Game Day Preview- Eastern Washington


It’s finally here…Game Day for Husky Football! It’s time for your game day preview!

Eastern Washington University (Public University)
Mascot: Eagles
Location: Cheney, WA

Line: -18

Prediction: UW 42 EWU 27

2010 Record: 13-2 (7-1 in Big Sky Conference)
Coach: Beau Baldwin (4th year)

First Thoughts: So, what happens when a .500 level BCS conference football team takes on the 13-2 National Champions of the FCS? We are about to find out today when the Eastern Washington Eagles take on the Washington Huskies at Husky Stadium.

Best Win in 2010: 36-24 over #6 Montana (other than national championship of course)
Worst Loss in 2010: 30-7 to #17 Montana State
Last Game: 20-19 win over #5 Delaware in the FCS Championship game in Dallas.

Most people around the country may look at this game and probably think this will be an easy cake walk against a weaker opponent. But, Eastern Washington is no average FCS team. They are returning almost all of their National Championship roster. I am sure most of you remember that game in Ann Arbor in 2007 when defending FCS champion Appalachian State beat #5 ranked Michigan 34-32. So, you can not take these kinds of games lightly.

UW has never played an FCS team in their entire history until today. When UW discussed scheduling this game, there was a great deal of angst among the Husky Nation, especially those season ticket holders who pay good money to come to the games. But, with lower level FBS teams now demanding $1 million or more to help fund their money-losing programs, it appears as though you won’t be seeing those games against Idaho and San Jose State anymore. UW’s new philosophy under Athletic Director Scott Woodward and Coach Steve Sarkisian is to have one gimme game against an FCS opponent, one medium level game, and one marquee nationally televised match up each season. However, be careful what you wish for…

Synopsis: Eastern Washington surprised a lot of folks last year with their run to the title. But, it was a relatively young and very talented team that put it all together late in the season following a 2-2 start including a win over Division II Central Washington. They have returned almost everyone of significance to their team and are now ranked #1 in the FCS in the various pre-season rankings. 12 Eagle players are given pre-season respect in various watch-lists and six of them are pre-season All-Americans.

So, this most definitely is a nearly no-win situation for UW. Washington is expected to win and win big by the media. Anything other than a blowout would cause grumbling by Husky fans. But, Eastern Washington may be a great first game for the players to get out some of the rust and emotions and work on their plays and schemes against an opponent who is good, but not at Pac-12 levels in terms of size, speed, and overall talent.

Players to Watch: Eastern is lead by senior QB Bo Levi Mitchell of Katy, TX. Mitchell is nicknamed “the gunslinger” and originally went to and started at Southern Methodist for his first two years, passing for 4590 yards and 36 TD’s in 19 games before transferring to EWU. The reason he transferred was that he was injured in the 7th game of his sophomore year and lost his starting role after that. Clearly he has Division I talent and showed it last year leading that team to the title. Mitchell has been listed as potentially the top player in all of FCS for this upcoming year and clearly is a Big Sky POY candidate. Mitchell passed for 3496 yards and 37 touchdowns in 15 games last year at EWU.

Brandon Kaufman is a junior All-American wide reciever who lead the team in receptions (76) and touchdowns (15) last year while piling up 1215 yards. At 6’5″, he has great height and leaping ability and will be a challenge for the cornerbacks. Demitrius Bronson transferred to EWU from UW this past spring and will likely see time as a reserve RB. But, replacing all-american Taiwan Jones will be a tall order for the Eagles backs. The offense is protected by senior All-American Offensive Lineman Chris Powers of Black Diamond and All-Big Sky OL Gabriel Jackson of Tacoma.

Senior Defensive Lineman Renard Williams of Port Orchard and senior Defensive Back Matt Johnson of Tumwater are both returning All-Americans anchoring the defense. They are joined by senior pre-season All-American Linebacker Zach Johnson of Tumwater and junior All-Big Sky DB Jeff Minerly of Spokane.

Analysis: Washington has a lot going for it coming into this season. Obviously, there are a few areas of concern, such as the health of Chris Polk and whether Keith Price will be comfortable early as the starting QB. The wide reciever corps may be as deep as it has ever been, especially with the arrival of Kasen Williams. So, Price will definitely have targets.

That being said, they better not go into this game expecting to run up the score early and cruise to easy victory. This is an Eastern Washington team with experience, talent, and most importantly are proven winners. UW needs to be laser-focused on this game and make sure they take care of business. I have got to think the superior talent and more importantly depth of Washington will prevail in the end. Remember, FBS teams can have 85 scholarship players, while FCS are limited to 63. That is not even taking into account the generally lower talent levels simply due to the realities of recruiting. But, do not be shocked if UW starts off slow and EWU is still within a TD at halftime. I think they will pull away late, but it will be a great challenge for our corners and safeties to try and stop the “gunslinger” and his wide reciever corps.

Random Thought: One thing I do have to ask though, is what is up with Eastern’s red turf? Does that have an affect on their record? When you are playing a team dressed in all-red on a red turf, I have got to think it gives you the advantage of not being seen as well on the field. Is their great home record an illusion?