Feb. 7, 2008
Eastern Washington University's attempt at returning to the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs in 2008 will go through Lubbock, Texas, and Boulder, Colo.
The Eagles will open the season against Big 12 Conference members Texas Tech and Colorado as part of EWU's 11-game schedule that includes a non-conference game versus former rival Western Washington.
Eastern, which finished 9-4 last season and advanced to the FCS Playoffs for the third time in the last four seasons, opens its season Aug. 30 at Texas Tech. The Red Raiders were also 9-4, finishing the season ranked 22nd in FBS by Associated Press while Eastern closed the year ranked eighth in the Sports Network FCS rankings.
The Eagles follow that with a game Sept. 6 at Colorado before hosting Western Washington at Woodward Field in Cheney, Wash., on Sept. 20 after a bye week.
Big Sky Conference play begins at home on Sept. 27 against Idaho State, followed by a road game on Oct. 4 at Portland State. The 10-time defending league champion Montana Grizzlies visit Cheney on Oct. 11, followed by EWU's road game at Montana State on Oct. 18 and a bye week on Oct. 25.
Eastern plays four league games in November, including home contests versus Sacramento State (Nov. 1) and Northern Arizona (Nov. 15), and road contests at Northern Colorado (Nov. 8) and Weber State (Nov. 22).
Texas Tech and Colorado are members of the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision and Western Washington is a NCAA Division II school. Eastern is 7-15 all-time versus FBS teams, but has never played Colorado or Texas Tech. Eastern, a former rival of Western Washington when both schools were members of the NAIA, is 38-25 all-time against the Vikings. The two schools have met just once since 1978, with Eastern winning 48-10 in 1998.
Texas Tech was 9-4 last season and 4-4 in the Big 12 Conference, and defeated Virginia 31-28 in the Gator Bowl. The Red Raiders feature the top passing offense in FBS, averaging 470.3 yards per game last season to lead FBS and 529.6 yards of total offense to rank second nationally. The Red Raiders attempted an average of nearly 60 passes and just 19 rushes per game, compared to the 35 passes and 40 rushes Eastern attempted in 2007.
Texas Tech quarterback Graham Harrell will return for Texas Tech after leading FBS in total offense (431.9) and ranking sixth in passing efficiency (157.3). He passed for 5,705 yards and 58 touchdowns in 2007, including 407 yards on 44-of-69 passing versus Virginia. He had 646 passing yards against Oklahoma State.
Colorado isn't as prolific as Texas Tech, but the Buffaloes improved by four victories under second-year head coach Dan Hawkins. Colorado was 6-7 last season, including a 4-4 record in the Big 12. The Buffaloes, who defeated Texas Tech 31-26 on Oct. 27, closed the season with a 30-24 loss to Alabama in the Independence Bowl.
Colorado also returns its starting quarterback, Cody Hawkins, who happens to be the son of the head coach. He completed 56 percent of his passes as a redshirt freshman in 2007 for 2,693 yards and 19 touchdowns.
The Eagles will be just the second NCAA Championship Subdivision (FCS) opponent for the Buffaloes, who were upset by Montana State 19-10 on Sept. 2, 2006. Colorado finished 2-10 in 2006 in its first season under Hawkins.
Western Washington was 2-10 last year and 1-7 in the North Central Conference. The Vikings opened the season on Sept. 1 with a 28-21 win at UC Davis, a team Eastern defeated 41-31 two weeks later. Western lost eight of its final nine games, including a 63-42 loss at home to FCS powerhouse North Dakota.
Running back Craig Garner returns after rushing for 989 yards and eight touchdowns in nine games for the Vikings. He ranked 25th in NCAA Division II in rushing (109.9 per game) and was 20th in all-purpose yards (157.0).
Eastern's four Big Sky opponents at home had a collective 23-22 record overall and 18-14 league mark in 2007, led by Montana's 11-1 record overall and perfect 8-0 record in the BSC. Eastern's 2008 road opponents were 15-30 overall and 12-20 in the conference.
Date - Opponent - Site - Time
Aug. 30 - at Texas Tech - Lubbock, Tex.
Sept. 6 - at Colorado - Boulder, Colo.
Sept. 13 - Open
Sept. 20 - Western Washington - Cheney, Wash. - 6:05 p.m.
Sept. 27 - *Idaho State - Cheney, Wash. - 6:05 p.m.
Oct. 4 - at *Portland State - Portland, Ore.
Oct. 11 - *Montana - Cheney, Wash. - 2:05 p.m.
Oct. 18 - at *Montana State - Bozeman, Mont.
Oct. 25 - Open
Nov. 1 - *Sacramento State - Cheney, Wash. - 2:05 p.m.
Nov. 8 - at *Northern Colorado - Greeley, Colo.
Nov. 15 - *Northern Arizona - Cheney, Wash. - 2:05 p.m.
Nov. 22 - at *Weber State - Ogden, Utah
*Big Sky Conference Game. Home Football Games in Cheney Take Place at Woodward Field on the EWU campus. All Times Pacific.
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About the Eagles . . .
Beau Baldwin is EWU's new head coach after spending one season as head coach at Central Washington University. Baldwin, Eastern' s offensive coordinator for four seasons from 2003-06, replaces Paul Wulff who returned to his alma mater to be Washington State University's new head coach.
The Eagles finished the 2007 season with a 9-4 record after advancing to the quarterfinals of the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs for the fourth time in school history. The advancement to the "Elite Eight" was a complete reversal from a year prior when EWU was just 3-8.
The Eagles overcame a 1-2 start in Big Sky Conference play to finish second in the league with a 6-2 record after being picked to finish fifth. A four-game winning streak to end the regular season helped the Eagles garner an at-large playoff berth.
An impressive first-round victory over second-seeded McNeese State helped the Eagles finish the season ranked eighth in the final Sports Network FCS Top-25 poll. The Eagles had ended the regular season ranked 14th.
Eastern's three losses to FCS teams in 2007 came by a total of just 11 points, including a season-ending 38-35 loss at Appalachian State on Dec. 1 in the quarterfinals of the FCS Playoffs. After going just 3-5 in the Big Sky in 2006, Eastern's six league victories in 2007 came by an average score of 35-16 for a winning margin of nearly 20 points per game.
As another great barometer of EWU's improvement in 2007, three of EWU's Big Sky wins (Sacramento State, Weber State, Northern Arizona) were by a collective margin of 58 points. The Eagles lost to those same three teams by a total of 14 points in the 2006 season.
Eastern also used turnover margin to reverse its fortunes. In all nine of EWU's victories, the Eagles forced more turnovers or were equal to their opponents. In three of the team's four losses, Eastern had more miscues than its opponent. The Eagles finished the year ranked first in the Big Sky and 21st in FCS in turnover margin (plus 12 for the season, 0.92 per game).
Although Eastern lost at Appalachian State, EWU advanced further in the playoffs than league champion Montana. The Eagles opened the playoffs with a convincing 44-15 win at previously unbeaten and second-seeded McNeese State. The 14th-ranked Eagles doubled the offensive output of the third-ranked Cowboys as EWU finished with 626 yards -- sixth best in school history -- while holding MSU to 312.
That victory and the play of a slew of underclassmen will no doubt make the Eagles a favorite to win the Big Sky in 2008. But first, Eastern will have to replace 12 seniors who were the heart-and-soul of the team's turnaround. Those 12 seniors combined for 246 career starts as 10 of them were regular starters in 2007.
The Eagles set 10 school records during the season, including five by sophomore quarterback Matt Nichols, who was selected as the Big Sky's Offensive Player of the Year. Against McNeese State, Nichols tied and then broke the school record for touchdown passes in a single season, and he eventually finished the season with 34. As a freshman, he tied the school record for interceptions with 17.
Nichols completed 34-of-44 passes for 434 yards -- sixth-best in school history -- and two touchdowns in the win over McNeese State. It was the sixth 300-yard passing performance in his career, including his fifth of the 2007.
For the season, the Big Sky Conference Offensive Player of the Year finished with 3,744 passing yards and 4,136 yards of total offense to rank second in school history in both categories. He led the league and ranked fifth in FCS in both total offense (318.2) and passing offense (288.0), and was eighth in passing efficiency (156.5).
The other school records set by Nichols were his 280 completions and 392 rushing yards that were a record for EWU quarterbacks. His 37 completions at Montana on Oct. 6 were also a record as he finished with 451 passing yards (third-best in school history). His six touchdown passes in EWU's season-opener against Montana-Western were also a record as EWU finished with a school-record seven as a team.
The other individual single game record set was by receiver Aaron Boyce, who caught 17 passes against Montana to come just four receptions away from the Big Sky record of 21. He finished the year with 85 catches (second in school history) for 1,308 yards (fourth) and 10 touchdowns (eighth). He ranked sixth in FCS in receiving yards per game (100.6) and was 14th in receptions (6.5).
The other school records were team marks for season touchdown passes (36) and pass completions (287), as well as the single season mark for consecutive extra points made set by Felipe Macias. Macias made his first seven, missed his only attempt in EWU's second game of the season and then closed the year by making his last 49 to break the previous record for consecutive makes of 47.
The Eagles finished the season with an average of 462.3 yards of offense per game (fifth in FCS), including 295.4 passing (eighth) and 166.8 rushing (50th). The Eagles were 10th in passing efficiency (155.6), 18th in scoring offense (33.6) and 30th in scoring defense (22.2).
Junior Greg Peach was 11th in FCS in sacks (0.85 per game), with a total of 11 that ranks as the fifth-best performance in school history. He will enter his senior season with 29 career starts and 17 1/2 sacks that ranks ninth in school history.
Besides Peach, the Eagles are expected to return 30 players with starting experience. Broken down, Eastern will return 143 starts on defense (14 players) and 142 on offense (16 players) for a total of 285 starts returning. That would represent the most starts the Eagles have had returning since at least the 2001 season.
Eagles Versus Football Bowl Subdivision Members . . .
Since 1982 when it became a member of the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision, Eastern is now 7-15 all-time versus Football Bowl Subdivision teams. A 35-17 win over Connecticut on Sept. 8, 2001, snapped a five-game losing streak versus FBS foes. Here is Eastern's complete list of games versus FBS members since 1983.
Year - Opponent - Result
1983 - Cal State-Long Beach - W, 20-17
1985 - at Cal State-Long Beach - W, 30-23
1986 - at Cal State-Long Beach - L, 34-35
1990 - at #10 Houston - L, 21-84
1994 - at Utah State - W, 49-31
1996 - at Boise State - W, 27-21
1996 - at Idaho - L, 27-37
1997 - Idaho - W, 24-21
1998 - at Idaho - L, 14-31
1999 - Idaho - L, 21-48
1999 - at Boise State - L, 7-41
2000 - at Oregon State - L, 19-21
2000 - at Boise State - L, 23-41
2001 - at Connecticut - W, 35-17
2002 - at Arizona State - L, 2-38
2003 - at San Diego State - L, 9-19
2003 - at Idaho - W, 8-5
2004 - at Air Force - L, 20-42
2005 - at San Jose State - L, 21-35
2006 - at Oregon State - L, 17-56
2006 - at #6 West Virginia - L, 3-52
2007 - at Brigham Young - L, 7-42