EWU notebook: Eagles reset after weather delay to win season opener against Tennessee State
Sept. 3, 2022 Updated Sat., Sept. 3, 2022 at 9:06 p.m.
Clouds blew in during the first half of Eastern Washington’s 36-29 nonconference victory over Tennessee State on Saturday, bringing the first notable rain to Roos Field in some time.
But in the third quarter the storms brought lightning, prompting a delay that Eagles coach Aaron Best – who has been with the EWU football program for 26 years as a player and coach – had never experienced in Cheney.
“Sam Houston in Huntsville (Texas), in 2013, and 2019 at Jacksonville State, never at home,” Best said, quickly identifying two previous Eastern games that were delayed by lightning. “You get the window of countdown, you communicate that to your team, you touch up a few things, but you don’t want to coach for that half-hour. You want to be able to hydrate, be able to stretch.”
“It’s not something you necessarily prepare for.”The Eagles were facing second-and-10 near midfield when referee Jim Crowley announced the delay, which came when there was 3:16 left in the third quarter. That started a mandatory 30-minute clock, one that restarted every time lightning was detected within 10 miles of the stadium.
But 45 minutes later, both teams were back on the field, and 10 minutes after that the game resumed. At the time Eastern led 29-19, but it punted on that drive and the next, allowing Tennessee State an opportunity to come back. It was one the Tigers seized, and midway through the fourth quarter they tied the game at 29.
“That was something,” EWU senior receiver and captain Freddie Roberson said of the delay. “That kind of caught us off guard, but the great ones adapt, and that’s what we had to do.”
The delay extended what was already a lengthy game to an official game time of 4 hours, 30 minutes.
Banks, Tommasini contribute at LB
Tennessee State primarily ran offensive sets with three (and often more) receivers, something Eastern countered mostly with nickel defenses.
Both linebackers in those Eagles sets were transfers in Jaren Banks and Derek Tommasini. They finished tied for fifth on the team in tackles with seven apiece, and senior lineman Mitchell Johnson praised the play of both.
“They came in spring, so it was nice having all spring, all summer, working out together, building a relationship, and then all fall camp,” Johnson said. “It doesn’t feel like they got here a few months ago; I feel like I’ve been playing with them for a long time.”
“They’re great players, they communicate well and those are two guys you’ll see running sideline to sideline every play.”Banks, a senior, transferred from Rice, and Tommasini, a junior, transferred from Idaho. But both have roots in the Northwest, as Banks is from Eugene and Tommasini is from Boise.
The Eagles forced three fumbles and recovered two. Those helped overcome big games from TSU running back Devon Starling (25 carries, 207 yards) and quarterback Draylen Ellis, who gained 119 yards on the ground and also completed 17-of-27 passes for 257 yards.
Senior tackle Wyatt Musser was injured in an altercation after the extra point on the Eagles’ final scoring drive. Best noted that Musser walked off under his own power . TSU senior lineman Davoan Hawkins, who appeared to throw a punch at Musser, was flagged for a personal foul and was ejected following the play.
Best said the Eagles had a couple of dings but were otherwise all right.
Starting kicker Seth Harrison pulled a 33-yard field goal just left of the uprights in the second quarter and did not attempt another kick in the game. Best said a Tennessee State player ran into Harrison on the play. He was not on the sideline after halftime.
Sophomore Jackson Cleaver made all three PATs after Harrison left the game.
Starting cornerback Darrien Sampson, a junior, left the game in the second half and did not return. Junior Tre Weed replaced him and intercepted Ellis’ final pass of the game to secure Eastern’s victory.
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