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The Sports Network
By Brandon Lawrence, FCS Assistant
DATE & TIME: Saturday, December 7, 4:05 p.m. (ET).
FACTS & STATS: Site: Roos Field (8,600) -- Cheney, Washington. Surface: Red Sprinturf. Television: ESPN3.com. Announcers: Wayne Randazzo, Kevin O'Connell. Home Record: South Dakota State 4-2; Eastern Washington 5-0. Away Record: South Dakota State 5-2; Eastern Washington 5-2. Series Record: First meeting. Conference: South Dakota State - Missouri Valley; Eastern Washington - Big Sky. Nicknames: South Dakota State Jackrabbits; Eastern Washington Eagles. Sports Network FCS Ranking: South Dakota State (13); Eastern Washington (3). NCAA Playoff Seedings: South Dakota State (NS); Eastern Washington (3). Head Coaches: South Dakota State - John Stiegelmeier (17 seasons, 111-80 at South Dakota State and overall); Eastern Washington - Beau Baldwin (sixth season, 54-21 at Eastern Washington; seven seasons, 64-24 overall). Playoff Records: South Dakota State (2-2); Eastern Washington (11-8). Previous FCS Playoff Appearances: South Dakota State 2 (2009, 2012); Eastern Washington 9 (1985, 1992, 1997, 2004-05, 2007, 2009-10, 2012 - 2010 FCS Champion). Current Playoff Streak: South Dakota State has split its four playoff games; Eastern Washington has won six of its last seven playoff appearances.
GAME NOTES: Did anyone get scared when Eastern Washington was 2-2 after four weeks this season and on a two-game losing streak? Probably not, but the Eagles' schedule wasn't the most favorable, especially early on.
After a Sept. 28 loss to Sam Houston State - the Eagles' second loss in as many weeks - Eastern Washington turned on the burners. The Eagles have won eight straight and will look to make it nine against the Missouri Valley Conference's South Dakota State Jackrabbits, fresh off a win at another Big Sky Conference school, Northern Arizona.
Running back Zach Zenner led South Dakota State to victory last weekend, as the junior went for 249 yards and two touchdowns on the ground against a talented Northern Arizona defense. Playoffs included, Zenner leads the league in rushing with 1,944 yards. A preseason Top 10 team, the Jackrabbits have won five in a row, including the last three on the road.
Eastern Washington's defense isn't exactly known for its ability to keep opponents out of its end zone. In the month of November, the Eagles allowed four opponents to score a combined 126 points against them. Lucky for Eastern Washington, "Big Play VA" Vernon Adams and the offensive crew can surpass that total.
The Eagles have scored 186 points in that same time frame, and their production flows through Adams and out to a whole range of weapons. Since Adams garners most of the offensive attention (freshman receiver Cooper Kupp nabs the rest of that attention), it's easy to forget about players like running back Quincy Forte and receiver Ashton Clark.
Forte scored nine touchdowns in the team's final four weeks of the regular season, and is a dual-threat out of the backfield to run or pass catch. Clark is a versatile second receiver, as is Shaquille Hill. So the underrated Jackrabbits defense will have to be ready to cover a range of options.
The Jackrabbits will really need to utilize their plus-1.2 turnover margin on defense against Adams and Co. Ultimately, The Eastern Washington offense will be too much to handle.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Eastern Washington 36, South Dakota St 27.
12/04 11:23:39 ET