Eastern Washington’s first football scrimmage had a little of everything on a feel-good Saturday morning at Roos Field: 409 yards of up-tempo offense, eye-popping plays on both sides of the ball and an autograph party for hundreds of fans.
But the signature event may have been 5 yards and a cloud of red turf, courtesy of Conner Baumann and coach Beau Baldwin’s craving for offensive balance.
Baumann, a true freshman from Bellevue, got just 15 yards on three carries, but he got them as a fullback – a revelation for an offense that’s been tailback-heavy of late.
“Actually, I’m in the tight ends group,” corrected Baumann, but he was running in different circles on Saturday. Actually he was running straight ahead, all 220 pounds of him going straight up the middle.
“I like to run hard,” Baumann said. “It’s fun.”
It’s also a sign of good things for an offense that excelled at almost everything last year, but struggled times on third-and-short and in the red zone.
Said Baldwin: “It’s almost like we’re giving him a QB sneak – that’s an added dimension for our offense.”
It’s also another way to live up to Eastern’s consensus No. 1 ranking in the Football Championship Subdivision, Baldwin said after the 75-play scrimmage.
“The championship offenses and teams understand how to operate in the red zone and are usually among the national leaders in third-down conversions,” Baldwin said.
Not to mention offensive balance, another box checked on Saturday: Eastern got 208 yards on the ground and 201 in the air, with seven different offensive players getting touches in the end zone.
And one defensive player, true freshman linebacker Alek Kacmarcik scooped up a bad pitch in the backfield and took the ball 55 yards for the only defensive score of the day.
“There were plays being made by both the offense and defense,” said Baldwin, who gave limited snaps to many of his top players. “The tempo offense we used is going to help us on both sides of the ball, and we need to carry that over into this week’s practices.”
For the most part, Saturday’s scrimmage offered a chance for some new faces to make an impact, like Arizona State transfer cornerback Rashad Wadood, who laid a thunderous hit on receiver Jalani Phelps; true freshman lineman Marcus Saugen, a North Central High School product, who led all tacklers with seven; and true frosh quarterback Reilly Hennessey, who hooked up with former Camas teammate Zach Eagle for a 27-yard score.
All-America quarterback Vernon Adams was 12 for 19 for 103 yards and three TDs, while redshirt sophomore Jordan West strengthened his hold on the No. 2 spot by going 5 for 6 for 48 yards and a score.
Baldwin said he appreciated the roughly 400 fans who showed up for the scrimmage and the post-event autograph session which included the entire team. “Our players appreciate it – it gives you a boost and a jolt. As a coach and a player, it makes you want to put a great product on the field for them to see,” Baldwin said. … After a day off today, the Eagles will resume practice Monday at 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. … The next and final scrimmage is scheduled for Saturday at about 9:50 a.m.