Cheney Free Press -

Eastern, Montana open Big Sky play

Eagles put up big numbers on offense, defense in Fordham win


September 21, 2017

Jon Lambert for EWU athletics

Eastern Washington's swarming defense racked up 10 sacks in the Eagles' 56-21 victory last Saturday over the Fordham Rams in the Bronx, N.Y.

Two years ago the Montana Grizzlies laid a real licking on Eastern Washington, 57-16 at Washington-Grizzly Stadium in Missoula.

With the momentum of a huge non-conference win on the road in New York City against Fordham, 56-21 last Saturday, plus an offense that finally came untracked and a defense that stifled the Rams in the Bronx, the Football Championship Subdivision's No. 11-ranked Eagles would like to deliver a little payback in the Big Sky Conference opener.

Kickoff is at 5:05 p.m. in a game seen regionally on ROOT Sports.

Montana ravaged Savannah State 56-3 last Saturday to improve to 2-1 on the season, but lost starting quarterback Reese Phillips to a likely season-ending ankle injury.

Eastern will now face Gresch Jensen, a redshirt freshman, perhaps aware that the Eagles racked up a school-recond 10 sacks last Saturday. The Eagles also held Fordham to just 217 total yards of offense.

"It's an electric environment in Missoula," Eastern head coach Aaron Best said. He knows it all well as Best will be making his 10th trip with the Eagles to Missoula as either a player or coach. Best has been a part of EWU teams who have registered wins in Missoula in 1997, 2005 and 2013, and losses in 1999, 2001, 2005, 2009, 2011 and 2015.

Prior to that embarrassing loss in 2015, Eastern had won five straight and now owns six victories in the last seven contests.

"Their fans are rabid, they are awesome people and they are passionate about their football team," Best said of the close confines of Washington- Grizzly. "They aren't always nice, but that's the way you like it."

Just one year after that humbling 41-point setback, the Eagle defense allowed just 16 points in the rematch on Oct. 29, 2016, at Roos Field in EWU's 35-16 victory. The 16 points for the Griz was their lowest total in the last 33 games in the series dating back 32 years to a 14-14 tie in 1984.

In last year's meeting, the two teams combined for 995 yards of offense, with EWU winning despite a 540-455 yardage advantage for Montana.

This is the first time in the last 11 meetings that both teams are not nationally ranked.


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