Jim: Hello, let's talk Eagle football!
Steven Christopher: Hi Jim! Go Eags! (And Tribe!)
GoEags (guest): Happy Thursday, Happy Griz week!
Steven Christopher: Did? Montana's quarterback play against us in 2013 and 2014?
Jim: No, he didn't face the Eagles until last year.
GoEags (guest): ‘13 Brady Johnson and twice in ’14.
Jim: That's right, it was Johnson.
Casey (guest): What can we expect the coaches to have learned from how NAU played the Griz last week?
Casey (guest): NAU jumped out early and made the Griz play catch-up. We have a tendency to start slow on one or both sides of the ball. Can we expect or hope for a quick start on both sides?
Jim: NAU had a great day from their quarterback, who replaced Cookus when he was hurt vs. EWU. The new QB is improving quickly. Montana's offense is good at eating clock, so that's another problem for EWU on what looks to be a rainy day.
Jim: Warm-up question: who will play better in the rain?
Casey (guest): The Grizzlies didn't seem to have clock eating drives last week when NAU scored fast.
Jim: No, they didn't. Coach Stitt said players were giving up in the third quarter. You don't hear that very often.
Casey (guest): Whoever gets up early will be able to play from in front. That is critical in the rain. Our defense was great for three quarters last week but that slow start concerns me against a better team. Our improved running game will certainly help.
GoEags (guest): I think we play fine. I don't think the rain causes any problems. Occasional showers and 40% chance of rain. Not like a hurricane is rolling through.
Guest7869 (guest): Not sure if all Griz (fans and players ) have bought into Stitt.
Casey (guest): That's crazy! Not sure many teams are ever really out of the game in the Sky.
Casey (guest): Gage struggled in the elements early in the season. If it’s blowing and rainy that is a concern.
Jim: After Northern Iowa, there were some doubts about Gubrud's ability in poor weather. How do you feel about that now?
Guest7869 (guest): If it happens, bring in Reilly. Beau has done it before. However, do not want to see the three-QB fiasco of last year
Jim: That smacked of desperation following the NAU game last year. That's a rare thing from Baldwin.
Casey (guest): I feel the same. It’s a concern but he is growing. The question some of us had early in the season was whether it was the home crowd (pressure to perform in front of them) or the weather. He has improved and grown though.
GoEags88: I think Gage will be fine this time around.
GoEags (guest): Looks like light winds in the forecast. It will be interesting to see if UM's defense is really so "superior" or if that is more a function of their schedule. 45 to NAU, 42 to Poly and 31 to Saint Francis. We'll see!
Steven Christopher: Mississippi Valley State was another creampuff they bought a home game with.
Casey (guest): Totally agree with Guest 7869. That mess last year was infuriating, especially because Jordan was playing so poorly at that point. It’s hard for the team to have faith/trust when rotating. I don't care what the coaches say, the players know.
Casey (guest): It’s not rare. He did the rotate, not sure who's better, play the hot hand thing before. Remember when Vernon and Kyle did this?
Jim: It's rare that Baldwin gets desperate.
Casey (guest): I don't agree with your definition of desperate, Jim, but I see your point.
Jim: Good point brought up just now about how much the schedule has helped Montana's defensive stats. Playing St. Francis and Sac State certainly helps. Thoughts?
Steven Christopher: The Northern Arizona and Cal Poly game results make the Griz secondary look pretty vulnerable.
Casey (guest): If we can get a quick start and make Montana chase the game their defense will have to gamble more and that will lead to big plays. If our tackling remains improved in the wet weather, we should be in good shape.
Guest7869 (guest): I have picked up from players tweets that they want revenge. I like that and do not think they start slow.
Jim: Interesting .... EWU players have downplayed the revenge factor in public comments. But obviously it's there. That was quite a beatdown.
Guest7869 (guest): I think they are going to pay for their soft schedule. I believe that even though EWU fans did not like our schedule before the season, it made us better. I hope I am right on Saturday.
Guest3963 (guest): Ebukam was not shy post-MSU game... need him to wreak havoc in Griz backfield
Jim: Yes, he was pretty vocal. By the way, look for my feature on Ebukam in Friday's paper. Wake up and read it!
GoEags88: Are they bringing in extra seating for this game?
Jim: End zone bleachers are already in place. They’ve been there awhile,actually.
Casey (guest): I certainly hope that Jeff continues to bring pressure even though it’s a "big game." He deserves a lot of credit for making adjustments after the first few weeks. WE can't deny that bringing defensive pressure has helped us make more plays on that side of the ball. I have even seen some blitzes on 2nd down. It’s been great!!!
GoEags (guest): They did only give up 20 to SUU and 14 to UNI. I just think the thought that they have a vastly superior defense may not be reality. How many would Faulk and Marks put up? NDSU? We'll see how we do.
Guest7869 (guest): Bone: Jim some intern @ the spokesman put a picture of the Griz QB on the article about EWU in this morning’s paper. He or she should be fired. My guess is it was a closet Griz.
Casey (guest): Ok Jim...what is going on with our kicking game? We seem not just the fans but the coaches too, to have zero confidence in any of these young men. I'm concerned that costs us at some point.
Jim: When you say the coaches have "zero confidence" in the kickers, what do you mean?
Casey (guest): And don't try to sell me on what we saw last week.
Guest7869 (guest): I think punting has to be strong?
Casey (guest): I mean why can't we decide on one and let him kick the ball. We switch it up on distance, angle, weather, etc. There seems to be no consistency. Punting has been fine.
Casey (guest): I can't tell who the long distance guy is, or who the reliable short-distance guy is, or who we would trust at 35 yards with the game on the line.
Jim: Dascalo is supposed to be the long-range kicker, but he missed at MSU. Alcobendas was 2-for-3 in that game, with a block from the edge.
Jim: For the season, EWU is 7-for-13 on FGs ... not great. Opponents are 6-10.
Steven Christopher: That's not great, either.
Casey (guest): Exactly my point. Supposed to be. Dascalo has hit from 49 and Roldan from 44. So they both have the leg apparently but neither is reliable. If you have 2 kickers you have no kickers
Jim: Actually they have three, but Bangsund is apparently out of the mix.
GoEags (guest): I like the Q&A with the Missoulian. Good work. I agree, It would be nice if PATs and field goals weren't such an adventure.
Casey (guest): Seems like Roldan got some confidence last week. Would be nice to let him do all the place kicking for a week and build on that confidence.
Casey (guest): four if you count gage but you understand what I'm saying.
Jim: You make a good point, Casey. So do they stick with Roldan from here on?
Steven Christopher: what I loved in previous seasons was that the Eagles attempted almost no field goals. Because they scored touchdowns almost all the time, instead.
Jim: Baldwin mentioned this on Tuesday: settling for FGs way too often. Last year EWU was 4-for-6 for the season. the lowest kicks and attempts since the program went DI.
Casey (guest): For all kicks this week they should. Let him build confidence. If he can't handle it this week, then let Jordan kick them all for a game. Stop going back and forth.
Guest3963 (guest): NFL kickers make it look easy. 72 percent make is overall college average for makes.
Jim: I'm guessing that you missed that Seahawks-Cardinals fiasco last week!
Steven Christopher: open scoring before they even reached field-goal range.
Guest3963 (guest): except for Seahawks and cardinals
Casey (guest): Steven that would be great, but we need to be confident from 40 yds on 3rd-and-8 instead of going for it all the time. Fourth-down stops energize a defense. It won't hurt us against Montana St. but it will in the playoffs when every point matters.
Guest7869 (guest): I with the score TD idea.
Guest3963 (guest): can Cooper kick??
Steven Christopher: Injury report?
Jim: The team is very healthy right now... Center Jerrod Jones is still recovering, as is Nsimba Webster. Both are indefinite. A lot of guys got healthy during the bye week. I noticed that NT Matt Sommer is getting back in the groove, though Tiuli also has played well.
Casey (guest): Ok let’s talk about RBs. Have the coaches settled on a consistent rotation or someone they have more faith in?
Jim: This is my fifth year covering the team, and apart from Quincy Forte, I've seen no true feature backs. Baldwin prefers RB by committee, unless a Taiwan Jones suddenly shows up in Cheney.
Casey (guest): You do realize who our leading rusher is, correct?
Jim: It's Gubrud, with 372 yards. Wilson is next at 192, then Custer at 75. Not too many teams have those kind of stats.
Casey (guest): Yes it is Gubrud. Our QB by almost double. As the weather turns we will need a reliable ground game to protect leads. Hopefully we continue building upon that young O-line.
Jim: But remember, this young O-line is still a work in progress. Most of the work is on pass-blocking, which is the priority in this offense.
Casey (guest): Completely agree with you Jim. The committee thing is his style (anyone else see a trend there?)
Jim: I think Custer could be that RB, but right now he's averaging just 2.0 yards per carry. Wilson and Pierce can move the pile, though.
Casey (guest): They have looked increasingly better as the season has gone on. That is a great sign and a credit to the work Best does.
Guest7869 (guest): How have the Griz done against the run this year?
Jim: They're pretty good, although Cal Poly gashed them even when Montana knew it was facing a run offense.
Casey (guest): Custer seems to have the burst but can't find the hole. Maybe too impatient?
Jim: Good point, Casey. I remember an interview with Forte during his junior year, when he said he was hitting the holes too soon. It's all about patience and footwork.
Steven Christopher: Maybe we will feel better about the lack of a star running back if you remember the 2010 Championship season. Yes, Taiwan Jones was the reason they made the playoffs. But also remember that he didn't play the second half of the quarter-final against North Dakota State nor any of the semi-finals against Villanova and you're in the championship game against Delaware.
Guest3963 (guest): The forward shovel pass was a effective "run" against MSU
Jim: Which is technically a pass.
Guest7869 (guest): In playoff games in past years having a strong running game was very important..
Casey (guest): Cal Poly seems to gash everyone though. NAU only averaged 3.9 and they were protecting a lead. A lot of those other teams are playing from behind so as mentioned above...schedule skews stats.
Casey (guest): I'm not saying we need a star back. Just hoping someone emerges as a reliable threat to gain 100yds. Run hard, be patient, don't fumble.
Jim: But you do need some speed. That was a huge problem last year - EWU's longest run from scrimmage in Big Sky play was 21 yards.
Casey (guest): The reality is that at some point a team will slow Gage and the passing game down. We need to be able to turn to the run game with confidence.
Casey (guest): I like how we are growing in our running game. I just thought Jim might have some insight into who is "leading the charge" if you will.
Jim: Custer and Pierce have bright futures, but McPherson is hard runner as well.
GoEags88: On a different note, I see EWU got verbal commitments from two very good wide receivers
Jim: Another great recruiting year at the skill positions. Here's the story from Hero Sports:http://herosports.com/news/eastern-washington-football-recruiting-landing-playmakers-fcs-college-football
Jim: To be honest, I don't cover recruiting as well as I should until January.
Jim: Ten minutes left and we haven't talked much about defense. What's the key to slowing down Gustafson?
Guest7869 (guest): Always remember they are just verbals. We have football to worry about now. I believe if we take care of that we will continue to attract the talent
Casey (guest): The first drive.
Jim: I'm seeing more pressure and less plain vanilla Cover 2 from Jeff Schmedding.
Casey (guest): That seems obvious but its so true. Last week MSU went right down the field on the first drive. Like we weren't prepared (again) or awake.
Guest7869 (guest): Samson HITTING HIM ON THE FIRST PLAY OF THE GAME!!!
Casey (guest): Yes!!!!
Guest3963 (guest): Pressure bringing 4 lineman, well-timed blitz
Casey (guest): That yes was to the more pressure from Jeff. You might recall me being fired up about that early in the season.
Jim: I think everyone was, Casey!
Jim: After 7 games, opponents are 42-for-101 on third down - not great, but better than last year and early this season. That's a big stat in Baldwin's eyes, BTW
Casey (guest): And I agree with 7869. A hit on those first few passing plays will remind Gustafson where he is when hes picking himself up off that red turf.
Guest7869 (guest): That set the tone of the whole game last year.
Casey (guest): An early and consistent presence in the backfield and limiting big plays.
Jim: They need to take advantage of Gustafson's (relative) lack of speed.
Casey (guest): If you take away the NDSU game that 3rd down stat is even better. The defense has been much improved in that area and I think you can point to the pressure we are bringing as a direct result.
Guest7869 (guest): Damn, is it Saturday yet!!
Jim: Casey is firing up the whole chat room - can you do that on Saturday?
Casey (guest): I sure can.
Guest3963 (guest): They will get big plays if we bring pressure, but if we keep it up we get the 2 stops and a turnover it will take to win!
Jim: Five minutes left... let's hear some scores!
Jim: I have it EWU 47, Montana 34
Casey (guest): I'm excited about the progress the team is making on both sides of the ball. Still concerned about our starts, primarily because of how we have done that in the playoffs repeatedly, but I think we jump Montana and their playoff hopes take a huge hit. 48 - 27 (we hit 2 FGs too).
Guest7869 (guest): 58-41 (yes they miss an XP) FTG
Guest3963 (guest): 49-39 Eags
Jim: With 7-for-7 XP - nice
GoEags88: 41-35 EWU
Guest7869 (guest): Thanks again Jim. You are the best
Casey (guest): Thanks for the time Jim, and others. See you Saturday!! Go Eags!!
Jim: Thanks, everyone - we'll do it again next week!