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

EWU football: WR Simba Webster brings the heat to scrimmage

The smoky skies over Cheney cleared just in time for Simba Webster to light a few more fires. The redshirt freshman wide receiver torched a few defenders at Saturday’s scrimmage at Roos Field and made a case for getting in the lineup on what is already one of the best receiving corps in the Football Championship Subdivision. “Coach called a play, and I just had to make a play, be a playmaker,” said Webster, who made plenty of them, including a 55-yard touchdown on a middle screen pass from Jordan West. That play appeared to set the tone for a 76-play scrimmage that saw the offense gain 329 yards through the air. The Eagles offense moved crisply, apart from four botched snaps – caused mostly by the absence of the top two centers – and exploited coverage gaps in the new 4-2-5 defensive scheme. At the same time, the offense moved with confidence and pace – though not with the urgency of Oregon, its opponent on Sept. 5, but quickly enough to suit coach Beau Baldwin. “We’ve always been more a change-of-speed type of offense,” said Baldwin. “We’re not 100 miles per hour every single time – we change speeds and slow down to see what the defense is doing.” In the process, West appeared to solidify his spot atop the depth chart, hitting 10 of 15 passes for 131 yards. Eastern’s other two quarterbacks were accurate, with Gage Gubrud completing 12 of 14 for 98 yards and Reilly Hennessey going 8 of 13 for 84 yards. With many starters sitting out with minor injuries, several other newcomers got a chance to shine. True freshman running back Sam McPherson completed a 16-yard TD pass to sophomore Terence Grady, who finished with five catches for 44 yards. Another true freshman, Malcom Williams Jr., was productive for the offense with three carries for 33 yards and four catches for another 23. Alek Kacmarcik led the defense with eight tackles, and his fellow redshirt freshman linebacker Kody Beckering had an interception. Jordan Dascalo, a transfer from Washington State, punted three times for a 53.3-yard average per punt, but did have a breeze behind him on all three kicks. But none made a bigger impression than Webster, who along with twin brother, Nzuzi (a starter at cornerback), hail from the same high school in Antioch, California, as former EWU star running back Taiwan Jones. Simba Webster even wears the same No. 22 jersey as Jones, now with the Oakland Raiders. With leading receiver Cooper Kupp, Kendrick Bourne and Shaq Hill on the sidelines, Simba Webster showed speed and elusiveness; but for two oh-so-close incompletions, he would have topped 200 yards in catches. “He did a great job – obviously you see the electric plays,” said Baldwin, who noted that Webster had the sense to get out of bounds in a two-minute drill instead of getting tackled in the open field. “I’m very excited for what Simba brings to what in my opinion is a strong receiving corps,” Baldwin said. The defense had some big moments – Beckering’s interception and long return, roverback Todd Raynes’ breakup of a sure TD pass to Webster, a sack from the back side by true freshman Keenan Williams. Still, they have a ways to go to catch up with the offense. “The biggest thing was that we were flying around and getting to the ball,” said Kacmarcik, who led the defense with eight tackles. Badwin’s biggest concern was sluggishness in transition. “Mentally, in-between plays we need to speed up on both sides of the ball,” Baldwin said. “Come Sept. 5, they aren’t waiting for us to line up.” Notes: After a day off today, the Eagles resume practice on Monday with two-a-days at 9:15 a.m. and 3 p.m. … Fans were on hand Saturday for “Meet the Eagles Day,” as players signed autographs for roughly 200 fans. The second and final scrimmage is Saturday at 9:45 a.m.