WHEN EASTERN WASHINGTON HAS THE BALL:
|Statistical Leaders||Eastern Washington|
|Passing||Matt Nichols: 280 Comp., 440 Att., 3,744 Yds., 34 TD, 9 Int.|
|Rushing||Dale Morris: 198 Att., 930 Yds., 12 TD
Matt Nichols: 129 Att., 392 Yds., 0 TD
Alexis Alexander: 52 Att., 267 Yds., 5 TD
|Receiving||Aaron Boyce: 85 Rec., 1,308 Yds., 10 TD
Brynsen Brown: 52 Rec., 755 Yds., 4 TD
Tony Davis: 35 Rec., 498 Yds., 4 TD
|Statistical Leaders||Texas Tech|
|Tackles||Marlon Williams: 81
Darcel McBath: 73
Brian Duncan: 69
|Sacks||Brandon Williams: 5.5
Rajon Henley: 4.5
Daniel Howard: 3.0
|Interceptions||Jamar Wall: 5
Darcel McBath: 2 Daniel Charbonnet: 1
Anthony Hines: 1
Eastern Washington Passing Offense v. Texas Tech Passing Defense: No question who the leader of this offense is in Matt Nichols. Nichols has good size (6'2"/220), is capable of throwing the ball down the field, and can run as well. Don't be surprised when you leave this game thinking that Nichols is a helluva quarterback, because he is. I don't know if he has any pro potential, but he gets it done at EWU. EWU has their own version of Harrell-Crabtree as Nichols primary target is Aaron Boyce, who had 85 catches and 1,308 yards and 10 touchdowns. Boyce isn't a small receiver (6'3"/215) and Texas Tech corner backs should be well-versed in covering a big receiver with play-making ability. Brynsen Brown and Tony Davis round out the top receiving play makers for EWU.
Texas Tech may have more depth at defensive back than any other position. The defense is led by junior cornerback Jamar Wall and senior free safety Darcel McBath. Daniel Charbonnet and LaRon Moore should round out the starting 4, with Brent Nickerson, Marcus Bunton, and Pete Richardson who should all see time at cornerback, while Anthony Hines and Jordy Rowland should also see time at the safety positions. The Red Raiders were 1st in the Big 12 in passing defense and there's no reason why that trend shouldn't continue, despite EWU's more than capable offense.
Advantage: Texas Tech
Eastern Washington Rushing Offense v. Texas Tech Rushing Defense: EWU is actually pretty good at running the ball, behind senior running back Dale Morris, who rushed for 930 yards last year and is the little brother to Seattle Seahawks running back Maurice Morris. EWU's second leading rushing is Nichols and for the year, the Eagles were 50th in the nation in rushing. Statistically speaking, EWU was a good rushing team, but not a great rushing team.
Here's the deal that I think some folks are overlooking is that EWU only returns 1 starter on the offensive line from last year. There are some guys on the line who have started before, but the long and short of it is that Texas Tech's defensive line should dominate EWU's. The Eagles are going to be young and inexperienced. EWU's biggest offensive lineman is right tackle John Thomas (6'5"/300) and this should be a welcome change for the Texas Tech defensive linemen. We have no idea how well EWU is going to run the ball, and although this probably belongs in the category above, there's a pretty good chance that Texas Tech is going to rush and pressure the hell out of Nichols.
The Texas Tech rush defense isn't great and nothing would please me more than to see the Red Raiders absolutely shut down EWU. Again, it's not like we're talking about shutting down a BCS powerhouse, but it would be a nice way to starting things off by focusing on the run and not letting EWU gain any advantage in the running game. Everything is in place for this unit to improve upon a national 82nd finish last year. Returning are defensive tackles Colby Whitlock and Rajon Henley. We all hope that Chris Perry can contribute, while Richard Jones backs up Henley. The coaching staff has been toying with the idea of putting Brandon Sesay at defensive tackle and think this game would be a great place to see how Sesay reacts in a game.
At the ends, Jake Ratliff returns as does Brandon Williams. Personally, I'm looking for more production from both of these guys and would love to see Williams in double-digit sacks, or at least close to that, by the end of the year. There are a lot of backup options at DE, with Sesay, Sandy Riley, Daniel Howard, McKinner Dixon and Brandon Sharpe. Lots of depth and lots of options if someone isn't stepping up. My only request is that whoever is playing at end, contain the quarterback, don't just rush blindly up the field giving Nichols a lane to run. We don't need OSU version 2008 with a talented running quarterback at the helm.
At linebacker, Bront Bird, Brian Duncan, and Marlon Williams look to improve on last year, with Williams being the only junior. Julius Howard has impressed in fall camp thus far and I think the coaches view Howard as a playmaker and it wouldn't at all surprise me to see him get quite a few snaps. Blake Collier and Victor Hunter round out the remaining backups.
Advantage: Texas Tech