Clark County players key to E. Washington's upset of OSU

By Micah Rice, Columbian sports editor

Published:

 
photoAshton Miller

The game in the balance, Ashton Clark needed a better view.

The receiver stood atop the Eastern Washington bench as Oregon State prepared for a last-second field goal that would have tied the game on Saturday.

Three snapshots stand out in Clark's mind: The ball being kicked, the officials signaling no good, and then pandemonium.

"I just remember seeing our whole sideline rushing onto the field," Clark said by phone on Monday. "It was such a relief, and a little bit shocking that we did what we did."

What Eastern Washington did was become just the third FCS team to beat a ranked FBS (top-division) program. As one of last weekend's most entertaining games, the Eagles' 49-46 victory in Corvallis reverberated across the national college football scene.

Those ripples were especially strong in Clark County. Three players with local roots played significant roles in the Eagles' victory.

Clark, a senior from Heritage High School, was Eastern's leading receiver with nine catches for 155 yards and one touchdown. Senior guard Steven Forgette and senior center Ashton Miller anchored the offensive line for an Eagles team that generated 625 yards of total offense.

Forgette (6-4, 300) and Miller (6-2, 300) used to clash on the field at McKenzie Stadium when Forgette played for Heritage and Miller played for Evergreen. Now they have a chemistry that's crucial to an offense that averaged 472 yards a game last season, when the Eagles reached the FCS semifinals.

"With five across, so much goes on that you have to be on the same page," Forgette said. "There are times when it's loud and you can't communicate. You just trust that the other guy is going to be there."

Forgette and Miller became friends quickly after arriving on campus. Their bond deepened during their sophomore year when both suffered serious injuries. Miller tore his achilles tendon and Forgette broke his fibula. As roommates, the two supported and motivated each other during a rehabilitation process that lasted nearly a year.

"We spent a lot of time on the couch talking, keeping each other's head up," Miller said.

"It was nice to go through the rehab process with someone else," Forgette said. "We kept pushing each other, making sure the other guy didn't miss a treatment or workout."

Clark County's imprint on the Eastern Washington team has been deep for years. The Eagles' home stadium in Cheney is Roos Field, named after Mountain View grad Michael Roos. Currently in his ninth season with the Tennessee Titans, Roos donated $500,000 to have the turf at his college alma mater redone bright red in 2010.

Roos' legacy continues to inspire Clark County players at Eastern, of which there are six on the current roster.

"(Roos) put Eastern on the map for a lot of us," Clark said. "Like every other kid, you want to represent your hometown."

Eastern Washington has been a force at the FCS level for a decade. The Eagles have made the playoffs six times in nine years, winning a national title in 2010.

Despite that pedigree, Forgette says the Eagles play with a chip on their shoulder every time they face a Pac-12 team, many of which passed over Eastern's players during the recruiting process.

"We have that ability to play at a high level, but for whatever reason we didn't have the size or speed to fit the model they want," he said. "So yeah, we have a chip because they doubted us."

Fewer people now will doubt Eastern, which rose to No. 2 in the FCS national rankings after beating OSU.

"It's a huge win that will get us noticed on a national stage," Miller said. "More than anything, it excites us for the rest of the season."

Micah Rice is The Columbian's Sports Editor. Reach him at 360-735-4548, micah.rice@columbian.com or on Twitter @col_mrice. Read his blog, Tailgate Talk, at http://blogs.columbian.com/tailgate-talk.