BIG MATCHUP: Eastern Reaches Home-Home Deal with Sam Houston - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

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BIG MATCHUP: Eastern Reaches Home-Home Deal with Sam Houston State

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Eastern Washington will play at Sam Houston in 2013, and Sam Houston will pay a visit to Cheney in 2014 (Photo: EWU Athletics) Eastern Washington will play at Sam Houston in 2013, and Sam Houston will pay a visit to Cheney in 2014 (Photo: EWU Athletics)

by EWU Athletics

Two teams who have reached the NCAA Division I Football Championship game the past two seasons will start a home-and-home series beginning in the 2013 campaign.

Eastern Washington, the 2010 champs in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision, will travel to Huntsville, Texas, to play Sam Houston State on Sept. 28, 2013. The Bearkats, who lost to North Dakota State 17-6 in last year's FCS title game, will play in Cheney at Roos Field on Sept. 13, 2014.

The announcement was jointly made by Eastern Athletic Director Bill Chaves, and his counterpart at SHSU, Bobby Williams.

"This series should be a tremendous matchup between two programs that have made a significant impact on the national scene recently," said Chaves. "Regular season games like this continue to strengthen and add excitement to FCS Football."

A year ago, Eastern won six of its last seven games, and narrowly missed the playoffs with a 6-5 record. Meanwhile, Sam Houston State rolled to 14 consecutive football victories and its first outright Southland Conference football title. The Bearkats were the No. 1 seed in the playoffs and advanced to the championship game in Frisco, Texas, located just 200 miles from their campus.

A year earlier, Eastern finished the 2010 season with 11-straight wins, including a 20-19 victory over Delaware in the title tilt in Frisco. Sam Houston, meanwhile, was 6-5 in its first season under head coach Willie Fritz.

Eastern has made eight playoff appearances (1985, 1992, 1997, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2010), while the Bearkats have made five (1986, 1991, 2001, 2004, 2011). The two schools staged an epic postseason battle in Cheney on Dec. 5, 2004, when Sam Houston State rallied in the fourth-quarter for a 35-34 victory over the Eagles. The Bearkats won on the game's final play, scoring three touchdowns in the last 11:04 after Eastern had taken a 34-14 fourth-quarter lead.

"Matching up in a non-league contest versus an incredible program like Sam Houston State will be a huge challenge for us," said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin, who was EWU's offensive coordinator in the 2004 contest. "The run they went on in 2011 was very impressive, and I know Coach Fritz will keep doing things at a high level. Home and home matchups like this will only help the overall product of FCS football."

That game is the only previous meeting between the two schools, and, interestingly, was the final game in the Eastern career of current Tennessee Titan Michael Roos. Since then, Roos has had the stadium re-named after him (it was formerly Woodward Field) because of his philanthropic efforts on behalf of EWU, including a donation toward the red Sprinturf surface at the "Inferno."

Just over six years later, Eastern had a dramatic rally of its own, scoring all 20 of its points in the final 16:48 to beat Delaware for the national championship.

Eastern is 3-5 all-time against current members of the Southland Conference, with all but two of those meetings taking place in the playoffs. The Bearkats are 7-10 overall against schools from the Big Sky, including victories over Montana State (49-13) and Montana (31-28) en route to the 2011 title game. Eastern lost to both of those schools in 2011, falling 17-14 versus the Griz and 36-21 at home against the Bobcats.

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