Jim: OK, let's talk Eastern football, basketball, whatever you'd like!
Jim: Warmup topic: after EWU started the season 0-2, I figured most folks would be happy with winning 6 of the next 7. Obviously, that's not the case.
Guest2987 (guest): As you have pointed out so well, especially in this morning's article, the problem is apprehension created by how tight year race is.
Jim: I have to confess, I thought that with EWU's schedule, a 7-4 record would certainly be good enough for a playoff spot.
Jim: I think 7-4 PROBABLY gets the Eagles in.
KHatch_Brecek: I just don't think we are used to being beat, period. On the red turf, and by as much.
Guest2987 (guest): And the much greater worry is the playoffs, not the Big Sky.
Jim: Of course. I spoke with Baldwin twice this week.Once we talked about stats and the ones that matter most to him.
Jim: That includes 3rd-down conversions, turnovers and red zone scoring. NAU "was a perfect storm," in those areas, he said.
Guest6694 (guest): Jim, you are right I am not satisfied. My eye test tells me we are not getting better this year. The defense is somewhat better but the offense is stagnant.
Jim: It's all about improvement, and no, this team isn't doing that. The question is why.
KHatch_Brecek: 7-4? Who do you suspect will give us another loss?
Jim: I think winning is Montana is more important: it stops the slide and eliminates the Griz (they're 5-4).
Guest1373 (guest): Hennessy extending the play will allow the wr's to elude coverage deep
Jim: That's the case for going with Hennessey. On the other hand, do you want his first start to be at a packed, hostile stadium with so much on the line? Tough call for Baldwin, IMO.
Guest6694 (guest): The 3rd down conversions was a by product of 3-4 yards on 1st and 2nd downs thus making 3rd down short and very doable.
Jim: Absolutely. The Eags were behind on the chains all day. The week before, it was the offense that couldn't do anything on first down.
Jim: I'll keep saying it: lack of backfield speed (Adams vs. West and Forte vs. Wilson/Moore) is the root of this problem. Opponents don't respect the QB rollout or the RB sweep. They're crowding inside. Thoughts?
KHatch_Brecek: By the 4th quarter, we were only down 10. And then, the very costly mistakes happened. The defense- at that point, just looked gassed out.
Jim: 22-play drives will do that to you, no matter how often you rotate on the D-line.
Guest8419 (guest): 2 key injuries, will either play?
Jim: That would be roverback Todd Raynes and center T.J. Boatright. Both have knee injuries. I asked Baldwin about that at Tuesday's practice and he said that both were questionable.
Guest2987 (guest): 1. Hennessy was superb in Eugene, at least as tough a venue as Missoula. 2. Actually, the defense was often terrific on 1st and 2nd down. They set a record for tackles for loss. Maddening, they then gave it all back on 3rd down.
Jim: Yes, he looked good. But it's different being a starter. And he is a freshman.
Guest8419 (guest): The offense put the D in bad positions, many times this year
Guest6694 (guest): Is Andre Lino still out with ankle? Did you notice if he was practicing?
Jim: Sorry, I didn't notice either way.
KHatch_Brecek: I agree with you 8419!
Guest8419 (guest): This game is a gut-check for both teams. Our D, whoever is next man up, must just play.Hopefully, our experience at Oregon and UNI will now pay off.
Jim: Montana always is a gut check - for both teams, I think.
KHatch_Brecek: As much as I understand it's a "risk" starting Hennessy, Jordan just isn't doing his job. It's been like this for a few weeks. Reilly just looks so much more confident, and honestly, he looks a little more in control.
Jim: As I wrote earlier this week, Baldwin said that West often expects a certain coverage, then gets surprised post-snap. He's not getting through the progressions.
Guest2987 (guest): I think another key miss/difference this season is the absence of Shaq Hill as a deep threat, and even more as a kick returner.
Jim: The KO return game has been mediocre this year,although Simba Webster is improving. I think we all agree that special teams have fallen off this year.
Guest8419 (guest): BTW Hennessy is a RS Freshman. He has had 2 years in system. I think that matters.
Guest1373 (guest): Hennessy did not LOOK like a freshman against Oregon or uni.
Jim: You guys are correct on both counts.
Guest6694 (guest): Paul Wulff always said you not only need to beat the Grizzlies when you play in Missoula you need to beat the refs as well. We are down by 7 points when the game begins
Jim: No comment!
Jim: Roll call: who'll be in Missoula?
KHatch_Brecek: I will!
Guest8419 (guest): Zornes Quote even better.
Jim: What was that?
Guest8419 (guest): "Every time I come to Missoula I feel like a prostitute on a Saturday night."
- Dick Zornes, 1986
Guest2987 (guest): Funny, though, last time in Missoula we got out to a 25-point lead, although the Grizzlies made it real close in the end.
Jim: It came down to Kupp recovering an onside kick.
Guest6694 (guest): Clawman and wife Debbie will be there. If you go, the EAA is sponsoring a great tailgate. Only $15 for food and drink.
Guest6694 (guest): That was the 'take your foot off the gas' game. I doubt Beau will show any mercy this year.
Jim: Too much at stake, but then when do you recall an EWU-Montana game that DIDN'T have a lot on the line?
Guest2987 (guest): I thought about going to Missoula but unlike last time, the alumni association evidently hasn't organized a bus.
KHatch_Brecek: There are two buses going, this year.
Jim: There you go. Do you have contact info for the buses?
Guest2987 (guest): Really? Wonder why I didn't get an email about it.
Guest8419 (guest): Seems like Alumni communication has been a issue this year. Nothing on local watch parties etc.Improvement opportunity
KHatch_Brecek: Maybe it's just one bus, and they are picking up in two different locations (Cheney/Spokane). I'm taking it. They posted on Facebook on Tuesday, that there were still spots left.
Jim: Thanks for that, KHatch_Brecek !
KHatch_Brecek: I would imagine you could call Alumni Office and ask. I think Leslie said yesterday was last day to reserve a spot, but it wouldn't hurt to call and ask anyways.
Guest6694 (guest): Yes there are multiple busses. It was poorly promoted and they didn't hold enough tickets for fans who wanted to buy the package.
Guest8419 (guest): Any chance Big Sky gets 4 playoff spots?
Guest2987 (guest): Great, thanks! I'll check it out right away.
Jim: I think so, but it's complicated. SO many games that affect invites right now, including games involving other conferences.
Jim: My gut feeling is that EWU will get in at 7-4. Here's the logic: Beating Montana and losing to PSU would eliminate Montana. Doing the opposite should kill off PSU (ASSUMING PSU loses to SUU).
Jim: For that reason, EWU fans definitely should be rooting for SUU this weekend. That combined with a PSU loss to EWU would send the Vikings to three straight losses.
Guest6694 (guest): Eastern, PSU deserves a spot, NAU will certainly cause problems for someone, SUU still needs to beat either PSU or NAU both tough tasks.
Jim: NAU is playing the best ball in the Sky right now and has an easy home game this week vs. Sac State. I think they're in.
Guest8419 (guest): Thanks Jim that’s why we are lucky to have you. I feel a little better.
Guest6082 (guest): I hate being late to the party but who will be starting at QB this week?
Jim: You know as much as we do, 6082!
Jim: My gut feeling is that Hennessey gets the start (or at the very least, West is on a VERY short leash).
Jim: We all have our opinions. The big question is, what do you think Baldwin will do?
KHatch_Brecek: I agree with you Jim. Riley has proved himself.
KHatch_Brecek: I think Oregon wayyyy louder than any Montana game, and he went into that game like he had been starting 3 years.
Guest8419 (guest): KHB very smart, I agree
KHatch_Brecek: I don't know what Beau will do. He seemed very upset with Jordan's performance in the 4th quarter, but at the same time, why did he leave him in as long as he did?
Guest1373 (guest): weather in Missoula????
Jim: On Saturday, partly cloudy, highs in the upper 40s. That's pretty good for mid-November in Missoula, IMO.
Guest2987 (guest): Deciding on a starting QB is definitely an art and not a science. Remember how Beau started Padron in the playoff semifinal against Sam Houston because he'd played so well the previous two games? Next we know we're down a ton at halftime and even VA couldn't bring us back quite far enough.
Guest8419 (guest): No wind!!!!!!!
Jim: That too!
Guest6082 (guest): I find it odd that Jordan has regressed so much and I'm not sure it’s all his fault
Jim: I'll beat this drum til the end of the season. Lack of backfield speed (QBs and RBs) allows defenses to force the action inside. West can't extend plays.
Guest8419 (guest): BTW how are the Griz DB's
Jim: They're solid. This is one of the better defenses in the Big Sky. Montana's problems have come on offense, with lots of QB injuries (they're on No. 3).
Guest2987 (guest): I agree. Shouldn't the coaches be passing on opposition's tactics and suggesting different approaches in real (game) time?
Jim: They do that, but even a strong play-caller like Baldwin is only as good as the personnel.
KHatch_Brecek: Reilly looks like he has some speed, though, doesn't he? I mean Jordan rarely moves, and then he stares down whatever receiver he's throwing to.
Jim: That's the case for Hennessey, his mobility. West can elude tacklers to some extent, but he can't extend plays the way Adams did.
Guest8419 (guest): I knew the front 7 were really good, kinda wishing they might have a weakness
Jim: That's always a strength for the Griz, but the EWU line is very good at pass blocking.
Guest6082 (guest): I think it would help if they could gain a couple of yards rushing every once in awhile
Guest6694 (guest): Would Beau consider a two QB game plan where Jordan starts and Reilly comes in 2nd qtr to show a different look. Go back to JW 3rd qtr then adjust as needed.
Jim: I mentioned that earlier in this thread. See how West does and sub accordingly.
KHatch_Brecek: Overall, Jim, we're the better team, right?
Jim: Tough question. EWU's strength is its passing game, always has been. In the recent past, UM couldn't match up. That's still the case, but the Eagles need some balance. This game is a complete tossup.
KHatch_Brecek: Curious, what are the pros/cons of the 2-QB plan?
Jim: Do mean 1) starting with West and then seeing how he does; or DELIBERATELY alternating QBs from one possession to the next?
Guest6694 (guest): If the team know there is a plan to do this vs only change if Jordan is not doing well. The kids will feel like they have some insider info and look forward the the surprise.
KHatch_Brecek: I mean alternating, similar to what we did with Kyle and Vernon in 2012.
Jim: The major problem with that is getting into rhythm, since each QB does things differently (cadence,mobility, etc.)
Guest2987 (guest): Before you go, quick basketball question: how did the Big Sky media and coaches polls come out?
Jim: EWU was picked third by both the coaches and media (Montana and Weber were the top 2).
Jim: BTW, check out our special basketball section that came out today. Good stuff!
KHatch_Brecek: I'm not a fan of it, at all. I feel the same way about Jordan, that I felt for Kyle in 2012. I see a lot of similarities between Kyle/Jordan and Vernon/Riley.
Guest2987 (guest): Pretty good respect, considering found starters are gone.
Jim: Five minutes left: let's hear some football predictions.
Jim: I say Hennessey gets the start and has a solid game while Griz QB Simis will struggle.
Jim: EWU 38, Montana 35
Guest6694 (guest): Gage Gubrud will be an impact player when he gets a chance
Guest6082 (guest): If Hennessey plays a lot EWU 42-34 If it’s the same EWU as the past few weeks Montana wins 28 - 14
Guest8419 (guest): Safe travels everyone. 42-35 Eags.Coop Throws for 1 TD
Guest1373 (guest): a field goal difference either way
KHatch_Brecek: 55-27. I think Reilly gets the nod and our offense EXPLODES (like we are all used to), and we beat the Griz on their home turf... not a lot better than that!!!
Guest6082 (guest): Agree about Gage Gubrud - He may be the QB of the future
Jim: He's very mobile, like Hennessey.
Guest8419 (guest): Thanks Jim, you’re the best
Jim: Thanks, I appreciate it.
KHatch_Brecek: Gage looked FABULOUS during spring!!!! Surprised he was #3
Guest2987 (guest): Gubrud punting can be critical to our success.
Jim: Thanks, everyone, for participating. Look for my Tweets from the game.