Eagles rally to stun the Grizzlies

Eagles rally to stun the Grizzlies

By Josh Friesen

Sports Editor

EWU rallied from a nine point deficit late in the fourth quarter to beat the Montana Grizzlies 32-26, scoring two touchdowns in the final 2:19 of the game.

Redshirt freshman Vernon Adams made his second consecutive start at quarterback over SMU transfer Kyle Padron in EWU’s home opener.

Play started off strong for the Eagles as the drove down the field on their opening possession to score the game’s first touchdown. Eastern running back Demitrius Bronson capped off an 80 yard drive with a tough five yard run. Perhaps more notable, however, was Adams’ efficiency on the drive. The redshirt freshman completed all three pass attempts and established a rhythm with his receivers early on in the game.

After both teams traded punts, Montana answered with a scoring drive of their own. After two completions by Grizzly quarterback Trent McKinney, running back Peter Nguyen busted off a 37 yard run to even the score at seven.

Early in the second quarter, the Eagles struck right back as Adams lobbed a pass 36 yards to wide receiver Brandon Kaufman, who made an over the shoulder catch over two Grizzly defenders. The touchdown gave the Eagles the lead 14-7. The two teams completed a field goal apiece to end the half 17-10.

The third quarter saw Eastern struggling to move the ball, while Montana seemed to have no problem against the Eastern defense. The Grizzlies utilized the legs of running backs Jordan Canada and Peter Nguyen to steadily pound the football down the field. The Eagles struggled to find an answer to Montana’s rushing attack, as the Grizzlies piled on 407 yards on the ground. Montana scored 10 unanswered points and found themselves leading 26-17 late in the fourth quarter.

The Eastern sideline was not fazed. According to Kaufman, the players and coaches were confident that they could turn the game around.

“We just never panicked,” Kaufman said. “Football is not that big of a deal. We stayed calm [and] we were collective on the sideline.”

“We just were rallying each other up. Just telling them it’s not over. We have time. We’ve seen it before. We’ve been in this situation before,” Kaufman said. “We knew we had to make our plays. We knew we had to get our opportunities and when we got our opportunities we knew we had to convert on them.”

Adams, however, was beginning to think the game was slipping away. Yet, the spirit of the team changed that for him.

“I had all bad thoughts in my head,” Adams said. “But I come to the sideline and Kyle Padron, mainly him, but a lot of my teammates they’re just telling me to keep my up and bring us back to this game.”

That was exactly what Adams did and the Eagle rally began. Starting at their own 18 with 5:46 left in the game, Adams began to find the stride he had been missing since the first half. Adams connected with multiple receivers and running back Jordan Talley converted on a critical fourth down to get to Montana’s 30 yard line.

That was when Adams found Kaufman in the endzone for the second time to cut the Grizzly lead down to two. Kaufman was not ready to celebrate yet, however.

“We were still down two. We still got to keep going,” Kaufman said. “We have to make another play on the onside kick.”

With only two timeouts and 2:19 remaining in the game, head coach Beau Baldwin decided to go for an onside kick. Bouncing high in the air, the ball was touched by a Montana player, allowing the Eagles to seize possession of the ball as Shaquille Hill emerged from a pile of players with the football.

Back in business on the 50 yard line with 2:19 left, the Eagles began to move the ball down the the field. Adams connected with receiver Ashton Clark and running back Quincy Forte and the Eagles found themselves on Montana’s 20 yard line.

On second and 11, Adams dropped back to pass, his pocket forming around him. As the pocket began to collapse, he somehow managed to escape. Rolling to his left, he found a wide open Clark in the endzone. Adams zipped the ball to Clark for the touchdown and the lead.

“I just dropped back and I got flushed out of the pocket. I’m runing down and I was about to run but I saw Ashton [Clark] up the sideline,” Adams said. “I’m so glad he was wide open and I just got it to him.”

The point after attempt made the game 32-26 and capped off a stunning rally.

Starting at their own 18, Montana tried to move the ball downfield, but eventually ran out of time on Eastern’s 20 yard line. As the play clock his double zero, the Eagle fans stormed the field.

The win gave Adams his first victory as a college football quarterback.

“I’m so proud of my offensive line, my running backs, my receivers. All the crowd. They stayed in it. They had faith in me,” Adams said. “I’m so blessed. Thank you.”a