Despite 33-21 loss to Toledo, Eagles remain ranked second in FCS with showdown looming after bye week against Sam Houston State
A NCAA Football Championship Subdivision showdown in Huntsville, Texas, is on the horizon for Eastern Washington University, but first the Eagles are going to do some studying.
Despite losing 33-21 last week against NCAA Football Bowl Division foe Toledo, Eastern remains second behind top-ranked North Dakota State in The Sports Network Top 25 FCS Poll released Monday (Sept. 16). Eastern is ranked just two points ahead of No. 3 Montana State, with Montana moving up to ninth, Cal Poly dropping to 18th and Northern Arizona remaining at 25th.
The 2-1 Eagles have a bye this week, but then return to action to face fifth-ranked Sam Houston State on Sept. 28 in Huntsville, Texas. Eastern, which is fourth in the FCS Coaches Poll just ahead of SHSU, will practice twice this week before resuming daily practices next Monday.
Eastern was trying to join a select group of FCS teams that have knocked off two FBS teams in the same season. Before the loss to Toledo, EWU upset 25th-ranked Oregon State from the Pac-12 Conference 49-46 on Aug. 31 and then scored 29 first-quarter points in a 43-14 romp over NCAA Division II Western Oregon on Sept. 7.
“Whether you win or whether you lose, you have to go back and study,” said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin. “We have to see where we made our mistakes and what we need to correct. Even after Oregon State and Western Oregon, we studied those games just as much. We came back and made corrections and found things we could do better.”
Although Eastern is in good shape health-wise, the week off will help several Eagles rest and get ready for the Bearkats.
“I think the bye is at a good time,” said Baldwin, whose team will conclude the regular season with nine games on consecutive weeks. “We play a very tough Sam Houston State team on the road, and the bye gives us a chance to heal up and study them a little better. We want to put our best product on the field in two weeks.”
The Eastern-Sam Houston State game is a rematch of last year’s 45-42 loss in the semifinals of the FCS Playoffs on Dec. 15, 2012, at Roos Field in Cheney, Wash. In that game, Eastern scored 42 second-half points to rally from a 35-0 deficit and nearly pull off the improbable comeback.
The Bearkats are currently 2-1 this season after beating Texas Southern 55-17, trouncing Houston Baptist 74-0 and falling to Texas A&M 65-28. Sam Houston State, which has lost the last two title games in FCS to North Dakota State, finished the 2012 season 11-4 overall and 6-1 in the Southland. The Bearkats host Incarnate Word (Sept. 21) before entertaining the Eagles in Huntsville, Texas.
Eagle Notes . . .
* Sophomore quarterback Vernon Adams continues to lead FCS in points responsible for with 86 (12 TD passes, two rushing touchdowns and one two-point conversion). He is third in passing efficiency (192.1), fourth in passing yards (345.0 per game) and third in total offense (396.3). Senior receiver Ashton Clark is 19th in receiving yards per game (103.3) and 41st in receptions (5.7 per game). As a team, Eastern is fifth in total offense (533.0), fifth in passing offense (364.7) and 15th in scoring offense (37.7). Sam Houston State leads FCS in rushing (309.3) and scoring offense (52.3).
* Defensively against Toledo, senior linebacker Ronnie Hamlin had 14 tackles to lead the Eagles – the 10th time in his career the Buck Buchanan Award candidate has finished in double figures in tackles. He now has 245 career tackles to rank 13th in school history.
* Senior wide receiver Ashton Clark had six catches for 119 yards and a touchdown against Toledo, and finished with his third career performance of at least 100 yards receiving. He had a 23-yard TD catch on EWU’s first possession of the game to give the Eagles a 7-0 lead. Clark now has exactly 100 catches for 1,401 yards and 11 touchdowns in his 30-game EWU career.
* Punter Jake Miller had a 20-yard effort on his first of seven punts against Toledo, but he averaged 45.5 yards in his last six. He had boots of 57 (33rd-longest in school history), 50 and 50, and three of punts were downed inside the Rocket 20-yard line. Miller, who had punted only twice in EWU’s first two games, has a 41.7 average for the season, as well as a 43.5 average in his career which currently ranks as the school record.
* The Eagles have scored 43 percent of their points in the first quarter this season, with fast starts in all three games yielding a total of 49 tallies in the first period. Eastern has scored 23, 14 and 27 points in quarters two through four, respectively. Eastern has outscored opponents 72-33 in the first half, but have been out-scored 60-41 after halftime.