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Eastern concentrates on Eastern

The Eastern Washington University football team is playing a familiar opponent tonight – the Eastern Washington Eagles.

Technically, the Division II Western Oregon Wolves are lining up opposite the fifth-ranked I-AA team for the 6:05 kickoff at Woodward Stadium, but the Eagles are more concerned with themselves.

“It’s not about who we are playing – it’s about us. Until we take care of our own business, nothing else really matters,” EWU coach Paul Wulff said. “We just want to play good football. We need to play better than we played the first game. … It’s no different than playing Northern Arizona or Portland State. It’s Western Oregon and we need to play good football. We need to get better.”

Wulff isn’t kidding about the goals for the Eagles (0-1) in the last game before they get into Big Sky Conference play, despite the opponent being a heavy underdog.

Asked about expectations that the Eagles should destroy the Wolves (1-1), he said: “I don’t listen to those people. … Eastern has to win by one point. That’s all our goal is, the W. It takes one point more than the opponent to get a W.”

As for backups getting extensive time: “Right now, our plan is to play the starters the whole game. If something allows us to play the backups, we’ll do that.”

The only goal for Wulff is to see a better team than the one that lost 35-24 at San Jose State two weeks ago.

“The biggest concern on defense is cleaning up our tackling … in addition to continuing to prove our execution of assignments and techniques,” Wulff said.

Offensive execution is critical for the traditionally high-powered Eagles.

“We’re not hitting on all cylinders yet, we have work in front of us to get there,” Wulff said. “Tempo and timing are real similar, crispness … being sharp … understanding the urgency we need to have to play at the level we expect to play at. Sometimes you don’t have that right out of the gate. We didn’t, therefore we have to make those improvements so when we start league play we’re playing as well as we possibly can.”

In other words, the Eagles better be focused or someone else in a white jersey will be on the field.

Wulff specifically mentioned defensive backs Muhammad Shamsid-Deen, Charles Searcy and Bryan Jarrett, center Randy Meade, tight ends Tom McAndrews and Shawn Powell, and the non-starter out of the three defensive ends – Jason Belford, Mike Wolfe and Johnny Hanson – as backups pushing starters.

“Those kids are playing well enough, improving enough, they deserve a chance to improve in a game situation to push to be a starter,” he said.

Wulff also hopes that new backup quarterback Alex Smart can get some meaningful snaps, but he said the game situation would dictate the redshirt freshman’s opportunities in his first game.

Eagles nest

Offensive tackle Chris Perkins (ankle, 2-3 weeks), backup quarterback Chris Peerboom (finger, season) and backup running back Chris Anderson (wrist, six weeks) are out. … Starting wide receiver Craig McIntyre (hamstring) and backup tight end Anthony McCarty (wrist) are questionable. … Punter Ryan Donckers (neck) may play but is likely out one more week while recovering from an off-season auto accident.

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