The defense came ready for the challenge.
The Eastern Washington University defensive squads held the offense to 106 yards and scoreless in their first seven possessions to highlight the second football scrimmage of spring practice for the Eagles Saturday (April 19) at Roos Field in Cheney, Wash.
The defense forced four turnovers, intercepting All-America quarterback Vernon Adams three times and forcing and recovering a fumble as well. Despite giving up 523 yards of offense, the defense also finished with seven quick-whistle sacks and nine passes broken up.
The offense scored just six times in 18 possessions, but three of them came during EWU’s red-zone drill. The Eastern offense finished with 415 yards through the air and another 108 rushing, with a total of 84 plays in various scenarios and situations on a picture-perfect day at “The Inferno.”
“You are going to have games like that,” said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin said. “Fortunately in the Big Sky last year we didn’t have too many like that -- we had halftime leads against pretty much everyone. No matter how good you think you are on offense or how good think you are on defense, get ready for a game where could be 17-14 or it could be 49-48 -- they all happen. You just have to be ready and prepared to find ways to rebound if things aren’t going the way you expected or like, and I feel both sides have shown the ability to do that through the spring football.”
The first seven possessions included interceptions by freshman redshirt defensive back Victor Gamboa and sophomore defensive lineman Matthew Sommer, as well as a forced fumble and recovery by defensive end John Goldwire.
The offense rebounded to put together a pair of 68-yard drives, and three more in the red zone drill from the defense’s 27-yard line. The other touchdown came on a 97-yard catch and run by All-America receiver Cooper Kupp from sophomore Jordan West.
But the defense was still solid, adding an interception by Zach Bruce to four other late possessions – eight in all -- in which they essentially forced the offense to punt.
“I thought the defense came out fired up and that caused some of the turnovers,” said Baldwin. “The offense moved the ball in their first series, but the defense still found a way to get a red zone stop. It was good to see both sides coming out doing things. It got a little sloppy in the middle of it, but when all was said and done there was energy. We are alright going forward and we just have to keep progressing in practice 10. I will know more after I watch the video.”
Adams finished 17-of-26 for 170 yards and a pair of touchdown passes to Blair Bomber, and West was 7-of-16 for 154 yards and a TD. Redshirt freshman quarterback Conner Richardson was 6-of-9 for 91 yards and a 33-yard TD scamper on a check-off at the line of scrimmage.
Kupp had six catches for 148 yards to lead EWU receivers, with Bomber finished with five for 63. A total of 14 players caught passes.
The leading rusher was Jabari Wilson with 32 yards on nine carries, and he also caught a pass for a 27-yard score. Cody Hecker added 21 yards on four carries, and junior wide receiver Shaq Hill had a 27-yard touchdown on a reverse.
The leading tackler in the scrimmage was freshman redshirt linebacker Jake Gall with eight. Seven different players were credited with sacks, and sophomore cornerback D’londo Tucker and sophomore Isaac Anderson each broke-up two passes.
Eastern opened its 14-session spring practice schedule on April 4 and will continue to practice Tuesdays and Thursdays, and have its final scrimmage on Saturday, April 26 at 2 p.m. in the annual Red-White Game at Roos Field. But the Eagles will follow that with one more week of practice before wrapping up on May 1.