CHENEY, Wash. Bob Biggs has been around football long enough not to panic after one bad quarter and too long to know that one good quarter is enough to win a game.
The last trip for the veteran UC Davis coach ended in disappointment when Brady Stuart's last-minute, 52-yard field-goal try was blocked, allowing fifth-ranked Eastern Washington to escape with a 31-28 victory on a freezing Saturday afternoon.
"A tough loss it's been the story this year," said Biggs, whose 35-year career, 20 as the head coach of the Aggies, ends next week with the Causeway Classic. "We played really spirited, tough football today. It's a shame. I feel badly for the players and the coaching staff. They've worked so hard and we're so close; we just can't get over the hump in these games, against good teams."
Eastern Washington (8-2, 7-1 Big Sky Conference) scored the last 14 points of the game, a 51-yard pass from backup quarterback Kyle Padron to Greg Herd in the third quarter and a nine-yard bootleg by freshman quarterback Vernon Adams with 8:13 to play.
It was the third loss for the Aggies (3-7, 2-5) against ranked teams, all by eight points or fewer, plus two more to teams that later joined the Top 25.
"I wish I knew so we could fix it," junior quarterback Randy Wright said. "I want to say it's because we're young, but we're not. They're tough losses, but playing in these games is a lot of fun; you learn a lot about your team."
It was the long pass, on third and 15, that stung the most, according to Biggs, even though it only cut the Aggies' lead to 28-24.
"That really hurt us," he said. "We were playing pretty well up to that point. We got behind early, 14-3, but we weathered the storm. We showed great resolve, kept fighting. We got a lead, but they're a great football team. They've got playmakers."
The Aggies took a 25-14 lead at the half with a dominating second quarter in which they piled up 229 yards, hoarding the ball for almost 12 minutes, and outscored the Eagles 22-0. Eastern, which had a 159-49 advantage in yards after one quarter, picked up just 19 and no first downs in the second.
Wright connected on 24 of 43 passes for 289 yards, 193 in the second quarter alone, including a 72-yarder to Corey Galindo, who was alone behind the secondary. Dalton Turay added two short scoring runs to cap long drives.
"Dalton ran hard, breaking tackles, giving us inspiration; O-line was getting off, and I was being smart with the ball, taking my chances when I needed to," Wright said. "In the third quarter, they started blitzing us a little more, caught us in some bad protections, took a few sacks."
The Aggies ended up with a 15-minute advantage in time of possession and a 435-361 edge in total yards.