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Eagles focus on taking care of ball vs. Towson

Tue., Dec. 17, 2013, 8:33 p.m.

The Eastern Washington offensive players and coaches saw nothing but opportunity Tuesday afternoon.

Some talked about “taking a trip to Texas” next month, but mostly the Eagles talked about taking care of the ball and the Towson defense in Saturday’s FCS semifinal game at Roos Field.

Do that, and the rest will take care of itself.

Quarterback Vernon Adams already knew that after Saturday’s 35-24 win over Jacksonville State, when the Eagles dug themselves an early hole with two turnovers and spent the rest of the first half climbing out.

“I have to take better care of the ball,” Adams said.

His position coach, Zak Hill, stressed the same point before Tuesday’s practice.

“At times we got a little bit undisciplined, throwing balls into coverage, and that’s what we’re going to focus on this week,” said Hill, adding that Towson’s quick secondary will put accuracy at a premium.

Up front, head coach Beau Baldwin and offensive line coach Aaron Best point to Towson defensive end Ryan Delaire, whose 111/2 sacks and 171/2 tackles for loss are no less impressive than how he looks on film.

“Stats never lie, but they can be deceiving,” Best said, noting that Delaire doesn’t play every down. The implication? Delaire is even better than his stats.

“They’re big up front they play hard and they’re gap-sound, so it should be fun,” Eastern guard Steven Forgette said.

“They move him around a lot, and he’s going to pose problems, so we have to have a plan for him,” Best said of Delaire.

Towson senior linebackers Telvion Clark and Monte Gaddis had 131 and 110 total tackles, respectively, leading a unit that holds opponents to 3.3 yards per rush. Those numbers were up only slightly, to 4.4 yards per rush, in playoff wins over Fordham (48-28) and Eastern Illinois (49-39), but Gaddis wasn’t satisfied.

“We let them score too many, and we felt like we had a bad game,” Gaddis said.

Against a blossoming Eastern running game that’s averaging 6.3 yards a carry, something will have to give, especially in the red zone: Towson opponents are scoring touchdowns on only 55 percent of their red-zone chances.

But if running back Quincy Forte uncorks a third straight 190-plus-yards game, that will boost the passing game.

“It helps a ton,” Hill said, “because it helps out your play action.”

If not, Adams will need to improve on his 25-for-37, two-interception effort against Jacksonville State.

Baldwin and Adams were impressed with Towson senior cornerback Jordan Love.

“He’s a very good corner, and he’s also up front plugging the run and still creating pressure,” Baldwin said.

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