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Similarities between the 2010 and 2018 Frisco-bound Eastern Washington teams

UPDATED: Thu., Jan. 3, 2019, 11:29 a.m.

The similarities between the 2010 Eastern Washington Eagles and the 2018 version are numerous, from potent defenses to each team’s loss of its signature star (Taiwan Jones, left, and Gage Gubrud, right). (Dan Pelle, Libby Kamrowski / SR)
The similarities between the 2010 Eastern Washington Eagles and the 2018 version are numerous, from potent defenses to each team’s loss of its signature star (Taiwan Jones, left, and Gage Gubrud, right). (Dan Pelle, Libby Kamrowski / SR)

Loss of star players

When Eastern Washington clipped Delaware 20-19 in the 2010 FCS national title game, it prevailed without one of the most electric players in the country.

All-American running back and current Buffalo Bills veteran Taiwan Jones rushed for 1,742 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2010 before breaking his foot in the FCS quarterfinals against North Dakota State.

In 2018, EWU suffered nearly a dozen injuries to starters, but the biggest was All-American and FCS record-breaking quarterback Gage Gubrud. Gubrud, a three-time Walter Payton Award candidate, suffered a season-ending toe injury on Sept. 29 at Montana State.

New QBs shook off rough starts

When All-American quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell transferred from SMU to EWU in 2010, he and the Eagles got off to a rocky start, falling 49-24 in a season-opening loss at Nevada before edging NCAA Division II Central Washington 35-32 the following week. In Week 4, Mitchell and the Eagles were handled 30-7 at Montana State.

When Eric Barriere filled in for the injured Gubrud this season, his second start at Weber State was the worst of his budding career. In a 14-7 loss in Ogden, Utah, Barriere was 19-of-42 passing for 185 yards and two interceptions. He was also sacked four times.

Turnover-forcing machines

EWU ended its 2010 title run with a gaudy 47 forced turnovers.

In 2018, the Eagles rank second in the FCS in takeaways (32).

Postseason drama

In 2010, EWU trailed North Dakota State late in the fourth quarter in the FCS quarterfinals before forcing overtime and winning 38-31. In the title game, it trailed Delaware 19-0 before scoring 20 unanswered points in the second half.

This season, EWU trailed UC Davis 29-28 in the final 2 minutes in the quarterfinals before Sam McPherson’s winning touchdown run. The Eagles also trailed 14-10 in the third quarter of a playoff game against Nicholls State before a 42-21 win.

Balance

Former EWU head coach Beau Baldwin was known for a pass-happy offense, but his team was relatively balanced in 2010, averaging 241 yards a game through the air and 156 yards on the ground.

Second-year head coach Aaron Best’s more physical, run-heavy offense this season averages 277 yards passing and 263 yards rushing.

Fast lane to the title game

Best and Baldwin reached the national title game early in their head coaching careers.

Baldwin, who replaced Paul Wulff in 2008, got to Frisco in his third year. Best, who replaced Baldwin in 2017, got EWU to the title game in his second year.

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