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EWU football chat, Sept. 17 (transcript)

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:

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

Jim: ouch!

KHatch_Brecek: Ouch is right!!

Joemon (guest): I know, unless the D comes through 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!


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

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