Less than a month ago, the Eastern Eagles picked up their biggest win of the year against UC Davis. It enabled EWU to grab a share of the Big Sky title, but the stakes this weekend are a little bigger.
Eastern and UC Davis will battle for a spot in the FCS semifinals in Cheney on Saturday at 1.
The journey to the quarterfinals looks easy if you look at the final score of their second round game against Nicholls State, but don’t let the 42-21 score fool you. Eastern’s offense struggled in the first half of the game, scoring no touchdowns. Ironically, it was a bit of the same story against UC Davis a month ago, whose squad jumped out to a 10-0 lead in the first quarter.
Aaron Best had an interesting analogy for what it’s like for him on the sideline when his offense isn’t hitting on full cylinders.
“Kind of like watching your son mow the lawn at eight years old. You instructed him to do it a certain way and before you know it he’s running over every sprinkler head in the way and didn’t pick up the mess from the dog before he got to the lawn mower piece. Not fun. Not ideal, obviously, but it happens. We don’t panic. Sometimes we make life difficult for ourselves. Sometimes that makes it more interesting. It doesn’t excite the fans nor myself in the moment, but then you appreciate it more after you get to sing that fight song to the fans.”
After the first quarter, Eastern took a 21-17 lead into the half against the Aggies, but it wasn’t until the second half that they really put the pedal to the metal. Eastern ended up winning 59-20, outscoring UC Davis 38-3 in the second half.
What motivated the Eags at half to put together such a performance? Well, it has to do with where they weren’t last year, and where they are now.
“We weren’t ready to lose. We weren’t ready to go home,” said EWU safety Dehonta Hayes. “We knew that we wanted to keep our playoff chances still. We thought at half time what it was like to sit at home last year and not make the playoffs and we thought we were going to have to make those adjustments during the game.”
If Eastern wins on Saturday and Weber State wins on Friday, then the two Big Sky foes will face off in the semis in Ogden. However, if Eastern wins on Saturday, and Weber State loses on Friday, then Eastern will host a semi-final game in Cheney next week.