Eastern Washington quarterback Vernon Adams picked up the ultimate compliment this week.
When asked about the Eagles’ new young quarterback, Montana State coach Rob Ash compared him with MSU’s own DeNarius McGhee.
“(Adams) reminds me a lot of DeNarius, just watching him on film,” he said. “I’m very impressed.”
That’s how the rest of the conference feels about McGhee, a junior who has won 25 games in 2 1/2 seasons, just one short of the school record. His 12 touchdown passes this season put his career total at 59, also one shy of the MSU career record.
“He’s been nothing short of spectacular,” Ash said. “He’s a winner, he can run and throw, but more important is his ability to lead.”
McGhee’s signature is all over the last two meetings with Eastern, both convincing wins for the Bobcats. Two years ago in Bozeman, McGhee completed 15 of 24 passes for 283 yards as the Bobcats won 30-7 and broke a seven-game Eastern win streak in the series. Last year in Cheney, he was only 12 for 26, but also ran for 77 yards in a 36-21 win.
McGhee will be a big factor in Saturday’s showdown between sixth-ranked EWU and No. 2 MSU. He ranks 10th in total offense in the Football Championship Subdivision, averaging 288.3 yards per game for the 6-0 Bobcats.
“He’s one of those guys who finds ways to make things happen,” Eagles coach Beau Baldwin said.
The longest yards
Fans saw only the stat sheet, but Demitrius Bronson and running backs coach Kiel McDonald saw a lot more than numbers after Bronson ran for 118 yards last weekend against North Dakota.
“It was very emotional,” said Bronson, who’s battled a hamstring injury for most of the year. “When Coach read me the stats, I started crying because I felt like I’d come a long way.”
Bronson had a great winter conditioning session, then suffered a major hamstring injury in spring ball. After a strong fall camp, the injury flared again and Bronson had to sit on the bench. Saturday’s game saw his first major playing time for the Eagles
“It really does pull at the heartstrings,” McDonald said. “He’s done a lot of work to get back, and for him to finally show what he could do. That was a great situation.”
After going 22 months without a special teams touchdown, the Eagles finally broke a big one last week when Shaquille Hill took a kickoff 99 yards against North Dakota.
“These guys, the whole unit, have put a lot of effort into it,” special teams coach Jeff Schmedding said. “We’ve been close a couple of times, but it was nice to see it pop, and we’ve got the right guy back there to do it.”
The Eagles’ previous special teams TD came on Dec. 11, 2010, when Jesse Hoffman took a kickoff 88 yards in the FCS quarterfinals against North Dakota State.
Quirks of the schedule
When the Big Sky expanded to 13 football-playing members, a few folks saw this coming. Four teams – Eastern, Montana State, Cal Poly and Northern Arizona – are unbeaten in the Big Sky. The problem is that neither Eastern nor Montana State will face the other two schools in conference play. EWU hosts Cal Poly on Nov. 3, but it’s a nonconference game.
“I’ve been on record as saying that the one big issue is that we don’t play a true round robin,” Ash said. “The situation that might be unfolding here is that we don’t have a chance to knock them off, and they don’t have a chance to knock us off.”
The result, Ash said, is that even this early in the season, “this one (against Eastern Washington) becomes a monster game” because the loser has fewer chances to get back in the race.
The Big Sky is ranked fourth among FCS conference in this week’s Sagarin Ratings. The Missouri Valley is first, followed by the Colonial and the Southern. Five Big Sky teams are ranked in the top 16 FCS teams in the Sagarin. Eastern Washington is second and 79th overall. Cal Poly is fifth and 86th overall. Montana is 11th, Montana State is 13th and Northern Arizona is 16th. North Dakota State is the No. 1 FCS team.
EWU is 18 for 18 on red-zone chances, one of three teams in the nation to score on all red zone opportunities. … Cal Poly is 5-0 for the first time since 2004 after beating Weber State 45-23 last week. … Sporting special camouflage uniforms, Portland State’s offense played as if it couldn’t be seen by the Idaho State defense in a 77-10 win over the Bengals on Saturday. The 77 points marked the most by the Vikings since a 105-0 win over Delaware State on Nov. 8, 1980. … Sacramento State has won three straight road games for the first time since 1999. The Hornets are 4-2 for the first time since 1999.