EWU defense holds Weber State to 13 points, win sixth straight game


Photo by Melanie Flint

Wide receiver freshman Simba Webster runs down the field.

By TJ Moulton, Staff Writer

The Eagles survived a defensive battle and windy conditions Oct. 31 to defeat the Weber State Wildcats, 14-13. The win gave the fifth-ranked Eagles their sixth straight win, while improving to 6-2 overall and remaining unbeaten in conference play.

Difficult on-field conditions and a physical Weber State defense made for tough sledding for the top-ranked passing offense in the FCS, as junior quarterback Jordan West was held to a season low 121 passing yards.

“There were certain things our offense did well, but even in sleet, rain, wind, we have to operate better and execute better in those moments. The only time I really get is if there are unforced errors or discipline issues,” said head coach Beau Baldwin. “We have some things we have to examine in areas that could have been the difference had we not won. We have to keep working on cleaning those up.”

Not all was bad for the Eagle offense, as junior wide receiver Cooper Kupp hauled in seven catches for 74 yards and two touchdowns. Perhaps Kupp’s biggest catch of the game came on a big fourth down conversion early in the third quarter, setting up his second touchdown of the day, where Eastern took a 14-13 lead and never looked back.

Despite giving up 412 yards of total offense, and losing the time of possession battle 41:35 to 18:25, the Eagle defense pitched a shutout in the second half. Senior linebacker Miquiyah Zamora was all over the field, recording 16 tackles and a sack.

“They kept us on the field quite a bit,” said Zamora, “I’m just so happy with the defense, the young guys made plays. Everyone was on the same page today, it looked good.”

Momentum started to swing the Eagles’ way when redshirt freshman linebacker Alek Kacmarcik put an end to a Weber State drive late in the first quarter with his first career interception. The Wildcats were up, 10-0, and on EWU’s 23-yard line when Kacmarik picked off Wildcats quarterback Jadrian Clark. Eastern responded with an eight-play, 73-yard scoring drive.

Jake Gall added 10 tackles, the third time in the last four games in double-digits for the sophomore linebacker. Senior defensive back Todd Raynes was second on the team in tackles, while junior defensive lineman Samson Ebukam added 1.5 sacks, bringing his total up to 3.5 on the year.

While the wind had an impact on the passing attack for both teams, special teams suffered the most. Weber State kicker Josh Kealamakia missed three field goals on the day, including go-ahead attempts from 38 and 40 yards in the fourth quarter.

“Forcing field goal attempts were huge. Even if they made them, we were in a better situation on the scoreboard,” said Baldwin. “There is no question the defense stepped up. You have to have all facets of your team ready every week if you are going to win games like this.”

The one-point win was the Eagles’ second such victory on the season, and five of the last six Eagles games have been decided by one possession, with the Eagles winning four of the five games.

“You can be a talented team, but you have to have the guts and mindset late. If you don’t have it, your season is going to end at some point,” said Baldwin. “You have to have that mindset and mentality that it doesn’t matter what just happened, you have to keep responding.”

The Eagles moved up in both the FCS STATS and Coaches poll the following week, to fourth. The Eagles are the highest-ranked two-loss team in the FCS, with one of those losses coming to the Oregon Ducks, an FBS team.

What’s Next: The Eagles have back-to-back home games for the first time all season, as they take on Northern Arizona University on Nov. 7. The Lumberjacks are 3-2 in conference play and are coming off comfortable victories against Northern Colorado University and the Wildcats. The game is scheduled to kickoff at 3 p.m. and you can follow us on Twitter @EasternerSports for live updates throughout the game and the rest of the season.