Redhawks junior quarterback will test EWU in multiple ways
Matt Scheible won’t be the fastest, strongest or most athletic player scampering around on the red turf at Roos Field on Saturday.
But Southeast Missouri State’s junior quarterback will still be justifiably centered in the crosshairs of Eastern Washington University’s defense when the teams tee it up at 1:05 p.m. in their Football Championship Subdivision second-round playoff.
“He’s going to present a lot of problems,” Beau Baldwin, the coach of the No. 1-ranked and fifth-seeded Eagles (9-2), said of the 6-foot-1, 200-pound Scheible, who led the ninth-ranked Redhawks (9-2) to their first Ohio Valley Conference championship and an automatic berth in the 20-team FCS playoff field.
“He’s an accurate passer and good runner, and the challenge of dealing with him ranks right up there with trying to stop the quarterbacks from Nevada (Colin Kaepernick) and Portland State (Connor Kavanaugh), even though the Portland State kid got hurt early against us,” Baldwin said. “We have to have the same defensive mindset as we did against those two, because he’s another guy who can hurt you in a lot of different ways if you don’t account for him on every play and get a hat on him.”
Scheible’s passing numbers, with the exception of his 61.7 completion percentage (103 of 167 with only one interception) and his 135.49 efficiency rating, are hardly eye-popping. But his 833 rushing yards and average of 5.4 yards per carry have earned Baldwin’s respect and attention.
“They run a ton of formations and they give you a ton of different looks,” Baldwin said. “And they do enough with their quarterback-type runs – whether is with a straight run or off some of their option stuff – to make defending him very difficult.”
Scheible, by his own admission is not gifted with great speed. But his knowledge of Southeastern coach Tony Samuel’s complex offensive scheme is unmatched.
“I think he sells himself short, as far as his speed in concerned,” Samuel said of Scheible, who played in 10 games and started two as a true freshman in 2008, before becoming a full-time starter last fall. “He’s been a part of us from the day he got here, because we weren’t able to redshirt people.
“He hit sort of a midyear sophomore slump last fall. But he’s one of those guys where an extra year of experience can rally make a difference, and it has this season. He really understands now how to run this offense, and he’s like having another coach on the field.”
Scheible has taken every snap for the Redhawks this fall and is averaging almost at many carries per game (14.1) as pass attempts (15.2).
Unlike most quarterbacks, he’s fine with not being able to show off his arm as much.
“When I first got here, we were more of a pro-style offense, so we were more of a pocket-passing group,” Scheible explained. “But we’ve gradually morphed into our option-pass game, and I’m definitely okay with that because it fits our personnel.
“We don’t throw very often, so when we do, we have to be efficient. Personally, I like the challenge, because it keeps me on point.”
Scheible credits much of his running and passing success to his offensive line, which includes four first-team all-conference selections.
Those talented veterans up front have been instrumental in opening holes for Scheible and senior tailback and Payton Award candidate Henry Harris, whose average of 147.9 rushing yards per game ranks second nationally.
“They’re a big key to our turnaround this year,” Scheible said. “They’re really focusing and executing this year, and it shows. Henry is having a phenomenal year, and even though I’m not very fleet-footed, I’ve been able to pick up a few yards, too, with them blocking in front of me.”