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Eastern Washington University Football
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Things to watch: Eastern Washington looks to end skid against UC Davis

UPDATED: Fri., Nov. 12, 2021

By Dan Thompson For The Spokesman-Review

The Eastern Washington Eagles are still looking for an eighth win this season, something of a benchmark for reaching the 24-team FCS playoffs.

That is especially important because one of Eastern’s victories came against Division II Central Washington, and D-II wins don’t factor in playoff considerations for at-large teams.

A conference title is all but out now for the No. 7 Eagles (7-2, 4-2), considering there are two Big Sky teams with 6-0 records – Montana State and Sacramento State – with two games to go.

But the playoffs, and even a top-eight seed, are still in reach if the Eagles win out.

Here are three aspects of Saturday’s game at No. 6 UC Davis (8-1, 5-1) to watch closely:

What will be the impact of Andrew Boston? The senior receiver has all but disappeared from the stat sheet in the past two losses. He caught no passes against Weber State and then just two for 10 yards against Montana State (another was nullified by an offensive pass interference call that went against Boston ). Before that, Boston had 35 catches for 629 yards and five touchdowns. Boston didn’t play last spring when these teams met, but the combination of Talolo Limu-Jones, Freddie Roberson and Boston should make a big impact against a UC Davis defense that statistically is not as strong as either of the previous two faced by the Eagles. It will be interesting, too, to see whether anything changes with Pat McCann as interim offensive coordinator. McCann, the wide receivers coach, is replacing Ian Shoemaker, who resigned Tuesday for undisclosed reasons.

How does Eastern handle the UC Davis quarterback rotation? When these teams met last spring, Eastern Washington limited UC Davis’ three quarterbacks (all of whom are back this fall) to 179 passing yards on 13 of 25 attempts. One of them, Trent Tompkins, ran for 60 yards . Surely, the Eagles would be content with similar lines this week. This season, Tompkins is second on the Aggies with 367 rushing yards (running back Ulonzo Gilliam Jr. has 786) and has thrown just 12 passes. Miles Hastings has completed 82 of 125 throws for 776 yards and five touchdowns. Hunter Rodrigues – the primary quarterback earlier in the season – is 98 of 165 for 1,191 yards and seven scores.

Who kicks for the Eagles, and how much will it matter? The Eagles haven’t made a field goal since late in a game against Northern Colorado on Oct. 9. That’s three games – all at home – the Eagles have gone without one, and over that span they have attempted just a single field goal (against Idaho). Jackson Cleaver handled extra points last week in place of starter Seth Harrison, who didn’t dress for the game. Overall this season, though, Harrison is 6 for 12 and Cleaver is 2 for 2 on field goals.

UC Davis is 16 of 20 on field goals this season, giving them a decided edge if the game comes down to just a few points. Surely, though, the Eagles would rather play well enough that this game doesn’t come down to a field-goal attempt for either team.

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