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EWU’s second, third strings see action as starters rest

And on the 18th day, the starters rested.

But head coach Beau Baldwin, the creator of Eastern Washington University’s 2010 NCAA Division I championship football team, remained hard at work at Roos Field Saturday morning, coaching up the twos, threes and rookies during a crisp 44-play scrimmage witnessed by a smattering of fans. The first-team offensive and defensive units were given a well-deserved day off.

“We do this every year,” Baldwin said of his decision to hold his starters out of the live scrimmage, which played out on the 18th day of fall practice and just a week prior to Saturday’s 4:05 p.m. season-opener against the University of Washington in Seattle.

“Our ones get reps every day in practice, and most of the guys who sat out today have been tackled in games, so not playing them this one scrimmage doesn’t stress me out a bit. I thought it was good to get a better look at some of younger guys.”

And several of those younger guys made the most of the opportunity given to them.

Freshman quarterback Vernon Adams completed 8 of 10 passes for 118 yards and a touchdown, engineering scoring drives of 40 and 70 yards. Freshmen running back Quincy Forte and sophomore receiver Ashton Clark each scored a pair of touchdowns. And linebackers J.C. Agen, a sophomore, and John Goldwire, a redshirt freshman, each had a hand in six tackles.

“This was the first scrimmage for us pups, so I was a little nervous,” admitted Adams, a 6-foot, 180-pounder from Pasadena, Calif., who connected with Clark on a 25-yard scoring pass. “Plus, it was live, and I was getting hit. But it still felt good to get some reps.”

Adams, who is scheduled to redshirt this fall, impressed a lot of people with his performance, including starting quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell, who watched in full pads from the sidelines.

“He did a lot of good things out there, I was really proud him today,” said Mitchell. “He came out and really commanded the offense well and had control of his guys.

“Obviously, things were a little fast for him at first, but that’s understandable. I went through the same thing as a true freshman. But I thought he did a really good job of settling in and being a leader out there.”

Forte, who along with fellow rookie Jordan Talley is in a five-man competition to replace departed All-American running back Taiwan Jones, also relished the chance to showcase his skills.

“We’ve been working really hard at practice, just like everyone else,” he said. “So to finally get all our rookies some reps felt good.”

Baldwin was pleased with the scrimmage and the fact that the inexperienced players who were involved were able to operate at least semi-efficiently.

“A lot of times when you get young groups like that out there, it can be tough, especially offensively, to even function,” Baldwin said. “I know I’ve had scrimmages like this before that, once they ended, I didn’t feel like we had gained 10 yards.

“But at least today you saw plays being made on both side of the ball, which make me feel like our overall depth is very solid. Being able to plug twos, threes and even the rooks in there and still function excites me.”

Senior quarterback Nick Gauthier, who is listed No. 3 on the depth chart, capped an impressive 80-yard scoring drive with a 3-yard touchdown pass to Clark on the first possession.

The Eagles will take today off before resuming preparation Monday for Saturday’s season opener against Washington.

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