Flanders devours Eagle defense for second time in FCS playoff rematch

Flanders devours Eagle defense for second time in FCS playoff rematch

By Galen Rock, Sports Editor

After falling to Toledo on Sept. 14, the Eagles took their show back on the road on Sept. 28 to face Sam Houston State, the team that knocked them out of last year’s FCS playoffs.

It may have been a different venue than the Dec. 15 loss at Roos Field, but the result was no different as EWU fell 49-34 to the Bearkats at Bowers Stadium in Huntsville, Texas.

Defense has never been a strong suit in the Beau Baldwin Era, but giving up 556 yards and 9.5 yards a play is disconcerting, no matter how potent the offense may be.

“They did a good job – they have a very good offense,” said head coach Beau Baldwin. “They’ve put up a lot of points on a lot of people.”

Sam Houston State running back Tim Flanders was once again the star of the show. Flanders rushed for 280 yards on 32 attempts, his second outing with 250 or more yards against EWU in nine months. Sam Houston State as a team rushed for 450 yards for an average of 8.3 yards a rush. The Bearkats have totaled nearly 1,035 yards in the two meetings combined.

But it was not just the running game that gave the Eastern defense fits.

With no pass rush in his face, Bearkat quarterback Brian Bell, although only attempting 8 passes, was able to find the explosive plays. Bell hit wide receiver Torrance Williams for scores of 18 and 50 yards in the second and third quarter.

With that being said, this was a complete team loss. Vernon Adams and the Eastern offense had a tough time establishing any type of rhythm. Adams was constantly under pressure and was hit far too often.

Very similar to the game against Toledo, Adams stat line (355 yards passing, three touchdowns, and one interception returned for a touchdown) did not indicate any struggles. But the precision accuracy and big plays that fans have become accustomed to were not there today.

“But from our standpoint, it’s a whole team issue – offense, defense and special teams.” said Baldwin “We have to find little things that we need to improve on, and there is plenty. We can say we fought hard, but the bottom line is we have to get better.”

Eastern tried to establish a running game throughout to take some of the pressure off Adams and the passing game but it netted very little, only 141 yards on 37 attempts for a meager 3.8 yards a rush.

The one drive that will leave a sour taste in fans’ mouths and leave them wondering what could have been, came in the second half. In back-to-back possessions down 42-27, two EWU drives stalled on the Sam Houston State side of the 50 yard line due to questionable personal foul penalties. Both were for illegal blocks, a penalty Eastern had not been called for all year.

Both calls were debatable at best, but it is hard to argue about bad officiating when the opposing team rushes for 450 yards.

Baldwin, in his press conference after the game, never mentioned the officials, but instead chose to focus on his team that is now in the middle of a two game losing streak.

“We have to get better,” Baldwin said. “We are in for a tough Big Sky schedule. We are going to face a Weber State team who I’m sure will play some good football after a tough non-conference schedule.”

EWU will be at home Oct. 5 at Roos Field to open the Big Sky conference play against Weber State Wildcats.