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Eastern Sports chat (noon, Nov. 14)

 

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EWU defensive line steps up

This is the fifth of an eight-part look at Eastern Washington spring football: the defensive line.

 One good reason the Eastern Washington defensive line got better last November? April.

“Spring ball, I look at as a time to develop depth,” defensive line coach Ryan Sawyer said. “I’m always trying to figure out not who’s the backup, but who’s the guy after that.”

Sawyer and defensive coordinator John Graham have plenty to sort through this spring; the Eagle rosters includes 15 defensive linemen, and should be a strong group despite the loss of three starters.

The key was a deep rotation, often 10 a game, which kept the Eagles fresh late in games as well as late in the season. For the season, Eastern gave up just 74 fourth-quarter points in 13 games, or less than 6 points a contest.

“It all starts with the D-line, everything still starts with those guys,” said Baldwin, who has made the defensive line a priority in recruiting since he took over the program in 2008.

No QB questions for Eastern

This is the second in an eight-part look at Eastern Washington spring football. Part Two: the quarterbacks.

Vernon Adams isn’t your little brother anymore. Last year, he was looking up - literally and figuratively - to wide receivers Brandon Kaufman, Nick Edwards and Greg Herd, as well as transfer quarterback Kyle Padron.

Adams is still 5-foot-11, but after a breakout redshirt freshman season, he’s gained a lot of stature in Cheney and in the Big Sky Conference. He battled Padron evenly through fall camp, then won the starting job in the third week of the season.

EWU football links

The Eagles are working hard to prepare for San Houston State and tomorrow's semifinal game. In that spirit, we're continuing our two-a-day coverage with a look at the Eastern defense and a feature story on former EWU and Spokane Shock quarterback Erik Meyer, who's now a student assistant with the Eagles. We also had a live chat. Here's the transcript. From Sam Houston State's homer, er, home-town newspaper, this interesting short. Also out of Texas, another piece on Sam Houston State.

EWU and Big Sky links

The Big Sky is falling, the Big Sky is … well, two-thirds of its teams in the FCS playoffs, anyway. Last night in Bozeman, the Sam Houston Bearkats throttled Montana State  34-16 to reach the semifinals. Next up for Sam Houston will be Eastern Washington, provided the Eagles can win today's game against Illinois State. While MSU pondered the lost opportunities, the Eagles hope to take continue their mastery of the close game before a sellout crowd at Roos Field. Then again, some fans might hope for an easy win for a change. but where's the fun in that? We'll see you there, and bundle up.

EWU and Big Sky links

A quick time-out from football this week: coach Rick Majerus was mourned by the basketball world, especially Eastern coach Jim Hayford, who writes this heartfelt letter to his mentor and friend.

It's the Elite Eight of FCS football (although they call it the quarterfinals). Eastern faces Illinois State on Saturday at 3 p.m., Here's a story on Eagle attendance, and the official, information-packed release from the school. Bozeman, Mont., will host the Co-coaches of the Year as MSU faces Sam Houston State. The Bobcats look back at a hard-fough win over Stony Brook in the second round in this story from the Bozeman Chronicle.

EWU links - playoff edition

It's a big sports weekend in Cheney, starting off with a big win by the basketball team and today's big second-round FCS playoff game matching Eastern Washington and Wagner. Here's our preview, plus links to the official, information-packed releases from Eastern and from Wagner College. I just realized that I forgot to mention that the winner will face either Appalachian State or Illinois State next weekend; if Eastern wins today, the Eagles will host.

EWU and Big Sky links

It was a busy day Thursday, with three stories out at Eastern, including my feature story on do-it-all linebacker Grant Williams, a look ahead to the Eagles basketball home stand that begins tonight against Cal State Fullerton, and finally a where-do-we-go-from-here look at Eastern's ambitious Gateway Project. We also had a live chat on Eastern football. Here is the transcript. Elsewhere in the Big Sky, Montana State is counting on a playoff-tested team against Stony Brook.

EWU and Big Sky Links

Eastern football Live Chat resumes today at noon, right here at SportsLink. Until then, here's my Eagle playoff notebook focusing on Brandon Kaufman.And in case you missed it, here's my practice report from Tuesday night, plus John Blanchette's great article on how the Wagner Seahawks overcame adversity this season. … Both schools offer a wealth of info on Saturday's second-round game. Here is the official release from Eastern and here's the one from Wagner. In other news involving Big Sky teams, Montana State faces a possession-minded team from Stony Brook, while Cal Poly coach Tim Walsh denies he's interested in the vacancy at Idaho.

EWU and Big Sky links

Like any science, bracketology is easier when there are fewer variables. It's this simple: EWU>PSU=FCS(3-5). For you non-football/science types, that means that if the Eagles beat Portland State this week, they can expect a third- through fifth seed in the playoffs. Moreover, our calculations exclude the volatile Grizzly coefficient, which, when combined with the sometimes unstable MSU molecule, is known to create an upsetting result. But again, the Eagles need to win in Portland State. Here's a preview from Dave Cook at Eastern, and here's the official release from Portland State.

EWU and Big Sky links

Live Chat today at noon, folks, on all things Eastern football. Until then, here's a link to my Big Sky notebook. Out of Cheney, lots of info on this wee'ks game against UC Davis .. and a story from the UC Davis perspective … In Bozeman, a story on the resurgent Montana State running game, and from Billings, a story on Montana's two weeks of prep for Montana State.

EWU and Big Sky links

It's a sellout in Cheney as Eastern Washington takes on Cal Poly: I'll see you there. In the meantime, here's our preview, plus a complete look at the Cal Poly team, a release from Eastern, and a link to our Live Chat. Farther afield, here is a preview of the big Montana State vs. Sac State game. … and the not-so-big game between Montana and Weber State.

EWU and Big Sky links

It's only two days until Eastern's big home game against Cal Poly. Today's paper has a feature on how defensive back McKenzie Murphy got back in the game. We also had a lively Live Chat. Here's the transcript…. Look for a game preview in tomorrow's paper. In the meantime, out of Bozeman, a story on how Montana State hopes to build on the momemtum of last week's win over North Dakota. … At Montana, the Grizzlies are making more adjustments

EWU and Big Sky links

The Cal Poly Mustangs and their triple option offense are coming to Cheney. Here's a sneak peek. We will also talk about Cal Poly and Eastern in today's Live Chat at spokesman.com / SportsLInk. Cal Poly also can throw the ball out this offense. Elsewhere, a struggling Montana team takes on Weber State. The Montana State defense continues to dominate

EWU and Big Sky links

Despite a close call last week, Eastern Washington solidified its hold on the No. 1 spot in the FCS poll after No. 2 James Madison fell to Richmond. I'll be at practice today as the Eagles prepare for Southern Utah, which fell last weekend to previously wnless Weber State. … Greg Hardin of North Dakota won the Big Sky Offensive Player of the Week award after his amazing performance against Montana. Cal Poly (EWU's opponent on Nov. 3)  had a tough time with Portland State last week, but pulled away in the fourth quarter. …Things can't get much worse at Idaho State, where the Bengals fell to Northern Colorado. Meanwhile, wide receiver Derek Graves is being vilified in the social media after the shoving incident involving head coach Mike Kramer. Also in the Idaho State Journal, a commentary on the state of football at ISU and UI.

EWU and Big Sky links

Eastern Washington is set to defend its new No. 1 ranking today against Sacramento State. Here's our preview. From the Sacramento Bee, a story on the Hornets' fast start and a feature on standout linebacker Jeff Badger. Montana State tried to make the most of a bye week following its loss to Eastern, while Montana hopes to take advantage of a North Dakota's defense. …Unbeaten Cal Poly faces Portland State

EWU and Big Sky links

I caught up with the Eastern players and coaches Tuesday at wind-blown Roos Field. Here's my report on how the Eagles are handing being the top team in FCS. … Here's a press release from this week's opponent, Sacramento State, which is 3-1 in the conference and owns a win over Colorado of the Pac-12. .. At Idaho State, Mike Kramer is in hot water, and not because of the Bengals' poor record. … Montana is definitely not a second-half team this year. Here's an analysis from the Missoulian.

EWU and Big Sky links

I'm catching a ride to Bozeman in a couple of hours for tomorrow's game, arguably the biggest FCS game of the week (now if only they had FCS Gameday …). We had a live chat yesterday, and here is the transcript. …Also, a feature on Eastern defensive end Jerry Ceja. …From the Billings Gazette, a look ahead to the game…. Elsewhere, Montana isn't taking Southern Utah lightly… From the Great Falls Tribune, a live audio chat, something I haven't tried yet.

EWU and Big Sky links

Another perfect day for football in Cheney, although it will be hard to top last week's Eagle win over Montana. Tonight it'll be North Dakota, kickoff at 5:05 p.m. Here' is our preview story. Montana State, the Eagles' next opponent, faces UC Davis this week, but is still chafing over the suspension of Caleb Schreibeis over an illegal hit. … Meanwhile, Montana faces Northern Colorado today; someone has to win. …The Eagles' next home game after today? That would be Sacramento State on Oct. 20; the Hornets have a very prolific running back.

EWU and Big Sky links

Summer is really over in the Inland Northwest. That was especially true in Cheney, where the Eagles practiced in cold, gusty wind to prepare for Saturday's game against North Dakota. The Eagles have a few injuries (see story above), but so does North Dakota. Also, here's an in-depth look at the team, courtesy of the UND Sports Information Office. Next up for the Eagles is No.2-ranked Montana State, which is getting some unlikely help at wide receiver. … Meanwhile, Montana is 0-2 in the Big Sky for the first time since 1992; here are some possible reasons why. Of course, some would trace the Grizzlies' troubles back to the spring.

EWU, Big Sky Game Day links

The Eagles and Griz kick off this afternoon at Roos Field, and there are plenty of stories setting it up, starting with our preview, andin case you missed it, a profile of offensive lineman and captain Will Post. From the Missoulian, here a look from the Grizzlies' perspective. And this from the Billings Gazette, which also previews Montana State's game at Southern Utah. …

EWU football, the morning after

SALT LAKE CITY - Last night's Eastern game had it all - too much to encompass in one late-night story - so I'll try to follow up later today after I fly out of here. So many questions: the injuries to Zach Johnson and Nick Edwards; do the Eagles have a two-headed quarterback, and it so, is that a good thing or a bad thing?  Last night at Weber, I think it was a good thing - here's my game story - mainly because it caught Weber State unprepared. I had no inkling either, but that's the whole idea: to spring a surprise.

After everyone adjusted to the new reality - and Vernon Adams began suffering from dehyradation and cramps - Kyle Padron played almost the whole first half. In other words, both QBs got a chance to do what they do best - Adams keeping teams off-balance with his running ability, and Padron with the ever-present deep threat to Brandon Kaufman (who now has 16 catches for 316 yards and three TDs and who offers perhaps the best deep threat in the Big Sky).

And while this game came down to the wire, don't forget that Weber made some big mistakes in the first half to fall behind 20-3 in the first place, including a drop of a sure TD pass on their first possession. The Wildcats' 0-4 record is quite misleading, I think.

So who gives the Eagles the best chance to win this week against Montana? Maybe both. So who will start? Apparently, only Beau knows.

EWU and Big Sky links

The Eagles are flying to Salt Lake City today for Saturday night's matchup at Weber State. I'll be there too, but in the meantime I wrote this profile on EWU wide receiver Brandon Kaufman. Yesterday we had a lively live chat; here's the transcript. Look for a preview of the game tonight at spokesman.com and tomorrow morning in your newspaper.

EWU and Big Sky links

Big Sky Conference play begins this week, and as they like to say "Now the games really count." But if your team is chasing an at-large spot in the FBS playoffs, don't they all count? In the case of Eastern Washington, I think the win over Idaho wll count for something in case they don't win the conference. We're sure to revisit that topic in November, but for now, the Eagles told me at practice Tuesday that they are focused squarely on the Big Sky opener at Weber State.

EWU and the Big Sky

It's time for conference play in the Big Sky. Here are a few links to get the week going. First one reason Montana State is so successful is the Bobcats' ability to score in the red zone. … Meanwhile, EWU's next opponent, Weber State  ranks dead last in that category, but Wildcat punter Tony Epperson has stepped up to lead the nation.  And in case you missed it, here's a recap of Weber's 35-21 loss to McNeese State.