CHENEY -- Eastern Washington faces North Dakota State on Saturday at 12:30pm Saturday at Roos Field in Cheney. It's the quarterfinals of the FCS Playoffs.
It will be the first-ever meeting between the Eagles and the Bison, with EWU making its eighth playoff appearance and NDSU its first. The Eagles are now 6-7 in the FCS Playoffs and will be making their fifth appearance in the quarterfinals, but are just 1-3 thus far in those games.
The game will be produced by ESPN and syndicated to various regional sports networks and stations throughout the country, but no announcement will be made until later in the week.
North Dakota State, located in Fargo, has already won two playoff games and is 9-4 on the season. The Bison picked up a 43-17 win over Robert Morris in the first round, then knocked off Montana State 42-17 in Bozeman last Saturday as they scored the last 28 points of the game in the fourth quarter.
D.J. McNorton, a 5-9 1/2, 203-pound halfback, rushed for 207 of NDSU’s 376 rushing yards against MSU and had four touchdowns. He is currently 14th in FCS in rushing yards per game (110.4) and 18th in all-purpose rushing (143.2).
All four of North Dakota State’s losses this season were to Missouri Valley Conference foes as they finished 4-4 in the league. The Bison, who opened the season with a 6-3 victory over Kansas, lost to Northern Iowa (16-9), Western Illinois (28-16), Illinois State (34-24) and Missouri State (3-0). They had no common opponents with EWU, and finished the year ranked 25th in the The Sports Network/Fathead.com Top 25 NCAA FCS poll. Eastern was ranked No. 1.
The Bison are ranked seventh in the nation in scoring defense, allowing just 16.7 points per game. They are also sixth in turnover margin (+1.0 per game) and 16th in passing efficiency defense (106.4).
“It’s going to be a slugfest,” said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin. “They are a physical football team -- they are a run-the-ball-first team and they play great defense.”
Eastern enters the game with a 10-2 record after defeating Southeast Missouri 37-17 Saturday (Dec. 4) in the second round. Eastern held the Redhawks to just 26 yards of total offense in the second half and out-score SEMO 20-0 following a 17-all tie at halftime. Buck Buchanan Award candidate J.C. Sherritt led the charge with 10 tackles, including a key fourth-down stop in the second half.
Junior running back Taiwan Jones led the Eagles offensively with 168 rushing yards and two touchdowns, and finished with 211 all-purpose yards. He enters this week’s game ranked fourth in FCS in rushing yards (137.5) and second in all-purpose yards (196.6), ranking only behind Southeast Missouri’s Henry Harris. Harris finished with 191 yards against the Eagles, but 82 of those yards were on three kickoff returns and he was held to minus-1 yard rushing in the second half.
We'll have full coverage of Saturday's game on KREM 2 News and KREM.com.