From the extreme challenge of facing a Football Bowl Subdivision power in a hostile environment, to the national exposure and future recruiting benefits such a challenge affords, Eastern Washington University coach Beau Baldwin likes everything about Saturday’s matchup against California.
“Obviously, it’s a tremendous challenge,” Baldwin said of having to take his Eagles into Memorial Stadium in Berkeley, Calif., for a non-conference game against a Cal team that opened its season last weekend by pummeling Maryland 52-13. “Cal is not only a level up as far as the competition goes, but they’re one of the top teams in the nation, and they definitely showed that last Saturday. “But the overall opportunity to go down there and play in a great atmosphere against a great team is exciting, and it does great things for our program.”
Kickoff is set for 2:35 p.m. and a crowd of more than 70,000 is expected to watch what many expect to be a mismatch, considering Eastern’s Football Championship Subdivision status. Baldwin, however, expects his Eagles – who turned back Western Oregon 35-14 in their season and home opener last Saturday – to embrace the underdog role without backing down or being wowed by another matchup against a big-name opponent. “They’re doing great,” Baldwin said, when asked how his players were preparing for the Bears. “There are seniors on this team, back in 2006 they played at Oregon State and West Virginia. In ’07 they played BYU, and last year Texas Tech and Colorado.
“The good thing is, we don’t have a bunch of guys who are going to get that awe factor, where it’s going to take awhile to figure out it’s still a football game, still a 100-yard field and that whole deal. They’re treating it as business as usual.”
Dealing with the best
One of the biggest problems confronting Eastern will be California’s junior running back and Heisman Trophy candidate Jahvid Best, who torched Maryland for 137 rushing yards on just 10 carries last Saturday. “He kind of reminds you of that great scorer in basketball,” Baldwin said of the 5-foot-10, 195-pounder and two-time first-team All-Pacific-10 Conference selection. “You know he’s going to get his yards. I don’t think anyone will every shut him down, he’s just that good. “You just do everything you can to make sure you limit his big plays, and that’s not easy, obviously, because he’s too fast and tough.”