Eagles, Bearkats tangle in football 'biggie' in Huntsville
EWU, Sam Houston meet in huge game prior to start of ‘Sky play
EWU’s Ashton Clark hauls in one of Vernon Adams’ six second half touchdown passes in the Dec. 15 FCS semifinal 45-42 playoff game loss. His score cut the gap to 35-21. Clark and Adams will team again to try to get a win at SHSU.
The “Unfinished Business” T-shirts many Eastern Washington University football players wear had their inspiration from last December’s 45-42 semifinal playoff loss at Roos Field to Sam Houston State University.
The loss to the Bearkats, despite the furious second-half rally from a 35-0 halftime deficit by scoring 42 points, stalled the Eagles’ quest for a return to Frisco, Texas where they won the 2010 FCS National championship.
Hence the unfinished business theme.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Vernon Adams threw six touchdowns in the game and returns to lead the Eagles this year.
While this Saturday’s nonconference game north of Houston at Bowers Stadium in Huntsville, Texas has no current postseason implications attached, it could in the future.
“Non-conference games of this magnitude in FCS are few and far between,” EWU head coach Beau Baldwin said. “Down the road, if you are in a possible situation for an at-large berth, having a win like this on your resume gives you a better chance.”
The second-ranked Eagles (2-1) and No. 4 Bearkats engage in a game where, “There is a pride factor – no question,” Baldwin said. “There is a different feel to this game for us because of the tough loss we had to them in the semifinals.”
Whether conference, non-conference or playoffs, no other game in EWU history has matched two higher-ranked FCS teams than this week.
Eastern comes off a bye week following a 33-21 loss Sept. 14 at the University of Toledo, their first defeat following their stunning 49-46 upset win at Oregon State to open the season. Eastern’s other victory came 43-14 over Division II Western Oregon.
The Bearkats are 3-1 this season after beating future Southland Conference member Incarnate Word 52-21 Sept. 21 in Huntsville. SHSU beat Texas Southern 55-17, trounced Houston Baptist 74-0 and fell to Texas A&M 65-28. Sam Houston, has lost the last two title games in FCS to North Dakota State, finished the 2012 season 11-4 overall and 6-1 in the Southland.
“We love getting another shot at them – it’s not a revenge factor but it is human nature for players to want to keep fighting back,” Baldwin said. “And our players are no different.”
Saturday’s contest is the first of a home-and-home series between the two teams who will meet Sept. 13, 2014 in Cheney.
The game, which has a 12:07 p.m. kickoff, will be televised live on Comcast SportsNet Northwest. The game can be found on the radio on 700 ESPN.
Eastern will open Big Sky Conference play the following Saturday, Oct. 5 against Weber State at 4:05 p.m. on Roos Field during Hall of Fame Day.
Paul Delaney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.