CHENEY, Wash. -- Matt Nichols passed for 382 yards and five touchdowns, leading Eastern Washington to a 45-31 victory over Idaho State Saturday in the Big Sky Conference opener for both schools.
The Eagles (2-2, 1-0) got two fourth-quarter scoring passes from Nichols and outgained the Bengals (0-4, 0-1) 221 yards to minus-16 in the final period to break away from a 31-31 tie.
The Eagles entered the game ranked No. 11 in NCAA Division I-Football Championship Subdivision.
Idaho State lost its 10th straight game over two seasons.
Russel Hill kept Idaho State in the game, completing 24-of-36 passes for 312 yards and three touchdowns.
With the score tied at 31 early in the fourth quarter, Nichols' 61-yard scoring pass to Brynsen Brown gave Eastern Washington a 38-31 lead with 11:44 left.
After a Bengals punt, Nichols completed a 15-yard screen pass to Alexis Alexander for a touchdown and a 45-31 lead with 4:17 on the clock.
Three big plays kept Idaho State in contention in the first half. A 53-yard shovel pass from Hill to JD Ponciano early in the second quarter tied the score at 7 for the Bengals. A 49-yard interception return by Phillip Arias set up Hill's 14-yard touchdown toss to Jaron Taylor. Hill's 71-yard touchdown pass to Taylor with 19 seconds left in the first half tied the score at 21.
Aided by a facemask penalty against Eastern Washington, Idaho State took the second-half kickoff and marched 80 yards to grab a 28-21 lead, its first lead of the season.
The Eagles responded with Nichols' third scoring pass to Aaron Boyce, a 35-yarder that tied the score at 28. Boyce also had scoring receptions of 25 and 10 yards, finishing with nine catches for 135 yards.
Brown had four catches for 104 yards, while Dale Morris rushed for 94 yards for Eastern Washington.
Taylor made six receptions for 112 yards for the Bengals.
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