Baldwin wasn't happy to see Adams leave EWU as a graduate transfer, but he's filled with pride that his Eagles helped turn his former protégé into the starting quarterback at one of the nation's elite FBS programs.
Now Baldwin and Eastern Washington have to face Adams, the successor to 2014 Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota, Saturday at Oregon.
A "Hard Knocks" episode with Rex Ryan wouldn't deliver a juicier storyline. The first-ever meeting between the two Pacific Northwest schools stands out among the 48 FCS-versus-FBS games in the first full week of college football.
"I think it will be really hard because I know how good he is, and he's just so good in so many ways. That part of it is going to be a challenge," Baldwin said. "And it's just a challenge for any team when they play Vernon Adams. I mean, you're up against one of the best in the country at any level. He's shown that over the years and I think he'll continue to grow this year."
Adams was Eastern Washington's starter for the last 2 1/2 seasons. His transfer stunned the three-time defending Big Sky champion Eagles, also a perennial contender for the FCS national title, which they won in 2010. They enter this season ranked sixth in the FCS and are one of 11 ranked FCS programs to be opening against an FBS opponent this week.
In 37 games at Eastern Washington, Adams accounted for 11,670 total yards (10,438 passing, 1,232 rushing) and 121 touchdowns (110 passing, 11 rushing). He was the runner-up for national offensive player of the year honors each of the last two years.
"He's incredibly good and doesn't get enough credit for how well he can recognize some things and how smart he is," Baldwin said. "He's a quick thinker, so you have to do the best you can to not give certain things away.
"I've never seen him not make a lot of plays in any single game in his career. So you know he's going to make plays. You just have to do the best you can to try to put him in situations to make those plays a little bit tough and make him earn everything he gets."
Oregon enters the game ranked seventh in the FBS. Only four ranked FBS teams have fallen to FCS teams, and Adams led one of the upsets. He accounted for 519 total yards and six total touchdowns in a 49-46 victory win over No. 25 Oregon State to open the 2013 season.
A year ago, FCS teams dressed as Cinderella in eight wins over FBS opponents. That total was down from a record 16 wins in 2013.
Some of the other top FCS programs to open against an FBS opponent include No. 5 Villanova at Connecticut on Thursday night, and No. 2 Illinois State at Iowa and No. 3 Sam Houston State at Texas Tech on Saturday. The complete Week 1 FCS-FBS matchups (all times Eastern):
THURSDAY, SEPT. 3=
No. 4 Villanova at Connecticut, 7:30 p.m.
FRIDAY, SEPT. 4=
Weber State at Oregon State, 8 p.m.
SATURDAY, SEPT. 5=
No. 2 Illinois State at Iowa, noon
No. 3 Sam Houston State at Texas Tech, 3:30 p.m.
Southeast Missouri at Missouri, 4 p.m.
Bethune-Cookman at Miami (Fla.), 6 p.m.
Southern at Louisiana Tech, 7 p.m.
No. 10 Northern Iowa at Iowa State, 8 p.m.
No. 6 Eastern Washington at Oregon, 8 p.m.