The Eagles, who capped a perfect 8-0 Big Sky Conference season with a 42-41 win over the Vikings on Saturday (Nov. 22), received a first-round bye and will host a game on Dec. 7 at 1 p.m. Pacific time at Roos Field in the second round of the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs.
Pairings were announced Sunday morning, and the Eagles will face the winner of the South Dakota State at Northern Arizona game at 5 p.m. Pacific time on Nov. 30. The Jackrabbits are 8-4 on the season while the Lumberjacks are 9-2 after finishing second behind the Eagles in the Big Sky standings.
Eastern received the No. 3 seed, putting it in the same bracket as No. 2 Eastern Illinois. Seeds 1-8 are guaranteed home games through to the semifinals provided they are the higher-seeded team in their match-up. Montana received the No. 8 seed and is in the opposite side the bracket with top-seeded and two-time defending champion North Dakota State. Southern Utah also made the bracket from the Big Sky, while Montana State was left off after losing its last three games of the season.
Tickets for Eastern’s Dec. 7 game go on sale at 10 a.m. on Monday (Nov. 25). The championship game is Jan. 4 in Frisco, Texas, on ESPN2. All games in the first two rounds will be broadcast via ESPN3, with TV for subsequent rounds to be announced.
“We had a good idea – a No. 3 seed is what everybody was saying and it’s what we kind of expected,” said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin. “It’s perfect. We know we are going to get that first one at home, and we’ll have to go out and earn a victory. It’s exciting for our team, and exciting to have that first-round bye. From a physical and mental standpoint, it’s a long road to get to this point.”
Eastern has had seven playoff berths in a nine-year span (2004-13), ranking the Eagles as one of only four schools among 122 in FCS to accomplish that feat. The others are Montana, New Hampshire and Appalachian State. New Hampshire, North Dakota State and Appalachian State join the Eagles as the only teams to have qualified in four of the last five years.
Best of all, the Eagles get a first-round bye and are hosting games, just like they did last season when they advanced to the semifinals and in 2010 when the Eagles won the NCAA Division I title. Getting players healthy is the greatest benefit of having Thanksgiving weekend off.
“We could feel it after the game, and even in the last few weeks,” said Baldwin. “But you have to keep grinding and keep going. We knew if we were fortunate enough to receive the bye over Thanksgiving it would come a good time for us. We need to let some guys to heal physically, but also mentally to allow our players to rest and regroup. We’ll get some work in before they go for Thanksgiving, then we’ll hit it hard next week when we know exactly who we play.”
Eastern has never played SDSU, but is 19-10 overall against NAU. Because of the expansion of the league in 2012, the Eagles haven’t played NAU since 2011 when EWU won in Flagstaff, Ariz., 38-26.
Interestingly, Eastern’s last-gasp win over PSU – EWU drove 74 yards in just 29 seconds for a game-winning TD with 31 seconds to play, denied NAU a share of the league title with Eastern. The Lumberjacks finished 7-1 in the Big Sky this year.
“We thought there was a chance us and NAU could meet up somewhere quickly,” said Baldwin. “It’s a credit to all the Big Sky schools who were included – NAU, Montana and Southern Utah – for representing the league really well. It’s fun having four teams in this bracket.”
FCS Playoff Ticket Information . . .
Tickets for the general public go on sale starting Monday (Nov. 25) at 10 a.m. Links and information are available at http://goeags.com/ticket/13playoffs. They may be purchased through TicketsWest outlets, via www.ticketswest.com and 1-800-325-SEAT. Prices range from $30 for premium seating to $20 for end zone and east side seating.
Season ticket holders have first rights to the seats they held for the regular season for any and all playoff at Roos Field, however, they need to reserve seats by 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 27. After that, those seats will be released for sale to the general public.
Free tickets for Eastern students will be available for pickup at the EWU Bookstore Customer Service Desk starting Monday (Nov. 25) at 10:30 a.m. In order to claim a student ticket, students must present a valid EWU student identification card. The limit is one ticket per ID card and only one ticket is available per customer.
EWU’s Playoff History
* Eastern will be making its 10th appearance in the playoffs in 2013, becoming the 16th team in FCS to have 10 or more appearances. The other appearances for the Eagles came in 1985, 1992, 1997, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2012. With a 6-5 record during an injury-ravaged season in 2011, Eastern fell a victory shy of making its first back-to-back-to-back appearances.
* Eastern has had seven playoff berths in a nine-year span (2004-13), ranking the Eagles as one of only four schools among 122 in FCS to accomplish that feat. The only other four teams to have qualified seven of the last 10 years are Appalachian State (2005-06-07-08-09-10-11-12, not eligible in ‘13), Montana (2004-05-06-07-08-09-11-13) and New Hampshire (2004-05-06-07-08-09-10-11-12-13).
* The Eagles will be making their fourth appearance in the last five years (2009-13), with only New Hampshire (2009-10-11-12-13), North Dakota State (2010-11-12-13) and Appalachian State (2009-10-11-12, not eligible in ‘13) also currently on that list.
* The Eagles have an 11-8 record in their previous nine playoff appearances (1985, 1992, 1997, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2012) to rank 10th in FCS history for wins and 13th in winning percentage (.579). Eastern has now advanced to the semifinals in the FCS Playoffs three times (1997, 2010, 2012), and has won its opener six times (1985, 1997, 2004, 2007, 2010, 2012). The 2012 season marked EWU’s sixth appearance in the quarterfinals, and 2010 was EWU’s first appearance in the championship game.
Here is a complete list of EWU’s FCS playoff games (EWU received a first-round bye in 2010, the first year the playoffs were expanded to 20 teams):
2012 – Sam Houston State – L, 42-45 (Semifinals/Cheney)
2012 – Illinois State – W, 51-35 (Quarterfinals/Cheney)
2012 – Wagner – W, 29-19 (Second Round/Cheney)
2010 - Delaware - W, 20-19 (Championship/Frisco, Texas)
2010 - Villanova - W, 41-31 (Semifinals/Cheney)
2010 - North Dakota State - W, 38-31 in OT (Quarterfinals/Cheney)
2010 - Southeast Missouri State - W, 37-17 (Second Round/Cheney)
2009 - at Stephen F. Austin - L, 33-44 (First Round)
2007 - at Appalachian State - L, 35-38 (Quarterfinals)
2007 - at McNeese State - W, 44-15 (First Round)
2005 - at Northern Iowa - L, 38-41 (First Round)
2004 - Sam Houston State - L, 34-35 (Quarterfinals/Cheney)
2004 - at Southern Illinois - W, 35-31 (First Round)
1997 - Youngstown State - L, 14-25 (Semifinals/Spokane)
1997 - Western Kentucky - W, 38-21 (Quarterfinals/Spokane)
1997 - Northwestern State - W, 40-10 (First Round/Spokane)
1992 - at Northern Iowa - L, 14-17 (First Round)
1985 - at Northern Iowa - L, 14-17 (Quarterfinals)
1985 - at Idaho - W, 42-38 (First Round)
* For the third time in school history, the 2012 Eagles advanced to the semifinals of the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs. Eastern defeated Wagner (29-19) and #16 Illinois State (51-35) in the first two rounds, then fell to #5 Sam Houston State (45-42) to finish 11-3 on the season. Eastern hosted all three games at Roos Field in Cheney, Wash., and also hosted three games in 2010 (Roos Field) and 1997 (Albi Stadium in Spokane). The Eagles received the No. 2 seed in the playoffs, with eventual champion North Dakota State getting the top seed, followed by EWU, Montana State, Old Dominion and Georgia Southern. The top five teams are seeded 1-5, and are guaranteed home games as long as they are the higher-seeded team in their match-up and have met NCAA guidelines to host. In 2010, Eastern was the No. 5 seed, and because of higher-seeded teams losing in the early rounds, hosted three games at Roos Field.
* Seeded fifth, Eastern won four-straight games to win the 2010 NCAA Division I National Championship. The top-ranked Eagles defeated #9 Southeast Missouri State (37-17), #25 North Dakota State (38-31 in overtime) and defending champion #10 Villanova (41-31) in three home playoff games, then defeated #5 Delaware (20-19) in the championship game on Jan. 7, 2011, in Frisco, Texas. Quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell was selected as the game’s Most Outstanding Player after throwing three touchdowns passes in the final 16:48 as EWU rallied from a 19-0 deficit.
* In 2009, the 13th-ranked Eagles lost at No. 12 Stephen F. Austin 44-33 in the first round. In 2007, the Eagles handed second-seeded and No. 3 ranked McNeese State its first loss of the year in a 44-15 first-round victory. Eastern then lost in the quarterfinals at two-time defending champion Appalachian State. In 2004, Eastern defeated No. 1 ranked and top-seeded Southern Illinois 35-31 in the first round and then lost 35-34 to Sam Houston State in the quarterfinal round in EWU’s first-ever playoff game at Roos Field (formerly Woodward Field) in Cheney, Wash. In both 2004 and 2007, Eastern entered the playoffs ranked 14th nationally.
* Until 2004, Eastern hadn’t appeared in the FCS playoffs since 1997 when the Eagles advanced to the semifinals where it lost to Youngstown State 25-14 at Albi Stadium in Spokane, Wash. Eastern played two early-round games at Albi, defeating Northwestern State 40-10 and Western Kentucky 38-21. Western Kentucky was coached by Jack Harbaugh, whose sons Jim and John are the first pair of brothers to serve as NFL head coaches and face off in a Super Bowl (XLVII on Feb. 3, 2013)
* Eastern also participated in the playoffs in 1985 (won at Idaho 42-38 and lost at Northern Iowa 17-14) and 1992 (lost at Northern Iowa 17-14). The school’s only other postseason experience came in 1967 when Eastern advanced to the NAIA Championship game where it lost to Fairmont State 28-21. Eastern has won three previous national titles, but none in head-to-head competition or at the NCAA Division I level. Eastern won the 1977 NAIA wrestling title, the 1982 NCAA Division II men’s cross country championship and the 1970 Class II national championship for women’s collegiate gymnastics programs.