Dooley’s Dozen: 12 fascinating facts about the Eastern Washington Eagles

With Hurricane Ian bearing down on Florida, we are going to see a real rarity at the Swamp – a Sunday game.

The Week 5 matchup has been rescheduled for noon Sunday, and is still only going to be offered on ESPN+ and SEC Network+ as well as the Gators Radio Network.

It was important for Florida to schedule the game a day later for a number of reasons like bowl eligibility, as well as Billy Napier just needing to get his team back on the field again in his first season.

So, it will be a Saturday for Gator fans to just sit back and watch football. It certainly will be interesting to see what kind of crowd shows up for a Sunday game as well.

We’ll see what that looks like then, but for now, the Dooley’s Dozen looks at 12 things you need to know about the Eastern Washington Eagles.

They are the Eagles.

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You may or may not have known that. Their fans just shortened it to “Eags.” There was a time when Eastern Washington was known as the Savages. I’m not making that up. In 1973, the board of trustees at Eastern dumped the name and the student body voted on a new name, deciding that Eagles was best. There are a lot of golden eagles in the eastern part of the state.

The most famous Eastern Washington alum?

AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez

Depends on what you like, but it is either Super Bowl MVP Cooper Kupp of the Rams or TV host Colin Cowherd. And, of course, former quarterback and assistant coach [autotag]Jim McElwain[/autotag].

The game was originally scheduled back in 2016...

Jim McElwain
Jim McElwain

AP Photo/John Raoux

… when McElwain was still the Florida coach. It was slated for 2020 originally, but the pandemic forced the SEC to have a conference-only schedule and the game was rescheduled for this season.

This will be Eastern Washington’s first game ever...

AP Photo/Mark Humphrey

… in the state of Florida and the first game against an SEC school. This is the second time in school history that the Eagles have played two Power Five teams in the same season, as they faced Oregon on the road earlier this year.

That Oregon game did not go well.

Chris Pietsch/The Register-Guard

The Ducks scored at will and won the game 70-14. Eastern had played two other games and split them, beating Tennessee State 36-29 to open the season and losing last week to Montana State 38-35 last week in the Big Sky Conference opener.

Still, Eastern Washington is ranked No. 18 in the latest FCS poll despite a 1-2 record.

Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

The Eagles lost 10 starters from last year’s team including a couple of FCS All-Americans, but there are still plenty of players back from last year’s 10-3 team.

Eastern has a roster that is definitely not a typical opponent coming to Gainesville.

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Most of the players are from Washington, Oregon and California. There are two from British Columbia, one each from Idaho, Samoa, Arizona, Alaska and Hawai’i. The closest thing to a Southern player would be freshman defensive lineman Tariq May, who grew up in Maryland but attended high school in Tacoma.

There are five Eastern Washington players in the NFL, led by Kupp...

Maddie Malhotra/Getty Images

… and seven more playing in the Canadian Football League. Kendrick Bourne, a wide receiver from New England, is also in the NFL. Kupp was the winner of the Walter Payton Award in 2005, which goes to the best offensive player in the FCS, one of four players to win that award at Eastern Washington. He also won the Jerry Rice Ward for freshman of the year in that division.

Aaron Best has done a great job there.

AP Photo/Andy Nelson

The head coach is a former center and long snapper for Eastern who has an overall record of 42-19 and is 30-9 in Big Sky Conference games. He started as a student assistant in 2000 and has been in Cheney, Washington, ever since except for one year with the Toronto Argonauts of the CFL in 2007.

In 2018, he guided the team to the FCS title game and has been to the playoffs in three of his first five seasons as head coach.

Gunner Talkington has one of the great names in college football.

AP Photo/Andy Nelson

He also waited for his chance to be the starting quarterback, only throwing 64 passes in his first four years at the school. The redshirt senior is only 5-foot-10-inches, but he has completed 61% of his 93 passes this year for 636 yards and 10 touchdowns with only three interceptions (two of which came against Oregon).

Eastern Washington’s top running back is Micah Smith...

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… another fifth-year senior. (Eastern also has 11 sixth-year seniors because of the COVID year). Smith has rushed for 162 yards and two touchdowns and is averaging 6.8 yards a carry.

The most interesting thing about Eastern Washington...

James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

… is that the Eagles play on a red field, the only school in America that does that. The grass field was torn up in 2010, replaced with SprinTurf and named after alumnus and former player Michael Roos, who donated $500,000 for the field.

He is also one of two former players to have his number retired. Roos Field is known as The Inferno and seats 8,700, although with temporary seating the Eagles drew 11,702 for the first game on the red turf in 2010 against Montana.

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Story originally appeared on Gators Wire