When Vernon Adams Jr. injured his right foot on the first Saturday of October, Eastern Washington football fans had to be wondering if the season would go down with him.
At the time of his injury, Adams had thrown for 2,157 yards, 24 touchdowns, and just four interceptions through six games, including a seven-touchdown performance in a near-upset of the University of Washington. He was a finalist for the Walter Payton Award last season, and on the short list of favorites to win it this year, on pace for 4,314 yards, 48 touchdowns, and 8 picks.
He broke two bones in his foot during Eastern’s game against Idaho State, but stayed in the game and led his team to a 56-53 win. After it was done, Eagles head coach Beau Baldwin said, “Obviously I feel for Vernon and the situation. But I’m extremely proud of his mental and physical toughness to battle through that game.”
With Adams out for three to six weeks, redshirt sophomore Jordan West has stepped in and maintained the Eagles’ sterling FCS season.
In his debut at Southern Utah, West was 20-of-27 for 288 yards and three touchdowns in a 42-30 road victory.
“Jordan was awesome,” Baldwin said after his squad turned a 14-7 deficit into a 42-24 advantage in the fourth quarter. “We had guys sick and lots of players out, but we had a lot of players step up that at this point hadn’t had as many reps.”
West was solid again this weekend against Northern Colorado, and improved his team’s record to 7-1. The redshirt sophomore was 19-of-33 for 237 yards, one touchdown-toss, and no interceptions. He also had a nice 13-yard scramble, just for good measure.
West and the offense got a lot of help Saturday from a stingy defense that gave up only 306 yards of total offense and 15 first downs. They picked off Bears QB Sean Rubalcaba once, and allowed just 66 rushing yards on the day.
“We did a really good job setting the tone, and I love the way we started,” Baldwin said after his team moved to 4-0 in Big Sky play. “Sometimes in the past we struggle with how we start. We kept getting some early three-and-outs and held them out of the end zone. Even when they did go on a drive we held them to a field goal in the first half. I am proud of those guys with how hard they played, and I am proud of (defensive coordinator) John Graham and his staff with the plan they put together.”
West will need to continue his smart play next week as the Eagles hit the road to take on BR-35 Northern Arizona. The 4-3 Lumberjacks are coming off a 21-17 win at Portland State and need to win out to have any chance of making the playoffs.
There were a lot of questions about what would happen after Adams Jr. went down. One thing’s for certain this weekend in Flagstaff, Northern Arizona will have its hands full with Jordan West’s Eagles.