Eastern bursts forth in fourth
EWU hands Baldwin his first win with team
It wasn’t the dominating performance many were expecting from Eastern Washington University’s highly touted and 14th-ranked football team.
But the Eagles, after letting Division-II underdog Western Washington hang around for the better part of three quarters, finally figured enough things out on defense to put away the Vikings 52-31 in Saturday night’s home opener, played in front of a Woodward Field crowd of 7,499.
Tied at 31 heading into the final period, Eastern (1-2) closed with a flurry, scoring 21 unanswered points to give first-year head coach Beau Baldwin his first victory as an Eagle.
It was a 10-yard scoring pass from quarterback Matt Nichols to Aaron Boyce early in the final period that gave Eastern the lead for good. When Tyler Hart, a backup freshman running back, broke loose on a pair of scoring runs in the final 8 minutes, the Eagles made the final score deceivingly lopsided.
Western (1-2), behind the play of senior quarterback Adam Perry and his cast of rangy wide receivers, shredded Eastern’s defense for 515 yards while keeping the Eagles’ high-octane offense off the field for long stretches of the game.
Perry, despite taking some vicious hits, completed 24 of 37 passes for 349 yards and two touchdowns as the Vikings rolled up 26 first downs and won the time-of-possession battle by more than 14 minutes.
“Senior quarterbacks like him live for games like this,” Baldwin said of Perry. “He played his heart out. I was really impressed with him.
“But getting the win still feels great.”
Fortunately, Baldwin had a pretty good quarterback of his own in Nichols, who admitted to being frustrated by Western’s ability to control the football.
“There was one point where I felt like I hadn’t been on the field for 45 minutes,” said Nichols, who threw for 281 yards and three touchdowns and directed the offense almost flawlessly when given the chance. “I don’t remember touching the ball, really, other than for about three plays, during most of the second quarter and then again in the third.
“They did a great job of keeping the ball away from us.”
The Eagles, who rolled up 506 yards of total offense – including 225 on the ground – led 24-7 following Dale Morris’ 18-yard touchdown run early in the second quarter. But Perry engineered two second-quarter scoring drives that resulted in a field goal and his 6-yard touchdown run.
When Perry marched his team 80 yards to open the third quarter and tied the game at 24, it looked like the Vikings were poised to spring a massive upset.
But Eastern’s defense, which stayed basic throughout most of the game, finally started getting some pressure on Perry and shut down Western’s offense following a 6-yard scoring pass from Perry to Zach Hekker that tied the game at 31 late in the period.
Senior defensive end Jason Belford, who finished with five tackles, including one of Eastern’s three sacks, indicated some of his teammates might have shown up a bit flat after playing so well in their first two games against Football Bowl Subdivision teams.
“The biggest thing we have to understand is when you come off playing two big games like we did at Texas Tech and Colorado and then go up against a good D-II school, you can’t get lax,” Belford said. “And that was our problem early. We just hadn’t woke up yet
“We took these guys a little bit for granted, and you can’t do that. These guys got up for us tonight just like we got up against those bigger schools in our first two games.”
Baldwin echoed Belford’s sentiments but insisted he was not surprised by the way Western got after his Eagles.
“I don’t buy into this ‘play up’ or ‘play down’ thing,” Baldwin said in reference to the different levels of competition. “These are two college football teams that are both fighting and trying to win. So it doesn’t surprise me that (Western) came in here and played some of the best football they’ve shown on film to this point. … I was really impressed with the job they did … but we definitely have to clean some things up and get better, and I’m confident we will.”
Eastern 52, WWU 31
EWU—Morris 3 run (Macias kick)
WWU—Dallas 30 pass from Perry (Lider kick)
EWU—FG Macias 27
EWU—Overbay 27 pass from Nichols (Macias kick)
EWU—Morris 18 run (Macias kick)
WWU—FG Lider 31
WWU—Perry 6 run (Lider kick)
WWU—Perry 1 run (Lider kick)
EWU—Davis 27 pass from Nichols (Macias kick)
WWU—Hekker 6 pass from Perry (Lider kick)
EWU—Boyce 10 pass from Nichols (Macias kick)
EWU—Hart 3 run (Macias kick)
EWU—Hart 30 run (Macias kick)
|Time of Possession||37:11||22:49|
RUSHING—Western Washington, Eldridge 23-104, Copsey 5-14, Perry 11-12, Sampson 2-6, Bolt 2-4. Eastern Washington, Morris 16-88, Hart 5-69, Alexander 4-53, Nichols 1-8, Kefu 2-7, Jimerson 1-0.
PASSING—Western Washington, Perry 24-37-2-349, Morgan 4-6-0-26. Eastern Washington, Nichols 18-24-0-281, Smart 0-1-0-0.
RECEIVING—Western Washington, McKee 10-152, McCann 4-75, Copsey 3-34, Dallas 2-36, Eldridge 2-24, Clark 2-16, Neumeister 2-12, Cullen 1-15, Hekker 1-6, Agyei 1-5. Eastern Washington, Davis 6-126, Boyce 4-69,
Overbay 2-39, Alexander 2-3, Brown 1-27, Martin 1-13, Hart 1-5, Morris 1-(minus 1).