Villanova Vs. Eastern Washington: Eagles Beat Wildcats, 41-31; Headed to FCS Championship Game

Eastern Washington closes out a perfect season at home with the most important win of the year; will face either Delaware or Georgia Southern for national championship.

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Villanova Vs. Eastern Washington: Eagles Close Out Game With Critical Drive, Win Ticket To Title Game

Laugh at the red turf if you want. But Eastern Washington just closed out a perfect home season in its inaugural year on the bloodgrass, and the latest win will send them to the FCS Championship Game.

Villanova turned the ball over six times in the game — five times before an interception on a meaningless last-second Hail Mary — in the last game of the season for the defending national champions. Eastern Washington piled up 407 yards of total offense to claim the right to face either Delaware or Georgia Southern next month for the title.

Delaware and Georgia Southern will play Saturday to decide the other spot in the national championship game.

Bo Levi Mitchell was 27-of-38 for 292 yards and 4 TDs in the game; Brandon Kaufman had eight catches for 135 yards and a touchdown, while Nicholas Edwards grabbed another 9 passes for 82 yards and two scores. Mario Brown added 104 yards on 26 rushes.

The Eagles defense held Nova to 230 yards, helped in part by the Wildcat’s four fumbles and two interceptions.

Despite all that, the game was close until the end. With the lead whittled down to three points, Eastern Washington got the ball on its own 37-yard line, then launched a 12-play touchdown drive that drained six minutes off the clock and ended Nova’s hopes of a comeback. The Eagles converted two fourth downs on the drive, including a 23-yard touchdown pass from Mitchell to Greg Herd on 4th-and-5 to put the game out of reach.

So, yeah, snicker all you want about the fact that they play on a field that makes your eyes hurt. And while you’re laughing, Eastern Washington’s fans will be making their hotel reservations in Frisco, Tex.

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Villanova Vs. Eastern Washington: Eagles Take Three-Point Lead To Fourth Quarter On Red Turf

After a brisk opening to the game that saw 34 combined points by halftime, the offenses kind of slogged through the first half of the third quarter. The only score in the opening eight minutes of the half was a 14-yard field goal drive by Villanova set up by an Eastern Washington fumble.

Then, the offenses returned. With less than three minutes to go, Bo Levi Mitchell found Brandon Kaufman on the sideline for a 76-yard touchdown reception to give Eastern Washington the 27-17 lead. (Most of those 76 yards were from Kaufman’s run after the catch.)

Villanova’s Fred Maldonado followed that with a 33-yard kick return to midfield. It took the Nova offense six plays covering two minutes to cash in, cutting the Eagles’ lead back down to three as the game entered the fourth quarter.

Even with the offensive outburst at the end, the teams still combined for just six first downs in the quarter.

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Villanova Vs. Eastern Washington: Everything Goes Right for Eagles -- Almost -- En Route To 20-14 Halftime Lead

Maybe it’s not just the turf; for a while in the second half, it looked like nothing could or would go wrong for Eastern Washington. The Eagles were forced to punt on the second play of the quarter, only to have Artise Gauldin tackle Villanova’s Matt Szczur at the shoes and force the fumble.

The Eagles later converted on 4th-and-3 as part of a touchdown drive that ended with a strike from Bo Levi Mitchell to a wide open Nicholas Edwards near the corner of the end zone to take a two-score lead.

The Wildcats came back with a methodical 11-play, 70-yard drive that finished with a direct snap to Szczur, who carried the ball in from the EWU 1 to cut the lead to 20-14.

Things seemed to start going Eastern Washington’s way once again on the following drive, when Brandon Kaufman fell, then recovered and eventually caught a 14-yard pass on 2nd-and-13 near midfield. But Mike Jarrett eventually missed the 39-yard field goal, the first thing to go wrong for the Eagles in a while.

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