Eagles Searching for Rare Two-Game Winning Streak Versus Grizzli - SWX Right Now-Sports for Spokane, CdA, Tri-Cities, WA

Eagles Searching for Rare Two-Game Winning Streak Versus Grizzlies

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© SWX- Bo Levi Mitchell Looks to Lead the Eagles to Victory over Montana © SWX- Bo Levi Mitchell Looks to Lead the Eagles to Victory over Montana

Courtesy EWU Athletics

The Eagles like their Grizzlies rare. Rare as in a two-game winning streak in the series, rare as in a win at Washington-Grizzly Stadium and rare as in any kind of win against the perennial NCAA Football Championship Subdivision powerhouse.

That – and a chance for the Eagles to win their first game of the season -- will be on the line this Saturday (Sept. 17) in Missoula, Mont., as Eastern Washington University takes on Montana in the Big Sky Conference opener for both schools. Kickoff at Washington-Grizzly Stadium is 12:05 p.m. Pacific time between the 10th-ranked Eagles and the 12th-ranked Grizzlies.

The game will be televised in the Spokane area and throughout Eastern Washington on SWX (SWX Digital 6.2 in Spokane, 25.3 in the Tri-Cities & 23.3 in the Yakima area; Comcast 115; Time Warner 306; Charter 287, Cable One 466). It will also be televised in Montana by KPAX TV.

The radio broadcast of the game, featuring play-by-play announcer Larry Weir, may be heard on 700-AM ESPN "The Ticket", via the web at www.espnnorthwest.com and via iPhone application (search for "Spokane Radio" and download the free app).

Following a disappointing 30-17 loss at South Dakota last Saturday (Sept. 10), EWU enters the game 0-2. Eastern also plummeted to 10th in The Sports Network/Fathead.com FCS Top 25 poll after holding the No. 1 position for the first two weeks of 2011, as well as the polls at the end of the 2010 regular season and postseason. The Eagles won their final 11 games last season, including a 20-19 come-from-behind victory over Delaware in the NCAA Division I Championship Game.

"I don't know if you need to use the loss as motivation – no matter what our record is we better be motivated for Big Sky football," said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin following the USD loss. "The conference season starts and we will be motivated for the Montana Grizzlies.

"Everybody who is a competitor is going to want to fight back," he continued. "This is a tough spot we're in – it's never easy to dig out of a 0-2 hole. But the only possible chance we have is to grind it out a practice at a time and a game at a time. All our energy needs to go toward playing Montana."

A week after out-gaining Washington 504-250 in total offense, Eastern had a 380-324 edge versus South Dakota. However, the Coyotes rushed for a back-breaking 230 yards, compared to a paltry 11 yards for EWU, which was equally back-breaking.

"We need to go out there with a workmanlike attitude during the week," stated Baldwin. "I know there are some adjustments we all need to make and that I definitely need to make. But I don't want to get away from that and hit a panic button. We need to tweak some things, but mainly we just need to step it up."

Montana, meanwhile, is 1-1 on the season after a convincing 37-23 home victory over Cal Poly, a team Eastern will face on the road on Nov. 12. Last year, Montana finished 7-4 overall and 5-3 in the Big Sky, and failed to advance to the FCS Playoffs for the first time since 1993. The Grizzlies also had their 12-year run of winning or sharing the Big Sky title snapped when the Eagles and Montana State were co-champions.

Eastern pulled out a dramatic 36-27 victory over the Grizzlies last Sept. 18 in the debut of Eastern's new red Sprinturf surface at the "Inferno" at newly-renamed Roos Field. But that was only EWU's 11th win in 37 all-time games versus the Grizzlies, who had won 14 of the previous 17 meetings until that Eagle victory. Eastern hasn't had a two-game winning streak versus Montana since 1990-92 when the Eagles won three-straight.

Moreover, Montana has won 89 percent of its games at Washington-Grizzly Stadium – an impressive record of 164-21 -- since it opened in 1987. Eastern has won four of the 11 meetings there, with victories in 2005, 1997, 1992 and 1990.

This will be the 10th time in the last 16 meetings that both teams enter nationally ranked, but the first time in those 10 meetings that Eastern is rated higher than UM. In the FCS Coaches Poll, Eastern is ranked 10th and Montana is 11th.

 "We want to make it a special week and get a special win," stated Baldwin. "That will be our mindset and goal."

After this week's game – the third-straight on the road to begin the season for the Eagles – EWU plays its home opener Sept. 24 at 4:05 p.m. Pacific time against fellow defending league co-champion Montana State. The Bobcats are also 1-1, having easily defeated UC Davis at home last week, 38-14. Montana State is ranked fifth by The Sports Network and fourth by the coaches this week, and host 0-3 Minot State prior to coming to Cheney.

A fourth Big Sky school – Sacramento State – is ranked 20th by TSN and 24th by the coaches. After slaying the Eagles, South Dakota is ranked 24th and 23rd, respectively, in the two polls.

Eastern returns 15 starters from last year's team that finished with a school-record 13 wins and just two losses. Twelve Eagle players garnered preseason honors, including seven who received All-America honors at the NCAA FCS level. Those players include quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell, wide receiver Brandon Kaufman, center Chris Powers and tackle Gabriel Jackson on offense, and safety Matt Johnson, linebacker Zach Johnson and tackle Renard Williams on defense.

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