E Washington pulls away from Jacksonville St 35-24
Vernon Adams was still kicking himself over throwing two
momentum-killing interceptions when he got a glimpse how easily
things could have been worse.
It happened early in the fourth quarter of Eastern Washington’s
35-24 Football Championship Subdivision quarterfinal victory over
Jacksonville State, when his teammate Albert Havili returned an
interception 77 yards for the clinching touchdown.
”It’s looking like they’re driving down to take the lead,”
said Adams, the Eagles’ Payton Award finalist, ”and just like that
Albert knocks the wind out of them. He makes that pick and we’re
going crazy on the sidelines.”
The freshman linebacker’s big play backed a 190-yard rushing day
by Quincy Forte and gave the third-seeded Eagles one more home game
next Saturday against seventh-seeded Towson in the FCS semifinals.
The winner earns a trip to Frisco, Texas, for the national
championship game on Jan. 4.
Jacksonville State (11-4) had made things hard on the Eagles in
the first half behind the running and passing of Eli Jenkins, but
lost the freshman quarterback to a knee injury shortly before
halftime. Backup Max Shortell passed for 173 yards in the second
half, but threw two interceptions and the Gamecocks managed just a
field goal the rest of the way. They also lost rushing leader
DaMarcus James to a thigh bruise early in the third quarter.
Jenkins rushed for 118 yards and completed 12 of 14 passes
before his exit, including a 10-yard touchdown to Anthony Johnson
as Jacksonville State built a 21-14 lead in the second quarter.
”We always have a plan, because there are things that Max can
do,” said Jacksonville State coach Bill Clark. ”I would just like
to have seen what happens with Eli in there.”
Before Jenkins’ injury, Adams marched the Eagles 77 yards for
the tying score, connecting with Ashton Clark on a 41-yard
touchdown. Forte then crashed in from 7 yards out for the second of
his two touchdowns on the first possession of the third quarter,
giving the Eagles the lead for good.
That was also the last damage done by Eastern Washington’s
powerful offense, which rolled up 545 yards but hurt itself with
three turnovers, including a fumble and an interception in the end
”When you’re facing one of the best eight teams in the country,
games are going to have that choppy feel and they’re not always
going to be perfect,” said Eastern Washington coach Beau Baldwin.
”You just have to find ways to win and our guys have been great at
Adams, the FCS passing efficiency leader, completed 18 of 29
passes for 324 yards, 181 of those coming on 11 completions to
Clark. Adams also connected on a 29-yard scoring pass in the first
quarter to Cooper Kupp, the freshman receiver’s 21st touchdown
reception of the season.