Eastern will open 2012 football season with road games at Idaho and Washington State before starting league play
Featuring an early-season schedule with a familiar feel to it, the Eastern Washington University football team will open the 2012 season with three road games and a bye, as the schedule was released Wednesday (Jan. 18) by EWU.
The Eagles open the 2012 season at former Big Sky Conference rival Idaho, then return to the Palouse a week later to face Washington State and new head coach Mike Leach. After a bye in the schedule, Eastern opens Big Sky Conference play at Weber State against former Idaho head coach and WSU assistant John L. Smith.
Finally, on Sept. 29, the Eagles will play their home opener versus Montana at Roos Field in Cheney, Wash. Two years ago, in the debut of EWU’s red Sprinturf surface in the first game at the re-named field (it was formerly Woodward Field), the Eagles knocked off the Grizzlies 36-27.
A year ago, Eastern opened the season with road losses to Washington and South Dakota, then began league play with a loss at Montana and a home setback to Montana State. However, the Eagles won six of their last seven games to conclude the season with its 14th winning season in the last 16 years.
“The teams are tough and that will be a challenge,” said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin, who expects to return eight starters on both offense and defense from last year’s squad, which finished 5-3 in the Big Sky. “Yes, it’s tough – there is no question about that. But in terms of the trips themselves, they are not as difficult as they could be.”
“Two out of our first three road games are pretty short bus rides,” he continued. “Then we have a bye before our first league game, which is a fairly easy flight.”
Eastern will host Big Sky Conference newcomer North Dakota the following week on Hall of Fame Day at EWU on Oct. 6. Other home games for EWU are Oct. 20 versus Sacramento State for Homecoming; Nov. 3 versus Cal Poly on Military Appreciation Day and Nov. 10 versus another Big Sky newcomer, UC Davis.
Eastern’s other Big Sky Conference road games are Oct. 13 at Montana State, Oct. 27 at Southern Utah and Nov. 17 at Portland State. Cal Poly and Southern Utah are the other new teams to join the Big Sky, but the Cal Poly match-up is a non-conference game because of a pre-existing contract between the two schools.
The Eagles will still play eight league games each year, with six opponents on a rotating basis and two of them (Montana and Portland State) on an annual basis. Thus, this year the Eagles play league games versus North Dakota, Southern Utah and UC Davis, but won’t be playing Idaho State, Northern Colorado or Northern Arizona.
“Honestly, it doesn’t matter which teams are on or off your schedule – it’s going to be tough year-in and year-out,” said Baldwin. “Ultimately that’s what you want – you want to play and compete in a tough conference. If you can have success through the season, being in a conference like this will prepare you that much more for the playoffs. It may end up giving more teams opportunities for postseason play because of the strength of our conference and the credibility we can get nationally.”
After narrowly falling 30-27 this past season at Washington, the WSU game will mark the second-straight year the Eagles will play an in-state opponent from the Pac-12 Conference. And it won’t be the last. Eastern has scheduled a second football game against the University of Washington, giving the Eagles games in both 2011 and 2014 versus the Huskies of the Pac-12 Conference.
Eastern opened the 2011 season at Husky Stadium on Sept. 3, and will return on Sept. 6, 2014. The Eagles will play at Washington State in 2012 and Oregon State in 2013, giving Eastern four-straight games against Pac-12 opponents. Besides games in 1907 and 1908 against Washington State, Eastern’s only other games versus Pac-12 opponents have been against Oregon State (2000 and 2006), Arizona State (2002) and California (2009). Eastern has also played recent Pac-12 newcomer Colorado (2008).
Eastern was a member of the National Association for Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) for most of its history before becoming a member of FCS in 1984. But despite playing 26 games against NCAA Football Bowl Division members from 1983-2009 -- including four against the Pac-12 Conference -- the Eagles did not play Washington State or Washington during that time span. Eastern had never played Washington until 2011.
The short 90-mile trek to Pullman, Wash., to face WSU will be the first varsity meeting between the two schools in more than 100 years. Eastern lost to the Cougars in 1907 (46-0) and 1908 (73-0), and were 8-10-1 from 1921-46 against WSU’s junior varsity or freshman teams.
Washington State was previously coached by Paul Wulff, who was 53-40 with three NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Playoff berths as Eastern’s head coach for eight seasons (2000-2007). He spent a total of 15 seasons at EWU as a coach.
But he was let go by WSU after compiling a 9-40 record in four seasons, including a 4-8 mark in 2011. In his place, the Cougars hired Leach, who was a former head coach at Texas Tech University. Eastern played Leach to open the 2008 season in Lubbock, Texas, and Red Raiders came away with a 49-24 victory, piling up 536 of its 639 yards of offense through the air.
The last time Eastern played Idaho was in 2003 when Eastern won 8-5 in the Kibbie Dome. Eastern is 5-15 all-time against its former Big Sky Conference rival, and 2-3 since the Vandals moved to FBS in 1996. Eastern has never played North Dakota.
2012 Schedule (as of March 12, 2012)
Date - Opponent - Site - Time
Thursday, Aug. 30 - at Idaho - Moscow, Idaho – 6 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 8 - at Washington State - Pullman, Wash. – TBA
Saturday, Sept. 15 – BYE
Saturday, Sept. 22 - at *Weber State - Ogden, Utah – TBA
Saturday, Sept. 29 - *Montana - Cheney, Wash. – TBA
Saturday, Oct. 6 - *%North Dakota - Cheney, Wash. – TBA
Saturday, Oct. 13 - at *Montana State - Bozeman, Mont. – TBA
Saturday, Oct. 20 - *#Sacramento State - Cheney, Wash. – TBA
Saturday, Oct. 27 - at *Southern Utah - Cedar City, Utah – TBA
Saturday, Nov. 3 - Cal Poly - Cheney, Wash. – TBA
Saturday, Nov. 10 - *&Cal Davis - Cheney, Wash. – TBA
Saturday, Nov. 17 - at *Portland State - Portland, Ore. - TBA
All Times Pacific. TIMES ARE TENTATIVE AND SUBJECT TO CHANGE CALL 509-359-6334 or 1-800-648-7697 FOR CHANGES
*Big Sky Conference Game. #Homecoming. %Eastern Athletics Hall of Fame Day. &Military Appreciation Day.
Home Football Games in Cheney Take Place at Roos Field (formerly Woodward Field) on the EWU campus.
Internet: WWW.GOEAGS.COM or WWW.EWU.EDU