EWU offense gains 349 yards and defense gets three interceptions in scrimmage

EWU offense gains 349 yards and defense gets three interceptions in scrimmage

The elements won, but there were some highlights from both the offense and defense in the Eastern Washington University football team’s first full scrimmage of the spring on Saturday (April 13) at Roos Field in Cheney, Wash.

Eastern’s defense intercepted three passes and recorded eight quick-whistle sacks, while the offense piled up 349 yards and had five scores in the 71-play scrimmage. The offense passed for 193 yards and rushed for 156, but would have had 202 on the ground if not including the sacks and yardage lost on bad center snaps.

“I liked our energy — I thought it was really good at times,” said third-year head coach Aaron Best on a cold, rainy and windy day at The Inferno. “Overall it was solid, I always yearn for more though.”

Senior Dennis Merritt rushed eight times for 89 yards and scored on runs of 22 and 35 yards. Junior quarterback Eric Barriere completed eight of 14 passes for 129 yards, and directed the No. 1 offense on a trio of scoring drives, including an 11-play, 82-yard drive late in the scrimmage that included a 52-yard scoring pass to redshirt freshman Anthony Stell Jr. Stell also finished with a 34-yard reception to set-up another score and finished the day with two catches for 86 yards.

But there were also 11 scoreless possessions for the offense and the defense scored once.

“I just think that the inconsistency on offense was a little bit much, and we weren’t as explosive in the pass game as we are used to,” said Best. “Part of that was the elements and the other part is that we are only two weeks into spring. We’re seeing new faces, were doing new things, and tinkering with some stuff. There was some inconsistency in passing, and we will get that going as the weather turns and we get more reps.”

Defensively, sophomore Keshaun King returned an interception 25 yards for a touchdown, and senior Andrew Katzenberger and redshirt freshman Darrien Sampson also had picks. Redshirt freshman Joshua Jerome , junior Rudolph Mataia Jr. and sophomore Mitchell Johnson each had a pair of sacks.

“I like to see those guys who are coming out for their first time covering guys that have been here for three or four years in a live situation,” Best said of the defense. “I also liked the fact that we caused turnovers on defense. We caused too many in fact — the red jerseys were all over the field making things happen. Early on they kind of stumbled and they got ran on a little bit more than we would want in that kind of situation. They did bounce back and made some plays.”

The Eagles have eight more practices and scrimmages this spring. Eastern will also scrimmage on Saturday, April 20 (at approximately 1:30 p.m.) before the annual Red-White Game takes place on Saturday, April 27 at noon at Roos Field and will be televised live regionally by SWX.

Scrimmage Statistics

Scoring Plays
Isaiah Lewis 6 run ( Andre Slyter kick)
Keshaun King 25 interception return for TD
Dennis Merritt 22 run (Slyter kick)
Merritt 36 run ( Jackson Clemensen kick)
FG Slyter 35
Anthony Stell Jr. 52 pass from Eric Barriere ( Jackson Clemensen kick)

Rushing: Dennis Merritt 8-89, Isaiah Lewis 5-32, Micah Smith 8-14, Gunner Talkington 4-18, Michael Taras 2-17, Antoine Custer Jr. 3-4, Eric Barriere 7-minus-3, Simon Burkett 4-minus-7, Team 2-minus-8, Totals 43-156 (33-202 not including quick-whistle sacks and bad snaps)

Passing: Eric Barriere 8-of-14-129 1 int., Gunner Talkington 1-of-6-34 2 int., Simon Burkett 3-of-5-30, Michael Taras 0-of-3, Totals 12-of-28-193 3 int.

Receiving: Andrew Boston 3-19, Anthony Stell Jr. 2-86, Jayson Williams 2-26, Talolo Limu-Jones 2-38, Antoine Custer Jr. 1-17, Johnny Edwards 1-10, Micah Smith 1-minus-3, Totals 12-193. .

Tackles Leaders:
Dean Sise 7, Rudolph Mataia Jr. 6, Mitchell Johnson 6, Joshua Jerome 5, Chris Ojoh 4, Keith Moore 4, Ty Graham 3, Cale Lindsay 3, Darnell Hogan 3, Justin Patterson 3.

Interceptions: Andrew Katzenberger , Keshaun King , Darrien Sampson .

Passes Broken Up : Darrien Sampson , Ira Branch , Tamir Hill .

Sacks: Joshua Jerome 2, Rudolph Mataia Jr. 2, Mitchell Johnson 2, Chris Ojoh 1, Darnell Hogan 1/2, Cale Lindsay 1/2.

Forced Fumble: Joshua Jerome .

Fumble Recovery: Joshua Jerome .

More Aaron Best Comments

On Players Filling Shoes of Graduated Seniors: “This one I want to watch first before I answer that. These live situations tell you way more than controlled practice situations. I think that there are some guys who are scratching and clawing for some spots. We still have 20-plus seniors even going into this next year, so we do have a lot of guys that have been around here for a while. We are halfway through spring practices – we’re at seven out of 15. The 15th will be the spring game, so we are halfway done and not where we need to be. We will see some of those guys battle all the way through spring, they will continue to battle all the way through summer in the player-run practices, and then all the way into the fall. We don’t want the battle to stop until we get into the season.”

On Progress of Offense: “We are going to be able to run the ball with the guys up front, the guys behind them and the quarterbacks. We will be consistent on the ground, but the key is to develop more consistency in the passing game. There has to be guys that step up, and the timing has to be better no matter what the weather gives you. We’re not where we need to be. We’re not a flashy bunch through the air, and we need to be. That’s because we play the run game off the pass game and that makes us so much more dynamic. Just because we are bringing a lot of guys back doesn’t mean that much because the game isn’t played on paper. We have to be able to line up, deliver the ball, catch the ball, and make plays in the pass game. That’s going to be our emphasis as we head into next week on the offensive side of the ball. That’s just what I saw from my chair today.”

On Energy of Team From Championship Game Experience: “All energy is infectious right, just like bad energy is infectious too. Though those are the things that we can control. I like the things that we can control when it comes to the non-football things. I think we prepared better leading up to the scrimmage. I think we had more energy than we did in last Saturday’s scrimmage from a physical standpoint and regarding the X’s and OI’s standpoint. We can pick up and be more consistent as we move forward.”

On Work Ahead: “It’s always going to be a work in progress until get to games on Saturdays. We’ll have more scrimmages, more practices, more play-calling and more repetitions. Like anything you do in life, the more repetitions you have the better you are going to get. We will continue to strive and continue to make things better, more efficient, faster and more dynamic. Part of that is getting to know each other, but we got a pretty good feel around the offices. It’s just a matter of bringing that out to the field and accomplishing what we are capable of accomplishing.”

Remaining Spring Practice Schedule

The Eagles will spread 15 practices and scrimmages over the course of 26 days. Practices take place various days through April 27. Subject to change, most practices are scheduled to start at 3:30 p.m. (3 p.m. on April 19 and 26). All practices are scheduled to take place at Roos Field. Scrimmages also take place on the red Sprinturf surface at the “Inferno” in Cheney, Wash. Remaining media interviews take place on April 16 (3:05 p.m.) and April 23 (3:05 p.m.), as well as after scrimmages.

Tuesday, April 16 – Practice, 3:30 p.m.
Thursday, April 18 – Practice, 3:30 p.m.
Friday, April 19 – Practice, 3 p.m.

EWU Coaches Clinic in evening (Mike Kramer keynote speaker)

Saturday, April 20 – Scrimmage, 1 p.m. start/approx. 1:30 p.m. scrimmage, Roos Field

EWU Coaches Clinic all day

April 23 – Practice, 3:30 p.m.
April 25 – Practice, 3:30 p.m.
April 26 – Practice, 3 p.m.
April 27 – Red-White Spring Game, Noon, Roos Field (televised live regionally by SWX)

Lil’ EKG Day is after the game