Wagner (9-3) at (4) Eastern Washington (9-2)
The Sports Network
By Tim McDonnell, FCS Assistant
DATE & TIME: Saturday, December 1, 6:05 p.m. (ET).
FACTS & STATS: Site: Roos Field (8,600) - Cheney, Washington. Surface: SprinTurf (red). Television: ESPN3.com. Announcers: Trey Bender, Jay Taylor. Home record: Wagner 5-1, Eastern Washington 5-0. Road record: Wagner 4-2; Eastern Washington 4-2. Conference: Wagner - Northeast; Eastern Washington - Big Sky. Nicknames: Wagner Seahawks; Eastern Washington Eagles. Sports Network FCS Rankings: Wagner (NR); Eastern Washington (4). NCAA Playoff Seedings: Wagner (NS); Eastern Washington (2). Series record: First meeting. Head Coaches: Wagner - Walt Hameline (32nd season, 213-126-2 at Wagner and overall); Eastern Washington - Beau Baldwin (6th season, 42-18 at Eastern Washington, 52-21 overall). Playoff records: Wagner (1-0); Eastern Washington (9-7). Previous FCS Playoff Appearances: Wagner 0; Eastern Washington 8 (1985, 92, 97, 2004-05, 07, 2009-10, National Champion in 2010). Current Playoff Streak: Wagner has won its only playoff game; Eastern Washington has won its last four playoff games.
GAME NOTES: Wagner enters the contest with a lot of confidence after an impressive 31-20 victory over Colgate. It was the program's first-ever FCS playoff victory and the Northeast Conference's first playoff victory since it received an automatic qualifying bid in 2010.
Wagner's statistical success has been overlooked because the team came out of nowhere, reeling off nine straight wins during its playoff push. Quarterback Nick Doscher holds the key for success on offense, as he has thrown 210 straight passes without an interception and the team has committed just one turnover during its nine-game win streak. Running back Dominique Williams (1,268 yards, 12 touchdowns) is a shifty back who can handle a load of carries if needed.
Eastern Washington captured a share of the Big Sky Conference title and won the tiebreaker for its automatic bid to the playoffs. Plus, the Eagles have an extra week to get healthy and prepare for their opponent. EWU has to be pleased with the No. 2 overall seed and the potential to continue playing football at Roos Field on the infamous "Inferno" red turf playing surface, if the team can keep winning.
However, before coach Beau Baldwin's squad can start looking ahead, it has to get by Wagner's defense which ranks sixth in the FCS in scoring, allowing 16 points per game and 11th in passing defense with 164 yards per game.
Of course, one could argue that the NEC offenses offer little comparisons to the athletes and skill sets of Eastern Washington, but it's important to remember that even the Eagles have had to win close games this season. Of the team's seven conference wins this season, six have come by a combined margin of 28 points.
Whichever quarterback has the hot hand coming into the contest, Vernon Adams or Kyle Padron - who have combined for 3,270 passing yards and 24 touchdowns in 11 games - certainly has quality receivers to play catch with each game. Wagner could be overmatched with pass catchers Brandon Kaufman, Greg Herd and Nicholas Edwards attacking all levels of the secondary.
If any team remaining in the playoffs can play through adversity, it has to be Wagner. Sure, the Seahawks have to travel across the country and play in a different time zone for the first time this season, but if they overcame the effects of Hurricane Sandy, start the season 0-3 and effectively shut down a dangerous Colgate offense to win a playoff game, anything can happen.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Eastern Washington 35, Wagner 24.
11/28 18:38:16 ET