Challenging Season Begins at No. 7 Oregon for Eagles

Challenging Season Begins at No. 7 Oregon for Eagles

Ranked sixth in the preseason FCS poll, Eagles take on perhaps its toughest FBS foe in school history

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2015 Eagle Football

#6 (FCS) Eastern Washington University "Eagles"
at
#7 (FBS) University of Oregon "Ducks"

Saturday, Sept. 5, 2015 • 5:05 p.m. Pacific
Autzen Stadium (54,000) • Eugene, Ore.


EWU Coach: Beau Baldwin (Central Washington '96)
School Record: 67-25/45-11 Big Sky Conference (8th Season)
Career Record: 77-28 (9th Season -- was 10-3 at CWU in 2007, 6-5 at EWU in 2008, 8-4 in 2009, 13-2 in 2010, 6-5 in 2011, 11-3 in 2012 and 12-3 in 2013)
2015: 0-0/0-0 Big Sky
2014: 11-3/7-1 Big Sky (OUTRIGHT CHAMPIONS; FCS Playoffs)
Last Game: #5 Illinois State 59, #4 EWU 46 (Dec. 13 in Cheney, Wash.)
TV/Webcast: Televised live by the Pac-12 Networks, featuring Kevin Calabro, Yogi Roth and Lewis Johnson.
Radio: 700-AM ESPN in Spokane. Larry Weir returns for his 25th season calling the play-by-play, with analysis handled by Paul Sorensen. Broadcasts begin one hour prior to kickoff and include an expanded post-game show.
Internet Radio: www.700espn.com or www.tunein.com.
Radio iPhone App: Search for “700 ESPN” and download app. An app is also available for tunein radio.
Live Stats: http://www.goducks.com/liveStats/liveStats.dbml
Weekly Coaches Show: Mondays at 6 p.m. (starting Sept. 7, they will take place live at the “Impulse Club” at Northern Quest Resort & Casino) . . .  700-AM ESPN, www.700espn.com & via iphone app. (search for “Spokane Radio” and download app).
Watch Parties: Consult EWU social media outlets for details the Friday before games. Those who may carry EWU games include “Epic” at Northern Quest Casino and Resort in Airway Heights and the Swinging Doors in Spokane.


The challenge of September is upon the Eagles.

The Eastern Washington University football team, seeking its fourth-straight Big Sky Conference title and berth in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs, opens the 2015 season against perhaps the toughest opponent in school history when the Eagles visit Oregon Saturday (Sept. 5).

Kickoff at Autzen Stadium in Eugene, Ore., is 5:05 p.m. Pacific time in a game televised live via the Pac-12 Networks. Fans may also listen to the game live regionally on 700-AM ESPN and via the web at www.700espn.com, with pre-game coverage starting one hour prior to kickoff and the broadcasts featuring an expanded post-game show.

“At some point you have to go keep score against somebody else,” said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin. “That’s just the bottom line. You get tired of going against each other in fall camp – it’s that way everywhere in the country. Everybody is ready to go play somebody else and we’ll be ready to do that on Saturday.”

EWU is ranked No. 6 nationally in both the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Coaches Poll and the STATS FCS Poll. Oregon, the runner-up a year ago in the first-ever college playoff in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision, is No. 7 in the preseason Associated Press poll for FBS schools.

Eastern has actually played a higher-ranked FBS team before, but none coming off the storybook season the Ducks had a year ago when they lost 42-20 to Ohio State in the championship game of the inaugural College Football Playoff. In 2006, Eastern fell at No. 6 West Virginia 52-3.

After this week’s game, the Eagles play at Northern Iowa on Sept. 12 and at home versus Montana State on Sept. 19 in games against teams ranked 10th and 11th, respectively, in the STATS preseason top 25 poll. In all, four of EWU’s 10 FCS opponents are in that poll, including Montana (#13) and Idaho State (#22), with Cal Poly (#28) and Northern Arizona (#32) close behind.

Baldwin, who enters his eighth season at the helm, returns 13 starters and a total of 43 letterwinners from last year’s squad, which won its second-straight outright Big Sky Conference title and third-straight overall.

But two-time Walter Payton Award runner-up Vernon Adams Jr. has moved on to Oregon, handing the reins to sophomore Jordan West. West was 3-1 as a starter in place of Adams last season.

Eastern advanced to the quarterfinal round of the FCS Playoffs behind an offense that led the nation in scoring (44.1 points per game) and set school and Big Sky records for points (618), touchdowns (84) and total offensive plays (1,079). Eastern averaged 513.4 yards of offense per game to rank third in FCS, however, Eastern also allowed 31.4 points and 441.8 yards per game.

Defensively, Jeff Schmedding takes over as defensive coordinator, and will need to replace two highly-productive linebackers, including three-time All-American and the Big Sky’s all-time leading tackler, Ronnie Hamlin. Eastern also lost a pair of starting defensive linemen and All-America safety Tevin McDonald.

Four years after capturing the NCAA Division I Football Championship, the Eagles finished the 2014 season 11-3 overall. Eastern garnered its 17th winning season in the last 19 years, including playoff berths in eight of the last 11 seasons. The 34 victories in the last three seasons represent the best three-year stretch of success in the school’s football history, and fourth-best in the Big Sky.

The Eagles closed the 2014 season ranked fourth in FCS, marking the fourth time in five seasons the Eagles have ended the year with a top four ranking. Eastern has also spent time at No. 1 in four of the last five seasons (2014, 2012, 2011, 2010), and was as high as second in 2013.

Eastern has advanced to the FCS Playoffs four of the last five years under Baldwin, a two-time Big Sky Coach of the Year. He enters the 2015 season with a 67-25 record in seven seasons to currently rank seventh in the 51-year history of the Big Sky with a .728 winning percentage. His 80.4 percent winning percentage in league games (45-11) is fifth all-time in the league.

 
 

Game Notes

* The Eagles ranked sixth in both the STATS preseason media poll and the coaches poll, which were announced recently. National magazines have the Eagles pegged fifth (Sporting News), sixth (Athlon) and eighth (Lindy’s). “Our expectations are very high as we put together our steps to success,” said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin. “The top of the mountain for us is going after a national title, but granted, there is still a lot in between. We have to have the ability to understand the process and think about today, but it’s also about moving towards a common goal. Our expectation is to go after things at a high level in the Big Sky, and if we’re able to hit that then we’re chasing things at a high level nationally. That’s the way our players think and process it.”

* The Eagles enter 2015 with the second-most victories and the third-best winning percentage in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision since 2010. Eastern is 52-15 for a winning percentage of .776, while leader North Dakota State is 67-8 in that span with a .893 winning percentage. Harvard has a .860 winning percentage, with 43 wins in 50 games. The next-best Big Sky schools on the list are Montana State (45-18, .714 – sixth in both categories) and Montana (37-20 .649 – 17th in percentage and 19th in wins).

* Still with two seasons to play, Cooper Kupp already ranks sixth in school history with 197 career catches, and is 16 from moving into fifth (Tony Davis, 213, 2006-09). Kupp has 3,122 yards to already rank fourth in school history, 208 yards from third (Aaron Boyce, 3,330, 2006-09). His 37 touchdowns – a TD for every 5.3 catches – ranks second all-time in school and Big Sky Conference history behind the records of 46 held by Eric Kimble (2002-05). Kupp’s mark ranks 19th all-time in FCS, and he is one TD from moving into 16th and two from 13th. Kimble owns the Big Sky record for career TD catches and is sixth all-time in FCS history. Kimble also holds EWU career records for receptions (253, second all-time in Big Sky history and 17th in FCS history) and yards (4,140, Big Sky record and ninth in FCS history).

* All eyes will be on EWU’s quarterback position with Jordan West earning the starting position. West, a former walk-on from Maple Valley, Wash. (Liberty High School ’12), was 3-1 as a starter as an injury replacement in 2014 for Vernon Adams Jr. West directed EWU to a total of 1,444 yards of offense (361.0 per game). In four games as a starter and three as a sub, he completed 61 percent of his passes (86-of-142) for 1,072 yards, nine touchdowns and one interception. In his first collegiate start at Southern Utah in a 42-30 win on Oct. 11, West completed five of his first six passes, and finished 20-of-27 for 288 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. He had a passing efficiency rating in the game of 192.9. West redshirted in 2012 and did not see action in 2013. The other two quarterbacks in the program – Reilly Hennessey and Gage Gubrud redshirted in 2014. Hennessey completed 62.2 percent of his passes (364-of-585) for 6,188 yards and 64 touchdowns in two years as a starter at Camas (Wash.) High School. As a senior in 2013, Hennessey was named the Gatorade Player of the Year in Washington and was selected by Associated Press as the 4A Player of the Year in the state of Washington. Gubrud completed 59.7 percent of his passes (139-of-223) with 18 touchdowns and 13 interceptions as a senior at McMinnville (Ore.) High School.

* In comparing quarterback experience via snaps, former Eagle Vernon Adams Jr. for the Ducks took 69 percent of EWU’s snaps the last three seasons, including 69 percent a year ago when EWU starter Jordan West took 30 percent. In all, Adams has taken 2,215 snaps in his collegiate career compared to 336 for West. Here’s the breakdown of Adams’ snaps the last three seasons for EWU.

2012 – 479 out of 1,039 (46 percent) . . . Kyle Padron other 560
2013 – 967 out of 1,047 (93 percent) . . . Anthony Vitto other 80
2014 – 769 out of 1,120 (69 percent) . . . Jordan West 336 (30 percent), Connor Richardson 15
Totals – 2,215 out of 3,206 (69 percent)
-- Last 2 seasons = 1,736 out of 2,167 (80 percent) . . . . take out the four games Adams missed in 2014 with a foot injury and he took 94 percent of EWU’s snaps the last two seasons.

* Senior starting center T.J. Boatright will be facing his father’s former school when he takes over the starting center position this season in EWU’s season-opener at Oregon. He has started three games in his career since graduating from Union High School in Vancouver, Wash., in 2011. His father, Scot, played center for Oregon from 1987-90. The Ducks, who hadn't been to a bowl game in 26 years since the 1963 Sun Bowl, went to two straight bowl games in Boatright's final two seasons -- the 1989 Independence Bowl and the 1990 Freedom Bowl. In those games, Oregon defeated Tulsa, 27-24, and lost to Colorado State, 32-31. Since that 26-year drought, Oregon has been to bowl games in 22 of the last 26 seasons.

* Eastern’s entire five-man starting offensive line is manned by seniors, with a pair of seniors as backups. In all, the starters average 299 pounds and have 81 starts between them, including a trio who have combined for 68 career starts. Preseason All-America tackle Clay DeBord has a team-leading 41 starts, while All-America guard Aaron Neary has started 13. In addition, Thomas Gomez has 14, Cassidy Curtis has 10 and T.J. Boatright has three.

* Eastern has 10 players from the state of Oregon on its roster, plus another four from the Vancouver, Wash., area. Expected starters from the region include wide receiver Kendrick Bourne (Portland/Milwaukie Arts Academy ’13), tight end Jake Withnell (Salem/South Salem HS ’11), nose tackle Matthew Sommer (Salem/West Salem ’13), safety Miles Weatheroy (Portland/Jesuit ’11) and center T.J. Boatright (Vancouver/Union HS ’11).

* As many as six players on defense but none on offense are expected to make their Eagle starting debuts this week against Oregon. Redshirt freshman Jonah Jordan or true freshman Keenan Williams are slated to start at defensive end, and sophomore defensive tackle Andre Lino could start at defensive tackle. Also, sophomore linebacker Jake Gall and redshirt freshman cornerback Nzuzi Webster are expected to make their first career starts, as well as redshirt freshman free safety Mitch Fettig. Senior Miles Weatheroy is listed as a possible starter at strong safety. In addition, Washington State University transfer Jordan Dascalo will make his EWU debut as starting punter and handle kickoffs for the Eagles.

* At least five true freshmen are expected to play this season, including linebacker Ketner Kupp, the younger brother of two-time Eagle wide receiver Cooper Kupp. The others are running backs Sam McPherson and Malcom Williams Jr., and defensive linemen Keenan Williams and Jim Townsend. A hometown product of Cheney, Wash., High School, Williams graduated early and was with the Eagles during spring practices – a first for the EWU program.

* A year after entering the 2014 season with lack of experience at cornerback, the Eagles enter with plenty of options in 2015. Because of injuries to key players in 2014, the Eagles are as deep as they’ve ever been in the secondary. Quality players such as Rashad Wadood, Victor Gamboa and Jake Hoffman emerged to fill roles as starters during the year. Plus, three injured cornerbacks will return -- D’londo Tucker, Frank Cange and Nzuzi Webster. Tucker, the only returning cornerback from EWU’s 2013 season, was projected as a 2014 starter but missed the season with a knee injury suffered in the spring. Cange (ruptured patellar tendon) won a starting position, but ruptured his patellar tendon on Aug. 30 and was lost for the season and underwent surgery. After earning a place in the rotation at cornerback, true Webster (knee) was injured against Washington on Sept. 6 and was a medical redshirt. Webster’s twin brother, Simba, is expected to be a break-out performer for the Eagles at wide receiver. Hoffman, as well as 2014 backup cornerback Moe Roberts, will move to safety this year because of the abundance of cornerbacks. Safety Jordan Tonani, who started 14 of the 24 games he played with 105 tackles and four interceptions in his first two seasons as an Eagle, will forgo his final two seasons of eligibility due to injury concerns.

* Although two quality running backs return from EWU’s 2014 team, there will be plenty of carries available in the lineup after EWU lost seniors Quincy Forte and Mario Brown to graduation. That duo combined for 249 carries, 1,495 yards and 13 touchdowns a year ago, and combined for 4,529 yards rushing, 43 total touchdowns and 116 receptions for another 1,074 yards. Eastern had four different running backs combine for eight 100-yard rushing performances in 2014. One of them came from Jabari Wilson, who had a career-high 132 yards on 24 carries with three touchdowns in EWU’s 56-34 win over Portland State on Nov. 21. He was helping fill the void of Forte, who missed that game with a nagging ankle sprain and prior to that missed four games because of a shoulder injury. Wilson’s previous high was 83 yards on Nov. 2, 2013, versus Idaho State, but he had only 48 yards in the 17 Eagle games after that. Wilson, who actually started as a redshirt freshman in EWU’s 2013 opener at Oregon State, missed six full games and parts of several others in that span because of hamstring and ankle injuries. Sophomore Jalen Moore had 230 yards and three touchdowns in two of the games that Forte missed, including a career-high 133 yards and two scores at Southern Utah. Wilson finished the season with 237 yards and five touchdowns, and Moore had 378 with five scores of his own. In addition, Jordan Talley was going to play his senior season as a running back after spending the last two seasons as a linebacker, but a concussion in the spring prematurely ended his career. He had 631 rushing yards and eight touchdowns, and another 241 yards receiving, in two seasons as a running back in 2011 and 2012.

* The number 757 is significant in that it is the total number of career tackles linebackers Ronnie Hamlin and Cody McCarthy take with them.  Plus, Albert Havili (26 tackles in ’14) will move to defensive line when he returns this fall from a knee injury, leaving 11-game starter Miquiyah Zamora (102 tackles in 2014) as the main returning linebacker. Defensive scout team player of the year Alex Kacmarcik should make a big impact at linebacker and special teams, in addition to 2014 letterwinner Jake Gall.

* The Eagles have now been ranked in The Sports Network Poll 45-consecutive times, having entered 2015 with a streak of 44-straight. Eastern has now spent time at No. 1 in four of the last five seasons (2014, 2012, 2011, 2010), and was high as second in 2013.

* Eastern enters the 2015 season with a streak of scoring in 48-straight quarters dating back to August 30, 2014. Aside from a scoreless fourth quarter in a 41-9 blowout win against Montana Western on Aug. 30, Eastern scored in every quarter of every game (55 of 56 quarters total) in 2014. The Eagles were 9-1 when leading/tied after the first quarter, 9-1 when leading/tied at halftime and 10-2 when leading/tied entering the fourth quarter. Eastern hasn’t played an overtime game since 2011 (a 53-51 win in triple overtime at Cal Poly).

* The Eagles have outscored their last 22 opponents 295-115 in the third quarter, and have had an advantage in 18 of them (tied twice). The only times in the last 22 games EWU has been outscored in the third quarter came in the 2014 FCS Playoffs when Illinois State had a 21-3 advantage in that quarter in a 59-46 win. Earlier in 2014 on Sept. 20 versus Montana State, the Bobcats had a 14-10 advantage in the third quarter before EWU rallied for a 52-51 win. Until the MSU game, Eastern had outscored its opponent in the third quarter in 14-straight games, including the first three games of the 2014 season and the last 11 games in 2013. Eastern went 10-straight games from Oct. 19, 2013, to Aug. 30, 2014, without allowing a third-quarter touchdown.

* The Eagles are 27-3 in their last 30 Big Sky games since a 0-2 start in 2011.  Until an Oct. 25 loss at Northern Arizona, EWU had won 14 Big Sky Conference games in a row.

* The Eagles finished the 2014 season ranked first in FCS in scoring offense (44.1 per game) and first downs (361 total), second in passing efficiency (162.52), third in total offense (513.4) and second in passing offense (328.2). Eastern converted 48.0 percent of the time on third down (97-of-202) to rank seventh, down from a high of second earlier in the year. Eastern’s red zone offense was second in FCS, scoring 94.9 percent of the time.

* Eastern’s 34 victories from 2012-14 bettered the 2008-2010 and 2009-11 teams which combined to win 27 games each. It’s also the fourth-best in Big Sky Conference history, ranking only behind the 39 games Montana won between 2000-02 and 2007-09, and 38 the Grizzlies won between 1994-96.

* Eastern has now won eight Big Sky Conference titles – 1992, 1997, 2004, 2005, 2010, 2012, 2013 and 2014 – but this is the school’s first three-peat as a league member. However, the Eagles won three-straight Evergreen Conference titles from 1965-67 and again from 1947-50. The 1947 title actually came in the final season of the Washington Intercollegiate Conference (Winco), and prior to that EWU won four-straight titles in the Tri-Normal League from 1934-37.

* The Eagles are now 31-5 all-time at “The Inferno,” with three of the losses coming the past three seasons in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs.  Those included a 45-42 loss to Sam Houston State in 2012 when EWU rallied from a 35-0 halftime deficit to nearly pull off an improbable comeback, a 35-31 semifinal loss to Towson in 2013 and a 59-46 loss to Illinois State in the quarterfinals in 2014. Eastern is 23-2 in the regular season at “The Inferno” and 8-3 in the FCS Playoffs. The Eagles have won 16 regular season games in a row at Roos Field dating back to their last loss in the final home game of the 2011 season against Portland State (43-26). The first loss EWU suffered on the red turf was a 36-21 loss to Montana State on Sept. 24, 2011.

* For the first time, Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin was selected by the American Football Coaches Association as its District 5 Coach of the Year for the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision. Baldwin made his 11th national playoff appearance as an assistant or head coach at three different classifications. He has now coached in 26 postseason playoff games (record of 16-9-1), including seven appearances in the FCS Playoffs (record of 10-6), two appearances in the NCAA Division II Playoffs (record of 2-2) and two appearances in the NAIA Playoffs (record of 4-1-1). In all, he has coached on teams that have won two national titles (NCAA Division I in 2010; NAIA in 1995) and nine conference championships (Big Sky Conference in 2004, 2005, 2010, 2012, 2013 and 2014; Great Northwest Athletic Conference in 2002; Columbia Football Association in 2000 and 1998). The two-time Big Sky Coach of the Year coached in his 100th game as a collegiate head coach in EWU’s game at NAU on Oct. 25. Including a 67-25 record at Eastern and 10-3 mark in one season at his alma mater, Central, Washington, Baldwin is currently 77-28 (.740 winning percentage). The Tacoma, Wash., native is among the leaders in Big Sky Conference history for winning percentage. He is 67-25 in seven seasons for a .728 winning percentage (currently better than the school record of .719) to currently rank seventh in the 51-year history of the Big Sky Conference for both percentage and wins overall. His .804 winning percentage in league games (45-11) is the best-ever by an Eastern head coach and currently ranks fifth all-time in the league. His 45 Big Sky victories are a school record, besting the 34 of the EWU head coach he previously served under, Paul Wulff (2000-2007). Baldwin won his 50th game overall and equaled Wulff’s record for league victories in a 42-37 victory over Montana in 2013. Eastern has advanced at least to the quarterfinals of the FCS Playoffs in four of the last five years under Baldwin. He helped lead EWU to its fourth Big Sky title in five seasons with the school’s second-straight outright title, which came after the school’s first-ever unbeaten conference mark (8-0) in 2013.

* The Eagles won the 2010 NCAA Division I title after Bo Levi Mitchell passed for three touchdowns in the final 16:48 to lead EWU past Delaware 20-19 in the championship game on Jan. 7, 2011, in Frisco, Texas. He was the game’s Most Outstanding Player, an honor he duplicated on Nov. 30, 2014, when he led the Calgary Stampeders to the Grey Cup title by completing 25 of 34 passes for 334 yards to earn game MVP honors. He entered the 2015 season 16-2 as a starter for the Stampeders after going 19-7 as an Eagle. He also led Katy, Texas, High School to an undefeated season and a state championship in 2007.

* In November and beyond since 2004, the Eagles are 38-10, including an 11-7 record in the FCS Playoffs. Since 2010, Eastern is now 23-3 overall in November and beyond, with the lone setbacks coming in the FCS Playoffs to Illinois State in 2014 (quarterfinals), Towson in 2013 (semifinals) and Sam Houston State in 2012 (semifinals).

* Eastern has won its last 19 regular season games in November, dating back to a 15-13 loss to Sacramento State on Nov. 1, 2008. Since 2004, EWU has lost just three regular season games in November (Sac State, Weber State in 2006 and Cal Poly in 2005), with an overall record of 27-3.

* In an announcement made Aug. 8, 2014, Eastern Washington and North Dakota State – the only NCAA Football Championship Subdivision teams to win a national title since 2009 – will play a home-and-home series with each other starting in 2016. The Bison and Eagles will play each other in Fargo on Sept. 10, 2016, then play at "The Inferno" in Cheney, Wash., on Sept. 16, 2017. Eastern won the 2010 title, including an overtime victory over the Bison in the quarterfinals, but NDSU has won every playoff game since, en route to titles in 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014. Although the Eagles have advanced to the semifinals of the playoffs twice and to the quarterfinals once in the last three seasons, they've fallen short of facing the Bison in the title tilt, let alone meeting again in the playoffs.

* In yet another schedule announcement, the Eagles announced on July 29, 2014, that they will make a second trip to play at Texas Tech on Sept. 2, 2017. Eastern played Texas Tech on Aug. 30, 2008, in the EWU head coaching debut of Beau Baldwin. Eastern lost that game 49-24 to the Red Raiders, who were coached by current Washington State University head coach Mike Leach. The Eagles would go on and finish 6-5 that season, while Texas Tech finished 11-2 and shared the Big 12 title with Oklahoma and Texas. Although the Red Raiders slipped to 4-8 in 2014, in 2013 Texas Tech finished 8-5 overall and 4-5 in the Big 12 in Kliff Kingsbury's first season as head coach. The Red Raiders closed the season by upsetting No. 14 Arizona State 37-23 in the Holiday Bowl. Texas Tech had the second-best passing offense in FBS in 2013, averaging 392.8 yards per game (Fresno State led with an average of 394.8 per game). Eastern ranked fourth in FCS with an average of 349.8 passing yards per game. In 2014, Texas Tech ranked fifth in FBS in passing (351.1 per game) while Eastern ranked second in FCS in passing (328.6).

 
 

Career Starts by Returning Players

Defense (99 starts by 11 players): Miquiyah Zamora 22, Todd Raynes 14, Samson Ebukam 13, Matthew Sommer 13, Victor Gamboa 12, Rashad  Wadood 11, Jake Hoffman 4, Frank Cange 3, Miles Weatheroy 2, Albert Havili 2, Zach Bruce 3.

Offense (165 starts by 16 players): Clay DeBord 41, Cooper Kupp 28, Thomas Gomez 14, Aaron Neary 13, Shaq Hill 12, Jake Withnell 12, Zach Wimberly 11, Cassidy Curtis 10, Kendrick Bourne 9, Jordan West 4, Nic Sblendorio 3, T.J. Boatright 3, Jabari Wilson 2, Jay Deines 1, Conner Baumann 1 (as fullback), Terry Jackson II 1.

 
 

Series Notes

* This is the first-ever meeting against Oregon, but the Eagles are 52-43-3 against schools from the state of Oregon with a five-game winning streak. The lost loss to a team from the Beaver State came on Oct. 29, 2011, at Portland State, with the Eagles beating PSU three times since then (41-34, 42-41 and 56-34) and winning over Oregon State (49-46) and Western Oregon (43-14) in the 2013 season.

* Eastern is 1-4 versus nationally-ranked FBS teams, starting with an 84-13 loss at Houston in 1990. Eastern then lost at No. 6 West Virginia 52-3 in 2006, 49-24 at No. 12 Texas Tech in 2008 and 59-7 at No. 10 Cal in 2009. Eastern then became only the fourth FCS school since the division was created in 1978 to beat a ranked FBS opponent when the Eagles defeated Oregon State 49-46 in 2013.

* Since the early 1980's when it began the move to become a member of the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (in 1984), Eastern is now 9-23 all-time versus Football Bowl Subdivision teams. Against current Pac-12 Conference members, EWU now 1-8 (1-10 including losses to Washington State in 1907 and 1908), with the lone victory a 49-46 upset of 25th-ranked Oregon State in 2013. Eastern has won two of its last five games versus FBS foes, and the accumulative score in the last six games is 189-195. A 35-17 win over Connecticut on Sept. 8, 2001, snapped a five-game losing streak versus FBS foes, then a 20-3 win at Idaho in 2012 snapped a 10-game skid.

* Eastern has games against FBS foes scheduled for every year through 2019. The Eagles also have scheduled games against Washington State for Sept. 3, 2016, and Sept. 15, 2018. Eastern will play at Texas Tech on Sept. 2, 2017, and will return to Seattle to play Washington on Aug. 31, 2019.  Eastern hadn't played the Cougars since 1908 when the two schools met on Sept. 8, 2012, which resulted in a narrow, 24-20 WSU victory. The Eagles narrowly lost to Washington 30-27 in 2011 and 59-52 in 2014. The 2016 game at WSU will mark the sixth-straight year the Eagles will play a Pac-12 Conference opponent.

 

 

Preseason Honors & Predictions

Cooper Kupp Continues Great Start to the Summer as he is Named to the Watch List for FCS Player of the Year Honors

It’s was quite a summer for Cooper Kupp.

Further entrenching himself as one of the most well-known and electrifying players in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision, the Eastern Washington University junior wide receiver was one of 22 players named July 13 to the STATS FCS Offensive Player of the Year Watch List.

A consensus All-American his first two seasons in the program, Kupp was married on June 20, and essentially spent his honeymoon as a college counselor/coach for the third-straight season at the Manning Passing Academy in Thibodaux, La. While in high school he also previously attended the camp, which is run by Archie Manning, the father of NFL quarterbacks Eli and Peyton Manning. Archie is a former New Orleans Saints teammate of Cooper’s grandfather, Jake Kupp.

A 2012 graduate of Davis High School in Yakima, Wash., Cooper was married to the former Anna Croskrey on June 20, 2015. When they were pronounced man and wife, Anna grabbed an Eagle football helmet and put it on Cooper's head, then jumped on his back and he went running back up the aisle. Current Eagles Jordan West and Zach Wimberly were in the wedding, as well as Cooper’s brother Ketner, who will play in Cheney this fall. Former Eagles Vernon Adams Jr. and Ashton Clark were also in the wedding party.

Already with six FCS records, four school marks and a Big Sky record, Kupp has averaged a TD reception for every 5.3 catches so far in his career. He has scored at least once in 24 of 28 games he has played in his career, with 15 performances of at least eight catches and 15 with at least 100 receiving yards. Kupp has started all 28 games he has played in his EWU career, giving him the second-most starts on the team entering the 2015 season.

He already ranks sixth in school history with 197 career catches, and is 16 from moving into fifth (Tony Davis, 213, 2006-09). Kupp has 3,122 yards to already rank fourth in school history, 208 yards from third (Aaron Boyce, 3,330, 2006-09). His 37 touchdowns – a TD for every 5.3 catches – ranks second all-time in school and Big Sky Conference history behind the records of 46 held by Eric Kimble (2002-05). Kupp’s mark ranks 19th all-time in FCS, and he is one TD from moving into 16th and two from 13th. Kimble owns the Big Sky record for career TD catches and is sixth all-time in FCS history. Kimble also holds EWU career records for receptions (253, second all-time in Big Sky history and 17th in FCS history) and yards (4,140, Big Sky record and ninth in FCS history).

With an average of 15.8 yards per catch (197-3122), he has had 18 receptions of 40 yards or more, including nine for scores. He also has two punt returns of at least 40 yards, one for a TD.

A year ago he set EWU’s single season school record for receptions with 104 (breaking the record of 96 previously set by his wide receivers coach, Nicholas Edwards in 2011), becoming the 19th player in FCS history to hit the century mark in a single season. His mark ranked second in league history behind the 112 of Idaho State’s Rodrick Rumble, also in 2011, and is the 12th-best mark all-time in FCS. He finished the year with 1,431 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns.

In 2014, Kupp had seven receiving performances of at least 100 yards to give him 15 in his career. He closed the year with 10 catches for 185 yards and two touchdowns versus Illinois State in the quarterfinals of the FCS Playoffs on Dec. 13. His yardage total was his second-most in his 28-game career, and the 19th-most in school history. One game earlier in the second round of the playoffs, he had a career-best 12 catches versus Montana on Dec. 6 to rank as the eighth-most in school history.

As a freshman, Kupp set the school and Big Sky records with 21 touchdown receptions. All six of his FCS records came as a freshman when he finished with 93 catches for 1,691 yards. Kupp had at least one score in the first 14 games of his career to set a FCS record, but had the streak stopped in a 2013 loss in the semifinals of the FCS Playoffs.

In addition, Kupp was selected to the 2014 Capital One Academic All-America® Division I football team as selected by the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA). Selected to the second team, he was one of only two sophomores among the 50 players honored, with freshmen not eligible. Eastern football players have now earned 11 CoSIDA Academic All-America honors since 1989, including five first-team selections. Nine different players have garnered those honors, including repeat selections Steve Mattson (1996 and 1997), and Kyler Randall (2002 and 2003). Kupp is an economics major with a 3.54 grade point average, and earlier in the fall he joined three other Eagles on the CoSIDA Academic All-District VIII team. He was a 4.0 student in high school.

 

Trio of Eagles, all originally from east of the Cascades, are Preseason All-Americans

With all three originally hailing from east of the Cascade Mountains, a trio of offensive standouts from the Eastern Washington University football team have been selected to the 2015 STATS FCS Preseason All-America Team.

Junior wide receiver Cooper Kupp, a consensus All-American his first two seasons in the program, was named to the first team. Senior offensive guard Aaron Neary was a second-team choice and senior offensive tackle Clay DeBord was on the third team. Kupp is a 2012 graduate of Davis High School in Yakima, Wash.; Neary is a 2011 graduate of Hanford HS in Richland, Wash.; and DeBord is a 2011 graduate of Asotin (Wash.) High School.

The three teams consisted of 100 players from 63 FCS schools and 13 leagues. Eastern tied for the fourth-most selections among the schools, while the Big Sky Conference had the second-most among leagues with 15.

Neary was a first team All-Big Sky Conference selection in 2014 and earned second team All-America honors from Beyond Sports Network. DeBord was a honorable mention all-league pick as a junior, and a second-team choice as a sophomore. Neary started all 13 games he played last season in his first year as a starter. DeBord was a starter in all 14 Eagle games to increase his career total to a team-best 41.

Together on the left side of the line in 2014, Neary and DeBord were the team’s co-offensive players of the week after helping EWU rush for 224 yards and finish with 582 total yards in a 52-51 win at Montana State (9/20/14).

They helped lead Eastern’s offense to new heights in 2014, especially on the scoreboard. For the first time in school history, Eastern scored at least 50 points in six games, including outings of 56, 54, 52, 52, 56 and 56. Only once previously in school history – 105 previous years – has EWU scored 50 or more three times. The Eagles were first in FCS in scoring offense (44.1 per game) and first downs (361 total), second in passing efficiency (163.52), third in total offense (513.4) and second in passing offense (328.2).

 

In Split Vote, Eastern and Montana State are Big Sky’s Preseason Favorites

It may not count in the league standings, but Sept. 19 will be an intriguing day in the Big Sky Conference football race.

Eastern Washington University and Montana State are the split-vote favorites to win the league title in 2015, and will play each other in a non-conference game at Roos Field on Sept. 19 in a game regionally televised by ROOT Sports. The three-time defending league champion Eagles were selected to win the league title by the media, while the league’s head coaches picked Montana State.

There was a difference of just 12 points in the media poll and one in the coaches poll. Eastern received 17 first-place votes and 553 total in the media poll, while MSU also received 17 No. 1 votes and had 541 total points. Montana and Idaho State were a distant third with five first-place votes and 446 votes apiece.

The coaches gave both the Eagles and Bobcats six votes, but MSU had a 134-133 edge in total points. Montana received one first-place nod and had 121 points.

A year ago for the second-straight season, the Eagles swept the Montana schools. Eastern scored a touchdown and two-point conversion with 27 seconds left to win at MSU 52-51, then beat Montana at home in both the regular season (36-26) and the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs (37-20).

 

Season Notes


Schedule . . . Eight of EWU’s opponents combined to win 65 percent of their games last season (68-36)

Eastern will challenge itself early and often later this year, playing eight opponents who finished the 2014 season with winning campaigns and a collective 68-36 record (65 percent). The Eagles will play five of their first seven games on the road before playing three of their last four at “The Inferno” at Roos Field in Cheney, Wash.

The schedule begins on Sept. 5 when the Eagles visit the Oregon Ducks, who were 13-2 and the runner-up in the first playoff for the NCAA Football Bowl Division Subdivision title. Eastern has won the last five times it has played schools from the state of Oregon, including a 49-46 victory over 25th-ranked Oregon State in 2013 in only the fourth victory by a FCS team over a ranked FBS foe.

Eastern’s other two non-conference games are against a pair of perennial league contenders and playoff participants at the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision level. The Eagles follow the Oregon game by playing Sept. 12 at Northern Iowa, which finished 9-5 and has the distinction of knocking off four-time FCS champion North Dakota State and FCS runner-up Illinois State in 2014. The Panthers had a six-game losing streak late in the year before losing to Illinois State 41-21 in the second round of the playoffs. Eastern’s season ended with a 59-46 home loss to the Redbirds in the quarterfinals.

Montana State, 7-5 a year ago, plays at EWU on Sept. 19 in the return game of a non-conference game in Bozeman, Mont., last season. That game was won by the Eagles 52-51, thanks to a touchdown and two-point conversion with 27 seconds to play.

Eastern opens league play at Sacramento State (7-5 in 2014) on Sept. 26, then opens its home league schedule versus Cal Poly (7-5) on Oct. 10 on Hall of Fame Day at EWU. After road games at Idaho State (8-4) and Northern Colorado (3-8), the Eagles play back-to-back home games against Weber State (2-10) on Oct. 31 and Northern Arizona (7-5) on Nov. 7.

The Eagles play at rival Montana (9-5) on Nov. 14, then host Portland State (3-9) on Senior Day on Nov. 21. The FCS Playoffs begin on Nov. 28.

Eastern ended the 2014 season ranked fourth in FCS. This fall, Eastern will play four teams ranked in the final top 25, including non-conference games against Northern Iowa (#10) and Montana State (#20). The Eagles will play Big Sky Conference foes Montana (#13) and Idaho State (#25).

The Eagles are 27-3 in their last 30 Big Sky games since a 0-2 start in 2011. Until a­­­­­­ loss at Northern Arizona on Oct. 25 2014, EWU had won 14 Big Sky Conference games in a row.

Baldwin says the key for his team to preparing to play other schools in or out of the conference is challenging each other to improve.

“We need to make things tough on each other,” he explained. “We have to make it a challenge on the other side of the ball no matter the position. We know the schedule we face. You take them one at a time, but when you look at all 11 games, it is a tough schedule. If we can get some good, competitive, tough and grinding practices, that bodes well for you in the situations you face against tough teams on Saturday.”

In 2016, the Eagles are scheduled to play non-conference road games at Washington State (9/3/16) and North Dakota State (9/10/16), and a non-conference home game versus Northern Iowa (9/17/16). In 2017, Eastern is scheduled to visit Texas Tech (9/2/17) and hosts NDSU (9/16/17). Eastern also previously announced agreements to play in 2018 at Washington State (9/15/18) and in 2019 at Washington (8/31/19).

 
 

Coaching Changes . . . Schmedding takes over as defensive coordinator after successful tenure coordinating special teams

A veteran of 11 previous years on the Eastern Washington University football coaching staff, safeties coach Jeff Schmedding will take over as defensive coordinator as part of offseason changes announced by head coach Beau Baldwin.

Schmedding, who has served as special teams coordinator since 2008, will also coach safeties for the fifth season in 2015. He is a 1996 graduate of University High School in Spokane, Wash., and received his bachelor’s degree from EWU in 2002.

John Graham will continue as associate head coach, but will move from defensive coordinator to tight ends coach. Former tight ends coach Brian Strandley will move to his native defensive line where he will coach alongside Ryan Sawyer. Sawyer will also assume the new title of defensive front coordinator.

Baldwin said different staff members will assume roles coaching special teams. He will oversee the punt coverage and field goal/extra point units; Kiel McDonald will handle kickoff returns; Josh Fetter will lead the kickoff coverage unit and Cherokee Valeria will be in charge of punt returns.

 
 
 

More Returning Player Notes

* A total of seven NCAA Football Championship Subdivision All-America teams were announced in 2014, and seven Eagles combined for 20 total accolades. Two of them return for the 2015 season – wide receiver Cooper Kupp and offensive guard Aaron Neary. Earning first and second team honors were offensive tackle Jake Rodgers, as well as quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. Adams and Kupp, who earned six first team selections, were repeat first team selections from 2013. Linebacker Ronnie Hamlin, an All-American also in both 2012 and 2013, earned second and fourth team accolades, and safety Tevin McDonald picked up All-America honors as a third and fourth team pick. The other two players to earn All-America recognition were Neary (second team) and punter Jake Miller (fourth team). All but Miller were selected as first team All-Big Sky Conference selections, with Adams picked as the league’s Offensive Player of the Year. Miller was a second team all-league pick.

* Eastern returns 12 players who earned All-Big Sky Conference a year ago, including first team selections Cooper Kupp (wide receiver) and Aaron Neary (offensive guard). Defensive end Samson Ebukam is back after earning second team honors, and wide receiver Shaq Hill was a third team selection, along with Kupp as a return specialist. Another eight players return after earning honorable mention, with a total of 25 All-Big Sky honors won by the Eagles a year ago.

Kupp repeated on the All-Big Sky first team, and Hill was honored for the third time. He was honored as a wide receiver in 2013 and as a return specialist in 2012. Offensive tackle Clay DeBord earned second team honors  in 2013 and honorable mention in 2014.

* Eastern wide receiver/kickoff returner Shaq Hill received Big Sky Conference Special Teams Player of the Week honors after having a 90-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in EWU’s 56-34 title-clinching win at Portland State on Nov. 21. The return helped turn an eight-point lead into a 49-34 advantage with 6:22 left in the game. His return for a TD was the first for EWU since he had a 99-yard return as a freshman versus North Dakota on Oct. 5, 2012. He finished the season  averaging 27.1 yards on 21 kickoff returns for the Eagles to rank 13th in FCS. He has a 24.9 average in his career to rank seventh in school history and his 2,115 total return yards are second. With the 2015 season left in his career, he should break the school record of 2,176 yards held by Craig Richardson (1983-86). In addition, Hill has caught 97 passes in 40 career games (12 starts) for 1,612 yards, 14 touchdowns and average of 16.6 yards per reception. He has 16 plays of at least 40 yards in his young career, including kickoff returns of 99, 93, 90, 80, 53 and 41 yards. He has also been involved in long pass plays of 86, 76, 68, 58, 56, 55, 54, 47, 44 and 40 yards.

* Freshman Jake Hoffman finished with the third-most passes defended (passes broken up and interceptions) in FCS history when he had a school-record six passes broken up versus Montana on Nov. 8. Later in November another player had seven, bumping Hoffman to fourth. He entered the game with three on the season and finished the year with nine.

FCS Record for Passes Defended (Passes Broken Up and Intercepted)
9 – Anthony Goodwin (Montana) – Portland State 10/5/13
7 – Ian Williams (Fordham) – Sacred Heart 11/29/14
7 – Kameron Scott (Morehead St.) – Butler 10/20/12
6 – Jake Hoffman (Eastern Washington) – Montana 11/8/14 – School Record
6 – 11 other occasions

* Tyler McNannay, a former punter at Weber State, finished a perfect 11-of-11 kicking field goals for the Eagles with a long of 43 yards. He made his first-ever collegiate field goal with a 27-yarder that gave EWU the lead for good at 9-7 against UC Davis on Sept. 27. He also made 4-of-5 extra points, and handled kickoff duties for EWU. He was taking the place of Roldan Alcobendas, who suffered a potential season-ending knee injury at Montana State a week earlier. Originally from nearby Colfax, Wash., McNannay was at Washington State before punting for Jody Sears at Weber State in 2012. He was an injury replacement that year as well when Tony Epperson also suffered a knee injury. McNannay finished fifth in the league in punting with a 43.0 average, and also handled kickoffs for the Wildcats.

 

 
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