After coming this far, the Eastern Washington offense appears to have come full-circle. The Eagles struck a nice balance between the run and pass all year, then went back to the aerial game in wins over Portland State and Wagner.
At Portland State in the final game of the regular season, the Eagles passed for 363 yards and rushed for exactly 0; last week in a second-round Football Championship Subdivision playoff game against Wagner, they picked up 327 yards through the air and just 84 on the ground on 38 rushes.
The operative word here is “wins,” said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin, who said the running game is doing its job despite the statistics.
“Even if we lean more on the pass a little bit more, you still don’t feel like you know what we’re going to do,” said Baldwin, whose club faces Illinois State in an FCS quarterfinal game Saturday at Roos Field.
Against Wagner, for example, the Eagles (10-2) gained chunks of yards through the air, but scored three rushing touchdowns.
“Even if sometimes you throw to get down there,” Baldwin said, “those (passing) zones close up, so if you don’t have any running game in the red zone, that can be really tough.”
In the end, the Eagles will take what they’re given. For example, Portland State’s defense “was doing something different that they showed on film, so you adjust in the game,” Baldwin said.
Speaking of stats, quarterback Kyle Padron’s are much improved in those two games, compared with his numbers in season-opening starts at Idaho and Washington State.
Padron, who will start his second straight game Saturday, was 56 for 82 for 790 yards and one interception against PSU and Wagner, compared with 39 for 87 for 666 yards and three picks at UI and WSU.
Baldwin said that even though it’s been seven months, Padron was handicapped by missing spring ball.
“He’s done a great job and has great momentum coming into this one,” said Baldwin, who said redshirt freshman Vernon Adams may also see action.
“It’s been something that ultimately has been an advantage for us,” Baldwin said. “They both would want to be out there for every snap, but this has made us a better team.
“And I’ve heard through the grapevine that it can make it tougher on defensive coordinators.”
Both quarterbacks have “played at their best” in the last half-dozen games, which Baldwin says makes his decision on whom to play “more of an educated decision as opposed to a gut reaction.”
Perfection on the line
Something has to give.
Eastern is 6-0 this season at Roos Field; Illinois State is 9-3 overall but 6-0 on the road, including a landmark, 38-37 overtime win in a second-round game at Appalachian State last weekend.
“Obviously for our program to beat a program like App State on the road is just huge,” Redbirds head coach Brock Spack said Wednesday. “Our players responded well, and I hope it was statement game for us.”
Tickets still available
Tickets for Saturday’s FCS quarterfinal game against Illinois State cost $20 for premium seating in sections C and D, $15 for sections A, B, E and F, $15 for end zone and $10 for east-side seating (behind the visitor’s bench).
Tickets may be purchased via www.ticketswest.com or at 1-800-325-SEAT. Season-ticket holders and fans who indicated to the ticket office that they wanted their tickets automatically renewed do not need to call the Eastern ticket office, but will have their tickets left at will-call.
This marks the second straight year that the Big Sky has two teams in the quarterfinals. Eastern is 2-4 in quarterfinals, last losing at Appalachian State in 2007 and winning most recently against North Dakota State in 2010. …The Big Sky is 10-10 all-time against teams from the Missouri Valley Conference in the playoffs; the Big Sky has won two straight over the MVC and four of the last five. … The MVC and Big Sky are 1-2 among FCS conferences in the Sagarin ratings.
Subscribe to the sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.