Exactly 400 yards passing was the exclamation point.
Eastern Washington University quarterbacks Vernon Adams and Anthony Vitto combined to complete 31-of-46 passes for 400 yards to highlight EWU’s 68-play scrimmage Saturday (April 21) at Roos Field in Cheney, Wash.
A week after the defense dominated, the offense was up to the task with all five scoring drives covering at least 39 yards, including touchdown drives of 65, 70 and 62 yards. The offense finished with 429 total yards, as the Eagles concluded their third of four weeks of spring practices.
Adams, who redshirted as a true freshman last fall, completed 18-of-25 passes for 212 yards and no interceptions. The quick-footed Adams also had a 1-yard TD on the ground, and led all rushers with 25 yards on six carries.
Vitto, who had three interceptions in last week’s scrimmage, responded with a 13-of-21 effort for 188 yards and no interceptions. He had a 27-yard touchdown pass to Ashton Clark.
“We want to create enough simple situations for the quarterbacks and not put them in too many situations where it’s all on their shoulders,” explained head coach Beau Baldwin. “But in order to do that, we need good results on first and second down. By doing so, we can then get into our tempo stuff and more manageable situations.
“Coach (Zak) Hill has done amazing things to get the quarterbacks where they’re at now compared to the end of last season and the start of this spring,” Baldwin continued. “The key, though, is that we still need to improve.”
All-America receiver Nicholas Edwards had eight catches for 74 yards, and fellow All-American Greg Herd added five for 109 yards. Clark finished with six catches for 89 yards, and running back Quincy Forte caught four for 36 yards. Forte also rushed 11 times for seven yards, including a 2-yard TD run.
“Our receivers are great,” said Baldwin. “Even if it’s a bad pass, they can still make that catch. They are all mature and team guys, not just great players. They each help out the quarterbacks because they think like one. When they’re out on the field they’re looking at the coverage just like a quarterback.”
In all, nine players caught passes for the Eagles. Eastern averaged 6.3 yards per play, compared to just 3.1 in last week’s scrimmage when Eastern’s offensive units managed only 166 yards on 54 plays. In the first scrimmage a week earlier, the offense scored touchdowns on three of seven possessions and averaged 8.6 yards per play.
Baldwin praised the defense for giving the offense troubles in the red zone on Saturday. Besides the two made field goals, Eastern also missed a field goal after a long drive and the offense turned the ball over twice on downs.
“We had a better tempo and rhythm on offense than we had last week,” Baldwin said. “We were able to avoid three-and-outs-and turnovers, which is good. Last week, the tempo and everything else was set by the defense. Today, we were doing good things on offense, but again the defense did a great job making key stops on fourth downs or in the red zone. We’re always hoping to make plays on both sides.”
Linebacker Grant Williams led the defense with eight tackles and cornerback Ronald Baines added six with a pass broken up. Defensive lineman Evan Day had a sack and was one of three players with five tackles. Safety Jordan Tonani, a 2001 graduate of Spokane’s Ferris High School, had five tackles and a pass broken up.
The Eagles, who concluded an injury-plagued 2011 season with six wins in their last seven games to finish 6-5, will practice one more week. Spring practices conclude on Saturday, April 28 at 2 p.m. with the annual Red-White Spring Football Game as part of the 31st-Annual Orland Killin Weekend at EWU. The Red-White Game will be televised live in the Spokane area by SWX (SWX Digital 6.2 in Spokane, 25.3 in the Tri-Cities & 23.3 in the Yakima area; Comcast 115; Time Warner 306; Charter 287, Cable One 466).
Eastern opens the 2012 season with road games at Idaho (Aug. 30) and Washington State (Sept. 8). Eastern’s home opener at Roos Field is Sept. 29 versus Montana.
Vernon Adams 1 run (Jimmy Pavel kick) – 11 plays, 65 yards
FG Kevin Miller 30 – 11 plays, 57 yards
Ashton Clark 27 pass from Anthony Vitto (Pavel kick) – 6 plays, 70 yards
Quincy Forte 2 run (Miller kick) – 7 plays, 62 yards
FG Pavel 46 – 7 plays, 39 yards
Rushing: Vernon Adams 6-25, Quincy Forte 11-7, Tyler Hart 3-0, Anthony Vitto 2-minus-1, Jacob Christensen 1-minus-2, Totals 22-29.
Passing: Vernon Adams 18-of-25-212 yards-0 interceptions, Anthony Vitto 13-of-21-188 yards-0 interceptions, Totals 31-of-46-400 yards-0 interceptions.
Receiving: Nicholas Edwards 8-74, Ashton Clark 6-89, Greg Herd 5-109, Quincy Forte 4-36, Cory Mitchell 3-37, Jake Withnell 2-14, Larren Wright 1-20, Matt Friese 1-14, Terry Jackson 1-7, Totals 31-400.
Tackles Leaders: Grant Williams 8, Ronald Baines 6, Ronnie Hamlin 5, Jordan Tonani 5, Evan Day 5, McKenzie Murphy 5, Allen Brown 4, T.J. Lee 4.
Passes Broken Up: Allen Brown, John Goldwire, Ronald Baines, Jordan Tonani, Tyler Washburn, Andru Pulu.
Sacks: Evan Day, Anthony Larry.
Fumble Recovery: T.J. Lee.