Defense makes it tough on offense in situational scrimmage, but big plays help offense generate 329 yards through the air
Same number, same hometown, same high school, same speed . . . flashback five years earlier and fans could have sworn they were watching Taiwan Jones.
Redshirt freshman wide receiver Simba Webster had a 55-yard touchdown catch and run on a pass from Jordan West, as those two players combined for the biggest offensive play and statistics in Eastern Washington University's 76-play scrimmage on "Meet the Eagles Day" Saturday (Aug. 22) at Roos Field in Cheney, Wash.
West completed 10-of-15 passes for 131 yards to lead EWU's passing attack, which finished with 329 yards through the air. But the defense allowed just 361 yards total and 4.9 yards per play, and was particularly stingy during the situational portion of the scrimmage and against the run.
"I thought there were plays being made on both sides of the ball," said Eagle head coach Beau Baldwin. "What I do think we need to do a better job of is that game-like feel of getting on and off the sideline. We have to create more and more situations where we have to get different groups on the field."
Webster (pictured) caught five passes for 128 yards, including the 55-yarder when he caught a short screen pass, made a sharp cut to avoid a would-be tackler and then sped away to the end zone. Five years ago, All-American running back Taiwan Jones – now in the NFL with the Oakland Raiders -- had the same burst in a No. 22 EWU jersey. Webster and his twin brother Nzuzi – a starting Eagle cornerback – both are from Antioch, Calif., and Deer Valley High School where Jones is also from.
"He did a great job – obviously you see the electric plays," praised Baldwin, who held out all three of his returning starters at receiver. "Not only that, he got out of bounds on his first catch in a two-minute drill and understood the situation. He also made another tough catch on the sideline. I'm very excited for what Simba brings to what in my opinion is a strong receiving corp."
Besides West -- who at one point complete eight passes in a row -- Eastern's other two quarterbacks were accurate, with Gage Gubrud completing 12-of-14 for 98 yards and Reilly Hennessey going 8-of-13 for 84 yards. True freshman running back Sam McPherson completed a 16-yard yard TD pass to sophomore Terence Grady, who finished with five catches for 44 yards.
Another true freshman, Malcom Williams Jr., was productive for the offense with three carries for 33 yards, and four catches for another 23. Alek Kacmarcik led the defense with eight tackles, and his fellow redshirt freshman linebacker Kody Beckering had an interception.
Baldwin put his team through virtually every situation imaginable in a football game, and even sprinkled in special teams. Jordan Dascalo, a transfer from Washington State, punted three times for a 53.3 yard average per punt, but did have a breeze behind him on all three kicks.
Baldwin's offense was most effective in its "tempo" hurry-up mode – highlighted by West's touchdown drives of 65 (five plays) and 71 (two plays). But Baldwin knows that his team has a lot of work to do to become more efficient on both sides of the ball before they play at Oregon on Sept. 5. The Eagles will scrimmage again next Saturday (Aug. 29), also scheduled for 9:45 a.m.
"We've always been more a change of speed type of offense," said Baldwin. "We're not 100 miles per hour every single time – we change speeds and slow down to see what the defense is doing. Mentally in-between plays we need to speed up on both sides of the ball. Come Sept. 5th, they aren't waiting for us to line up."
Several starting players didn't play because of illness and for precautionary reasons, which contributed to four botched offensive plays on poor snaps that lost a total of 37 yards. Three sacks led to another 21 yards in losses, as the offense finished with just 32 yards on 33 rushes.
"Even some of the sloppiness – especially offensively – was caused by throwing some guys into the center position who hadn't received a lot of reps," explained Baldwin, who enters his eighth year at the helm with 13 returning starters and 43 total letterwinners back. "On the fly we were kind of dealing with that."
PASSING: Gage Gubrud 12-of-14 98, Jordan West 10-of-15 131, Reilly Hennessey 8-of-13 84 1interception, Sam McPherson 1-of-1 16, Team Totals 31-of-43 329 1interception.
RECEIVING: Simba Webster 5-128, Terence Grady 5-44, Jalani Phelps 4-40, Malcolm Williams Jr. 4-23, Stu Stiles 2-17, Nic Sblendorio 3-22, Dre' Sonte Dorton 3-22, Terry Jackson II 2-15, Beau Byus 1-8, Sam McPherson 1-5, Zach Eagle 1-5, Team Totals 31-329.
INTERCEPTIONS: Kody Beckering.
SACKS: Marcus Saugen, Jonah Jordan, Jay-Tee Tiuli.
QUARTERBACK HURRY: J.J. Njoku.
FUMBLES RECOVERED: None.
FUMBLES FORCED: John Kreifels.
Tentative Schedule of EWU Practices
(Times and locations are tentative and subject to change. Practices usually last for two hours. Media interviews need to be coordinated and approved in advance with Dave Cookfirstname.lastname@example.org, but typically take place after practice and scrimmages, or 20-30 minutes before the practice time listed. Be sure to always confirm practice times and locations prior to departure for campus. No interviews two days or less before day of games, with Tuesday afternoon before games the typical pre-game interview day. Remaining preseason practices and practices during the season are scheduled to take place at Roos Field.
Sunday, Aug. 23 – Off
Monday, Aug. 24 – 9:15 a.m. & 3 p.m.
Tuesday, Aug. 25 – 9:15 a.m.
Wednesday, Aug. 26 – 9:15 a.m. & 3 p.m.
Thursday, Aug. 27 – 9:15 a.m.
Friday, Aug. 28 – 9:15 a.m.
Saturday, Aug. 29 – Scrimmage, approximately 9:45 a.m., Roos Field
Sunday, Aug. 30 – Off
Monday, Aug. 31 – 4 p.m.
Tuesday, Sept. 1 – 4 p.m.
Wednesday, Sept. 2 – 4 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 3 – 4 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 4 – Travel Day to Eugene, Ore.
Saturday, Sept. 5 – EWU at Oregon, 5 p.m. Pacific time (Pac-12 Networks)