Jim: OK, let's talk EWU sports!
Jim: I guess we were way off on our Northern Colorado score predictions.
Jim: I had EWU winning by four touchdowns, and so did most of you out there. So, will it be like this the rest of the year?
Guest693 (guest): First Jim, why weren't you in Greeley?
Jim: Good question; we have a tight budget here at the Spokesman, and we have to choose our spots. FYI, I also didn't make the trip to Northern Iowa, but I did cover the games at Oregon, Sac State and Idaho State.
Jim: I will be in Missoula, naturally
Guest693 (guest): I know. & I guessed budget was the problem. I just like your reporting so much I wish you could be at all of the games home and away.
Jim: So do I. For the record, we've only missed four games since I took over the beat in 2012. My editor Joe Palmquist has been very generous.
Guest693 (guest): anyway, in answer to your question, yes, I believe most of the games will be just the same. Our office is prolific but our defense is erratic. And last week the special teams had really serious problems, although probably a bit of the credit should also go to the Northern Colorado returners.
Jim: Special teams have been a big strength all year for UNC - and also for Eastern, which hadn't given up a big return in five years.
Jim: By big return, I mean for a score.
Jim: With four games to go, what are your biggest concerns, first on offense?
Guest693 (guest): right, I remember is a 2010 playoff semi-final against Villanova where they returned the second half kickoff for a TD and then we immediately returned theI kickoff for one.
Jim: Yes, that was the last KO return for a TD by an Eastern opponent.
Guest693 (guest): hard to have concerns about the offense given their scoring. But I think it would be nice to have a little more of a consistent running game.
Jim: For sure. You'd think that with a veteran offensive line and a scheme that spreads the field, EWU would average more than 3.8 yards per carry. (That ranks 10th in the Big Sky, by the way.)
Guest693 (guest): well, I am NOT a coach by any means.But perhaps the offensive linemen are schooled more in pass protection then run blocking?
Jim: Perhaps. For the year, EWU has run 239 times and passed 314.
Guest693 (guest): I do not really believe that, given and how good a coach Erin Best is and has been for years.
Jim: He's a great coach, no doubt. They definitely know how to pass block. I do think that this year's backs are more straight-ahead types. They miss Quincy Forte and Mario Brown.
Guest3962 (guest): Hows the injury front look? Is Splendorio back?
Jim: First of all, let me apologize for predicting last week that Sblendorio would play. He looked good in practice that week, but didn't see action at UNC.
Guest3962 (guest): I agree that the run blocking is not where it should be given the experience level of the OL and their size
Guest693 (guest): along the lines of your thoughts, I noticed at Northern Colorado the Eagles ran over 100 offensive plays. That is an awful lot of plays for only scoring seven times, I will say.
Jim: That's mainly the product of the two long returns. Baldwin opted to run more against a tiring defense.
Guest3962 (guest): It seems like the offense is lackluster but I believe they are generating as many yards as last year if not more.
Jim: And they've scored 40+ in four of their last five games, which ought to be enough to win
Guest4493 (guest): Believe jerseys will be auction 11/7.When might they become available for online bidding.
Jim: Sorry, I have no idea; you'd better contact the school.
Guest3962 (guest): West is putting up some big yardage -more than the qb that left
Jim: For sure, although that's another factor in the run game. Adams stretched the field and opened space for the running game merely with the threat of his taking off.
Guest693 (guest): what are the Big Sky football championship tie breakers? This is especially important this year since Eastern does not play southern Utah.
Jim: Here you go, straight from the Big Skyu: 2014 -TIE-BREAKER
When two or more Conference members are tied in the final Conference standings, the tie shall be broken for purposes of determining the NCAA FCS automatic bid only, and shall be determined on the following basis:
1. Head-to-head Competition
2.Record against common CONFERENCE opponents in descending order
3. Record against common NON-CONFERENCE opponents
4. Sagarin Rating
5. Coin Flip
Jim: If you're assuming EWU and SUU run the table,then right now it would be SUU based on a better Sagarin rating (#104 vs. #118).
Guest693 (guest): Thanks! But, does a conference opponent game which is not, League standings, i.e. ours against Montana State, figure in?
Guest3962 (guest): I think we would beat S. Utah but Portland St. will be a different story
Jim: By the way, there's no way for a three-way tie at 7-1, since PSU already has one loss and still must play SUU and EWU
Guest693 (guest): Do EWU & SUU have any common non-confidential opponents?
Jim: No common non-conference opponents
Guest3962 (guest): Have you noticed if Lb's Kaz (can't spell his name) and Calhoun are practicing?
Guest693 (guest): Non-conference, that is.
Jim: Sorry, I didn't. Calhoun is listed as probable and Kacmarcik is questionable. I've almost given up trying to predict this stuff.
Jim: Speaking of the schedule, it's too bad EWU's offense can't play SUU's defense. I mention the TBirds in my weekly notebook, which ran today:http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2015/oct/28/big-sky-notes-weber-states-fortunes-tied-to-qb-jad/
Guest3962 (guest): I noticed that Tiuli and Sommers are starting at DT. I'm willing to bet we shut down the inside run
Jim: That's been a bright spot lately; teams are going outside.
Guest693 (guest): I haven't logged on to The Sports Network for a while. Any insight on Portland State's relatively low ranking?
Jim: They are up to #12 now; I think reputation plays a part, since ND St. and Sam Houston are ranked 7th and 8th despite two losses.
Guest3962 (guest): PSU should be top 5
Jim: And of course, EWU is No. 5, also with two losses. PSU is 6-1 with wins over two FBS teams.
Guest693 (guest): yes, go figure!
Guest3962 (guest): Who do you think are the top FCS teams?
Jim: I don't have a vote, but Jacksonville State would be my No. 1. And most MVC teams are very tough - do you see that No. Iowa is ranked 18th despite being 3-4?
shane (guest): Wait, if PSU has 1 conference loss couldn't there be a tie at 7-1 if they beat both ewu and suu?
Jim: That's right, but then the tie-breaker is easy since they would have the sweep.
Guest693 (guest): who did Portland State lose to?
Jim: By the way, PSU lost an ugly one to North Dakota, 19-17 in Portland.
Guest3962 (guest): I'm guessing Jacksonville St and Illinois St with Sam Houston making it to the semi's again
Jim: Good bets, for sure. I still like EWU's chances of getting to the semis.
Guest693 (guest): you're column today says Montana has a 3-1 Big Sky record. I take it their early loss to Cal Poly did not count?
Jim: That's correct, it was non-conference.
Guest4496 (guest): Any idea why injuries always seem to be at epidemic levels with this team? Eastern seems to have about 2x the injuries as our opponents week in and week out.
Jim: I don't have time to track opponents' injury numbers; do have some stats for us?
Jim: This just in: My feature on kicker-punter Jordan Dascalo: http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2015/oct/29/success-rewarded-for-ewu-kicker-jordan-dascalo/
Guest3962 (guest): I think the injury bug affects most FCS clubs. I believe ISU had 6 season ending injuries after our game
Jim: Yes, in fact the the Bengals lost a stud linebacker (the freshman of the year in '14) before the season began.Tough year on Pocatello.
Jim: By the way, there's always a chance EWU and SUU could meet in the playoffs. The NCAA likes to pair conference rivals who didn't meet in the regular season.
Jim: Of course, they also paired EWU and Montana in the quarterfinals last year - even though they'd already met; I don't like that idea.
Guest693 (guest): Speaking of injuries, isn't it amazing how the presence and absence of Vernon Adams has made so much more of a difference to Oregon than it has to EWU either last season or this one?!
Jim: And likewise, how the EWU basketball team didn't lose a game while Tyler Harvey was injured.
Guest3962 (guest): That's pathetic that Oregon doesn't have other options at QB
Guest4496 (guest): Off the football reservation here, but do you have any guesses to whether or not the Eagles can win the women's title in soccer? Or volleyball? Lot of good programs in Cheney right now.
Jim: It's been a great fall. I do cover college soccer, and I think Bodnar's done a great job. However, Idaho has been bulletproof so far, and they will host the Big Sky tournament.
Guest5988 (guest): I think it shows how solid the EWU program is when a VA-type player can walk away and we don't miss a beat
Jim: For sure, and EWU would do fine with Hennessey instead of West. The beat goes on.
Guest3962 (guest): If I was a high profile HS QB and wasn't signed by a big name conference school, I would be heading to EWU...No doubt
Guest4496 (guest): Eastern already beat Idaho 2-1 earlier this year... it was one of those weirdo non-con Big Sky games. If anyone can beat them, Eastern can.
Jim: EWU and UI play for real this weekend; Big Sky tourney is next week.
Guest693 (guest): can we talk about officiating, etc. for a moment? Not a gripe sesdion, but a replay one. Watching the incredibly poor TV work in Pocatello made me wonder how replay officials could possibly make any kind of determination.
Jim: I agree. Some strange calls in that game.
Guest4496 (guest): Pocatello was bad, Greeley was worse.
Guest5988 (guest): I was watching the Steve Largent A football life last night and I kept thinking Largent reminds me of Kupp in so many ways.
Jim: Kupp is a class act on and off the field. Another example of Eastern's staff finding gems that bigger schools have overlooked.
Guest693 (guest): Actually, I thought the TV work in Greeley was good; certainly they had good replays from different angles. The Pocatello camera operators couldn’t even follow the ball at times.
Jim: OK, 10 minutes left and we haven't mentioned Weber State.
Guest3962 (guest): So, do we barely beat Weber this week? I'm guessing another close game 38-31
Guest4496 (guest): Do you make it to practice much? I'm curious how much 4-2 were showing on D. We saw a lot of 3-4, 4-3, and dime at UNC. It seems like 4-2 is tough for us because we don't have more than one solid safety.
Jim: I go on Tuesdays only.
Jim: This defense does shift schemes more often than in past years. Way more odd fronts.
Guest693 (guest): ho? Only kidding. I expect another (at least relatively) close game.
Guest4496 (guest): And I'm taking Eastern to paste Weber.The team probably got a tongue-lashing and will come out on fire Saturday.
Jim: Looking at the stats, Weber doesn't do anything well in particular, although the EWU players and coaches say they're more physical than most teams. They expect a grinder.
Guest5988 (guest): EWU 42 Weber State 31
Jim: Again, I'm going with a solid EWU win: 45-20
Guest693 (guest): well, the special teams play was certainly the target of some criticism by the coaches, as Baldwin made clear on the Monday night radio show.
Jim: Worst special teams game since I started covering the team in 2012: two long returns for TDs, a blocked XP,a missed XP and of course the botched onside kick recovery
Jim: Thanks, everyone - we'll do it again next week!