Eastern’s seniors prepare for emotional game
The emotions will be mixed but no less intense Saturday when Eastern Washington celebrates Senior Day for one of the most successful football classes in school history.
“It’s going to be a whirlwind of emotions,” said linebacker Grant Williams, whose brother, Adam, will fly across the country to join Grant and his parents for the Eagles’ game against UC Davis.
It won’t be easy saying goodbye to 16 players who’ve won 34 games in four years, while going 23-7 in the Big Sky Conference and were a major part of the 2010 national championship.
“It’s going to be emotional and bittersweet. Everything’s gone by pretty fast,’ offensive tackle Will Post said. “And it’s our last home game.”
Post paused to regroup.
“It’s our last guaranteed home game.”
That’s because the Eagles are 7-2 overall, 5-1 in the Big Sky and on course to return to Roos Field for a second-round FCS playoff game should they win out against UC Davis and next week at Portland State.
For that reason alone, no one is quite ready to say goodbye.
“It’s been a good ride, but we’ve got more football games after this,” said senior safety Jeff Minnerly, in pads for the first time since suffering a collarbone injury six weeks ago.
Undoubtedly, Minnerly was speaking for the entire group of 16 seniors.
“It’s already been an impressive run, with the standard they’ve set,” head coach Beau Baldwin said of the players who were his first signees when he became head coach in 2008. “But they have an opportunity to do some things that no class has ever done.”
That would be another deep run in the playoffs and the chance to return to Frisco, Texas, for the national title game.
“I think my emotions will be fine,” said wide receiver Nick Edwards, a major contributor in 2010 and an All-American last season. “Late in the year we always seem to be rolling.”
The Eagles played one of their most complete games of the season in rolling past then-No. 16 Cal Poly 34-17 last week, and should be favored today against Big Sky newcomer UC Davis. The Aggies are 3-6 overall, 2-4 in the conference.
The Aggies, in their last season under 20-year head coach Bob Biggs, have lost by eight points or less to three nationally ranked teams – Cal Poly (28-20), Montana State (48-41) and South Dakota State (12-8).
The Aggies’ three wins include a 41-3 over Azusa Pacific of the NAIA; a 37-13 home win over Weber State; and a 52-45 victory at last-place Idaho State.
UC Davis has one advantage in today’s game: a bye following a 49-21 loss two week ago to Portland State. Not that Baldwin – two weeks removed from an upset loss at Southern Utah – will overlook anyone.
The Aggies rank 11th out of 13 Big Sky teams in total offense, averaging 365.8 yards a game.
“They do a really good job of mixing up personnel, using different formations and using a lot of pro style,” Baldwin said. … They mix you up really well.”
Aggie junior quarterback Randy Wright has completed 156 of 262 passes for 10 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Senior running back Marquis Nicolls averages 6 yards a carry. UC Davis has rushed for at least 100 yards in four straight games.
Baldwin said the Aggies’ defensive front line “tries to get in your face, but at the same time not giving you too many open shots downfield.”
Biggs said he’s impressed with Eastern’ offense.
“They have a terrific passing game with those talented receivers, plus throw in (quarterback) Vernon Adams and his ability to scramble …”
Biggs has mixed emotions of his final road game as a head coach. And then there’s Eastern defensive tackle Evan Cook, who moved to the Seattle area in 2004. His father, Edward, still lives in Oklahoma, but will be at Roos Field today with his son as the seniors are introduced.
For Cook, there will be no mix of emotion.
“He hasn’t seen me play since I was 10,” Cook said.