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Eastern Washington University Football

Eastern Washington tries to regroup – indoors – as North Dakota State game looms

Eastern Washington lineman Albert Havili sacks Texas Tech quarterback Nic Shimonek early in the Eagles’ 56-10 loss on Saturday. (Brad Tollefson / Lubbock Avalanche-Journal)

Eastern Washington just can’t catch a break.

On Tuesday afternoon, the Eagles couldn’t even catch a healthy breath at Roos Field and were forced to practice in the fieldhouse.

“Every day is a challenge,” coach Aaron Best said, three days after a 56-10 opening loss at Texas Tech and four days ahead of the home opener against North Dakota State.

The Eagles face plenty of challenges this week. The first is the weather, as unhealthy air levels forced an indefinite stay indoors. The fieldhouse lacks a proper surface – it’s more suited to tennis than football – and special-teams practice is impossible.

Mother Nature will dictate how long the Eagles stay indoors, though Best said he’s prepared to spend all week there if necessary.

The bigger uncertainty is how the Eagles will respond to the adversity of Saturday’s beatdown in Lubbock. Film confirmed what fans saw: a lack of connection in the passing game and poor tackling on defense, among other things.

Noting that Eastern lost just two games last year, Best hopes his players will take the right attitude despite being 0-1.

“Some guys don’t know how to handle (losing), because it doesn’t happen very often,” Best said.

Losing happens even less to NDSU, which is 84-11 since its last visit to Cheney in the 2010 playoffs. The second-ranked Bison (1-0) have won five national titles in the interim on the strength of a stingy defense and a commitment to the running game.

That represents yet another challenge for the Eastern defense, which faced a pass-heavy Tech offense last week and gave up 626 yards of offense.

“A lot of that had to do with tackling,” Best said. “Not that we were out of position; we didn’t make the plays to take them down.”

Eastern had early success with the pass rush, but that was negated when Tech ran more screen passes and runs.

“That got us out of our pressures – it’s a chess match,” said Best, who expects a balanced attack from NDSU junior quarterback Easton Stick and a strong running game.

On offense, Best noted, either quarterback Gage Gubrud was slightly off on his throws, or the receiver didn’t run a precise route. “The timing was off,” Best said.

“However, Gage is his own worst critic,” Best said.

The Eagles came out of the Tech game free of injury. However, linebacker Ketner Kupp missed the Texas Tech game with a high ankle sprain and is questionable this week.