Heading into last Saturday’s season opener against the University of Washington, with a chance to play up against a Football Bowl Subdivision school in front of 60,000 fans in Husky Stadium in Seattle, motivation was not an issue for Eastern Washington University’s football team.
But this week, the Eagles find themselves preparing for a weekend trip to Vermillion, S.D. where they will face South Dakota in a nonconference contest that will kick off at 2 p.m. in the Coyotes’ 10,000-seat DakotaDome.
And while EWU coach Beau Baldwin admits almost everything is in place for a possible letdown, he is confident his veteran team will bring plenty of passion once again on Saturday as it attempts to maintain its No. 1 ranking among Football Championship Subdivision schools and atone for its 30-27 loss to Washington.
“I have no concerns about a letdown, whatsoever,” Baldwin said Wednesday morning, “because we’re sitting at 0-1 right now, and our guys are hungry. I still don’t think a lot of people believed us, or bought into what we were saying – that we were going to go over to Seattle and win that game.
“But that was our mindset. We expected to win, and not getting that win was disappointing. Our guys are mature enough and competitive enough that they don’t like the taste of a loss, no matter who it comes against. And they know it’s going to take a strong week of practice and a great game to get us to 1-1.”
Baldwin suggested that motivating his team for Saturday’s game might have been more difficult if the Eagles had managed to upset Washington.
“Then it might have been an issue,” he explained. “But the challenge of still trying to get that first win is enough to motivate our guys.”
Eastern’s young corners make the grade
After watching video of Saturday’s loss to UW, Baldwin acknowledged that the play of his two starting cornerbacks – Alden Gibbs and T.J. Lee – was impressive, considering their lack of experience.
“They graded out pretty darn well,” he said of Gibbs, a senior, and Lee, a sophomore, who were both making their first career starts. “UW’s longest reception of the day was 10 yards, so our guys did a good job of keeping things in front of them.
“And they tackled well, too. Sure we missed a couple of tackles, but again, against Pac-12 athletes.”
Lee finished with seven tackles against the Huskies, while Gibbs had a hand in four, including one for a loss.
EWU injury update
Ashton Miller, a 6-foot-2, 285-pound sophomore offensive guard making his first career start, ruptured an Achilles tendon in Eastern’s loss to UW and will miss the rest season.
Jase Butorac, a 6-3, 285-pound redshirt freshman, is expected to take Miller’s spot in the starting lineup against South Dakota on Saturday.
Big Sky comes up big in weekly rankings
The Big Sky Conference, thanks to Sacramento State’s 29-28 road win over Oregon State, has four teams ranked among the top 20 teams in both major FCS polls this week.
The Hornets, who were unranked in the preseason, debuted in the FCS Coaches Poll at No. 18, and moved up from 24th to 12th in The Sports Network/Fathead Top 25.
Eastern Washington, despite dropping its season opener to Washington, remained No. 1 in both polls, while Montana State checked in at No. 6 in both polls, despite losing 27-10 at Utah last Saturday. Montana, which fell 42-16 at Tennessee in its season opener, is ranked 13th in the FCS Coaches Poll and 15th in TSN/Fathead.com’s Top 25.
EWU’s senior quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell leads all FCS players in total offense after having amassed 469 yards in last Saturday’s 30-27 loss to Washington, while teammate Nicholas Edwards, a junior wide receiver, leads the nation in receptions with 12. … Eastern’s junior wideout Brandon Kaufman has a Big Sky-best seven 100-yard receiving games, three more than Sac State’s Chase Deadder, who is second on the active list with four. … Weber State junior quarterback Mike Hoke made an impressive debut last Saturday, throwing for 314 yards and two touchdowns in the Wildcats’ 32-28 road loss to Wyoming. … Big Sky teams went 1-6 against Football Bowl Subdivision opponents last weekend, with Sac State picking up the only win with a stunning 29-28 triumph over Oregon State in Corvallis, Ore.
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