Eastern guards against letdown
Beau Baldwin is concerned his Eastern Washington University football team might be catching Big Sky Conference rival Northern Colorado at just the wrong time.
The Bears (2-4 overall, 1-3 in the BSC) are coming off a 42-7 loss to Sacramento State and have dropped their last three games by a combined score of 119-21. But that doesn’t make Baldwin feel any better as his 12th-ranked Eagles (4-2, 3-1) head into this afternoon’s 12:35 matchup against UNC at Nottingham Field in Greeley, Colo.
“They have such a veteran defense,” Baldwin said of the Bears, who rank third in the Big Sky in total defense, having given up just 366 yards per game. “They have guys who are older and who have played a lot of football, so they don’t give you a lot of opportunities where you think, ‘Hey, we can exploit this.’
“Everything you try to do against them is a challenge. They make you grind it out, and if we let off the gas at all, we’ll get beat.”
UNC’s biggest weakness so far this fall has been an offense that has struggled to find any type of consistency since thumping Idaho Sate 35-21 four weeks ago. Bears coach Scott Downing has played three different quarterbacks – junior Dylan Orms, redshirt freshman Seth Lobato and sophomore Matt Baca – this fall, and is still looking for one of them to lock down the starting job.
The three have combined to throw for 1,164 yards and nine touchdowns, and, according to Eastern’s defensive coordinator John Graham, all have the ability to make big plays.
But because all three are similar in style, Graham isn’t concerning himself with which one will get the majority of snaps this afternoon.
“We have no idea who’s going to start or play the most for them,” Graham said. “But they don’t seem to change their offense much, no matter who is playing quarterback, so it really hasn’t been an issue as far as our preparation is concerned.”
Still, Baldwin has seen the Bears do enough offensively to raise a few red flags.
“They showed some spurts at time early in the season,” he said. “They showed they can put up points, and sometimes, as an offense, it’s just a matter of having that one good game and establishing a rhythm.
“Northern Colorado has enough good players and enough talent that when they get that good feeling and some momentum, they have a chance to be strong the last half of the season, offensively. Our goal is to try to do everything we can not to have that happen in our game, but it wouldn’t shock me at all.”
Baldwin said he expects junior running back Taiwan Jones, who left last Saturday’s 21-14 home win over Northern Arizona early in the fourth quarter after suffering tightness in his hip and lower back, to play today. … Eastern leads its series with UNC 6-1 and has won the last five meetings. … Following today’s road game, EWU will play three of its last four regular-season games at home. … Both of the Eagles’ last two shutouts have come against the Bears – 16-0 last fall and 34-0 in 2006. … UNC averaged 45.3 points in its first three games, but has scored only seven in each of its last three. … Eastern’s sophomore wideout Brandon Kaufman ranks second in the Big Sky with an average of 91.2 receiving yards per game.