The Eagles came a long, long way in exactly a year.
The Eastern Washington University football team ended the postseason 10 positions higher than the way it started by ranking fourth in a pair of final NCAA Football Championship Subdivision polls announced Monday.
On their way to a 12-2 finish that included a perfect 8-0 Big Sky Conference record, the Eagles finished fourth in the STATS Top 25 Poll of sports information and media relations directors, broadcasters, writers and others. In the Coaches Poll, Eastern was also fourth.
The only teams ahead of EWU were NCAA Division I Champion James Madison at No. 1, runner-up Youngstown State at No. 2, and North Dakota State third. The Bison had won five-straight FCS titles and 22-consecutive postseason games before top-seeded NDSU was defeated at home by fourth-seeded JMU 27-17 in the semifinals.
The next day, second-seeded Eastern fell to Youngstown State 40-38 on an improbable TD reception with one second left by the Penguins.
James Madison went on to beat YSU 28-14 in the NCAA Division I Championship Game on Jan. 7 in Frisco, Texas.