Last week against Montana, Eastern Washington turned against redshirt quarterback Kekoa Visperas in the second half, with the game — which ended in a 63-7 win for the Grizzlies — already out of hand 42-0.
It was the first significant stretch of play for Visperas, the only quarterback besides senior Gunner Talkington to snap for the Eagles this season.
The season concludes Saturday against Northern Colorado in Cheney as the Eagles (2-8 overall, 1-6 Big Sky) look to end a disappointing season with a win. The game starts at 1:02 p.m
“We just haven’t been as on the right side of the scoreboard at home this season as we have been since 2010,” said EWU coach Aaron Best, referring to the year the Eagles won a national title. “A win can easily erase some of the things that were wrong with the Reds this season.”
One question entering the game surrounds the quarterbacks: Will Best – assuming he’s healthy – turn to Talkington and let the senior try to end his career with a win? Or will he try to give Visperas a full game as the younger quarterback looks to potentially be the full-time starter next year?
That’s a story to watch as the Eagles attempt to win at home for the first time since their season opener. Here are three more:
Can the Eagles hold the Bears on less than 450 yards of offense? Offensively, the Bears have been strong lately, averaging 336, 469 and 423 total offensive yards in their last three games. The Eagles have held only one opponent — Cal Poly — to under 450 yards and only two others under 500 yards. But statistically, Northern Colorado’s offense is the least impressive offense played at Roos Field this season, and if anything, Eastern will be able to slow down an offense, it has to be Saturday. If they can keep the Bears from running early with this play, their own offense should eventually be able to find enough rhythm to exploit holes in a defense that has given up the third most yards in Big Sky.
Will the Eagles have a 100-yard rusher? Junior Micah Smith had a stellar performance in the third game of the season against Montana State as he rushed for 114 yards and two touchdowns on 13 times. But since then he has only carried 21 times for 82 yards. Sophomore Justice Jackson (77 carries for 361 yards this season) and redshirt rookie Tuna Altahir (81 for 267 yards) have since taken the brunt of rushing duties, but neither has matched the single-game production that Smith has had two months ago. The Eagles have fallen behind in most other games this season, often by multiple touchdowns in the first half, allowing their running game to take a backseat. Against Cal Poly, playing by a margin, they finished with a season-high 179 rushing yards.
What senior ends his career with a remarkably big game? Aside from Talkington, this year the Eagles have relied almost exclusively on juniors, sophomores and freshmen for throwing, running and catching the football on offense. So it seems more likely that if a senior is going to have a big game, he’ll get the ball on the defensive side. Safety Keshaun King has a couple of interceptions this year and has been playing particularly well lately since senior safety Anthany Smith was shut down for the season. Linebacker Jaren Banks has anchored his position group all season and is third on the team with 56 tackles. But perhaps the most likely candidate for a big defensive play is end Mitchell Johnson, who leads the Eagles in tackles-for-loss (9.5) and sacks (four). He also forced two fumbles and recovered one against Weber State. In the team’s season-opening win over Tennessee State, Johnson stopped the Tigers in a string of games, finishing with 11 tackles and two sacks. What a way to end his career if he ended up with a similar game in Saturday’s final.