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Angry Eastern players vow to show passion

Disappointment. Disbelief. Even a little distress.

The emotions on Eastern Washington University’s 0-2 football team are all over the board this week as the Eagles attempt to flush away any lingering memories of last weekend’s upset loss to South Dakota and prepare for Saturday’s Big Sky Conference opener against Montana at Washington-Grizzly Stadium in Missoula.

But mostly, coach Beau Baldwin’s players are angry.

Angry that they didn’t find a way to finish in a 30-27 loss to the Washington Huskies in a game they felt they should have won. And even angrier with the way they came out against a South Dakota team that was a heavy underdog.

“We went into UW thinking we were a great team and that we were going to smack ’em,” senior center Chris Powers said. “But I felt like we kind of went to South Dakota just expecting to win, because we were supposed to. And that’s not the mentality you want to take into any game.

“We should have come out in the same way we did against UW, where we wanted to do all these great things against the Huskies and wanted to win really bad, instead of just expecting to win. So, yeah, the mood on this team is angry, and we want that first win in a big way.”

Senior linebacker Zach Johnson agreed.

“I think we came out a little flat against South Dakota,” he said. “We definitely didn’t think we’d ever be in this position, but we are, and we’re mad about it. That first game (against Washington) was a heartbreaker, and last week’s game we should have won.

“Those two losses were both hard to take, but they’ve made us even more hungry to get the first ‘W.’ ”

Passion, come Saturday, shouldn’t be the issue it was against USD, according to Powers.

“There will definitely be more of that on our part,” he said. “Of course, it’s the Grizzlies and it’s in Missoula, so it’s not going to be hard to get pumped up for this game. I’m expecting a lot more intensity from us.”

Rating the stats

Baldwin was asked earlier this week which statistic surprised him the most – that his Eagles are 0-2, or that they’ve thrown the football almost 130 times in their first two games.

“Probably the second one,” he said. “I almost hate to say it, because I know I was planning to do that against the University of Washington, even though, maybe, no one else did.

“The one that bugs me most, though, is the 0-2, that’s for darn sure.”

Surprised? Not Kramer

One of the biggest surprises in the Big Sky this year has been the play of Idaho State quarterback Kevin Yost – unless you happen to be Mike Kramer, the Bengals’ first-year head coach, who learned of Yost’s considerable talents from a highly trusted source.

“Certainly we did,” Kramer said when asked if he expected Yost, a 6-foot-1 junior and first-year transfer from Glendale (Ariz.) Community College to post the kind of gaudy numbers – a 73.7 percent (56 of 76) completion percentage for 675 yards and five touchdowns – he has in ISU’s first two games. “Kevin played for J.D. Sollars, who’s a former coach at a couple of Big Sky schools and my offensive coordinator when I was at Eastern Washington.

“J.D. really endorsed how smart he was and how quick he was with the ball, and he has not disappointed. He’s got a great grade-point average and he and Don Bailey, our offensive coordinator, are really on the same page. We just gotta get the rest of the offense caught up to what Kevin’s perception is on every play.

“In fact, I’ve told a lot of people this week that if you see Kevin clutch the ball, it’s because his receivers are not in the right place – because he’s ready to spin it as soon as he gets his feet set.”

Quick kicks

Eastern Washington’s four wins against Montana in Washington-Grizzly Stadium are the most of any Big Sky team. … EWU quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell leads the nation in total offense with an average of 413.5 yards per game, while teammate and wide receiver Nick Edwards leads the nation in receptions with an average of 12.5 per game. … A loss to Montana on Saturday would give Eastern its first 0-3 start since 2006, when the Eagles went on to finish 3-8. … The Big Sky Conference is ranked fourth behind the Colonial, the Southern and the Missouri Valley in this week’s Jeff Sagarin Ratings of FCS conferences. … Weber State opens its home and Big Sky schedule Saturday against Sacramento State on the new Fieldturf that was installed over the summer.