Blanchette: Football gods truly smiled on Eagles’ masterful effort
The right time for anything is when it works.
This is pretty much a universal heat shield against all second-guessing, and an all-purpose self-effacement for bashful geniuses. It comes in especially handy in football post-mortems.
In the context of Saturday’s funfight at the O-positive corral that serves as Eastern Washington University’s football home, however, timing wasn’t everything, or really much of anything.
Because for the Eagles, everything worked.
Sweeps against the blitz that went for 40 yards. Over-the-top for all the acreage on third-and-supposed-to- run-clock. Rollouts and scrambles at will.
Even 10,223 celebrants through the gate on a November date, an entirely new frontier for Eastern football.
The Eagles laid some statistically staggering heartbreak on Montana State on a crisp afternoon at Roos Field, but mostly they delivered the statement that didn’t completely get through a couple of weeks ago in Missoula. This was the Football Championship Subdivision’s No. 3 beating down No. 4 by a count of 54-29 – a definitive stomping of a legit rival the Eagles never pulled off even in their national title glow.
No destinies have been fulfilled but, damn, this was impressive.
“We are going to go win games,” coach Beau Baldwin insisted, “and we aren’t going to manage them.”
Manage? Consider that the Eagles did their business in 46 true offensive plays, and without the benefit of an MSU turnover or touchdown runbacks or other special-teams fireworks.
No Big Sky team has ever been so ruthlessly efficient. Eastern averaged 12.3 yards a play – more than a yard better than the conference record. And it wasn’t all home-run passes, though, naturally, quarterback Vernon Adams added a couple to his highlight reel.
The day’s revelation, of sorts, was running back Quincy Forte, with a career-high 123 yards for his second straight game over 100. That included six runs of 10 yards or more – among the 21 between both teams.
Imagine that. And to think somebody hereabouts is trying to sell 89 passes in a game as football excitement.
Baldwin thought the Eagles surprised MSU with it’s running attack, at least from the standpoint of going to it in spread sets when the Bobcats responded with just five men in the box. Forte got both touchdowns that way, though his running betrays more siccum now, too.
“I’m trying to shape myself into a true running back,” he said. “All-purpose. Inside and outside. Everybody knows from freshman to sophomore year, I was just trying to bounce everything outside. But you have to stick it in the ‘A’ gap and get a little dirty every now and then.”
Not that Baldwin was making some grand statement about running the ball, or balance for balance’s sake.
“I just try to call plays to win a game,” he said.
“Some games you run for a 100 yards and throw for 400, and that’s the way I felt at Montana – playing in Missoula. But games where they’re playing a little softer or giving looks like we got, we may need something else. It doesn’t have to be 50-50, and each game is different.”
Besides, the Bobcats covered some turf, too, though rarely has a team with 500 yards of offense in the ledger been so inconsequential to the outcome. But then, they were complicit in the surrender.
It was pretty clear by late in the second quarter that the visitors had no means of stopping Eastern – the Eags scored on every drive they tried to. So MSU would have to keep the pace. But given 88 seconds and three timeouts to cover 79 yards just before halftime, Bobcats coach Rob Ash essentially decided to fold his hand – with EWU up 26-21 and getting the ball to start the third quarter.
Up 12, up 18 – the Eagles never settled.
“After Montana’s comeback against us,” Baldwin said, “I’m keeping the pedal down a lot longer.”
Grinned Forte, “Coach B loves to take shots.”
It seems to be rubbing off.
“They have the guts to go win games,” Baldwin said of his team.
“We don’t talk about making mistakes, we talk about going out there and letting it rip. They have guts and confidence. If things don’t work out on a play or series, we just come back and pick each other up.”
And if everything works?
Well, the Eagles just answered that, too.