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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Eastern breezes past Vandals in opener

Eastern’s T.J. Lee III shoves Idaho’s Jahrie Level out of end zone to break up a pass. (Associated Press)

MOSCOW, Idaho – It was the story of two high-profile transfer quarterbacks – Eastern Washington’s played and Idaho’s didn’t – but it was so much more than that.

The Eagles’ linebackers were swarming. Their secondary was in complete control. Their three talented receivers reeled in clutch catches all over the field.

In short, Eastern played like the higher-division team Thursday night in the Eagles’ 20-3 romp over the Idaho Vandals in front of 11,136 at the Kibbie Dome.

“There’s no point in playing if you think you’re going to lose,” said Kyle Padron, who made his debut at quarterback for the Eagles and helped a large red-clad contingent of fans celebrate afterward.

Padron was shaky at times, yet masterful when it mattered. The SMU transfer completed just 13 of 33 pass attempts, but he directed two Eastern touchdown drives and piled up 260 yards against an Idaho secondary that often looked confused.

“He did a great job – took some hits and stayed so calm,” Eagles coach Beau Baldwin said. “Whenever your quarterback can lead you to a win on the road against a FBS school, that’s something good. It’s the first time we’ve won one of these in a long time.”

The Eagles came away with their first victory over a Football Bowl Subdivision team since 2003. That win was also against Idaho at the Kibbie Dome, an 8-5 decision, and the Vandals were equally inept on offense this time.

Idaho transfer QB Dominique Blackman did not play because of an undisclosed off-the-field reason. Former walk-on Logan Bushnell knew for more than a week that he would start in Blackman’s place, but the Vandals’ offense still sputtered throughout – much like last season.

Coach Robb Akey said Blackman would resume his role as starter next week at Bowling Green.

“This is not one kid’s fault,” Akey said. “Not by any stretch. Don’t anybody dare try to blame this on Logan Bushnell. … We didn’t play well enough.”

Up 13-3, Eastern crafted an 11-play, 65-yard TD drive between the third and fourth quarters that put the game well in hand. EWU converted on third-and-long twice in the drive, both the result of heady Padron passes.

Padron used his feet and quick release to avoid at least four sacks. The main beneficiary was Brandon Kaufman, who paced the Eagles with five catches for 148 yards.

Nicholas Edwards caught only two balls, but one was a 33-yarder that set up Eastern’s first touchdown.

“The QB was playing real smart, as far as I saw,” Idaho linebacker Homer Mauga said of Padron. “… His main point was trying to get the ball out as soon as possible.”

The Eagles outgained Idaho 412-237, while the Vandals converted only two of 15 third-down attempts. Almost half of UI’s yards in the first half came on one play – a 66-yard connection from Bushnell to Najee Lovett.

Lovett, left alone on the right sideline, hauled in the high-arcing pass and cut back toward the middle for UI’s longest – and most exciting – play of the night. The catch-and-run resulted in Idaho’s only score, a 27-yard field goal from Trey Farquhar.

“We just didn’t get it started going soon enough,” Bushnell said. “It wasn’t good offensive production from us.”