Eastern Washington vs. Illinois State FCS Playoffs Quarterfinal Breakdown

George Hammond

Eastern Washington vs. Illinois State FCS Playoffs Quarterfinal Breakdown


Illinois State at #2 Eastern Washington

Its margin of victory might not be as impressive as other schools, but Eastern Washington always seems to come out on top – especially after November when the Eagles are 12-0 since 2010.  The No. 2-seeded Eagles (10-2) survived another close encounter on Saturday when they toppled Wagner 29-19 in the second round of the FCS playoffs. With the victory, EWU hosts Illinois State, a surprising 38-37 overtime winner against Appalachian State.  “They’re a darn good football team,” Wagner coach Walt Hameline said of EWU. “There’s a history here of them winning football games – they’re a good team and they’re on a roll.  Some of the other teams we’ve played have been good, but I’d probably say they’re more talented than most of the teams we played.”

One of the three Big Sky teams to make the playoffs, EWU finished in a three-way tie for first place with Cal Poly and Montana State. However, the Eagles beat both schools during the regular season to earn the league’s automatic bid.  Of EWU’s seven league victories, six came by a combined margin of 28 points. Its two losses were by a combined seven points.  “You don’t win too many games when you lose the turnover battle 3-0,” EWU coach Beau Baldwin said of Saturday’s game with Wagner. “But our guys weathered that storm, and that’s what I’m really proud of.”

The Eagles now host a team that many questioned whether it even belonged in the tournament. But the Redbirds’ (9-3) thrilling victory in Boone, N.C. on Saturday silenced any critics.  Illinois State advanced to the quarterfinals when it blocked Appalachian State’s point after kick in the overtime that would have tied the score.  “We’ve all worked so hard to get to this point,” ISU quarterback Matt Brown said. “To come out of here (Appalachian State) with a win is just beyond words. We know we have to put this one to bed and get ready for next week.”  Brown, who was the Missouri Valley Football Conference’s Offensive Player of the Year, threw for five touchdowns and 322 yards on Saturday. Tyrone Walker caught 10 passes for 176 yards and two touchdowns.

“This is our guy,” Illinois State coach Brock Spack said about Brown. “It was all on him and 12 (Walker) to win the game for us. You play with what brought you here.”  The victory gave the Redbirds a 6-0 road record this year.  “We’ve been road warriors all year and we did it again,” Spack added.

The task gets even tougher on Saturday, however, as the Redbirds head to Cheney, WA, and a date on “The Inferno,” the name given to EWU’s red synthetic turf field.  EWU’s passing offense is ranked No. 9 in the nation, and even though Kyle Padron was making his first start at quarterback since September 8, he still threw for 327 yards against Wagner.  The Eagles’ tough conference schedule should prepare them well for this contest.

Projected score: Eastern Washington 34, Illinois State 20


See all FCS Playoffs Game Breakdowns