Beating the big boys never gets old, mainly because it’s never easy.
Eastern Washington is ready to find out whether it can be done twice in nine days.
After throttling Idaho 20-3 last week in Moscow, the Eagles return to the Palouse on Saturday for the chance at a rare double – back-to-back wins over Football Bowl Subdivision opponents.
“It’s a bigger challenge, and not to take anything from Idaho, but Washington State and the Pac-12 is at a higher level,” said EWU head coach Beau Baldwin, whose Eagles were one of four Football Championship Subdivision teams to score wins over bigger programs.
“I definitely expect WSU to be an incredible challenge.”
Challenging but winnable – oddsmakers in Las Vegas rate the Cougars as only a six- to 10-point favorite. The only sure thing is the payday for Eastern: $400,000.
The win over Idaho was Eastern’s first over an FBS team since … Idaho, in 2003, when the Eagles won 8-5. Big Sky teams have more than held their own against the Vandals, going 6-3 overall since the Vandals moved up in 1996.
Other Big Sky teams didn’t fare as well: Idaho State lost 49-21 at Air Force; Weber State fell 37-10 at Fresno State; and Northern Arizona got blasted 63-6 at Arizona State.
And then there’s Sacramento State, which got a big win in last year’s opener at Oregon State of the Pac-12, but fell 49-19 last week at New Mexico State, one of the lowliest FBS programs.
Five Big Sky teams will take up the FBS challenge again on Saturday. Besides the game in Pullman, there’s Southern Utah at California, Weber State at BYU, Sacramento Sate at Colorado and Northern Arizona at UNLV.
Drake’s all-time winningest football coach will return to the sidelines at Drake Stadium when the Bulldogs host Rob Ash’s No. 4 Montana State team on Saturday night.
“I’m excited to come back,” Ash said. “I’ve put a lot of years of my life into building the program at Drake and living in Des Moines. It felt like home, although, I have to say, Montana feels like home now.”
Ash spent 18 seasons at Drake from 1989 to 2006, when he compiled a 125-63-2 record and won four Pioneer Football League titles. Since taking over at Montana State, Ash has guided the Bobcats to a 40-20 record and back-to-back shared Big Sky Conference titles.
Idaho State coach Mike Kramer has been stuck on 79 career victories, but that should change on Saturday when the Bengals play host to Black Hills State. Kramer can move into a tie for third place on the Big Sky’s all-time win list. Kramer is in his 15th season as a head coach in the Big Sky. He previously coached at Eastern Washington (1994-1999), and Montana State (2000-06).
They don’t count
Big Sky rivals Portland State and North Dakota will meet on Saturday in Grand Forks. The matchup will be a nonconference game, one of three matchups this season that won’t count in the standings. On Sept. 15, Northern Colorado plays Sacramento State in a nonconference game. And on Nov. 3, Cal Poly takes on Eastern Washington in a nonconference game. They don’t count in the official standings, but they might mean plenty if there’s an at-large FCS playoff spot on the line.
Winning right away
Three of the Big Sky’s four new football teams won on the opening weekend. North Dakota beat South Dakota Mines 66-0 in Grand Forks; Cal Poly cruised to a 41-14 win over San Diego as Mustangs’ quarterback Andre Broadous accounted for four touchdowns; and UC Davis took care of Azusa Pacific 41-3. Southern Utah was the only new squad to play an FBS team. The Thunderbirds fell at Utah State 34-3.
Baldwin said that EWU running back Demitrius Bronson’s hamstring injury is “day-to-day” as the Eagles prepare for Washington State. … EWU All-American WR Brandon Kaufman returned from an injury that cost him most of the 2011 season. Kaufman recorded his ninth 100-yard receiving game with five catches for a game-high 148 yards against Idaho. … Games from Idaho State, Northern Colorado and North Dakota can be viewed for free on Big Sky TV. Big Sky TV is now available on iOS and Android devices.