After Near-Miss, Eagles Fall to 16th

Sept. 8, 2008

The Eastern Washington University football team gave Colorado all it could handle last Saturday at Folsom Field in Boulder, Colo. Just not a loss.

Coming up just short with its second-straight impressive performance versus a member of the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS), the Eagles fell nine spots in this week's Sports Network NCAA Football Championship Subdivision poll. After losing 31-24 in the final minutes to the Buffaloes to fall to 0-2 on the season, Eastern is 16th after holding down the No. 7 spot in the first two polls of the season.

"We feel fortunate," said EWU head coach Beau Baldwin of the No. 16 ranking in the poll of sportswriters, broadcasters and sports information directors. "I don't care who you play, when you are 0-2 and still in the top 20, you have to feel thankful. But that should be the least of our concerns right now -- our one concern is our next game. We are a team that is still hungry for a win and we need a win."

Other polls were kinder to the Eagles after last week's near-miss. The Sports Media Entertainment Network ranked EWU 10th and the FCS Coaches poll rated EWU 14th in polls released Monday.

Based on strength of schedule and the seven-point margin, computer ratings were even kinder to EWU this week. In the Sagarin Computer Ratings of all FBS and FCS teams, Eastern improved two spots to 102nd. Among FCS schools only, Eastern improved from 12th to seventh despite the loss.

"Our team believed they could win and we obviously proved we could have won that game," said Baldwin of the Colorado loss, in which Eastern took a 24-17 lead with 3:52 to play. "We feel like we let one slip away. We have to come back and learn from it because the reality is that we're 0-2. We don't like that taste and we don't like that feel, so we have to change that fast."

The Eagles opened the season with a 49-24 loss at 12th-ranked Texas Tech when EWU battled back from a 21-0 deficit. Eastern then took a 21-7 lead into the second half against Colorado, meaning the Eagles had a 45-35 advantage against the upper division foes in a seven-quarter span. In those two games, Eastern's starters were on the field for all but the final possession against TTU.

"We have a good team and we were executing," said Baldwin, whose team had only a field goal in the second half against the Buffaloes and gave up two touchdowns in the final 2:05. "I don't think Colorado wasn't ready or not taking us serious -- we were just making plays in the first half.

"No matter who we are playing, we have to find a way to make plays in the fourth quarter. There are no excuses to it -- we just have to find a way to make a few more plays in the fourth quarter and finish the ballgame."

Eastern now has the week off before hosting Western Washington on Sept. 20 at 6:05 p.m. Pacific time at Woodward Field in Cheney, Wash. The week after that, Eastern opens league play at home against Idaho State at 12:37 p.m. in a game televised live regionally on Altitude Sports and Entertainment.

"We've left it out of the field for the last two weeks against some big-time opponents," said Baldwin. "It's tough and it's hard on their bodies and hard mentally. They are worn out a little bit. The bye comes at a good time for us. We just need to re-charge ourselves for Western Washington and then get ready for the league after that."

Western opened its season with a 36-27 Great Northwest Athletic Conference loss to Western Oregon -- a game the Vikings led 27-23 late in the third quarter. Quarterback Adam Perry completed 23-of-38 passes for 278 yards and three touchdowns for the Vikings, who play at Humboldt State this week before taking on the Eagles.

Regardless of his team's 0-2 start, Baldwin was encouraged by the performances, saying, "I'm excited for our team and where we are going to go from here."

Of note, junior quarterback Matt Nichols had a pair of 300-yard passing performances, and junior receiver Tony Davis has already caught 22 passes after a shoulder injury held him to 35 all of the 2007 season. After two games, Nichols leads the Big Sky and ranks third in FCS in total offense per game (318.0). Davis is second nationally in receptions per game (11.0) behind Idaho State's Eddie Thompson (13.5).

In addition, kicker Felipe Macias already has field goals of 55 and 52 yards to his credit -- the only player thus far in FCS to have made a 50-yarder.

Defensively, senior cornerback Ryan Kelley is second in the Big Sky in tackles with 17 (average of 8.5 per game). Twins Matt Johnson and Zach Johnson, a pair of freshman redshirts, have combined for 33 tackles thus far, with Matt ranking second in the Big Sky (8.5 per game) and Zach ranking fourth (8.0). Senior defensive end Jason Belford had a pair of sacks against Colorado to rank 13th in FCS and third in the Big Sky (1.0 per game).

"I know we didn't make a couple of plays at the end, but we found a way to keep competing for 60 minutes, he added. "I give a lot of credit to our players. A lot of them played a lot of snaps in the last two weeks against upper level opponents. I was impressed by that, but I'm also frustrated that we are 0-2."


More on The Sports Network FCS Top-25 Poll . . .

Philadelphia (Sports Network) - Appalachian State received 95 of 109 votes cast to remain at the top of The Sports Network FCS Top-25 poll released Monday.

The Mountaineers, the three-time defending FCS champion, won their first game of the season on Saturday, beating Jacksonville 56-7 before a record crowd of 30,718 at Kidd Brewer Stadium. ASU had lost its opener to LSU, 41-13.

North Dakota State used a 50-14 crushing of Central Connecticut State to stay in the No. 2 spot behind Appalachian State for the third straight week. The Bison received 22 first-place votes.

Three other teams also grabbed first-place votes, Massachusetts, Montana and Delaware with one each.

UMass survived a 45-42 thriller with Holy Cross and bounced up one spot to No. 3 in the poll, while Richmond fell from third to fourth with its 16-0 loss to Virginia. Richmond trailed just 3-0 into the fourth quarter.

Montana remained at No. 5 after its heart-stopping 30-28 victory at Cal Poly, while idle Delaware stayed in the No. 6 slot. James Madison used a 56-7 win over North Carolina Central to hop up one spot, while McNeese State rose from 10th to eighth with a 52-27 triumph over Delta State.

Completing the top 10 were Northern Iowa, which kept hold of the No. 9 position by beating South Dakota 24-13, and New Hampshire, whose 28-10 victory over Army caused it to vault five spots from 15th to 10th.

Starting out the second 10 were No. 11 Southern Illinois and No. 12 Wofford, both bumping up by one spot. South Dakota State used a 40-7 spanking of Youngstown State to skyrocket from 21st to 13th in the new poll.

Cal Poly's loss to Montana cost it three positions from 11th to 14th, while Western Illinois gained three places to 15th.

Eastern Washington tumbled from seventh to 16th, even though it nearly beat Colorado. It was the second straight loss to an FBS team for the Eagles.

Completing the top 20 were No. 17 Georgia Southern, No. 18 Elon, No. 19 Central Arkansas and No. 20 Eastern Illinois. Central Arkansas picked up three places, while Georgia Southern, Elon and Eastern Illinois all lost one spot.

Villanova, The Citadel, Youngstown State, Harvard and Liberty completed the poll. Liberty entered the poll for the first time this season, replacing Eastern Kentucky.

Sports Network's FCS College Football Poll

Team (First-place votes) Record Points Previous Rank
1. Appalachian State Mountaineers (85) 1-1 2,976 1
2. North Dakota State Bison (22) 2-0 2,775 2
3. Massachusetts Minutemen (1) 2-0 2,647 4
4. Richmond Spiders 1-1 2,606 3
5. Montana Grizzlies (1) 1-0 2,572 5
6. Delaware Blue Hens (1) 0-1 2,561 6
7. James Madison Dukes 1-1 2,470 8
8. McNeese State Cowboys 1-1 2,218 10
9. Northern Iowa Panthers 0-1 1,504 9
10. New Hampshire Wildcats 1-0 1,400 15
11. Southern Illinois Salukis 1-0 1,343 12
12. Wofford Terriers 1-0 1,293 13
13. South Dakota State Jackrabbits 1-1 994 21
14. Cal Poly Mustangs 1-1 962 11
15. Western Illinois Leathernecks 1-1 918 18
16. Eastern Washington Eagles 0-2 866 7
17. Georgia Southern Eagles 1-1 833 16
18. Elon Phoenix 1-1 820 17
19. Central Arkansas Bears 2-0 597 22
20. Eastern Illinois Panthers 0-2 517 19
21. Villanova Wildcats 0-1 470 23
22. The Citadel Bulldogs 1-1 411 20
23. Youngstown State Penguins 0-2 228 14
24. Harvard Crimson 0-0 191 25
25. Liberty Flames 2-0 147 NR

Others receiving votes: Northern Arizona 125, Furman 113, Delaware State 95, Sam Houston State 89, Fordham 65, Eastern Kentucky 54, Jacksonville State 51, Hampton 46, Tennessee State 43, Yale 42, Holy Cross 41, South Carolina State 21, San Diego 18, Norfolk State 17, UC Davis 16, Montana State 15, Sacramento State 15, Grambling 13, North Dakota 12, South Dakota 12, Prairie View 10, Dayton 8, Coastal Carolina 8, Albany 7, Colgate 5, Hofstra 5, Stony Brook 5, Nicholls State 3, Northwestern State 2, Lafayette 1, Texas State 1.

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