The heat was on Saturday at Roos Field, and there was no place to hide.
Temperatures neared 100 degrees while the Eastern Washington football coaches turned up the intensity in a two-hour situational scrimmage.
When it was over, the Eagles were still far from naming a starter at quarterback or finding a solution to bad ball exchanges in the backfield. But they were closer to finding turnovers on defense and a running game on offense.
“If we end up throwing as much as last year, we may get a lot of yards and gaudy numbers,” head coach Beau Baldwin said after the scrimmage. “But it’s not going to be championship football. Now, we still might throw it 65 percent of the time … but you better have some balance.”
To that end, the Eagles drew up more running plays – 20 of the 71 plays were designed runs – and backs Demitrius Bronson (eight carries for 41 yards) and Quincy Forte (six carries, 25 yards) responded.
But it could have been even better.
“Balls were on the ground for no reason,” said Baldwin, who says he wants his centers, quarterbacks and running backs to live in the moment before thinking about the next one.
“As a center, before you think of that next step or blocking the 1 technique (defensive tackle), you need to take care of the snap. Or as a running back, to get the ball and secure it before you think of hitting the next hole.”
Quarterback play was solid, “but there’s lots to improve on,” said Southern Methodist transfer Kyle Padron, who completed 15 of 25 pass attempts for 214 yards, one interception, and a 55-yard, highlight-reel touchdown catch to a sprawling Brandon Kaufman.
“It was just a great ball,” Kaufman said. “No wobble, spinning nicely and he put it a good spot.”
Kaufman had three catches for 77 yards, while true freshman Cooper Kupp from Yakima caught six balls for 120 yards. On his last reception, he juked a defender on the left sideline, a move that brought cheers from the sideline.
“I felt where I was, and tried to make a move and show the guys what I can do,” said Kupp.
Redshirt freshman Vernon Adams was 2 for 10 for 9 yards and a pick, but had some unlucky drops while showing off his running ability.
Eagles junior Anthony Vitto was 5 for 6 for 37 yards and a TD pass to Kaufman.
With the season opener at Idaho 12 days away, Baldwin said he hasn’t settled on a starting quarterback, joking that he promises not to put off the decision beyond “five minutes before kickoff.”
On the other side of the ball, defensive coordinator John Graham was pleased that his unit was “getting our hands on some balls and being disruptive.”
Safety Allen Brown made perhaps the best play on defense with a diving interception early in the scrimmage. “I’ve been studying them,” Brown said. “I got a good break on the ball and made a play. We’re all making plays.”
Up front, the Eagles’ defensive line had the better of it on most plays, and the linebackers cleaned up most of the messes. Linebacker Cody McCarthy led all tacklers with seven.
“We’re trying to have that relentless attitude of getting off the field and forcing turnovers,” defensive tackle Evan Cook said. “We want to have that 2010 championship mentality of ruthlessness.”
Players get the day off today. Two-a-days resume on Monday with sessions at 10:30 and 3 p.m., with a single session Tuesday at 3 p.m. Another two-a-day follows on Wednesday at 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. The Eagles will hold their second and final scrimmage on Thursday at about 12:20 p.m. at Roos Field – one week before the season opener at Idaho. Game tickets are available by calling the University of Idaho Ticket Office at (208) 885-6466 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.