Ewu Must Crank It Up A Notch Against Big Sky Foe
OK, so maybe numbers don’t lie. But in the case of tonight’s 6:05 Big Sky Conference college football opener between Eastern Washington and Portland State, they certainly withhold a good portion of the truth.
Eastern comes in 2-0, having outscored its opponents 101-21. The Eagles lead the nation in total offense (615.5 yards per game) and boast the league’s top two passers in Harry Leons (200.16 efficiency rating) and Griffin Garske (188.12). They also have the league’s No. 1 and No. 3 rushers in Rex Prescott (109 yards per game) and Mike MacKenzie (97.5) and the league’s most prolific scorer in wide receiver Jeff Ogden (six touchdown catches).
PSU is 0-2 and has been outscored 81-7. The Vikings rank eighth in the Big Sky in every major offensive category and no higher than seventh in any defensive category.
So why is Eastern coach Mike Kramer worried?
“The first reason is that they’ve played two football teams that we haven’t played,” Kramer explained this week while preparing his travel roster for tonight’s Civic Stadium matchup.
The Vikings opened the season on the road against Fresno State (35-7) and Idaho (46-0), a pair of Division I schools, while Eastern was feasting at home on Rocky Mountain College (63-7) and Eastern Oregon (38-14), a couple of NAIA cream puffs.
“They (Vikings) are probably as anxious to play a team at their level as we are to play a team at our level,” Kramer said. “I don’t think either team has answered a whole lot of questions yet.”
The Eagles, ranked No. 21 nationally in both The Sports Network and ESPN/USA Today I-AA polls, have learned they have quality depth at most positions - including quarterback, where Leons has thrown for 396 yards and six touchdowns without an interception and Garske has thrown for 304 yards and three TDs, while being intercepted only once.
The two shared snaps almost equally in the first two games, but Kramer said that might not be the case tonight.
“We’re pretty much set with Harry being the starter and Griff being the guy who still needs a chance to play some and develop,” he explained. “So, we’re probably going to go with Harry longer, depending on how he’s going.
“Still, it’s a really healthy situation between the two of them. It’s probably the most positive two-quarterback system I’ve ever been around.”
PSU has a much different situation under center, where neither senior Ty Parsons nor redshirt freshman Jimmy Blanchard has emerged as the leader coach Tim Walsh wants.
Parsons, who completed just 17 of 39 passes for 166 yards and no touchdowns, is scheduled to start.
The Vikings didn’t play last Saturday, and the week off gave starting tackle Kurt Strauss and guard John Andreas time to heal. “We’ve had four of our top six offensive linemen out (during the first two games),” Walsh said.
“We knew we’d be limited offensively, but I hoped that our special teams and defense would make something happen.”
Tonight’s game will be the first Eastern has played on artificial turf.
“Because of that and the quality of athletes we’ll face, we’ve been stressing to our guys all week that everything is going to occur faster,” Kramer said. “Collisions will be harder, cuts are going to be quicker and more precise - the flow of the entire game is just going to be a lot quicker than we’ve seen so far this year.
“So, we’re going in wide-eyed - I hope.”
Portland State leads the series 11-7-1 and has beaten the Eagles in four of the last six meetings… . EWU is 3-6 at PSU and has lost the last two games played here. … A win would give Eastern its first 3-0 start since 1986… . Vikings strong safety Ralph McGill is listed as questionable with an ankle sprain, and Eagles defensive tackle Avont Grant is out with a knee sprain… . PSU hasn’t scored an offensive touchdown.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Graphic: Eagles at Portland State