Football honored by Big Sky

Football honored by Big Sky

By Elohino Theodore, Sports Writer

Eastern’s 2010-2011 football championship win was chosen as the fifth best moment on Big Sky’s all-time list.

“It’s an honor, with the history of this conference and other teams winning national titles,” head football coach Beau Baldwin said. “To be ranked anywhere, let alone No. 5 all time, it’s special and I think it’ll mean more and more as the years go on.”

Former player and current wide receivers coach Nicholas Edwards, who was on that 2010 championship team still had fond memories. “It feels awesome,” Edwards said. “That year was a great run for us; to be able to cap it off with a national championship was huge for us, especially for this university going forward.”

During their championship season, the Eagles went 7-1 in the Big Sky Conference and finished 9-2 for their overall record. The Eagles were seeded at No. 5 in the 2010 FCS playoffs where they faced Southeast Missouri State in the first round. Eastern won the game 37-17.

For their next challenge in the playoffs, the Eagles faced North Dakota State and beat the Bison 38-31 due to a 25-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell to wide receiver Tyler Hart in overtime.

Edwards had a special moment of the season in that particular game stored in his memory. “One of my favorite moments was when J.C. Sherritt stripped the ball at the two-yard line when we were in overtime with North Dakota State,” Edwards said. “That was probably one of the most defining moments that I had as a player. That was a huge game for us to be able to get over the hump and get to the semifinals.”

North Dakota State’s loss advanced the Eagles to play at home against Villanova University in the FCS semifinals. Eastern appeared in the semifinals for the first time since 1997. The Eagles forced six turnovers and beat Villanova 41-31 to advance to the championship game against Delaware.

The Eagles beat the Blue Hens 20-19 on Jan. 7, 2011 in Frisco, Texas, to win their first national title. Eastern rallied from a 19-0 deficit during the middle of the third quarter to make their comeback.

Baldwin reflected back on the championship season and some of moments that stood out to him.

“It was definitely one of those years, and we may never have a year like this,” Baldwin said. “The thing that stands out to me is just how many close games we played in and found ways to win every one of them.”

During the 2010 season, Eastern had nine wins by an average of 6.2 points of each game. In nine of those games, Eastern either trailed or tied other teams in the fourth quarter for six of those games. In one of the games, they trailed in the third quarter, and in two games they were scoreless in the fourth quarter. Seven of the Eagles’ games were also decided by seven points or less.

Baldwin also recalled how special his team was that season. “In terms of that team’s resiliency and being able to just find ways to win, that’s what I’ll always remember about that group,” Baldwin said. “[When] you find a way to win a national title, it takes a lot. But the way we did it took a lot in a lot of different games to get that done.”

Since Eastern won the title, the team has advanced to the FCS semifinals three of the past four seasons. The Eagles have also earned a 42-13 record since winning the championship, followed by a 27-5 record against the Big Sky Conference.

According to Baldwin, getting bestowed with the No. 5 moment on the Big Sky list is motivating. “Yeah, we’re hungry for more, but I also appreciate [this] very much,” Baldwin said. “We’re just pushing to take it a little bit further in the years to come, but again we’re going to enjoy all the small victories along the way, too.”

Edwards believes that the team does not need any more incentives in order to work harder. “I don’t think our guys need extra motivation,” said Edwards. “Each day our guys do a good job of focusing and try to grind to be one of the best in the conference and also being the best in the nation. So we take our steps day by day.”