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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Eastern football schedule looks daunting

Eastern Washington fans will see five home games next season at Roos Field, including FCS perennial power Northern Iowa and Montana. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

Eastern Washington is always up for a challenge, but this year’s football schedule takes it to a new level.

The Eagles’ three nonconference opponents – Washington State, North Dakota State and Northern Iowa – went 31-11 last year and 7-1 in the postseason.

As Eastern Washington unveiled its schedule on Monday, coach Beau Baldwin echoed his comments from past challenges.

“It’s exciting to play a tough schedule and put ourselves in some challenging situations,” Baldwin said.

“That’s what our coaches and players love to do. I always wonder if it can get any more challenging than whatever we did last year or the year before, but this one might be the topper,” Baldwin said.

WSU is coming off a 9-4 season that included a Sun Bowl win over Miami; NDSU has won five straight FCS titles since EWU took the championship in 2010; and Northern Iowa went 9-5, with wins over EWU (31-28 in the regular season) and Portland State (29-17 in the FCS playoffs).

The Eagles fell to 6-5 last year after winning three straight Big Sky Conference titles.

The season opener is Sept. 3 at WSU. A week later the Eagles are scheduled to visit NDSU in a game, however that could double as the FCS Kickoff, according to reports by Fox Sports and ESPN.

If that’s the case, the game would be moved up to Aug. 27. Eastern beat Sam Houston 56-35 in the inaugural FCS Kickoff in 2014.

The home opener on Sept. 17 against Northern Iowa is the second leg of a home-and-home series that began last year in Cedar Falls, Iowa.

Eastern’s Big Sky Conference schedule begins Sept. 24 at Northern Arizona.

Montana will visit Cheney on Oct. 29. After a road game at Cal Poly on Nov. 5, the Eagles will have Senior Day on Nov. 12 against Idaho State.

Eastern closes the regular season Nov. 19 at Portland State, which joined Montana as runner-up in the league last season and advanced to the playoffs.

Southern Utah, last year’s league champion with a 7-1 mark and final 8-4 record, is not on EWU’s 2016 schedule for the second-straight season.

Game times have not been announced for any games.