January 7, 2011

EAGLES RALLY TO WIN NATIONAL TITLE!!!

Eagles score three touchdowns in the final 16:48 to rally past Delaware 20-19 in 2011 NCAA Division I Football Championship Game

The Eagles finally came alive, and have a national championship to show for it.

Held to 98 yards of total offense through the first 2 1/2 quarters, the Eastern Washington University offense finally came alive against Delaware and scored three times in the final 16:48 to beat Delaware 20-19 in the 2011 NCAA Division I Football Championship Game Friday (Jan. 7) at Pizza Hut Park in Frisco, Texas.

The win extended EWU's winning streak to 11 games as Eastern finished with a school-record 13 victories and just two losses. Eastern was making its first NCAA championship game appearance. The Blue Hens, the 2003 national champions and runners-up in1982 and 2007, finished their season 12-3.

Eastern quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell, who is from Katy, Texas, and transferred from Southern Methodist University, completed 29-of-43 passes for 302 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.

Mitchell had a game-winning 11-yard TD pass to Brandon Kaufman with 2:47 to play. That followed touchdown passes to Nicholas Edwards of 9 yards with 8:16 to play and 22 yards to Kaufman late in the third quarter.

Eastern, playing without injured All-American Taiwan Jones for the second-straight game, had just 25 rushing yards.

Delaware jumped out to a 12-0 lead in the first half en route to out-gaining the Eagles in total offense 230-62. The Blue Hens finished the game with a 417-327 advantage and entered the game leading the nation in fewest points allowed with an average of 11.5 per game.

Eastern Washington had entered the game owning the 12th-best scoring offense (32.29 points per game) in FCS and featuring the 19th best offense (402.1 yards per game).

The Blue Hens scored in the first half on drives of 80, 76 and 49 yards, but was only able to turn the last two drives into field goals.

It was the first time this season that Eastern has failed to score in the first half, and the first time they had trailed in its last 11 games. EWU had trailed at halftime in only three games this season, with a 1-2 record in those games. The Eagles trailed Nevada 28-10, Montana 21-14, Montana State 20-7.

Delaware took a 19-0 lead with 7:12 left in the third quarter with a 60-yard touchdown drive. At that point, the Blue Hens had a 337-98 advantage in offense.

Eastern finally scored with 1:48 left in the third quarter when Mitchell found Kaufman for a 22-yard touchdown pass. That capped a five-play, 80-yard drive that took just 1:30 off the clock.

The game was an epic battle featuring the final two teams to be ranked No. 1 in 2010. Delaware was ranked first in The Sports Network/Fathead.com Top 25 NCAA Football Championship Subdivision poll on Nov. 15, but slipped to fifth with a 28-21 overtime loss to defending national champion Villanova to end the regular season. As a result, following a 9-2 finish in the regular season and co-championship in the Big Sky Conference with a 7-1 mark, the Eagles were rewarded with that No. 1 ranking in The Sports Network poll. An hour after that poll was released, the FCS selection committee gave Eastern a No. 5 seed and a first-round bye, and a No. 3 seed and a bye to the Blue Hens.

Since then, each team reeled off three-straight playoff victories to advance to the title game. The only losses for Eastern came on Sept. 2 versus nationally-ranked NCAA Football Championship Bowl Subdivision member Nevada by a 49-24 score, and 30-7 three weeks later at 17th-ranked Montana State. Delaware won its first seven games, including a trio of victories over teams ranked in the top 10 in FCS. The first loss for the Blue Hens was a 17-16 loss to No. 4 William & Mary on Oct. 23.

This year's Eastern squad surpassed the 1997 team -- which was sixth to end the regular season and fourth after the FCS Playoffs -- for the school's highest ranking ever. That squad won a pair of playoff games to advance to the semifinals and finish 12-2.

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