It was fast and it was furious.
The Eastern Washington University football team scored 29 points in the first quarter behind the arm and legs of sophomore quarterback Vernon Adams and went on to a 43-14 non-conference victory over Western Oregon Saturday (Sept. 7) at Roos Field.
“I loved the way we started both halves with speed coming out,” said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin, who had not been a part of a 2-0 team in his 10 seasons as head coach or assistant coach at EWU until now. “I loved the way we came out firing. I loved the way our defense played almost the entire game. We made some mistakes, and we were close to a shutout, but we don’t get too worried about that. I thought we played a pretty consistent ballgame all day.”
Fresh off the biggest win in school history, the second-ranked Eagles were facing a former NAIA rival of EWU in the 1970’s. Eastern, a member of the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision, defeated Oregon State 49-46 the previous week in Corvallis, Ore.
Adams, who won a variety of national honors – include an appearance in Sports Illustrated – after finishing with a school-record 518 yards versus the Beavers, had 217 total yards and four touchdown passes in the first quarter alone. He completed 8-of-9 passes for 189 yards, and also rushed for 28 yards during EWU’s onslaught in the first 15 minutes.
He played just the third quarter in the second half and finished the game 18-of-24 for 298 yards, five touchdowns and a pair of interceptions, and added 45 yards on the ground.
“He really does (special things),” Baldwin said of Adams. “He has an energy and a motor, and it becomes infectious not just with the offense, but with the whole team. It was great to start the way we did.”
Eastern finished the game with 597 yards of offense and held WOU to 217, including a commanding 254-3 advantage in the first quarter for EWU.
Eastern scored touchdowns on its first possessions after scoring on nine of 10possessions against OSU. Adams had TD passes of 63 yards to Cooper Kupp, 4 yards to Zack Gehring, 15 yards to Cory Mitchell and 58 yards to Shaquille Hill in the first quarter. Eastern’s four scoring drives covered 75, 20, 56 and 78 yards.
After a scoreless second quarter, Adams directed EWU on a 70-yard scoring drive to open the third quarter, capped by an 8-yard TD pass to Hill. After having a potential school-record sixth touchdown pass wiped out because of a penalty, Adams played just one more series before backup Anthony Vitto closed out the game. Vitto had a 14-yard touchdown pass by true freshman Kendrick Bourne to end EWU’s scoring.
Hill finished with a career-high eight catches for 117 yards, and Kupp caught three for 77 yards. Junior Quincy Forte, who missed the OSU game with a hamstring injury, led the Eagles on the ground with 99 yards on 13 carries.
Defensively, senior safety Allen Brown intercepted a pair of passes, giving him four in his career. Senior linebacker J.C. Agen led the Eagles with a seven tackles, and fellow backers Jordan Talley and Albert Havili each had five.
Junior linebacker Cody McCarthy had four tackles, a sack and a pass broken up, and senior cornerback T.J. Lee III had a pair of tackles, a sack, a forced fumble, a pass broken up and a fumble recovery.
Since equaling a school-record with six touchdown passes in the second half alone in the 2012 FCS Playoffs against Sam Houston State, Adams has completed 55-of-80 passes for 1,073 yards, 15 touchdowns and four interceptions in less than five full halves of action. He also has 178 rushing yards and two scores in that span, with an impressive 240.5 passing efficiency rating.
Western Oregon, located just 21 miles from Corvallis where the Eagles upset the 25th-ranked Beavers, was playing its season opener at EWU. The Wolves are a member of the NCAA Division II Great Northwest Conference.
Prior to Saturday, Eastern had played WOU four times since 2000 in non-conference affairs, with EWU winning all four by an average score of 42-12. Prior to those four meetings, Western Oregon was 9-2-1 in the first 12 games in the series, dating back to a 19-19 tie in 1931.
The Eagles are a member of the Big Sky Conference and moved up two spots to fourth in this week’s Sports Network top-25 NCAA Football Championship Subdivision poll. The Eagles and are also second by the coaches after ranking fourth and third, respectively, in the two polls entering the season.