Winner will be announced Jan. 8 in Frisco, Texas, on the eve of the FCS National Championship Game
He's already proven to be the best wide receiver in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision. On Jan. 8 in Frisco, Texas, Cooper Kupp will find out if he's the best FCS player. Period.
The sensational junior – who announced Nov. 30 he will return to EWU for his senior season – is one of three players selected as a finalist for the STATS FCS Offensive Player of the Year, it was announced Tuesday (Dec. 1). The others are running backs -- Marshaun Coprich from Illinois State and Kade Harrington from Lamar.
All three players were selected as the top offensive players by their respective leagues – Kupp from the Big Sky Conference, Coprich from the Missouri Valley and Harrington from the Southland. Kupp closed the 2015 season by catching 114 passes for 1,642 yards and 19 touchdowns. Coprich finished with 1,720 rushing yards (6.2 per rush) and 20 touchdowns, and Harrington had 2,092 yards on the ground (7.9 per rush) with 21 scores.
All three have been invited to the national awards banquet and presentation, where the winner of the award will be announced Jan. 8 in Frisco, Texas - the night before the FCS national championship game. A national panel of 150 sports information and media relations directors, broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries voted for the STATS FCS Offensive Player of the Year, selecting the top three among 25 finalists. Their voting reflected the regular season and was conducted before the start of the playoffs.
"To be recognized in this regard is a by-product of the incredible work ethic he's had since he arrived here," said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin. "His mental toughness is what it comes down to. There are a lot of talented player in this country, but only a few who have the drive, desire, mindset and will at the same level as Cooper. For him to be in this position to receive all these accolades is 100 percent earned."
More About Cooper Kupp and his Honors, Records and Accomplishments . . .
In 2015, the junior became only the second wide receiver in 42 years to win the Big Sky Conference Offensive MVP Award, and continued a long legacy of Eagles to win the award at the same time. Eastern players have now won the honor 11 times in the last 15 seasons, and 12 times overall.
A shoo-in to become a three-time first team All-America selection in 2015, Kupp is one of the top candidates to win the STATS FCS Offensive Player of the Year Award which will be announced in January. Kupp was the 2013 recipient of the Jerry Rice Award presented to the top freshman in FCS.
Through his junior season, Kupp has established eight Big Sky Conference records, as well as 17 school marks and seven NCAA Football Championships records. His 122.4 average reception yards per game is currently a FCS career record, while his other six FCS records were set during his freshman season. His 114 catches this season broke the previous league record of 112, and ranks eighth all-time in FCS history. His average of 10.4 catches per game was also a league record (sixth all-time in FCS), to go along with six career marks he set in just three seasons – all ending with first team All-Big Sky accolades.
The 2012 graduate of Davis High School in Yakima, Wash., led FCS in five categories – receptions, receptions per game (10.4), reception yards (1,642), reception yards per game (149.3) and touchdown receptions (19). The players closest to him in FCS were eight catches, 298 yards and four TDs behind him, and in the league the next-best player for catches and yards was teammate Kendrick Bourne (73-998).
Kupp even passed for a pair of touchdowns this season and had another via punt return, giving him 58 total touchdowns scored and 60 accounted for in his 39-game career (all as a starter). In just three years, he already ranks second in FCS history in touchdown catches (56, two behind the record), second in reception yards (4,764, 486 behind the record) and fourth in receptions (311, 84 behind the record). All three marks are Big Sky records, and he also established a new league record for average catches per game (7.97), which also ranks third in FCS history.
Kupp has helped Eastern win 29 games overall and 20 in the Big Sky Conference in the past three seasons, with outright Big Sky Conference championships and NCAA Football Championship Playoff berths his freshman and sophomore seasons. Eastern had a six-game winning streak in 2015, but finished the year with a three-game losing streak and final records of 6-5 and 5-3.
Kupp and the Eagles will open the 2016 season Sept. 3, 2015, when they play at Washington State. In three career games against Pac-12 opponents, Kupp has caught 28 passes for 510 yards and eight touchdowns – including Autzen Stadium records of 15 catches for 246 yards against Oregon on Sept. 5, 2015.
Eastern follows that with games against a pair of teams playing Big Sky schools this week in the NCAA Football Championship Playoffs – North Dakota State and Northern Iowa. The Bison host Montana this week, while Portland State hosts UNI, which earlier this season edged Eastern 38-35 on Sept. 12 in Waterloo, Iowa.