The Nov. 5 bye on Eastern Washington University’s top-loaded 2011 football schedule is listed directly below the name of last Saturday’s Roos Field opponent Portland State – and under the Eagles’ eight previous opponents, as well.
It is a much-needed bye, to be sure, considering the injury woes Eastern has endured this fall.
But coming prior to next Saturday’s non-conference road game against future Big Sky member Cal Poly and a season-ending Nov. 19 matchup against lowly Idaho State in Pocatello, Idaho, it also seems a bit mistimed.
The Eagles might have been bettered served by a week off prior to last Saturday’s 43-26 loss to PSU, which used its high-powered pistol offense to further torture an Eastern defense that had several key players – including all-American tackle Renard Williams, who missed playing on Senior Day because of an ankle sprain suffered in a 42-25 overtime win over Sacramento State a week earlier – either unavailable or hurting.
Still, coach Beau Baldwin refused to whine about the bye-week timing after last weekend’s defeat, which snuffed out his team’s flickering hopes of making the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs and successfully defending its 2010 NCAA Division I championship.
“Hindsight being 20-20, yeah, maybe … well, sure,” he said, when asked if this week’s bye might have arrived too late. “But if we win this (Portland State) game, it would have been absolutely perfect. This was a home game, and if we could have found a way to win it, the week off heading into our two remaining road games would have worked out great.”
And even though the playoffs are no longer a possibility, Baldwin hopes to use this week to prepare his battered Eagles for a strong finish to a disappointing season.
“Regardless, it comes at a good time for us,” he said. “Having to be perfect (since an 0-4 start) has been a real grind on our guys, and we need it to just get well, both mentally and physically. We’re a little bit drained right now, and it’ll help to get that little time away.
“This bye week is needed to get fresher, and to get ready to play Cal Poly, which is going to be another tough game.”
Mitchell stays hot
Eastern Washington’s senior quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell continued his productive late-season run by throwing for 440 yards and four touchdowns in last Saturday’s 43-26 loss to Portland State.
That effort, his third 400-yard passing performance of the year, put Mitchell in position to break Eastern records for single season and career passing yards per game.
Mitchell’s current season average of 352.9 yards per game is well ahead of the single-season record of 333.6 yards per game set in 2005 by Walter Payton Award winner Erik Meyer. And his career average of 278.0 is ahead of the record of 268.4 held by Matt Nichols (2006-09).
Mitchell leads all Big Sky quarterbacks with six 300-yard or more passing games. The next closest are Idaho State’s Kevin Yost and Northern Arizona’s Cary Grossart, who each have three.
He also leads all FCS quarterback in passing yardage with 3,176.
MSU climbs to No. 2
Big Sky Conference leader Montana State, on the strength of its 54-13 rout of Idaho State on Saturday, climbed from fourth to second, behind No. 1 North Dakota State, this week in both The Sports Network/Fathead.com and FCS Coaches’ Top 25 rankings.
The Bobcats (8-1 overall, 6-0 in the Big Sky) have now won eight straight and clinch at least a share of the BSC regular-season title with a road win over Weber State on Saturday.
Montana (7-2, 6-1), which thumped Weber State 45-10 last weekend, remained at No. 8 in the coaches’ poll, and climbed from 11th to 10th in the TSN/Fathead.com rankings.
Third and shorts
Portland State’s Connor Kavanaugh rushed for 154 yards against EWU last Saturday and now owns the single-season Big Sky rushing record for quarterbacks with 807 yards. … Despite its six-game losing streak and 2-7 overall record, Idaho State boasts the national receptions-per-game leader in junior wideout Rodrick Rumble, who is averaging 10.9 catches per game. … The Big Sky is ranked No. 5 – behind the Southern, Missouri Valley, Great West and Colonial – in this week’s Sagrain Ratings of FCS conferences.