Sam Houston holds off second half rally, stops EWU’s Frisco quest
Another record-tying effort for touchdown passes couldn’t do it.
Neither could a second half offensive explosion that was unmatched this season, and perhaps in the history of EWU football.
The 35-point hole Sam Houston State University put the Eastern Washington Eagles in the first half of last Saturday’s NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Playoff semifinal game at Roos Field proved just too deep.
So following their staving off one of the most amazing rallies in FCS history, the visiting Bearkats scored a wild 45-42 win over the Eagles and will get their rematch in the national title game in Frisco, Texas Jan. 5 versus North Dakota State.
“It was obviously a tale of two halves when you look at the game,” Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin said.
And when the clock on the new Roos’ scoreboard finally had nothing but zeroes showing, the reality that there was no time this time for Eastern to stage what had become routine rallies in so many games.
• Being down 9 points to Montana with less than 3 minutes to play only to win 32-26 in the home opener.
• Or trailing 10-0 in Bozeman before special teams and defense rescued a 27-24 win over Montana State.
• Eastern’s redshirt freshman quarterback Vernon Adams capped a drive that took just 1:32 with his 9-yard naked bootleg to score the winning touchdown with 8:13 to go in a win over Cal Davis.
It wasn’t always the offense either.
• Allen Brown’s knockdown of a Mason Magleby pass to Shane Harrison near the goal line as time ran out preserved a 31-28 victory over Sacramento State.
• With 34 seconds remaining, Jerry Ceja sacked Weber State quarterback Mike Hoke and forced a fumble that Will Katoa pounced on to lock up a 32-26 win.
In all, five Eastern wins in Big Sky play came by a seven points or less, two by field goals. In all the Eagles’ 7-1 conference record was built by an average of just seven points. And on the season their average margin of victory in an 11-3 season was 8.28 points.
So much for facts and figures. How about people?
All-American receiver Brandon Kaufman was nothing short of stupendously spectacular. How’s that for an ultimate accolade? He was his own highlight reel.
Kaufman, who had three touchdowns in the finals among his nine catches and 215 yards helped the junior from Denver break the FCS record for single season receiving yards. He finished the season with 93 receptions for 1,850 yards and 16 touchdowns to break the record of 1,712 previously held by Eddie Conti of Delaware in 1998.
And on back-to-back weeks quarterbacks Kyle Padron, a junior, and skittering freshman water bug Vernon Adams tied school records by throwing six touchdowns in a game.
Padron got his guiding the Eagles past Illinois State 51-35 Dec. 8 while Adams ignited Eastern’s spectacular rally against Sam Houston.
Eastern head football coach Beau Baldwin’s message to his team in the locker room at halftime was simple.
“More than anything, (I told them) take it one play at a time,” Baldwin said. “I know that is cliché, but it’s true. If you read the scoreboard it can look too overwhelming, but if you focus on a play and a drive (it’s manageable).”
And it just about was as the Eagles’ 28 straight points to open the second half not only drew them back into the game but also was enough to make tailgaters put down their red Solo cups and see what all the cheers were about.
Roos was a rockin’ those last 30 minutes.
And the Aug. 31 date with Oregon State in Corvallis cannot get here quick enough.
Paul Delaney can be reached at email@example.com.