In the middle of uncertainty, things shaping up for Eagles - SWX Right Now-Sports for Spokane, CdA, Tri-Cities, WA

Eastern Washington - Football

In the middle of uncertainty, things shaping up for Eagles

Coach Beau Baldwin got a good look at the two quarterbacks battling for the backup job -- Minnerly and fellow freshman redshirt Scott Burgett (Photo: SWX) Coach Beau Baldwin got a good look at the two quarterbacks battling for the backup job -- Minnerly and fellow freshman redshirt Scott Burgett (Photo: SWX)

WSU transfer Levenseller sits out scrimmage

CHENEY, Wash. - With just eleven days before football season officially begins for the Eastern Eagles, they're still unsure whether they'll be playing for anything other than pride. 

After meeting with the NCAA infractions committee last week, athletic director Bill Chaves told the Spokesman Review it will likely be four to six weeks before they know whether they'll be able to play in the postseason.  The football team was penalized for violations that occurred during Paul Wulff's tenure as head coach - minor violations that were self-reported.

While uncertainty reigns in administrators' offices, the haze has all but cleared on the field, especially after a successful scrimmage Saturday off-campus at Gonzaga Prep High School.

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  • Sept. 5 - vs. W. Oregon
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  • Oct. 24 - vs. Montana State
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Current coach Beau Baldwin, now in his second year at Eastern, rested most of his veteran starters to get a good look at backups as the Eagles concluded their first week of preseason.  The team will also scrimmage next Saturday (Aug. 29) at 11:30 a.m. at Woodward Field in Cheney before opening its season at home on Sept. 5 against Western Oregon at 12:05 p.m. , a game seen live on SWX.

"We're not trying to win two scrimmages here," he said. "We want to get better and we don't want to be sloppy, but at the same time we're not concerned about winning a scrimmage. What we do want is our players to execute better than we did today."

Eastern's offense had 203 yards of total offense, but aside from a 51-yard pass play from freshman redshirt quarterback Jeff Minnerly to senior tight end Nate Overbay, the defense dominated much of the scrimmage. Take away that play and the defense allowed just 2.9 yards per play, surrendering a total of just 75 rushing yards (on 28 carries) and 128 passing yards (on 26 plays) in the scrimmage.

Sophomore linebacker Bobby Gentry had two interceptions, including one he returned 55 yards for the only touchdown of the day. The long pass play led to a 31-yard field goal by the offense, but otherwise, the offense struggled with a false-start penalty, two fumbles on snap exchanges and other unforced errors.

"In my opinion, we were sloppy on offense but our defense was really sound," said Baldwin. "They gave up the one big play to Overbay down the middle, but overall the defense played really well.

"I'm not going to get caught up with how many yards we gained," he added. "But more than anything I was displeased with our unforced errors. That's going to be a big point of emphasis during the week. Some of our younger players got more reps and were thrown into a game situation when the coaches are on the sideline, and we made more errors that weren't really created by one side or the other."

Among the players who did not play were senior four-year starting quarterback Matt Nichols. A half-dozen offense starters did not play, as well as four projected starters on defense.

"Most of the No. 1's who had time off were players who have played a lot of football for us," explained Baldwin. "They are getting reps all week in practice and they've been in the fire enough."

Baldwin got a good look at the two quarterbacks battling for the backup job -- Minnerly and fellow freshman redshirt Scott Burgett -- as well as his first looks at Bakersfield College transfer Nick Gauthier and true freshman Anthony Vitto.

Minnerly, a 2008 graduate of Ferris High School, completed 2-of-5 passes for 59 yards and had two rushes for nine yards. Burgett was 2-of-6 for nine yards, Gauthier was 6-of-10 for 52 yards and two interceptions, and Vitto was 1-of-5 for eight yards. A sixth quarterback -- Washington State University transfer J.T. Levenseller -- did not play after practicing with Eastern for the first time on Thursday.

Eastern's defense was given the green light to actually hit the quarterback, something the Eagles rarely do for injury purposes. Sophomore David Miles recorded the lone sack, but the defense also had five hurries with two of them recorded by freshman redshirt linebacker Rusty Haehl.

"To really judge a quarterback, sometimes they have to face live bullets," said Baldwin. "We have a few of them competing for spots, so to see them in live situations gives you an idea of exactly where they are.

"On the other side of things, it can be hard on the defense if they have to avoid the quarterback, avoid the quarterback, avoid the quarterback throughout the spring and fall camp," he continued. "Then in the first game all of the sudden it's live. So it benefits the defense to truly get after it and not feel like they have to stay off the quarterback. Yes, it's running a little bit of risk, but every other player on the field gets tackled."

With its top two running backs sitting out (Tyler Hart and Taiwan Jones), Darriell Beaumonte led Eastern on the ground with 25 yards on nine carries. Chase King added 23 yards on six carries with a team-high three receptions for 18 yards.

Freshman redshirt linebacker Tyler Washburn led the defense with five tackles, and senior cornerback Brett Igbinoba, a 2005 graduate of Cheney (Wash.) High School, had four. Gentry and Haehl also had a pair of tackles, and Washburn added a fumble recovery.

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