Eastern ready to invade Corvallis

Eastern Washington rolls into Corvallis with high expectations that are backed by seven consecutive winning seasons and a share of the Big Sky Championship in 2005. Eagle fans don't know if 2006 is a year to reload or rebuild as they lost quaretback Erik Meyer, the Big Sky's Offensive Player of the Year and linebacker Joey Cwik, the Big Sky's Defensive Player of the Year.

Eastern Washington (0-0) vs. Oregon State (0-0)
Reser Stadium
Thursday, August 31, 2006 - 7:10 p.m. (PST) - FSN NW TV
Series All-time: Oregon State leads 1-0
Last Meeting: September 2, 2000 – OSU 21, EWU 19

 

Eastern Washington rolls into Corvallis with high expectations that are backed by seven consecutive winning seasons and a share of the Big Sky Championship in 2005. Eagle fans don't know if 2006 is a year to reload or rebuild as they lost quarterback Erik Meyer, the Big Sky's Offensive Player of the Year and linebacker Joey Cwik, the Big Sky's Defensive Player of the Year. Despite the losses Eastern head coach Paul Wulff, who coached against Dennis Erickson in the 2000 match up, expects his team not only to compete but to put be in a position to win.

“We are familiar with them, but only our coaches know what it’s like to play there,” the seventh year coach said. “This a different year, but I do feel like we are prepared to go play a ball game. We’re going to go down to play good football and we are going to put a plan together to win. I feel good about competing and having an opportunity to win a ball game.”

The Eagles are 7-12 all-time against Division I foes with their last victory coming against Idaho on the road in 2003. They have lost four straight season openers (Arizona State, San Diego State, Nicholls State, and San Jose State).

EASTERN WASHINGTON OFFENSE
TEAM STATS:  35.0 points, 478 yards (1st Big Sky, 
             136.2 rush, 341.8 pass) 

RUSHING:     Ryan Cole 212-879-14 TD (4.1), long 52
             Toke Kefu 36-165-0 TD (4.3), long 36

PASSING:     Chris Peerboom 2-13-4 (.154), 
             22 yards, 0 touchdowns

RECEIVING:   Tyler Coleman 22-330-1 TD (15.0), long 44

Junior Chris Peerboom, who played his high school ball at Jesuit High in Portland, gets the nod at quarterback where he has completed 11 of 34 passes for 88 yards and six interceptions in 10 games. The Oregonian played in only three games in 2005 after breaking his hand in the first game of the season. Redshirt freshman Matt Nicohls, who has not taken a collegiate snap, backs up Peerboom and is expected to play.

Three of the top five receivers from a year ago are gone and the two deeps are littered with four freshman and almost zero experience. Junior Tyler Coleman, who caught 22 passes for 330 yards and one touchdown last year, is the most experienced player after playing in all 12 games in 2005. A pair of redshirt freshman, Aaron Boyce and Tony Davis, man the other receiver spots. Boyce is one of the better athletes on the team and at 6-foot-2 he will provide a good challenge for the Beaver cornerbacks. Injury plagued senior tight end Tim Calhoun returns for his last season after catching 15 passes for 213 yards as a junior and earning Big Sky second team honors.

Former Oregon State running back Ryan Cole leads the Eagle rushing attack. He is the conference's returning leading rusher after racking up 879 yards and 14 touchdowns in 12 games. Freshman Jesse Hoffman will receive his first carries Thursday as Cole's backup. Washington State transfer Alexis Alexander handles the fullback duties.

The offensive line in anchored by All-Americans Rocky Hanni and Matt Alfred who have 23 and 22 consecutive starts, respectively. Every one on the starting line has at least six starts under their belts. Many Eagle fans feel this will be one of the top units in the conference.

GAME OUTLOOK: With a new quarterback and almost zero experience the Eagles will keep their offense on the ground behind their All-Americans and the experienced running of Cole.

EASTERN WASHINGTON DEFENSE
TEAM STATS:     363.2 yards (5th in Big Sky,
                203.1 pass, 160.1 rush)

TACKLES/TFL:    Nick Denbeigh 66/3.0
                Brandon Keeler 62/1.0

PASSES DEF/INT: DeNique Ford 6/1
                Nick Denbeigh 6/1

SACKS:          Keith Grennan 3.0
                Jason Belford 2.0

The strength of the Eagle 4-2-5 defense lies with the secondary where junior free safety Bryant Jarret, senior rover Brandon Keeler, and senior whip safety Nick Denbeigh all return after earning all-conference honors. Jarret earned first team honors while grabbing 59 tackles and one interception while forcing two fumbles. Keeler chipped in 62 tackles and one interception in addition to two forced fumbles. Denbeigh is the team's leading returning tackler with 66 stops, including three for loss, and six pass breakups in 12 games.

Junior Ira Jarmon, who will be making his first collegiate start, and senior DeNique Ford man the cornerback positions. Jarmon had 15 tackles and two pass deflections as a backup while Ford is the team's returning leading deflection leader with six swats. He added 58 tackles and one interception as well.

Sophomore linebacker Shea Emry has big shoes to fill in the middle where he replaces the Big Sky's 2005 Defensive Player of the Year. He posted 12 tackles, including one for loss, last season. Senior David Eneberg mans the strong side spot where he chipped in 60 stops and one sack as a junior.

Two sophomores, left end Jason Belford and right end Greg Beach line up at the ends where they have combined for 28 tackles, including 5.5 for loss. A pair of seniors in tackle Keith Grennan, the team's returning sack leader and, nose guard George Lane man the interior of the line. Grennan racked up 28 tackles, including a returning team high 5.5 for loss, while Lane chipped in eight stops in limited action.

GAME OUTLOOK: The strength is the the safeties who will provide a good test for the new OSU receivers and quarterback Matt Moore.

EASTERN WASHINGTON SPECIAL TEAMS
PLACEKICKING:  Sheldon Weddle 11-17 FG (long 48), 
               46-47 XP

PUNTING:       Ryan Donckers 38-39.0 (long 64), 
               10 inside the 20, 1 block

KICK RETURNS:  Charles Searcy 12-23.8 (long 51), 0 TD
               
PUNT RETURNS:  Tyler Coleman 2-(-3) (long 0), 0 TD


Honorable mention all-conference place kicker Sheldon Weddle returns after making 11 of 17 field goals and 46 of 47 extra points. Senior Ryan Donckers is back for his third season after averaging 39.0 yards per punt in 2005.

Freshmen Jesse Hoffman and Tony Davis along with seniors Ryan Cole and Charles Seracy will handle kickoff return duties. Seracy is the only player with kickoff return experience as he averaged 23.8 yards per return a year ago. Davis and junior Tyler Coleman, who field just two punts in 2005, will return punts.

GAME OUTLOOK: The kicking and punting games are solid, but the return game is what needs to be worked on as lots of new players are in the mix.


Eagle bits...

The Eastern Washington University Football team is dedicating this week’s game against Oregon State in the memory of long-time Cheney, Wash., High School head coach and former OSU football player Tom Oswald...45 Eagles have been drafted or signed free agent contracts with NFL or CFL teams since 1989.


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