Eastern Washington, now widely known in Football Championship Subdivision circles for its video game-like offense, had a few scoring lulls in its program-boosting 2010 national championship season.
In those instances, its senior-laden defense often came to the rescue.
The 13th-ranked Eagles committed five turnovers in a 21-14 Big Sky Conference win over Northern Arizona, but caused enough trouble for the Lumberjacks’ offense while prevailing at Roos Field in Week 6.
NAU (3-2) came up empty on three of its four red-zone tries and the Eagles totaled three interceptions for the third straight week.
J.C. Sherritt, Jeff Minnerly and Artise Gauldin all had an interception for EWU (4-2, 3-1), which jumped out to a 14-0 second-quarter lead and held on.
Minnerly, a former Ferris standout, returned his interception 65 yards.
EWU head coach Beau Baldwin’s postgame quotes were essentially a premonition for things that would come.
“If you want to have a championship team, through the course of the season you’re going to run into an ugly game like this here and there,” Baldwin said. “And our defense really stepped it up in a game that was extremely ugly, from an offensive standpoint.”
EWU’s star running back Taiwan Jones – now a 10-year NFL veteran on the Buffalo Bills’ roster – returned after the previous six quarters due to injuries.
Jones was bottled up, held to 48 yards on 16 carries, but quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell was mostly efficient outside of two interceptions.
Mitchell completed 20 of 26 passes for 288 yards and three touchdowns, scoring strikes to Nick Edwards, Brandon Kaufman and Ryan Seto.
EWU took a two-touchdown lead into the fourth quarter, but Jones’ fumble in the end zone resulted in an NAU defensive touchdown at the 11:26 mark that made it a 21-14 ballgame. Jones did not return after the fumble.
NAU quarterback Michael Herrick, who threw for 574 yards in a 49-45 shootout loss to the Eagles in 2009, missed the second half due to an injury.
Sherritt, a Pullman High graduate, added 16 tackles and a sack.
NAU went on to upset co-Big Sky champion Montana State 34-7 the following week. The NAU finished 6-5, 4-4.
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