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EWU sports chat Oct. 22 (replay)

Jim: OK, let's talk Eastern sports!

Jim: Warmup question: Who thinks Eastern's defense turned the corner last weekend at Idaho State?

joemon (guest): Hmmm, I think they are still suspect. Did you see the stats posted by someone in the Inferno Message Board? They are last in almost every category and some categories by a mile

Jim: Stats can be deceiving, as they include all games. In Big Sky games ONLY, Eastern ranks 8th in total defense.

joemon (guest): The excuse was they played Oregon, MSU and N. Iowa -Oregon is not the same Oregon as years past and N. Iowa isn't tearing it up vs their competition

Jim: Eastern also ranks eighth in third-down conversion defense.

joemon (guest): They seem to play well against lesser Offenses but get eaten up versus good offenses. I think this will show in the playoffs

Jim: Possibly. That Illinois State game was ugly.

EdubU10 (guest): I do think the D is trending in the right direction, albeit that is most likely due to competition. I still think this years growing pains will pay dividends in a few years.

joemon (guest): Illinois State was bad and I think PSU will do the same

Jim: I think this defense will continue to play well through Montana, at least.

Jim: Does anyone think the Sky is down this year?

joemon (guest): It seems like we are lackluster on both sides of the ball though.

Jim: Offense ranks #1 in FCS in passing offense and 5th in total offense.That's pretty good. Third-down offense is up to 46 percent and red zone offense is 23rd. Not bad.

EdubU10 (guest): PSU makes me nervous. We struggle against teams with a lethal running game. They gashed MSU for over 425 yards on the ground

Jim: They are scary. Who thinks that game will be for the BSC title?

joemon (guest): The PSU game will be for the title and I'm afraid PSU has the advantage

EdubU10 (guest): I'm leaning that way but still think PSU will slip up once more.

Jim: Yes, that would lessen the impact of the game, provided EWU takes care of business. BTW, PSU is at Cal Poly this week - thoughts?

joemon (guest): I'm not sure why PSU is not ranked higher with their win over WSU and their dismantling of MSU

Jim: Agreed. The Vikings are 14th this week. They did lose at home to a North Dakota team that isn't very good, IMO

EdubU10 (guest): Going with PSU but wouldn't be surprised if they lose with how the Sky is this year. I'm looking forward to the SUU/PSU game as well

Guest3466 (guest): at least the PSU game is in Cheney this year

Jim: Things will sort themselves out.

joemon (guest): PSU close over Cal Poly and the game with SUU will be interesting.

joemon (guest): We shouldn't overlook N. Colorado, they have confidence and have played us tough in the past.

EdubU10 (guest): True, we only beat them by 8 last year in Cheney.

Jim: Ahh, the Bears, who've won 13 BSC games in nine-plus years. I'm not convinced, given who they've beaten. Here's my early look at UNC in today's Spokesman-Review:

Guest9320 (guest): I hope PSU can save their program but not @ our expense

Jim: Any guesses on where EWU winds up if they finish 7-1 BSC and 8--3 overall? First-round bye or not?

KHatch_Brecek: I am actually pretty confident we will go 8-0.

Guest3466 (guest): Fearfull they will finish 2nd in BSC

joemon (guest): I'm curious to see who is healthy among the receivers.

KHatch_Brecek: These next couple of weeks will be a true test for teams like SUU and PSU. Specifically PSU. I think that will be a great game vs. Cal Poly. Hoping Cal Poly can pull it off, that will help take some of the "pressure" off.

Jim: Yes, that's a big one. By the way, should EWU and SUU both finish 8-0 in Big Sky, that would probably go all the way to Sagarin Ratings. IF both go 7-1, it's more complicated. Too early yet!

EdubU10 (guest): Status on Sblendorio?

Jim: He's good to go despite falling on that shoulder last week.

Guest9320 (guest): I like how our D has been getting progressively better.They are young but I think they are playing with a different attitude IMO than past years.

Jim: I definitely got that impression from some of the young guys. See their quotes in my story this week on true freshmen Kupp, Williams and Townsend:

Jim: Yes, I will continue to shamelessly plug my stories every chance I get!

KHatch_Brecek: I thought the last 2 times the defense has shown growth,and really stepped up when we needed them. We are soooo young there, I can only see them continuing to improve.

Jim: Who thinks that the practice of rotating up to 12 D-linemen is paying dividends in the second halves of recent games?

EdubU10 (guest): Agreed, I think the youth movement is starting to build some confidence and identity. I still hate that we arent aggressive enough on D. I know we dont want to give up the big play but we sit back too much and wait for the play to unfold. Need more blitzes!

Jim: I'd expect more blitzes this week against UNC's freshman quarterback Jacob Knipp. His stats aren't too impressive despite the big win over Davis.

Guest9320 (guest): We don't say it enough but great coverage again this year Jim. Yes that young D line has been getting better

Jim: Thanks, I appreciate that!

KHatch_Brecek: I think that will come with more snaps.

KHatch_Brecek: Just like you said the confidence and identity are really starting to show. I notice it.

KHatch_Brecek: Yes, Jim. Thank you. It's nice to constantly have coverage.

EdubU10 (guest): Yes! Thank you for all your coverage Jim. Makes following what's going on a lot easier on the west side!

Jim: Oh, golly!

Guest9320 (guest): I like the rotation. It gives more guys experience, Keeps the guys fresh in the 4th quarter, and if an injury occurs we have someone ready

Jim: The Eagles built a lot of depth last year, when they burned six redshirts on the D-line. Only two this year. but this is a very young D-line.

joemon (guest): I prefer a little continuity with the starters in the beginning and sub out more in the 2nd half

Jim: I do notice that Ebukam doesn't rotate out as much as the others.The same with Sommer.

Jim: I think it’s a balancing act - keeping the talent on the field without tiring them.

KHatch_Brecek: I agree. But, I would imagine we will see that continuity more as the season goes on, and especially next year.

EdubU10 (guest): Anyone else get the feeling that Ketner Kupp will be a force at LB? Gotta imagine he's just as hard of a worker as Coop and you cant rule out a natural sibling rivalry to leave their mark at EWU

joemon (guest): For a true frosh, Ketner is good. He will make a name for himself in the coming years

KHatch_Brecek: Ha, yes. Not to mention a great family!

Jim: They're very close-knit. Ten of them made the trip last week from Yakima to Pocatello. Cooper is very supportive of his brother.

Guest9320 (guest): Jim are Debord (sp), Cassidy (sp) available this week?What about other offensive line?

Jim: DeBord is full recovered from his concussion suffered at Sac State.He missed Cal Poly but played last week. Curtis is finally back on the practice field this week and could play at UNC.

EdubU10 (guest): Thoughts on Kupp leaving to enter the draft this year?

Jim: I think he'll leave, but I don't have any inside info on that.

Guest3466 (guest): I feel he will stay for another year

Guest9320 (guest): My bad thats right. Main reason I asked was I think the running game is getting better and like Beau wants 50/50 as far as play calling. Need for playoffs

KHatch_Brecek: I feel like he will enter the draft.

EdubU10 (guest): If he does leave, i really hope it works out. I hated seeing Kaufman not get to play.

joemon (guest): Not sure he should leave. He could set records that could be nearly impossible to break and I'm not so sure he would be a high pick (pro ball politics)

Jim: That's the only major concern with the offense: more consistency in the running game. However, Jalen Moore was back last week, and he's very good on short yardage.

KHatch_Brecek: I think he may break those records this year, alone. I mean we still have 5 regular season games, plus playoffs. That's a lot of time.

KHatch_Brecek: I was hoping he would rush for a TD, too, last week. Ha ha ha

EdubU10 (guest): I just dont see him going that high in the draft either.

Jim: In conference games only, Easterns has the fewest rushing attempts (103) and is tied for last in yards per rush. That's concerning.

joemon (guest): Kupp is the best receiver I have seen at this level (Randy Moss a close second)

Guest5427 (guest): outlook for the o line next year?

Jim: Next year will be a complete rebuild on the O-line, which currently has five senior starters; also, the top two backups are seniors. Aaron Best will have a monumental rebuild on his hands next year.

Jim: However, there's young talent in the fold already. And the Eagles recruited heavily for linemen with that in mind.

KHatch_Brecek: Jim, I have a different take on our conference now, having seen results. I don't think these next 5 weeks will be any sort of a cake walk.Who do you feel is our biggest challenge?

Jim: The conference is even harder to predict than ever; heck, I picked PSU to finish last!

Jim: I think EWU cruises through the next three games. Montana is always tough, although they're on their third-string QB.

joemon (guest): Luckily the recruiting class for the OL was the best class we have had

KHatch_Brecek: So you think our challenges would be Montana and PSU?

Jim: For sure. The Griz are still 2-1 in the conference with a bye coming up. PSU looks scary good right now.

Guest5427 (guest): psu with 26 transfers on their roster made it possible to alter the culture

Jim: They've always done that. The previous coach, Nigel Burton, relied heavily on juco transfers.

KHatch_Brecek: I think the AD sent a message by giving the head coach a 5 year deal. It really showed confidence, and they are playing with a lot of that

Jim: In no particular order, roverback Cole Karstetter, LB Ketner Kupp,DEs Keenan Willians and Jim Townsend.

Jim: On offense, RB Malcolm Williams, but he has to stay healthy and hold on to the ball.

EdubU10 (guest): Jim, out of all the young new guys, who has impressed you the most?

Jim: Sorry, I answered your question before I posted it!

Guest9320 (guest): Back to the future haha

Jim: Time for some score predictions. I say EWU wins 55-21

EdubU10 (guest): I think EWU wins easily. I'll go 49-24

joemon (guest): EWU win 38-34

Guest9320 (guest): EWU 55-25

Jim: We're thinking alike. I'm guessing you all saw that UNC hasn't beaten a decent team all year. Houston Baptist? Western State?

joemon (guest): I think we are overlooking N. Colorado. I personally think they are better than we think even with a weak schedule They certainly handled Davis last week. Also, last year's game in Cheney was 26-18, with the EWU offense looking out of sync. I don't think that happens this year.

KHatch_Brecek: 42-33 EWU

Jim: A close one? Why do you think that?

joemon (guest): They are winning and that gives you confidence. They are at home and we have had a hard time stopping teams

KHatch_Brecek: Oops, that was a typo--55-33, sorry.

KHatch_Brecek: I'm with you. I think we will cruise these next 3 games, but the real challenge will be the last 2 games.But UNC won't be a cup cake.

Jim: At least the Eagles will be home for three of their next four.


KHatch_Brecek: Everyone wants to get that upset,

KHatch_Brecek: We have a target on our back.

Jim: I was just about to ask that!

Jim: Do you think Eastern has a target on its back?

Jim: In three-plus seasons, the Eagles are 25-2 in the Big Sky.

EdubU10 (guest): Big time

KHatch_Brecek: Absolutely!!! We are the defending champs, technically 3-time.

joemon (guest): That target is why I think games which we should win by a lot will be closer than people think.

Jim: Biggest worry this weekend?

KHatch_Brecek: Our offense is always a concern of mine.

Jim: Running game and keeping drives alive?

EdubU10 (guest): Staying healthy, but that's always my concern

KHatch_Brecek: I know we have an explosive offense, but this year, they don't always seem in sync. And the running game-- we are strong there, but it hasn't been strong.

Jim: Those are my top two as well. I absolutely hate games like Cal Poly. I would rather have that comfort of a cushion lead.

Jim: OK, folks, that'll do it. Thanks for participating - we'll do it again next week!


Jim Allen
Jim Allen joined The Spokesman-Review in 1984. He currently covers K-12 education and women's basketball.

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