There's no hotter team in the FCS than Eastern Washington University. The Eagles haven’t lost since September 25th, winners of ten straight games. With that said, EWU hasn’t played much lately. The Eags have only hit the field three times in the last seven weeks. We’ll see if they can still carry some momentum into the national championship game today against Delaware.
The Eagles will play without All-American running back Taiwan Jones. There was some thought that he might be able to face the Fightin’ Blue Hens, but he’s still recovering from the broken foot he injured in the quarterfinals against North Dakota State. That means freshman Mario Brown and junior Darriell Beaumonte will carry the load. The two are more than capable to fill some of the void (there’s no fully replacing Jones). Brown scampered for 104 yards in Jones’ absence against Villanova, while Beaumonte ran for 219 yards and two touchdowns this year.
With Jones out, Eastern Washington will also lean more heavily on quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell. He’s thrown for 3,194 yards, 34 touchdowns, and 14 interceptions this season. The Texas native is back home, playing in front of family and friends. He grew up in Katy (about five hours south of Frisco) and he also played at Southern Methodist University (located in Dallas) before he transferred to Eastern this season. We'll see if that gives him some extra motivation (if playing for a national crown wasn't enough).
Mitchell has several available targets. The top wide receiver is Brandon Kaufman. He’s caught 67 passes for 1,094 yards and 13 touchdowns. Nicholas Edwards will also play a big role. He registered 51 receptions for 540 yards this year, but he had one of his biggest games in the semifinals against Villanova. Edwards brought in nine passes for 82 yards and two touchdowns in the win against the Wildcats. Ashton Gant (321 yards and four touchdowns), Greg Herd (342 yards and three touchdowns), Tyler Hart (179 yards and a touchdown) and tight end Matt Martin (116 yards) will also get looks today.
The Eastern Washington defense allows plenty of points (25.4 per game), but they always seem to step up at the right time (they forced five turnovers against Villanova in the semifinals). The Eagles are especially vulnerable in the passing game, allowing 240.6 yards per game (ranked 105th of 117 teams in the FCS). They’ll definitely have their hands full with Delaware’s All-American quarterback Pat Devlin (click here to learn more about the Blue Hens).
Pullman High School product J.C. Sherritt is the star of the defense. The linebacker won the Buck Buchanan Award yesterday. That honor is handed to the best defensive player in the country every season. Sherritt leads the team with 158 tackles this season, and he’s added three sacks and three interceptions. The Johnson twins aren’t too shabby either. Linebacker Zach Johnson has 119 tackles (12.5 for loss), while safety Matt Johnson has registered 96 tackles and five interceptions this year.
The Eagles have no problem getting to the quarterback. They’ve logged 30 sacks as a team this season. Defensive lineman Renard Williams leads the team with six sacks, while East Valley High School grad Tyler Jolley and Jerry Ceja have added five sacks apiece this year.
It’s been a magical season for the Eastern Washington football team, playing for their first ever national championship game. The Eagles are unbeaten on the red turf they installed before the season started, but EWU is far from the friendly confines of Roos Field. In fact, the Eagles haven’t played away from Cheney since October 30th. It will be interesting to see how they respond to a new atmosphere.
Kickoff between Eastern Washington and Delaware is scheduled for 4pm. You can watch the game live on ESPN2. We’ll have full coverage (highlights and postgame reaction) from Frisco on KREM 2 News at 10pm and 11pm. I’ll also be tweeting from the sideline during the game, so be sure to follow me @TLKREM2.
Have fun watching the game!