Red-White spring game will be offensive vs. defense

Eagles win 52-51 thriller over Bobcats

When there is a score on the scoreboard, it’s game on.

Eastern Washington University’s offense will be taking on the defense in this Saturday’s Red-White Spring Football Game, which wraps-up four weeks of spring practices for the Eagles. The game begins at 2:06 p.m. Pacific time at Roos Field in Cheney, Wash., and precedes the 31st-Annual Orland Killin Dinner, Dance and Auction at EWU.

“I love the competitiveness when the team and staff are divided for a scrimmage,” said head coach Beau Baldwin, who is in his fifth year at the helm of the Eagles. “It’s worth it for the units to get one more day of live action this spring.”

Limited depth at some positions doesn’t allow EWU to split the squad into two teams. Instead, Baldwin expects to spot the defense points on the scoreboard and force the offense to play catch-up. The defense can also score via interception and fumble returns, and bonus points will be given to the defense for turnovers forced and sacks.

Baldwin said no time clock will be kept and that ball placement for the offense will be determined by the results of previous drives.

“We’ll take a few ideas from other schools and come up with maybe a wrinkle or two of our own,” he explained of the format, which will be finalized later this week. “We want to create a situation where it’s an offense versus a defense, and there is still a way to find a winner. It’s tough to come up with an exact way to make it even, and there’s probably no right answer for that. But as long as you have a score on the scoreboard it creates the atmosphere of a true Red-White Game.”

With practices Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday this week, Baldwin is anxious to end spring practice on a high note. But he fully expects there to be a long “to do” list for his players and coaches to work on before practices resume in August.

“Every spring is a little bit different, and there are probably certain areas where we are ahead and behind compared to previous springs,” he explained. “We need to come out of spring understanding our strengths and keep building on those, but more importantly in my opinion is identifying the weaknesses. You then attack those in your summer plan and in the fall. You get twice as many practices in the fall, so you are really able to focus on turning some of those weaknesses into strengths.”

Eastern’s two quarterbacks – junior Anthony Vitto and freshman Vernon Adams – have combined to throw for 754 yards and six touchdowns in three spring scrimmages thus far. Vitto has a slightly better efficiency rating at 141.7, having completed 57 percent of his passes for 359 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions.

Adams has had 11 more attempts than Vitto, and has a 139.6 rating. He has completed 67 percent of his passes for 395 yards, a pair of touchdowns and no interceptions, and is also the leading rusher for the offense with 55 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries.

All-America receiver Nicholas Edwards has a team-leading 12 catches for 119 yards and three touchdowns, while fellow All-American Greg Herd has a team-leading 171 reception yards on seven catches. Ashton Clark has added 10 grabs for 138 yards and a TD, and Cory Mitchell has nine catches for 132 yards and a pair of scores.

Defensively, linebacker Grant Williams has had 19 tackles, with freshman safety Jordan Tonani next with 12. First team All-Big Sky Conference cornerback T.J. Lee has had nine tackles, two passes broken up and an interception. Defensive end Anthony Larry has two of the six sacks the defense has recorded thus far.

Baldwin hopes Eastern’s team speed is on display this Saturday.

“Our guys are starting to play faster, so mentally they’re getting better,” Baldwin said. “When they’re playing slower, they think too much. So the fact that they’re playing faster means they’re getting it, they’re acting on instincts and just doing.”

“There has to be improvements and not a ‘let’s finish this up’ mentality during the last week,” Baldwin added. “We need to improve. And we need to pay attention to our injuries.”

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.