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Eastern Washington University Football
Sports >  EWU football

Looking back: The five best wins in EWU football history

UPDATED: Sat., Sept. 4, 2021

By Dan Thompson For The Spokesman-Review

While Eastern Washington has endured its share of blowout losses to Football Bowl Subdivision teams, it’s given a number of those teams trouble.

On 11 occasions, including a 35-33 double-overtime victory at UNLV on Thursday, the Eagles have defeated an FBS team. Another 27 times, they’ve lost, often handily (let’s not dwell on that 84-21 loss at No. 10 Houston in 1990).

If the UNLV Rebels prove to be the bottom dwellers of the Mountain West Conference, the Eagles’ victory at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas may lose some of its luster in an all-time sense: Beating Idaho 20-3 in 2012, for example, may not seem impressive, given the Vandals won only one game that year, whereas the Eagles finished 11-3.

But the in-the-moment thrill still has to count for something.

Here’s a look back at five of those FCS-over-FBS upsets in Eagles’ history.

No. 5: Eastern Washington 20, Long Beach State 17

Oct. 29, 1983, at Joe Albi Stadium in Spokane

Technically this one doesn’t fit the category perfectly, as the Eagles were still a Division II independent team. But Long Beach State that year was a better-than-average Pacific Coast Athletic Association team, finishing 8-4 with victories over Big Eight school Kansas State and Hawaii out of the Western Athletic Conference.

University High School graduate Rob James threw a 50-yard touchdown to Craig Richardson to open the scoring for Eastern. In the fourth quarter, after Long Beach tied the game with a touchdown and two-point conversion, Dave Marriott kicked the game-winning 34-yard field goal to give the Eagles the 20-17 victory.

It was the second of five straight wins for the Dick Zornes-coached Eagles, who started that season 0-5 but finished 5-5. It was the first victory over a Division I-A team in program history.

No. 4: Eastern Washington 24, Idaho 21

Nov. 1, 1997, at Joe Albi Stadium

Six times in their history the Eagles faced the Vandals while Idaho was playing in the FBS, and three times Eastern emerged with a victory. This was the first and marked the program’s first game at Joe Albi since 1990.

Behind by four points in the final minutes, quarterback Harry Leons led the Eagles on a 64-yard drive, capped by a Rex Prescott 3-yard touchdown run with 34 seconds left.

The victory ended a five-game losing streak to the Vandals, who had just moved up to the FBS a year before, playing in the Big West Conference.

Eastern won the Big Sky and hosted three Division I-AA playoff games at Joe Albi that season, losing in the semifinals to Youngstown State.

No. 3: Eastern Washington 35, UNLV 33 (2 OT)

Sept. 2, 2021, at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas

Look no further than the starting quarterbacks in this game, and it’s easy to see how the Eagles managed to win last week.

Eric Barriere, the Walton Payton Award runner-up last year, played excellent football overall, completing 29 of 39 pass attempts for 374 yards and three touchdowns, including two in overtime.

Justin Rogers, for UNLV, was just 7 of 11 for 23 yards before Doug Brumfield replaced him during the third quarter. Brumfield led the Rebels back into a tie game, but if the Eagles had been able to make just one of three missed field-goal attempts, there would have been no dramatic overtime.

At the same time, without Barriere’s overtime poise, the Eagles would be facing the what-might-have-beens.

No. 2: Eastern Washington 49, Oregon State 46

August 31, 2013, at Reser Stadium in Corvallis, Oregon

As the Eagles’ only victory over a ranked FBS opponent – the Beavers were 25th – this stands as a brilliant upset on paper. But as the season progressed it became clear that the Eagles were a force that season, sweeping the Big Sky regular season and winning a pair of playoff games, whereas the Beavers finished 4-5 in the Pac-12 and 7-6 overall.

“In fact,” Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin said at the time, three years after winning an FCS national title, “some might argue that a win like this can draw more attention to your program than a national title.”

Quarterback Vernon Adams accounted for 518 total yards, including a game-winning touchdown run with 23 seconds left.

Two years later, Adams returned to Reser Stadium as a member of the Oregon Ducks and won again, 52-42.

No. 1: Eastern Washington 45, Washington State 42

Sept. 3, 2016, at Martin Stadium in Pullman

Beau Baldwin’s final season coaching the Eagles began with a shootout victory over the Air Raiding Cougars.

Arguably, it was Baldwin’s best team in Cheney: The Eagles lost only twice all year, an overtime game at North Dakota State a week later, and the semifinal loss to Youngstown State in the playoffs.

Against the Cougars, Gage Gubrud completed all but six of his 40 attempts for 474 yards – the fourth-highest single-game total in his career – and five touchdowns. He ran for another 77 yards and a touchdown. Cooper Kupp was everywhere, catching 12 passes for 206 yards and three scores.

Notably, too, the victory came against one of Mike Leach’s better Washington State teams: The Cougars finished 7-2 in the Pac-12 that year and 8-5 overall.

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