Shoulda been there
Last updated 10/5/2021 at 8:59am
For most college football teams the big rivalry game is the last scheduled game of the season. All of the team’s fans look forward to it because it is for bragging rights for the year. For EWU that game is against Portland State not because it is a real rivalry but because the Big Sky Conference thinks it should be.
If you ask any true Eagle fan they would most likely tell you that their biggest rival is the University of Montana Grizzlies. Now if you ask a UM fan they would most likely say the Montana State Bobcats because they’ve been playing their in state rival well before they used leather helmets for protection. But if you go back about 25 years a lot of Griz fans would say that the EWU game may be the most important since it often has conference championship implications.
Since I have witnessed games between these two teams in Missoula and Cheney I can tell you the fan base for both schools is passionate. I can’t say that the fan bases, teams or coaching staffs hate each other but they certainly respect their opponent. If your team comes away with a victory you can only say that it was earned. More times than not it is a shame that one of the teams had to lose.
The same can be said for last Saturday night’s game played in Cheney. The atmosphere was what you would expect a college game to be. No there weren’t 100,000 fans in the stadium but each fan base was loud and the teams played their hearts out. It was a very hard hitting game and several key players had to be helped off the field.
Now there may not have been 100,000 fans in the stadium but ESPN2 broadcast the 7:30 game across the country for everyone to see the red turf in all its glory. The turf was replaced a year ago and it is beautiful. For those of you that don’t like to watch on TV because it is too red I suggest you see its beauty in person.
The Griz came into the contest as the Number 4 rated FCS team in the country while the Eagles were ranked 6th. Both teams had beaten an FBS opponent on the first weekend. The Griz beat the UW Huskies 14-7 in Seattle while the Eagles beat UNLV in overtime.
The Griz beat Western Illinois 42-7 in Missoula and EWU hung on to beat the same Leatherneck team the following week in Macomb, Illinois 62-56. Prior to Saturday’s game the Griz gave up one touchdown in each of its three games. EWU’s defense was a little sketchy at times in its four games. To say the least just listening to a game on the radio made a fan nervous. Okay it made this fan very nervous.
At Saturday night’s game the Eagle team that most fans were hoping to see showed up. The Griz defense sent two and three linebackers on nearly every play putting constant pressure on Eagle QB Eric Barriere. When he was rushed he didn’t look good at all but when he was able to get his passes off he was pretty darn good.
It was a close game throughout and no lead seemed safe. The Griz led 14-10 at halftime and 21-10 early in the second half. Things turned in the Eagles favor after a Griz field goal attempt was blocked which maybe the only negative thing to happen to UM’s special teams all night.
The momentum from that blocked punt seemed to ignite the Eagles and they would score three touchdowns to take a 31-21 lead. The ensuing kickoff was taken back for a 99 yard return and suddenly it was a three point lead (31-28) and the strange finishes that often happen between these two teams was certainly looming following a TV timeout or two.
Eastern would go on a drive that ate up over five minutes on the clock. EWU would kick a field goal with just over 1 minute and 20 seconds remaining in the game. The extra 3 points would loom large as UM marched down the field and with 4 seconds left from the 13 yard line the final pass was knocked down and the Eagles held on for another victory.
This game had it all and every player from both teams gave it their best every play. All I can say is that you should have been there. Games don’t get much better than the one played at Roos Field Saturday night.