The Eastern Washington football team is perfectly unsatisfied.
As practice began Tuesday afternoon at Roos Field, the top-ranked Eagles were as self-critical as it gets despite a 56-35 win in Saturday’s season opener against Sam Houston State.
“We have some great leaders on this team,” coach Beau Baldwin said. “Even before viewing film, they told me, ‘Coach, we have to get better.’”
Defensively, the Eagles felt they played efficiently despite giving up two long touchdown runs and 542 yards of total offense. Out of 16 possessions, Sam Houston State also had two turnovers and punted eight times.
Said defensive coordinator John Graham: “It’s never as good or as bad as you think when you look at film.”
To their credit, the Eagles kept the Bearkats out of the endzone in the third quarter before tiring in the last 15 minutes. Injuries were partly to blame; star linebacker Ronnie Hamlin missed the second half with cramps, while lineman Jordan Pulu is out indefinitely with a hyperextended elbow.
On offense, it was a sense of “choppiness,” a word Baldwin used several times last year, even late in the season. That was partly a credit to the Bearkat defense, which pressured Eastern quarterback Vernon Adams from the edge and took its chances in man coverage.
“They were giving us the long ball, but I was just overthrowing them,” Adams said Tuesday.
“I was just overthrowing them, and I could see in the film room that I was all over the place.”
But Adams also was 26 for 48 for 302 yards and four touchdowns – impressive numbers except when compared with his own résumé.
A running game that netted 317 yards also could have been even better, according to lineman Jake Rodgers, if the Eagles had done a better job of blocking downfield.
“There were lots of little things,” Rodgers said.
On Saturday night, the Eagles will have a chance to correct them against Montana Western at Roos Field, which is coming off a 38-6 win over Montana Tech but plays at the NAIA level. A bigger test looms on Sept. 6, when Eastern plays at Washington of the Pac-12.
Hamlin, who also missed two weeks of camp with a minor foot injury, is probable for this week, but may sit as a precaution. … WR Cooper Kupp and C Jase Butorac (both with ankle injuries) didn’t practice on Tuesday, and both are questionable for Montana Western. … Off the field, athletic director Bill Chaves said the ESPN-televised game was a win-win for the program, although the network hadn’t reported ratings as of Tuesday afternoon. “As far as the community, the university communite and greater Spokane and Cheney, it was almost a seminal moment for the program,” said Chaves, who praised his staff and the school for “doing a great job of anticipating things that might need attention (last week).” Chaves said the temporary bleachers that are sometimes used won’t be employed until the Idaho State game on Oct. 4.