Eastern Washington and Sam Houston State Kick-off the FCS Football Season

Eastern Washington FCS Football; Vernon Adams
George Hammond

Eastern Washington and Sam Houston State Kick-off the FCS Football Season

While the college football season begins for most schools next weekend, two traditional FCS powers will get an early start on Saturday. When No. 16 Sam Houston State visits No. 1 Eastern Washington (3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN) and its dyed blood-red field, the contest will provide several story lines for the upcoming year.

For instance:

* How good can Eastern Washington be? Now that the Goliath – North Dakota State – appears to have come back down to earth, quarterback Vernon Adams and company is the team to beat in FCS. The Eagles return 12 players who earned all-Big Sky honors last season, including Adams.

EWU went 12-3 last year and has won the Big Sky title and reached the national quarterfinals in three of the last four seasons.


* It will be strange seeing first-year Sam Houston State coach K.C. Keeler wearing orange. The University of Delaware grad and former Blue Hen coach begins his first season in Huntsville where he takes over for Willie Fritz, now the head coach at FBS Georgia Southern.

Keeler, who coached Delaware to a national title in 2003, led the Hens to the finals in 2007 (Appalachian State) and in 2010 (ironically against EWU) yet was let go at Delaware after the 2012 campaign, following a 5-6 season.

However, Keeler has his work cut out for him. The Southland Conference is loaded again this season with Southeastern Louisiana and McNeese State expected to have big years.


Sam Houston State (9-5 in 2013) returns just three starters on defense, and the Bearkats must replace all-everything running back Tim Flanders (1,430 yards rushing in 2013) and quarterback Brian Bell, who had 2,490 passing yards and 32 TDs last year.

The Bearkats, who beat EWU, 49-34, in Texas last September, also defeated EWU, 45-42, in the 2012 national semifinals, but this year’s task appears to be much more difficult. Keeler announced this week that redshirt sophomore Jared Johnson, who made two starts last year, will be the starting quarterback.