Clock management may have cost Eagles
SEATTLE – There was certainly no shortage of key decisions and key plays in Saturday afternoon’s Husky Stadium showdown between visiting Eastern Washington University and the Washington Huskies.
From the two well-documented mistakes made by Eastern’s punt and punt coverage teams, to the three long field-goal conversions – from 53, 47 and 40 yards out, no less – by UW’s Erik Folk, to Desmond Trufant’s decisive late-game interception in his own end zone that secured the 30-27 win for the Huskies, it was simply a game filled with memorable moments.
But nearly lost in all of the craziness was some suspect clock management just prior to intermission that forced EWU, which seemed poised to score a touchdown, to settle for a 28-yard Mike Jarrett field goal instead.
The Eagles, who came in as the nation’s top-ranked Football Championship Subdivision team, were trailing 20-10 when they started their final drive of the first half from their own 21-yard line with just under 3 ½ minutes left on the clock and one timeout still at their disposal.
Characteristically, it took a couple of third-down conversion to keep the drive alive, but with senior quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell calmly picking UW’s secondary apart for 53 of his career-high 473-yard passing yards, Eastern was able to move to the Huskies’ 11-yard line on an 18-yard pass from Mitchell to Brandon Kaufman with a little under 30 seconds left in the half.
But instead of using their last timeout to take a couple of shots at the end zone, the Eagles mulled around as valuable seconds ticked off the clock before getting off their next play, which resulted in Mitchell rolling to his right and failing to connect with wide receiver Nick Edwards.
By then, there were just 5 seconds left in the half, and Eagles coach Beau Baldwin was forced to use his final timeout to stop the clock and get his field-goal unit onto the field.
Jarrett’s kick was true, cutting UW’s lead to 20-13, but after the game, Baldwin expressed his dissatisfaction with the way the drive ended.
“I was thinking it through all the way,” he explained. “I called a play (to Edwards), thinking we’d take a shot at the end zone. The way it looked, if we got it off, we’d still have 7 or 8 seconds left if it was incomplete, and I’d still have time for another play and then a timeout.
“But what happened was, by the time the ball got set and Bo scrambled right, there were only 5 seconds left. So, no, we couldn’t take a chance on running another play and not getting three points. I was frustrated, kind of, with myself, because I could have called timeout right before that play, too.”
Mitchell, too, was upset by the way the first half ended, and shouldered some of the blame, as well.
“I made some mistakes in that situation and let the clock run down a little too much (on the scramble),” he said. “But it was because I had an open look (at Edwards), and I wanted to take it. We actually got the wrong formation in, too, and we had to switch it.
“But I still could have managed the clock better. It was an unfortunate situation.”
To Eastern’s credit, it was able to shake off the disappointment of not getting the touchdown and put itself in position to win in the final seconds of the game.
And that, coupled with the fact that Eagles won the total yardage battle by a lopsided margin of 504-250, was enough to impress UW coach Steve Sarkisian.
“We beat a pretty good football team,” Sarkisian said. “We knew that coming in, and they were extremely scary. There is a reason why they were national champs last year, and why they are the preseason No. 1 in the country this year.
“They have a good quarterback, a nice offensive scheme, play hard on defense, and at the end of the day, we are happy to be 1-0.”