Eagles are No. 3 Seed and Will Host a Game Dec. 1 at 2 p.m
CHENEY, Wash. — The 9-2 Eastern Washington University football team will host a second-round game on Dec. 1 at 2 p.m. Pacific time at Roos Field in Cheney, Wash., after receiving a No. 3 seed when the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Playoff pairings were announced Sunday (Nov. 18) morning. The No. 3 seed guarantees the Eagles have the potential to host at least two games up to the National Championship game.
Eastern fans have until this Wednesday (Nov 21) at 4 p.m. to renew and receive the same seats and tailgate parking spots as the regular season, and tickets for the general public go on sale Friday (Nov. 23) at 9 a.m. The Big Sky Conference co-champions will play the winner of the San Diego (9-2) at Nicholls State (8-3) game, which takes place on Nov. 24.
“We like to be at home – playing at home means you did a little bit more during the regular season,” said Eastern head coach Aaron Best . “It’s always fun to play at home and it’s nice to have Thanksgiving off for our fans and our student-athletes to be able to enjoy some family festivities along the way. Then we’ll ramp it up and play the winner of the Nicholls State and San Diego game we’ll be watching on Saturday.”
Four Big Sky Conference teams advanced to the playoffs, and EWU could potentially host No. 6 seed UC Davis in the quarterfinals and play at No. 2 seed Weber State (9-2) in the semifinals. Defending champion North Dakota State (11-0), which has won six of the last titles since EWU won in 2010, received the overall No. 1 seed and is on the opposite side of the bracket along with No. 4 Kennesaw State (10-1).
The Eagles will be making their 13th tournament appearance to rank 12th in FCS history, and have a 16-11 record all-time to rank 11th in wins. This is the first time Best has taken the Eagles to the playoffs as head coach, but he was with the team for eight seasons as an assistant (2004-05-2009-10-12-13-14-16) and one as a player (1997). He has been involved in a total of 19 postseason playoff games with a record of 12-7, plus a 2-1 mark as a player.
Best and his team hand the mantra all season of “Leave No Doubt” after the team was denied a berth last year after finishing 7-4 overall and 5-2 in the league.
“The standard around here are Big Sky championships and playoff berths, so when we don’t do that like last year it hurts,” he explained. “I’ve been here 20-plus years and have been a part of a lot of victories, so it hurt when I couldn’t tell those players last year why we didn’t get in. The natural response is we didn’t do enough on our resume to get in, but this year we didn’t want to put it anybody else’s hands. We weren’t going to let a committee or people decide our fate. We decided our own fate, and here we are and being in the bracket and being allowed to play it out.”
Eastern was fourth in the final regular season STATS NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Top 25 poll announced before the pairings were announced. Right with the Eagles are Weber State (3) and UC Davis (7), with Montana State ranking 23rd and also earning a playoff berth with a 7-4 record.
The Eagles wrapped up their 10th Big Sky Conference title and extended its winning streak to four games with a dominating 74-23 victory over Portland State Friday night (Nov. 16) at Hillsboro Stadium in Hillsboro, Ore. Eastern will enter the playoffs on a four-game winning streak which includes a 219-70 advantage on the scoreboard – an average score of 54-17. Most notably, Eastern is averaging 604.3 yards of offense, compared to 331.5 for opponents, including a 307.2 to 128.3 advantage in rushing.
Best said the team will practice Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday this week, then will take the Thanksgiving holiday off. Eight first-round games take place Nov. 24, while the top eight seeds receive byes and will play the winners the following week on Dec. 1.
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, 2013 and 2016, but lost in the semifinals all three seasons. Eastern hosted two more playoff games in 2014, falling in the quarterfinal round.
Since 2010, Eastern has hosted 14 playoff games at Roos Field, winning 10 of them. Eastern hasn’t had to play on the road since 2009 when if ell at Stephen F. Austin in the first round.
EWU Playoff Ticket Information . . .
The deadline for current season ticket holders to claim their season seats and tailgate parking spots for all potential home playoff games is Wednesday, Nov. 21, at 4 p.m. Pacific time. Tickets for the general public will go on sale Friday, Nov. 23 starting at 9 a.m. Tickets may be purchased at www.goeags.com/tickets or 509-359-6059. Beginning Tuesday, Nov. 20 at 9 a.m. EWU students may pick up one ticket per student ID (one student ID per person), at the EWU Bookstore while supplies last.
More Comments from Head Coach Aaron Best . . .
On Emotions This Season Compared to Last Year: “The feelings were different. We knew we would be hearing our name this year, but we didn’t know where we would be in the bracket. Last year we were hoping to see our name anywhere and we didn’t, so it was a little more emotional last year than this year. It’s great to see the Big Sky get three seeds in the top eight – really the top six. The Big Sky is well-represented with Montana State also getting a ticket. This conversation is more fun than the one we had 365 days ago.”
On Seniors Embracing Leave No Doubt Mantra: “A lot of it has to do with our 27 seniors. A quarter of our team – 27 out of 105 – are seniors. They got stung as juniors, and it’s a lot easier when you echo something when it’s heard and driven home by a quarter of the team. It truly helps when you have that type of veteran leadership on both sides of the ball. We learned from going 7-4 – we said we needed to get to eight to give us a better chance and leave no doubt. We got to nine so we exceeded those expectations.