October 19, 2011 in Sports

Mitchell trends upward for EWU football

Big Sky notebook
By The Spokesman-Review
 

Beau Baldwin balks at trying to tie the recent improvement of his senior quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell to any single factor.

Instead, Eastern Washington University’s head coach spreads the credit around, with Mitchell getting most of it.

“I don’t know if anything has really changed,” Baldwin said Wednesday morning when asked about the play of Mitchell, who has completed 70 percent (55 of 79) of his passes for 756 yards, six touchdowns and no interceptions in Eastern’s last two games – a 36-28 road win over Northern Arizona and last Saturday’s 48-27 homecoming win over Northern Colorado.

“As a quarterback, you’re always hoping that as the season goes along you’re going to continue to get better, and that’s what he’s doing. He’s continuing to get better.”

Mitchell, who led the Eagles to the 2010 NCAA Division I championship in his first year in Cheney, has been putting up impressive passing numbers all along and ranks first in the Big Sky Conference and fourth nationally in total offense with an average of 333 yards per game.

But the past two weekends he has performed almost flawlessly while compiling a pass efficiency rating of 175.1 and eliminating the interceptions that have plagued him throughout his career. And he’s done it behind an offensive line that has been gutted by injuries.

Fortunately, his young O-line is starting to figure things out, which, according to Baldwin, is another factor in Mitchell’s recent efficiency.

“You’re only as good as everyone around you,” Baldwin said. “So, when you’re playing better as a team, and you’re able to play with a lead, it makes everybody’s job easier. We’ve been able to play with a lead a little bit more that last few weeks, which allows you to be more balanced on offense.”

Another efficiency expert

As good as EWU’s Mitchell has been in earning the Big Sky’s Offensive Player of the Week that last two weeks, Montana State DeNarius McGhee has been better.

McGhee, who is just a sophomore, turned in an efficiency rating of 218.8 during that same two-game span, while completing 75 percent (33 of 44) of his passes for 502 yards, seven touchdowns and one interception in wins over Portland State and Northern Arizona.

Ratings update

Despite its 41-24 win over Northern Arizona, first-place Montana State slipped from third to fourth in this week’s The Sports Network/Fathead.com Top 25, but remained at No. 3 in the FCS Coaches’ Poll.

In this week’s Sagarin Ratings, Montana State is sixth among FCS schools, followed by Big Sky rivals Montana at No. 15, Weber State at No. 23 and Eastern Washington at No. 25.

Big loss for Vikings

Portland State suffered a huge blow last Saturday when senior running back Cory McCaffrey suffered what could be a career-ending ankle injury in the fourth quarter of a 30-24 loss at Montana.

McCaffrey, who leads the nation in scoring with an average of 15.6 points and ranks second in rushing with an average of 146.2 yards per game, rushed for 103 yards and a touchdown prior to getting hurt and raised his season totals to 731 yards and 13 touchdowns on 122 carries.

Miller on list

EWU’s redshirt freshman punter Jake Miller, a graduate of Central Valley High School, has joined teammate Jordan Talley, a freshman running back, on the list of 18 players on the Jerry Rice Award Watch List.

The Rice Award is presented annually by The Sports Network and Fathead to the most outstanding freshman in the FCS. Miller, a transfer from Washington State University, ranks 12th nationally among FCS punters with an average of 43.07 yards per kick.

Third-and-shorts

Montana’s home record against BSC opponents since 1993 is 65-4, with Eastern Washington (in 1997 and 2005) and Montana State (2002, 2010) being the only two visiting teams to win in Washington-Grizzly Stadium. … Seth Labato’s 408 passing yards in last Saturday’s loss to EWU were the most by a Northern Colorado quarterback since the Bears joined the Big Sky in 2006. … Weber State quarterback Mike Hoke completed 7 of 12 passing in last Saturday’s 39-12 rout of Idaho State, but four those went for touchdowns. … EWU’s offensive has gone eight quarters without committing a turnover.


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