After a controversial, season-opening loss, Eastern Washington just might be the dominant team anywhere in the Football Championship Subdivision.
The Eagles lost their opener at Idaho in part because the officiating crew flat-out blew a converted field goal by EWU that hit off the indoor wall and glanced back through the uprights. It was disastrous and proved crucial in an eventual 28-21 loss.
Since then? Eastern Washington has outscored its foes by an astounding 153-65 in wins against Northern Arizona, at Idaho State and this weekend against Cal Poly.
They’ve outgained opponents by nearly 1,000 yards through those four games, 2,327-1,450, and utilized an explosive passing attack with an opportunistic, highly efficient rushing attack to get it done on offense.
Quarterback Eric Barriere has thrown for 1,491 yards, 13 touchdowns and gained another 92 on the ground.
Collectively, the Eagles are averaging 4.8 yards-per-rush on 146 attempts – despite having lost 69 rushing yards in negative-yardage plays.
Tamarick Pierce is EWU’s leading rusher with 282 yards and four touchdowns on 39 tries; he averages 7.2 ypc.
The Eagles have just two regular-season games remaining; they visit UC-Davis this week and get a chance for revenge April 10 when Idaho visits Roos Field in Cheney, Washington.
If they can win out, the Eagles have an inside track for an FCS Playoffs berth as the postseason gets underway April 24.
This unprecedented spring season isn’t just bringing action at the NCAA levels. There’s NAIA football unfolding each weekend, and Arizona Christian is a newly minted conference champion with the most improbable of finishes from perhaps the most unlikely special teams hero.
After yielding a game-tying touchdown to host Southwestern Assemblies of God University in their Sooner Athletic Conference tilt, ACU went quickly to work.
The Firestorm would drive to the SAGU 29-yard line with a single tick on the clock and the conference championship on the line.
That’s when Nestor Higuera – the Firestorm’s 5-foot-5-inch, 285-pound sophomore kicker – lined up his game-winning 46-yard field goal attempt with a single tick on the clock.
— ACU Football (@ACUFootball1) March 27, 2021
Field goal good, Firestorm conference champions and now heading to their first-ever NAIA playoffs berth as conference champions.
“What an amazing game for the Firestorm,” said ACU coach Jeff Bowen, a former Arizona State player who has been with the Firestorm for all seven years of the program’s existence. “Typified our whole entire season, no-quit attitude, trust in each other, and playing at the highest possible level.
“And with this amazing win we finish as SAC champs. We want to make sure we finish up at Wayland Baptist on a high note, and then get ready for the national championship tournament- the first time in school history! I am so proud of our guys, players and coaches!”
Neither team played this past weekend.
Now, both will be showcased on the national stage this weekend.
Longtime rivals Jackson State and Southern University are scheduled to meet for the 66th time in series history Saturday at Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium.
ESPN is televising the game at 4 p.m. in a rare national showcase for the Southwestern Athletic Conference.
Plenty is on the line for the two programs. JSU is coming off its first loss of the Deion Sanders era, after seeing Alabama State utilize a 50-yard, game-winning touchdown run in the final minute to upend the Tigers, 35-28.
Southern is seeking to make it two consecutive losses for JSU – and eighth in a row in the series.
The Jaguars haven’t lost to JSU since a 19-14 setback in 2013.
OK, so it’s 61 years. Nonetheless, Virginia Military Institute continues to be the nation’s single-biggest surprise team in this spring season.
The Keydets opened in impressive fashion with historic wins against then-No. 10 Furman and at Western Carolina before they continued their unprecedented start under Scott Wachenheim.
This week, in improving to 5-0 for the first time since 1960, VMI staged a most improbable rally to top host Wofford, 36-31.
The Terriers bolted to early leads of both 10-0 and 17-7 before VMI rallied back.
Still, Wofford had reclaimed a 31-30 lead on a Jimmy Weirick to Landon Parker 75-yard scoring strike with just 1 minute, 43 seconds to play.
VMI took the lead for keeps just 68 seconds later, when Seth Morgan hit Jakob Herres from 14 yards.
The Keydets face ETSU this week with a chance to wrap up the Southern Conference title and secure a playoff berth.