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FRIDAY, OCT. 16, 2009, 10:23 A.M.

EWU vs. Montana: How big is it?

Will is mean anything come November?

That remains the question on the minds of many Eastern Washington University football fans as they look toward Saturday's 12:05 p.m.Big Sky Conference game against unbeaten and third-ranked Montana at Washington-Grizzly Stadium in Missoula.

Read on.

 

With the Eagles still awaiting word on their appeal of the post-season ban slapped on them by the NCAA over the summer, it remains difficult for some Eastern fans to put the outcome of Saturday's showdown -- no matter what that is -- in proper perspective.

That does not seem to be a problem, however, for second-year head coach Beau Baldwin and his players, who all understand the importance of another opportunity to test yourself against one the of top Football Championship Subdivision programs in the country.

In fact, Baldwin has spent some time this week trying to keep his team from getting too caught up in Montana Week and the chance to knock the Grizzliles (5-0 overall, 2-0 in the Big Sky) from the ranks of the unbeaten in front of 25,000 noisy, hostile fans.

"You just have to try, again, to take for what it is -- this week's ballgame," Baldwin said. "No matter what your record is, it's this week's ballgame.  The important thing is that you do the right things to put yourself in position to win this week, and it really doesn't matter what happened last week or the last four weeks.

"I know that's a coach's way of thinking, but you have to think of it that way: This is this week's ballgame, and what do we have to do to win this week? You don't need to make it any bigger than that, because that's big enough."

That seems to be a bit of a mindset change from last year, when the Eagles saw a once-promising season fizzle out at 6-5.

"The big difference this year is our mentality," said junior linebacker J.C. Sherritt.  "Last year, we knew we had a huge skill level at most positions, and I think we kind of got ahead of ourselves in setting goals -- we want to be league champs; we want to be in the national championship.

"But this year, Coach Baldwin has done a great job of bringing us down, and our only goal right  now is to beat Montana."

To do that, the Eagles (4-2, 3-1) will have to eliminate -- or at least greatly reduce -- the number of mistakes they made in last Saturday 31-13 home loss to Weber State.  And that won't be easy in an environment as loud and chaotic as Washington-Grizzly Stadium -- especially for a team that runs a no-huddle offense like Eastern.

Fortunately, Baldwin noted, his veteran team is no stranger to such experiences, having played recently at California, Texas Tech and Colorado.

"More than anything, we have to communicate well with our hand singles and we've got to stay really focused," Baldwin said. "We might even have to at least muddle huddle once in awhile -- bring the wideouts in a little closer so they can hear the call, which is something we don't have to do when we're at home."

 




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