The Eastern Washington football team is on a two-game winning streak, but coach Beau Baldwin isn’t worried about losing momentum going into this week’s bye.
“We’ve had an emotional and physical four games,” Baldwin said before Tuesday’s practice at Roos Field. “We’ve had more than our share of injuries … with injuries comes youth playing more, and with youth comes things to work on.”
With the home game against Cal Poly still 10 days away, “most of this week is about us,” Baldwin said of his team, which is 2-2 overall and 1-0 in the Big Sky Conference following Saturday’s 28-20 win at Sacramento State.
As usual, the key word this week is consistency on both sides of the ball.
On offense, that means re-establishing a running game that was almost nonexistent against Oregon and Northern Iowa, prolific against Montana State and hit-and-miss last weekend.
At Sacramento State, the Eagles netted only 103 yards on 31 carries against a defense that was focused on stopping the run. That many have helped quarterback Jordan West set a school record with 491 passing yards, but that wasn’t the point, according to Baldwin.
“Yards, those aren’t the statistics I talk about,” Baldwin said. “I didn’t ever bring it up in the team meeting, although I should have for Jordan.”
For running back Jabari Wilson, the Sacramento State game was a mixed blessing. A native of nearby Carson, California, Wilson was cheered on by family members as he gained a hard-earned 65 yards on 15 carries.
With Eastern already trailing 20-7, Wilson’s fumble early in the third quarter could have been disastrous, but the Eagles’ defense forced a punt and Eastern scored on the next play.
That 98-yard strike from West to Kendrick Bourne may have typified Eastern’s offense so far this year: explosive but inconsistent. On the debit side, Eastern converted just 4 of 14 third-down opportunities against Sacramento State, although the Eagles were 2 for 3 on fourth down.
“We have to stay punishing in the ground game and stay positive (after a setback),” Wilson said.
On defense, it was the same story. After getting gashed for 291 yards in the first half, the Eagles gave up just 68 in the second. They also conceded just five first downs and zero points.
Referring to the halftime deficit, defensive coordinator Jeff Schmedding said, “You don’t want to get yourself in that situation, but it was good to see the veterans showing that it (the comeback) can be done.”
With the next game 1 1/2 weeks away, Baldwin said he couldn’t give definitive answers on which injured Eagles would return to action. He said that wide receiver Nic Sblendorio could be back against Cal Poly despite suffering a shoulder injury last weekend. He also was hopeful that safety Mitch Fettig and backup quarterback Reilly Hennessey would be back for that game. Baldwin said he was less certain about offensive lineman Cassidy Curtis and safety Todd Raynes.
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