Big, Big Sky Matchup: #3 Eagles Eye #10 Griz - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Big, Big Sky Matchup: #3 Eagles Eye #10 Griz

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by Eastern Washington Univ. Athletics

CHENEY, Wash. -- It's just another day at the office for this year's edition of the Eagle-Griz football showdown in Missoula.

For the 12th time in the last 18 years, No. 3 Eastern Washington and No. 10 Montana will both enter their key Big Sky Conference matchup ranked in the top 25 in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision. Kickoff Saturday (Oct. 26) at Washington-Grizzly Stadium is 12:40 p.m. Pacific time in a game regionally televised by ROOT Sports.

Collectively, the two teams have won a trio of NCAA Division I football titles, and have made 30 total appearances in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs. Eastern won the national title in 2010, and have been to the playoffs in 1985, 1992, 1997, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2012. The Grizzlies have been to the playoffs a FCS record 21 times, with national titles in 1995 and 2001. Montana did not qualify for the playoffs a year ago and had a streak of 17-straight berths snapped in 2010.

Needless to say, this week's game has plenty of championship and postseason implications. Both teams have been nationally-ranked in the last five meetings, but only once – 2009 – have both teams advanced to the playoffs. And in none of those years did the EWU-UM loser win a share of the Big Sky title.

"We definitely will be gearing up to play an incredibly talented Montana football team in Missoula," said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin, who was an EWU assistant the last time EWU won in Missoula in 2005 (34-20). "Obviously, it is a tough place to play, but we love going to Missoula."

In last year's 32-26 Eastern home win, the No. 7 Eagles scored two touchdowns in the final 2:19 to pull out the win over 21st-ranked Montana. The two scores, aided by a successful onside kick, came within 1:26 of each other.

Following last week's 34-10 home win over Southern Utah, Eastern is currently tied atop the Big Sky standings at 3-0 with Montana State, and EWU is 5-2 overall. The Grizzlies are 6-1 overall and 3-1 in the conference after edging Cal Poly at home in overtime, 21-14.

The Grizzlies have won 88 percent of their games at Washington-Grizzly Stadium, which was opened in 1986. Montana is 175-24 there (not including four vacated wins in 2011). Eastern has won four of the 12 meetings there, with victories in 2005, 1997, 1992 and 1990.

"It's very difficult to play in Missoula – their crowd does a great job and their players feed off of it," said Baldwin. "Their team has a lot of pride to play at Washington-Grizzly Stadium. You have to be able to handle certain things on the road in terms of your snap count and the emotion of what the place feels like. We've had some tough losses in Missoula, but we love going in there and competing."

The Eagles moved up one spot to third in The Sports Network FCS top-25 poll after previous No. 2 Sam Houston State lost at McNeese State, which moved to fourth this week. Eastern Illinois is No. 2, Montana State is fifth, Montana is 10th and Northern Arizona is 16th. The Eagles are seeking a seventh league title, with previous titles in 1992, 1997, 2004, 2005, 2010 and 2012.

After this week's game, the Eagles play at Idaho State and current ISU and former EWU head coach Mike Kramer on Nov. 2 in Pocatello. Eastern also takes on fifth-ranked Montana State and Cal Poly in November before ending the regular season at home against Portland State on Nov. 23. Eastern's resume this season has included a 49-46 victory at Pac-12 Conference member Oregon State, and narrow road losses to Toledo (33-21) and Sam Houston State (49-34).

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