CHENEY, Wash., Oct. 19 – Southern Utah was looking to make it 3-0 on homecoming this year but fourth-ranked Eastern Washington had other ideas as the Eagles kept the Thunderbirds from establishing momentum in a 34-10 Big Sky Conference win.
Eastern Washington improved to 5-2 on the season, and 3-0 in Big Sky play while SUU dipped to 5-3, 2-2 in the BSC.
Southern Utah had spoiled Northern Colorado’s homecoming with a 27-21 win on Sept. 28, then took care of Portland State last week on its own homecoming but Eastern Washington was able to turn two Thunderbird turnovers into scores and generally disrupt the Thunderbird offense in the win.
The Thunderbirds got a pair of first quarter turnovers but were unable to capitalize on either. Andrew Eide tipped a pass at the line of scrimmage and James Cowser alertly intercepted it at the SUU 32 yard line but the Thunderbird offense failed to move the ball and wound up punting.
Eide and Cowser teamed up on another Eagle turnover later in the period when Eide hit Eagle quarterback Vernon Adams in the backfield and forced a fumble at the SUU 21 where Cowser fell on it. The fates were against the Thunderbirds however, as on the next play Aaron Cantu was pressured and was intercepted by Samson Ebukam, who returned the ball 21 yards for a touchdown and a 7-0 Eagle lead.
EWU made it 14-0 when Adams was able to find Ashton Clark on a 12-yard touchdown pass after SUU safety Michael Byrd fell down in coverage.
The Eagles controlled the first quarter, out-gaining the Thunderbirds 161-28 but SUU turned the tables in the second period when they held a 99-85 advantage in yards gained. The Thunderbirds put together a 66-yard drive at the end of the half and pulled within 14-3 after Colton Cook hit a 34-yard field goal.
Southern Utah put itself into position to climb back into the game midway through the third quarter when Tyree Mills broke up an Eagle pass on fourth and two at the SUU 36 yard line. The Thunderbirds drove to the Eagle 20 yard line but saw the drive stymied when Ronald Baines wrestled a pass away from Easton Pedersen at the 15.
Even when things went right for the Thunderbirds things went wrong as on the ensuing possession a bad snapped sailed over Adams’ head near mid-field but he was able to scoop it up and scramble all the way to the SUU 31 yard line. After an incomplete pass Adams hooked up with Kendrick Bourne on another touchdown and a 21-3 lead with 5:33 to play in the third period.
The Eagles tacked on two more scores to go up 34-3 before SUU quarterback Mike Sharp found CJ Morgan on a 29-yard pass to pull SUU within 34-10 with 45 seconds to play.
Sharp wound up the Thunderbirds’ leading rusher with 61 yards on nine carries. He also completed 3-of-6 passes for 46 yards and the touchdown. The Thunderbirds finished with a season-high 368 yards of offense, with 143 on the ground and 225 through the air, bettering the 344 they had against Fort Lewis and Sacramento State.
Eastern Washington finished with 489 yards as Adams completed 25-of-35 passes for 298 yards and the Eagles combined to rush for 191 yards.