The Eastern Washington University football team opens its 2013 season against Oregon State University this Saturday (Aug. 31) in a game that begins at 3:07 p.m. Pacific time and is televised by the Pac-12 Networks.
The Eagles are a member of the Big Sky Conference and ranked fourth in the Sports Network preseason top-25 NCAA Football Championship Subdivision poll, and are third by the coaches. The Beavers are from the Pac-12 Conference, and are ranked 25th in both the Associated Press and USA Today (coaches) polls in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision.
This is the third-straight year the Eagles have played teams from the Pac-12 Conference, and the previous two years Eastern had last-possession chances to take the lead and possibly pull off the upset. Eastern fell 24-20 at Washington State last Sept. 8, and 30-27 to Washington on Sept. 3 in 2011.
“I love being in those environments competing, fighting and putting it all out there,” said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin, who enters his sixth season at the helm. “Our players love it. Our guys grew up hoping to get recruited by a Pac-12 school, so when they get a chance at Eastern Washington to play a team from that conference, they want to show that they are right there with them.”
In 2012, the Eagles finished 11-3 overall and advanced to the semifinals of the FCS Playoffs. A total of 48 returning letterwinners are back for EWU, including seven starters on offense and five on defense (not counting injured safety Jordan Tonani).
In 2012, Oregon State was 9-4 overall and 6-1 in the Pac-12 Conference, and finished the year ranked 19th nationally. The Beavers ended the season by losing 31-27 to Texas is the Valero Alamo Bowl, but OSU returns 15 starters and a combined 302 career starts. By contrast, EWU returns 12 starters and has 33 players returning with 301 career starts between them.
This is the 10th time Eastern has played a current member of the Pac-12 Conference, and Eastern came away winless in the first nine. Included was a 56-17 loss at Oregon State in 2006 when the Eagles fell behind 35-0, as well as a narrow 21-19 loss in 2000 in the first-ever meeting between the two schools. In that first meeting, Eastern pulled to within two points with 3:16 to play, but Oregon State picked up a first down on the ensuing possession and was able to run out most of the remaining time on the clock before punting on the final play of the game.
Since the early 1980’s when it began the move to become a member of FCS (in 1984), Eastern is now 8-20 all-time versus FBS teams. A 20-3 win at Idaho to open the 2012 season snapped a 10-game skid.
“Luckily, we have a lot of veterans who have been a part of our games at the University of Washington and WSU, and playoff games last year and in 2010,” said Baldwin, who coached the Eagles to the 2010 NCAA Division I title. “Younger players who have not been a part of that can lean on the older guys to see how they are reacting to every situation.