** Editor’s Note: Find the complete EWU-SUU photo gallery on the CadChica Sports Facebook page, here. **
“Flukie turnovers” is what Eastern Washington sophomore quarterback, Vernon Adams, called them.
His two turnovers on the first two Eagles’ possessions of the game halted promising Eastern Washington drives. One was an Adams pass tipped at the line that Southern Utah’s James Cowser came down with. The other was a forced fumble of Adams by Southern Utah’s Andrew Eide at the Thunderbirds 16 yard line.
“I just have to take care of the ball better”, Adams would say after the game.
Adams, like all good leaders do, took responsibility for the miscues. But, the defense showed they had Adams and the offense’s back on the next play after the fumble. EWU’s Samson Ebukam intercepted an Aaron Cantu pass and ran it in for the Eagles’ first score.
It seemed that was the wake-up call the Eagles offense needed. After the defense forced an SUU punt, Adams and the Eagle offense went 84 yards in six plays culminating in a 12 yard touchdown pass from Vernon Adams to Ashton Clark.
The defense continued to shine in the second quarter. Two forced punts and a Tevin McDonald interception highlighted the buckle-down attitude of the defense. SUU was only able to muster a 34-yard field goal with 12 seconds left to salvage something from the first half.
Said Head Coach Beau Baldwin, “I just love the energy our guys came out with. By no means was it perfect. There were a lot of little things, but I thought our energy, our attitude and our demeanor was awesome.”
Halftime adjustments can be crucial to an offense not quite hitting on all cylinders. Despite a turnover on downs to open the Eagles second half possession, the defense stepped up again with another EWU interception of a Cantu pass, this one by senior defensive back, Ronald Baines. Eight plays later Adams would find freshman wide receiver Kendrick Bourne on a 31-yard touchdown pass to put the Eags up, 21-3.
A three-and-out by Southern Utah and the Eagles wasted little time after the Thunderbirds’ punt. EWU went four plays in 1:15 when Adams hit Cooper Kupp for a 52-yard touchdown pass to extend their lead to 27-3. Junior running back, Mario Brown would tack on an 11-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter to finish the Eags scoring for the night, 34-3. A meaningless fourth quarter SUU touchdown late in the game cut the Eagles lead and eventual final score to 34-10.
After the game, Adams praised the team on both sides of the ball. “Our defense played amazing. The o-line gave me great protection. In the second half, we came out hot. I was so happy we were moving and finally scoring. I was playing like I was supposed to be playing.”
Baldwin, “Sometimes you can’t put your finger on exactly (what was missing in the first half). They made plays. I don’t think our players were ever unfocused. I just thought we needed to get over the hump and execute a little better.”
This was a key win for the Eagles who head to Missoula next week to face a Montana team that escaped a Cal-Poly upset bid at home Saturday with a 21-14 overtime win. The Grizzlies are 6-1 on the season, 3-1 in Big Sky conference play. Montana currently ranks second in scoring offense behind Montana State, first in scoring defense, fourth in total offense (EWU ranks 2nd), and first in total defense.
Both Adams and Baldwin commented on next week’s Big Sky match-up with Montana in Missoula. Baldwin said, “Tomorrow we will review this game with our players so we can make corrections. We definitely will be gearing up to play an incredibly talented Montana football team. Obviously, it is a tough place to play, but we love going to Missoula.”
It will be the first visit to Missoula for Adams, “We’ll watch film tomorrow, put it behind us, come back Tuesday and working for Montana. It will be my first time playing in Missoula. I just have to take care of the ball.”
Going into next week’s tilt, it should be reassuring for Adams that even when he doesn’t start out hot, the defense is there to pick up the slack. The Eagles will need that against the Grizzlies.
A few final notable stats:
- Vernon Adams finished 25-35 in passing for 298 yards, 3 touchdowns and 1 interception. Adams also rushed 9 times for 58 yards.
- Mario Brown led the Eagle rushing attack with 10 rushes for 61 yards and 1 touchdown. Cooper Kupp snared 11 receptions for 168 yards and 1 touchdown.
- Junior linebacker, Cody McCarthy, led EWU on defense with eight tackles, four solo. The Eagles had four sacks on the night, all on SUU starting quarterback, Aaron Cantu.
- Pretty even numbers in the plays department: EWU = 70 plays, SUU = 71 plays.
- SUU won the time of possession with 32:17 to EWU’s 27:43.
- The Eagles were 7 of 13 on 3rd down conversions while the Thunderbirds were 6 of 16. Both teams did attempt at least one 4th down attempt (EWU had two) but none were converted.
- Final attendance number for this homecoming game: 10,135