It’s been 104 years since Eastern Washington last played a football game against Washington State in 1908. The Cougars won that game 73-0, and also won the only other meeting between the two teams the year prior.
Yet when EWU travels to Pullman on Saturday, its starting quarterback will boast a 1-0 career record against WSU.
Kyle Padron, a junior who transferred from Southern Methodist and won the Eagles’ starting job during camp, was the starting quarterback for SMU on Sept. 18, 2010, when he led the Mustangs to a 35-21 win over the Cougars in Dallas.
Padron remembers his first thought as WSU arrived at the stadium that day. It’s an odd one, considering how physically overmatched the Cougars always were in those days.
“Playing in the Pac-12 you’ve got to be a little bigger, playing a little different breed of football,” Padron said in a phone interview this week. “One of the first things we recognized at SMU was their size at linebacker and up front.”
He then went on to complete 19 of 34 passes for 280 yards and four touchdowns.
WSU safety Deone Bucannon was a freshman making his first start in that game.
“I just remember he’s a competitor, he’s a tough football player, trying to get points on the board,” Bucannon said. “He knows his offense. We’re definitely going into the game watching him. He’s definite a key player that we need to keep an eye on.”
That day, the Mustangs exacted some revenge after the Cougars had defeated them in overtime the year prior, WSU’s only win during the 2009 season.
SMU’s starting quarterback in that game was Bo Levi Mitchell, who wound up transferring to EWU and leading the Eagles to a national championship in 2010.
It was Mitchell’s transfer that paved the way for Padron to do the same later on, after he struggled through injuries in 2011 and was replaced as SMU’s quarterback.
“Kyle goes through a very similar situation to what Bo went through. Who’s he going to talk to?” EWU coach Beau Baldwin said, adding that “You can go all the way back to 2008” – the year Mitchell took a recruiting visit to EWU before choosing SMU – to trace the process that led Padron to Cheney.
In his first game as an Eagle, Padron completed 13 of 33 passes for 260 yards, a touchdown and an interception in a 20-3 win over Idaho.
“Obviously, my stat line was not where I wanted it to be, but ultimately we got the win regardless and in spite of the fact that I was 13 of 33,” Padron said. “There’s a lot more we can work on as a quarterback and receiving corps. Our running game really helped us last week.”
WSU defensive coordinator Mike Breske said Padron was the victim of a handful of dropped passes in that game, and showed his maturity regardless.
“He’s a scramble type quarterback, and what I mean by that is, if he’s outside the pocket, he’s scrambling looking to throw the ball,” Breske said. “He’s not going to take a sack. He’s going to get rid of it.”
He’s not going to be intimidated by facing a Pac-12 team, either.
“We expect to go in there and win every game we play,” Padron said. “We trust that our coach is going to put us in the right spots. We just have to go out there and play.
“I’m not saying we’re going to go in there and beat them. We’re expecting to, but they’ve got a great coach and a lot of talent. We’re working hard this week.”