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The Easterner

The independent, student-run news site of Eastern Washington University.

The Easterner

The independent, student-run news site of Eastern Washington University.

The Easterner

Idaho’s ground game too much to handle for Visperas-less Eagles

Idahos+ground+game+too+much+to+handle+for+Visperas-less+Eagles

Unlike last season and the previous three games, Idaho Vandals quarterback Gervani McCoy and preseason Big Sky MVP Hayden Hatten were a somewhat neutralized threat for Eastern Washington Eagles’ defense on Saturday afternoon.

When No. 4 Idaho had the ball, the problem for No. 19 Eastern Washington was shifty Vandals sophomore running back Anthony Woods. 

Woods scored five touchdowns and had 183 of the Vandals 363 rushing yards. His career day — which was a touchdown shy of Idaho’s program record — earned him FCS Player of the Week honors.

Redshirt senior Nick Romano – UI’s fifth-string running back last year – assisted Woods in the ground attack, rushing  for 129 yards on 18 carries. 

Vandals head coach Jason Eck stuck to the run attack throughout the contest. McCoy went 8-for-18 with 128 yards, a touchdown pass, and an interception. 

The Eagles scored touchdowns on four of their first drives without the Big Sky Conference’s passing yards and completions leader Kekoa Visperas, who sat out Saturday with an undisclosed upper-body injury. 

EWU’s junior quarterback Jared Taylor carried the ball 22 times for a team-high 121 yards and two touchdowns. Taylor – who found Justice Jackson for a 34-yard score in the second quarter – threw his first touchdown pass as a Division I quarterback. 

Eastern’s running back duo of Tuna Altahir and Justice Jackson had relatively quiet days, rushing for a combined 57 yards.

The Eagles (2-3, 1-1) also inserted junior backup quarterback Michael Wortham interchangeably with Taylor. Wortham was a dual threat, putting up a couple of highlights with his speed and awareness. 

In Eastern’s first score of the game – a 29-yard touchdown pass from Wortham –  Taylor took the snap and passed the ball behind the line of scrimmage to Wortham, who then found senior Anthony Stell Jr. open inside the front right pylon. 

On a third-and-7 play late in the first half, Wortham used his legs to escape a wall of Vandals linebackers and cut across the right flat for a crowd-rising 35-yard rushing score. 

The 5 foot 9 transfer quarterback from Sierra College has quickly filled voids in just his fourth game with the Eagles. Besides going under center as quarterback on Saturday, Wortham has lined up at four other positions: running back, wide receiver, punt returner, and kick returner. 

Efton Chism III led all Eagles receivers, racking up 31 yards on five catches. The junior, who’s a team captain this season, is now 66 yards away from 2,000 career yards. 

The two teams went back and forth in the first half, knotting up at 28 going into the break. Following a six-minute, 15-play touchdown drive for the Eagles to retake the lead in the second half, UI’s Jermaine Jackson fielded the kickoff and returned it for an 84-yard boost. Anthony Woods then took advantage of the great field position, scoring a touchdown on a 4-yard rush. 

The Eagles were forced to punt three times to Idaho’s one. Penalties, offensive errors, and a defensive collapse allowed the Vandals to score 23 unanswered points. A 60-yard rushing touchdown by Woods put the Vandals (4-1, 2-0) up 44-28 with 8:49 to play. 

Talor and Wortham once again kept the Eagles in the game after marching down the field to make it a one-score game. Taylor scored a 17-yard rushing touchdown and completed a two-point conversion pass to junior Nolan Ulm. 

With Eastern cutting the lead to 44-36, Woods and Romano regained control and carried the Vandals’ offense down the field on a 63-yard drive that eliminated any hope for the Eagles. McCoy and the Vandals went into victory formation in the red zone after eating up over 11 minutes of the fourth quarter. 

The victory is the Vandals’ first in Cheney in 29 years. The Eagles head into their bye week one win shy of their end-of-season tally last year. They will travel to Pocatello for an Oct. 14 matchup at Idaho State (1-4, 1-1) before returning to Roos Field for Week 8 against Weber State on Eagle Family Homecoming weekend, Oct. 21. 

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Luke Pickett, Reporter

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