Eagles stay on even keel despite flux of schedule
Expectations – high, low and in between – attracted comments from several Eastern Washington players and coaches prior to Tuesday’s practice at Roos Field.
Three weeks into the schedule, the Eagles have yet to prepare for a team from their own level, the Football Championship Subdivision. First it was Oregon State of the Pac-12, then Division II Western Oregon. Now it’s back up the elevator to Toledo, another Football Bowl Subdivision team that figures to be favored even against a surprising Eastern team.
It’s a good thing, head coach Beau Baldwin said, that his players seem able to keep their emotions level even as the competitive elevator goes up and down each week.
Against Western Oregon, Baldwin said, “The expectation from a lot of outsiders was that we’d come out flat, but we were more energerized in some ways than against Oregon State.”
The stats showed it. While the offense scored touchdowns on its first four possessions, the defense held Western Oregon to a net 1 yard of total offense as the Eagles took an early 29-0 lead. That was doubly satisfying to a defense that gave up 525 yards at Oregon State.
“We came in last week knowing we had to make a lot of improvements, a lot of things to clean up, and that’s what we did,” defensive lineman Dylan Zylstra said.
A side benefit of the 43-14 win, Baldwin said, was seeing how the team would react to “one of the biggest wins in school history. Now, I don’t want to turn the ball over four times (as the Eagles did against Western Oregon), but when we were put in those situations, it’s good to see how your team is going to react.”
With the expectations rising again, cornerback T.J. Lee III put it all in perspective as he surveyed the practice field. “I think everyone is human, but our team is pretty gifted, but there’s something about this atmosphere right here.
“We’re not scared of any challenge,” Lee said.
With a cross-country plane flight looming Friday, Baldwin said it’s important to have “a lot of experienced guys who know how to travel.” But Baldwin said that game prep is the same from Tuesday through Thursday, regardless of whether the game is home or away. “It’s fun playing in front of our home crowd, but sometimes going on the road can be a lot of fun,” Baldwin said. … Offensive tackle Jake Rodgers is out this week with a knee sprain and running back Jabari Wilson is listed as questionable with a shoulder injury. Wilson was not in pads at Tuesday’s practice. Running back Demitrius Bronson was back in pads Tuesday after missing the first two games. Wide receiver Cooper Kupp was back despite missing the second half against Western Oregon with a hip pointer. … Athletic director Bill Chaves said that fan response to the new apparel shop is “off the charts.” The 1,600-square-foot building was functional last weekend, and will be finished in time for the next home game on Oct. 5. “The university did a rally good job of identifying a need,” said Chaves, who said that stock had to be replenished three times before and during Saturday’s game. … Chaves said that bigplayVA.com, the school’s new web site dedicated to the exploits of QB Vernon Adams, will have a “longer shelf life” than any traditional campaign.