It’s a healthy rivalry, the kind where bragging rights don’t give way to hard feelings.
Still, the offensive and defensive players at Eastern Washington don’t mind throwing a few barbs across the line of scrimmage.
“We do have that in-team rivalry, but that’s how we make each other better,” defensive lineman John Goldwire said earlier this week as the Eagles prepared for Saturday’s Red-White Spring Game at Roos Field.
“When we have the upper hand, we let them know it,” Goldwire said.
The defense did just that in last week’s scrimmage, keeping Eastern’s potent offense out of the end zone on 12 of 18 possessions.
That was a big improvement from the week before, when the offense dominated.
In two scrimmages, the offense has accumulated 824 yards on 131 plays (6.3 per play) and has scored 10 touchdowns and a field goal.
“The defense has been playing really well,” running back Jabari Wilson said of a unit that must replace six starters from last year.
And that’s the whole point as the Eastern coaches and players get their last chance today to see the players in game-like situations.
“I think fine-tuning and getting them into more situations,” coach Beau Baldwin said of this week’s priorities leading up to today’s game. “They were playing fast at times, but when they did slow down we slowed way down where we could have had some delay of game penalties. So there needs to be a certain level of getting closer to continue to play just like it was a game.”
With that in mind, today’s game will pit the first-unit offense against the first-line defense, with the second units also pairing off over four quarters. No score will be kept – until the coaches grade the film for some teachable moments in the Eagles’ final two practices next week.
“There are times where, I feel, that we are still coaching like it is practice and doing those things that it is natural,” Baldwin said. “We have to get them a step further. They have to be able to do that on the field and take care of things and see the clock.
“They have to get the calls and make the adjustments without a lot of coaching between plays. That is the biggest jump we want to make between this scrimmage and the next,” Baldwin said.
For Goldwire and the defense, the priority is “to be dominant, to take over and let everyone know that we’re not anyone to play around with.”
That’s just fine with Baldwin.
“So there is a little bit of that chip – there is a little bit of extra motivation and competiveness to what they are doing and it has just been fun,” Baldwin said.