Eastern erratic in rout of NAIA’s Montana Western

Montana Western defensive back Jay Owens, left, tackles Eastern Washington wide receiver Shaq Hill after a first-half reception. (COLIN MULVANY PHOTOS)

What’s not to like about a 32-point win?

That depends on whom you spoke with after Eastern Washington’s 41-9 win Saturday night over Montana Western, a victory that was comfortable and erratic at the same time.

Eagle quarterback Vernon Adams was 27 for 30 for 360 yards and five scores, but the Eagles fumbled five times. Eastern was 9 for 12 on third-down conversions, yet committed 10 penalties for 112 yards.

“From my standpoint we’re just sloppy right now, and that’s all of us,” Eastern coach Beau Baldwin said. “I’m very happy to be 2-0, but I know we’re a long way from where we need to be.”

Sandwiched between the big stage of last week’s win over Sam Houston State and next week’s game at Washington, the Eagles were alternately brilliant and sloppy against the Bulldogs, an NAIA program that didn’t back down from the challenge.

Said linebacker Miquiyah Zamora: “It was a little tough, but I had a chance to clean up a lot of things against a very good O-line that gave us a lot of looks.”

Not that the result was ever in doubt. The tone was set in the first four minutes, as the Eagles needed just five plays to go 92 yards, highlighted by Mario Brown’s 50-yard dash down the left sideline. Three plays later, Brown scored the game’s first touchdown.

A 55-yard touchdown pass from Adams to Shaq Hill put the Eagles ahead 27-0 just five minutes into the second quarter.

But Montana Western put together several time-consuming drives – dominating that category by a two-to-one margin in the first half – and got on the board with a 34-yard field goal that made it 27-3 with 2:27 left in the second quarter.

That drive was abetted by a fourth-down holding penalty by the Eagles, who had just one infraction a week earlier.

Consistency wasn’t helped by the absence of several injured players, including linebacker Ronnie Hamlin and safety Jordan Tonani. On offense, the Eagles were without receiver Cooper Kupp and center Jase Butorac.

Coincidentally or not, it was a bad center snap that led to one of the most exciting plays of the night. Lined up in shotgun formation, Adams let a low snap go through his legs, but scrambled and found Cory Mitchell for a completion.

The most memorable play of the night belonged to backup running back Cody Hecker, whose double-hurdle run in the fourth quarter also drew the biggest cheer of the night.

Any nerves among the crowd of 9,116 were calmed by Adams’ fourth touchdown pass, a 30-yarder to Cory Mitchell that made it 34-3 six minutes into the third quarter.

“It feels good, but we have to come back tomorrow and watch some film,” Adams said as the Washington game moved to the front burner moments after Saturday’s game was over.

“We want to show that we’re the best team in Washington,” Adams said while lamenting the fumbles and other mistakes that presumably would be punished more severely by the Huskies than they were by the visitors from Dillon, Montana.

Montana Western responded with its best drive of the game, a four-play, 63-yard effort capped by Tyler Hulse’s 27-yard TD pass to George Sherwood.

Two minutes later, Eastern receiver Kendrick Bourne caught his second TD of the game, a 15-yard reception from Adams that made it 41-9.

Mitchell finished with 10 catches for 113 yards and two scores, while Bourne had five for 69 yards.

Brown enjoyed his best game as an Eagle, carrying nine times for 108 yards.

Notes

Cornerback Frank Cange suffered a knee injury in the first quarter and was driven from the stadium. His status for next week is uncertain. … Adams, a redshirt junior, has 84 touchdowns, tying him with Erik Meyer (2002-2005) for second in school history and eighth all-time in the Big Sky Conference. The school record is 96, set by Matt Nichols (2006-2009).

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