Posted on August 31, 2013 at 8:37 PM
This time, it wasn’t a moral victory. It was a real victory over a Pac-12 opponent.
Sophomore quarterback Vernon Adams finished with 518 yards of total offense as the fourth-ranked Eastern Washington University football team arguably registered the biggest victory in school history with a 49-46 win over 25th-ranked Oregon State Saturday (Aug. 31) at Reser Stadium in Corvallis, Ore.
The Eagles are a member of the Big Sky Conference and ranked fourth in the Sports Network preseason top-25 NCAA Football Championship Subdivision poll, and are third by the coaches. The Beavers are from the Pac-12 Conference, and are ranked 25th in both the Associated Press and USA Today (coaches) polls in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision.
A 2-yard run by Adams with 18 seconds to play were the winning points as Eastern out-gained the Beavers 625-527 in the shootout. Adams accounted for 78 yards during the monumental 75-yard scoring drive for the Eagles, who were the 2010 NCAA Division I champions.
Adams led Eastern to a 29-17 lead at halftime with 317 yards of total offense in the first 30 minutes. He battled cramps in the third quarter and received an I.V. in the lockerroom, but while he was gone, the Eagles fell behind 32-29. But after a continual trade of schools, Eastern had the seventh and final lead change of the game.
Adams had 411 yards and four touchdowns on 23-of-30 passing, and added 107 yards and two TD on the ground. He picked up where he left off last season when he had 364 passing yards in the second half alone of EWU’s 45-42 loss to Sam Houston State in the FCS Playoffs.
Senior wide receiver Ashton Clark caught nine passes for 155 yards and a touchdown, and redshirt freshman Cooper Kupp caught five for 119 yards and two scores in his first game as an Eagle. Washington State transfer Blair Bomber chipped in three grabs for 66 yards and a score.
It was the third-straight year the Eagles have played teams from the Pac-12 Conference, and the previous two years Eastern had last-possession chances to take the lead and possibly pull off the upset. Eastern fell 24-20 at Washington State last Sept. 8, and 30-27 to Washington on Sept. 3 in 2011.
Eastern scored all six times it had the ball in the first half, scoring three touchdowns and three field goals. Adams completed 13-of-18 passes for 268 yards and three touchdowns in the first half alone, and also rushed for 49 yards. He directed EWU to drives of 60, 69, 57, 77, 65 and 49 yards.
Adams had TD passes of 31 yards and 48 yards to Kupp, and 24 yards to Ashton Clark. Kevin Miller booted field goals of 33, 23 and 36 yards.
But on EWU’s first possession of the second half, Adams went down with cramps and left the game. Senior Anthony Vitto was 2-of-3 for 29 yards in his absence, but the Beavers were able to regain a 32-29 lead.
Once Adams returned, however, the Eagles responded with a 69-yard scoring drive, with Adams scrambling for a 19-yard touchdown. Eastern led 36-32, only to have that overcome by a 75-yard TD drive and 39-36 lead with 13:46 remaining.
A 48-yard TD pass from Adams to Washington State transfer Blair Bomber gave EWU the lead again at 43-39. But the sixth lead change of the game resulted in the Beavers taking a 46-43 advantage with 4:50 left.
The Eagles followed with an 11-play, 75-yard drive engineered by Adams. He rushed for 38 yards and completed all three of his passes for 40 yards.
In 2012, the Eagles finished 11-3 overall and advanced to the semifinals of the FCS Playoffs. A total of 48 returning letterwinners are back for EWU, including seven starters on offense and five on defense (not counting injured safety Jordan Tonani).
In 2012, Oregon State was 9-4 overall and 6-1 in the Pac-12 Conference, and finished the year ranked 19th nationally. The Beavers ended the season by losing 31-27 to Texas is the Valero Alamo Bowl, but OSU returns 15 starters and a combined 302 career starts. By contrast, EWU returns 12 starters and has 33 players returning with 301 career starts between them.
This is the 10th time Eastern has played a current member of the Pac-12 Conference, and Eastern came away winless in the first nine. Included was a 56-17 loss at Oregon State in 2006 when the Eagles fell behind 35-0, as well as a narrow 21-19 loss in 2000 in the first-ever meeting between the two schools. In that first meeting, Eastern pulled to within two points with 3:16 to play, but Oregon State picked up a first down on the ensuing possession and was able to run out most of the remaining time on the clock before punting on the final play of the game.
Since the early 1980’s when it began the move to become a member of FCS (in 1984), Eastern is now 9-20 all-time versus FBS teams. A 20-3 win at Idaho to open the 2012 season snapped a 10-game losing streak.