EWU earns the #2 seed in FCS Playoffs

EWU earns the #2 seed in FCS Playoffs

Head coach Beau Baldwin has been through it plenty of times before, so he’s most excited for his players to taste what the postseason is all about.

The 10-1 Eastern Washington University football team will host a second-round game on Dec. 3 at 1 p.m. Pacific time at Roos Field in Cheney, Wash., after receiving a No. 2 seed when the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Playoff pairings were announced Sunday (Nov. 26) morning. The No. 2 seed guarantees the Eagles will host games up to the National Championship game on Jan. 7 in Frisco, Texas (9 a.m. Pacific time on ESPN2).

The Big Sky Conference co-champions will play the winner of the Illinois State (6-5) at Central Arkansas (9-2) game on Dec. 3. Fans have until this Monday (Nov. 21) at 5 p.m. to renew and receive the same seats and tailgate areas as the regular season, and tickets for the general public go on sale Tuesday (Nov. 22) at 1 p.m.

Four Big Sky Conference teams advanced to the playoffs, and EWU could potentially play fellow unbeaten league champion North Dakota (9-2) in the quarterfinals. Jacksonville State (10-1), the runner-up last year, received the No. 3 seed and could be a potential semifinal opponent. Five-time defending champion North Dakota State (10-1) received the overall No. 1 seed and is the upper half of the bracket along with Big Sky foes Cal Poly (7-4) and Weber State (7-4).

“We’ve gotten to experience lots of things as coaches, but these student-athletes have only a small window of time to experience this,” said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin. “If you’re a younger player, it doesn’t automatically mean you are going to get another shot. To see Eastern Washington on the screen and hear our name called is cool. Just to be in this great tournament is a blast, and we’re excited to have home games throughout.”

The Eagles will be making their 12th tournament appearance, and have a 14-10 record all-time. This is the sixth time Baldwin has taken the Eagles to the playoffs as head coach (2009-10-12-13-14-16), plus two more as an assistant (2004-05). He has coached in a total of 26 postseason playoff games with a record of 16-9-1, including seven appearances in the FCS Playoffs and two at the NCAA Division II level when he was at Central Washington.

The Eagles have never played Central Arkansas, but are 1-2 all-time versus Illinois State. The first meeting was a 31-14 loss at Spokane’s Albi Stadium on Oct. 17, 1987, followed by a 51-35 victory in the quarterfinals of the playoffs in 2012 in Cheney. Eastern was seeded second that season and ranked fourth nationally, while ISU was unseeded and ranked 16th. In the 2014 postseason, the fourth-seeded and fourth-ranked Eagles fell at home to the fifth-seeded and No. 7 Redbirds 59-46, also in the quarterfinals.

Third-ranked Eastern wrapped up its ninth Big Sky Conference title and extended its winning streak to nine games with a 35-28 victory over nemesis Portland State Friday night (Nov. 18) at Providence Park in Portland, Ore. In the process, the Eagles equaled their best regular season finish in 108 years of football and finished with its second unbeaten Big Sky season in 30 years in the conference.

Baldwin said the team will practice Monday and Tuesday this week, then will take the Thanksgiving holiday off. Eight first-round games take place Nov. 26, while the top eight seeds receive byes and will play the winners the following week on Dec. 3.

The Eagles were the 2010 NCAA Division I Champions after winning three home games in the playoffs and then defeating Delaware 20-19 for the title in Frisco, Texas. Eastern also hosted three games in 2012 and 2013, but lost in the semifinals both seasons. Eastern hosted two more playoff games in 2014, falling in the quarterfinal round.

Since 2010, Eastern has hosted 11 playoff games at Roos Field, winning eight of them.