GoEags: Time for playoff football again!
SacredKupp: What’s scoop with Coop? Will he be playing Saturday?
Jim: Kupp is listed as questionable, and Baldwin said as much on Tuesday.
Guest4565: Any word on Beau Baldwin and the open Nevada job?
Jim: He is definitely among the front-runners according to people I've spoken with.
Jim: None of the other top candidates have head coaching experience, and this seems like a good job if Baldwin is determined to be a head coach and not a coordinator.
KHB_GoEags: I really don't think he's interested. I'm not in denial, I know we will lose him someday, but he's got a good thing going here.
Guest4565: I think Baldwin is very high on the wish list for the top boosters.
GoEags: He has to be a frontrunner on any G5 job in the west. Reno has had some success. Is it that big of a jump? Hope he stays but will understand.
Jim: I think Nevada is one of the smallest jumps. I really don't thing Baldwin gets serious consideration for a head coaching job at the Pac-12 level, but this one is reachable.
Jim: Regardless, I will continue to follow this story and other coaching rumors. I want to emphasize that they are only rumors to this point.
Guest7956: Injury situation on defense?
Jim: It's the same on defense with Zamora and Njoku, though I'm hearing that Zamora's hamstring is worse than originally thought.
KHB_GoEags: How has the morale/environment been this week with the players?
Jim: Good question - the players definitely appreciated the week off with their families and the time to heal. I thought everyone seemed very positive on Tuesday.
Guest7956: Is it me or does EWU have a much easier path to the semi's than NDSU’s bracket?
Jim: Definitely ... SD State, Sam Houston, Villanova are a much tougher bracket than Eastern's.
KHB_GoEags: Agreed 7956!
GoEags: I love the way the bracket played out. No Sam, No JMU, no NDSU. I know every team in the playoffs is tough but this seems like a nice road to Frisco!
Jim: I forgot JMU - yes, the upper half is loaded.
Casey: Hello good folks! Super excited about Saturday. Did anyone watch the game last week between UCA and Illinois St
Jim: Sorry, I didn't.
Jim: Great fourth-quarter comeback by CA, which got 24 points in the last 15 minutes after trailing 17-7.
Guest7956: What matchup are the coaches most concerned with this week. UCA's def line?
Jim: That's definitely their strength, and they are sold out to stop the run. However, they also have three (!) all-Southland Conference defensive backs.
Casey: I'm not worried about the bracket just yet. Only concerned about Saturday.
KHB_GoEags: Jim, what are your thoughts on UCA?
GoEags: Watched the last couple of minutes on my phone. Great comeback on their part.
Jim: Very athletic from what I've seen on highlights. However, they got crushed in their last regular-season game by SHSU, 59-23.
Jim: I've always thought of the Southland as not being very strong from top to bottom, so I wonder how much of CA's defensive stats are built on lower-tier teams.
Casey: I watched the whole game online. I wasn't that impressed with UCA to be honest. ISU ran the ball pretty well but busted off a couple big runs to get 30% of those yards. We are capable of the same thing now that our guys are showing more patience and hitting the hole.
Guest7956: It was 17-7 Ill St. going into 4th qtr. Blocked punt changed the game. Neither team looked impressive until the 4th when UCA seemed to turn it up a notch after blocked punt.
Casey: Those DBs got TORCHED when they faced a good passing attack. SHSU went for over 500 yds on them.
KHB_GoEags: Is there a team in the Big Sky who you would say is similar to UCA?
Jim: I think UC Davis a little bit, methodical and wanting to control the clock.
GoEags: Front 4 looked like they could after the passer.
Casey: Thought ISU stifled their attack for the majority of the game. UCA seems to be balanced on offense but they are opportunistic on defense. Turnovers have been critical to their success.
Jim: They are plus-six in turnover margin, which is OK but not great.
Casey: A turnover (blocked punt) changed that whole game. I don't think they can beat us. We can beat us though.
Guest7956: Honestly, my main concern is special teams if it comes down to a FG or XP. Why can't EWU recruit a kicker? Seems like an issue every year.
Jim: Special teams can turn a game on big returns and blocks, not the occasional missed extra point. EWU is very strong in kickoff coverage and return, as we all know.
Casey: One thing that ISU did well, and I have harped on this all season, is they started quick. Scored on the first drive and forced a few 3 and outs which gave them confidence. If we start slow on both sides, but offense particularly, then UCA gains some confidence.
Jim: Good point, Casey -The CA coach brought that up this week - that the Bears are slow starters. Sound familiar?
Casey: I have more concern about the failed 4th down attempt when we don't trust the kicker to hit a FG. Those are momentum swings much more than a missed FG.
Jim: To date, EWU is 7-for-14 on field goals... Alcobendas is 6/11 and Dascalo is 1/3. Not very good, I'll admit. The misses are from 41, 49, 32, 29, 47, 31 and 36.
Jim: So yes, Casey, you make a good point. On the other hand, Baldwin tends to have a larger "window" than most coaches of going for it outside the 25-yard-line.
Casey: We usually only start slow on one side of the ball. If I had to choose, I would rather it be a slow start on defense like it was vs. Montana St.
Jim: That's a good example.
Guest7956: Also seems like Gage isn't at the level he was earlier in the season.
Jim: Weather plays a factor in that, and that's been a topic ever since he was pulled against Northern Iowa.
Jim: I just checked the forecast, which calls for 40 degrees and partly cloudy. As a pass-first team, EWU always will be at a slight disadvantage in inclement weather.
Casey: KHB (or anyone else) - you have any insight into the mood of the team? Relieved that the season is over and the playoffs are here? Anxious to get going? Any thoughts? UCA seemed unprepared for a playoff game last week.
Jim: The team was in a good mood after the bye. Also, several players talked about feeling refreshed with the time off. I also think that platooning at certain positions (running back, D-line and corner) will pay dividends later.
KHB_GoEags: On social media they seem ready to go, but very thankful they got some time with their families for the holidays. I think a BYE week is always an advantage, especially when they get to go spend time at home, especially for those from California.
Casey: Good point about that return home.
Casey: It’s gonna be a little colder than UCA is used to when they get off that plane.
Jim: FYI, it's 57 right now in Conway, Arkansas.
Jim: I wish I could be more helpful with the injuries, but Eastern has been less specific this year with injuries. That follows a national trend of not giving anything away.
Casey: If coop is in poor shape, would they deploy him as a decoy? He would draw coverage and just running routes would open the field for the other guys?
Jim: No, but he would warm up in pads just to give the opponent something to think about. That happened against Northern Iowa.
KHB_GoEags: What is the status on Simba? Do you anticipate him returning this week?
Jim: Simba is good to go. He was in pads on Tuesday.
KHB_GoEags: Do you expect to see Kupp on the field on Saturday?
Casey: So we wouldn't put him on the field unless he is ready to roll doing his usual thing?
Jim: That's right - if he's not close to 100 percent, why risk further injury?
Casey: What is going on with Bourne? His stats are good, but he seems to be inconsistent throughout a game (PSU game as an example). We are going to need him Saturday regardless of Cooper's status.
Casey: with that question, I mean is it game plan, game flow, or he just isn't a target for Gage?
Jim: Bourne had a frustrating night in Portland, his hometown, with lots of friends and family in attendance. However, he made a great leaping catch for the game-winner. When Gubrud is off, it's often at the expense of Bourne on downfield patterns.
Jim: An important stat is that both Bourne and Hill have higher yards per catch than Kupp, who gets more of the underneath routes. Of course, those are higher percentage throws for Gubrud.
Casey: That's a solid point. That "frustrating" night seems to creep up more than once. Gage is a rhythm guy it seems (except for cooper) and has that tendency to get a good thing going with one guy and forget about the others for a while. Like feeding a hot shooter.
Jim: Also, Gubrud has matured and gotten better at going through his reads. He's spreading the wealth better too.
Casey: So true. Not getting through his reads is what got him benched earlier this year.
Jim: However, it's still the "Big Three" in the passing game. Kupp has 91 catches, Hill 65 and Bourne 61. Fourth is Sblendorio, all the way down at 26 catches.
Jim: Don't kid yourselves - there will be a dropoff next year at WR.
Guest7956: The pride of Sammamish! Nick Splendario. Go Skyline!
Guest7956: Dropoff? Isn't that what was said when Edwards, Kaufman and Herd left?
Jim: They did.
GoEags: I had to have to really look at stats, but I think we have been running the ball a little better, which takes some luster off of the passing stats.
Jim: Yards per rush is 4.2, which is up from 3.8 last year. However, it was 4.7 yards per rush in 2014. Forte was awesome, in my opinion.
Casey: Ok...fun question. What are we wearing Saturday?
Jim: I'll be wearing a nondescript collared shirt and several layers of coats!
GoEags: Let's go all reds on the red! Make film tough for the spiders or the hawks!
Casey: I don't think they allow us to go all red any more do they? Maybe it was just the Big Sky but someone complained last year I thought.
Casey: Just no white. That's all I'm hoping for. I love the all black look though. Just looks intimidating, especially with those matte helmets.
Guest7956: Assuming EWU wins, who's the easier matchup Richmond or UND?
Jim: Sorry, I don't know a lot about Richmond. ND has great defense and a stud RB - always a tough proposition in December.
Jim: Five minutes left: let's hear from predictions!
Jim: I have it EWU 41, Central Arkansas 24
Casey: I think Richmond is the better team but would prefer to play them. For UND they would just treat it like a conference game. Plus they have a great deal of comparable film to learn from.
Jim: With EWU winning, I presume?
Casey: Of course. Like I said....only we can beat us.
KHB_GoEags: 42-20, EWU.
Guest7956: Close at halftime (shocking, haven't seen that before) and EWU pulls away. 35-17.
Jim: That sounds about right, 7956!
Casey: Thanks Jim! Appreciate the time today.
Casey: Thanks to the rest of you as well. Love these!
Jim: You betcha! And I'm pretty sure we'll be doing this again next week!