Coming into the game, some fans and media questioned whether or not a Red Raider offense without Mahomes could keep up with EWU.
Nic Shimonek started the game with quick passes that were completed but were low risk, low reward kind of plays. He also had trouble avoiding pressure, getting sacked twice in the first two possessions. However, once he got going with consecutive passes down the field to Willies, Shimonek got on a roll, completing his first 14 passes. By the time he was pulled for McLane Carter in the late 3rd quarter, he only had 4 incompletions and 3 passing scores. Carter was efficient as well, going 3-3 with a passing TD. The trio of quarterbacks that saw the field combined for almost 450 yards with zero interceptions.
The running game was virtually non-existent last season, but played a huge part in the win this week. Not only did 7 backs combine for 181 yards, but Desmond Nisby emerged as a huge threat, averaging almost 10 yards per rush on just 6 carries. The play action and run-pass option plays forced the EWU defenders to respect the run, which opened up the passing game. Stockton also performed well, running hard into contact when he needed to, and breaking a big run when the space allowed it.
Before the game started, it was announced that starting left tackle Travis Bruffy would miss the game due to an illness. The line performed well for being a new unit. One of the sacks allowed was from a completely unblocked defender, something that both the QB and line need to be able to recognize. However, they were able to get a good push on running plays, allowing Nisby and Stockton to pile up the yards. Penalties were something that haunted the line last year, and this week, there were only 2 holding calls, and a false start, which is a big improvement.
The group of receivers came into this season with the high hopes of becoming the best in the conference. Willies and Coutee showed the reason why. Willies was a true outside threat, giving Shimonek a big target that got the offense clicking early, and was wide open for a long 75-yard yard score. Coutee’s speed is a true killer, with a long 68 yard score, most of which was after he caught the ball. Together they combined for 225 yards on just 9 catches. Overall, 13 members of the team had receptions as the quarterbacks spread the ball around. Dropped passes weren’t an issue this week, but there was an illegal block and a false start by the corps.