PULLMAN, Wash.- School and Big Sky Conference records fall as Eastern advances to host Sam Houston State in semifinals of FCS Playoffs
Fortunately, the Eastern Washington University football team had a dab more ebb and flow.
The Eagles had scoring runs of 28 and 14 unanswered points – and withstood an 18-point Redbird onslaught -- to defeat Illinois State 51-35 in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs Saturday (Dec. 8) at Roos Field in Cheney, Wash.
Junior quarterback Kyle Padron passed for 358 yards and a school-record six touchdown passes, including three to junior wide receiver Brandon Kaufman, who finished with nine receptions for a 191 yards. In the process, Kaufman broke the EWU and Big Sky single season records for reception yards with a current total of 1,635 yards.
"Their talent is obvious," said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin. "You can see the talent in both these two guys. More than anything, they have guts and heart. That's what means the most."
The win advances Eastern to the semifinals and the Eagles will host Sam Houston State at Roos Field next Saturday (Dec. 15) at 1 p.m. Pacific time. The game will be televised on ESPNU/ESPN Gameplan.
Tickets will go on sale starting Monday (Dec. 10) at 10 a.m. For fans who agreed to purchase tickets to all three playoff games, the cost is $20 for premium seating in sections C&D, $15 for sections A/B/E&F, $15 for end zone and $10 for east side seating (behind visitor bench) The cost will be $5 more per ticket for first-time buyers. Tickets may be purchased via www.ticketswest.com or 1-800-325-Seat.
A limited number of free student tickets will be available starting Monday at 10 a.m. at the EWU Bookstore in Cheney. A valid student ID is required to obtain the tickets, which are underwritten by the Associated Students of EWU.
Eastern trailed in the second quarter 17-10, but was able to take a 24-17 lead at halftime with a touchdown with 10 seconds left. Taking advantage of a Redbird interception in the third quarter by Eastern junior Ronnie Hamlin, Kaufman then caught TD passes of 47 and 17 yards within 15 seconds of each other to give EWU a 38-17 lead.
But after Illinois State scored 18 unanswered points to pull within 38-35, Kaufman struck again with a 76-yard TD reception. Padron added a 10-yard TD pass to Ashton Clark with 7:42 left to close out the scoring.
"I am just so proud of the guys for how hard they fought and how they kept responding. When you get down to the final eight in the country, you know there are going to be some highs and lows in a football game. That game had a lot of emotion, momentum swings and things that happened. Our guys found ways to make plays whenever it felt like we were losing the momentum. No one panicked on the sideline.
Kaufman had just three catches for 20 yards in the first half, then exploded with six grabs for 171 yards in the second half. His 191 yards ranks as the 12th most in school history. Averaging 19.5 yards per catch with 13 TDs this season, he broke the previous EWU season school record of 1,453 yards held by Eric Kimble in 2004, and the previous Big Sky record of 1,525 yards set by Tim Toone in 2008.
It was Kaufman's 18th career game with 100 yards or more receiving, including his 10th this season.
Padron completed 19-of-33 passes, and his six touchdowns tied the EWU single-game previous record held by Matt Nichols (8/31/07 vs. Montana-Western) and Rob James (11/1/86 vs. Weber State).
"It's going to come down to guts, heart and mental toughness when things are on the line," Baldwin added of his dynamic duo. "When we needed it the most they stepped up and made those types of plays. They took shots to the face, broke tackles, and did whatever they have to do.
"They will be the first to say they are not the only two," he continued. "It took a total team effort. It took all sorts of guys on both sides of the football and special teams to get this done. These two guys were great in terms of their guts and mental toughness."
Sophomore running back Quincy Forte added 116 yards on just seven carries (16.6 per carry), including a 57-yarder. Senior Greg Herd added four catches for 74 yards, and Clark, tight end Zack Gehring and Daniel Johnson also had touchdown catches from Padron.
Hamlin finished with 10 tackles to go along with his interception, and junior safety Allen Brown had nine stops. Junior cornerback T.J. Lee had eight tackles, a forced fumble and two passes broken up. Eastern's defensive line also recorded a pair of sacks and the Eagles finished with seven quarterback hurries. Senior defensive end Jerry Ceja had three of the hurries and a sack.
MORE GAME NOTES
At 8:45 in the first quarter, junior wide receiver Daniel Johnson put Eastern on the board with his first TD catch of the season, and the first of his career. He now has five catches on the season for 81 yards.
With his 20-yd field goal in the first quarter, Jimmy Pavel set the EWU school record for single-season field goals at 17. The previous record of 16 was set last year by Mike Jarrett.
Redshirt freshman Shaquille Hill suffered a separated shoulder while blocking for Cory Mitchell on his 67-yd kickoff return in the second quarter. Hill returned to the game, but did not return kickoffs.
Kaufman also moved into second in the EWU all-time career record book with 3,350 reception yards. He surpassed Aaron Boyce's (2006-09) total of 3,330 career reception yards. Kaufman also moved into the No. 3 position in EWU history for career TD catches, now with 29. He is three behind the No. 2 position, held by teammate Nicholas Edwards (32).
Eastern defensive end Jerry Ceja moves into fourth in the EWU single season record book for sacks, now with 12.5 in 2012 campaign.
With Eastern's 51-35 win against Illinois State in the quarterfinals of the 2012 FCS Playoffs, the Eagles improve to 11-2 on the season, marking just the third time in school history EWU has had 10 or more wins in a single season. Eastern finished the 2010 national championship season at 13-2, and the 1997 season at 12-2.
In November and beyond, Eastern is now 13-0 since 2010, and 22-3 since 2007.
Eastern's victory over Illinois State was the 11th FCS Playoff win for EWU since its first postseason appearance as a Division I school in 1985.
Illinois State quarterback Matt Brown set his school's single season school records for completions (254), yards (3,137) and touchdowns passes (26).
With 148 yards, Illinois State wide receiver Tyrone Walker had his seventh 100-yard receiving game of the season.