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Eastern at Oregon, the drama builds

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.

Countdown to the Vernon Adams Bowl

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.

Keeping up with the Vernon Adams story

A story that began almost two weeks ago broke open Monday morning, as EWU quarterback Vernon Adams announced via Instagram and Twitter that he would transfer to Oregon next year. I followed with this story, while the Oregonian filed this report. 

We also have reports from The Sporting News and from SI.com.

And I file this, the news is only 90 minutes old.

Want more? Follow me on Twitter @srjimallen

Adams’ first message to Eagle fans

"Oregon it is! First off, I want to thank God for this amazing opportunity. I want to thank all of Eagle Nation for the love and support. I want to thank every single one of my teammates for pushing me to be a better man/athlete everyday these past four years. Definitely want to thank Coach B, the coaching staff, and the everybody upstairs who has something to do with my success … Thank you Coach B for being the first school to ever offer me, you’l always be a good friend of mine. I also want to thank all the other athletes and coaching staffs here at EWU for all the love and support.” I’m going to miss y’all forever Cheney/Spokane, but I have to do what I think is best for me and my family.”

‘FCS Kickoff’ will start in Cheney

In the earliest opening to the college football season in 11 years, Eastern Washington will host Sam Houston State on Aug. 23 in the "FCS Kickoff."

The Eagles and Bearkats will kick off at 12:30 PDT at Roos Field, ESPN announced Thursday morning.

"We saw the opportunity, saw the need and desire from a programming perspective, and we feel like we can get a significant audience for this game," said Brent Colborne, ESPN's Director of Programming for NCAA championships.

"Come August 23, right before Labor Day, people are starving for college football. People are ready for football. This is a really cool opportunity to serve those fans."



Kupp named first-team All-American

It’s been a freshman year to remember for Eastern Washington wide receiver Cooper Kupp.

Just two days after winning the Jerry Rice Award as the top freshman in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision, Kupp was named to The Sports Network All-America first team on Wednesday.

Eastern and Big Sky links

I learned a lot about Vernon Adams and Cooper Kupp this week, mostly that they really mean it when they say that individual honors come after team. On Tuesday before practice, I spoke with Adams about his second-place finish in the Walter Payton Award balloting, and reminded him that as a sophomore, he would have two more chances.

That's right, he said. "I still have two more chances. If we win these next two games, we'll be national champs." Wow.

See links after the jump….

Eastern and Big Sky links

Eastern Washington is in the FCS semifinals partly because of some clutch plays against Jacksonville State. Here is our follow-up story, along with a preview of tonight's FCS awards in Philadelphia. I'll be standing by tonight with a story on the awards. Meanwhile, the Eastern men's basketball team came up short Sunday against UC Irvine. … Elsewhere in FCS football, two-time defending champ North Dakota State hired a new coach. … Here's a roundup of the four quarterfinal games. …The Baltimore Sun had a nice piece on Towson's win at Eastern Illinois.

Eastern and Big Sky links

A big reason for Eastern Washington's football success is the offensive line, which includes senior guard Brandon Murphy. Here's our feature, and a transcript from yesterday's live chat. We also have a look at the Eastern men's basketball team going into Sunday's game against UC-Irvine. Back to football: The Eagles face Jacksonville State on Saturday, who are embracing an "us against the world" mentality. … Elsewhere, Weber State has hired a new football coach…. The Missoulian wraps up the Montana season.

Eastern playoff links

The Jacksonville State football coaches are trying to prepare for Eastern Washington, but it's not easy, as our story shows … We can talk about that and more in today's live chat, right here at noon. … Eagle defensive coordinator John Graham is a finalist for the head coaching job at his alma mater, Central Washington. … Back to the FCS playoffs:  here's the official release from Eastern, and here's a feature on JSU's tight end, courtesy of the Birmingham News. … The Sports Network offers this preview of all four quarterfinal games.

EWU assistant Graham a finalist for Central Washington head coach

Eastern Washington University defensive coordinator and associate head coach John Graham is a finalist for the head coaching position at Central Washington, Graham said Wednesday.

Graham, 44, a defensive back at Central in 1990-91, graduated in 1992 and was an assistant for the Wildcats for 13 years under Mike Dunbar, Jeff Zenisek and John Zamberlin.

"It's always been a dream of mine to be a head coach," said Graham, who applied for the position when Zamberlin was hired by Idaho State in 2006, and was a finalist at CWU before his current head coach, Beau Baldwin was hired. When Baldwin was hired a year later by Eastern Washington a year later, Graham followed him to Cheney.

Eastern playoff links

Another team, another challenge. For No. 3 Eastern Washington, it comes this week in the form of Jacksonville State running back DaMarcus James and the Gamecocks' zone-read offense. Here's our story, along with previews from Eastern and from JSU, plus JSU stats. Here's a story on JSU's defense, courtesy of the Birmingham News. … In the other quarterfinal in Eastern's half of the bracket, No. 2 Eastern Illinois faces Towson on Friday night The Panthers picked up a couple of big honors.

Eastern playoff links

Talk about peaking at the right time: The unranked Jacksonville State Gamecocks have knocked off two straight ranked opponents in the FCS playoffs, and they'll try to do it again this week at Eastern Washington. Here's our first look at Jacksonville State, and here is the official release from Eastern. (And by the way, Eagle cornerback Ronald Baines is listed as probable this week after suffering a concussion against South Dakota State.)  … Jacksonville State - soon to be known as "Jax" in my Tweets to save space - had a dominating performance last week at McNeese State, but head coach Bill Clark and the Gamecocks have plenty of respect for Eastern Washington. … Want more on Jacksonville State? Go to al.com, a Birmingham-based web site that covers college football like nothing you've ever seen. (It is Alabama, after all.) Here's their Jacksonville State page.

Eastern and Big Sky links

The over/under on today's Eastern Washington-South Dakota State playoff game: 11, and I didn't get that from the boys in Vegas. That comes from the guys at the National Weather Service. A high today of 11, with a wild-chill factor of minus-5. Here's my game preview, plus the official preview from Eastern, which also made warm gesture this week. Meanwhile, here's everything you want to know about South Dakota State. … Two former Eagles won recognition from the Big Sky Conference. … Meanwhile, it'll be even colder in Missoula, where the Grizzlies know that weather alone doesn't win football games. … Stay warm, my friends.

Eastern and Big Sky links

A special player? That would be Eastern Washington special teams standout Bo Schuetzle, an all-Big Sky selection and the subject of this feature story. We also had a live chat yesterday, and here's a partial transcript. … A public service announcement: it's getting even colder, and the wind-chill factor will put Saturday's game at about zero, so please dress warmly. Eastern will open Reese Court at halftime for those who need a break from the cold; Eastern also has this official preview of the game.

Eastern and Big Sy links

Friends, it's been two weeks since we had a chance to chat. so let's get together, say today at noon, right here at  SportsLink. Until then, here's my weekly notebook, focusing on the FCS rushing leader, South Dakota State running back Zach Zenner. … Want more on the Jackrabbits? It's all right here. And by the way, if you think SDSU will be fazed by the cold weather here, check out the conditions in Brookings, S.D. The Jackrabbits also are pretty tough up front on both lines. However, should the Eagles advance, they will host either McNeese State (where the forecast high today is 72 degrees) or Jacksonville State  (a high of 65 today) in a quarterfinal next week, so the Eagles have that going for them. Also, here is the official release from Eastern.  Meanwhile, Montana could have a ridiculous weather advantage on Saturday, as the Coastal Carolina players will trade the 79 degree high in Conway, SC, on Friday for the +5 degrees expected in Missoula (Good luck, Chanticleers, whatever that is). On the other hand, Coastal Carolina has a pretty good running back.

Eastern and Big Sky links

It was a bit chilly Tuesday afternoon at Roos Field as Eastern Washington prepared for a second-round FCS playoff game against South Dakota State. (And by the way. it was 10 degrees colder back in Brookings, South Dakota, so the Jackrabbits will be used to this.) Here's our practice report, along with some big news for Eagle quarterback Vernon Adams. We can discuss all of that and more in Thursday's live chat, but let's move on to the links … Here's a preview of the game from Eastern, but nothing yet from South Dakota State, though here are some stats. … Meanwhile, Montana faces an intriguing opponent in Coastal Carolina coach Joe Moglia.

Adams finalist for Walter Payton Award

Eastern Washington quarterback Vernon Adams is one of three finalists for the Walter Payton Award given to the top player in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision, The Sports Network announced Tuesday.

Adams, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo of Eastern Illinois and running back Terrance West of Towson have been invited to the awards banquet, which will be held in Philadelphia on Dec. 16.


Eastern and Big Sky links

The Jackrabbits are coming to Cheney. South Dakota State, which defeated Northern Arizona 26-7 last weekend, will face Eastern Washington on Saturday. Here's a first look at SDSU, along with a preview from Eastern and a look at the all-Missouri Valley Conference standouts from SDSU. … Meanwhile, UW is looking for a new head coach, and it doesn't appear the Huskies are looking in this direction, although Beau Baldwin's name showed up on Cougfan (registration required) and on similar fan sites at Montana (please, get Baldwin out of the Big Sky!) and at Montana State. … Baldwin's name has not surfaced either at the other UW, that being Wyoming, which just fired its coach. Stay tuned. … Montana also has a playoff game this week.

Eastern’s Baldwin is Big Sky coach of the year

The bar was already high, but Eastern Washington football coach Beau Baldwin raised it further this season.

After leading the Eagles to their first undisputed Big Sky Conference title in 16 years, Baldwin was named Wednesday as the conference Coach of the Year.

After going 7-1 in league play a year ago, Baldwin guided the Eagles to an 8-0 conference record and a 10-2 regular season. The Eagles won the outright Big Sky Championship, becoming the first team other than Montana to finish perfect in league play since Nevada in 1991.

Eastern will take the No. 3 overall seed and a No. 3 national ranking into the Division I Championship. Eastern Washington received a first-round bye, and will play at home on Saturday, Dec. 7

Eastern QB Adams is Big Sky Offensive MVP; Kupp is top freshman

The Eastern Washington University football team picked up some more hardware Tuesday afternoon.

Eagle sophomore quarterback Vernon Adams was voted as the Offensive MVP, while Eagle wide receiver Cooper Kupp became the recipient of the first Freshman of the Year honor, the league announced three days after the Eagles won an undisputed conference championship.

 The two were unanimously selected to the all-conference first team, and Kupp was an unanimous selection for Freshman of the Year.

Eastern gets No. 3 seed in FCS playoffs

Eastern Washington was awarded a No. 3 seed and a first-round bye in the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs, the NCAA announced Sunday morning.

The Big Sky Conference champion Eagles (10-2 overall and 8-0 in the Big Sky Conference) will host either Northern Arizona or South Dakota State in a second-round game at  1 p.m. on Dec. 7.

NAU, the Big Sky runner-up behind Eastern, will play South Dakota State in a first-round game next week.

In all, the Big Sky is sending four teams to the playoffs. Montana earned a No. 8 seed and will host either Coastal Carolina or Bethune-Cookman in the second round. Southern Utah faces a first-round game against Sam Houston State.


Eastern and Big Sky links

Thank goodness for second chances, such as the one Andru Pulu got with the Eastern Washington football team. Here's my feature on Andru, plus a partial transcript of yesterday's EWU live chat. (Check back for a full version.) The Eagles face Portland State on Saturday, and here are the all-you-want-to-know releases from Eastern and from PSU. … And after that? If you're wondering about FCS playoff scenarios and how the teams are chosen and seeded, this NCAA link is just what you need. … It's a must-win game in Bozeman for Montana State against Montana, which brings a punishing ground game in what could be the last game for MSU quarterback Denarius McGhee. Meanwhile, UM quarterback Jordan Johnson is good to go against the Cats. … A potentially even bigger game matches NAU and Southern Utah. … Weber closes out the season against Idaho State in a game that may or may not close out Weber State Jody Sears' two-year tenure in Ogden. … Cal Poly's season-long quarterback controversy will carry on past the season-ender at Northern Colorado.

Eastern and Big Sky links

In order to run the table in the Big Sky Conference, Eastern has to slow down Portland State's prolific offense. Here's my Big Sky notebook, and a reminder to join our live chat today at noon. The Oregonian has a story from the Portland State perspective, and there all-you-want-to-know previews from both Eastern and PSU. … Looking ahead to the Montana-MSU game, the Missoulian has a feature on Bobcat running back Cody Kirk, while The Billings Gazette features Bozeman linebacker Brock Coyle, who plays for the Griz.

Eastern and Big Sky links

SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. - Yes, it's warm down here, and heartwarming for the native Californians on the Eastern football team. Hundreds of family and friends are coming from all directions for today's game against Cal Poly. Here's my preview of the game, focusing on Eastern's defensive preparations for the triple option. The San Luis Obispo Tribune has this story, with a retrospective on last year's 34-17 EWU win. … Elsewhere, Montana isn't going to look past last-place Weber State, according to the Missoulian.. …Montana State hosts Southern Utah in a high-stakes game. … Portland State is looking for its fourth straight win today. … NAU is on the verge of clinching a playoff spot, and Northern Colorado stands in the way.

Eastern focused on Cal Poly’s triple option

SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. – The Eastern Washington football team is living right.

Already on a six-game win streak, the third-ranked Eagles left the snowflakes behind Friday afternoon and found temperatures in the low 60s for their walkthough on the grass at Alex G. Spanos Stadium.

All things considered, it couldn’t be going better … much like a year ago, when the then No. 1 Eagles hit the road against a struggling Southern Utah team.

And lost 30-27.


Eastern and Big Sky links

McKenzie Murphy and the Eastern Washington football team were reunited this week. Here's my story, along with a transcript of yesterday's live chat. I'll be flying with the team this morning to San Luis Obispo, Calif., and will file a game preview for tomorrow, which will be online-only - one more reason to come back here! Meanwhile, here's all you need to know about the EWU-Cal Poly, from Eastern sports information director Dave Cook. The San Luis Obispo newspaper interview Eastern coach Beau Baldwin, who said he was impressed with the Mustangs' defense….Former Montana coach Robin Pflugrad still has strong emotional ties to the Grizzlies, the Missoulian reports.

Eastern and Big Sky links

Eastern Washington's offense and Cal Poly's defense - the top-rated units in the Big Sky Conference - will collide Saturday. Here is my preview story, along with links from Eastern and from Cal Poly. The Mustangs still have plenty to play for, according to this story from the San Luis Obispo Tribune. .. Portland State is on a roll, according to the Oregonian. … Weber State and its freshman QB come into Missoula as a heavy underdog. Former UM head coach Robin Pflugrad is coming too, as an assistant at Weber. … Montana State is looking to bounce back this week.

Eastern Sports chat (noon, Nov. 14)


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Eastern and Big Sky links

Lost in Eastern's big win last week over Montana State was a dominant third quarter by the Eagle defense, which has been making that a habit lately. Here's my story from practice, plus links to the football site at Eastern and at Cal Poly, this week's opponent. Also, we'll have another live chat at Thursday noon, right here at SportsLink. … Elsewhere, Portland State is going for its fourth straight win, while Southern Utah is at Montana State in a game with huge playoff implications, as both teams have three losses going in. The Billings Gazette has this preview. Meanwhile, Montana needs to beat Weber State to stay in the playoff hunt, and the Grizzlies are taking nothing for granted. … Eastern doesn't face Northern Arizona on the football field, but the Lumberjacks are just a game behind in the Big Sky standings going into this week's game against Northern Colorado.