Even if the final score was plain-vanilla, the Eastern Washington coaches added a few delicious toppings to the Eagles’ 26-18 win over Northern Colorado on Saturday.
With the underdog Bears playing their customary stingy defense, the Eagles scored on a fake field goal and set up another on a Statue of Liberty play – and those plays may have been the difference in helping Eastern avoid a stunning upset on its own field.
Leading 13-3 early in the second half, the Eagles stalled at the UNC 15. As the Bears watched Eastern kicker Tyler McNannay run out for his third field goal attempt, the Eagles coaches had other ideas.
“We saw something where they were bringing edge pressure,” Eastern coach Beau Baldwin said. I thought it was a good time in the game because we were up 10 … and we thought it was there.”
Was it ever.
Holder Conner Richardson, a left-handed backup QB, took the snap, rolled to his right and found tight end Terry Jackson II alone at the back of the end zone.
Early in the fourth quarter, the Eagles’ lead had dwindled to 20-10, but quarterback Jordan West had driven them to the UNC 6 when Baldwin sent in the Statue of Liberty play.
West took the snap, raised his right arm in a throwing motion – without the ball, which was in his left hand. Running back Jalen Moore took the ball and bulled to the 1. He scored on the next play for what proved to be the winning touchdown.
“It almost worked, and it got us to the 1 and set us up for a touchdown,” Baldwin said. “They played a good, softish shell down there so they don’t give you a lot of passing lanes, and they will come up on the run. We had to get creative with how we were going to score down there.”
Special teams hit trifecta
After getting blocked punts in two previous games against Idaho State and Southern Utah, Eastern special teams coach Jeff Schmedding wanted more.
“We’re going for the trifecta,” Schmedding joked before Tuesday’s practice.
As it turns out, he wasn’t kidding. After going three and out on its first possession of the second half, UNC was in punt formation, with three blockers in front of the punter.
After studying film, Schmedding said, “We saw something there.”
Sure enough, the Eagles overloaded one side of the protection, and two players got to the ball, with Samson Ebukam recovering at the Bears’ 25. Eight plays later, Richardson passed to Jackson for a touchdown.
Those plays were anything but special for UNC coach Earnest Collins, Jr.,
“All the pieces are starting to come together, but it always seems there is something on special teams that sets us back each game,” said Collins, who also witnessed an 11-yard punt from Bailey Landwehr in the third quarter.
“We cannot continue to shoot ourselves in the foot week after week by making mistakes on special teams. We dig ourselves into too deep of a whole that we can’t climb out of,” Collins said.
A sellout crowd of 10,064 was on hand Saturday. That was EWU’s 20th sellout (crowd of 8,600+) in school history, fourth this year and eighth straight in the regular season since last year.
The crowd of 11,256 for EWU’s home game versus Idaho State on Oct. 4 was the third-largest in school history, ranking only behind crowds versus Montana of 11,702 in 2010 and 11,583 in 2006.
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