For a while, it didn’t look like the Red needed a 19-point head start.
The Eastern Washington University defense – the Red squad -- scored 14 points as a result of a special scoring system and went on to defeat the offense 33-27 in the Red-White Game Saturday (April 28) at Roos Field in Cheney, Wash.
After getting spotted a 19-0 lead, the defense scored three points by recovering a fumble on the opening play of the contest, which ended four weeks of spring practices for the Eagles. They went on to record five three-and-outs and a bonus point for allowing less than 20 yards on another possession to lead 33-7 at halftime.
“It was real choppy -- especially offensively,” said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin. “But sometimes the good thing about is that the defense is helping create some of that choppiness. In the second half we started moving the ball. Even when we were backed up we went 92 yards on the first possession. We needed to find a way to develop a rhythm a little bit earlier.
“I thought we just came out a little bit flat and played some nine and ten man football, where all 11 were not always doing their jobs offensively,” he continued. “But at the same time, the defense kept themselves in great positions the whole day.”
Linebacker Grant Williams led the Red with seven tackles, and safety Jeff Minnerly and linebacker Ronnie Hamlin had six apiece. Hamlin and Anthony Larry combined for a sack, with Larry and Zach Chapman each recording a solo sack. Chapman, Ronald Baines and Rusty Haehl each broke-up passes, and Evan Day recovered the fumble on the lone turnover of the day by the White.
Quarterback Anthony Vitto completed 15-of-26 passes for 147 yards and had touchdown passes of 27 yards to Mario Brown and 31 yards to Matt Friese on the game’s final play. Vernon Adams was 10-of-14 for 105 yards and had a 15-yard scoring strike to Ashton Clark.
Clark, Daniel Johnson and Tyler Hart all caught five passes for the White as Eastern’s three All-Americans – Brandon Kaufman, Nicholas Edwards and Greg Herd -- all sat out.
Eastern managed only 60 yards rushing on 26 carries, led by Jordan Talley with 29 yards.
“I don’t put too much stock into a spring game,” said Baldwin, whose team resumes practices in mid-August in preparation for the 2012 season. “That doesn’t mean that I don’t put much stock into grading each play, but where we are as a team isn’t based on one spring game. We look at our body of work through all 15 spring practices to see where we are heading into next fall.”
Eastern opens the 2012 season with road games at Idaho (Aug. 30) and Washington State (Sept. 8). Eastern’s home opener at Roos Field is Sept. 29 versus Montana. The Eagles concluded an injury-plagued 2011 season with six wins in their last seven games to finish with a 6-5 record overall.
“I truly believe that if we can stay healthy we should be better on both sides of the ball,” Baldwin added. “But even if we don’t, we learned last season the injuries can’t ben an excuse. We have to find a way to get into a rhythm, and whoever is the next guy up has to be ready to step in there.”