Aaron Best had an all new vantage point, but he came away pleased.
The new Eastern Washington University football coach watched his offense generate 374 yards of total offense in a 61-play scrimmage Saturday (April 15) at Roos Field, but he also watched his defense produce four turnovers and generate nine plays with negative yards.
Best, whose vantage point previously was on the sidelines with the offensive line he coached, watched from behind the offensive backfield and served as a quasi-referee during his scrimmage debut as a head coach. His official head coaching debut will come on Sept. 2 when the Eagles play at Texas Tech.
"For the first scrimmage, there were a fair amount of the things you would expect coming out of the gate," Best explained. "We had a few missed tackles, a few ill-advised throws and some errant blocking at times, but that's to be expected in the first scrimmage. I think overall the crispness of things was good.
"We knew we were going to get after it a little bit, and overall I think it was a very solid scrimmage," he added. "But like we say as coaches, we have to watch the film before we can truly evaluate and answer specific questions."
Eastern All-America quarterback Gage Gubrud led the offense on scoring drives of 71 and 64 yards to open the scrimmage, with touchdown passes of 24 and 22 yards to junior Nsimba Webster. He finished 12-of-19 for 194 yards, while redshirt freshman Eric Barriere made his debut by completing 4-of-9 passes for 105 yards.
Webster finished with six catches for 84 yard and Sam McPherson caught a pair of passes for 34 yards. McPherson and Gubrud were the leading rushers for the offense with 25 yards each.
Barriere had an 85-yard touchdown pass to Dre'Sonte Dorton, but the rest of the day belonged to the defense. Gubrud was intercepted on back-to-back pass attempts in the middle of the scrimmage by linebackers Kurt Calhoun and Andrew Katzenberger. The hard-hitting defense also recovered two fumbles, recorded a safety and finished with three quick-whistle sacks, and it was the plays for losses that were most plentiful and impressive.
Of EWU's 33 rushing attempts, nine were for negative yards. Seven other plays were for no gain, including three on third down and one on fourth down that resulted in big stops for the defense. The result was an average of just 2.3 yards per carry on the day. Take away long passing gains of 85, 41 and 30 yards – and McPherson's rush of 25 yards -- and the defense allowed just 193 yards in 57 plays for an average of only 3.4 per play.
"I'm not worried about yards per carry or long run/short runs," Best said, indicating the running game is a work in progress and will evolve over time. "I just want runs called just so that we can teach off those moments."
Eastern will also scrimmage on April 22 at Roos Field, then closes spring practices with the annual Red-White Game on Saturday, April 29 at 2 p.m. at Roos Field as part of the 36th Annual Killin Weekend at EWU. There is no admission charged for the scrimmage or the Red-White Game.
Nsimba Webster 24 pass from Gage Gubrud (Roldan Alcobendas kick)
Nsimba Webster 22 pass from Gage Gubrud (Brandyn Bangsund kick)
Safety recorded by defense
Dre'Sonte Dorton 85 pass from Eric Barriere (Andre Slyter kick)
Tamarick Pierce 10 run (Alcobendas kick)
Rushing: Sam McPherson 5-25, Gage Gubrud 2-25, Ashanti Kindle 6-15, Tamarick Pierce 5-13 1td, Antoine Custer Jr. 6-10, Jordan Laurencio 1-3, Eric Barriere 5-2, Adam Gascoyne 1-minus-1, Zane Jacobson 2-minus-17, Totals 33-75.
Passing: Gage Gubrud 12-of-19 194 2int 2td, Eric Barriere 4-9 105 1td, Totals 16-of-28 299 2int 3td.
Receiving: Nsimba Webster 6-84 2td, Sam McPherson 2-34, Dre'Sonte Dorton 1-85 1td, Jayson Williams 1-41, Talolo Limu-Jones 1-16, Xavier James 1-12, Beau Byus 1-11, Zach Eagle 1-10, Terence Grady 1-3, Hayden Franco 1-3, Totals 16-299 3td.
Tackles Leaders: Ketner Kupp 6, Brandon Montgomery 5, John Kreifels 5, Kurt Calhoun 4, Mitch Fettig 4, Alek Kacmarcik 4, Andre Lino 4, Keith Moore 4, Jonah Jordan 3, Andrew Katzenberger 3, Dehonta Hayes 3, Blake Ochsner 3.
Interceptions: Kurt Calhoun, Andrew Katzenberger.
Passes Broken Up: Marcus Saugen, Brandon Montgomery.
Sacks: Miquel Perez, Augustus Ndow, Kurt Calhoun.
Forced Fumble: Augustus Ndow.
Fumble Recovery: Andrew Katzenberger.
More Comments From Aaron Best
On Scrimmage: "I think we got in and out of some huddle situations. I think we threw the ball down field. We stressed our defense a little bit. We got some stops on defense in situations where we needed to get stops. I was very, very impressed with reps we had in the scrimmage. Where as clean as it was, the weather helped. Based on last Saturday I was a little nervous going into this one."
On Running Game: "The running game is always the last thing that kind of takes form. And that's going to work over the later part of spring, it's going to take some time over summer, and it takes some time over in the fall. Right now were not worrying about the chemistry piece -- were working on just implementing the schemes. We're trying to get the face-to-face combat in, and be able to control the line of scrimmage on both sides. So the chemistry phase of the run game especially will be one of those things we'll lean on once we get into two-a-days in the fall when the weather starts heating up a little bit. Legs start feeling a little bit fresher, and the fall season starts rolling around."
On Tempo of Play Calling: "We kind of have a number that we try and abide by as an offense as far as a certain amount of seconds on the play clock that we want to run a play. There are times when we are going to huddle. There are times when we're not going to huddle. There's times when we're going to tempo and not tempo. One of the big reasons why I want to push the tempo in practices and scrimmages is that we don't want to condition after practice. If we can condition in practice then games become a little easier. So that's why the transitional phase in practice is important -- we're in and out of drills. We are getting coaches to push drills and push envelopes as far as running to and from. We have always said it, and I felt like we could be better at it. And so that's one of the things with the tempo of play-calling during the practices. We have to do that as coaches to put them in position so that they can get to Saturdays, and run those plays in the amount of time that we expect them to run them."
36th Annual Killin Dinner/Dance/Auction is April 29 at EWU as Part of "Eagle Week"Tickets are now on sale for the 36th Annual Killin Dinner, Dance and Auction, which is the featured event of "Eagle Week" at Eastern Washington University. The event follows the annual Red-White Spring Football Game on April 29th at 2 p.m. at Roos Field in Cheney, Wash.
Tickets are $100 per individual and $700 for a table of eight. More information is available via: http://goeags.com/killin. A registration link on that page may be used to order tickets.
Killin takes place at the EWU Sports and Recreation Center. The event starts with a social hour and auction at 4:30 p.m., followed by the dinner (6:15 p.m.), program/presentations/live auction (7:15 p.m.) and dancing (8 p.m.).Net proceeds benefit areas of greatest need within Eastern Athletics. The event is named in honor of Orland Killin, who, along with his wife Bernice, helped create the event. Killin was a man immensely dedicated to academics and the integrity of Eastern Washington University, serving as professor, faculty athletic representative and faculty president. He was an Eastern football letter winner in 1941-42.