January 10, 2011

Making Believers Out of the Nation, Eagles finish No. 1 in The Sports Network Poll

For the first time since 2006, the top-ranked team at the end of the regular season ends the entire season No. 1

The national champion Eastern Washington University football team made believers out of a nation.

The Eagles finished the year the way they ended the regular season as the No. 1-ranked team in The Sports Network/Fathead.com Top 25 NCAA Football Championship Subdivision final poll released Monday (Jan. 10). The Eagles earned the lofty ranking after scoring three touchdowns in the final 6:18 of the game to rally from a 19-0 deficit and 20-19 victory over Delaware in the 2011 NCAA Division I Football Championship Game Jan. 7 at Pizza Hut Park in Frisco, Texas.

The Eagles finished the season with an 11-game winning streak and 13-2 overall record.

"I'm so happy for all those guys, and especially happy for the seniors, because you knew no matter what, it was going to be their last college football game," third-year head coach Beau Baldwin said. "And with the hard work they've put in, they deserve to go out as champions, because they work like that. That's the character they have. And it was fun to watch those guys."

It was the first time since 2006 that a FCS team finished No. 1 in both the final poll as well as the poll to end the regular season. Appalachian State did it that year after beating Massachusetts 28-17 for the FCS title.

But most importantly, Eastern's voting totals soared in the final poll as the Eagles received 121 of 122 first-place votes cast and 3,049 votes overall (out of a possible 3,050). To end the regular season, Eastern received 64 out of 129 first-place votes and 3,096 total votes (out of a possible 3,225) in the poll of sportswriters, broadcasters and sports information directors.

Interestingly, Eastern was picked as only a No. 5 seed by the NCAA FCS Football Championship Selection Committee entering the playoffs. However, Eastern defeated third-seeded Delaware 20-19 in the championship game, while the other three seeds were knocked out in higher rounds.

Top-seeded Appalachian State was defeated by Villanova 42-24, a week prior to Eastern knocking off the Wildcats 41-31 to advance to the title game. Second-seeded William & Mary lost 31-15 in its playoff opener to Georgia Southern, which advanced to the semifinals before losing to Delaware 27-10. And fourth-seeded Montana State lost to North Dakota State 42-17, a week before Eastern knocked off NDSU 38-31 in overtime in the quarterfinals.

The Eagles will celebrate its championship game victory with a "Football Championship Celebration" on Friday, Jan. 21 at 6 p.m. at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash. Details will follow, but that will be the first time the championship trophy will be on display to the public. The late date is because of coaches being out of town making up for lost time recruiting future Eagles.

Also, orders are now being taken for Eastern's season highlights and "Road to the Championship" video productions, with an order form available at: http://goeags.com/store/FB-DVDOrderForm.pdf. The release date is scheduled for Feb. 21.

  

More on The Final Sports Network Poll . . .

The Eagles followed the lead of senior linebacker J.C. Sherritt, who won the Buck  Buchanan Award, sponsored by Fathead.com and given to the FCS' outstanding defensive player. Junior quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell directed the offense and junior tailback Taiwan Jones was their top offensive player until he was sidelined by a broken left foot for the final two games.

Eastern Washington is the sixth national champion from the Big Sky Conference, joining Montana (1995 and 2001), Boise State (1980), Idaho State (1981) and Montana State (1984). The NCAA has had a FCS playoff since 1978.

Delaware (12-3) finished second in the poll. Coach K.C. Keeler reached the national title game with the Blue Hens for the third time in his nine seasons.

Villanova (9-5), the 2009 FCS champion which fell to Eastern Washington in the semifinals, was third. Appalachian State (10-3) was fourth, while Southern Conference rival Georgia Southern (10-5), the other national semifinalist which fell to Delaware, was fifth.

Rounding out the Top 10 were No. 6 Wofford (10-3), New Hampshire (8-5), Stephen F. Austin (9-3), North Dakota State (9-5) and William & Mary (8-4).

Montana State (9-3), which shared the Big Sky regular-season title with Eastern Washington, finished at No. 11. The Bobcats were followed by Jacksonville State (9-3), Southeast Missouri State (9-3), Lehigh (10-3), Bethune-Cookman (10-2), South Carolina State (9-3), Western Illinois (8-5), Penn (9-1), Northern Iowa (7-5) and Montana (7-4).

The rest of the Top 25 consisted of No. 21 Liberty (8-3), Jacksonville (10-1), Grambling State (9-2), Cal Poly (7-4) and Dayton (10-1).

The Colonial Athletic Conference CAA Football had the most Top 25 representatives with four (Delaware, Villanova, New Hampshire and William & Mary - all in the Top 10). Three conferences had three representatives each: Big Sky (Eastern Washington, Montana and Montana State); Missouri Valley Football (North Dakota State, Western Illinois and Northern Iowa); and Southern (Appalachian State, Georgia Southern and Wofford - all in the Top 10).

Besides their FCS Top 25, The Sports Network presents and Fathead.com sponsors the three prestigious individual awards in the FCS: the Walter Payton (outstanding player), which this season went to Stephen F. Austin senior quarterback Jeremy Moses; the Buck Buchanan (outstanding defensive player), won by Sherritt; and the Eddie Robinson (outstanding coach), won by Southeast Missouri State coach Tony Samuel. 

Team (First-place votes)

Record

Points

Previous Rank

1. Eastern Washington Eagles (121)

13-2

3,049

1

2. Delaware Blue Hens (1)

12-3

2,928

5

3. Villanova Wildcats

9-5

2,765

10

4. Appalachian State Mountaineers

10-3

2,453

2

5. Georgia Southern Eagles

10-5

2,440

20

6. Wofford Terriers

10-3

2,297

7

7. New Hampshire Wildcats

8-5

2,063

11

8. Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks

9-3

1,962

3

9. North Dakota State Bison

9-5

1,923

25

10. William & Mary Tribe

8-4

1,901

4

11. Montana State Bobcats

9-3

1,789

6

12. Jacksonville State Gamecocks

9-3

1,721

8

13. Southeast Missouri State Redhawks

9-3

1,702

9

14. Lehigh Mountain Hawks

10-3

1,369

19

15. Bethune-Cookman Wildcats

10-2

1,209

13

16. South Carolina State Bulldogs

9-3

1,139

12

17. Western Illinois Leathernecks

8-5

1,076

21

18. Penn Quakers

9-1

1,003

14

19. Northern Iowa Panthers

7-5

910

16

20. Montana Grizzlies

7-4

751

15

21. Liberty Flames

8-3

565

17

22. Jacksonville Dolphins

10-1

515

18

23. Grambling State Tigers

9-2

377

24

24. Cal Poly Mustangs

7-4

315

22

25. Dayton Flyers

10-1

245

23

 

Others receiving votes: Robert Morris 230, Coastal Carolina 152, Texas Southern 138, Richmond 133, James Madison 92, Southern Utah 82, Massachusetts 77, Florida A&M 74, Jackson State 27, Central Arkansas 27, Old Dominion 20, Sacramento State 18, Chattanooga 17, UC Davis 16, McNeese State 15, Northern Arizona 14, Elon 8, Eastern Kentucky 7, Weber State 7, Harvard 6, Yale 5, Colgate 5, Murray State 4, Illinois State 3, Rhode Island 3, Indiana State 2, Stony Brook 1.

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