Football falls in final minutes to #12 Eastern Washington
GREELEY, Colo. – Two late turnovers helped lift the 12th-ranked Eastern Washington Eagles over Northern Colorado on Friends and Family Weekend. The Bears (2-5, 1-4 Big Sky) had a fumble and an interception in the final 1:15 as the Eagles (5-2, 4-1 Big Sky) scored the winning touchdown with just 41 seconds left for the 35-28 victory.
"Obviously, it's a disappointment to lose the game," said Head Coach Scott Downing. "I thought we battled hard all game long. At the end there, we were trying to make some plays. We were playing aggressively on offense. We didn't want to sit on the ball and play for overtime so I told our guys to go for it. Certainly it didn't feel like we would turn the ball over there, but I have to give hats off to (junior quarterback) Dylan Orms. He was trying to make a play when he fumbled it and his last interception when we were running out of time he was trying to make a play.
"I thought our players did a great job in practice this week. I thought our coaches did a good job and we put ourselves in a position to win the game. I don't think I ever saw any let up in our players all day long. They were very positive on the sideline, they kept working and hats off to them. It was nice to have (senior running back) Andre Harris back, it was nice to have Dylan Orms back there in the pocket throwing the ball, so once we get some consistency going here, we've got a chance to have some very good ball games coming up here in the next four weeks."
Orms, who missed the game last week with a knee injury, completed 18-of-29 passes for 199 yards and one touchdown. He also carried the ball 15 times for 41 yards and another touchdown. Orms hit sophomore Jace Davis seven times for 90 yards and junior Patrick Walker five times for 63 yards.
Using a little bit of deception, Davis also completed a 30-yard pass to Walker for a touchdown, which at the time gave the Bears a 14-7 lead in the first quarter.
Sophomore Dominic Gunn had the best day of his career, returning four kickoffs for 151 yards, including a career-best 53 yard return in the second quarter and a 51-yard return after the Eagles tied the score at 28-28 with 3:08 on the clock. His 151 yards is the second-most in school history behind the 179 from Johnny Watkines against Saint Cloud State in 1983. Gunn also had two punt returns for 10 yards for a total of 161 all-purpose yards and he now has over 1,000 all-purpose yards for his career at 1,018.
Defensively, senior linebacker John Eddy led the team with nine total tackles, while junior cornerback Colby Riggins tallied a career-best eight stops. Senior defensive end Ethan Davis had a sack and forced a fumble, while junior cornerback Elliott Dorsey recovered a fumble and senior cornerback Korey Askew had an interception.
Harris scored two of the team's four touchdowns on the day, catching the first and rushing for the second to give him eight TDs this season and 15 for his career. He becomes the first NC player since Brandon Smith against Texas State on Sept. 20, 2008 to have both a rushing and receiving touchdown in the same game.
Senior receiver Matt McDonnell made his return to the Bears lineup, catching two passes for 44 yards. He missed the first six games of the year due to an injury.
Northern Colorado led 14-7 after the first quarter, but the Eagles did all of the scoring in the second frame, taking a 21-14 lead into the locker rooms at halftime. After the break, Dorsey recovered a fumble on the kickoff, setting up the one-yard TD run by Orms to knot the score at 21-21.
With 12:07 on the clock, Harris crossed the goal line to give the Bears the 28-21 advantage, but the two Eagle scores in the final 3:08 helped them escape Greeley with the victory.
EWU running back Taiwan Jones, a candidate for the Walter Payton Award, led the game with 168 rushing yards and three touchdowns. Colorado native Brandon Kaufman led the team with five catches for 94 yards and a TD. Linebacker J.C. Sherritt, a candidate for the Buck Buchanan Award, tallied a game-best 14 tackles an interception and a sack, while Zach Johnson had 13 tackles and a pick.
The Bears hit the road for the next two games, playing at #10 Montana State next week and stepping out of Big Sky play for the final time at South Dakota the following Saturday.
"I'm excited about where they're (the team) is going. I don't like losing like that but we were playing a very, very good Eastern Washington team. I would say this, many people have counted this team out already, counted Northern Colorado out and we're far from that. There's a lot of football left to be played and we'll play it. We'll go up to Bozeman next week and we'll play another very, very good Montana State that's ranked in the top ten in the country and we'll give it everything we've got."