FRISCO, Texas — Down by 19 points in the middle of the third quarter, getting shut out by the toughest defense to score against among all FCS teams, Eastern Washington finally had something to cheer about. A touchdown pass meant they wouldn’t get shut out.
Then Bo Levi Mitchell threw another touchdown pass.
And, with 2:47 left, he did it again. When the Eastern Washington defense polished off one last stand, the guys best known for playing their home games on a flaming-red turf had a new claim to fame as national champions, pulling off a stunning 20-19 victory over Delaware on Friday night.
“This game was typical of our season,” coach Beau Baldwin said. “We had so many games like this. These guys never give up.”
Mitchell grew up outside Houston and began his college career at nearby SMU. Folks in Cheney, Wash., will always consider him one of their own after this performance; he even wore flaming-red cleats to remind him of his new home.
After gaining only 92 yards midway through the third quarter, Mitchell led TD drives that covered 80, 89 and 69 yards and capped them all with passes. Brandon Kaufman got it started with a 22-yarder, then Nicholas Edwards caught a 9-yarder. Kaufman had the title-winner, an 11-yarder in the back of the end zone.
Mitchell was 29 of 43 for 302 yards, and truly led the way as Eastern Washington (13-2) ran only seven times in the second half. He converted a fourth-and-8 on the second TD march and one of those rare runs came on a fourth-and-1 a few plays before the winning touchdown. It was so important officials reviewed it twice, once to adjust the spot, then again to make sure they’d properly reset the chains before that remeasurement.
Edwards had nine catches for 120 yards. Edwards had six catches for 74 yards.
Delaware (12-3) — with Vice President Joe Biden, an alum, watching five rows behind the team’s bench — looked like it was going to run away with its second title in eight year.
Pat Devlin led the Blue Hens to a touchdown on their first drive, then field goals on their next two series. Mixing runs and passes, they had 230 yards by halftime. When they stretched the lead to 19-0, they seemed ready to avenge their 2007 title-game loss with Ravens star Joe Flacco as their quarterback.
Instead, they’ll go down as the team that blew it.
Delaware stopped being able to run and got out of synch passing, with Eagles defenders Renard Williams and David Gaylord harassing Devlin.
The final play summed up the meltdown. The Blue Hens gained 9 yards on a fourth-and-10, turning the ball over on downs with 47 seconds left.
Devlin finished 22 of 34 for 220 yards. He also threw just his third interception of the season. It didn’t hurt, though, as Mitchell threw his only interception a few snaps later.
Andrew Pierce ran 28 times for 142 yards and a touchdown. David Hayes ran for Delaware’s other touchdown.
The Football Championship Subdivision is the highest level of college football with a playoff. Eastern Washington finished the regular season at No. 1 and Delaware was No. 5; however, the Blue Hens had been No. 1 before losing their final game of the regular season.
The game drew 13,027 fans to this suburb north of Dallas. This is the first of a three-year commitment to Frisco after 13 straight years in Chattanooga, Tenn.
NCAA President Mark Emmert attended the game. A former chancellor at LSU, he said before the game that he would resist any urge of heading to Cowboys Stadium to watch the Tigers play Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl.