Eagles soar undeterred through the Big Sky

Eagles soar undeterred through the Big Sky

The No. 3 ranked Eastern Eagles held off the No. 4 ranked Montana State Bobcats in a 54-29 victory to remain undefeated in the Big Sky Conference.

Both teams were undefeated coming into the game, and it was close throughout the first half with the Eagles leading 26-21 at the break. Eastern did not punt once in the first half, and Eastern sophomore quarterback Vernon Adams had a nearly perfect half, throwing 10 of 11 for 130 yards and two touchdowns.

“I really felt good about the fact that we got rolling in the first half offensively,” said head coach Beau Baldwin. “I’m proud of the way the guys played.”

Offensively, the Eagles put up some numbers passing and running with a total of 591 yards. Despite the cramps that sent Adams to the locker room late in the second half, he continued his string of great performances going 16 of 18 for 300 yards and four touchdowns. Adams broke the school record for most touchdown passes in a season with 39, which was previously held by 2010 quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell.

Senior quarterback Anthony Vitto checked into the game going 2 of 2, adding a 36-yard touchdown pass to freshman receiver Cooper Kupp in the fourth quarter.

“It’s so frustrating I was so mad at myself and I need to hydrate myself better during the week,” said Adams. ”But it is an awesome feeling getting that win today.”

Kupp had eight receptions for 110 yards and had a touchdown for his 10th straight game. Sophomore receiver Shaquille Hill added four receptions for a career best of 172 yards and three touchdowns of 76, 68 and 17 yards.

“It’s a great feeling, and hard work has been paying off lately,” Hill said. “Now we just need to practice hard these next two weeks and finish.”

The running game was effective against the Bobcats, as junior running back Quincy Forte had 15 carries for a career-high of 123 yards and two touchdowns.

“The offensive line did a great job and we added a running game that I think surprised Montana State,” said Baldwin.

Going into the second half, the Eagles played out aggressively, continuing to score on every possession they had the ball, along with the Eagle defense holding the Bobcats to one touchdown in the fourth quarter.

Senior cornerback T.J. Lee III made his first start as safety against the Bobcats due to a teammate injury, and led the Eagles with his career best of 14 tackles and an interception in the fourth quarter.

“We were able to make adjustments at the half and we were able to hold them to one score in the second half against a really good [Montana State] offense,” said Baldwin. “I was proud of how we came out after halftime and finished on both sides of the ball and the will to go win it.”

A win against Montana State nets Eastern its 500th win in school history and a big chance to win the Big Sky title. Eastern travels to their next opponent Cal Poly on Nov. 16 for another Big Sky showdown.

“We just have to stay the course, we’re going to go play a really good Cal Poly team and it’s a tough place to go play, they’re nail biters away from being in this race too,” said Baldwin. “But we just have to stay the course, it’s great and it’s a great position.”