CHENEY - It was easy to see that Eastern Washington University’s quarterbacks were the focal point Thursday in the final preseason scrimmage before the Eagles open the 2012 season.
With more than half of the team’s starters sitting out – particularly those on defense – Eastern’s quarterback trio of Kyle Padron, Vernon Adams and Anthony Vitto combined to complete 23-of-33 passes in the 55-play scrimmage. In all, the offense managed 277 yards through the air and another 62 on the ground for a total of 339.
“Both sides held out a lot of guys and we always do that the last scrimmage, unless we really think there are players who haven’t gotten quite enough reps,” explained Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin. “It’s not that we aren’t getting anything out of the scrimmage – we are still looking at some guys who are going to be key players for us, and a lot of them are going to be starters. We want to see them more, so we just hold out some of the other players. Plus, we can get players as fresh as we can over the next couple days so they can hit that Idaho game running.”
Southern Methodist University transfer Kyle Padron operated as the No. 1 quarterback on Thursday, and finished the day 13-of-19 for 125 yards. Redshirt freshman Vernon Adams completed all three of his passes for 86 yards and a pair of TD passes, and Vitto finished 7-of-9 for 66 yards. Although Padron has 24 games of experience at SMU – 21 as a starter – Vitto is the only player in the trio to have thrown a pass for EWU – completing 4-of-10 passes for 40 yards in three games the past two seasons.
“I thought they did a good job,” said Baldwin. “Vernon took a great shot when it presented itself early and hit the big touchdown to Shaquille Hill. If you look back on his whole scrimmage, Kyle made only one poor throw where he overthrew a tight end down the seam. It’s a tough spot that Anthony is in, but when he gets in there he operates -- he always has. I feel very good about all three of those players and how they are progressing. It’s my first year with Kyle, but Vernon and Anthony are at a level they haven’t been yet. From last spring until now, they’ve both gotten a lot better, so we’re in a great spot in my opinion at that position.”
Padron led the offense on an eight-play, 70-yard drive to open the scrimmage, as he completed all four of his passes for 45 yards. Sophomore Quincy Forte had the other 25 on the ground, including a 6-yard touchdown run.
Adams then followed with a 51-yard touchdown strike to Hill, a redshirt freshman who finished with four receptions for 78 yards. Adams also had a 13-yard TD pass to junior Daniel Johnson later in the scrimmage.
Vitto directed the offense on a pair of drives, one ending with a 40-yard field goal by senior Jimmy Pavel, and the second concluding when Pavel just missed on a 41-yard attempt.
True freshman Cooper Kupp was the leading receiver for the second-straight scrimmage, catching five passes for 60 yards. Sophomore Jordan Talley added 19 rushing yards, and true freshman Jabari Wilson chipped in 18.
Redshirt freshman safety Todd Raynes led the defense with an interception, a pass broken up and three tackles, and junior Jakob Pugsley had a pair of sacks and three other tackles. Senior linebacker Rusty Haehl and junior cornerback Ronald Baines each had four tackles.
“I definitely saw a little more rhythm early from the offense,” Baldwin said. “The defense in two scrimmages has created a lot of turnovers, which has been fun to see and those are things we talk about. We need to win the turnover battle, win third down battles and win in the red zone. We've been working on a lot of those situations all camp, so I think we’re in a good spot. We are not only a football team that can drive the ball, but also one that understands each situation, and when they come up, I want to be a more intelligent football team too.”
The Eagles, who won the 2010 NCAA Division I Football Championship and have been to the FCS Playoffs in five of the last eight years, open the season Aug. 30 at Idaho. Eastern plays at Washington State on Sept. 8 and Weber State on Sept. 22 before opening its five-game home schedule on Sept. 29 versus Montana.