Junior from Yakima, Wash., is just the second wide receiver to earn the BSC honor in 42 seasons, on a day in which nine Eagles are selected to All-Big Sky Conference teams
Cooper Kupp is a rare bird indeed, and won a rare but familiar honor for the Eastern Washington University football team Tuesday (Nov. 23) when the All-Big Sky Conference teams as chosen by the league's head coaches were announced.
The junior became only the second wide receiver in 42 years to win the 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. And Kupp, as far as head coach Beau Baldwin is concerned, is the top bird on the list.
"He is one of the smartest and most mature student-athletes I've been around, and the best football player I've ever coached. And that's saying a lot," said Baldwin, who recently completed his 22nd season as a collegiate coach. "But it's true. He's hands-down the best all-around football player I've been lucky enough to be around."
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.
"It is a great honor to be named MVP of a conference that has so many strong teams and players," Kupp said. "I'm very thankful to be surrounded by players and coaches who push me to be my best day-in and day-out."
In all, nine Eagles were selected to the All-Big Sky squad, including first team selections Kupp, senior offensive tackle Clay DeBord and senior offensive guard Aaron Neary. Selected to the second team were junior wide receiver Kendrick Bourne and junior defensive end Samson Ebukam, with junior defensive tackle Matthew Sommer and senior safety Todd Raynes on the third team. A pair of Eagles received honorable mention – sophomore outside linebacker Jake Gall and senior offensive guard Thomas Gomez.
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 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 Bourne.
"I'm obviously going to be extremely excited if Cooper decides to return for his senior season," added Baldwin of the upcoming decision Kupp will have to make whether to return for his final season at Eastern or move on to professional football. "On the other hand, if he decides to tackle the next chapter in his football life, I'm going to thank him for everything he has done for EWU and wish him the very best."
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.
Since the offensive MVP was first awarded in 1974, only one wide receiver has won it. That was Idaho's Eric Yarber in 1985, after a season in which he caught 75 passes for 1,103 yards and 10 touchdowns. Eastern ended Idaho's season that year in the FCS (then I-AA) Playoffs.
The Eagles, although they finished just 6-5 overall and 5-3 in the 2015 season, continued an incredible run of Offensive MVP honors in the league. Twelve times in school history EWU players have won that honor, including 11 of the previous 15 seasons since 2001. Vernon Adams Jr. won the award in both 2013 and 2014 before departing the Eagles to close out his collegiate career at Oregon.
Neary earned first team honors a year ago and DeBord was a second team pick in 2013 and honorable mention in 2014. DeBord started all 51 games he played as an Eagle, breaking the previous record for games started of 50. Gomez was honored by the Big Sky for the first time. All three were 2011 high school graduates -- Neary is from Richland, Wash., and attended Hanford High School; DeBord is from Asotin (Wash.) HS; and Gomez is from Graham, Wash., and attended Graham Kapowsin HS.
Together, that trio helped Eastern rank eighth in FCS in total offense with an average of 478.5 yards per game, including the nation's top passing offense (353.3 per game). Eastern was also 20th in scoring offense (34.6). Eastern had two of the top six performances for total offense in school history in 2015, including 667 against Montana State to rank fourth.
Bourne, a 2013 graduate of the Milwaukie Arts Academy in Portland, Ore., finished his junior season with 73 catches (12th-most in school history) for 998 yards and eight touchdowns. He ranked 11th in FCS in receiving yards, was 15th in receptions per game (9.6), 16th in receiving yards per game (90.7) and 15th in touchdown catches. An honorable mention All-Big Sky pick as a sophomore, he enters his senior season in 2016 with 132 catches for 1,929 yards and 20 touchdowns (eighth in school history).
Ebukam closed his 2015 campaign with 44 tackles, which was the most among defensive linemen. He had four sacks, giving him 14 1/2 in his 39-game career (24 as a starter). Also named as a second team pick a year ago, he is from Portland, Ore., and graduated from David Douglas HS in 2013.
Sommer finished his season with 26 tackles, and has 71 total with 2 1/2 sacks in his 40-game career (24 as a starter). Also an honorable mention selection in 2014, he is from Salem, Ore., and graduated from West Salem HS in 2013.
Raynes closed his senior season with 72 total tackles to rank third on the team, and also had an interception he returned for a touchdown, a fumble recovery for a TD, a sack, two quarterback hurries and four passes broken up. He closed his 43-game career (23 as a starter) with 169 tackles, nine passes broken up and four interceptions (two of them returned for scores). Raynes is from Kenmore, Wash., and is a 2011 graduate of Kenmore HS.
Gall ranked second on the team in tackles in 2015, finishing his sophomore season with 78 tackles, 2 1/2 sacks and a pair of pass break-ups. He is from Cle Elum, Wash., and graduated in 2013 from Cle Elum/Roslyn HS.
2015 Eastern Washington University Football All-Big Sky Conference Selections
First Team All-Big Sky
Wide Receiver - #Cooper Kupp - 6-2 - 205 - Jr. - 3L - Yakima, Wash. (Davis HS '12)
Off. Tackle - ^Clay DeBord - 6-6 - 305 - Sr. - 4L - Asotin, Wash. (Asotin HS '11)
Off. Guard - %Aaron Neary - 6-4 - 300 - Sr. - 4L - Richland, Wash. (Hanford HS '11)
Second Team All-Big Sky
Wide Receiver - ~Kendrick Bourne - 6-3 - 190 - Jr. - 3L - Portland, Ore. (Milwaukie Arts Academy '13)
Def. End - $Samson Ebukam - 6-3 - 240 - Jr. - 3L - Portland, Ore. (David Douglas HS '13)
Third Team All-Big Sky
Def. Tackle - ~Matthew Sommer - 6-5 - 310 - Jr. - 3L - Salem, Ore. (West Salem HS '13)
Safety - Todd Raynes - 6-2 - 210 - Sr. - 4L - Kenmore, Wash. (Inglemoor HS '11)
Honorable Mention All-Big Sky
Outside Linebacker - Jake Gall - 6-1 - 215 - So. - 2L - Cle Elum, Wash. (Cle Elum/Roslyn HS '13)
Off. Guard - Thomas Gomez - 6-3 - 295 - Sr. - 3L - Graham, Wash. (Graham Kapowsin HS '11)
#First Team All-Big Sky in 2013 and 2014. %First Team All-Big Sky in 2014. ^Second Team All-Big Sky in 2013 and Honorable Mention in 2014. $Second Team All-Big Sky in 2014. ~Honorable mention All-Big Sky in 2014.
EWU Winners of Big Sky Offensive MVP
2015 – Cooper Kupp, Wide Receiver
2014 - Vernon Adams Jr., Quarterback
2013 - Vernon Adams Jr., Quarterback
2011 - Bo Levi Mitchell, Quarterback
2010 - Taiwan Jones, Running Back
2009 - Matt Nichols, Quarterback
2007 - Matt Nichols, Quarterback
2005 - Erik Meyer, Quarterback
2004 - Erik Meyer, Quarterback
2002 - Josh Blankenship, Quarterback
2001 - Jesse Chatman, Running Back
1997 - Harry Leons, Quarterback
COOPER KUPP Records Broken (7 FCS, 8 Big Sky, 17 EWU)
Career . . .
FCS – *#Career Receiving Yards Per Game – 122.2 (2013-15)
Big Sky – *Career Reception TDs– 55 (2013-15) – 2nd in FCS history
Big Sky – *Career Receptions – 303 (2013-15) – 8th in FCS history
Big Sky – *Career Rec. Per Game – 7.97 (2013-15) – 3rd in FCS history
Big Sky – *Career Receptions Yards – 4,628 (2013-15) – 4th in FCS history
EWU – Total Career Touchdowns – 57 (2013-15)
EWU – Most Career Games With 125+ Rec. Yards – 17 (2013-15)
EWU – Most Career Games With 200+ Rec. Yards – 4 (2013-15)
EWU – Career Punt Return Average - 14.8 (2013-15)
Season . . .
FCS – *Consecutive Games With a TD Reception – 14 (2013)
FCS – *Games With a TD Reception – 14 (2013)
FCS – *Combined Receiving Yards by Two Players – 2,924 (2013; Kupp with 1,691 and Ashton Clark with 1,233)
FCS – Receptions by a Freshman – 93 (2013)
FCS – Reception Yards by a Freshman – 1,691 (2013)
FCS – Reception Touchdowns by a Freshman – 93 (2013)
Big Sky – *Season Receptions – 114 (2015) – 8th in FCS history
Big Sky – *Season Rec. Per Game – 10.4 (2015) – 6th in FCS history
Big Sky – *Season Reception Touchdowns – 21 (2013) – 4th in FCS history
Game . . .
EWU – Game Receptions – 20 (vs. No. Colo. 10/24/5)
EWU – Game Reception Yards – 275 (vs. No. Colo. 10/24/5)
#Also Big Sky Record. *Also EWU Record.