Eastern Washington’s 2011 college football season – once filled with so much promise – will come to an earlier-than-anticipated close this afternoon when the Eagles take on Idaho State in a Big Sky Conference game that kicks off at 3 in Holt Arena in Pocatello.
Eastern, after last year’s run to an NCAA Division I championship, was thought to have enough returning talent to make another deep playoff run, and opened the season ranked No. 1 among FCS schools.
But a tough early-season schedule and an unprecedented number of injuries to key players was simply too much to overcome.
So, instead of using today’s game against the lowly Bengals (2-8 overall, 1-6 Big Sky) as a springboard into the postseason, the Eagles (5-5, 4-3) will try to send its senior class out with a win – and a winning season, which would be Eastern’s 14th in the last 16.
A victory, according to coach Beau Baldwin, would also give the Eagles, who lost their first four games, some extra momentum heading into the offseason.
“That would be big,” he said of the prospect of beating ISU, which is in its first season under former EWU and Montana State head coach Mike Kramer. “That’s program stuff, and something for our guys to look back on.
“It would be a great feeling for our guys going into the offseason to know it started out as rough as it could, and that we battled through adversity and still found a way to win six out of our last seven.”
To do that, Baldwin’s defense must effectively deal with the Bengals’ face-paced spread passing game that has produced an average of 303.1 yards per game – second only in the conference to the Eagles’ 365.5.
And his offense, which has relied so heavily on throwing the football, must find a way to operate against an ISU defense that has held opponents to a league-low 182.4 passing yards per game.
“I just want to see our guys go play a great football game,” Baldwin said. “It’s going to be another tough atmosphere to play in, and another tough road trip.”
EWU junior wide receiver Nicholas Edwards needs five catches today to set a single-season school record for receptions. … Senior quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell could become the Eagles’ single-season passing yardage leader if he throws for more than 391. … Idaho State has lost seven straight and hasn’t won since beating Northern Colorado 50-20 on Sept. 17.