite good and is the feature of my Big Sky notebook this week. Did you wake up and read it? http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2016/sep/21/naus-cookus-off-another-strong-start/
Jim: Keep 'em coming guys ...half an hour to go before I finish my feature story on EWU's leading receiver this year. Wanna venture a guess?
Jim: That's right!
Guest33 (guest): Cookus and Butler are certainly a challenge. I feel better about this game having faced Faulk and Marks, plus scoring plenty on two of the best defense in the FCS. Battle-tested!
EdubU10 (guest): How does our secondary stack up to NAU's passing attack? Fettig and Bruce have been having a great year so far
Jim: Yes they are - they haven't given up many deep balls and they're giving solid run support. I'm also impressed with the sideline coverage by the corners (a very deep group this year).
Guest33 (guest): Bourne is under rated. Looking forward to reading the article.
Jim: Coaches have told me he'd be the go-to WR for almost any other Big Sky team. Don't forget, he was 4th in the Sky last year in receiving yards (and 15th nationally),
Steven Christopher: speaking of scheduling, let me get my little rant in now. Bill vehicle
Jim: The floor is yours ...
Jim: That schedule has been discussed almost since it came out, but how many of you can say you foresaw a 2-1 start?
Jim: I had them at 1-2 in nonconference games, and 6-2 in the Big Sky for 7-4 overall. Needless to say, expectations are higher now.
KHatch_Brecek: I'm going to be thrilled coming out of September at 3-1!!!!
Jim: As you should be.
Steven Christopher: scheduling question: Bill Chaves says we can't get teams east of the Mississippi to fly out here, and most of the less successful MAC teams won't schedule us either. So how does Montana get cupcake teams to come all the way from Pennsylvania and Mississippi?
Jim: It's all about the dollars ... Montana averages 25K attendance and can afford to pay those teams’ travel costs. EWU can't.
Steven Christopher: That was supposed to be MVC, not MAC.
Jim: Also, Montana isn't forced to schedule a big-payday game every year like most Big Sky schools.
Steven Christopher: With respect to financial guarantees,do you know how much WSU paid for the game with us?
Jim: I thought it was $450K .... Oregon paid the same last year, and I think UW paid $500K in 2014.
Jim: I'll have to double-check
Jim: On that note, here's a must-read on NCAA athletic department finances, compiled by USA Today. Lots of numbers,but it tells the tale of haves and have-nots:http://sports.usatoday.com/ncaa/finances/
Jim: Be sure to scroll down and see how much of EWU's athletic department finances are paid for by student fees. Those numbers hover in the background as the AD and the school administration wrestle with how to improve Roos Field.
Steven Christopher: Jim, you have said that in our team may only travel to conference games with 58 players. Is that a Big Sky rule, or an NCAA one? I ttried to count the Northern Iowa players last Saturday and it seemed like there were well over 60.
Jim: The NCAA rule states 58 when you travel to another FCS school. That rule is strictly enforced. I'm sure there were some UNI players wearing jerseys over their street clothes.
Jim: OK, back to the game we love ... NAU quarterback Case Cookus is a 6-4, 200-pound pocket passer, much like Luke Falk. I think EWU will find a way to bring decent pressure. Thoughts?
KHatch_Brecek: If defense plays like we did in the 3rd and 4th quarter, we will be just fine.
Jim: Yes, and we saw that even earlier in the WSU game against a pocket passer. Good pressure from early second quarter well into the fourth.
Guest33 (guest): Would love to see the Eags get to Cookus. If he has all day he picks us apart. I remember him being a bit more mobile than I thought he was going to be last year.
Jim: Yes, he's more mobile than Falk.
EdubU10 (guest): Agreed, if we can get to the QB and play like we did in the second half of UNI, we'll win by a couple scores
prenny (guest): Ebukam gets home for 2 sacks... I’m hoping for timely stops ...but expect a shootout
Guest33 (guest): Time for Samson to have a breakout game!
Jim: Recalling an earlier question, it's hard to gauge from that 73-3 blasting of New Mexico Highlands.
Jim: Speaking of which, would you prefer NAU's schedule: at a Pac-12 team, at an FCS team and home vs.Division II? Obviously that's easier than what EWU faced.
Steven Christopher: Our radio announcers feel he already has. He (Ebukam) hasn't had a lot of sacks or tackles for loss, but he's disrupted opposing backfield plenty.
EdubU10 (guest): How many turnovers do we create this week?
Jim: I say 2. That has become a very annoying stat: minus-7 last year and minus-3 already this year.
Steven Christopher: What's a turnover?
KHatch_Brecek: No way. I love our schedule, plus it’s worked in our favor, ha ha. It prepares us for post season, plus the NCAA committee will take it into consideration come playoffs.
Jim: Absolutely right,KHatch: with this schedule EWU is a lock to get in even at 7-4. Recall that NAU was 7-4 last year and didn't get in because of an easy non-conference schedule.
prenny (guest): I like a challenging schedule. get no credit for a D2 drubbing come playoff time... it they beat ya can kill a season
Guest33 (guest): Cookus really takes care of the ball. Going to be tough!
Jim: Four minutes left ... let's hear some predictions!
Jim: I have EWU winning 38-31...
Steven Christopher: Ditto--although it would be nice to play a couple of non conference FCS teams which aren't perennial Top 10s.
EdubU10 (guest): 49-42 EWU
prenny (guest): 51-41 Eags
KHatch_Brecek: 45-13 EWU
Guest33 (guest): 45-35 good guys!
Jim: That's a lotta points
Jim: OK, that's all for today. We'll do it again next week -thanks!