This was suppose to be the easy part of the schedule.
With Montana, Montana State and Weber State out of the way, the rest of the Big Sky schedule looked less daunting to the eighth-ranked Eastern Washington University football team.
But there is no rest as the Eagles travel to dangerous Portland State on Saturday at 5 p.m. at Hillsboro Stadium.
“It’s the biggest game of the year – again,” said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin. “Portland State, like every team in this conference this year, is better. Portland State could have easily beaten Montana, so obviously they are a very good football team.”
An Eastern win will put the Eagles (6-2 overall, 5-1 in Big Sky) in a good position going into their bye week next week with only a home game against Idaho State (1-6, 0-5) left on the conference schedule. They could also get some help from Weber State, which hosts Montana today. Eastern is tied with Montana on top of the league standings at 5-1, with MSU at 4-1.
PSU (2-5, 1-3) is coming off a 44-41 road loss at Weber. The Vikings also fell to Montana 22-21 and at Montana State 44-31 after knocking off Idaho State 38-3 in its league opener.
“We better be ready to go and ready for a battle,” said Baldwin. “Unless something changes, it’s probably going to take all 60 minutes to get a win. That’s what we will tell our team and try to do.”
Last season at Seattle’s Qwest Field, EWU had a 545-278 advantage in total offense in a 47-10 romp over the Vikings. Things are different on offense this season under new coach Nigel Burton, a former defensive coordinator at Nevada. His version of the “pistol” offense has the Vikings 15th in FCS in rushing (220.0 per game) and 26th in total offense (394.3).
“They’ve improved dramatically in a number of areas and Coach Burton has done a great job,” Baldwin said. “I said it last week about Sac State and I can say it again about Portland State, but they could very easily have a winning record at this point in the Big Sky if a few things would have gone this way or that way. They are going to be a very tough opponent.”