MISSOULA – Eastern Washington’s young players got plenty of playing time in Saturday’s 63-7 blowout loss to the Montana Grizzlies at Washington-Grizzly Stadium, and none perhaps was more valuable than the time played by redshirt freshman quarterback Kekoa Visperas.
After senior Gunner Talkington played the entire first half, Visperas played every offensive snap of the second, leading the Eagles to their lone touchdown of the game.
“It was an opportunity, albeit a forced opportunity, to play,” EWU coach Aaron Best said, referring to an injury late in the first half that had Talkington in a boot and using crutches after halftime.
“We’ll look at the film, but I think (Visperas) extended some plays, and there are some plays he’d like to have back like any guy experiencing long playing time for the first time, in a situation with Gunner (Talkington) being down going into the third quarter.”
Talkington completed 14 of 21 attempts and didn’t commit any turnovers, but those completions went for just 139 yards. He was sacked twice, and the Eagles didn’t score in the first half.
He got little help from his running backs, who gained a combined 15 yards in the first two quarters.
But with Visperas under center – and behind 49-0 – the Eagles moved the ball a bit more against the Grizzlies’ first-team defense.
They went three-and-out on Visperas’ first drive, but they went 87 yards on 12 plays the next series.
Visperas capped it with a 6-yard touchdown throw to sophomore Blake Gobel, cutting Montana’s lead to 56-7 and ending the Grizzlies’ streak of scoring 124 consecutive points since their loss to Weber State two games ago. It was the first touchdown pass of Visperas’ college career.
Visperas, a graduate of Bethel High School in Spanaway, Washington, had 69 passing yards on 9 of 12 attempts.
He also scrambled five times for 28 yards.
“He has fun when he’s out there,” Best said. “I think his brightest years are ahead of him.”
Sophomore Silas Perreiah, a Northwest Christian graduate, led the Eagles in carries (11) and rushing yards (58).
Best said Perreiah and Visperas were the two offensive players who did the most to “boost the juices” of the offense and to give it some flow.
Montana QB Johnson leaves after injury
Talkington’s counterpart, Montana senior quarterback Lucas Johnson, also was injured in the second quarter and didn’t return to the game.
Johnson stayed down at the end of a play on which he was being chased by Eagles cornerback Tre Weed. Weed caught him by the legs as Johnson completed a pass downfield. He walked off under his own power but was using crutches after halftime.
Redshirt freshman Daniel Britt replaced him and in the third quarter threw for a touchdown and ran for another. Britt finished the game with 73 rushing yards to go with 67 passing yards on 8 of 11 attempts.
Johnson completed 10 of 16 throws for 200 yards and two touchdowns.
EWU’s Chism bounces back
After catching just three passes for 9 yards last week against Idaho, sophomore Efton Chism III was again a focal point of Eastern’s offense .
Chism led the team with eight receptions for 71 yards, more on par with his performance the three games prior to Idaho, when he had at least eight catches in each.
Chism, a preseason All-Big Sky selection, leads the team with 62 receptions for 607 yards . Junior Freddie Roberson has 797 yards on 45 catches for a team-high seven touchdowns, one more than Chism. Roberson did not play in the second half against Montana.
For just the second time all season, sophomore Nolan Ulm was held without a reception. He was targeted twice. Senior Robert Mason III missed the past three games but returned to make one reception for minus-3 yards.
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