One tradition continued, but the Eagles are hoping to begin a new tradition of winning it all.
Playing in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs for the first time since winning the NCAA Division I title in 2010, the Eastern Washington University football team will host a second-round game on Dec. 1 at Roos Field in Cheney, Wash. Kickoff has been set for 3:05 p.m. Pacific time, as the Eagles will play the winner of the first-round match-up between Wagner and Colgate.
The Eagles received the No. 2 seed in the playoffs, with North Dakota State getting the top seed, followed by EWU, Montana State, Old Dominion and Georgia Southern. The top five teams are seeded 1-5, and are guaranteed home games as long as they are the higher-seeded team in their match-up and have met NCAA guidelines to host.
“I’m extremely happy,” said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin. “The level of teams that the selection committee has to sort through is a tough job. It’s always a tough decision and it is every year. Once you are in the playoffs, we are all doing the same thing -- trying to take care of business one week at a time and see what happens. We are excited to be where we are.”
Tickets go on sale Monday (Nov. 19) at 10 a.m., and cost $20 for premium seating in sections C&D, $15 for sections A/B/E&F, $15 for end zone and $10 for east side seating (behind visitor bench). Tickets may be purchased via ww.ticketswest.com or 1-800-325-Seat.
Current season ticket holders have until Monday, Nov. 26 at 5 p.m. to call EWU at 509-359-6059 to purchase their existing seats, at which time those will be released to the general public. An announcement regarding availability of tickets for EWU students will be forthcoming.
Eastern will be making its ninth appearance in the playoffs, ranking the Eagles among a select group of 20 schools with at least that many berths. The other appearances for the Eagles came in 1985, 1992, 1997, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2009 and 2010. With a 6-5 record during an injury-ravaged season in 2011, Eastern fell a victory shy making its first back-to-back-to-back appearances.
It is also the sixth berth in a nine-year span, ranking the Eagles as one of only five schools among 121 in FCS to accomplish that feat. The only other four teams to have qualified six of the last nine years are Appalachian State (2005-06-07-08-09-10-11-12), Montana (2004-05-06-07-08-09-11), New Hampshire (2004-05-06-07-08-09-10-11-12) and Southern Illinois (2004-05-06-07-08-09).
The four first-round games are Nov. 24, with 12 teams receiving byes. Eight games in the round of 16 are played on Dec. 1. The quarterfinals are Dec. 7-8, the semifinals are Dec. 14-15 and the championship game is Jan. 5 in Frisco, Texas. All games will be produced by ESPN, with the first two-rounds available via ESPN3.
The Eagles will enter the game 9-2 overall this season, and captured a share of the Big Sky Conference title and the league’s automatic playoff berth with a 7-1 league record. Colgate is 8-3 and won the Patriot League title with a perfect 5-0 record. Wagner is 8-3 and shared the Northeast Conference title with a 7-1 mark, but defeated Albany to earn the league’s automatic berth. Eastern has never played a team from either conference in football.
In 2010, Eastern was the No. 5 seed, and because of higher-seeded teams losing in the early rounds, hosted three games at Roos Field. Of Eastern’s seven Big Sky wins this season, six have come by a combined margin of 28 points – one by seven points, two six-point wins and a trio by just three points. On the other side of the coin, the Eagles are only seven points from an unbeaten season, having last-possession chances in both of its losses to pull out a miracle win.
“We were fortunate enough as the five seed to get the home playoff games (in 2010),” said Baldwin. “There is no question it’s an advantage -- you don’t have to look at too many years to see there is a common theme that the top teams played a lot of games at home.
“Ultimately, we have to find a way to win,” added Baldwin, who will be making his fifth playoff appearance as either an Eastern assistant coach (2004, 2005) or head coach (2009, 2010, 2012). “We have played a lot of close games this year which hopefully puts us in a good position in one of the toughest conferences in the country. We are just excited about the one we are going to play in two weeks.”