No. 13 Eagles Earn Berth in FCS Playoffs

Making its fourth playoffs appearance in the last six years, Eastern will play Saturday at No. 12 Stephen F. Austin

NCAA Pairings Release
Playoff Bracket

Hope became a reality for the Eastern Washington University football team as they were selected Sunday (Nov. 22) as one of 16 teams in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs, and will play at Stephen F. Austin next Saturday (Nov. 28).

The Eagles learned the news on their airplane ride home from Arizona where they won their fourth-straight game the day before, scoring with 3:30 left to defeat Northern Arizona 49-45.

"They were excited . . . they were a little tired to be honest, but they were certainly excited," said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin. "We felt pretty good about our chances with everything that transpired on Saturday. Our feeling was that we were just waiting to see who we would play."

Located in Nacogdoches, Texas, SFA is 9-2 and won a share of the Southland Conference title by edging Northwestern State 19-10 last Saturday. The Lumberjacks defeated co-champion McNeese State 16-13 back on Oct. 10 to break the tie and earn them the league's automatic berth.

"If you are one of the 16 teams in this playoff, you're good," said Baldwin. "Every team is going to be a little bit different, but we know they are a very good team and play in a very good league. I know it will be a challenge for us."

The Eagles finished the regular season 8-3, and will be making their fourth FCS appearance in the past six years. The last time Eastern qualified in 2007, they defeated McNeese State 44-15 in the first round before losing to eventual champion Appalachian State in the quarterfinals.

Eastern is 5-4 all-time against current members of the Southland, including a 1-2 record versus Stephen F. Austin. The two teams played each other three-straight seasons from 1987-89, all in Nacogdoches. Eastern won 3-0 the first year, then lost the next two seasons 48-10 and 42-36.

The final regular season Sports Network FCS poll was released Sunday morning, and the Eagles leaped to No. 13 after being ranked 18th last week. Stephen F. Austin is 12th, while McNeese State is eighth. Other Big Sky Conference schools ranked include Montana at No. 3 and Weber State at No. 15.

The Eagles will be making their seventh appearance overall in the FCS Playoffs with previous berths in 1985, 1992, 1997, 2004, 2005 and 2007. Eastern's only other football postseason berth came in 1967 when they advanced to the NAIA Championship game.

Stephen F. Austin is making its first appearance in the FCS playoffs since 1995 and third overall. The Lumberjacks also qualified in 1988 and 1993, but its 3-1 record in the playoffs, including a championship game loss to Georgia Southern, was vacated by action of the NCAA Committee on Infractions.

November 28 at Missoula, Montana
South Dakota St. (8-3) at No. 1 Montana (11-0)

November 28 at Nacogdoches, Texas
Eastern Wash. (8-3) at Stephen F. Austin (9-2)

November 28 at Richmond, Virginia
Elon (9-2) at No. 4 Richmond (10-1)

November 28 at Boone, North Carolina (ESPNU/ESPNUHD at Noon ET)
South Carolina St. (10-1) at Appalachian St. (9-2)

November 28 at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Holy Cross (9-2) at No. 2 Villanova (10-1)

November 28 at Lake Charles, Louisiana
New Hampshire (9-2) at McNeese St. (9-2)

November 28 at Carbondale, Illinois
Eastern Ill. (8-3) at No. 2 Southern Ill. (10-1)

November 28 at Williamsburg, Virginia
Weber St. (7-4) at William & Mary (9-2)

Eagles in the Playoffs -- Eastern's 2007 appearance in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs was the school's sixth berth in school history. It was also the third in a three-year span as EWU's appearances in 2004 and 2005 were the first time the Eagles had ever made back-to-back appearances.

Eastern has now advanced past the first round four times (1985, 1997, 2004, 2007) and has a 5-6 record in six playoff appearances.

In 2007, the Eagles handed second-seeded and No. 3 ranked McNeese State its first loss of the year in a 44-15 first-round victory. Eastern then lost in the quarterfinals at two-time defending champion Appalachian State. In 2004, Eastern defeated No. 1 ranked and top-seeded Southern Illinois 35-31 in the first round and then lost 35-34 to Sam Houston State in the quarterfinal round in EWU's first-ever playoff game at Woodward Field in Cheney, Wash. In both 2004 and 2007, Eastern entered the playoffs ranked 14th nationally.

Until 2004, Eastern hadn't appeared in the FCS playoffs since 1997 when the Eagles advanced to the semifinals where it lost to Youngstown State 25-14 at Albi Stadium in Spokane, Wash. Eastern played two early-round games at Albi, defeating Northwestern State 40-10 and Western Kentucky 38-21.

Eastern also participated in the playoffs in 1985 (won at Idaho 42-38 and lost at Northern Iowa 17-14) and 1992 (lost at Northern Iowa 17-14). The school's only other post-season experience came in 1967 when Eastern advanced to the NAIA Championship game where it lost to Fairmont State 28-21.

Here is a complete list of EWU's playoff games:
2007 - at Appalachian State - L, 35-38 (Quarterfinals)
2007 - at McNeese State - W, 44-15 (First Round)
2005 - at Northern Iowa - L, 38-41 (First Round)
2004 - Sam Houston State - L, 34-35 (Quarterfinals/Cheney)
2004 - at Southern Illinois - W, 35-31 (First Round)
1997 - Youngstown State - L, 14-25 (Semifinals/Spokane)
1997 - Western Kentucky - W, 38-21 (Quarterfinals/Spokane)
1997 - Northwestern State - W, 40-10 (First Round/Spokane)
1992 - at Northern Iowa - L, 14-17 (First Round)
1985 - at Northern Iowa - L, 14-17 (Quarterfinals)
1985 - at Idaho - W, 42-38 (First Round)

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