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Defense carries the day at EWU’s Red-White game

All things considered, it’s been a pretty good month for Ronnie Hamlin.

The Eastern Washington linebacker is three weeks removed from a broken hand, which healed just in time for Hamlin and the rest of his defensive cast to put a hurt on the offense at the Red-White Game on Saturday.

“It was great to just get after it,” said Hamlin, who had six tackles to help the defense hold off the offense 33-27 before several hundred fans at Roos Field.

The defense got after it from the start. They were spotted a 19-point advantage, but for a while played like they wouldn’t need it.

“They (the defense) came out crazy excited,” said running back Quincy Forte, who scored a touchdown but picked up just 20 yards on six carries. “Our tone was down. We turned it up at the end, but we can’t start this way.”

That included a fumble on the opening play, followed by a pair of three-and-outs that pushed the red-clad defense to a 26-0 advantage before Mario Brown took a short pass from Anthony Vitto to make it 26-7.

“We came out pretty hard, and I think we had a great effort,” said linebacker Grant Williams, who led all tacklers with seven.

Two more three-and-outs put the game almost out of reach before quarterbacks Vitto and Vernon Adams found more time to find their targets, including Ashton Clark, whose one-handed grab set up Forte’s TD.

“My arm got caught,” said Clark, who made five catches for 77 yards. “But making one-handed grabs is part of the next step to making all the tough catches you have to make.”

Clark provided another highlight with a tough catch in the left corner of the end zone, a 15-yard grab. On the final play of the game, Matt Friese caught a 31-yard TD in traffic from Vitto.

For the game, the offense gained 312 yards on 66 plays – an average of just 4.7 yards per play. Vitto completed 15 of 25 pass attempts for 145 yards and two TDs. Adams was 10 for 14 for 105 yards.

Talley led the running backs with 29 yards on six carries. Seven players caught at least one pass, including Clark, Daniel Johnson (five catches, 45 yards) and Tyler Hart (five for 27).

Eastern’s three All-America receivers – Nicholas Edwards, Greg Herd and Brandon Kaufman – didn’t play.

While the final numbers were passable, “It was just a bit choppy,” head coach Beau Baldwin said. “I don’t want us to take 30 plays to get it together. But on the other hand, the defense came out with a great motor.”

What’s next for Baldwin and his staff as they prepare for fall camp in August and the season opener at Idaho on Aug. 30?

“We’ll get this out of the way on Monday,” Baldwin said. “Then put together some things that we can to carry over into the fall.

 “I don’t put too much stock into a spring game,” Baldwin said. “That doesn’t mean that I don’t put much stock into grading each play, but where we are as a team isn’t based on one spring game. We look at our body of work through all 15 spring practices to see where we are heading into next fall.”