There were big plays all around for the Eagle defense, and a whole lot of tackles by senior All-America linebacker Ronnie Hamlin.
Hamlin had 11 tackles, a sack and returned an interception for a touchdown to set the tone early for the Eastern Washington University football team Saturday (April 20) in an 88-play scrimmage at Roos Field in Cheney, Wash.
The Eagles marked the mid-point of spring practice with the situational scrimmage, which has become a spring staple of the Eagles and head coach Beau Baldwin. Baldwin wasn’t overly concerned about the outcome, but knows his offensive squad has a lot of work ahead to improve upon an outing that included four turnovers and several other unforced errors.
“I have been coaching long enough to know scrimmages will go however they go,” he explained. “That is not an excuse (for the offense). We need to figure out how to get better.”
The offensive players will get their chance at the team’s annual Red-White Game on April 27 at 2 p.m. at Roos Field. The Red-White Game is part of “Eagle Week” at EWU, featuring the 32nd Annual Killin Dinner, Dance and Auction starting at 4:30 p.m. on April 27.
“I don’t get overly excited about things going well, and I don’t get too panicky when things don’t go well,” Baldwin continued. “We have to come back and learn from our plays offensively and build on our plays defensively.”
The defense finished with three interceptions, three sacks and had seven passes broken up on another blustery day at “The Inferno.” The offense finished with 44 rushing attempts and 44 passing attempts, but managed only 3.7 yards per play. They had 122 yards rushing and 201 passing on the day.
All three of the offensive scores came in red zone possessions. At one point, the offensive units managed just one first down in eight consecutive possessions for either their own 30 or own 35 yard line.
“The worst thing we can do if we are successful is rest,” said Baldwin. “Sometimes it is a lot easier to come back if you get your teeth kicked in than if things go really well for you. We need to look at and work on the unforced errors. We are okay with plays being made, but when they are unforced, we need to clean it up.”
Eagle fans were able to see an impressive debut by UCLA transfer Tevin McDonald on Saturday. He practiced for the first time in pads on Tuesday, and has been making steady progress familiarizing himself with the Eagle program. His first day of classes at EWU was on April 11.
The junior safety finished with five tackles, broke-up a sure touchdown pass and had an interception on a pass that was broken up by running back-turned-linebacker Jordan Talley. Talley also had four tackles and forced a fumble.
Cornerback Ronald Baines added an interception and a pass broken up, and safety Jordan Tonani had four tackles and a sack.
Starting quarterback Vernon Adams completed 14-of-24 passes for 144 yards through the air, and added 13 yards on the ground. But he had all three of the interceptions for the offense, which also had a lost fumble that was forced by Talley and recovered by McDonald.
Hamlin had an interception return for a touchdown on the fifth possession of the scrimmage, followed by a 7-yard TD pass from Adams to Ashton Clark, who led all receivers with nine catches for 93 yards. The offense followed with a 21-yard field goal by Kevin Miller.
Adams then drove the offense 63 yards on seven plays on a two-minute drill, but that ended with McDonald’s interception. Later in the scrimmage, freshman redshirt quarterback Jordan West scored on a 1-yard run, followed by his successful pass to Clark on the conversion attempt.
A week ago on a blustery day in Cheney, Eastern’s offensive units finished with 223 yards of offense in a 45-play scrimmage, with three touchdown drives all led by different quarterbacks. The highlight defensively was the No. 1 unit stopping the No. 1 offense on a pair of three-and-outs in the early stages of the scrimmage.