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Eastern's Big Sky Conference home opener against Cal Poly offers plenty of challenges, especially the Mustangs' triple-option offense. Here's my weekly notebook, leading with a profile of Cal Poly quarterback Chris Brown, plus a feature on one of the Eagles tasked with stopping him. That would be EWU safety Miles Weatheroy, who came to Cheney almost by accident. … We also had a live chat on Thursday, and here is the replay. … The Missoulian has this story on Montana's preparations for Weber State's dual-threat quarterback Justin Shaw…Portland State looks to bounce back this week against North Texas State.
The Eastern Washington defense faces a unique challenge Saturday afternoon at Roos Field in the form of Cal Poly's triple option offense. Here's a first look at the matchup from Eastern's practice on Tuesday, and our weekly notes column focusing on Cal Poly quarterback Chris Brown. That should be a good topic for Thursday's Live Chat, which begins at noon right here on SportsLink. Want more on the game: here are previews the game from Eastern and from Cal Poly. … Elsewhere, Idaho State is playing some "God awful" football, according to this story in the Idaho State Journal. … From the Missoulian, a preview of Montana's home game against Weber State. … From the Portland Tribune, a look at Vernon Adams Jr. as he hopes to get back on the field. … Northern Colorado hopes to keep momentum going this week against UC Davis.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. - We've seen it for years from the Eastern coaching staff and players: a rough second quarter followed by some halftime adjustments that led to a big win. It happened again here Saturday night as Eastern rallied past Sacramento State. Here's my game story plus some game notes leading with another record from wide receiver Cooper Kupp. … The Sacramento Bee was there too, and here's their account of the game. … Elsewhere in the Big Sky, the Missoulian recounts how Missoula held off Northern Arizona, while the Bozeman Daily Chronicle reports on Montana State's win over Cal Poly. … From the Idaho State Journal, a story on Idaho State's disaster in Las Vegas, and from Fox Sports, a recap of unbeaten Portland State staying that way after a 31-0 win over Western Oregon,
Tonight, the Eagles begin their quest for a fourth straight Big Sky Conference title. Here's my preview of the game from Sacramento, and in case you missed it, the replay from Thursday's live chat. … Also, here's a preview of tonight's game from EWU sports information director Dave Cook. … What the heck, there's nothing in the local Sacramento Bee in today's paper (apparently they care a lot more about the 49ers, A's and Giants), so here's a game preview from Sacramento State. … Elsewhere in the Big Sky, Cal Poly visits Montana State in a matchup of teams that I picked to finished second and third (behind EWU) in the Big Sky.Here is a preview from the Tribune in San Luis Obispo, California, and another from the Bozeman Daily Chronicle. The Chronicle also has this feature on MSU quarterback Dakota Prukop, who had a pretty good game last week in Cheney. … Idaho State faces another big challenge today, as if the injury-plagued Bengals haven't had enough already. … Montana is another team that needs to bounce back; the Griz face NAU today, and the Missoulian has this preview.
That task begins Saturday night in Sacramento, where Eastern has never lost in 11 tries. The Eagles will be favored in this one thanks to a high-flying offense that owes a lot of its success to a veteran offensive line. Among them is senior left tackle Clay DeBord, who's featured in this story that's running in Friday's Spokesman-Review. … I also had a live chat today on Eastern football, and here's the full transcript. … I keep checking the Sacramento newspaper for Sac State news, but there's nothing. Instead, here's info on the EWU game from Sac State. … From the Tribune in San Luis Obispo, California, news that Cal Poly has lost a player for the season. … From the Missoulian, a preview of an intriguing matchup this weekend between the Griz and NAU.
Jim: OK, let's talk Eastern Washington sports!
Jim: Warmup question: If you setting the line on Eastern winning the Big Sky title, what would it be?
Jim: I'll go first: I'd make Eastern the favorite at 2:1.
Joemon (guest): Hmmm, I have to give even odds. But if the offense keeps humming they will win it
Jim: Of course, 2:1 means they're my solid favorite even with 13 teams in the conference.
Joemon (guest): Do you know if we are only sending 2 QB's to Sac St. I would be more comfortable with 3
Jim: Just two, and one of them (Gage Gubrud) has yet to take a snap. I say that changes this week.
Joemon (guest): I think we are going to have issues with Cal Poly and Montana
Jim: I picked Poly third in my preseason poll, behind EWU and MSU. I had Montana fourth and ISU fifth, BTW
Joemon (guest): It would be good if Gage could get some reps but our defense may not allow for that
Jim: If the defense can't make a statement this weekend, then I will be revising my 2:1 odds. Sac State's offense has been awful so far.
KHatch_Brecek: Jordan really wowed me on Saturday. He finally showed me the "dazzle" I was looking for. I hope he keeps that up!
Jim: Yes, Jordan had what I call a Mary Poppins day - practically perfect in every way.
Jim: Think about that passer rating - 313.5 - the best in school history.Then think about all the great EWU QBs who never hit that mark. Great poise in the pocket last week, Baldwin said.
KHatch_Brecek: I thought the defense had some incredible moments…. and then, the opposite. We are very young there, so I would anticipate this will only get better with more game time experience, right.
Jim: Exactly. And for the first time this year, they don't face a running quarterback. That should help.
Joemon (guest): Any freshman coming off red shirt this week with all the injuries
Jim: I doubt it. Running back is a thin spot right now, but Williams and McPherson already had their redshirts burned.
Guest3004 (guest): Whats the status of Jabari Wilson
Jim: I spoke with Baldwin and head trainer Brian Norton, who makes the final call on this. Norton said Wilson had passed all the post-concussion tests but there's always the chance he could regress. At this point they expect him to play.
Jim: They certainly need Wilson, since Moore and McPherson won't play.If Wilson can't go, then true freshman Malcolm Williams will get the start.
Jim: Williams is showing a lot of flash, but he had a potentially costly fumble late in the MSU game.
Joemon (guest): With all the RB's hurt, looks like we will be passing a bit
Jim: They will anyway, Joe!
Jim: You go with your strengths, right?
Guest3004 (guest): Is McPherson’s injury a knee or ankle? Looked like ACL or MCL when it happened.
Jim: It's an ankle, and actually, he's listed as questionable, so perhaps it's not that bad.
Guest491 (guest): What is the final answer on what happened to Shaq Hill
Jim: Hill suffered a knee injury at Oregon. He's listed as questionable for Sac State.
EWUfan2006: What's happened with John Kreifels? I didnt see him against Montana St. Is he still suspended?
Jim: Kreifels has been at the bottom of the depth chart at roverback since the Oregon game. Obviously he's in the doghouse. With Raynes out this week, redshirt freshman Cole Karstetter is the likely starter.
KHatch_Brecek: How much longer is Todd out for?
Jim: I spoke with Todd this week, and he expects to be back for Cal Poly on Oct. 10. So does Hennessey, by the way, so next week's bye will come in handy.
Guest3004 (guest): Looks like he has a ways to go to get out of the doghouse.
Jim: Kreifels? Absolutely. In postgame interviews, I always try to observe Baldwin's body language, and he was as upset as I've ever seen him.
Joemon (guest): I think Kreifels needs to have a second chance. This is a bit extreme
Jim: I take that back;
Guest491 (guest): I agree with Joemon
Jim: Baldwin was more upset last year after the one-point loss at NAU,but this is a close second.
Joemon (guest): I have a feeling it had more to do with who he hit than the finger waving
KHatch_Brecek: I agree with Joemon. I still believe the hit was not intentional… if that was any other game besides Oregon, it wouldn't have come across as bad.
Jim: It was both. I think it was very important for the program to avoid showing and sour grapes over VA. Kreifels ruined that, in my opinion.
Guest491 (guest): How long before we have the 2 right tackles back on O
Jim: Jerrod Jones is listed as probable. Starter Cassidy Curtis is expected back in late October.
Guest3004 (guest): It wasnt a deliberate thing. More than anything i think it had more to do with the situation at the time and all the hype. Anyone else and this wouldnt have been such a big deal.
Guest491 (guest): I thought O line looked very good against MSU. Great job by Coach Best
Jim: He's one of the best.
EWUfan2006: I know its still early and a little bit hard to tell, but is Jacksonville St really better then those MVC teams in the FCS poll?
Jim: They're pretty good. Anyone out there recall that FCS quarterfinal against JSU, when Havili rescued the Eags with a 77-yard pick-6?
KHatch_Brecek: It sounds like 10/10 vs. Cal Poly we will have almost everyone back, correct?
Jim: Yes, except for Curtis, and I still can't say for sure about Shaq Hill.
Joemon (guest): We still need to work on not letting teams come back. It seems like everytime we get a big lead teams always seem to come back
Jim: Actually, that's happened just once this year. Last year??
Eagsfan (guest): I've heard some say west might actually be a better fit for eastern's offense than adams. Thoughts?
Jim: I think so, but it depends. Adams is more dynamic, but West is a better pocket passer. On the other hand, West is more dependent on having a great O-line, because he can't get out of trouble as easily as Adams could.Does that make sense?
Joemon (guest): I say that JSU, South Dakota State and North Dakota State are the 3 best right now. The Montana game was a fluke vs NDSU
EAGinAZ (guest): Missed tackles are still an issue with the defense. what has been done this week in practice to fix it?
Jim: Baldwin said after the Northern Iowa game that poor tackling was caused partly by players being "a yard or so" out of their run fits, which forced them to lunge to make tackles.
Brett (guest): Tackling was better Saturday
Jim: Was it? 718 yards is quite a few to give up.
Jim: Credit the opposition, but EWU's total defense (636 yards per game) is 161 yards PER GAME worse than any other Big Sky team.
Jim: Also, EWU is giving up 49.7 points per game, or 13 ppg worse than anyone else.
Joemon (guest): But we have played Oregon (one of the best offenses in the country) and MSU (One of the best defenses in FCS)
Jim: Sure, but you probably meant MSU has one of the best offenses,right?
Joemon (guest): I mean't offense for MSU
Brett (guest): I didn't say great I said better. With 4 th down stops
Jim: Yes, rising to the occasion is huge, and that was a good example.
EWUfan2006: I have to get back to work but would love to see EWU put away a team that is obviously a mid-range FCS program. Defense is going to finally get a chance to really click against a struggling Offense. Thinking 42-21. Thanks for the great coverage again this year Jim!
Jim: UNI next year in Cheney - be there!
Eagsfan (guest): My opinion, West has a much more commanding presenc in the pocket. Hennessey might end up being the best yet.
Jim: Agreed on both points. It was a shame to lose Hennessey just as he was showing what he can so. He'll be back soon.
EAGinAZ (guest): We have played some very good offenses but the D practices against the best O in the FCS and should be prepared for it. I had higher expectations for the D this year but the start hasn't been to encouraging. They need to tackle better and get some turnovers.
Jim: That's right. I was told that this defense would be more aggressive,forcing the action and also more turnovers. So far, they've forced just two:Adams' fumble and Prukop's interception.
KHatch_Brecek: I am really hoping Gage gets some snaps…. he's the real deal! We have 3 fabulous quarterbacks.
Jim: I heard and seen a lot of good things with Gubrud, but need to see him in real action. I believe the Eagles will put this one away early, giving Gage that chance.
Jim: Which brings us to the big question: how do you see this game going?
Eagsfan (guest): It will be interesting to see what happens when Hennessey and Gabrud battle it out fter West is gone.
Jim: By the way, I will be in Sacramento for the game. The team is flying by charter and returning late Saturday after the game.
Eagsfan (guest): If we have 2 healthy backs, we roll 38-24. If we end up having to pass the whole game it will be much closer. I dont want to get into a shootout on the road.
Jim: Did you know that Sac State went seven scoreless quarters earlier this year?
Jim: After putting away NAIA Eastern Oregon in the third quarter, they were shut out in the 4th quarter, shut out for the entire game in a 49-0 loss at Washington and for two more quarters in a 32-14 loss at Weber State -which was picked behind them in the preseason polls.
KHatch_Brecek: I don't see us getting into a shootout with Sac State.
EAGinAZ (guest): i would really like to see the D put together a very nice game, get a couple turnovers and multiple 3 and outs. The O does what it does and Coop does what he does (12 215 3TDs) 49-24 EWU
Eagsfan (guest): No, but they always play us tough.
Jim: True, although Eastern has never lost at Sac.
Jim: EWU is
Jim: EWU leads the series 17-4 and is 11-0 in Sacramento.
KHatch_Brecek: I would love to see the defense shut them out for at least one quarter! That would be great!
Jim: I'd lay even money on that happening.
EWUDude (guest): If things go well and we don't have to play our starters the whole game, how much of the team can we expect healthy after the by week?
Jim: I think that apart from right offensive tackle Cassidy Curtis and possibly WR Shaq Hill, the Eagles should be whole again for Cal Poly.
EAGinAZ (guest): How has the team been at practice? While i think EWU will roll them, i do have some concern this could be a let down game where they start very slow and it gives them confidence.
Jim: I can't imagine a letdown game for this defense, can you?
KHatch_Brecek: When did you say Curtis would return?
Jim: Curtis told me he expects to be back in late October.
EWUDude (guest): Oh and this little thing called depth is something that shows how far EWU has come over the last decade. Most FCS teams would have folded with the amount of injuries we've had this year…
Eagsfan (guest): Yes, this bye week seems to be coming at the most opportunistic tile.
Jim: Fortunately, the injuries have come across the board. In 2011, it was mainly the O-line.
EAGinAZ (guest): not the defense but the offense maybe. They came back in the second half very flat last week with the big lead.
Jim: Still, they put 21 points on the board in the second half, and it would have been more if not for the fumble and the missed FG.
Jim: Any other score predictions? Here's mine:
Jim: EWU 45, Sac State 24
Jim: Seven minutes left. Any more questions before I finish my player feature for tomorrow and pack for Sacramento?
Jim: At this point I'm going to shout out that you need to :Wake up and read" tomorrow's inspiring story of a small-town boy who's started 41 games for the Eagles and who will soon be the first one in his family to graduate from college.
Jim: OK, folks, thanks for participating. Remember, no live chat next week owing to the bye, but we'll do it again on Oct. 8.
Jim: See you then!
As the Eagles prepare to hit the road for their Big Sky opener this weekend at Sacramento State, Eagle coach Beau Baldwin is preparing to meet an old friend. That would be Hornets head coach Jody Sears, a former assistant at Eastern and the main subject of this week's Eastern notebook. The other topic is the matchup between two struggling units, the Eastern defense and the Sac State offense. That's just one of the topics we'll cover in today's live chat today at noon, right here at SportsLink. … Want more on the game? Here are the details from Eastern and from Sacramento State…. In other news, the "Dam Cup" rivalry between Eastern and Portland State will now be a football-only affair.
Fresh from a dramatic win over Montana State, the Eastern Washington football players and coaches got down to the business of winning a fourth straight Big Sky Conference title. Here's my story from Tuesday's practice and here is a preview of Saturday's Big Sky opener at Sacramento State from the school. … And don't forget, we'll have another live chat about the Eagles, Thursday at noon right here at SportsLink. … Elsewhere in the Big Sky, Sac State is trying to bounce back from consecutive losses to Washington and Weber State. The latter game included an amazing performance by Sac middle linebacker Darnell Sankey. … On Oct. 10, the Eagles face a Cal Poly team that is coming off a tough loss at Northern Iowa. … Meanwhile, Montana State coach Rob Ash reflects on the Eastern game. … …. Montana's quarterback Brady Gustafson is out for this week's game against Northern Arizona.
It's a big week in Cheney. The students are back, fall term is about to begin, and the Eastern Washington football team is preparing for Saturday's sold-out game against Montana State. Fans have been talking about it all week, as we did in our weekly live chat. Here's the transcript, plus my feature on EWU safety Todd Raynes. I also have a blog with links from earlier this week. … The Billings Gazette has this feature on EWU receiver Cooper Kupp as well as a look at Montana State quarterback Dakota Prukop and the Bobcat offense. … From the Missoulian: The Montana offensive line faces a big challenge this weekend at Liberty.
Jim Allen: OK, let's chat about Eastern sports!
Jim: OK, folks, what's your biggest worry about this week's game against Montana State?
EdubU10 (guest): Is Kupp a game time decision?
Jim: Yes, that's what Baldwin said Tuesday.
GoldenEagle (guest): Hello Jim,
Jim: Hello, Golden Eagle!
Jim: Your biggest worry?
EdubU10 (guest): Our defense and running game
KHatch_Brecek: How do you feel heading into Saturday, with the injuries and MSU having 2 weeks off to prepare?
Jim: If your red-and-white cup is half full, you say to yourself, "The injuries are on different parts of the team and MSU should be very rusty after going 16 days without playing."
Joemon (guest): Figures a client comes in right as I'm doing this. Anyway what is up with the OL?
Jim: Right tackle Cassidy Curtis is out till 10/10, so backup Jerrod Jones came in at UNI and got hurt. That forced another switch, moving left guard Aaron Neary to RT and backup Jay Deines taking Neary's spot at LG. That's the plan for Saturday if Jones can't go.
Jim: Another concern?
KHatch_Brecek: I agree, defense, running game and early season injuries are my worry.
Jim: Agreed: those are the big three right now. Also really poor punting at UNI, and of course the penalties.EWU "leads" the nation in that category.
EdubU10 (guest): Our kicking game has been pretty lackluster as well
Jim: Yes, Edub10. Also kickoff returns, poor judgment by Simba Webster at times, but he's young.
EAGinAZ (guest): our run defense has been worst then i expected and we can't run the ball. if we don't fix these two issues quick it's going to be a long season…
Jim: Agreed. Baldwin says that's a priority this week.See my story from Wednesday:http://www.spokesman.com/eagles/stories/2015/sep/16/eagles-refuse-to-panic-despite-0-2-start/
Jim: My biggest concern on offense, which I mentioned during fall camp, is the lack of speed in the backfield,compared with last year. Obviously, West isn't as elusive as Adams, and Wilson/Moore don't have the outside speed of Forte/Brown. New RBs McPherson and Williams are learning but they're still green.
Joemon (guest): My biggest concern is that MSU has a huge interior OL and I'm not sure how we can stop their run and I'm also concerned that the OL is not performing up to expectations and once again we will not be able to run. Thank goodness we have one of the best QB's and WR's in FCS
Jim: Yes, the should be doing better in run-blocking.That will be huge this week, as MSU coach Rob Ash told me on Wednesday that the Cats will focus on stopping the run. Look for that in my game preview in Saturday's paper!
EAGinAZ (guest): Have the coaches taken steps in practice to reduce the penalties? ie
Jim: Yes, Baldwin said some of the penalties were due to mental mistakes, but others were from over-aggressiveness. Those are more excusable than others in the minds of most coaches. Still way too many penalties.
KHatch_Brecek: Do you think we will see Gage make his debut this weekend?
Jim: Only if the game is out of hand for one team or the other. This game is too important to give a green QB snaps in the first half, agreed?
EdubU10 (guest): Tackling is another issue, it seems like no one wants to wrap up and make a tackle, pretty frustrating.
Jim: I asked Baldwin about that, and he said that some players didn't line up well for their run fits and were forced to lunge to make tackles. That's not good.
KHatch_Brecek: I agree with EdubU10. We cannot finish the job there.
Guest9363 (guest): jones is out this week
Jim: Where did you hear that? Last I heard was that he's questionable.
Jim: Anyone out there questioning this schedule?Obviously, another loss and EWU willl be fighting for its playoff life the rest of the year.
Guest9363 (guest): Did t get cleared last night
Jim: On the other hand, with this schedule, 7-4 will get them in the 24-team field, whereas had they played Central (instead of UNI), then 7-4 might not be good enough. Thoughts?
KHatch_Brecek: No. I think a schedule like this is what prepares us for post season.
Jim: But you have to get there!
EdubU10 (guest): Is Ebukam good to go? I thought i read somewhere he was battling injuries but cant remember for sure
Jim: My apologies: I didn't ask about Ebukam, mostly because he wasn't mentioned in the injury report. He is listed atop the depth chart this week at buck end.
EAGinAZ (guest): I have no problems with the schedule. I love that we are a premier program in the FCS and play other top programs as well. Yes it sucks when we lose those games but when we win, it is huge!
Guest9363 (guest): Very tough schedule Injury not helping
EdubU10 (guest): I go back and forth and the sheduling.Part of me likes that we play tough teams for our OOC schedule but if it back fires and you lose, then you put the burden of winning out to get a decent seed in the playoffs
Jim: Another worry this year is that the conference is looking pretty tough this year. EWU should beat Sac, but Cal Poly is coming to town on 10/10. Luckily the Eagles will have two weeks to prepare.
Guest9363 (guest): Get a win this week we will be ok.
Jim: That's the idea, but you have to slow down MSU QB Dakota Prukop. Don't forget that it EWU won last year's game 52-51. Do you think the Eagles can score 52 this time?
EdubU10 (guest): Turnovers are another thing of concern.We need to start forcing some and winning the TO battle
Jim: For sure. The chpp team in 2010 was incredible in that department: plus-17 in turnovers (forcing 46, I believe). Recent teams have done poorly in that category,but one of the selling points to the new defense was that DBs can play more aggressively and force more TFLs and turnovers. Haven't seen that yet, but that's partly because UO and UNI are running teams.
KHatch_Brecek: Do you think that UNI's loss was a bit of a letdown from the previous week? There was so much hype going into Oregon. I know you had said last week that Baldwin wouldn't let that happen, but the team didn't have the energy they normally do. Yes, there were moments, but I felt they looked sluggish- both sides of the ball.
Jim: It's funny, but defensive energy was there in the 1st and 3rd quarters at UNI. "They got lost a little" in the second quarter, Baldwin told me on Tuesday. Offensively,run blocking was poor, I thought.
EAGinAZ (guest): if Kupp is 100% we can score every drive however he is not so we need the D to step up and get some stops or even a turnover or two.
Jim: Sorry, but Kupp won't be 100 percent. Then again,Kupp at 80 percent is still pretty darned good.
Guest6725 (guest): Defense needs to get aggressive and tackle. Enough of the ESPN shoulder tackle and wrap me up
EdubU10 (guest): What does MSU's running game look like without shawn johnson?
Jim: That's the problem: MSU hasn't played in two weeks, and that was against Fort Lewis, a DII school. No one knows what to expect. I do know that the new RBs aren't as good as Johnson. The defense needs some outside contain on the QB, however.
KHatch_Brecek: Do you get a sense of pressure from the players, going into Saturday?
Jim: Not frustration, given the caliber of the opposition. I sensed that players were owning their mistakes, which should help on Saturday.
Jim: It was a very nose-to-the-grindstone practice on Tuesday. Not as many smiling faces as usual.
Jim: Question: Do you NOW think the Big Sky will be tougher than what you expected when the season began?
Jim: I certainly do: We knew MSU, CP, ISU and UM would be tough, but PSU and NAU won't be pushovers.
EdubU10 (guest): I'm still not convinced on PSU
KHatch_Brecek: Portland State has momentum going. I don't see that lasting.
Jim: The Vikings have DII Western Oregon this week,then a big game against the other surprise team, North Dakota. Stay tuned!
EdubU10 (guest): I do think they are better than when Nigel was there and they always have a pretty decent team, talent wise
EdubU10 (guest): but that could be said the past couple years and they always lose games they should win. That program doesnt have a winning culture and that can hurt ya in tough, close games.
Jim: They have the talent, from what I saw of the WSU game from my hotel room in Eugene (yes, I watch college football almost every chance I get!)
Jim: My point is that I think, from top to bottom, the league looks tougher, with fewer easy pickings even for Eastern,
EdubU10 (guest): Agreed, which is nice to see the conference getting stronger. I was surprised by ISU losing to PSU.
Jim: At this point, EWU is a clear favorite in just two more games: 9/26 at Sac and 10/31 home against Weber.What say you about the rest of the schedule?
EdubU10 (guest): What did you think of the Oregon/Michigan St game?
Jim: It was a tough weekend. The team I've rooted for all my life lost by 3 and the team I cover lost by 3.
KHatch_Brecek: I think it is going to be a little tougher than I had originally thought. We just need to get a win,and I think we can all breathe again.
Jim: Ten minutes left: let's see some score predictions!
Jim: Here's mine: EWU 41, MSU 31 as the defense gives up yards but forces two turnovers while West has another big passing game.
EdubU10 (guest): I saw something like 45-42 EWU.Another close one but EWU pulls it out for their first win of the year
KHatch_Brecek: EWU 49-34
Guest8054 (guest): MSU 49-42
Joemon (guest): I think MSU takes this one 55-35
KHatch_Brecek: Ouch is right!!
Joemon (guest): I know, unless the D comes through
Jim: BTW, Eastern has never given up that many to MSU.
Guest8054 (guest): Prukop is going to go off
KHatch_Brecek: Do we have a closet MSU fan in the chat room?
Jim: With that, it's time to say goodbye. We'll do it again next week!
If Eastern Washington is to get its first win of the season this weekend, the Eagle defense will need to slow down Montana State quarterback Dakota Prukop, the main subject of my weekly Eastern notebook. … He also figures to be a major talking point in today's Live Chat, which begins here at noon today. … Want more on the game? EWU Sports Information Director Dave Cook has it all right here. … And from the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, coverage of Montana State. … Sacramento State hopes to bounce back from a tough loss at Washington.
Despite losing their first two games, the Eastern Washington football players and coaches are focused on the task at hand: beating Montana State this weekend. Here's my report from practice, plus info on the game from EWU Sports Information Director Dave Cook. …. From the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, here's an interview with MSU coach Rob Ash. … From the Missoulian, a story on how Montana used its bye week plus a look at the Griz receiving corps.
If losing at Northern Iowa wasn't bad enough, the Eastern Washington football team is banged up entering Saturday's home opener against Montana State. Want more on the game? Here's a preview from EWU and another from MSU. … Montana holds its own in this week's FCS poll.
In addition losing a big game at Northern Iowa on Saturday, the Eastern Washington football team may have lost some key players, coach Beau Baldwin said Monday.
Two-time All-American wide receiver Cooper Kupp caught nine passes for 159 yards and three touchdowns in the first half of the Eagles’ 38-35 loss, but suffered a hip pointer late in the second quarter and didn’t return. Kupp is listed as questionable for the 0-2 Eagles’ non-conference home game Saturday against Montana State.
Another wide receiver, Shaq Hill, is questionable with a knee injury, and quarterback Reilly Hennessey is doubtful with an ankle injury suffered in the third quarter at UNI.
The losses injuries also took away EWU’s top kickoff returner (Hill) and punt returner (Kupp), as well as the teams two holders on placekicks (Kupp and Hennessey).
The Eagles also lost offensive lineman Jerrod Jones, who had replaced Cassidy Curtis at right tackle after the latter had a foot injury in the opener at Oregon.
Jones is listed as questionable for the MSU game.
Running back Jalen Moore (ankle) is questionable for MSU, while safety Zach Bruce (shoulder) is probable.
Eastern faces one of the tougher road tests in the Football Championship Subdivision, playing at Northern Iowa in a televised game (SWX) that begins at 11 a.m. Did I mention that UNI beat both eventual finalists (North Dakota State and Illinois State) on their way to another playoff berth. Speaking of which, the Eagles need to win to improve their margin of error for making the postseason, and a loss in the 16,000-seat UNI Dome wouldn't help. Here's my preview of the game, and here are all the details from the sports information departments at EWU and Northern Iowa…. The biggest game in the Big Sky this week: surprising Portland State at highly-regarded Idaho State. … Sacramento State faces a tough game today at Washington.
The Eagles are coming off a solid showing at Oregon, but they're still 0-1, as coach Beau Baldwin made it clear on this week. The first task this weekend, is play better defense against the UNI ground game and its new quarterback. … The brains behind that defense, Jeff Schmedding, is the subject of this feature story … We also had a lively live chat on Thursday, and here's the full transcript from a full hour of give and take. … Want some insights into Northern Iowa? I went straight to the source and got this summary from Cedar Rapid Gazette sportswriter Jeremiah Davis. … I also spoke with former EWU star lineman Jake Rodgers, who's still hoping to catch on with an NFL team despite being waived last weekend. … At Idaho State, the Mangum brothers are basking in the limelight of success. … Sacramento State hopes to spoil Washington's home opener. … Fresh off a close loss at Utah State, Southern Utah takes on Utah of the Pac-12 this week.
Jim: OK, Eastern fans, let's do this!
Jim: What's your biggest takeway from the Oregon game?
Jim: For me, it's depth at the quarterback position and the need for better tackling on defense.
KHatch_Brecek: I thought it was great that Hennessey came in like he had been doing it for years. His confidence was huge for me!
Jim: Hennessey was even more impressive when you consider he hadn't played in a game in almost two years.
Jim: He looked very poised out there, and had more speed than I expected (I haven't seen him scramble much in practices and scrimmages, but obviously he's capable.)
KHatch_Brecek: I loved when Nzuzi (I hope I spelled that right) caught up with one of Oregon's RB's and tackled him. I thought our defense looked good, but def had a lot of missed tackles and needs work. BUT— thought we did goo.
joemon (guest): Offense could be really good again,defense maybe not ( but it was Oregon they were defending)
Jim: I think the 4-2-5 scheme is putting the best athletes on the field. And yes, it's hard to judge solely from the Oregon game.
joemon (guest): I'm not sure that 4-2-5 is going to work.The DL has to plug the middle and I'm not sure they are physical enough to do it
Jim: That's my concern. Sommer is a 310-pound load at one tackle spot, but Lino is only 265.
joemon (guest): I think we will be in for some shoot-outs again from Idaho State and Montana State
Jim: For sure. Both of those teams faced lower-tier opponents last week, so it's hard to tell. ISU faces Portland State this week in what should be a great game.
KHatch_Brecek: Jim, curious your thoughts on the Kreifels tackle. Obviously it's over and done with, but wanted to know what our thoughts were— intentional or not.
Jim: This has been dissected by better football minds than mine, but I don't think the hit was intentional. It's a tough call sometimes when the QB is scrambling. Still,Kreifels led with the head. The bigger problem, of course,was Kreifels' gesturing to the crowd.
Jim: Kreifels will learn from this - Baldwin will make sure of it.
joemon (guest): Whats your opinion on West vs Hennessey?
Jim: I think Hennessey deserves to see some action this weekend - regardless of the score. He looked game-ready to me in a very hostile venue against the best talent the Eagles will face this year.
KHatch_Brecek: Right, agreed. I thought Baldwin's comment to you about him earlier this week in regards to "having a problem with anyone on offense" was a perfect answer.
Jim: I was there when Baldwin said that; and he said without a trace of humor - very fitting under the circumstances.
joemon (guest): Do you know who didn't make the trip to Iowa beside Kriefels and Curtis?
Jim: I don't. Zach Bruce (shoulder) didn't practice Tuesday, but that doesn't mean anything. I'm heading out to Cheney this afternoon for a feature interview with roverback Todd Raynes. I'll try to learn something about Bruce (and others) while I'm out there.
joemon (guest): So, if VA was EWU's QB and Lockie was Oregons would this have made a bit of a difference?
Jim: I've thought about that one a lot, going back to February when VA was on the fence. This made a huge difference, because the EWU defense could have focused more on the Oregon running game. We'll never know…
KHatch_Brecek: How do you feel we will handle the offense of N. Iowa? Didn't they just get an FBS QB transfer?
Jim: Funny you should mention that; I have a story in today's paper on Aaron Bailey and the UNI offense:http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2015/sep/10/big-sky-notes-eagles-must-contain-running-game-of/
Jim: By all accounts, Bailey is a strong runner (he's 6-2,226lb) but a mediocre passer.
joemon (guest): I'm a bit concerned about a letdown going into N Iowa. A big difference in competition.
Jim: With the prospect of being 0-2, Baldwin won't allow a letdown, IMO
Jim: In fact, Baldwin made a big point of that in Tuesday's presser - that regardless of who the Eagles played last week, they're 0-1.
joemon (guest): Do you know who is filling in for Curtis?
Jim: Junior Jerrod Jones, a 6-6, 295lb redshirt junior from Arlington, Wash. is next on the depth chart. Also in the mix is 310lb WSU transfer Matt Meyer.
KHatch_Brecek: Who do you think is faster of the Webster twins, depsite both being on opposite ends of the ball? (Sorry, random question came up on the long car ride back from Eugene)
Jim: Yes, that's pretty random. I think Nzuzi (a cornerback) is faster, but Simba (a wide receiver) has better moves. That's why he's on offense, methinks.
KHatch_Brecek: How do you feel our offense line did on Saturday?
Jim: Solid. That's the word EWU O-line coach Aaron Best used to describe blocking in the Oregon game. Good but not great protection against an active, athletic front seven. Run blocking was better than I expected, and the result was a respectable 111 yards on the ground. A good showing
joemon (guest): Thanks for doing the chat Jim, I have a client waiting. Any prediction? I'm going with 38-20 EWU
Jim: That's not a bad pick. I like the 38, but I'm not so sure about the 20. The Eagle DEs and LBs have to hold the edge and the DBs must do a better job in run support.
joemon (guest): I tend to agree with you on that. I'm hoping the difference in speed will work to EWU's advantage.
Jim: The defenders like the new scheme, they say it allows them to feel as if they're running downhill.
KHatch_Brecek: Who stood out to you besides the given— Kupp, Hennessey and West?
KHatch_Brecek: Were there any freshman who surprised you?
Jim: Besides those three. I thought the true freshmen RBs McPherson and Williams on offense.
Jim: On defense, Ferris product Cole Karstetter had a good game with five tackles; also Kacmarcik had seven tackles. Freshman safety Mitch Fettig had eight tackles in his first start.
Jim: Too many tackles by the safeties, which is never a good thing.
Guest423 (guest): Curtis looked pretty good for playing all of the 2nd half with a broken foot.
KHatch_Brecek: Do you foresee anyone having a breakthrough year of those younger players?
Jim: I'm keeping my eye on all of the above, and of course true freshman DE Keenan Williams.
KHatch_Brecek: I thought Keenan played great, and really stayed in there, despite being held a lot I'm really hoping he has a breakthrough year!
Jim: Anyone out there surprised by what the Big Sky Conference did last weekend? Does that worry you?
KHatch_Brecek: I still can't believe Montana beat NDSU…. but not surprised by Cal Poly and PSU wins. Te Big Sky will be a dog fight this year. That's one of the things I've always loved about our conference over the years.
Jim: Lost in the headlines was North Dakota's win at Wyoming. Maybe it's a good thing EWU misses them this year. They also miss Southern Utah, which took Utah State down to the wire before losing 12-9.
KHatch_Brecek: PSU, historically, has given us some "grief" over the years. Same with Northern Arizona, and Southern Utah.
Jim: In fact, SUU in 2012 and NAU in 2014 are the Eagles' only conference losses in the last three years.
KHatch_Brecek: In 2013, didn't we almost lose AT HOME to PSU? Came back with a TD in the last few minutes, if I remember right.
Jim: Yes indeed. PSU went ahead with about a minute to play but missed the XP. Adams hit Kupp for a TD in the final seconds and EWU won 42-41.
KHatch_Brecek: Besides, Montana State and Idaho State,who else do you feel will be tough games for us this year?
Jim: Cal Poly, which I picked to finish third behind EWU and MSU. And the Griz, of course.
Jim: Lots of tough games, but you don't want a bunch of cupcakes - right?!
KHatch_Brecek: Ha ha ha, no! I like the tough competition. It prepares us for post season.
Jim: Well said! Thanks, everyone - we'll do it again next week!
KHatch_Brecek: Thanks Jim!
From Jeremiah Davis, sportswriter for the Cedar Rapids Gazette
Offense: The Northern Iowa offense is still very much an unknown, even after a week under its belt. Under new offensive coordinator Joe Davis and with a quarterback situation that is, if nothing else, uncertain, the production is still a concern. Illinois transfer and starting quarterback Aaron Bailey retained the job after starting against Iowa State, but his leash isn’t a long one. Bailey finished 11 of 19 for 114 yards and a touchdown. He had 22 carries for 85 yards. He only threw downfield a few times and none of those throws were on target. Overall, the offense lacked consistency and only put together one great drive against Iowa State. They’ll certainly get more comfortable with more game reps, but it remains to be seen when it brings results.
Defense: On paper, the UNI defense did an admirable job against a Big 12 defense last Saturday. In reality, it was a bit of a mixed bag. Iowa State only managed 310 total yards (233 passing, 77 rushing), but the Cyclones had short fields for most of the game – averaging a UNI 49 and 46-yard-line start in the second and third quarters. But even with that field position, the UNI defense held several times and forced the Cyclones into long field goals that were missed. They obviously face another strong test this week, but once again it’s strength vs. strength. The UNI secondary is the best unit on the defense, featuring preseason All-Americans Deiondre Hall and Tim Kilfoy. Makinton Dorleant also is a senior, and a three-year starter. That experience will be heavily relied upon.
Score: Eastern Washington 31, Northern Iowa 27
Fresh from their reunion with former teammate Vernon Adams Jr., the Eastern Washington players will face another dual-threat transfer quarterback when they visit Northern Iowa on Saturday. Here's my notebook, leading with UNI quarterback Aaron Bailey. We can discuss that and more, during our weekly live chat Thursday at noon at spokesman.com/blogs/sportslink. I also have a blog post, with links, from Wednesday. Elsewhere, former EWU quarterback said he's ready to go against Michigan State. Speaking of which, Spartan coach Mark Dantonio compares Adams to Seahawks QB Russell Wilson. … Here's an up-close look at the EWU-Northern Idaho matchup, from the Panthers' perspective. … Elsewhere, Montana is grateful for a bye week following a one-point loss last weekend to Cal Poly. … Portland State is still abuzz after the Vikings' landmark win at Washington State. … PSU's next opponent, Idaho State, also is coming off a huge win last week.
If Eastern's closer-than-expected loss at Oregon left a good taste in people's mouths, EWU coach Beau Baldwin wasn't one of them. On Tuesday before practice, he told the media that his players have to move on from "the people who are patting you on the back at Safeway and telling you what a good job you did.". … The bottom line is, we're 0-1," Baldwin said. Here's my story from practice as the Eagles prepare for Northern Iowa. I also had this blog post. …From a TV station in Iowa, here's look at the game from the other side. …From the Cedar Rapid Gazette, there's this story looking at what UNI needs to do following a 31-7 loss at Iowa State…. And by the way, Montana State has a bye this week, giving the Bobcats two weeks to prepare for EWU.
The seventh-ranked Eagles are regrouping from last week's loss at Oregon, but they're on the road again against Northern Iowa, which is coming off a frustrating loss at Iowa State of the Big 12. Here's all you need to prepare for the game, including releases from EWU and from UNI. Meanwhile, Oregon quarterback Vernon Adams reflects on his performance on his old team, while the Duck secondary hopes to improve from last week's humbling by the Eagles. That game resulted in another big award for EWU receiver Cooper Kupp … Montana State won easily against Fort Lewis, a game that will be remembered mostly for one incredible hit by an MSU linebacker. … The Missoulian looks back on Montana's last-second loss to Cal Poly.
EUGENE - Vernon Adams was the main story Saturday night, which was the culmination of his seven-month saga that ended with the Ducks' 61-42 win over the Eagles at Autzen Stadium. Our own John Blanchette was there, focusing on the Adams story in this column. I covered the game itself with this story and notes. … The local media was there in droves. The Oregonian had this game story, plus an account of what Eastern's offense did to the Duck secondary and this photo gallery. From the Eugene Register Guard, here's a column devoted to the Adams story, a game story and an account of EWU linebacker John Kreifels' ejection following a late hit on Adams. … The biggest news out of the Big Sky Conference happened closer to home, where Portland State stunned Washington State. We have this story from the WSU perspective…. In Missoula, Montana fell to Cal Poly on a last-second field goal.
Eastern is 9-23 all time against the Football Championship Subdivision and 1-10 against current members of the Pac-12 Conference. This is the Eagles’ first meeting with Oregon… The seventh-ranked Ducks aren’t the highest-ranked opponent in EWU history; in 2006, the Eagles fell 52-3 at No. 6 West Virginia. … The Eagles have 10 current players from the state of Oregon, plus another four from the Vancouver, Wash., area. Expected starters from the region include wide receiver Kendrick Bourne (Portland), tight end Jake Withnell (Salem), nose tackle Matthew Sommer (Salem), safety Miles Weatheroy (Portland) and center T.J. Boatright (Vancouver). … Oregon has won 10 straight home openers, averaging 55.1 points while never scoring fewer than 38. The Ducks are 13-0-2 against current members of the Big Sky, tying North Dakota in 1931 and Montana in 1952; their game against the Sky was a 69-0 win over Portland State in 2010. … The Ducks haven’t allowed a kickoff or punt return touchdown in 115 games. Oregon’s 181 touchdown passes during the last five seasons are the most in FBS, 11 ahead of runner-up Baylor.
EUGENE - The wait is over. Nine months since the Eagles lost in the 2014 playoffs. Seven months since quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. decided to transfer to Oregon. Three and a half weeks since the opening of fall camp back in Cheney. The Eagles are ready, and so are we. I joined the Eagles during their walkthrough at Autzen Stadium, and here's my story from that session. I also tell the story (briefly, thank goodness) of my own life through the prism of college football. There are more stories to tell today, and the Oregon newspapers have plenty of them on today's game. From the Oregonian, Andrew Greif looks at some of the key matchups and a few more details on the game. From the Eugene Register-Guard, another look at what they're calling the Vernon Adams Bowl, plus an interview with versatile wide receiver Byron Marshall. … Elsewhere, Weber State gave Oregon State a good game last night in Corvallis.
EUGENE – This is my Homecoming.
I won’t need a parking pass for tonight’s Eastern Washington game at Oregon. Instead, I’ll walk to Autzen Stadium by the same route I took exactly 40 years ago, from a hotel that’s 200 yards from my freshman dorm.
I’ll walk over the Willamette River and through the woods, replaying the memories in my mind: 40 years of life intertwined with college football, especially the two schools playing here tonight.
I never played the game, but college football has shaped my life for four decades. The game sparked my interest in sportswriting, led me to Spokane and my future wife, and brought me home again for weekend trips to Eugene with my sons.
If that sounds sappy, I won’t apologize.
Back in 1975, I didn’t embrace the game as much as endure it. The Ducks won 11 games during my four years as a journalism undergrad, and once lost 53-0 to USC while never crossing midfield, and yet I kept coming back for more.
I returned every year, through the mediocrity of the ‘80s, the feel-good ‘90s and the incredible success that followed. For 36 straight years, from 1975 to 2010, I made it to at least one Duck game each year.
Yes, Oregon football has come a long way since 1975, but so has Eastern Washington. In the summer of 1983, I was the sports editor at the newspaper in Idaho Falls, Idaho. While covering the annual Big Sky Conference coaches gathering in Sun Valley, I met Jim Price, then the sports information director at Eastern.
The Eagles were ready to make a move from NAIA to Division I, and I was ready to move back to the Northwest. It was Price who told me of a sports opening at The Spokesman-Review. Five months later, I got the job; a year after that, I met my future wife, Dannette. (Thank you, Jim!)
That was in 1985. Ten years later, I was taking my 6-year-old son Nate to his (and my) first Rose Bowl – and Oregon’s first in 37 years. The Ducks gave up an early touchdown, prompting Nate to join the cheering: “Go Penn State, go Penn State.”
“Look, son, we’re not here because Penn State’s in the Rose Bowl,” I said sternly. “Go Penn State,” he said.
Nate never quite caught on, and that may be why he wound at Western Washington, which doesn’t even have a football team anymore.
My younger son Nick caught on faster. Perhaps he was just sucking up, but he was a sponge for the game, and seemed to know more about the game than I did.
On it went, for 15 years. Father-and-son football trips to Eugene and back, staying in Portland with my German-born mother who had no idea what the fuss was all about. The best memory: storming the field after a win over in SC in 2009, a game that I’m convinced drove Pete Carroll to flee back to the NFL.
But kids grow up. Nine months later, Nick was a high school senior looking to move on. We checked out the Eastern campus on a Saturday morning in 2010. The Eagles were playing Sac State, and we watched a great game.
Nine months later, Nick was a freshman at Eastern, and Eagle gear began to appear in our house. Now my wife Dannette has a season ticket while I watch from the press box.
And now we’ve come full circle. Life doesn’t imitate football, but for me, it’s come pretty close.
The operative word today is "flying," which is a lot better than the 8-hour bus ride the Eagles took to Corvallis back in 2013. Eastern got the win, all right, but lost several players - and almost the game - to dehydration. This year, they found a few extra dollars to charter a direct flight to Eugene. … For one Eastern player, center T.J. Boatright, it's a once-in-a-lifetime homecoming, and I tell his story right here. … As for me, I'm driving; I should be in Eugene to cover the Eagles' Friday afternoon walkthrough at Autzen Stadium. Meanwhile, we had a lively Live Chat today on EWU football, and here's the transcript. …The Oregonian has plenty on the subject as well, including five things to watch, some advice for Vernon Adams Jr. from a former Oregon quarterback, and news on yet another high-end athletic facility at Oregon. … From the Eugene Register-Guard, there's a column on the post-Marcus Mariota era about to dawn at Oregon, and a question-and-answer session with Oregon receiver Byron Marshall…. From the Waterloo (Iowa) Courier, here's a preview of Northern Iowa's season opener at Iowa State.
I've followed Duck football since 1975, when I was a freshman in at University of Oregon. "Following" the Ducks is more time-consuming these days, what with the program's success and the fans' insatiable appetite for news. How good/bad is it? So far this week, I've been a guest on three Oregon radio stations, with two more interviews scheduled for today - so they must be desperate for news about the ever-dangerous Eagles. Are they worried? I don't know, but the Eagles are coming into Saturday's game with confidence, not fear, of Oregon's high-flying offense, the subject of my story today. I also solicited the opinion of Andrew Greif, who covers the Ducks for the Oregonian. He graciously answered five of my most pressing questions about the Ducks. (By the way, I'll be chatting at noon today to answer you questions about the Ducks, the Eagles and anything else you care to discuss. … Today we published our annual football section, and I wrote two stories on the Eagles, including this feature on longtime offensive line coach Aaron Best and another on the keys to success for the Eagles this season. … There's more coverage from the Oregonian, including a feature on how Vernon Adams is viewing Saturday's reunion with his former teammates; plus, a look at the Ducks' other big-name transfer, former Notre Dame center Matt Hegarty.
Vernon Adams Jr. was nowhere to be found Tuesday at Eastern Washington football practice, yet he was everywhere. Certainly he was in the minds of the media collected at Roos Field. Players and coach Baldwin answered their questions, then went back to the business of preparing for Adams and Oregon. I too asked the same questions, and here's my story in today's Spokesman-Review. The Eugene Register-Guard sent sports columnist Austin Meek, and he focused on new starting EWU QB Jordan West. …Back in Eugene, the Oregonian reports that the Duck secondary knows all about Cooper Kupp and EWU's talented receiving corps, while Oregon coach Mark Helfrich offers a scouting report on the Eagles…. Farther afield, Montana tries to move past the big win over North Dakota State and focus on Cal Poly….Here's the latest on Montana State, courtesy of the Bozeman Daily Chronicle.
When it comes to special teams, Eastern Washington coach Beau Baldwin is taking the divide-and-conquer approach.
After last month’s promotion of special teams coach Jeff Schmedding to defensive coordinator, Baldwin weighed the options. He said this week that individual coaches will be responsible for the four main special teams units.
“I think it gives a lot of different guys a chance to grow and take something over,” Baldwin said.
In the new arrangement, linebackers coach Josh Fetter will coach the kickoff coverage unit; running backs coach Kiel McDonald will supervise kickoff returns; Baldwin will handle punt coverage; and cornerbacks coach Cherokee Valeria will coach the punt return unit.
The placekicking and kick defense units will still be handled by offensive line coach Aaron Best and defensive front coordinator Ryan Sawyer, Baldwin said.
Regarding the changes, Baldwin allowed that “Maybe a year from now I may morph to one guy, but we will all have a role anyway – we’re all involved in special teams.”
In other news, Baldwin said he is finalizing the schedule for spring ball, which will conclude with the Red-White Spring game on April 25; and waiting on the NCAA to rule on defensive end Evan Day’s petition for a sixth year of eligibility. Day didn’t play last season after suffering an ACL injury last spring.
The media frenzy has slackened only a little following Vernon Adams Jr's announcement to leave EWU and play at Oregon. For example, Adams tells CBS that his former Eagle teammates were "butt-hurt" (whatever that means) by his decision…. From NBC, a report that Adams - and not Braxon Miller of Ohio State - was Oregon's first choice to replace Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota. … Fox sent a crew for this feature story, which includes this 33-minute audio of Adams discussing a variety of topics. …. Of course, Adams isn't guaranteed anything at Oregon, which returns a few other QBs who hope to succeed Mariota.