We are 3 weeks into the 2016 season and the AnyGivenSaturday community is 3-for-3 on picking some great games for the FCS Game of the Week. Each of these games has provided a close battle with last minute theatrics. This week’s game in Cheney, WA was decided in the last minute.
Eastern Washington’s second half theatrics were capped off by brilliantly executed fake FG for the game winning touchdown with 43 seconds left on the clock. The pass came from Eagle backup QB Reilly Hennessey (Reilly had already entered the game in relief of Gabe Gubrud, the starter for the first 3 games). Hennessey connected with Beau Byus, a fourth string tight end, who was wide open as the Panthers sold out to block what they thought would be a game winning field goal attempt. Northern Iowa still had one more chance to take back the win, but QB Aaron Bailey got pressured and lateraled the ball to an offensive lineman while trying to avoid the sack. The OL fumbled the ball and their chance was lost when EWU recovered.
Eastern Washington took their first lead of the game 30 seconds into the fourth quarter after digging themselves into a 24-7 halftime deficit. The Eagles would hold onto that lead until the 4:13 mark when UNI kicker Matt Easley connected from 49 yards for his third successful FG attempt of the day.
Second Half Momentum:
Eastern Washington had a rough first half with 187 yards of offense, an interception and two series’ that ended with a turnover on downs. This led to a 17 point hole coming out of halftime, but the Eagles worked towards erasing it very quickly. Antoine Custer Jr. would take the opening kickoff of the third quarter 93 yards to the endzone to cut their deficit to 10 points. On the third series of the second half Hennessey replaced Gubrud and brought some new life to the EWU offense. That drive would end with a 37 yard TD pass to Kendrick Bourne which cut the Northern Iowa lead to 3. Hennessey finished the day with 21-29 for 226 yards and 3 TDs with all of those stats coming in the seconds half.
Where do they go from here?:
Northern Iowa heads into a bye week coming off of two straight losses. The Panthers have struggled to find an offensive identity in 2016 and if they do not make some changes before Southern Illinois comes to the UNI-Dome on October 1st then Coach Farley’s team could find themselves in the same familiar hole of fighting for their playoff lives early in the season.
Eastern Washington heads to Flagstaff, AZ to start the Big Sky slate against a Northern Arizona team that is looking to make some noise. It will be interesting to see who takes the field at QB to start the game for the Eagles. EWU is back in the driver’s seat for a playoff seed after a 2-1 start with wins over an FBS opponent, a Top 25 team and an OT loss to North Dakota State (who is #27 in the FBS AP Poll after defeating the Iowa Hawkeyes).