Defense keys EWU win over Weber
Eagles roll over Wildcats 41-19 to open Big Sky Conference play
On paper and the scoreboard - the obvious numbers that mattered - offense appeared to rule the day in Eastern Washington’s 41-19 Big Sky Conference football victory last Saturday over Weber State at Roos Field.
But Eagles head coach Beau Baldwin was quick to point out that it was really the defense that provided the springboard to the win.
The visiting Wildcats’ first three possessions to open the game resulted in just 22 total yards as the swarming and energetic Eagle defense was constantly in the visitor’s backfield. Weber never got past their own 32-yard line in that span.
Eastern, the sixth-ranked Football Championship Subdivision team, took advantage by getting short fields and a pair of Vernon Adams to Cooper Kupp touchdown connections. The first came from 47 yards out in two plays just 47 seconds into the game, and a second with 2 minutes, 36 seconds gone, capping a six-play drive.
“Those early three-and-outs and the dominance that our defense showed – especially in the third quarter – really helped put away that game,” Baldwin said.
The Eagles held Weber State to just 14 yards of offense in the third quarter.
Eastern’s defense was led by linebackers Cody McCarthy’s nine tackles and Ronnie Hamlin with eight. Redshirt freshman Miquiyah Zamora added five tackles and an interception in his first career start. Defensive lineman Zackary Johnson had seven tackles with 1 1/2 sacks.
The seventh-largest crowd in Roos Field history, 9,734, watched on Hall of Fame Day as the Eagles snapped a two-game losing streak, improved to 3-2 and won for the fourth straight time and sixth in the last seven meetings with Weber, now 1-5.
The Wildcats had just 249 total yards of offense, 109 rushing and 140 passing.
While the Eagles started out scoring through the air as Ashton Clark’s 14-yard catch with 10:48 remaining in the half gave Eastern a 20-7 lead, they finished the contest emphasizing the ground game with two of their final three scores coming on the run.
Adams scored on a 2-yard run with 3:57 to play in the first half to give Eastern a 27-12 lead at the break. Demitrius Bronson’s 9-yard run with 5:34 left in the third gave the Eagles a 34-12 lead and Mario Brown’s touchdown – a 6-yard pass from Adams – capped the scoring for the home team.
Brown, a junior running back who redshirted last season, had 10 rushes for 98 yards and two catches for 20 more yards. As a freshman, Brown filled in for the injured Taiwan Jones in the Eagles’ run to the 2010 national championship.
Three other Eagle running backs combined for 114 yards, Quincy Forte with 51, Bronson with 40 and Jalen Moore with 23. Eastern’s ground game outgained the passing attack for the first time this season with a 279-214 edge.
“I want to continue to keep that balance, and the more balance we have the better chance we have for big plays,” Baldwin said of the revived ground attack.
Weber’s first touchdown, making it a 13-6 game, came one play after an Adams fumble on his own 20 with the Wildcats converting one play later with an Aaron Chipoletti 21-yard pass to Cam Livingston with 2:08 to play in the first quarter. Josh Booker’s 1-yard run closed it to 20-12 with 6:38 remaining in the half as both PATs failed.
Adams jump-started the suddenly dormant Eastern offense that, after the strong start, saw its previous three possessions end in a pair of punts and a turnover. Adams’ short TD run got help from Brown’s 37-yard run to open the drive, and then aided the effort on his own with an 18-yard run to the 4.
That was the first of three straight scores that put the game out of reach before Bo Bolen scored in the fourth with the game out of reach.
Adams gave the reins of the game over to Anthony Vitto in the fourth quarter but not before the Walter Payton Award candidate had racked up more impressive stats. Adams finished the game 16-of-23 for 194 yards and four touchdowns but also added 66 yards and his score on the ground.
Redshirt freshman Kupp led the Eagles with five catches for 87 yards and the two touchdowns. He has seven TDs on just 20 catches this season.
Eastern plays at North Dakota (2-3, 1-1) Saturday in Grand Forks before returning home to face Southern Utah on Oct. 19 for Homecoming.
Paul Delaney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.