One week after upsetting a higher-level opponent, the Eastern Washington football team will try to avoid falling victim to a lower-level opponent at 1 p.m. Saturday when it hosts Division II Central Washington at Roos Field in Cheney.
Historically, the programs have been linked by their frequent matchups and their coaching connections. Former Eastern coach Beau Baldwin was once the head coach at Central, and current Eagles offensive coordinator Ian Shoemaker went 38-16 as Central’s head coach from 2014 to 2018, to name just two such ties.
The programs last met in 2018, when Eastern handed the Wildcats a 58-13 defeat. Eastern leads the all-time series 35-30-4, including victories in nine of their past 10 matchups.
But Central is certainly not a team the Eagles say they are taking lightly.
“They’re gonna come in swinging,” Eagles coach Aaron Best said. “They’re gonna show up to win the game.”
So, too, will the seventh-ranked Eagles (1-0), who beat UNLV 35-33 in double overtime on Sept. 2 for the program’s 11th victory over a Football Bowl Subdivision school.
Central (1-0), which plays in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference, defeated fellow D-II program Eastern New Mexico 66-24 on Saturday. Redshirt sophomore quarterback JJ Lemming was efficient, completing 14 of 22 attempts for 322 yards, five touchdowns and zero interceptions. It was his first collegiate start.
Best said Lemming was someone the Eagles recruited out of Steilacoom High School, near Tacoma, and he has been impressed with the sophomore.
“He’s more than capable,” Best said.
“He’s not a fearful quarterback. … He is not an average quarterback.”
Eastern Washington will look to pressure Lemming a game after the Eagles sacked UNLV quarterbacks four times.
“(We have to) just do what we did to UNLV: Put a lot of pressure on the quarterback and trust our brothers behind us,” said EWU sophomore tackle Joshua Jerome, who had two of those sacks. “Trust the safeties in coverage; trust the corners that they’re gonna be in coverage.”
Last week, the Eagles played in front of nearly 22,000 fans in Las Vegas.
For the first time since the 2019 season, the Eagles will be back at Roos Field – where they have won 17 games in a row – with the stadium allowed back at full capacity.
“It’s not difficult, but it’s just different with no fans or anything,” EWU freshman receiver Efton Chism III said. “But it’ll definitely be cool to get my parents here this year. ... It’ll be pretty awesome to play in front of a crowd.”