They don’t keep score in spring drills, but the Eastern Washington defense just tied the game.
The second scrimmage of the month was dominated by an Eagles defense that regained some swagger with three interceptions and seven balls batted down, a bit of redemption for a unit that had been outplayed six days earlier.
That didn’t come as a surprise to Eastern defensive line coach Ryan Sawyer, whose unit utterly dominated the second of four scrimmages. “They’re playing to the level of their ability,” Sawyer said, “because we have a lot of ability and a lot of depth.”
They also had an uncanny ability to read the quarterbacks, Sawyer added. “The same (passing windows) they’re trying to find, we’re trying to close.”
On the other side of the ball, quarterback coach Zak Hill acknowledged that, “It’s a big scrimmage, and our guys were excited about it, and there’s always going to be some nerves and things that don’t go right.”
Including several bad snaps and a “young offensive line that’s still learning,” said Hill, who watched as quarterback Anthony Vitto completed 3 of 11 passes for 45 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions.
Vernon Adams was 12 of 20 for 62 yards and a TD. He also ran for 28 yards.
“The defense created a lot of havoc,” observed wide receiver Nicholas Edwards, who helped Vitto finish strong with a 25-yard touchdown catch.
But if this is halftime, the coaches get more than a week to make adjustments. The next scrimmage is a week from today. “I know the defense didn’t feel good about some things in the last scrimmage, like missing tackles,” head coach Beau Baldwin said. “These things have a tendency to even out.”
Cornerback T.J. Lee III said the defense “came flying around and very excited to have a better scrimmage than last time.”
Lee broke up two passes and intercepted one, and had something more important: takeaways. “The coaches are emphasizing interceptions,” Lee said, noting that the Eagles had just seven picks last season.
Linebacker Grant Williams led the defense in tackles for the second straight scrimmage, finishing with six. Cody McCarthy had five.
Jordan Talley ran the ball seven times for 26 yards, and also had two receptions for 20 yards. His 46 all-purpose yards were a team high. Quincy Forte finished with 16 yards on nine carries.
Eastern’s offense shook off a shaky start to the 50-play scrimmage with a 22-yard field goal by Kevin Miller on the fourth drive. Shortly after that, receiver Greg Herd took an end-around 25 yards for a TD.
The defense clamped down again, however, leaving the offense without a score for six consecutive possessions.
Baldwin cautioned fans against looking through the prism of one scrimmage.
“As coaches, we see practices one through seven, not 50 plays in a scrimmage.”