The quarterbacks were sharp, and so was the Eagle offense after the defense dominated early.
The trio of junior Jordan West and redshirt freshmen Gage Gubrud and Reilly Hennessey completed 84 percent of their passes for 332 yards, as the Eastern Washington University football team concluded its third week of spring practice with the annual Red-White Spring Game Saturday (April 25) at Roos Field, helping bring to an end “Eagle Week” in Cheney, Wash.
After the scrimmage, Eagle players and staff received their Big Sky Conference championship rings from the 2014 season.
The offense managed only a field goal on its first three possessions, but got untracked to score 39 total points in the 60-play scrimmage. Most importantly of all, the offense didn’t have a turnover, as the quarterbacks were superb in controlling the game.
“I thought we did a lot of good things and I think it went back and forth a little bit,” said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin. “I thought our defense came out flying around and played a little better early – our offense was a little sluggish early. But I thought midway through the scrimmage the offense responded well and was able to put some drives together. But again, you saw some plays on both sides and I thought there was a good mixture on both sides of the ball.”
West, the starter, was 10-of-14 for 112 yards, while Gubrud was 10-of-11 for 149 yards a touchdown. Hennessey completed all seven of his passes for 71 yards.
“More than anything, we just wanted to see them continue to progress and just grow with a lot of the little things,” said Baldwin of his quarterbacks. “Things like seeing and knowing where your check-downs are, getting rid of it hot, seeing the play clock and not allowing it to run out and get a delay of game. Again I go back to the word operating – the operation piece which I talked about a couple weeks ago and I wanted to continue to see them grow in that area. I thought they did.”
“There was a good growth with that group of quarterbacks, and I am excited to continue to watch that these next couple of weeks and in the summer and fall,” Baldwin added.
Redshirt freshman Stu Stiles had a scrimmage-high four catches for 33 yards, but seven other receivers had catches of at least 19 yards. Juniors Jabari Wilson and Jalen Moore each carried eight times and had 29 and 27 yards, respectively.
Redshirt freshman running back Ashanti Kindle scored twice on a pair of 1-yard runs, and Moore scored on a 6-yard rush. Touchdown catches were made by senior tight end Terry Jackson II (7 yards) and redshirt freshman tight end Henderson Belk (2 yards).
Senior kicker Tyler McNannay, who made all 11 of his field goal attempts a year ago, converted field goals of 25 and 21 yards and had a 48-yarder blocked by Andre Lino. William Lopez blocked an extra point attempt.
Alek Kacmarcik had seven tackles on defense, and Kody Beckering had six tackles, a tackle for loss, a pass broken up and a quarterback hurry. Both players are redshirt freshmen. Senior Todd Raynes, the starter at rover in EWU’s new 4-2-5 defense, added five stops and redshirt freshman defensive lineman Dylan Donohue had six. Sacks were recorded by Lino and senior safety Zach Bruce.
Two of the scores by the offense came as the result of an impressive pair of possessions in a two-minute drill session.
“Those were the best two two-minute sessions we have run this spring,” praised Baldwin. “I know we didn’t score a touchdown on one of them but we still got down there to the 2-yard line and McNannay kicked the field goal. But in both of those two-minute sessions we were better than we had been the last couple times we had run those.”
Eastern also had a pair of red-zone possessions, and also got a look at live kickoff coverage and kickoff return teams.
“We had enough different situations too with a little bit of red zone and definitely some added dimensions to our kickoff and kickoff return, which we haven’t done that much in a scrimmage live in the spring,” said Baldwin. “We wanted to evaluate some of those guys in live situations on special teams because those are the guys that end up finalizing your depth and travel spots. We had a lot of good reps today.”
Without depth at many positions to split his squad into teams, Saturday’s game consisted of offensive units going against defensive squads, much like the previous two weeks. The defense dominated the first week, but the offense responded to roll up 550 yards on April 18. In the Red-White Game, the offense finished with 332 yards through the air and 75 on the ground for a total of 407 and an average per play of 6.8 yards.
On April 18, the Eagles passed for 309 yards and rushed for another 241 on 38 carries. The net result was 550 yards on 85 plays for a 6.5 average per play, more than twice the 3.1 average of the previous week. In last week’s first scrimmage, the defense held the offense to 123 yards and one touchdown on 40 plays.
Eastern will have two more spring practice sessions before concluding on April 30. Practices on April 28 and April 30 are scheduled to start at 4 p.m. (media interviews at approximately 3:35 p.m. or after practice at about 6 p.m.) and take place at Roos Field.