EWU’s Plucky Game Marred by Cheap Shot on Adams

Vernon Adams on the move

Eastern Washington fought the Ducks fiercely and cleverly Saturday, but a surprisingly competitive game was ruined by a cheap hit on Oregon quarterback Vernon Adams by one of his former teammates. After Adams scrambled for seven yards and slid to the ground untouched, EWU sophomore rover John Kreifels dove on top of him, delivering a helmet to helmet hit that left Adams unable to walk upright for some time. Kreifels was immediately ejected, but then taunted the crowd as it booed, by making the “bring it on” motion with his hands.

Oregon quarterback Vernon Adams (3) and running back Royce Freeman (21) run the bread-and-butter, Saturday, September 5, 2015 at Autzen stadium.

Gary Breedlove

Oregon quarterback Vernon Adams (3) and running back Royce Freeman (21) running the bread-and-butter.

Coach Beau Baldwin, who had told reporters that Adams “was not welcome back” to EWU if academics prevented his transfer to Oregon, sprinted down the sideline to grab the defender and stop the taunting. He told FishDuck after the game:

“I probably ran the best forty I’ve run in a long time. Because when I saw, that was the worst part about it, to be honest with you. It was not OK. He should have been kicked out. He needs to go off humbly and learn from it, not act like that. So we’ll deal with that. There’s no question about it. And he heard, he got my message on that.”

EWU quarterback Jordan West, who was impressive as Adams’ replacement before leaving the game with cramps, agreed.

“You can’t do that. Even if you didn’t think the call was right, or whatever, just take it and get off the field.”

Is there any history between Kreifels and Adams from their time as teammates? Coach Baldwin said not.

“No, there’s no history. Johnny has a history with anyone on offense. And, he’s got to learn from that, though.”

He did imply that Kreifels had been told previously to temper his dangerous tackles.

“He’s probably one of the guys on the team that you’re having to teach not to lead [with his helmet] that way, and not do that, and he’s getting better … but then he got into a situation where the adrenaline was flowing, and he kind of lost his composure for a split second when he was running in.”

Kani Benoit escapes from the clutches of an Eagles defender.

Gary Breedlove

Kani Benoit escapes from the clutches of an Eagles defender.

The big star for Eastern Washington was wide receiver Cooper Kupp, who had 160 yards receiving in the first half alone. He finished with 246 yards and 3 touchdowns. Asked if he might follow his former QB to Oregon, Kupp hinted that they are more likely to meet up in the NFL next year.

“[Transferring is] not on the table. I’m either finishing at Eastern or I’m out of here, moving on with my career. That’s my mindset, but we’ve got a fun season ahead of us. So I’m excited to see the film [of this game] and learn from it.”

One of Kupp’s strength is yards after catch, as on the 73-yard bubble screen he took down to Oregon’s 2-yard line. His quarterback Jordan West just shook his head in amazement.

“I mean, you just give that guy the ball and he’ll do something special. I think he took one for 80 yards on a bubble, or whatever it was.”

Kupp explained the secret to his yards after catch:

“I don’t like getting tackled. That’s it. When you don’t like getting tackled, you’re going to try not to get tackled. It’s all just reaction, trying to react and making plays, and I try to take it as my responsibility. A lot of these balls come in early, we get a 5 or 10 yard catch, I want to double that. I take pride in running after the catch and running physical.”

Kupp and West were helped by coach Baldwin’s impressive offense, which gave the Ducks trouble all night. He said there’s no catchy name for it, no simple defining play.

Defensive backs Arrion Springs (1), Chris Seisay (12) and Reggie Daniels (8) celebrating.

Gary Breedlove

Defensive backs Arrion Springs (1), Chris Seisay (12) and Reggie Daniels (8) celebrating.

“To put a label on it, people … think because of the numbers it’s gotta be kind of a [shot]gun spread but it’s really not… It’s more of a multiple offense and we’ll mix. … We can go five wide and in this game did some four and five wide, but we feel strongly that we can also shift gears on you and get two and three tight ends in the ball game at different times. We’re not the warp speed Oregon is, but we definitely get into some up tempo stuff, and we try to change both speeds and personnel.”

Kupp agreed, noting that Oregon was a very tough opponent.

“Early on, it seemed like they were bringing a lot of field pressure, and we hit them with a quick screen, and take it quite a ways. … Their safeties were really taking away any kind of go routes in the slot, you know, gave us some problems at first, but we were able to come back and attack it a few different ways, and I thought we were very successful in the slot today.”

It’s just a shame that such an interesting schematic chess match was obscured by one bad play.

Top Photo by Gary Breedlove

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Mark Saltveit

Mark Saltveit

Mark Saltveit's newest book is "Controlled Chaos: Chip Kelly's Football Revolution" (Diversion Books, NY) has been recently released. He is the author of "The Tao of Chip Kelly" (2013) and writes on science, religion, wordplay and political scandals. He is also a standup comedian and the world palindrome champion.

  • John Goodwin

    Well played, Mark! Great angle with the EWU perspective on what was in fact quite a compelling contest; and one whose trajectory ought not have been a surprise to anyone who has seen the Screaming Eagles play even a little bit in the past several years.
    I disagree that the match was obscured by one bad play, however. Speedy violence and violent speed are woven into the chessboard on which big boy football is played. The board is now properly arrayed for another intersting schematic chess match in an altogether different and hostile environment next weekend in East Lansing.
    …. You have to like Eastern Washington’s chance to take one on the road from Northern Iowa next week, too.

    • Mark Saltveit

      We might have to disagree on your last point. The fact that Kreifels was immediately ejected certainly implies that he was outside the bounds of football’s accepted hard hitting.

      • John Goodwin

        Boggs and Mark:
        There is no question that Kreifels’ hit on Adams was dirty, premeditated and illegal. The offending player’s immediate ejection was entirely warranted and proper. But the point remains that senseless and self-defeating acts of violence are a commonplace in big time football, and especially in college football. Rare is the game in which no such penalty-provoking play occurs, (when Vontaze Burfict was at ASU, you could make book before kickoff that a minimum two such plays would occur).
        My point is only that in the Oregon-EWU game, Kreifels’ senseless and self-defeating act of violence did not obscure the interesting schematic chess match that had been unfolding over the previous 50 minutes or so. But it does provide a useful reminder of the seemingly random weird (expletive deleted)–senseless acts of violence and timely blessings from above alike–that is inherent to big time college football, and a big part of why we love it so.

        • Ethan Elson

          I think he was saying that the hit, as we all seem to agree was dirtier than a used pair of drawers, was the cherry on top of the “EW vs Adams and Oregon” story. after months of hype, and speculation, that hit is more or less how the story will go down: adams taken out by former teammate. but it could have had a peaceful resolution. had the hit not occurred, adams finishes the game, shakes hands, kisses babies… world peace.

          • Mark Saltveit

            Well said. At the same time, I take Joihn Goodwin’s point. (Is this the John Goodwin I knew from high school?)

            However you slice it, Vernon Adams should problem run up the middle of the field a little less often, especially toward the end of a game that was pretty well in hand. Really, he shouldn’t have been in there IMHO.

    • Boggs


      Watch the hit more carefully. John Kreifes specifically launches himself at Vernon’s head AFTER Vernon begins to slide. If you watch it carefully, you can see that no matter what there will be contact, but Kreifes takes an extra step with his left foot and launches his body at Vernon’s head. This extra step with the left foot occurs after it is very clear Vernon is sliding.