Eagles advance to quarterfinals with 29-19 win over Wagner

Eagles win 52-51 thriller over Bobcats

Aside from a third-quarter burp, the Eastern Washington University passing offense was at its usual best.

Junior Kyle Padron passed for 327 yards and junior Brandon Kaufman caught 10 passes for 174 yards Saturday (Dec. 1) to defeat Wagner 29-19 in a second-round game in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs at Roos Field in Cheney, Wash.

Eastern advances to the quarterfinals, and will host Illinois State at “The Inferno” on Saturday, Dec. 8 at 3 p.m. Pacific time. The game will be broadcast on ESPN3. The Redbirds defeated Appalachian State 38-37 in overtime earlier Saturday in another second-round game. Eastern lost 31-14 in 1987 at Albi Stadium in Spokane, Wash., in the only other meeting between EWU and ISU.

Tickets will go on sale at 10 a.m. Monday (Dec. 3), and cost $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). Tickets may be purchased via www.ticketswest.com or 1-800-325-Seat. Season ticket holders and fans who indicated to the ticket office that they wanted their tickets automatically renewed do not need to call the Eastern ticket office, but will have their tickets left at will-call.

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 overcame two third-quarter turnovers that cost EWU its hard-earned 14-6 halftime lead. Padron led Eastern on TD drives of 80 and 75 yards in the first half, then scoring marches of 75 and 73 in the second half as EWU snapped the nine-game winning streak of the Seahawks.

With a penchant for pulling out victories, the Eagles will enter the quarterfinals with a 10-2 record. Eastern captured a share of the Big Sky Conference title and the league’s automatic playoff berth with a 7-1 league record. Of Eastern’s seven Big Sky wins this season, six came by a combined margin of 28 points – one by seven points, two six-point wins and a trio by just three points. On the other side of the coin, the Eagles are only seven points from an unbeaten season, having last-possession chances to pull out wins in both of their losses.

Wagner, coming off a 31-20 win over Colgate in the first round of the playoffs, finished its season 9-4.

Padron, making just his third start of the season and first since EWU’s second game of the season, completed 26-of-36 passes. Besides Kaufman’s 10 grabs, senior Greg Herd had five catches for 51 yards and senior Nicholas Edwards had five grabs for 48 yards.

Running back Demitrius Bronson added 76 yards rushing and a pair of short touchdown runs. Senior linebacker Zach Johnson led the defense with 11 tackles and a pass broken up, and junior linebacker Ronnie Hamlin added 10 tackles and broke-up a pair of passes.

Eastern lost the turnover battle 3-0, but out-gained Wagner 411-296 in total offense.

After a scoreless first quarter, Eastern responded after a Wagner field goal by driving 80 yards in nine plays to take the lead at 7-6. Padron passed 21 yards for a touchdown to sophomore tight end Ryan Seto, his first of the season and second of his career.

Late in the quarter, Eastern scored again on an 11-play, 75-yard drive, with Bronson scoring on a 1-yard run. But the 14-6 halftime lead didn’t hold up for long.

A rare interception by Padron led to a short 18-yard TD drive and pulled the Seahawks to within 14-13. Padron hadn’t thrown an interception in 121 attempts dating back to Sept. 22 against Weber State.

After an Eastern punt, Wagner kicked a field goal to take a 16-14 lead. Then, after an EWU fumble on the ensuing kickoff, another Seahawk field goal gave them a 19-14 lead with 2:59 left.

But Padron and Kaufman followed with a 75-yard TD march in seven plays, capped by a 3-yard run by Quincy Forte. The key play was a sensational 47-yard grab by Kaufman, who caught also caught a pass on the two-point conversion to give EWU the lead back at 22-19 entering the final quarter.

Wagner punted on its next drive, then EWU used a time-consuming 15-play, 73-yard drive to make it a two-possession game. The drive consumed 7:27 as Bronson ended the drive with a 2-yard TD run.