Adams’ record day includes two TD runs, four TD tosses
The first item on the list has been checked off.
And it couldn’t have been a bigger one to cross off of Eastern Washington’s to-do list of their so-called “Unfinished Business” theme that is the focus of the 2013 season.
The Eagles’ 49-46 upset football victory last Saturday in Corvallis over the then-No. 25 Oregon State Beavers of the Pac-12 Conference launched Eastern on the path towards their off-season goal of returning to the Football Championship Subdivision national championship – the unfinished business following their 45-42 loss to Sam Houston in the FCS semifinals.
With sophomore quarterback Vernon Adams putting up record numbers, and shutting up a stunned Reser Stadium crowd of 41,649 with his game-winning touchdown run with 18 seconds to play, Eastern ended two years of heartbreak against Pac-12 teams.
It was, arguably, the biggest win in program history – yes bigger than their 20-19 victory over Delaware in the 2010 FCS national championship game in Frisco, Texas – and put the Eagles in a unique club of just four FCS teams that have beaten a ranked Football Bowl Subdivision team.
Adams finished with 518 yards of total offense, 411 of that through the air where he tossed four touchdowns on 23-of-30 passing. He added 107 yards and two TDs on the ground, including the second and goal bootleg sprint to the right where the Pasadena, Calif. native went into the end zone untouched for the winning points.
“I said ‘coach, let’s just go with the boot,’” Adams said of his brief chat on the sidelines with EWU head coach Beau Baldwin. “I’m so thankful I scored.”
But after a bobbled snap on the ensuing extra point, OSU had one last chance to at least tie the game with a long field goal. The Beavers reached the Eagle 35-yard line with three seconds remaining, but OSU, out of time outs, got a spike to kill the clock long enough to get kicker Trevor Romaine in line for a 52-yard field goal. His kick had the distance but sailed wide right.
“It was impressive,” Baldwin said of Adams’ effort. “He was doing it with his legs and making all the right decisions. That was the thing I loved about it.”
More importantly, Adams “was making all of these plays, but he was also taking care of the football and being smart when he needed to.” The Eagles never turned the ball over on a stifling hot 88-degree day where cramping became a large issue. Even for Adams who had to leave the game a couple of times and receive fluids via IV.
After Eastern took an early 3-0 lead on a 33-yard Kevin Miller field goal with 10:43 to play in the first quarter Oregon State answered with a touchdown to lead 7-3. The Eagles would get another Miller field goal and an Ashton Clark touchdown catch seven seconds into the second quarter to put Eastern ahead 13-7. That was part of a 23-10 edge Eastern enjoyed before heading to the locker room with a 29-17 lead.
Freshman Cooper Kupp had two touchdown catches in the quarter – 31 and 48 yards – and Miller capped the scoring with his third field goal from 36 yards out with 31 seconds to play. Eastern scored points on every first-half possession.
Clark caught nine passes for 155 yards while Kupp, a redshirt freshman from Yakima caught five for 119 yards.
The second half resembled more of the pace of an Arena Football League game with the last team possessing the ball likely winning the game.
On EWU’s first possession of the second half, Adams went down with cramps and left the game. Senior Anthony Vitto was 2-of-3 for 29 yards in relief. OSU got the ball back on Jake Miller’s only punt of the contest as Eastern’s drive stalled
Oregon State trimmed Eastern’s lead to 29-24 with 9 minutes, 47 seconds remaining in the third on the first of two Brandin Cooks touchdown catches. The Beavers would grab their first lead since the first quarter when Storm Woods’ 3-yard run put them up 32-29 with 4:22 remaining in the third.
Adams’ first running touchdown with 1:29 remaining, an 18-yard keeper up the middle, allowed the Eagles to regain the lead 36-32 going into the final 15 minutes and capped a 69-yard scoring drive.
Cooks’ second touchdown 1:14 into the fourth put the Beavers up 39-36 but Washington State transfer Blair Bomber’s 47-yard touchdown reception on a third and 26 pushed Eastern back into the lead 43-39 with 10:30 to play.
Oregon State’s Terron Ward capped a 12-play, 67-yard drive with 4:50 to play and give the Beavers the lead again.
Eastern then went on its clock-eating 11-play, 75-yard drive that won it.
“This is a huge win,” Baldwin said. “We aren’t talking about an average team, we are talking about a bowl team and a big-time opponent that is well-coached. It took every ounce of every minute in this sucker to get it done.”
After a pair of disappointing losses 24-20 at WSU last year, and 30-27 to the University of Washington at Husky Stadium in 2011, Eastern scored its first win over a Pac-12 team in 10 tries.
In a game where the offense overshadowed the defense, T.J. Lee III led the Eagles with nine total tackles. Allen Brown, Ronnie Hamlin and J.C. Agen each had seven.
Eastern opens the home portion of the schedule Saturday at 4:05 p.m. at Roos Field against NCAA Division II Western Oregon.
Paul Delaney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.