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Eagles’ 2005 football slate has 3 games in California

The 2005 football schedule for defending Big Sky Conference co-champion Eastern Washington University can be summed up in one word – challenging.

“It’s a good schedule,” Eagles coach Paul Wulff said.

Wulff pointed to the opener at Division I-A San Jose State on Sept. 3 and two difficult I-AA non-conference games late in the season against 2004 Top 25 teams Cal Poly and UC Davis. The Eagles, who reached the I-AA quarterfinals last season and were ranked No. 8 after the season, play at Cal Poly Nov. 5 and Davis is at Woodward Field to close the season Nov. 19.

Eastern also plays four of seven league games on the road. That means trips to perennial power Montana (Oct. 15) and hard-to-reach Pocatello, Idaho; Flagstaff, Ariz.; and Sacramento, Calif.

The other non-conference game is the home opener against NAIA Western Oregon on Sept. 17, which follows a bye the second week of the season.

“We have three games in California this year, which is probably a first,” Wulff said. “That helps (recruiting) a little bit because, no question, we have to have somewhat of a flavor from California on our football team. We don’t have a lot of (Californians). Our base always has been and will continue to be Washington, but it does help.”

Last season the Eagles opened with losses at Nicholls State in Louisiana and Air Force. Then they won eight of nine games, going 6-1 in the Big Sky Conference and finishing 8-3 to make the I-AA playoffs. They won at top-ranked Southern Illinois before losing at home to Sam Houston State on the last play of the game.

“It’s a good schedule both in games we’ve proven we can win and travel, staying out West,” Eastern athletic director Scott Barnes said. “I wouldn’t mind picking up a I-AA out of the area game every other year where it fits, but a lot of times you’re talking going east of the Mississippi. It’s the landscape of I-AA football in the West region. There just aren’t enough choices outside of our conference.”

Barnes is on a committee that will visit Greeley, Colo., on Feb. 1 as part of the process to consider Northern Colorado for membership in the Big Sky Conference.

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