This past football season was one most Bearkat fans will never forget. A 14-1 record, Southland championship, a No. 1 ranking and a run to the national championship game will forever be etched in the memories of everyone in orange.
But prior to this season, it was the run in 2004 that Sam Houston football fans always talked about. Now they will get to relive one of the most memorable games in Bearkat history. Sam Houston State, finalists in the Football Championship Subdivision title game in 2011 and Eastern Washington, FCS champions in 2010 will play each other in a two-game series starting in 2013. It will be the first meeting since the Kats epic comeback in the 2004 NCAA quarterfinals.
“It is no surprise scheduling an FCS opponent is not easy,” said head coach Willie Fritz. “To be able to get a powerhouse team like Eastern Washington on the schedule is really big for us.”
The first game of the series will be played in Huntsville on Sept. 28, 2013. The Kats will make the return trip to Cheney, Wash. the following season on Sept. 13, 2014. The series was announced jointly by the two schools.
“I think it is good we are able to go out of this area to get a game and play a team from another power conference like the Big Sky,” Fritz said. “They won the national championship two years ago, and we played two Big Sky schools (Montana State, Montana) last season in the playoffs. I think this is a natural fit and will be a series both sets of fans will enjoy.”
The Bearkats won their first 14 games of the 2011 season and climbed to No. 1 in the Sports Network poll. After winning three home playoff games, the Kats fell to North Dakota State in the national championship game in Frisco. The Eagles started the 2011 season No. 1 in the country and after dropping their first five games, rebounded to win the last six of their last seven, narrowly missing the post season. EWU closed the 2010 season with 11 straight wins and won the first title game to be played in Frisco.
The last time the two teams met, the Bearkats won a thrilling 35-34 NCAA quarterfinal game in Cheney during the 2004 season. In that game, the Kats rallied from 20 points down in the fourth quarter to win on the game’s final play when Dustin Long hit Jason Mathenia to cap an 8-play, 75-yard drive in the game’s final 43 seconds. It was voted the SHSU game of the decade two years ago.
The Bearkats have been to the playoffs five times in school history with the Eagles reaching the post season eight times at the FCS level. The 2004 playoff game is the only meeting between the two schools. The Bearkats are 7-10 overall against schools from the Big Sky. Eastern Washington is 3-5 against the Southland Conference.