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Jeff Kolpack, Published December 11 2010

FCS Playoffs notebook: EWU out to prove it’s better than a No. 5 seed

CHENEY, Wash. – The coaches who vote in the Division I Football Championship Subdivision poll thought Eastern Washington was the No. 1-ranked team in the country. The FCS playoff committee thought otherwise.

It stuck the Eagles with the No. 5 seed, but EWU will get another chance today to prove it’s better than that when it hosts North Dakota State at 2:35 (CST) p.m.

The committee does not take the coaches poll into considering when it determines its Nos. 1 through 5 seeds. It appears it put more weight into strength of schedule, although the Eagles can claim they were beaten 49-24 by Nevada.

“It’s really cool for our program to be No. 1,” said EWU linebacker J.C. Sherritt. “The best part of the playoffs is that in our division you get to find out the rankings on the field. We’ll find out if we really are No. 1 or not.”

Missouri Valley Football Conference teams are 4-10 against No. 1-ranked non-conference opponents in the FCS, although the last meeting was a pleasant one. UNI won at No. 1 New Hampshire in the 2005 playoffs.

Bison will have to

deal with big-time LB

Sherritt went to high school in Pullman, Wash., the home base of Washington State. The Cougars of the Pac-10 Conference probably wish they kept him at home.

He needs eight tackles today to break the school record for career tackles and is a finalist for the Buck Buchanan Award, which goes to the best defensive player in the Division I FCS. He has 391 stops heading into today’s game.

“Time after time he’s tough to block,” Eastern Washington head coach Beau Baldwin said.

At 5-foot-10, he may have been undersized coming out of high school for major schools to recruit him.

EWU makes splash with bigger, taller receivers

The NDSU secondary will get its fill of bigger receivers today. Sophomore Brandon Kaufman, who leads the team in receptions with 59, is 6-foot-5 and 205 pounds.

Nicholas Edwards, Greg Herd and Alante Wright all stand 6-3. It’s no accident, either, that the Eagles receiving corps is loaded with bigger bodies – it’s been a recruiting emphasis in recent years.

“I like the taller guys because they’re open even if they’re not really open,” Baldwin said.

NDSU’s tallest cornerback is 6-foot backup Josh Gatlin. Starters Marcus Williams and Freddie Banks go 5-11 and 5-8½ respectively. Safety Daniel Eaves is the tallest Bison defensive back, reaching almost 6-1.

Bison subjected to

NCAA drug testing policy

NDSU was subjected to the NCAA’s random drug testing policy following the 42-17 win at Montana State. It caused the team’s charter plane out of Bozeman to be delayed.

Bison head coach Craig Bohl said he wasn’t certain of the testing details since this is his first time in the FCS playoffs.

“It’s part of their protocol,” Bohl said. “They said it’s a random deal and that’s how they do it in the championships.”

Etc. etc. etc.

NDSU is now seventh in the FCS in scoring defense giving up 16.7 points, sixth in turnover margin at a plus-1.0 per game and 16th is pass efficiency defense. … D.J. McNorton’s 207 yards rushing last week tied for third-most by any Missouri Valley Football Conference player in the playoffs. Aaron Stecker of Western Illinois has the mark of 244 yards set in 1997 against Jackson State while Corey Lewis of Northern Iowa ran for 220 in 2007 against New Hampshire. McNorton is tied with Southern Illinois’ Arkee Whitlock. … McNorton’s four touchdowns against the Bobcats tied a school playoff record set five times by three different players, the last being Lamar Gordon in 2000 at Nebraska-Omaha. … NDSU is the second Missouri Valley team to win its first two FCS playoff games while representing the league joining Youngstown State. NDSU’s win last week at Montana State moved its record against Big Sky teams to 27-29. The MVFC combined is 11-8 against the Big Sky in the playoffs.

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