FRISCO, Tex. – Eastern Washington University football coach Beau Baldwin might have coined a new injury assessment term on Thursday afternoon when he called Taiwan Jones’ status for today’s NCAA Division I Championship “absolutely doubtful.”
Buy it or not, it seems to fit – considering Jones was wearing a plastic protective boot on his left foot while watching his teammates run through one last noncontact practice prior to the 4 p.m. kickoff of today’s title game at Pizza Hut Park.
“Barring a miraculous recovery, I don’t expect him to play,” Baldwin said of the 6-foot-1, 200-pound Jones, who hasn’t played since suffering a broken bone in his foot during the Eagles’ 38-31 overtime win over North Dakota State back on Dec. 11. “But of course, he still thinks he can.”
Jones’ desire to get back on the field was fueled even further when he and his teammates watched a highlight video of their season at the Champions Luncheon at the Frisco Conference Center.
“Right after he watched that highlights film, which included him getting run down from behind by a North Dakota State player, he texted me and said, ‘Coach, I want to play,’” Baldwin said. “I think the emotion of being at that banquet and watching that film got him excited.”
Jones admitted that watching himself get caught from behind did get the competitive juices flowing a little stronger. But he, too, said it was highly unlikely he would step on the field today – even though he has been cleared to discard the protective boot he was wearing for precautionary reasons on Thursday.
“Everything, since we got down here has been great,” Jones said. “Everyone has been so welcoming. I just wish I could play in the game.”
Prior to Eastern’s J.C. Sherritt being officially named the winner of this year’s Buck Buchanan Award on Thursday night, the Eagles landed another prestigious award when sophomore free safety Jeff Minnerly was given the National Collegiate Athletic Associations “Elite 88” Award for having the highest cumulative grade point average among the participants in today’s championship game.
Minnerly, a former prep standout and 4.0 student at Ferris High School, is currently carrying a 3.91 GPA as an accounting major at Eastern.
“Obviously, it’s a great honor and a nice surprise,” Minnerly said. “It’s nice to be rewarded for working hard in school. I’m very excited and very proud.”
Earlier this year, Minnerly – who spent his first two years at Eastern playing quarterback – was named to the All-Big Sky Conference honorable mention list and the ESPN The Magazine’s Academic All-District VIII team.
The two starting quarterbacks in today’s title game, Eastern’s Bo Levi Mitchell and Delaware’s Pat Devlin, both transferred from Football Bowl Subdivision schools and seem both comfortable and production as the FCS level.
And in the mind of Delaware quarterbacks coach Jim Hofher, both are key reasons to why their teams are the only two FSC teams still playing.
“You can go back as far as you want and look at teams that played in the title game, and you’ll see that it’s hard to get there without a good quarterback,” Hofher said. “Maybe your guy isn’t the best in the land, but he better be among the best.
“And its looks to me like two really good quarterbacks are going to be playing in this game.”
Eastern Washington will be the home team on the scoreboard in today’s title game. … Pizza Hut Park, the home venue for FC Dallas, the city’s major league soccer team, seats a little over 21,000 for football. … Former EWU football player, coach and athletic director Dick Zornes was scheduled to attend today’s game but did not make the trip because of illness. … Former EWU standout and 2008 Buck Buchanan Award winner Greg Peach showed up in Frisco Thursday afternoon, just in time to attend the awards banquet where his former teammate J.C. Sherritt was given the same award.