Both sides of ball have their day in the sun
First EWU football scrimmage lets both defense, offense show off
By PAUL DELANEY
It might sometimes be tough to find much of a difference between day-to-day fall practice sessions and scrimmages leading up to the start of the football season.
But for senior defensive lineman Evan Cook, Eastern Washington University's first scrimmage last Saturday at Roos Field was not just knocking heads with friends and teammates.
“We have such a big play offense with great running backs, great quarterback, great receivers obviously,” Cook said. “So going against them that helps us; if we can stop them from making big plays I feel we can stop anybody from making big plays.”
The jury's still deliberating – on both sides of the ball – but the offense had its moments and the defense theirs too.
It provided the first glimpse of Southern Methodist University transfer quarterback Kyle Padron and he did not disappoint. Padron, working with the No. 2's on offense, passed for 214 yards and a touchdown in a game-style scripted 1-hour-plus exhibition in 90-degree temperatures.
Junior tailback Demitrius Bronson rushed for 41 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the 71-play scrimmage, giving the Eagles hope that there just might be a running game hoping to stage an escape.
In all, Eastern rushed 25 times for 62 yards and four Eastern quarterbacks combined to complete 23-of-46 passes for 322 yards.
Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin always defers to looking at film before he makes any broad statements on the overall progress of his team. But he did find elements of both offense and defense he really liked.
“I really felt like there was a good rhythm in terms of plays being made on both sides of the ball, even though it was a very situational scrimmage which sometimes makes it a little harder to get into a rhythm,” Baldwin said. “So I'm happy about that.”
Baldwin liked the fact that the Eagles were able to get some turnovers and force some stops.
Even though he's had less than two weeks of camp to familiarize himself with things, Padron said he's been in Cheney all summer and has had that time to learn more. “I thought I was pretty comfortable in the pocket,” he said.
“I thought the offense as a whole, we were pretty efficient, I think we handled every situation coach Baldwin put us in,” Padron said. “There's a lot to improve on” he added.
Padron calls the competition between himself and Vernon Adams, “healthy.” Each player has gotten their share of reps. “He's pushing me and I'm trying to push him as well,” Padron said. “He's a little quicker than I am so I try to keep up.”
“We were playing fast today,” Adams said. “I wasn't very happy with the way I played today but you know it's the first scrimmage, I've got a lot to work on.”
Adams' internal clock also seemed to need some adjustment, he said. “I woke up this morning at 5 a.m., butterflies, I don't know why.”
“Coach (Zak) Hill and coach Baldwin are giving us both a fair chance,” he said. “They're not just giving it to either one of us because I've been here longer.”
Padron's completions included a 55-yard touchdown strike to junior All-America receiver Brandon Kaufman, who also had a 2-yard TD reception later in the scrimmage.
This was Kaufman's first real contact of fall camp and he liked it. “It was great, it's been a long time and I haven't been hit in a while,” Kaufman said. “Ron Hamlin got me pretty good.”
As for the long touchdown play, “It was a great ball, it couldn't have been any softer, Kyle throws an incredibly deep ball,” Kaufman said of his one-handed grab. “I was fortunate enough to make a play on it.”
Kaufman finished with three catches for 77 yards and fellow All-America receiver Nicholas Edwards added three receptions for 43 yards. True freshman Cooper Kupp led all receivers with six grabs for 120 yards.
As for as his quarterback observations, “They're both doing great, both of them come in with a lot of confidence,” Kaufman said. “Like I said Kyle throws a a real soft ball and Vernon, when he's on, he's on, he' s an extremely good playmaker with his feet.”
Adams was 2-of-10 for nine yards and an interception, and Anthony Vitto was 5-of-6 for 37 yards and a TD. Padron also had an interception to go along with his impressive Eagle debut, but Baldwin has yet to name a starter at quarterback.
“It's going to be a battle and it's going to continue to be a battle,” he explained. “They've been feeding off each other and competing and it's going to stay that way. We're just going to let them keep competing.”
A decision on which one of his quarterbacks gets the start a week from tonight at the Kibbie Dome. “At the very least five minutes before we play Idaho,” Baldwin said.
Defensively, junior safety Allen Brown had a key early interception and added a pair of tackles. Sophomore linebacker Cody McCarthy had seven stops to lead all tacklers.
“It was nice to see the defense making plays in terms of turnovers,” Baldwin said. “Allen Brown's play was great, and I can't fault the offense sometimes when a defender just makes a great play like Allen did.
Paul Delaney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.