The players at Eastern Washington are hurting right now … it makes sense after falling in the FCS National Title game. But the Eagles are hardly a one-hit wonder, and the track record backs it up.
EWU VS. NDSU: By The Numbers
North Dakota State is the clear cut owner of the top spot in the FCS this decade (2010-19). No matter what happens next year, its seven national titles and everything else that has gone with it prove this is the juggernaut of the decade … if not the best decade of all time in Division I football, not just FCS.
But that begs the question … then who is No. 2? There's been no debate about this decade's No. 1 since probably 2013 when the Bison won their third straight title, but the question about No. 2 would seem to be a bit more of a debate right?
Not exactly. Truly, the Eagles have planted themselves firmly in the co-pilot's seat with NDSU ahead of the rest of the 123 other FCS programs that would love to be in the position. The Eagles won the 2010 title, were runners up this year, have made the semifinals five seasons, won the Big Sky four times and still have one more year to go in the decade.
TITLE GAME: Video Highlights
They've also beaten two Pac 12 teams (Oregon State and Washington State) spooked two others (Washington twice, Oregon once) and had four NFL Draft picks (Cooper Kupp, Samson Ebukam, Taiwan Jones and Matt Johnson) while several other EWU products have gone the free agent route and made it with teams in the NFL and the CFL.
The underclassmen who helped make this senior-laden EWU team tick in 2018 — even through injury issues — are keenly aware that they are also part of an FCS juggernaut. They beat out other top programs like James Madison, Sam Houston State, Jacksonville State and others to clearly take that two spot in the 2010s.
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Sophomore linebacker Chris Ojoh was arguably the most impressive player against NDSU, notching 11 tackles (10 solo), 2 tackles for loss and just being Mr. Clutch in general.
"Yeah, we're building something special, we just have to work harder and play harder," Ojoh told HERO Sports after the game. "Don't count us out because there are great things coming over here. We're going to keep that mentality whether we win or we lose."
That's the thing about EWU. In recent years, the program has taken the approach of becoming more physical, focusing more on the run game (Sam McPherson and his 75-yard jaunt today, anyone?), tightening up on defense and still being that dynamic passing attack Eags fans have always loved. It's a recipe you might want to learn if you want to be on the same field with NDSU.
"I think we really set a standard this year, the goal," Eastern Washington junior RB Antoine Custer told HERO Sports, as it would appear he may be the next man up in the run game after rushing for 600+ yards and 8 TDs this year. "We know how to get here, we just want to keep that same thing going. We don't want to slack on that, just keep the same mentality here."
For the underclassmen stars, there's a torch with a red-colored flame that must be carried, not extinguished, with this year's accomplishments. They want to close out the decade … as they say in the world of NASCAR … on that elite front row of two teams.
"The offseason starts now … we're going to get back here," EWU junior Jayce Gilder told HERO Sports. "I'm so proud of these 27 seniors, these guys … I made a lot of friends for life. They're great leaders, and we're going to carry that on. They're hard workers and we're really going to miss them."
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