The Sports Network
By Brett Kahn, FCS Assistant Editor
DATE & TIME: Saturday, November 28th, 3 p.m. (et).
FACTS & STATS: Site: Homer Bryce Stadium (14,575) - Nacogdoches, Texas. Surface: Artificial Turf. Television: None. Home Record: Eastern Wash 3-1; Stephen F Austin 5-0. Away Record: Eastern Wash 4-2; Stephen F Austin 4-2. Neutral Record: Eastern Washington 1-0; Stephen F. Austin 0-0). Series Record: Stephen F. Austin (2-1). Last Meeting: 1989 (Stephen F. Austin, 42-36 at Eastern Washington). Series Streak: Stephen F. Austin has won the last two meetings. Conference: Eastern Washington - Big Sky; Stephen F. Austin - Southland. Sports Network Ranking: Eastern Washington (13); Stephen F. Austin (12). Playoff Record: Eastern Washington (5-6); Stephen F. Austin (6-4). Nicknames: Eastern Washington Eagles; Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks. Coaches: Eastern Washington - Beau Baldwin (24-11, 14-8 at Eastern Washington). Stephen F. Austin - J.C. Harper (13-21).
GAME NOTES: Stephen F. Austin and Eastern Washington meet for the first time in 20 years in the first round of the 2009 FCS playoffs.
In 1989, SFA beat EWU 42-36 on the way to the Lumberjacks' first ever Southland title and playoff appearance. Stephen F. Austin lost in the national championship game, 37-34, to Georgia Southern.
This is Stephen F. Austin's first playoff appearance since reaching the 1995 semifinals and its first league crown since 1999.
The Lumberjacks ended the regular season with a 19-10 win over Northwestern State to regain possession of the seven-foot six-inch Chief Caddo statue.
The top-ranked scoring offense put up 410 yards against the Demons, with Payton Award nominated quarterback Jeremy Moses (3,488 yards passing, 36 TDs, 14 interceptions) throwing for 333 yards and two scores. Moses capped off his second straight season with at least 3,500 yards passing and 35 TDs and ranks fourth this season in total offense.
SFA's top-ranked passing offense is also aided by the wide receiving corps that has four players with at least 45 catches. Duane Brooks (95 catches, 9.5 average, six TDs), freshman Gralyn Crawford (43 catches, 15.5 average, seven TDs) and Contrevious Parks (45 catches, 10.3 average, five TDs) all stand out.
Aaron Rhea (54 catches, 13.8 average, 11 TDs) is also a solid wide receiver for SFA, but has battled through an ankle injury all season that kept him out of last week's game. His status is uncertain for this weekend.
Running back Vincent Pervis (747 yards rushing, two TDs) leads a Lumberjacks' rushing attack takes a backseat to the strong passing game.
Stephen F. Austin ranks fifth nationally in sacks, 27th in scoring defense and 32nd in total defense.
The unit has surrendered just 20 points in the past two games and features Buchanan Award candidate Tim Knicky (34 tackles, 12 sacks) at defensive end, All-American Jabara Williams (87 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, five pass breakups) and Devin Ducote (112 tackles, nine tackles for loss) at linebacker and safety Cory Barlow (86 tackles, nine pass breakups, three interceptions).
Eastern Washington is making its first playoff appearance since 2007, when the Eagles knocked off No. 2 seed McNeese State in the first round, but were beaten by eventual national champion Appalachian State, 38-35.
EWU is led by Payton Award nominated quarterback Matt Nichols (3,369 yards passing, 32 combined TDs, five interceptions).
Nichols broke the Big Sky and school record for career passing yards (12,155) this season, pacing Eastern Washington's fourth-ranked total offense and ninth-ranked scoring offense.
Nichols finished the regular season ranked fourth nationally in passing efficiency and fifth in total offense and led the Eagles to a 49-45 win over Northern Arizona to secure an at-large playoff spot. The senior capped off his fourth straight game with at least four touchdown passes, throwing for five and 408 yards against NAU.
The Eagles receiving corps has also been solid this season with big contributions from Tony Davis (67 catches, 12.4 average) and tight end Nathan Overbay (43 catches, 11.3 average, 12 TDs). Wide receiver Aaron Boyce (39 catches, 16.3 average, six TDs) suffered a season-ending and likely career- ending injury as he ruptured his Achilles tendon against Montana.
Running back Taiwan Jones (1,095 yards rushing, 14 TDs) had a breakout season for the Eagles at running back, running for 100 yards in four games, including 115 yards and a score against Northern Arizona. Jones ranks second nationally in all-purpose yards (2,145 yards, 18 TDs) and 11th in rushing.
Eastern Washington's defense has been fairly dismal in 2009, allowing over 30 points in five games and surrendering an average of 416 yards of total offense. However, one star has emerged in Buchanan Award nominee J.C. Sherritt (154 tackles, four pass breakups). The junior linebacker's tackle total set a new school record.
Other standouts on the Eagles' defense are defensive tackle Renard Williams (29 tackles, 12 tackles for loss) and safeties Matt Johnson (88 tackles, six interceptions) and Kevin Hatch (57 tackles, seven tackles for loss, three interceptions).
If SFA's offense shows up, Eastern Washington's struggling defense should be in for a long day with the high-octane Lumberjacks' passing attack. Although Nichols and the Eagles' offense can hang with anyone.
Sports Network Predited Outcome: Stephen F. Austin 38, Eastern Washington 31.
11/27 14:23:28 ET