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Decade in review: Eastern Washington athletics turned a corner in the 2010s

The 2010s saw Eastern Washington’s football program thrust itself into the Football Championship Subdivision’s elite.

Six playoff berths. Five semifinal appearances. Two national title games. Several future NFL and Canadian Football players and a rare, iconic red field were a big part of the run.

Its men’s basketball program was competitive, too, totaling four winning seasons, three Big Sky Conference Tournament title game appearances and a ticket to the Big Dance in 2015.

They weren’t the only EWU sports to enjoy monumental seasons this decade.

Here’s a look at the top 10 EWU athletics storylines of the 2010s.

The installment of red turf: EWU took a page out of Boise State’s playbook when it laid down unconventional field turf in 2010. Roos Field – also known as The Inferno – is now famous for its red field, where the Eagles have won 57 of their 67 home games

FCS national championship: The Eagles’ thrilling run to their first national football championship included a share of the 2010 Big Sky Conference title before home playoff wins against Southeast Missouri State, North Dakota State and Villanova. EWU trailed Delaware 19-0 before flipping the switch in the Football Championship Subdivision national title game, downing the Blue Hens 20-19 in Frisco, Texas.

Return to the NCAA Tournament: Behind star guard and future NBA draft pick Tyler Harvey, EWU shared the regular-season Big Sky title with Montana before downing the Grizzlies 69-65 in Missoula for the 2015 tournament title and the program’s second NCAA Tournament berth. The No. 13 seed Eagles fell to fourth-seeded Georgetown 87-77 in the first round in Portland. EWU upset Indiana 88-86 earlier in the season in Bloomington.

Eagles shock No. 25 Oregon State: Sophomore quarterback Vernon Adams had his way with the 25th-ranked Beavers in a 49-46 win in Corvallis, passing for 411 yards and rushing for 107, including the game-winning touchdown run with 18 seconds left. The Eagles outgained the Beavers 625-527 in total yards in the 2013 season opener.

Eagles upset Washington State: Sophomore quarterback Gage Gubrud, a former walk-on, had a sterling debut as a starter in a 45-42 win over the Cougars in Pullman, accounting for more than 500 total yards and the deciding touchdown run in the final minutes of the 2016 season opener.

Run to the 2018 FCS title game: Backup sophomore quarterback Eric Barriere and a stingy, senior-laden defense helped EWU advance to its second national title game before falling to 38-24 to FCS juggernaut North Dakota State, which won its seventh title in eight years. Despite a rash of key injuries, the Eagles earned a share of the Big Sky title before home playoff wins against Nicholls State, UC Davis and Maine to advance to Frisco, Texas, for the second time in nine seasons.

Cooper Mania: Cooper Kupp’s time in Cheney (2012-2016) was a rewrite of several FCS receiving records, including career yards (6,464), catches (428) and touchdowns (73). The Yakima native was drafted in the third round of the 2017 NFL Draft by the Los Angeles Rams, where he’s since become one of the most reliable receivers in the league, totaling 189 receptions, 2,497 yards and 20 touchdowns

Vernon Adams transfers to Oregon: One of the FCS level’s most electrifying talents of the 2000s, EWU star quarterback Vernon Adams, a two-time Walter Payton Award finalist during his three-year starting career in Cheney, took his skills to the Pac-12 in one of the most intriguing national stories of the college football offseason. Adams opted to play his final college season at Oregon as a graduate transfer in 2015, where he earned Pac-12 Newcomer of the Year distinction.

EWU soccer wins Big Sky, scares USC: After the Eagles won both the 2017 Big Sky regular-season and tournament women’s soccer championships, it faced No. 3 seed and defending national champion USC in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Chloe Williams’ goal gave EWU a 1-0 lead, but the Trojans scored in the 51st minute to ultimately force overtime. USC clipped the upset-minded Eagles 2-1 in double overtime.

EWU women’s hoops win Big Sky: Led by league MVP Julie Piper, the Eagles won their first Big Sky Conference regular-season championship and earned the right to host the conference tournament in Cheney. EWU fell to Montana State 65-77 in the semifinals but earned a spot in the WNIT.

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