If spring football is about progress, the Eastern Washington offense made plenty on Saturday.
The Eagles found their way into the end zone five times, but more important found themselves at the Red-White Spring Game at Roos Field. In addition to taking what the defense gave them, the offense adapted to gusty winds and a playbook that seemed to get thicker by the day.
The payoff came Saturday, a week after the defense dominated the previous scrimmage. Even cornerback T.J. Lee III conceded the point.
“I think they had a grudge from last week,” Lee said. “I’ll give it to the offense – they had a good day.”
After a slow start, quarterbacks Vernon Adams, Jordan West and Anthony Vitto completed 24 of 41 passes for 256 yards and four touchdowns. Quincy Forte led the Eastern running backs with 46 yards on nine carries.
“I think we’ve been challenged this year more than ever, with a new group of wideouts and developing timing in 20 to 25 mph winds,” head coach Beau Baldwin said.
“We have to play in all weather, but I was happy to see the progress we made this week.”
The biggest part of that was adapting to new formations, including zone-read looks out of the pistol and sprint packages.
“They’re getting a feel for when to pull it and when to get some yards running,” Baldwin said.
Much of that progress is mental, coaches and players said.
“There is a lot of room for improvement,” West said. “I think I adapted well, because there’s a lot on our plates.”
The passing game got into the groove late in the 76-play scrimmage. Adams and West completed back-to-back touchdown passes to redshirt freshman Cooper Kupp, who finished with eight catches for 119 yards.
Both TDs came on perfectly timed post patterns against tight coverage.
Kupp said that even last week, “the plays were there, but it takes all 11 guys to make a play successful. … We’ve made a lot of improvement. Obviously, you get a lot of confidence when there’s less thinking about it and more playing.”
The defense had its moments, including cornerback Ronald Baines’ interception of Adams on an out pattern early in the game. Linebacker Zachariah Storms had a team-high six tackles. Todd Raynes, Frank Cange and Cedric Gonzalez had five each.
“I felt like there were less unforced errors,” Baldwin said.
The Eagles have three more practices next week.
“It’s a challenge (having practices after the spring game),” Baldwin said. “The worst thing we can do is go through the motions. … Even though we played our spring game, we still have some practices left. We are trying to get sharper at the things we are doing.”
No Eagles were selected this weekend in the National Football League draft, but four players have signed free-agent contracts. Wide receivers Brandon Kaufman and Greg Herd signed with the Buffalo Bills and Dallas Cowboys, respectively. Also, quarterback Kyle Padron signed with Oakland, wide receiver Nicholas Edwards with Minnesota and offensive lineman Will Post with Atlanta. The five bring to 69 the total of Eagles since 1989 to either be drafted or sign a free-agent contract with the NFL or the Canadian Football League… The Eagles open the season Aug. 31 at Oregon State. The home opener is Sept. 7 against Western Oregon.