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Bo Levi returns to Texas in triumph

by Nicholas K. Geranios
| December 28, 2010 8:00 PM

CHENEY - When Bo Levi Mitchell last walked off a football field in Dallas, he had lost his starting quarterback job at Southern Methodist University.

He returns Jan. 7, leading Eastern Washington (12-2) in the Football Championship Subdivision national title game against Delaware (12-2) in a suburb of the Texas city.

The Jan. 7 game is at Pizza Hut Park in Frisco, not far from the SMU stadium where Mitchell started 19 games before losing his job in 2009 following a shoulder injury.

"I'm really excited to go back there and play near my hometown," said Mitchell, a native of Katy, Texas. "I will have a lot of family and friends there who haven't seen me for awhile."

Coach Beau Baldwin is pleased the way it has turned out for his junior star.

"Everyone is pretty excited, but obviously Bo going back home to Texas is a neat story for him," Baldwin said.

Mitchell transferred to EWU and has led the Eagles to the first title game in their history. He's looking forward to some warm weather after what has already been a record-breaking winter in the Spokane area.

"Just to go back and play in some warm weather, instead of the freezing cold," Mitchell said after the Eagles beat Villanova in the semifinal in chilly Cheney. "I don't know if you ever get used to it, but you learn to adapt."

Mitchell did more than adapt. He completed 271 of 462 passes for 3,194 yards, with 34 touchdowns and 14 interceptions this season.

Mitchell was recruited out of high school by EWU coach Beau Baldwin but chose SMU, where he started as a freshman under coach June Jones. He was injured seven games into his sophomore year and replaced by Kyle Padron. Mitchell watched as Padron led the Mustangs to five wins in six games to finish 8-5 and defeat Nevada in the Hawaii Bowl.

That's when he took another look at Eastern Washington.

"I wasn't done playing yet," Mitchell said.

He transferred in January and was named the starter three weeks into spring drills. Because he switched divisions, NCAA rules did not require that he sit out a year.

It's a different sort of football environment at this level.

The Eagles averaged just 6,000 fans at their small stadium, which is distinguished primarily by bright red artificial turf. There is little media attention outside the Spokane area. Montana is the big rival.

The title game will be televised on ESPN2, and Eastern almost didn't make it.

Mitchell fell apart in the second half of the quarterfinal game against North Dakota State. Playing in a snowstorm, he committed a series of turnovers that allowed North Dakota State to erase a big deficit and take a late lead. Baldwin stuck with Mitchell, who led the Eagles to the tying touchdown and then threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Hart on the first play of overtime for the winning points.

Mitchell has already heard from lots of people who want tickets. But this is a business trip.

"We're not just happy about being in this game," Mitchell said. "We're there for one reason, and that is to win the national championship."

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