Eagle seniors in final regular season home game at Roos
There's a lot on the line in Saturday's final 2013 regular season home football game for Eastern Washington as they take on Portland State.
At stake on the surface are:
• Their holding onto the Big Sky Conference lead, finishing a perfect 8-0 and winning an outright title.
• Securing the championship would likely make sure the road to the national championship in Frisco, Texas, Jan. 4 travels at least partially through Cheney and Roos' red turf.
That will be accomplished by defeating a PSU team that engaged the Eagles in a wild shootout last year at soggy Jeld-Wen Field where EWU scored a 41-34 win. "We were in a dogfight with them last year," Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin said.
The Vikings (3-4 Big Sky, 6-5 overall), have had an up and down season, winning three of their first four, but losing three straight before winning three of their last four.
And as usual, Baldwin approaches things carefully.
"Certain games I think for them have gone the way they wanted; other games they've struggled," Baldwin said. Case in point might be their 43-42 loss to Sacramento State last Saturday at home in which the visitors rallied, scoring in the final 30 seconds for the win.
Despite that apparent defensive lapse a week ago, the Vikings' "D"has Baldwin's attention. "They definitely have a lot of talented, physical players on that defense," he said.
And their offense can present challenges. "They get into the pistol offense and involve their quarterbacks enough to keep you off balance," Baldwin said.
And PSU has one of the top backs nationally in D.J. Adams. "They still want to run before they pass, but they'll still throw it in certain games," Baldwin said.
Saturday marks the official end of the journey for 23 EWU seniors in front of their fans in Cheney. Of course they plan to keep playing in the postseason as long as they keep winning.
The day will be an emotional one for both players and their coaches.
"I think as a coach, if it's not emotional you're not in the right business, you're not at the right place, something's not there," Baldwin said.
Players have invested so very much into their time at Eastern and the coaches all have noticed.
"When I'm thinking about it I'm not just thinking the 12 Saturdays we get to see them," Baldwin said. "I'm thinking about the winter competitions, the spring ball, seeing them in your office whether it be April or May."
While he's proud of seniors walking across the field after years of competing on it, it's being one step closer to graduation that Baldwin is at least equally proud of.
"What's bigger is that we're consistently able to see all those guys graduate," Baldwin said. "That's why I push the GPA so hard. We compete at that just as hard as we compete with weight room numbers."
The team GPA last spring was 3.09. "Our goal is to get it up over 3.1." he said. "If we can compete on that in a quarter to quarter basis it's a means to the end which is to see everyone graduate."
Paul Delaney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.