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Jeff Kolpack, Published December 08 2010

FCS playoffs: Eastern Washington tough on any surface

Southern Utah painted 40 yards of its grass football practice field red the week before it played at Eastern Washington earlier this season. The reason: EWU installed red Sprinturf at its home stadium, a surface that has brought the school national notoriety.

SUU head coach Ed Lamb said he would never do the practice paint job again and the reason is simple.

“It was no factor,” Lamb said of the red turf. “We thought it would be more of an issue.”

The same goes for the players and coaches from Southeast Missouri State, which played at Eastern Washington last week in the second round of the Division I Football Championship Subdivision playoffs.

EWU would have been better on any surface last Saturday in a 37-17 loss at Roos Stadium.

“Other than it looking different, I don’t think there was any difference,” said Marty Mishow, sportswriter for the Southeast Missourian newspaper who covered the game. “The coaches and players said it had no effect on the game at all.”

This week, North Dakota State gets the task of preparing for Eastern Washington, which finished the season ranked No. 1 in the FCS coaches poll. The Eagles were the fifth seed in the playoffs.

The biggest turf effect comes from the camera angles at higher spots around the stadium. NDSU defensive end Coulter Boyer said his eyes got tired fast watching game film of the Eagles.

EWU wears red jerseys and red pants at home games, which makes for a whole lot of red on film.

“The video is really scary because it’s hard to see the players,” Lamb said. “But it’s not like that from field level.”

From field level, it’s just another field, said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin, saying “it’s not like we have a red backdrop around the field. Now that would be something if we had a 10-foot red wall around the field.”

Baldwin said the red turf has given the players something to identify with much like NDSU has the Fargodome.

“The dome is different for people,” he said. “We’ve been down that road. Montana is the same with its large fan base that are so close to the field. It’s different things that people have.”

It’s different from up high, but the same from down low.

“Once you’re down on the field, it doesn’t affect anything at all,” Baldwin said. “It’s more from the eye in the sky.”

Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be heard on the Saturday Morning Sports Show, 9-11 a.m. on WDAY-AM (970). He can be reached at (701) 241-5546.

Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia