Commentary

Mitchell out to prove doubters wrong

Quarterback has Eastern Washington on verge of FCS title after leaving SMU

Updated: January 7, 2011, 6:05 PM ET
By Travis L. Brown | ESPNDallas.com

FRISCO, Texas -- A little more than a year ago, Bo Levi Mitchell lost his starting quarterback role at SMU to Kyle Padron after going 3-4 and suffering an injury.

The switch worked for June Jones and the Mustangs, who went to their second bowl game in two years this season, the Armed Forces Bowl.

Bo Levi Mitchell
Ric Tapia/Icon SMIBo Levi Mitchell, who set the team record with 34 TD passes this season, leads Eastern Washington into the FCS title game against Delaware on Friday at Pizza Hut Park in Frisco.

A change worked well for Mitchell, too. After transferring to Eastern Washington -- the Football Championship Subdivision school made famous by its bright red field -- he finds himself back in North Texas.

Mitchell leads the Eastern Washington Eagles against the Delaware Fightin' Blue Hens in the FCS National Championship Game at 6 p.m. Friday at Pizza Hut Park in Frisco, Texas.

Eastern Washington coach Beau Baldwin said he knew Mitchell, a Katy native, had the location of this year's title game circled in his head before spring practice started, though the two did not speak of it so as not to put the cart in front of the horse. But now, Mitchell again has a chance to prove to the Metroplex that he is a winner.

"Coach Baldwin told me, 'Hey, man, just found out the national championship is in Texas,'" Baldwin said. "I told him we're going. We're not stopping before. We're not losing in the first round. We're going to that national championship game."

In his first two years of collegiate football, Mitchell started all 19 games he played in for SMU, completing 57 percent of his passes and racking up 4,590 yards in Jones' pass-happy spread offense. He also accounted for 33 interceptions at SMU. The experience, good or bad, helped mold Mitchell into the quarterback he is today.

"Coach Jones taught me a tremendous amount about coverage and defenses and really about the whole game," Mitchell said. "That's honestly one thing I take from it, and plus, I got two years of starting experience, and that helps a lot, too."

Mitchell came to Eastern Washington with big shoes to fill, replacing four-year starter Matt Nichols, who left the school holding most of the university's quarterback records and several conference marks. After just one season in a new system, Mitchell broke Nichols' record for touchdowns in a season with 34 and is within reach of the single-season record for passes attempted (needing 29) and passes completed (needing 27).

"What Bo has meant to the team, to come and take over a position where expectations are really high, put us to this point where we're 12-2, playing for a national championship, that speaks more than anything about what he's meant to our team and what he means at the quarterback position," Baldwin said.

Mitchell and his Eagles teammates face one of the historically great playoff teams in NCAA history in Delaware, which is making its seventh national championship appearance and is the alma mater to Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco. The Blue Hens have made it through the playoff gantlet to the title game seven times in the past eight years and are 2-4 in the title games.

"Great team -- the best team we've played all year," Mitchell said. "Honestly, we've got to go out and play the best game we've played."

Redemption in the Metroplex has been on Mitchell's mind the entire season and has pushed the exiled quarterback back to the place he began his football career many Fridays ago.

"It's really huge," Mitchell said about getting to return to the area. "I could sit here and say it's not a big deal and it's like a businesslike trip and I just want to play a game, but it's really huge to be able to come back here and play in front of friends and family, you know, the old team -- prove who you are again and play under the Friday night lights."

Travis L. Brown is a reporter for ESPNDallas.com.

Travis L. Brown covers high schools for ESPNDallas.com. He is a graduate of TCU, where he was sports editor of the student paper, The Daily Skiff.

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