Playoff preview: SE Missouri State at Eastern Washington
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
FCS SECOND ROUND: (9) SE MISSOURI STATE AT (1) EASTERN WASHINGTON
Kickoff: Saturday, Dec. 4, 4:05 p.m. ET
Facts & Figures: Site: Roos Field (8,600) -- Cheney, Washington. Surface: Red Sprinturf. Television: None. Home Record: SE Missouri State 5-0; Eastern Washington 5-0. Away Record: SE Missouri State 4-2; Eastern Washington 3-2. Neutral Record: SE Missouri State 0-0; Eastern Washington 1-0. Series Record: First meeting. Conference: SE Missouri State - Ohio Valley; Eastern Washington - Big Sky. Nicknames: SE Missouri State Redhawks; Eastern Washington Eagles. Sports Network/Fathead.com Ranking: SE Missouri State (9); Eastern Washington (1). Head Coaches: SE Missouri State - Tony Samuel (22-34 at SE Missouri State and 56-91 Overall); Eastern Washington - Beau Baldwin (23-11 at Eastern Washington and 33-14 Overall). All-Time Record: SE Missouri State (427-474-36); Eastern Washington (472-391-23). Playoff Records: SE Missouri State (0-0); Eastern Washington (5-7). Previous FCS Playoff Appearances: SE Missouri State 0; Eastern Washington 7 (1985, 92, 97, 2004-05, 07, 09).
What to know: Southeast Missouri State will make its first-ever NCAA playoff appearance on Saturday. It is not a stretch to say the trip is unexpected, as the Redhawks are just one season removed from a 2-9 campaign. This year, they inverted that total, tying a school record with nine wins and capturing the OVC title for the first time in their history.
The Redhawks' two losses this season book-ended a run of nine consecutive wins. Essential to their success is running back Henry Harris, whose 147.9 rushing yards per game are the second-most in the nation. Harris spearheads a run-heavy option attack, as the Redhawks rank No. 3 in the nation with 271.09 rushing yards per game. Quarterback Matt Scheible, who also totes the rock with proficiency, averages 75.7 rushing yards per game and has scored seven touchdowns on the ground. He has thrown for eight scores against only one interception, although he averages only 107 passing yards per game.
Yes, the Redhawks are a smash-mouth football team and they have had two weeks off to prepare for their first-ever playoff game. They will take their longest road trip of the season this when they face Eastern Washington on the oddly adorned red Sprinturf of Roos Field.
The Eastern Washington Eagles are the No. 1 team in the nation and are in the midst of a seven-game winning streak. They ocked up a share of the Big Sky title with a 34-7 win over Idaho State on Nov. 20 and boast one of the most dynamic players in the nationin running back Taiwan Jones, who trails closely behind Harris in rushing yards per game with 134.4 (No. 4 FCS). It is difficult to do Jones justice on paper. He has speed to burn, is elusive in the open field and also is a gifted receiver (15.4 yards per reception). In short, he is a true home run threat.
Delivering the ball to Jones is SMU transfer Bo Levi Mitchell (234.8 passing ypg, 25 TDs), who has the ability to make all of the necessary throws. Mitchell's primary target is receiver Brandon Kaufman (83.8 receiving ypg, 12 TDs).
The Eagles'defense is anchored by J.C. Sherritt (125 TT), arguably the best linebacker in the FCS, but the unit does have its holes. The Eagles hold opponents to 125 rushing yards per game (No. 27 FCS), but allow a troubling 279.7 passing yards per game (No. 116 FCS). Needless to say, the Eagles are involved in a good number of shootouts and so far the offense has been able to bail the defense out.
That being said, the Eagles' defensive deficiencies should actually be masked by the Redhawks' run-heavy option attack. Throw in the fact that the Redhawks will be making their first appearance on the disorienting red turf (where the Eagles are 5-0 this season), and it appears as if this one plays into EWU's hands.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Eastern Washington 45, SE Missouri State 28
12/03 10:38:11 ET