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Vernon Smith ().
Vernon Smith ().

By Joe Sova

Sports Editor

One thing that a football team cannot afford to do is get complacent after a win, and Eastern Oregon University is not about to let that happen.

The Mountaineers, coming off a 45-14 opening victory over Menlo College, host Willamette University at 1 p.m. Saturday at Community Stadium. The game will include Parents' Day activities.

EOU took advantage of seven Menlo College turnovers in the opener, scoring 45 unanswered points after giving up an early touchdown on a blocked punt. The Mountaineers did not have a turnover.

"We have a lot of work to do," interim head coach Travis Baker said. "We made a crucial special teams error early in the game of getting a punt blocked. That's something that can't happen.

"I thought offensively and defensively we did a lot of good things," the coach added.

Baker indicated that allowing the Oaks 25 first downs was not a critical statistic.

"The seven turnovers and taking care of the football put us in a good position," Baker said. "The first downs are a lot of things we gave up underneath (on short passes)."

EOU limited the Oaks to six net yards rushing.

"Anytime you can hold a team to six yards on 25 carries that really makes them pretty one-dimensional," Baker said. "We got them to throw the ball 60 times."

Eastern had three quarterback sacks, all on blitzes, according to the coach.

"I think we're capable of getting more out of our four-man rush," Baker said. "We did give up a couple of first downs on blown coverages underneath, but overall I thought we handled them pretty well."

Senior cornerback Vernon Smith, a transfer from the University of Montana, intercepted three Menlo passes – returning two of them for touchdowns – tying and setting school records in those areas, respectively. Delainy Durgin picked off two Oaks passes.

Baker was pleased with the play of the offensive line, which helped Damien Johnson and Justin Alsterlund rush for a combined 189 yards. Quarterback Scott Jensen kept the ball for another 61 yards.

"I thought they did a great job. We opened up some holes. Our young guys in particular I was happy with," Baker said of the line.

The coach singled out tackle Josh Packard of Meridian, Idaho, for his play in his first college game.

Jensen was lauded for his offensive execution against Menlo College.

"Scott did a great job. The game plan didn't call for much passing when you have that big a lead," Baker said, "but he played within himself."

Taking care of the football will again be a key for the Mountaineers Saturday.

"We feel like if we're plus-two or better in the ball game we have a great chance to win it," Baker said. "Those turnovers are so telling of a stat and field position is going to be critical in this game."

Baker added that creating turnovers is a great way to give the offense good field position.

Willamette comes in 0-2

Willamette lost its first two games of the season. The Bearcats were dominated by Western Oregon in their opener, and they lost to Mary Hardin Baylor last week in double overtime.

"These guys are so much different. They get you out of some of your base stuff that you due because of that fly offense," Baker said. "It's difficult to simulate in practice."

Cameron Walton, a 5-foot-11, 200-pound junior, runs the Bearcat offense.

"They've been very successful running the football. Their quarterback this year adds a whole other dimension to their offense," Baker said of Walton. "He's a threat they didn't have last year."

Baker knows that Willamette plays aggressive defense.

"These guys are going to come after you .... They're going to try to take you out of your run game," Baker said. "You've got to try to maintain some kind of a balance in your play calling, and you've got to find a way to run the football so you don't become one-dimensional."

Baker said it was determined that senior running back Eddie Robinson is academically ineligible this season. Would-be starting senior free safety Shane Olsen and several other student athletes are also ineligible.


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