EASTERN TURNOVERS TOO MUCH TO OVERCOME
By Pierre LaBossire
Observer Staff Writer
The Eastern Oregon defense held time and again in the second half against a high-powered attack from Menlo College, but in the end, five turnovers and a spectacular sliding catch in the back corner of the end zone were too much for the Mountaineers to overcome.
Eastern, which only held the ball for 25 minutes of the game because of all those turnovers, outplayed the Oaks in many ways, but lost 24-21.
"We never got good field position without earning it," said Head Coach Jim Fenwick. "We had some chances and opportunities. It was a real tough game to lose."
The three fumbles and two interceptions killed excellent field position on at least three occasions. In addition to the turnovers, Eastern had an interception overturned because of a pass interference call.
The defense, which held on eight plays inside the 10-yard line against Montana-Western last week as the Mountaineers staged a 21-14 upset, played another stellar game.
Menlo College gained 570 yards in its season opener, and against Eastern, it looked like the Oaks were going to run wild again as they tallied 210 yards and 17 points in the first quarter. But, after the first quarter, the Eastern defense stiffened, as the Oaks managed just 112 yards of offense the rest of the game.
"We played with a lot of effort. You have to tip your hat to Menlo. They were very well prepared," said Fenwick.
An amazing touchdown catch by the Oaks' Marvin Stickel with 12:18 left in the game provided the winning score for Menlo. The Eastern defense, which had been making big plays all game, looked like it was going to make another huge play. Eastern was holding onto a 21-17 lead and Menlo drove down to the 9-yard line, but Eastern pushed the Oaks back to the 19-yard line after a couple of defensive stops and a penalty on Menlo.
Menlo quarterback Frank Borba was flushed out of the pocket on a 3rd-and-19 play and sprinted the sideline with several Eastern defenders in hot pursuit.
It looked for sure as if he was going to be forced to throw the ball away, but he made an off-balance throw to the back corner of the end zone, and Stickel came out of nowhere, dragging his toes as he caught the ball with most of his body splayed out-of-bounds. The crowd didn't like it, but the refs said he had his toes in-bounds and the play was called a TD.
Eastern certainly didn't give up. The defense held again minutes later. Menlo drove down to the 7-yard line and seemed poised for a game-clinching score, but Nick Hannah sacked Borba for a 14-yard loss on a fourth-and-four to force a turnover on downs with 10 minutes left. It was the fifth sack of the day for the Mountaineers.
After that big play, the Eastern offense could never muster a long drive. One drive ended in a punt, the second in an interception and the next drive made it just past midfield as time ran out.
Eastern rebounded from a tough first quarter, dominating the second and third quarters. The Mountaineers scored right before the end of the half on a trick play. Wideout Jacoby Fox was pitched the ball and he threw a 19-yard strike to a diving Damien Johnson to make it 17-14 at the half.
Eastern took the lead at the 7-minute mark of the third quarter after a quick drive. Major Caldwell, who gained 104 yards on 16 carries and scored two touchdowns, ran the ball in from four yards out to make it 21-17.
Eastern quarterback Aaron Hazel was 17-for-33 for 172 yards. Johnson had two catches for 54 yards, while Kenny Davis had five catches for 40 yards.
Eastern next plays Willamette in Salem at 1:30 p.m. Saturday.
Menlo College 24, Eastern Oregon 21
Menlo College 17 0 0 7 24
Eastern Oregon 7 7 7 0 21
MC Ray DeSenna 27 FG, 11:18
MC Duane Miller 6 run (DeSenna kick), 8:28
EOU Major Caldwell 12 run (Josh Clark kick), 7:21
MC Frank Borba 1 run (DeSenna kick), 1:41
EOU Damien Johnson 19 pass from Jacoby Fox (Clark kick), 0:16
EOU Caldwell 4 run (Clark kick), 7:09
MC Marvin Stickel 19 pass from Borba (DeSenna kick), 12:18
First downs 20 22
Rushes-yards 41-101 32-99
Passing yards 221 191
Comp-att-int 22-33-0 18-34-2
Punts 7-38.1 5-46.8
Fumbles-lost 3-1 3-3
Punt returns-yards 2-25 3-18
Kickoff returns-yards 4-75 4-124
Penalties-yards 11-78 5-50
Third-down conversions 8 of 18 7 of 15
Fourth-down conversions 1 of 2 2 of 2
Sacks byyards lost 1-6 5-48
Time of possession 34:27 25:33
RUSHING Menlo College, Miller 25-95, Kevin Jones 2-19, Mike Andreacchi 1-(-1), Borba 12-(-10), Team, 1-(-2). EOU, Caldwell 16-104, Ryan Teicheira 3-5, Justin Alsterlund 6-3, D. Johnson 4-0, Aaron Hazel 2-(-6), Cameron Ketner 1-(-7).
PASSING Menlo College, Borba 22-33-0-221. EOU, Hazel 17-33-2-172, Fox 1-1-0-19.
RECEIVING Menlo College, Andre O'Neill 6-53, Stickel 3-55, Miller 3-26, Jones 3-15, Justin Rhodes 2-28, Andreacchi 2-23, Joey Risi 1-19, Vinny Benedett 1-2, Dustin Cabico 1-0. EOU Kenny Davis 5-40, Fox 4-42, Alsterlund 3-9, D. Johnson 2-54, TaShawn Dickerson 2-19, Andre McIntosh 1-14, Brett Richards 1-13.