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The Observer paper 11/21/14

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Eastern Oregon University faces its third straight regional football power this week, but the Mountaineers will have just a bit of extra incentive.

Eastern travels to Spokane to play Whitworth at the Pine Bowl at 1 p.m. Saturday. The Pirates beat the Mountaineers 21-20 in La Grande last season after trailing in the fourth quarter 20-7.

These two teams have met 29 times over the years, and Eastern holds a 14-13-2 edge.

Whitworth (5-2 overall, 2-1 in the Division III Northwest Conference) has a powerful offense. Eastern (0-7) is coming off two games in a row against teams that average more than 500 yards a game (Linfield and Carroll), and Whitworth won't give the Mountaineers much of a break, as the Pirates average 381.7 yards a game.

However, Whitworth is struggling on defense as the Pirates are giving up 383 yards a game.

Based on results against a couple of common opponents, these two teams could be much more evenly matched than their win-loss records might suggest. Both of Whitworth's losses came against teams that beat Eastern.

Whitworth was beaten 21-7 by Pacific Lutheran, while the Lutes beat Eastern 24-17. Whitworth also lost to Montana-Western 31-28. Montana-Western beat Eastern by the same margin — 24-21.

The Pirates have a triple threat of offensive stars they'll throw at Eastern. Running back Bill Condon has gained 560 yards on 147 carries, while quarterback Scott Biglin has thrown for 12 touchdowns and is averaging 229.9 passing yards a game.

Wide receiver Dwayne Tawney has been tearing up defenses this year. He has caught 56 passes for 922 yards for an outstanding average of 131.7 yards a game. He also has a solid 16.5 yard-per-catch average. Tawney caught two touchdown passes in the fourth quarter last year to beat Eastern.

Eastern is averaging 134.9 yards on the ground this year, and 154.1 yards through the air.

One of the Mountaineers' biggest concerns has been their passing defense, as they are giving up 283.4 yards per game through the air.

Sean VandeMerghel got the starting nod at quarterback last week against Carroll, and responded by completing 22-of-32 passes for 194 yards and two TDs.

Receiver Kenny Davis also had a big game last week, catching eight passes. He is now leading the Mountaineers in receptions with 26, for 264 yards and a 10.2 yard-per-catch average.


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