CWU News

CWU Football to Host Azusa Pacific University on Saturday

The top two teams in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference (GNAC) preseason coaches' poll square off on the gridiron Saturday, when Central Washington University hosts Azusa Pacific University. Kickoff Saturday is set for 1:00 p.m. Two hours before kickoff, at 11:00 a.m., the new CWU Fan Zone, at the south end of the field, will open. Located adjacent to the Cat's Den tent, it offers a variety of food and beverage options, with some vendors also providing entertainment. The Fan Zone, which is open to all fans, will remain open through halftime.

It will be the only meeting this season between CWU (2-2, 1-0 GNAC), which is after its eighth GNAC title in 12 years, and APU (3-1, 0-0 GNAC), which is seeking its second straight conference crown. The Cougars were picked as the conference's top team in the GNAC preseason coaches' poll, while the Wildcats were tabbed second.

Both teams are coming off victories in their most recent games. The Wildcats clobbered the Clan of Simon Fraser University 63-7 at the inaugural Battle for the Border, presented by the Washington National Guard, at Pop Keeney Stadium in Bothell.

The Wildcats recorded a feat that, likely, will never be exceeded—or even matched—in that game by blocking back-to-back punts, which were then returned for touchdowns. Defensive back Cedrique Chaney (6-0, 197, Jr., Kelso) blocked the first kick that wide receiver Austin Pernell (5-9, 200, Fr., Kent) recovered for a 20-yard score. Chaney then followed that up with a five-yard, blocked-punt recovery for a TD. For his efforts, he was named the GNAC Special Teams Player of the Week.

CWU produced 541 yards of offense against SFU—300 through the air and 241 on the ground. Running back Ishmael Stinson (5-11, 200, Sr., Gig Harbor/Charles Wright Academy), who was playing his first game of the 2014 season, led all ground gainers with 117 yards on 11 carries with a touchdown. Jordan Todd (5-6, 180, Jr., Bellevue/Interlake), who broke the 2,000-yard mark for his CWU career, also scored two rushing touchdowns. Todd's six running scores are No. 19 nationally.

Sophomore quarterback Jake Nelson (6-2, 210, Lake Stevens) connected on 15 of 25 passes for 288 yards and three touchdowns, including two in the second half to Jesse Zalk (5-8, 160, So., Battle Ground/Prairie).

"When we looked as his [Nelson's] grade, this was the highest he's graded out since I've been here," said first-year CWU head coach Ian Shoemaker. "We were 75, 76 percent on third down. Jake is playing at a high level when that's happening. Some of those were long down-and-distance situations and he was still getting first downs."

Greg Logan (5-10, 181, Sr. Graham/Graham-Kapowsin) made eight grabs for 167 yards, including the other Nelson TD reception, which was Logan's first scoring grab of the year. With his 30 catches this season, Logan is No. 14 this week nationally in reception per game. His 456-receiving yards are the 13th highest total in the country.

"He's fearless," Shoemaker said of Logan. "We've put him in some tight spots and he goes and catches the ball. He's not the tallest or fastest kid that we have on the team, but he does understand what we're trying to get done. We can align him at a number of different positions and that has increased our options in the ways in which we can use him in the pass game."

The 63 points CWU scored against SFU was the highest point total since the Cats defeated Fort Lewis (Colo.) 75-41 at the 2002 Rodeo Bowl in Tomlinson Stadium.

APU also won Saturday at Dixie State University, in St. George, Utah, 42-23, as the Cougars produced five scoring drives of at least 70 yards.

Senior running back Terrell Watson, the GNAC's 2013 rushing champion, ran for 187 yards and three TDs on 30 carries, leading a Cougar offense that piled up 308 rushing yards and 444 yards of total offense.

"They've got a great running game with the tailback, Watson, and their quarterback [Chad Jeffries] is a pretty athletic kid who makes good decisions and is running the ball well in the zone-read run game," Shoemaker acknowledged.

On the season, Watson, the 2013 GNAC Offensive Player of the Year, has rumbled for 625 yards, the country's ninth-best total, and seven touchdowns, which is No. 13 in the nation. As a team, the Cougars are averaging 230 yards per game on the ground, the 25th best total in the country.

"Trying to stop the run is paramount in our defensive structure," Shoemaker continued. "We're trying to fill the gaps and make it difficult for people to run and then use the talents of our perimeter players to bat down some balls and make plays in the pass game."

The past two weeks, the Wildcats have made those plays for Shoemaker, intercepting seven passes and returning three of them for touchdowns. True freshman Deion Stell (5-10, 166, Marysville/Marysville-Pilchuck) came up with two picks against Simon Fraser, including a 78-yard interception return for a score.

When Central has the ball Saturday against APU, it may be like looking in the mirror for the Wildcats, who will face a defense that Shoemaker called "swarming."

"They have a really good group of guys up front," he added. "Schematically, they're similar to what we do; very similar in scheme and talent."

Last year, the teams split the season series, with each winning on the road. The Wildcats came away with a 7-3 win at Citrus Stadium, in Glendora, Calif., while APU earned a 24-17 win at Tomlinson Stadium.

At the Battle for the Border game, the Wildcats also wore their entirely black uniforms for the first time. The team's new black tops will be paired with crimson pants Saturday, which will mark the 10th meeting between the Wildcats and Cougars in a series that dates back to 1997. CWU has won six of the previous nine catfights, including two of the three played at Tomlinson Stadium.