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Same-season rematches have favored Eastern Washington in FCS playoffs

UPDATED: Wed., Dec. 5, 2018, 9:48 p.m.

Twenty-eight days separate Eastern Washington’s 59-20 throttling of UC Davis at Roos Field and their rematch at the same chilly venue.

The Eagles’ Nov. 10 win led to a three-way split of the Big Sky Conference title, EWU sharing the crown with the Aggies and Weber State.

When third-seeded EWU (10-2) locks up with sixth-seeded UC Davis (10-2) Saturday in the FCS playoffs, it’s for a trip to the national semifinals – and another possible rematch.

If second-seeded Weber State (10-2) gets past visiting Maine (9-3) on Friday, it will host EWU or UC Davis next week in a likely frigid, All-Big Sky semifinal in Ogden, Utah,

Three of the eight remaining teams in the FCS playoffs are Big Sky members, a conference record. They’re on the same side of the bracket, opposite top-ranked juggernaut North Dakota State (12-0), which looks to win its seventh national title in eight years.

“We’re a different team, and they’re a different team,” EWU head coach Aaron Best said of UC Davis. “Even though it’s only been a month since that game. They’ve played some good ball since.’

EWU quarterback Eric Barriere echoed Best.

“That was a month ago,” Barriere said of the Eagles’ decisive win. “It’s different. Any given Saturday. They can show us a different game plan than they showed us the first time, so we have to expect anything.”

The Eagles dispatched Southland Conference champion Nicholls State 42-21 at Roos Field in the second round to advance.

UC Davis, which beat Northern Iowa 23-16 last week in Davis to earn its first Division I postseason win, is looking to atone for its lopsided loss to the EWU.

An EWU win could put the Eagles in a position to avenge its their lone conference loss, a 14-6 decision at Weber State on Oct. 13, Barriere’s second start of the season after filling in for injured All-American quarterback Gage Gubrud.

Same-season rematches have favored EWU, which is 2-0 as a Division I FCS member when facing a regular-season foe in the playoffs.

EWU 42, Idaho 38

Nov. 30, 1985

Four weeks after the fifth-ranked Vandals handled the No. 11 Eagles 42-21 at the Kibbie Dome, they met again in Moscow in the first round of the then-Division I-AA playoffs.

When Idaho kicked a field goal to take a 38-35 lead with 63 seconds left, it appeared the Big Sky power would secure the sweep of the Eagles, then a I-AA independent.

But EWU quarterback Rick Worman orchestrated a winning drive, set up by a 73-yard screen pass to Jamie Townsend. Worman’s 17-yard touchdown pass to Eric Riley in the closing seconds sealed the Eagles’ triumph.

“That game was a summary of our whole season,” said Worman, who passed for 354 yards and three touchdowns in the upset win.

“Everybody doubted us coming into the playoffs, just like they had doubted us coming into the season. But we all had this big chip on our shoulders to prove that we could play.”

Northern Iowa edged visiting EWU 17-14 in the second round the following week.

EWU 37, Montana 20

Dec. 6, 2014

Like the EWU-Idaho rematch in 1985 and the Eagles’ upcoming FCS playoff quarterfinal against UC Davis, EWU met Montana in the FCS playoffs four weeks after facing off in the regular season.

Fourth-ranked EWU downed 12th-ranked Montana 36-26 at Roos Field before winning a Big Sky Conference title and earning a first-round bye in the playoffs.

When the teams teams met again in the second round in Cheney, the fresh-legged Eagles stiffened up on defense and Walter Payton Award finalist Vernon Adams showed why he was one of the best quarterbacks in the country.

Adams passed for two touchdowns and eclipsed the 10,000-yard career passing mark in the win. Running back Quincy Forte had 128 rushing yards and a touchdown.

“We’d get (Adams) once in a while, but then he gets away – and when he does, he always makes a play,” Montana coach Mick Delaney said after the game. “That’s the thing that’s going to extend them hopefully into a national championship.”

EWU was upset 59-46 at home by Illinois State the following week in the quarterfinals.

EWU 59, UC Davis 20

Nov. 10, 2018

In a gray, foggy and cold day at Roos Field, Eastern Washington ran all over upstart UC Davis in their first meeting this season.

Running backs Antoine Custer, Sam McPherson and Tamarick Pierce each ran for two touchdowns for the fifth-ranked Eagles, who racked up 669 yards of total offense against the No. 4 Aggies.

UC Davis led 10-0 in the first quarter before the Eagles flipped the switch, shutting down the star tandem of quarterback Jake Maier (23 for 42 for 195 yards, two interceptions) and receiver Keelan Doss (five catches, 70 yards).

With a 52-20 lead late in the game, Best, who shared Co-Big Sky Coach of the Year honors with UC Davis’ Dan Hawkins, elected to keep starting quarterback Barriere in the game.

Barriere threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to third-string tight end Trent Harris with 41 seconds left to widen their already sizable margin.

Best said he was “by no means trying to prove a point” but wanted to give Barriere more reps.

“We’re making up for lost time,” Best said. “(Barriere) hasn’t played a ton of ball. Now here he is in the eighth game of his starting career, and people tend to not realize that he is our starter now, but wasn’t our starter going into (a Sept. 29 game at Montana State where Gubrud was injured).”


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