Fifth-seeded Eastern Washington (10-2) scored 23 unanswered points, including 20 in the second half, en route to a 37-17 win over Southeast Missouri (9-3) Saturday afternoon in the second round of the NCAA Division I Football Championship.
EWU kicked a field goal with one second left in the first half, before breaking a 17-17 tie with 20 points in the second stanza. The Eagles will face North Dakota State in the quarterfinals next week.
“I’m proud of our guys. It was a heckuva season,” said Southeast head coach Tony Samuel. “We played a real tough first half. It’s no secret that we lost the game in the second half.”
Bo Levi Mitchell, a transfer out of Football Bowl Subdivision SMU, completed a go-ahead 10-yard touchdown pass to Nicholas Edwards to give the Eagles a 24-17 lead with 4:56 left in the third quarter.
After Big Sky Conference Defensive Player of the Year J.C. Sherritt stopped Henry Harris on a 4th-and-1, EWU took over on downs at the Redhawks 43-yardline.
Five plays later, Levi Mitchell hooked up with Greg Herd for a 10-yard strike to extend the Eagles lead to 31-17 with 13:40 remaining in the fourth quarter. Taiwan Jones ran the ball for 12 yards on two carries prior to the score.
The Redhawks caught a bad break on special teams when Cameron Zuber’s punt went off of the foot of Sheldon McCullough. Jake Potter recovered and EWU was in business again, this time at the Southeast 39-yardline.
The turnover resulted in a 9-yard touchdown run by Mario Brown and the Eagles pulled ahead, 37-17, with 5:57 left.
Southeast’s miscue was the first of four turnovers in the final nine minutes.
Matt Scheible was picked off twice and Josh Coleman fumbled on a punt return, but none of those mishaps led to any points.
Both teams went three-and-out on their opening drives before EWU got on the board first.
Jones ran the ball six times for 44 yards to key an 11-play, 69-yard drive for the Eagles. Jones scored on a 1-yard run to give EWU a 7-0 lead with 7:38 left in the first quarter.
Following a Southeast punt, Joshua Jackson intercepted Levi Mitchell’s pass on a 2nd-and-13 and ran 10 yards for a touchdown to tie the game at 7-7 at the 3:05 mark. For Jackson, it was the first interception of his career.
The Redhawks then took their first lead of the game when Henry Harris scored on a 1-yard run to cap an impressive 11-play, 85-yard march.
Southeast ran the ball on its first seven plays of that drive and picked up a big first down when Harris ripped off a 53-yard run to get the ball to the EWU-8 on a 4th-and-1.
Scheible later completed a 17-yard pass to tight end Bradley Brown at the Eagles 1-yardline. Harris then took the handoff on another fourth down, bounced off multiple tacklers and crossed the goal line with the help of Brandon Harris and Scheible, who shoved him in the end zone.
Harris’ single-season school record 18th rushing touchown gave the Redhawks a 14-7 advantage with 4:14 left in the second quarter.
On the second play of EWU’s next possession, Jones dashed 56 yards for a touchdown to bring the game to a 14-14 deadlock at the 3:43 mark. It marked the 19th run for 50-plus yards in Jones’ career.
EWU and Southeast exchanged field goals before heading into the locker room deadlocked at 17-17.
Drew Geldbach connected from 34 yards out with 43 seconds remaining and Mike Jarrett split the uprights from 39 yards away with one second on the clock.
Levi Mitchell completed 21-of-34 passes for 178 yards and two touchdowns and Jones rushed for 168 yards and two TDs on 25 carries to lead EWU. Jones also averaged 6.7 yards per carry on the day.
Defensively, the Eagles held Southeast to only 12 rushing yards and 26 yards of total offense in the second half. Sherritt registered a game-high 10 tackles.
Harris gained 108 yards and scored one touchdown on 20 attempts. It marked the 10th time Harris ran for over 100 yards in 12 starts this season.
Scheible completed 6-of-15 passes for 69 yards and ran for 54 yards on 14 carries.
Jackson posted a career-high 15 tackles and Justin Woodlief followed with 13 to lead the Redhawk defense.
Southeast finished with 268 total yards, including 199 on the ground. The Redhawks also had a season-high nine penalties for 106 yards.
The Redhawks ended their historic season at 9-3 overall.
“It was really impressive to see what this team accomplished this year,” said Samuel.
Story courtesy of GoSoutheast.com