Eagles put Wolves away early
Eastern defense dominates D II foe in Roos Field opener
Eastern Washington’s TJ Lee III strips the ball from Southern Oregon quarterback Ryan Bergman in the first quarter of Saturday’s nonconference football game at Roos Field. The ensuing fumble was quickly turned into a touchdown by Zack Gehring and the Eagles rolled to a 43-13 victory.
This one really belonged to the defense.
With the Eastern Washington University defense swarming all over a beleaguered Western Oregon quarterback, Ryan Bergman, and limiting he and the Wolves to a -23 yards in their first five possessions, the Eagles rolled to a 43-14 non-conference football win last Saturday in EWU’s home opener at Roos Field.
On an unusual late summer afternoon where a steady light rain – and a decidedly one-sided game – sent most of the gathering of 6,349 to their cars, the tailgating area, or home, about the only thing the Division II visitors from Monmouth, Ore. won was the coin toss.
But even that turned to disaster.
Western Oregon, a member of the Great Northwest Conference, deferred their possession to the second half and that opened the skies to a quick deluge of points from Eastern who raced to a 29-0 first quarter lead. Eagles’ sophomore quarterback Vernon Adams threw four touchdown strikes as the Eagles improved their record to 2-0.
The Eagles finished the game with 597 yards of total offense but held WOU to 217, including a dominating 254-3 edge in the first quarter. They recovered a pair of fumbles and had two interceptions. J.C. Agen led the Eagles with seven tackles followed by Jordan Talley and Albert Havili with five each.
No. 2-ranked Eastern are on the road Saturday to face another Football Bowl Series team in the 0-2 University of Toledo Rockets at the Glass Bowl in a 4 p.m. start.
After being a bit maligned for giving up over 500 yards of total yards in Eastern’s stunning 49-46 upset win at Oregon State in week-one, the Eagle defense approached the Western Oregon game with a bit of a collective chip on their shoulders. So they took it out on the NCAA Division II team from Monmouth and punished the Wolves (0-1) holding them to 37 total yards in the first half on 34 plays.
It took just six plays and what seemed like an eternal 3 minutes, 6 seconds for Eastern to take the lead with Adams finding redshirt freshman Cooper Kupp on a post pattern over the middle for 63 yards and a 7-0 lead following Kevin Miller’s point-after.
The Wolves first possession was a sign of things to come and ended after just four touches and five yards when T.J. Lee III stripped the ball from Bergman and recovered the ball at the Wolves’ 29.
Three Jabari Wilson carries moved the ball to the four where Adams found Zack Gehring along the back of the end zone for a scoring toss and a 15-0 lead on a drive that lasted just 1:04. On the point-after, Adams the holder mishandled the snap but found Terry Jackson for the 2-point conversion.
“I loved the way our players started,” Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin said.
Stuck on their own 18, another three and out gave Eastern the ball in great field position at their own 44. An Adams pass for 27 yards to Ashton Clark to the WO 15 set up another touchdown, this to Cory Mitchell and Eastern led 22-0 with 5:35 still to play in the first quarter.
Western Oregon’s third try with the ball may have taken more time off the clock, but it didn’t improve their side of the scoreboard. After earning their initial first down and moving the ball out to their own 34, the Wolves were forced to punt. Six plays later Adams found Shaquille Hill over the middle and in stride for a 58-yard touchdown play with 46 seconds left in the opening quarter.
Eastern’s first drive of the second quarter ended in an interception by the Wolves’ AJ Hull. Even with the help of a pair of roughing the passer calls on the ensuing drive that helped Western Oregon get to the EWU 12, the Wolves turned it over with the first of two Allen Brown interceptions, this in the end zone stopping the drive.
The teams played a scoreless second quarter.
Eastern, still with Adams in charge, made it 36-0 with 10:26 left in the third quarter on his fifth touchdown pass of the game and the second to Hill on an 8-yard toss.
Hill finished with a career-high eight catches for 117 yards, and Kupp caught three for 77 yards. Junior Quincy Forte led the Eagles on the ground with 99 yards on 13 carries after missing the opener with an injury.
The Wolves were unable to convert Adams’ second interception of the game - this one by Devin Chappell - into points. But a Mario Brown fumble on the WOU 34 did set up the Wolves first score, a 36-yard Bergman to Tyrell Williams catch 2:11 into the fourth quarter.
After perfection on turnovers against Oregon State, Adams took full blame for his two interceptions Saturday. “I had two picks this game, both of them my fault, one high to Shaquille Hill, tipped off his hands; the other one I was just getting greedy you know.”
Adams finished the game going 18-of-24 for 298 yards, five touchdowns, the pair of picks and 45 yards on the ground.
“He really does (special things),” Baldwin said of Adams. “He has an energy and a motor, and it becomes infectious not just with the offense, but with the whole team.”
Senior quarterback Anthony Vitto came on in relief in the fourth quarter and guided the Eagles to their final points and a 43-7 lead 3:50 into the period with a 14-yard pass to Kendrick Bourne.
Paul Delaney can be reached at email@example.com.