Eastern Washington-Sam Houston State: 2014 College Football Season Opens With A Bang

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditmail

Eastern Washington beat Sam Houston State, 56-35, in the first Div. I game of the 2014 college football season. The final score might indicate a one-sided blowout, but the end tally from Cheney, Washington, is deceptive.

There was also a lot more to take away from the season opener than apparent retinal damage inflicted on viewers by Eastern Washington’s Inferno.

Saturday’s shootout was a fast-paced, competitive back-and-forth between two annual FCS contenders that will again factor into the championship race.

Eastern Washington is a favorite to end North Dakota State’s run of national championships, and the Eagles didn’t disappoint. Quarterback Vernon Adams was not at midseason form–he overthrew open receivers on deep balls enough times that fine-tuning his touch will be a priority in upcoming practices–yet he still passed for over 300 yards and four touchdowns.

Adams showed off his explosiveness out of the pocket sparingly, gaining most of his 61 yards on a single play. But with running back Jalen Moore ripping off an incredible 10.8 yards per carry and two touchdowns, the Eagles’ run game was accounted for.

The second of Moore’s touchdowns gave Eastern Washington points No. 55 and 56, and thus the seemingly lopsided final. For those unfamiliar with FCS, specifically the dynamic between Eastern Washington and Sam Houston State in recent years, Moore punching in that final score with under a minute remaining might have seen like running up the score.

Sam Houston State probably wasn’t going to score 14 points in 13 seconds, but why leave it to chance? After all, this is a burgeoning FCS rival that saw Eastern Washington answer a 35-0 Sam Houston State lead in the 2012 Playoffs with 42 straight points.

Moreover, running up with the score is a concept that applies to a vastly superior team piling on an inferior opponent. Eastern Washington is ranked No. 1 in the Sports Network FCS Top 25 and a more refined team than Sam Houston State at present.

But make no mistake: the 2011 and 2012 national runner-up Bearkats will be back in the conversation come December.

Saturday was Sam Houston State’s first outing with head coach K.C. Keeler at the helm. Keeler has obvious issues to iron out; had Adams not suffered from overthrows, the Bearkats could have fallen behind big early. Eastern Washington’s talented receivers were able to routinely leak past Sam Houston State’s secondary.

Offensively, the Bearkats are going to be special once everything clicks. Sam Houston State lost running back Tim Flanders and quarterback Brian Bell in the offseason. The duo powered the Bearkats to their three straight playoff appearances and two title-game runs and left a huge void for the new staff to fill.

But Jared Johnson and Keshawn Hill look more than qualified of taking up the mantle Bell and Flanders carried. Hill read the seams on a breakaway, 79-yard touchdown to open the second quarter and Johnson was impressive scrambling.

Johnson threw 53 passes and averaged just six yards on his 31 receptions, and he was intercepted twice. Of course, a pick by former UCLA Bruins safety Tevin McDonald was about as incredible a defensive play as you’re going to see throughout the 2014 college football season.

EWU's Tevin McDonald hit the QB and caught an interception on the same play. It's impressive: http://t.co/qErPbBqsMX http://t.co/1sKlBY3EyC

— Dr. Saturday (@YahooDrSaturday) August 23, 2014

Once the new offense is fine-tuned, Sam Houston State is going to be back in that 40-plus point-per-game average. Heck, the Bearkats were just five points off that pace on Saturday.