SEATTLE – For Tyler Jolley, it’s all about the battle.
And Saturday, in front of a Qwest Field crowd of 6,142, Eastern Washington University’s senior defensive end won the last battle of the night, batting away a fourth-down pass by Central Washington quarterback Ryan Robertson to help the Eagles nail down a 35-32 nonconference win over the Wildcats.
“All I could think about was how they had been dumping those little short passes just over my head all night,” Jolley said of what transpired when Robertson was flushed out of the pocket on a fourth-and-8 from EWU’s 36-yard line, hoping to keep a drive alive with just less than a minute left.
“So when (Robertson) starting rolling left, I just threw my hands up and prayed.”
The ball hit Jolley’s hands and fell harmlessly to the turf, giving Eastern (1-1) its first win and some much-needed momentum heading into next weekend’s Big Sky Conference opener against Montana, which suffered a 35-33 loss to Cal Poly on Saturday.
The Eagles were far from perfect against the Division II Wildcats (1-2), but they did just enough on both sides of the ball to get by.
Junior running back Taiwan Jones had another big game, rolling up 235 all-purpose yards and scoring three of Eastern’s five touchdowns. The 6-foot-1, 200-pound speedster, who was vomiting before the game, rushed for 89 yards on 14 carries, scoring on a pair of short runs, and caught four passes for 63 yards and another touchdown.
But there were some anxious moments when Jones was helped off the field with 111/2 minutes left in the game and did not return.
According to Eastern coach Beau Baldwin, Jones suffered a minor concussion but should be ready for Montana. Brian Norton, the Eagles’ head athletic trainer, said he thought dehydration was involved, because of Jones’ undiagnosed illness.
“Hats off again to Taiwan,” said quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell, who completed 16 of 27 passes for 188 yards and two touchdowns after watching Eastern’s first offensive series from the sidelines as punishment for being late for a team meeting. “He’s been carrying our offense, and he did it again tonight.”
Mitchell, who came on in place of starter Nick Gauthier, a junior who took EWU’s first seven snaps, said he felt more comfortable against Central than he did a season-opening 49-24 loss to Nevada.
“But at the same time, we didn’t do what we wanted to do offensively,” the first-year junior transfer from Southern Methodist said.
Mitchell connected with Jones on a short swing pass that resulted in a 46-yard second-quarter touchdown, and then hooked up with Brandon Kaufman on 32-yard scoring strike that put the Eagles up 35-25 with just less than 4 minutes remaining in the third period.
It looked like Eastern had put the game away with 41/2 minutes left in the fourth quarter when Robertson fumbled and Eagles defensive end Jerry Ceja picked up the ball and rambled 63 yards for an apparent touchdown. But the officials called offsetting holding penalties on the play, prior to the fumble, and the down was replayed.
Central ended up scoring on a 13-yard pass from Robertson to Kollin Hancock with 2:21 left and then stoned EWU on its next possession to set up one final scoring opportunity – which was snuffed out by Jolley’s timely batdown of Robertson’s final throw.
EWU 35, CWU 32
CWU 9 7 9 7—32
EWU 7 14 14 0—35
EWU—Washburn 55 interception return (Jarrett kick), 14:08.
CWU—Guice 7 pass from Robertson (pass failed), 9:40.
CWU—FG Davis 50, 1:03.
EWU—Jones 2 run (Jarrett kick), 14:39.
CWU—Bighill 66 interception return (Panchenko kick), 8:41.
EWU—Jones 46 pass from B.Mitchell (Jarrett kick), 7:06.
EWU—Jones 1 run (Jarrett kick), 12:32.
CWU—Kelly 1 run (Panchenko kick), 5:04.
EWU—Kaufman 32 pass from B.Mitchell (Jarrett kick), 3:51.
CWU—Hancock 13 pass from Robertson (Panchenko kick), 2:21.
First downs 27 21
Rushes-yards 30-101 30-106
Passing 251 205
Comp-Att-Int 29-46-2 19-32-1
Return Yards 66 87
Punts-Avg. 4-40.5 3-45.0
Fumbles-Lost 1-1 1-1
Penalties-Yards 9-70 8-52
Time of Possession 35:14 24:46
RUSHING—Cent. Washington, Kelly 19-81, Stinson 5-30, Robertson 6-(minus 10). E. Washington, Jones 14-89, Beaumonte 12-24, Gauthier 1-4, Team 2-(minus 4), B.Mitchell 1-(minus 7).
PASSING—Cent. Washington, Robertson 29-46-2-251. E. Washington, B.Mitchell 16-27-1-188, Gauthier 3-4-0-17, Minnerly 0-1-0-0.
RECEIVING—Cent. Washington, C.Smith 8-60, Hancock 6-88, Kelly 4-15, Akeo-Orr 3-31, Weems 3-29, Guice 2-18, Stinson 2-3, Frost 1-7. E. Washington, Gant 5-41, Jones 4-63, Kaufman 4-56, Hart 3-21, Antonson 1-10, Beaumonte 1-8, Edwards 1-6.