No. 3 Eagles to Host No. 4 Montana State This Weekend - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

No. 3 Eagles to Host No. 4 Montana State This Weekend

by Eastern Washington Sports Information Department

Roos Field has yet another date with destiny this week.

The Eastern Washington University football team will try to secure the 500th win in school history when fourth-ranked Montana State visits the third-ranked Eagles in an epic showdown in the Big Sky Conference. Kickoff Saturday, Nov. 9, at Roos Field in 12:10 p.m. Pacific time in a battle between a pair of 5-0 league teams.

The sold-out game will be televised live on ROOT Sports, as the Eagles will end the regular season with three-straight games on the regional network. The Eagles and Bobcats are each 7-2 on the season, and this is the first matchup between Big Sky teams ranked in the top five in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision since 1994 when No. 1 Montana hosted No. 3 Idaho and won 45-21.

“It’s definitely a huge game,” said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin. “It doesn’t matter who it is, it would be a huge game. We’re both undefeated coming into it so it makes it that much bigger.”

Both teams are on a roll, with EWU entering with a five-game winning streak after last week’s 55-34 victory over Idaho State. The Bobcats, meanwhile, knocked off Northern Colorado 35-28 and has also won five-in-a-row. In fact, the last losses for both schools came more than a month ago at the hands of Southland Conference schools – EWU 49-34 at Sam Houston State on Sept. 28 and MSU seven days earlier by a 52-38 score to Stephen F. Austin. Eastern’s other loss was 33-21 to NCAA Football Championship Subdivision foe Toledo, and MSU’s other loss was 31-30 at SMU, another FBS foe.

Thus far in the Big Sky Conference games, MSU has out-scored opponents 202-88, or an average score of 40-17. Eastern has defeated its five BSC foes by a 207-114 margin – a 41-22 average score.

“Once you get down to a game on that particular day, it’s its own game,” Baldwin said. “No matter what happened in the weeks prior to it, it can go a lot of different directions just on a few plays early.”

In last year’s meeting, the Eagles scored only one offensive touchdown and kicked two field goals in a 27-24 victory over the second-ranked Bobcats. Eastern, ranked sixth at the time, scored on a blocked punt by Dylan Zylstra that was recovered for a touchdown by Evan Day, and then Jordan Tonani returned an interception 21 yards for a touchdown to rally EWU from a 17-13 deficit entering the fourth quarter.

Tonani, who is redshirting this season after surgery to both hips, was just the first of a recent epidemic of injuries at safety. Most recently, free safety Tevin McDonaldwas lost with a broken fibula, leaving a converted cornerback (Miles Weatheroy) and a walk-on redshirt freshman (Zach Bruce) to take over those positions.

“We have to keep getting the next player up and ready to go,” said Baldwin. “We are definitely in a spot right now where we will be playing some young players and some guys might be moving position-wise. But that’s football. Certain years you have certain positions that get hit a lot harder by injuries. Other players have to step up and find a way. We’ll be fine.”

Following this week’s game, Eastern closes the regular season with a road game at Cal Poly on Nov. 16 and Senior Day at Roos Field versus Portland State on Nov. 23.

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