Scouting Report: Eastern Washington Offense

After racking up 441 total yards of offense against UNLV, the Cougars are looking for their fifth win on the season as they face the Eagles of Eastern Washington. To give Total Blue Sports a scouting report on the Eagle offense are Cougar defenders Ian Dulan and David Nixon.

In their first ever matchup against Eastern Washington, the Cougars will bring their swarm defense - led by senior linebackers Bryan Kehl, Markell Staffieri and Kelly Poppinga - to LaVell Edwards Stadium this weekend. The Cougars are on an eight-game winning streak and hope to increase that number by one as they the third-ranked total offense in the NCAA's Football Championship Subdivision.

"Eastern Washington has a really good offense," said David Nixon. "They're averaging around 35 points per game right now. Their quarterback is one of the better quarterbacks that we'll face this year. I honestly think he's better than the quarterback we faced last week, [Travis] Dixon. He doesn't have the running ability of Dixon, but he does have a cannon for an arm. So, he's a good quarterback and that's something that we are a bit worried about."

Led behind sophomore quarterback Matt Nichols, the Eagle offense put up 363 passing yards against Portland State and 300 passing yards (451 total yards) against 11th-ranked Montana. Currently, he is ranked third in the FCS in total offense (327.2 yards per game), fifth in passing yards (306.2 passing yards per game) and 11th in passing efficiency rating (158.4).

"They lean more towards the passing game than the running game," Nixon said. "They usually try to exploit the defense more with the passing game. They have an explosive offense and have played some good teams. They played Montana State and came close to beating them. They've also played some top teams in [the FCS], so they have a really good passing game."

"They are a team that likes to throw the ball a lot," said Ian Dulan. "They like to do a lot of screens and stuff like that, but it's good for us because hopefully we can get some more sacks."

Catching passes from Nichols will be a trio of talented sophomore receivers in Tony Davis, Brynsen Brown and Aaron Boyce, who combined for 118 catches for 1,539 yards and eight touchdowns as redshirt freshmen in 2006. So far in their careers, Davis, Brown and Boyce have combined for 207 catches for 2,909 yards and 18 touchdowns in 49 games worth of experience (37 starts).

"We have a great group of receiv¬ers, including our starting sophomore corps," said Nichols. "They are really talented and find holes, especially with a year under our belts. We know how to work against defenses a lot better than we did last year. I think that really showed in our first few games. We know how to find holes and know where the weaknesses are in certain coverages."

"They have some pretty quick receivers," said Dulan. "They catch a lot of balls."

"They have some playmakers on offense at the wide receiver position," said Nixon. "[Boyce] is one guy that kind of stood out and he's a playmaker. He's one that we have to be aware of, and if we don't stay focused and treat this team and this game like how we treat other teams, they can hurt us."

Although the Eagles favor the passing game, they also have two capable running backs, which Eastern Washington head coach Paul Wulff will also use within the passing game.

"They have a pretty quick running back in [Alexis Alexander], even though he's pretty big," said Dulan. "From what I've seen he's also pretty shifty in a way."

"They have a decent running game," said Nixon. "They're kind of like UNLV in that they have a bruiser like [Frank] Summers. They also have a quick, speedy guy that they use to run the ball as well."

That bruising running back Nixon referred to is none other than the 5-foot-10-inch, 230-pound Alexander. Alexander has five rushing touchdowns and one receiving touchdown on the year so far. Substituting in the backfield for more speed is 5-foot-9-inch, 205-pound Dale Morris, who has four rushing touchdowns.

"They like to rotate them in and out," Nixon said. "They like to take the smaller back out for the bigger guy depending on their offensive situation, so we know they do like to run the ball with either quickness or try and pound it behind their experienced offensive line."

At LaVell Edwards Stadium, Cougar fans will see an offense similar to what UNLV fielded against the Cougars last weekend at Sam Boyd Stadium.

"[The Eagles] play a lot of gun and do the ride, and sometimes the quarterback will bootleg out and chuck the ball downfield," said Nixon. "It's a lot like UNLV and, in fact, we're going to play a similar defense - that we played against UNLV - against [Eastern Washington]. We're excited for it."

The Eagles, behind a veteran offensive line that includes four senior starters, has allowed 10 quarterback sacks, good for 46th nationally (1.7 sacks per game). That is down from when they were third nationally after allowing just one sack in their first three games.

"They have some pretty athletic o-linemen," said Dulan. "Both the left tackle and the right guard are supposed to be pretty good. They're pretty big guys and looked pretty physical and well conditioned."

The Eagle right tackle that Dulan will be facing is 6-foot-4-inch, 290-pound senior Zach Wasielewski. On the other side of Dulan, defensive end Jan Jorgensen will face 6-foot-4-inch, 280-pound sophomore Chris Thomas.

"The challenge for us as a d-line will be just reading their offense," Dulan said. "We have to be sure we spend time in the film room to study their plays to know what they like to run and what things they run out of different formations. It's also important for us to know the guys that we will be going up against."

"We can not come into this game and think we can take them lightly," said Nixon. "They've played well this year and have beaten some good teams. We've spoken to some coaches that have played against them and they all said the same thing. We can not take them lightly."

BYU has announced that junior left guard Ray Feinga will be suspended for the game against EWU. Sophomore center Tom Sorensen was practicing with the first-team offense at left guard in his stead. Sorensen gives Total Blue Sports the rundown on what kind of an offensive line the Cougars could field in Feinga's absence and with a questionable Dallas Reynolds. Click the link below to listen to the Sorensen interview.

Side Notes

While at Puyallup High School (Wash.), Eastern Washington linebacker Makai Borden received recruiting interest from BYU. His father Randy Borden played at BYU-Hawaii before shattering his wrist while longboarding. The Borden family is LDS, and Makai's mother also attended school at BYU-Hawaii.

Defensively, Eastern Washington is 76th in total defense (380.8 yards per game), 20th in scor¬ing defense (19.3 points per game), 12th in rushing defense (100.8 rushing yards per game), 110th in pass¬ing defense (280.0 passing yards per game) and 27th in passing efficiency defense (107.1).

BYU National Leaders: Brigham Young is averaging 462.8 yards of offense to rank 16th in the Football Bowl Subdivision, including the sixth-most passing yards (329.0 yards per game). The Cougars are also 53rd in scoring offense (28.3 points per game) and 81st in rushing (133.8 rushing yards per game).

BYU quarterback Max Hall ranks sixth nationally in total offense (330.8 yards per game), sixth in passing yards (329.0 passing yards per game) and 40th in passing efficiency (135.7).

Dennis Pitta is the team's top receiver, and is 61st nationally in receptions (5.17 per game, total of 31) and 49th in receiving yards (78.7 yards per game).

Harvey Unga is 43rd in rushing (89.8 rushing yards per game) and 34th in all-pur¬pose yards (145.2 total yards per game).

Bryan Kehl is eighth nationally in tackles (7.67 per game, total of 46), C.J. Santiago is 23rd in punting (43.55 yards per punt) and Austin Collie is 20th in kickoff returns (28.5 yards per return).

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