Now it’s Eastern Washington’s turn to adjust.
After looking almost unstoppable in its first two games, the Eastern offense was stymied for the entire second and third quarters in a 33-21 nonconference loss to Toledo at Toledo, Ohio, on Saturday night.
They led 14-13 after one quarter, but the second-ranked Eagles struggled against the Rockets’ man-to-man coverage while their defense finally wore down in the second half.
“We got a little bit out of rhythm offensively,” Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin said. “But you have to give credit to Toledo, too – they are a very good football team.”
The Eagles pulled to within 23-21 on the first play of the fourth quarter, but the Rockets responded with an 88-yard drive to regain a nine-point advantage. Eastern (2-1) couldn’t respond.
Trailing 30-21 with 6 minutes and 35 seconds left in the game, Adams threw downfield on fourth-and-2 to Ashton Clark, but he was well covered – a little too well-covered, the Eastern coaches protested.
But no flag was thrown, and Toledo ran out the clock before hitting a field goal in the final seconds of the game.
“We are definitely going to find some things we can do better, but I’m also proud that we found a way to fight in a game like this too,” Baldwin said. “You have to find different ways to be in it, and ultimately to win it. We obviously didn’t make enough plays that way and they did.”
The Eagles will have two weeks to respond, when they travel to Huntsville, Texas, to play Sam Houston State, which defeated Eastern in last year’s FCS semifinals.
“We are going to have to keep cleaning up some things and move forward,” Baldwin said.
Against Toledo, the Eagles scored the first two times they had the ball on drives of 70 and 75 yards and took a 14-6 lead. Quarterback Vernon Adams passed 23 yards to Clark for a touchdown on the first possession of the game, then found tight end Ryan Seto for 22-yard score just 6:48 into the game.
But Toledo (1-2) scored the first three times it had the ball, and regained a 16-14 advantage on a field goal in the second quarter. The Eagles had a 161-155 yards advantage after the first quarter, but in the second period Toledo had 98 yards to just 54 for the Eagles. Eastern also had two turnovers in the quarter.