Posted on January 7, 2013 at 7:15 PM
The Eagles ended the postseason the way they started it.
For the fourth time in school history, the Eastern Washington University football team has ended the season with a top four ranking, as the Eagles were picked fourth in a pair of final NCAA Football Championship Subdivision polls announced Monday (Jan. 7).
The Eagles finished fourth in The Sports Network Top 25 Poll of sports information and media relations directors, broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries. In the Coaches Poll, Eastern was also fourth.
Eastern, which ranked fourth in the final regular season TSN Poll and was seeded second in the playoffs, finished the 2012 campaign 11-3. It was the third season in school history with 10 or more wins (joining the 2010 and 1997 squads), and came on the heels of EWU’s sixth Big Sky Conference Championship in school history.
Eastern ended the 2010 season as the No. 1 team in FCS after winning the NCAA Division I title. In 1997, Eastern finished fourth in The Sports Network poll as well as the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll. In both 1997 and 2012, Eastern advanced to the semifinals of the FCS Playoffs.
Overall, this is the 10th time Eastern has finished the season nationally ranked, including six times since 2004. The other seasons were in 1985, 1992, 1993, 1997, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2009 and 2010.
National champion North Dakota State finished No. 1 in both polls, and runner-up Sam Houston State was ranked second. Playoff semifinalist Georgia Southern was third, followed by EWU and Montana State. Cal Poly was ranked 11th by the coaches and 12th by TSN, and Northern Arizona was 20th in both polls.
Eastern’s 2012 season ended with a 45-42 loss to Sam Houston State in the semifinals of the playoffs, denying Eastern a trip to Texas to play for the NCAA Division I title. The championship game was Jan. 5 in Frisco, Texas, and North Dakota State successfully defended its title with a convincing 39-13 win over the Bearkats.
Sam Houston State fell to North Dakota State 17-16 in the 2011 title game. The Eagles played and won in the championship game in 2010 when they scored all of their points in the last 16:48 to defeat Delaware 20-19.
Eastern captured a share of the Big Sky Conference title and the league’s automatic playoff berth with a 7-1 league record. Of Eastern’s seven Big Sky wins, six came 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 were only 10 points from an unbeaten season, having last-possession chances to pull out wins in their first two losses. Eastern then had a furious rally and 42-point second half against Sam Houston State result in a slim three-point setback.
Eastern has now made nine playoff appearances (1985, 1992, 1997, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2012), and is one of only five schools among 121 in FCS to have sixth berths in the past nine seasons. In 2011, Eastern won six of its last seven games, and narrowly missed the playoffs with a 6-5 record. A year earlier, Eastern finished the 2010 season with 11-straight wins.
EWU’s Season-Ending National Rankings
1985 – 11th (NCAA Division I-AA Poll)
1992 – 14th (NCAA Division I-AA Poll)
1993 – 20th (The Sports Network)
1997 – 4th (The Sports Network) & 4th (ESPN/USA Today)
2004 – 8th (The Sports Network) & 7th (ESPN/USA Today)
2005 – 13th (The Sports Network) & 13th (ESPN/USA Today)
2007 – 8th (The Sports Network) & 8th (Coaches)
2009 – 13th (The Sports Network) & 13th (Coaches)
2010 – 1st (The Sports Network) & 1st (Coaches)
2012 – 4th (The Sports Network) & 4th (Coaches)