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EWU sports chat transcript

Jim: OK, let's talk Eastern football!

Jim: Has it really been nine months since we last chatted - yes it has!

KHatch_Brecek: Great coverage today, Jim. Loved the articles!

Jim: Thanks - everybody did a great job. We're ready for football at the S-R!

Jim: Warmup question: how many games (out of 4) do the Eagles win in September?

KHatch_Brecek: Seems the leadership and team dynamics are better this year-- You've been around the team the last month, do you notice anything different?

Jim: I agree - chemistry seems good, but then it always has under Baldwin. He sets a good tone. In that sense, I don't sense a change.

Jim: I think Cooper Kupp's decision to stay another year set a great tone nine months ago, and it's carried over.

KHatch_Brecek: That, and I don't think anyone wants to relive those last few games again. The guys seem to have a chip on their shoulder about that! I like that!!

Jim: That was a painful November. So let me ask, how does that affect your optimism going into this season?

Jim: People forget that the November schedule was cruel to the Eags last year: NAU,Montana and PSU all were peaking and in the hunt for the playoffs.

KHatch_Brecek: Jim, you know me, my Eagles are always perfect and believe they go to National Championship every year I'm excited to hear, see and read about the dynamics and leadership. I really do think that the lack of that last year played a large role in that painful month.

Jim: Then again, so is this year's first month. I think most fans would be happy with a 2-2 start. Thoughts?

KHatch_Brecek: Yes, 2-2 would be awesome. NDSU seems beatable.

Jim: That close call last week gives some hope, but then NDSU lost its opener to Montana last year before winning the natty. The first two games are the toughest of the season, IMO. I think NIU and NAU are the best chances.

Guest6646 (guest): So who will play QB?

Hello: It'll be Gubrud starting, but Baldwin said on Tuesday that there may some "packages" that include Hennessey and/or West. We'll see.

Jim: I think Gubrud has looked solid in fall camp, you can't simulate 35K hostile fans at Roos Field.

KHatch_Brecek: How does the OL look?

Guest6646 (guest): I'd love to see them try the Wildcat a couple of times.

Jim: I think the OL will be better than most people expect. These kids have great athleticism, and OL coach Aaron Best is one of the, uh, Best.

Jim: Chemistry is always the toughest thing. That, and communication on blocking responsibilities pre-snap. There will be breakdowns, of course.

Jim: Everyone's been impressed by redshirt freshman Tristen Taylor, the left tackle. He’s 6-6, 320 and has decent agility for a guy that big.

KHatch_Brecek: Do you see any weaknesses?

Jim: On offense? No, only uncertainty in the growing pains for Gage and the O-line.

Guest6646 (guest): will one or more of the true freshman running backs be in the game?

Jim: For sure! Baldwin all but guaranteed that at least one will play this year. The depth chart shows Antoine Custer Jr. as co-No. 2 and Tamarick Pierce at No.4. You know that Baldwin likes RB by committee, which means 4-5 will play over the course of the year.


Jim: Custer and Pierce have impressed everyone. Custer (5-9, 180) has great speed (which EWU didn't have last year in the backfield), while Pierce (5-10,210) has size and speed. Expect to see both getting lots of playing time.

Guest6646 (guest): Cool! I completely agree with your assessment last year that the ground game was the Eagles’ biggest problem on offense.

Jim: The problem was lack of overall speed in the backfield. It was a huge dropoff from Adams and Forte, and opposing defenses didn't have to worry about the perimeter.

KHatch_Brecek: How does defense look compared to last year?

Jim: Yes, we have to talk about this.

Jim: Just four years ago, EWU played at Idaho and WSU and came away with a split while giving up just 27 points combined.No way that would happen now. The question is why.

Jim: Looking back at last year, defense was solid against Northern Iowa, Sac State and Weber State - otherwise the Eagles struggled.

Guest6646 (guest): I'm wondering if the Schmedding's new 4-2-5 defensive scheme might be at fault.

Jim: Of course, the big problem last year was a young defense with a new scheme and a new coordinator.  However, I think they'll be better this year.

Jim: IMO, the problem wasn't the 4-2-5 scheme. EWU was getting chewed up on long drives under the old Cover 2, so everyone thought the Eagles would blitz more with the 4-2-5. It didn't happen.

Jim: The question is why? Lack of confidence cornerback coverage in a safety blitz?Continued preoccupation with giving up the long ball? Either way, the Eagles got nickeled and dimed down the field.

Jim: I see some questions regarding the offense, but I'd like to talk defense for a moment.

Jim: (Long pause as no one wants to talk about the D).

Jim: Moving on ...

Guest6646 (guest): back to the offense, will the Eags put at least three wide receivers on the field simultaneously, since the Cougars will undoubtedly double and maybe even triple (Cooper Kupp) up?

Jim: You can count on at least three wideouts at all times against WSU.

Jim: No one gets triple-teamed, but Kupp will see double coverage about half the time. Still, he still do serious damage with underneath routes while Bourne, Hill and Co.spread the field. The Eagles will move the ball and score TDs on Saturday.

Guest6646 (guest): Good! Hopefully that will put the Cougars in nickel and dime defensive packages and lessen the pressure on our inexperienced offensive line.

PRenguber (guest): How does Gage's escapabiliy compare to vernons live??

Jim: Actually, Gage has better straight-ahead speed than VA. One of Adams' strengths was this ability to sense the pocket and make just the right step to get out of trouble and extend plays. He also had a strong arm. I don't know yet whether Gubrud has those attributes.

Guest6408 (guest): We all know that Kupp will get his yardage but everyone seems to think that WSU corners seem like the real deal. Do you see anyone else other than Kupp being able to have success against the WSU secondary?

Jim: Yes, Eastern has a very strong receiving corps - it's the biggest asset on this team, and they will do well, provided Gage gets time to find them.

Guest4328 (guest): Do you see the Eagles staying close to WSU this Saturday? If so what are the keys to staying in the game and what match up issues do you see hurting the Eags.

KHatch_Brecek: Do you think we have a shot to beat them on Saturday?

Jim: Time for the bottom line. Yes, Eastern can stay close. I'm going to go on record that the Eagles will score more than the 20 they got in Pullman back in 2012.

Jim: Yes, I'm being cagey.

Jim: Keys to staying close or winning: 1) Gubrud must stay calm under pressure and not get happy feet. 2) O-line must hold its own. 3) EWU must win the turnover battle, which has been a big problem of late; and 4) the defense has to be aware of the WSU running game and not get gashed for 5-6 yards on first down. That will help on third down.

Guest6646 (guest): well, your counterpart in Pullman who writes for the SR agrees with that.

Jim: Yes, Jacob Thorpe sees a high-scoring game, 48-34 for WSU.

KHatch_Brecek: Ok, you've said how much you think we will score... what about WSU?

Jim: I have WSU winning 45-27.

KHatch_Brecek: Ouch.

Jim: Again, WSU's Luke Falk is an elite-level quarterback at the FBS level. He's now a junior and has seen it all. He'll open with the short passing game, and the Cougs will mix in some run. This is critical, especially with Eastern nose tackle Matt Sommer questionable with a minor knee injury. Beyond the starters, the Eastern D-line is smallish and will get pushed around.

PRenguber (guest): any chance of EWU putting 100 yards on the ground? That would certainly help

Jim: No.

Guest1468 (guest): How has EWU's O-line been holding up?

Guest1468 (guest): in practice

Jim: They look very promising. There will be growing pains, of course, but make no mistake - this is a very talented group.

KHatch_Brecek: Early predictions on top 3 of Big Sky?

Jim: How about a top four? In no particular order, EWU, NAU, Montana and PSU.

Guest6646 (guest): Last year the Eagles put up six touchdowns against Oregon in Eugene. I am sure that had not Vernon Adams been playing for the Ducks, EWU would have won even if VA wasn't still playing for us. My point is that this year's team has the same skills player as last year's who did so well offensively against a Pac-12 team. Is the WSU defense so much better than last year's Oregon's?

KHatch_Brecek: Great question 6646!!!

Jim: As some of you know, I'm an Oregon alum and follow the team closely. Last year's Duck defense was the worst in school history. That's not taking anything away from EWU's six TDs in that game, but WSU's defense is light-years better under their new coordinator Alex Grinch. They gave up just 13 passing TDs all of last year.

Jim: On the other hand, WSU's biggest losses to graduation were at DL and LB,so that could help the Eastern O-line.

Scotty (guest): How 'bout that Gateway Project?

Jim: Sorry, but it's not happening. Rumor is that the school will work with the existing stadium.

Guest6646 (guest): Important point for this game. I know that Big Sky rules limit how many players can travel to an away game. Are the Eagles allowed to bring more than that since this is a non-conference game against an FBS opponent?

Jim: Yes, they can bring the same number (70) as other FBS teams when playing at an FBS opponent. Against FCS teams you can take just 58.

KHatch_Brecek: Wait, so no new stadium next to the current? Just renovations?

Jim: Nothing's for sure, just a rumor. Wish I knew more!

Jim: OK, that's all the time we have. 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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