Intriguing Homecoming Matchup as Northern Arizona Visits No. 4 EWU at Sold-Out Inferno

Eagles seek to continue six-game winning streak against a Lumberjacks team that is on a roll, scoring 115 points in their last two games

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2015 Eagle Football

#4 Eastern Washington University "Eagles"
versus
Northern Arizona University "Lumberjacks"

Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015 • 3:05 p.m. Pacific
Roos Field (8,600) • Cheney, Washington


EWU Coach: Beau Baldwin (Central Washington '96)
School Record: 73-27/49-11 Big Sky Conference (8th Season)
Career Record: 83-30 (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: 6-2/5-0 Big Sky
2014: 11-3/7-1 Big Sky (OUTRIGHT CHAMPIONS; FCS Playoffs)
Last Game: #5 EWU 14, Weber State 13 (Oct. 31 in Cheney, Wash.)
TV:
Live regionally on SWX.
Webcast:
http://www.watchbigsky.com
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://ewustats.com
Weekly Coaches Show: Mondays at 6 p.m. at the "Impulse Club" at Northern Quest Resort & Casino, with video highlights and commentary by head  coach Beau Baldwin at 5:30 p.m. . . .  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.

Interesting. Very interesting.

The fourth-ranked Eastern Washington University football team seeks to extend its six-game winning streak when the Eagles play their 89th Annual Homecoming game Saturday (Nov. 7) in an intriguing Big Sky Conference contest versus red-hot Northern Arizona at Roos Field in Cheney, Wash.

Already a sell-out, kickoff is 3:05 p.m. Pacific time at "The Inferno" and the game will be broadcast live regionally on SWX and via www.watchbigsky.com. Fans can also listen to the game 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.

Eastern sits atop the Big Sky Conference at 5-0, has won 22 of its last 23 league games, and has been victorious in 19-straight regular season home games. The only conference loss in the last 27 games for the Eagles against Big Sky opposition (including four out of conference games) was a disappointing, last-minute 28-27 loss to NAU last season in Flagstaff.

But oddly enough, the Lumberjacks enter Saturday as the hotter team, scoring 115 points in victories over Weber State (52-36) and Northern Colorado (63-21). Their combined winning margin of 58 points against those two teams – both at home -- is rather impressive considering EWU beat the same two foes the last two weeks by a margin of only three points (43-41 over the Bears and 14-13 over Weber State).

"They'll be coming in with a ton of confidence," said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin. "I said last week that Weber State had the best defense we've played against to this point, and now I'll say, outside of maybe Oregon, that NAU has the best offense we will have faced. Northern Arizona has a high-powered offense with the ability to strike at any time."

Adding further incentive, Northern Arizona is playing for its postseason life, entering Saturday's game with a 5-3 overall mark and a 3-2 conference record. The Lumberjacks have lost on the road at Arizona, Montana and UC Davis, but did pick-up a season-opening road win at Stephen F. Austin.

Some of the top offensive players in all of the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision will square off this week. Lumberjack freshman quarterback Case Cookus leads FCS in efficiency rating (197.4), completing 70 percent of his passes for 26 touchdowns, 2,130 yards and just three interceptions. Eastern junior Jordan West is fourth in efficiency (169.6), and leads FCS with 29 touchdowns while completing 68 percent of his passes for 2,639 yards and just five interceptions.

Northern Arizona receiver Emmanuel Butler has 43 catches for 896 yards and 13 touchdowns, while EWU counters with FCS leader Cooper Kupp with 91 catches for 1,290 yards and 17 scores. Casey Jahn has 875 yards and five touchdowns rushing, while EWU's Jabari Wilson and Jalen Moore have combined for 745 yards and eight TDs.

"They have all the pieces – they have a running game that is very effective, receivers that are good as a whole and one who is off-the-charts, and the quarterback is doing as well as anyone in the country if you look at his numbers," added Baldwin. "They are winning ballgames and putting up points – it's a high-powered offense we have to face this week and will be a challenge."

The Eagles are now 6-2 on the season and haven't lost since falling 38-35 at Northern Iowa on Sept. 12. Eastern is perfect in the Big Sky standings, tied with Southern Utah.

Eastern is 53-32-3 in its previous 88 Homecoming contests and has a current streak of six-straight wins dating back to a 15-13 loss to Sacramento State in 2008. Thus, EWU has never lost a Homecoming game on the red turf at "The Inferno," which was installed in 2010.

Ranked for the 54th-straight time, Eastern is up one spot to a season-best fourth in this week's STATS FCS Top 25 poll, and are up 10 positions since beginning the season 0-2. Eastern is also No. 4 in the coaches poll.

 
 

Team Game Notes

* Eastern is up to a season-high fourth in this week's STATS Top 25 poll. The Eagles dropped from sixth to 14th after successive losses to open the year, but has been climbing the rankings ever since on the basis of a six-game winning streak. In all, four of EWU's 10 FCS opponents are currently in the STATS poll, including Portland State (#10), Northern Iowa (#17), Southern Utah (#20) and Montana (#22). In all, nine of 13 Big Sky teams have been ranked in the 10 weeks of the rankings this season, with EWU and Montana the only league teams to be ranked each week. The Eagles have now been ranked in The Sports Network Poll 54-consecutive times, having entered 2015 with a streak of 44-straight. Eastern has spent time at No. 1 in four of the last five seasons (2014, 2012, 2011, 2010), and was high as second in 2013. In this week's coaches poll, Eastern is also ranked fourth.

* With two more touchdown grabs last week to increase his season total to 17 and his career mark to 54, junior wide receiver Cooper Kupp is nearing NCAA Football Championship Division history. He is just four TD receptions in his career behind the FCS record of 58 set by New Hampshire's David Ball from 2003-06. Kupp is also just four TDs from his own Big Sky single season record of 21 set in 2013, and is 13 catches from the school record of 104 established last year (the league record is 114).

* 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.

* Eastern has advanced to the FCS Playoffs four of the last five years under head coach Beau Baldwin, a two-time Big Sky Coach of the Year. Baldwin coached in his 100th game at Eastern when the Eagles beat Weber State 14-13 on Oct. 31 at Roos Field in Cheney. He owns a 73-27 record in seven-plus seasons to currently rank seventh in the 52-year history of the Big Sky with a .730 winning percentage. His 82.0 percent winning percentage in league games (50-11) is fifth all-time in the league.

 * The Eagles are now 34-5 all-time on the red turf at "The Inferno" and have won 19 regular season games in a row at Roos Field. Three of the losses have come the past three seasons in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs, and EWU's last regular season loss came in the final home game of the 2011 season against Portland State (43-26). The recent playoff losses 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 26-2 in the regular season at "The Inferno" and 8-3 in the FCS Playoffs. The first loss EWU suffered on the red turf was a 36-21 loss to Montana State on Sept. 24, 2011 after an unbeaten debut season during EWU's national championship season in 2010.

* With a Roos Field crowd of 8,759 versus Weber State, Eastern has now had 13-consecutive sell-out crowds at "The Inferno" and 25 all-time in stadium history. That figure will be increased by one because the Northern Arizona Homecoming game is already sold out. The crowd against the Wildcats was the 20th most in stadium history, which is in its 49th season of existence in 2015. A crowd of 10,352 against Cal Poly on Oct. 10 was the 10th most in stadium history and 10,912 against Montana State on Sept. 19 is the fifth-most.

* The Eagles are 32-3 in their last 35 Big Sky games since a 0-2 start in 2011. Eastern has won 22 of its last 23 league games, and until an Oct. 25, 2014, loss at Northern Arizona, EWU had won 14 in a row. Eastern's current streak is eight games. Including non-conference victories (two versus MSU and one against Cal Poly) and a playoff win (Montana), the Eagles have won 26 of their last 27 versus conference foes.

* Eastern has won eight Big Sky Conference titles – 1992, 1997, 2004, 2005, 2010, 2012, 2013 and 2014 – but is coming off 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.

* Despite finishing with just 121 yards in howling winds on Oct. 31 against Weber State at Roos Field, Eastern still leads FCS in passing yards (373.1 per game). The Eagles are also third in passing efficiency (169.7), fifth in completion percentage (68.1 percent), sixth in total offense (502.5), sixth in fourth-down conversion percentage (76.5 percent), eighth in red-zone offense (90.6 percent), eighth in first downs (195) and 11th in scoring offense (38.0) after leading FCS a year ago with a 44.1 average. Eastern's 526-yard passing effort at Northern Iowa on Sept. 12 broke the school record of 486 set twice against Montana – Oct. 4, 1986, and Sept. 17, 1994. Eastern had a school-record 106 total offensive plays against Northern Colorado on Oct. 25 en route to finishing with 648 yards, the sixth-most in school history.

* With two of its last four games requiring late-game rallies, Eastern has now won 16 games since 2010 when trailing or tied in the fourth quarter. In a 43-31 win against Northern Colorado on Oct. 24, Eastern found itself down five times in the game, but responded with scoring drives each time to regain the lead. The Eagles scored 14 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to go up by 12, but that was wiped out by a pair of UNC touchdowns within 49 seconds of each other, the second aided by a successful onside kickoff attempt. But the Eagles stopped the Bears on an important two-point conversion attempt, thus making their final deficit against the Bears 41-40 with 1:23 to play. Eastern followed with a nine-play, 49-yard drive that ended with a game-winning 44-yard field goal by Jordan Dascalo on the game's final play. On his way to school records of 20 catches for 275 yards, Cooper Kupp had seven for 130 yards and a touchdown in the fourth quarter alone, with Jordan West passing for 145 yards and a pair of scores. Two weeks earlier, Eastern trailed by 15 in the fourth quarter against the Cal Poly, but scored 22 unanswered points to pull out a 42-41 overtime win. It was Eastern's first such heart-stopper since Sept. 20, 2014, when the Eagles rallied for a 52-51 victory over Montana State. Interestingly, a two-point conversion with 27 seconds left won that game for EWU, while a missed two-point conversion by Cal Poly in overtime clinched the win against the Mustangs. Although out-gained 519-270 in total offense in the game versus Cal Poly, Eastern had 145 of its yards on its final three possessions of the game, including drives of 85 and 55 yards to force overtime. Kendrick Bourne had six of his career-high 10 catches in the fourth quarter, then had a 25-yard TD catch on the first play of overtime. Jordan West completed 13-of-16 passes for 134 yards and three scores in the fourth quarter and OT. Two of the 16 come-from-behind victories came in the 2013 season, including a 49-46 victory over 25th-ranked Oregon State and a 42-41 win against Portland State. Eastern won three in 2012 (Montana, Montana State, UC Davis), two in 2011 (Cal Poly, Sacramento State) and six in the 2010 national title season (Delaware, North Dakota State, Southern Utah, Sacramento State, Northern Colorado, Montana).

* Eastern has had 11 50-point games in the last four seasons (including one in 2015), with six in 2014 and two each in 2013 and 2012. Eastern is now 44-3 in the 47 games they have scored at least 50 in school history. The lone losses were to Washington (59-52 in 2014), Idaho State (55-52 in 2003 in double overtime) and Weber State (63-59 in 1991, which at the time was the highest-scoring game in FCS/I-AA history).

 
 

Player Game Notes

* Just four touchdown catches away from the FCS career record, Eastern wide receiver Cooper Kupp continues to lead FCS in receiving touchdowns (17), receiving yards (1,290), receiving yards per game (161.3), receptions (91) and receptions per game (11.4), and is third in scoring (13.5 per game). His numbers are so extreme he is 15 catches, 348 yards and four TDs ahead of the next-highest marks in FCS. On Oct. 7, Kupp was one of 25 players (including EWU quarterback Jordan West) to be named by STATS to its updated watch list for FCS Offensive Player of the Year. On Oct. 19, he and West were named to the 32-player midseason watch list for College Football Performance Awards FCS National Performer of the Year. He had school records of 20 catches for 275 yards in a 43-41 win over Northern Colorado on Oct. 24. One week earlier he had a 14-catch performance at Idaho State on Oct. 17 in which he had 161 yards and two touchdowns receiving, another TD on a 76-yard punt return and a 24-yard scoring pass to quarterback Jordan West. Earlier this season, on his way to earning Big Sky Conference ROOT Sports co-Offensive Player of the Week accolades, Kupp finished with then career highs of 15 catches for 246 yards – both Autzen Stadium records – in a 61-42 loss to Oregon on Sept. 5. He now has 54 touchdown catches in his career, moving him this season from 19th to second in FCS history.

* Junior linebacker Miquiyah Zamora eclipsed his previous high of 14 tackles by two, finishing with 16 tackles and a sack in Eastern's 14-13 win over Weber State on Oct. 31. He had 12 of his tackles in the final three quarters in which the Eagles held the Wildcats to a single field goal. His sack in the first quarter helped forced the Wildcats to settle for a field goal. Zamora has a team-leading 75 tackles on the season, and ranks 41st in the FCS and ninth in the Big Sky with an average of 9.5 stops per game. He has a career total of 231, which ranks 21st in school history.

* Backup quarterback Gage Gubrud has been holding for kicks all season, but he made another kind of debut on Oct. 31 versus Weber State. With extremely windy and rainy conditions affecting the game, he punted five times for a 38.2 average. His rugby-style punts – all against sustained winds of 23 miles per hour – included a 50-yarder that resulted in WSU taking over at its own 16 yard line. Another punt resulted in the Wildcats starting from their own 13, and the average position of all five of his punts was the WSU 35.

* Sophomore linebacker Jake Gall has had eight or more tackles in his last three games, including eight and a key fumble recovery against Northern Colorado on Oct. 24. After Eastern punted to open the second half, the Bears drove 87 yards on 11 plays before committing its first turnover of the game at the EWU 2-yard line. Gall had 15 tackles one game earlier against Idaho State and 10 versus Weber State on Oct. 31. In seven games this season he has 55 tackles to rank second on the team.

* Junior wide receiver Kendrick Bourne has compiled some impressive statistics of his own this season for the Eagles, and had back-to-back career-high performances of 10 catches in October. He had 84 yards and a pair of touchdowns in EWU's 42-41 overtime victory over Cal Poly on Oct. 10, then had 102 yards versus Idaho State on Oct. 17. He had a 25-yard TD on the first play of OT against Cal Poly, and had six other catches in the fourth quarter to help EWU rally from a 15-point deficit. One game earlier, he finished with seven catches for a career-high 204 yards and a touchdown in EWU's 28-20 victory over Sacramento State on Sept. 26. In those three games combined, Bourne had 27 grabs for 390 yards and three touchdowns. In FCS statistics this week, Bourne is 12th in receiving touchdowns (7), 21st in receiving yards (718), 22nd in receiving yards per game (89.8) and 18th in receptions per game (6.8). He has 101 catches for 1,649 yards and 19 touchdowns (11th in EWU history) in his 36-game Eastern career.

* Senior rover Todd Raynes led a four-turnover effort by Eastern's defense with a 25-yard interception return for a touchdown that helped complete a 17-0 Eastern scoring run against Idaho State on Oct. 17. Eastern trailed 14-7 before the Eagles scored three-straight times, capped by Raynes' second career pick-six that put the Eagles up by 10 in the second quarter in the 45-28 victory. He also had six tackles against ISU, including five in the first half when EWU took a 31-21 lead at intermission. Raynes had a 40-yard return for a TD in last year's FCS Playoffs against Montana, and has four total interceptions in his career. He has played in 40 Eastern games (20 as a starter) and has 141 tackles, eight passes broken up, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery in his career.

* Eastern has now had 12 200-yard receiving performances all-time, and four of them have come this season (three by Cooper Kupp with a school-record 275 versus Northern Colorado, 246 against Oregon and 201 versus Montana State, and 204 yards by Kendrick Bourne against Sacramento State). Backed up at their own 2-yard line early and trailing Sac State by 13 points in the third quarter, Bourne and quarterback Jordan West hooked up on an electric 98-yard pass play that started a 21-0 scoring run for the Eagles. But the long pass wasn't a school record. Jason Anderson caught a 99-yard TD from Todd Bernett on Sept. 17, 1994, for a school, Big Sky and FCS record that can never be broken – just tied. Bourne also had a non-scoring 43-yard reception from West, who set the school record with 491 passing yards.

* Junior Jordan West was one of 25 players (including EWU receiver Cooper Kupp) named by STATS on Oct. 7 to its updated watch list for FCS Offensive Player of the Year. West has set two school records individually and one team record in three different games this season. The former invited walk-on leads FCS in touchdown passes (28) and points responsible for per game (22.8). He is also second in passing yards per game (329.9), second in total passing yards (2,639), fourth in passing efficiency (169.6), sixth in total offense (334.8 per game) and eighth in completion percentage (.679). West has now started 12 games in his career (9-3 record) and has a career passing efficiency rating of 161.2 to currently rank third in school history behind 2005 Walter Payton Award winner Erik Meyer (166.5) and two-time Payton runner-up Vernon Adams Jr. (173.8). West has completed 66 percent of his passes for 3,711 yards, 37 touchdowns and six interceptions so far in his career. He had a school-record 491-yard passing performance against Sacramento State on Sept. 26, completing 29-of-47 passes with three touchdowns. The previous record was 486 set by Todd Bernett in 1994 versus Montana. One game earlier, he set the school record for passing efficiency rating in EWU's 55-50 win over then 11th-ranked Montana State on Sept. 19, and was selected by STATS as its FCS co-National Offensive Player of the Week. The junior from Maple Valley, Wash., and 2012 graduate of Liberty High School was also honored with the same award by NCAA.com and College Sports Madness, plus was Big Sky Conference Offensive Player of the Week. West completed 21-of-24 passes (88 percent) for 410 yards and six touchdowns. His efficiency rating of 313.5 broke the previous school record of 310.4 set exactly 23 years ago to the day by Mark Tenneson against Sonoma State in 1992 (10-of-14, 265 yards, four TDs). West's six touchdowns versus MSU were one away from the school record. He contributed 349 passing yards against Northern Iowa on Sept. 12 when EWU finished with a school record 526 passing yards. He was 3-1 record as an injury replacement in 2014 for Adams, and inn his first collegiate start at Southern Utah in a 42-30 win on Oct. 11, 2014, 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.

* Eastern's entire five-man starting offensive line is manned by seniors, with a pair of seniors as backups. In all, those five senior starters average 299 pounds and now have 115 starts between them, including a trio who have combined for 91 career starts. Preseason All-America tackle Clay DeBord has a team-leading 48 starts, while All-America guard Aaron Neary has started 21. In addition, Thomas Gomez has 22, Cassidy Curtis has 13 and T.J. Boatright has 11. Curtis missed five games with a foot injury suffered versus Oregon, but returned to play against Northern Colorado on Oct. 24. DeBord has started every game he has played -- 48 of a possible 51 games the past four seasons. He missed one game each in 2012 and 2013 because of ankle injuries, and had a consecutive starting streak of 24 games snapped against Cal Poly on Oct. 10, 2015, when he missed the game with a concussion.

* Senior All-America offensive lineman Aaron Neary has had to play all three positions along the offensive line – guard, tackle and center – this season for EWU. Eastern's offensive line, already playing without injured starting right tackle Cassidy Curtis (foot), lost his replacement as well on Sept. 12 at Northern Iowa. Jerrod Jones made the first start of his Eagle career, but left the game with a knee injury and Neary had to move to that position, with his position taken by senior Jay Deines. In the next game versus Montana State on Sept. 19, freshman redshirt Nick Ellison made the first start of his career at right tackle and started four times. But against Sac State on Sept. 26, Clay DeBord suffered a concussion, resulting in Neary having to move from guard to tackle. Later, when center T.J. Boatright had to leave the game briefly, Neary played that position as well. DeBord was unable to play against Cal Poly on Oct. 10 because of a concussion, and Jones took his place. When Jones left the game with a sprained ankle, redshirt freshman Matt Meyer filled his position.

* Junior Jalen Moore helped Eastern preserve a 14-13 win on a windy and rainy afternoon on Oct. 31 versus Weber State by rushing for 68 yards on 18 carries. One game earlier, he made the first start of his career at Northern Colorado on Oct. 24 and finished with 128 yards rushing on 23 attempts. Playing in just his fourth game of the season after missing three full games with an ankle sprain, he was replacing starter Jabari Wilson, who had the same injury and did not make the trip.

* Defensive lineman Jay-Tee Tiuli made the first start of his career against Weber State on Oct. 31 and had three tackles and a half-sack in the 14-13 win. Cornerback D'londo Tucker made his first career start against the Bears and had three tackles. Sophomore wide receiver Terence Grady made his first career start at Idaho State on Oct. 17 and caught just one pass for two yards.

* Sophomore defensive end Conner Baumann not only made the first defensive start of his career against Cal Poly on Oct. 10, but he was involved in the turning point of the 42-41 overtime victory against the Mustangs. On a third-and-6 play with EWU trailing by six, Baumann and fellow sophomore Andre Lino combined on a key stop that led to a shanked 22-yard Cal Poly punt. Eastern followed with a seven-play, 55-yard drive that was capped by a 16-yard touchdown pass from Jordan West to Nic Sblendorio to help send the game into overtime. Baumann, a 2014 graduate of Newport High School in Bellevue, Wash., had a career-high 11 tackles against Cal Poly. He played in 13 games as a true freshman in 2014, and started at fullback against Northern Colorado on Oct. 18.

* A pair of local redshirt freshmen – rover Cole Karstetter and offensive tackle Nick Ellison – made the first starts of their Eastern careers on Sept. 19 versus Montana State. Karstetter had seven tackles as an injury replacement for Todd Raynes, and is a 2014 graduate of Ferris High School in Spokane, Wash. Ellison, who started at right tackle as a replacement for two injured veterans, graduated the same year from Moscow, Idaho, High School. One game later versus Sacramento State, receiver Simba Webster made his first career start.

* True freshman end Keenan Williams and redshirt freshman linebacker Alek Kacmarcik made the first starts of their careers on defense for EWU at Northern Iowa on Sept. 12. 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. Kacmarcik was last year's Scout Team Defensive Player of the Year and is a 2014 graduate of Woodinville, Wash., High School. Williams had a tackle on the first play from scrimmage and finished with two stops. Kacmarcik had a pair of sacks and five total tackles against the Panthers, then had 18 tackles – equaling the 18th-best performance in school history – a week later versus Montana State.

* Five players on defense but none on offense made their Eagle starting debuts against Oregon on Sept. 5. Redshirt freshman Jonah Jordan started at defensive end and sophomore defensive tackle Andre Lino started at defensive tackle. Also, sophomore linebacker Jake Gall and redshirt freshman cornerback Nzuzi Webster made their first career starts, as well as redshirt freshman free safety Mitch Fettig. In addition, Washington State University transfer Jordan Dascalo made his EWU debut as starting punter and handled kickoffs for the Eagles.

* Five true freshmen played against the Ducks, including linebacker Ketner Kupp, the younger brother of two-time Eagle wide receiver Cooper Kupp. The others were running backs Sam McPherson and Malcom Williams Jr., and defensive linemen Keenan Williams and Jim Townsend.

 
 

More Cooper Kupp Notes

* Mention the all-time great receivers in FCS history, and the immortal Jerry Rice comes to mind. But in six less games played than the eventual NFL Hall of Famer, two-time All-America wide receiver Cooper Kupp surpassed Rice on Oct. 24 for career touchdown receptions and is nearing his marks for receptions and yards. Kupp won the Jerry Rice Award in 2013 given to the top freshman in FCS. Kupp now has a Big Sky and school record 54 touchdown catches in his career, ranking second in FCS history – four ahead of the legendary receiver from Mississippi Valley (1981-84) and eight ahead of the former school and Big Sky Conference records of 46 set by Eric Kimble (2002-05). The FCS career record is 58 set by New Hampshire's David Ball (2003-06) and now ranking third is Terrell Hudgins (2006-09) with 52. Kupp has played just 36 games while all the others in the top five have played at least the 41 Rice played. Kupp had two touchdowns in EWU's 28-20 win over Sacramento State on Sept. 26 to set the school and Big Sky Conference records previously held by Eric Kimble with 46 from 2002-05. He then had three versus Northern Colorado on Oct. 24 to pass Rice and equal Hudgins, and then two more versus Weber State on Oct. 31. Kupp's career catches total of 288 trails Rice by just 13 (301, eighth in FCS history), and his receiving yards total of 4,412 are 281 behind (4,693, second in FCS history)

* On other FCS career leaders lists, Kupp is 11th with 288 receptions and fourth with 4,412 yards. The FCS records for receptions and yards are held by Elon's Terrell Hudgins (2006-09), who had 395 catches for 5,250 yards and 52 touchdowns in 45 games. Hudgins is now No. 3 in TD catches, and the record is 58 held by David Ball of New Hampshire (2003-06).

* It was a record-breaking month of October for Cooper Kupp, with more on the horizon. He set the Big Sky career receptions and reception yards records versus Northern Colorado on Oct. 24 when he broke school records with 20 catches for 275 yards. One game earlier, Kupp had 14 catches for 161 yards and a pair of scores to break the school record for catches. Kupp broke Eric Kimble's record of 253, and then a week later he broke the league record of 268 set by Kasey Dunn of Idaho (1988-91). Kimble (2002-05) also held the previous school and Big Sky records for receiving yards with 4,140. With his 20 catches versus UNC, Kupp broke the previous record of 17 set by Aaron Boyce versus Montana on Oct. 6, 2007. His 275 yards was the fourth time (a school record) he has had at least 200, and broke the previous school record of 264 set by Jason Anderson versus Montana on Sept. 17, 1994. Thanks to a 76-yard punt return for a TD against ISU, Kupp's 15.5 career average per punt return (with two touchdowns) is currently ahead of the school record of 13.4 owned by Kimble. Including two punt return touchdowns, Kupp has 56 total scores to pass Kimble's school record of 54. Kupp has 4,772 career all-purpose yards to rank fourth in school history, but is well behind Kimble's total of 5,934.

* Already with six FCS records, 13 school marks and four Big Sky records, Kupp has averaged a TD reception for every 5.3 catches so far in his career. He has scored at least once in 31 of 36 games he has played, with 20 performances of at least eight catches and 21 with at least 100 receiving yards. Kupp has started all 36 games he has played in his EWU career, giving him the second-most starts on the team. He had 15 catches for 246 yards against Oregon on Sept. 5, 2015. Both of those marks against the Ducks were Autzen Stadium records and at the time were the second-best in school history.

* With a career average of 15.3 yards per catch (288-4,412), Kupp has had 22 receptions of 40 yards or more, including 10 for scores. He also has three punt returns of at least 40 yards, two for touchdowns (67 and 76 yards). He had the longest reception of his career versus Oregon on Sept. 5, 2015, a non-scoring 73-yarder, then matched it with a scoring 73-yarder versus Northern Iowa on Sept. 12, 2015. His 76-yard punt return for a TD against Idaho State on Oct. 17 was the longest play of his career.

* Kupp set EWU's single season school record for receptions with 104 in 2014, breaking the record of 96 previously set by his wide receivers coach, Nicholas Edwards in 2011. As a result, Kupp became 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. 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. One game earlier in the second round of the playoffs, he had what was then 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.

* Coach Beau Baldwin on Kupp's Record-Breaking Day at UNC: "I just haven't seen anything like this to see him perform like that for three years game-in and game-out. You become so numb to it that you don't realize how special it is. In the game you know he is getting a lot of touches, but the next thing you know you see 20 for 275. It's a number you just never expect to see next to a receiver. To him it's not about how many catches, but it's what he can do on the next play. He was frustrated about the one he lost in the sun and wasn't able to come up inside the 10 yard line on our last drive. That's how he rolls and how he operates, but it's fun to be around. He means so much in how he leads, how he handles things and treats teammates. More than just the receiver he is, he's just incredible in how he carries himself and the person and teammate he is. That's Cooper Kupp in a nutshell. He has all the tools as not just a football player, but as a human. We're just lucky and enjoying every day we get to spend with him. It's something special."

* Coach Beau Baldwin on Kupp Breaking the Big Sky TD Receptions Record: "The record he broke was by a student-athlete who had an amazing career here at Eastern, and it was a pleasure to coach Eric Kimble. It was an incredible record that was going to be very hard to break. But Eric would be the first to say he would like no other person to break a record like that because Cooper works for everything he achieves. He has amazing ability, but to break a record like that is because of what he does every day to make himself a better player. But no matter how good a football player Cooper is, he's an even better person and teammate."

* Coach Beau Baldwin on Kupp: "I'd be shocked if you could show me a better receiver at any level in the country. Usually I don't talk like that, but that's how I feel right now and think that we have here at Eastern. We are very fortunate to have him as a leader and player on this football team. It's just a will and an amazing mindset that he has. He is talented – he is talented in every aspect of what it is to be a wide receiver. People want to knock him for his speed, but he still runs behind people over and over again. He took a bubble screen 73 yards against Oregon and a Pac-12 team with a lot of speed. So Cooper is plenty fast. The thing that takes him over the top in comparing him to other receivers in the country is his will. You marvel when you see him out there doing what he is doing. Somebody asked him how he breaks so many tackles, and it's very simple to him, 'I don't like to be tackled so I refuse to be tackled.' That's a mindset. It's kind of like the mental toughness you need to be tired and still play through it. The guys who can do that have grit, and Cooper has another type of grit. When the ball is in the air, 'it's mine. Period.' That's the way he thinks. Eventually he gets tackled, but there are times three or four players hit him and he's still standing when they knock him out of bounds. But he still hasn't gone to the ground. We're blessed to have him because not only is he an incredible football receiver, but he's an incredible football player. He's a punt returner, he's blocking in the run game, he holds on kicks and he's leading. He leads not only by his words, but by his actions and what he is doing on the field."

 
 

Series Notes

* Eastern leads the all-time series against NAU 19-11, including an 8-3 mark in Cheney. The Eagles have won seven of the last nine, and had a five-game winning streak snapped in 2014. The Eagles have won the last two meetings in Cheney after falling 44-36 in 2006. Eastern is 8-3 all-time against NAU in Cheney, 2-1 in Spokane and 9-7 in Flagstaff. In the previous seven meetings in Flagstaff, the two teams have scored 505 points – an average of 72 per game.

* In last year's meeting in Flagstaff, Northern Arizona drove 77 yards on just three plays in the final minute to stun the second-ranked Eagles 28-27 and spoil Quincy Forte's career-high performance with 219 yards rushing. In a game in which the biggest lead for either team was eight points – just five after intermission – the Lumberjacks used a 54-yard pass play to set-up the game winning 20-yard TD with 12 seconds to play. An Eagle incompletion and an unsuccessful string of laterals ended the game. The loss knocked the Eagles out of the driver's seat in the race for the Big Sky Conference title, but EWU still managed to win the outright title. The Eagles had their league winning streak snapped at 14 games, having not lost in nearly two years since falling 30-27 at SUU on Oct. 27, 2012. Northern Arizona out-gained EWU 496-421, including 343 yards through the air for the Lumberjacks. Eastern was just 3-of-13 on third down, and 0-of-1 on fourth down. The fourth down play came with 47 seconds left after EWU had driven 49 yards to the NAU 23-yard line. NAU followed with its game-winning drive. Forte rushed 24 times for 219 yards (9.1 per carry) and a TD. Forte, who missed the last four games with a shoulder injury, had 178 of his yards in the second half. A career-long 41-yard punt return by Cooper Kupp in the first quarter helped set-up Eastern's first score of the day on a 5-yard TD pass from Jordan West to Zach Wimberly. West made his third career start in place of injured starter Vernon Adams Jr. and completed 16-of-34 passes for 171 yards and two touchdowns. Eastern's offense had a slow start, with as many punts as first downs through the first 21 minutes – four – and just 60 yards. But a nine-play, 88-yard drive erased that and gave EWU a 14-6 lead with 5:30 left in the second quarter. Eastern had only 150 yards of offense in the first half, but finished with 421.

* In 2011 in Flagstaff, the Eagles forced four Northern Arizona turnovers and quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell passed for three touchdowns and rushed for another in a 36-28 victory. Eastern won the turnover battle, 4-0, including a pair of fumbles recovered and an interception in the fourth quarter. The biggest turnover of the game came with 2:35 to play when free safety Jeff Minnerly intercepted a pass in the EWU end zone to squelch a NAU threat. Minnerly, who finished with a team-high 12 tackles, recorded his first interception of the season and the fourth of his career. Mitchell passed for 356 yards – accounting for all but 34 of Eastern's total of 390 yards of offense. Greg Herd caught seven passes for 112 yards, including a 61-yard touchdown catch. Senior Mike Jarrett kicked field goals of 27, 47 and 37 yards for the Eagles, and punter Jake Miller had six punts for a 41.2 average, including two downed inside the NAU 20-yard line. His game-best 53-yarder helped pin NAU back at its own 17 with just 38 seconds to play. Defensively, four Eagles had double figures in tackles, including Ronnie Hamlin with 10.

* In 2010, the last time the Eagles have faced NAU in Cheney, the 13th-ranked Eagles overcame five turnovers to hold off NAU 21-14. Eastern out-gained NAU 354-317 in total offense, but lost the turnover battle 5-3 as NAU had 30 more offensive plays than the Eagles and had a nearly 10 minute advantage in possession time. Linebacker J.C. Sherritt led Eastern's defense with 16 tackles, and also had an interception, a sack and a quarterback hurry. Despite two interceptions, Bo Levi Mitchell was extremely accurate by completing 20-of-26 passes for 288 yards and three touchdown passes.

* Included in EWU's wins in Flagstaff was a season-ending 49-45 triumph in 2009 that catapulted EWU into the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs. The Eagles let an 18-point lead slip through its grasp, but scored the winning touchdown with 3:30 left in the game on a 13-yard pass from Matt Nichols to Nathan Overbay. The defense did the rest, stopping NAU on a fourth-and-three play at the EWU 32-yard line with 34 seconds to play. Eastern was out-gained in total yards 747-487, but won the important turnover battle 4-0. The Eagles led 28-10 and 35-17 in the first half, and 42-27 late in the game, however, NAU scored three-straight times to take a 45-42 lead with 5:20 left. Nichols completed 22-of-33 passes for 408 yards, no interceptions and five touchdowns as EWU wrapped-up a fourth-straight victory. Nichols became only the second player in league history to pass for more than 12,000 career yards.

 
 

Injury Report

* Eastern continues to be as healthy as it's been. An October bye week helped Eastern's injury situation immensely, and only four starters were out of the lineup in games from Oct. 10 to Oct. 31. But several other key backups were also missing from those four games. Prior to that, seven starters missed the Sacramento State game because of injuries, a week after six starters and several other players missed the Montana State game on Sept. 19. One week earlier than that, four starters were missing from the Northern Iowa game.

* Starting kicker Tyler McNannay (hip flexor) missed his fifth-straight game last week, and starting wide receiver Shaq Hill (knee) hasn't played since EWU's opener and remains out. Starting running back Jabari Wilson (ankle) has missed his last two games, and starting defensive tackle Andre Lino (ankle) was held out against Weber State after getting injured on Oct. 24 versus Northern Colorado. Backup defensive lineman Kaleb Levao (knee) and backup running back Malcolm Williams (hamstring) have missed the last three games. Lino is out against this week, while McNannay, Wilson, Levao and Williams are all listed as questionable.

* Previously, wide receiver Nic Sblendorio (shoulder) missed EWU's game against Northern Colorado on Oct. 24. Co-starting linebacker Alek Kacmarcik (hamstring) missed the Idaho State and UNC games but returned to play against Weber State. Backup linebacker Kurt Calhoun (hamstring) missed three-straight games from Oct. 10-24. Starting offensive tackle Cassidy Curtis (foot) missed five games after undergoing surgery on Sept. 10, but was able to return and play limited snaps at Northern Colorado on Oct. 24. Backup wide receiver Simba Webster (knee) missed the ISU game. Offensive tackle Clay DeBord (concussion) missed the Cal Poly game, snapping his streak of consecutive Eagle games started at 24. He returned to play Oct. 17 versus Idaho State, as did backup running back Sam McPherson (ankle) who missed two games. Cassidy Curtis' replacement at tackle for the Northern Iowa game, Jerrod Jones (knee/shin), missed the Montana State game. Jones then started in place of DeBord against Cal Poly on Oct. 10. Running back Jalen Moore (ankle) missed three games before returning against Cal Poly in a limited role. Defensive end Jonah Jordan (ankle) and rover Todd Raynes (hamstring) also returned to play against Cal Poly after missing two games. In addition, safety Mitch Fettig (shoulder) and backup quarterback Reilly Hennessey (ankle) were held out of the Sac State game. In the first half against Sac State, receiver Nic Sblendorio (shoulder) and cornerback Victor Gamboa (concussion) were injured and missed the second half, but returned to play versus Cal Poly. Strong-side linebacker Jake Gall (hip pointer) missed the MSU game and safety Zach Bruce (shoulder) missed the contest at Northern Iowa. Reserve wide receiver Jalani Phelps (ankle) was also unavailable against MSU, and backup center Spencer Blackburn (thumb) is out for an indefinite time after getting injured in practices the week before EWU played MSU. Earlier this season, Cooper Kupp (hip pointer) and Hennessey missed significant playing time in the second half against UNI with injuries. The injuries also took away EWU's top kickoff returner (Hill) and punt returner (Kupp) from Eastern's arsenal against Northern Iowa, as well as the team's two holders on placekicks (Kupp and Hennessey).

 
 

Quoting Beau Baldwin

On Early Success of NAU Freshman Case Cookus: "You are surprised by it, but at the same time you have a lot of respect for him. It's impressive to see a freshman do what he is doing. He's not just a freshman with talent making plays, but he's a quarterback putting up big numbers and finding ways to strike and complete passes at a high percentage without turning the ball over much. All the things we are seeing in statistics and on video are un-freshman like. We have a lot of respect for him and what he's doing, and it will be a fun challenge facing him for many years to come."

On NAU Defense: "They have a very good secondary and are active up front. They mix in some pressure and are not afraid to be aggressive. There are some similarities to what we saw last week, but Northern Arizona may show even more aggression at times. They are playing at a very high level and aren't afraid to attack you and come at you. They have that mentality. It will be a challenge for us."

On Defense Versus Weber State: "We played great red zone defense, and we've always talked about what we do in the red zone offensively and defensively means a lot more than total yards. This game proved that even with one of the best kickers in the league, it wasn't going to be easy to kick field goals. We also had resilience on defense all day. Even when things weren't going well, we continually didn't let it drag into the next play. We would come back and get a stop or a tackle for loss on the next play. We didn't let the play before beat us on the next play. That's something I love about this team. Our resiliency and play in the red zone on defense were at a high, high level against Weber State."

On Offense Playing in Poor Weather Conditions: "It was tougher, but a lot of things in football are tough. When you face those tougher situations you still have to find a way to get it done and make plays, even if you can't find a rhythm. We didn't do a great job of that in this game. Our players have shown they can do it, we just need to find consistency and know it's going to take more than we showed in that situation against a grind-it-out team. It's going to take a lot more as we continue to play games in that atmosphere and compete in these playoff-type of games."

On Punting Debut of Gage Gubrud: "It was a major, major factor. Weber State has a really good punter, and the one he kicked into the wind went 12 yards, so you could see how tough it was punting toward the scoreboard. It was ridiculous how the wind was knocking it down, and we saw it in pregame and on Friday. We felt like Gage could be a weapon for us from a punting standpoint and use the low-liner. He also becomes a threat because the defense will play things a little safer because he's a quarterback. Gage handled it incredibly well for something we just put in last week. Normally we would use Tyler McNannay, but he's been injured, so this was kind of a plan B, middle of the year adjustment we needed to figure out. We thought he might just have maybe one or two punts, but he had five, and all of them were executed like we wanted. That was huge. Had we punted six of them like normal, who knows, a couple of short punts could have been the difference in their scoring. His punting was a big factor."

On Past Success in November: "I try to talk more about the process of this year, and the process for us is to play our best football late in the year. We really try to live that with a lot of the fundamental things we continue to do late in the season and with our practice structure. We say our record is a byproduct of that, but it's still not fair to say 'we' quite yet. Our players in the past have done a tremendous job and you want that to bleed through to this year's team, but we also have to be humble to the fact that any success we have in November isn't going to happen because it's November. We are our own team with our own identity, and we have to go out and earn our own right to say we don't lose in November. Hopefully our team goes out and does that, but every game in November is going to be a tremendous chore – and we are only focused on NAU right now."

On Winning Close Games: "You can be a talented team, but you have to have the guts and mindset late. If you don't have it, your season is going to end at some point. You have to have that mindset and mentality that it doesn't matter what just happened, but you have to keep responding. If we do that, we have a shot. That's where we are as a team. It doesn't matter if we're in the 10s, 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s – we're going to play in different kinds of ballgames and we have to adjust as we go. We have to embrace it."

On Coaching in 100th Game: "More than anything I want to thank everybody who has been a part of this fun ride to this point. We'll reflect more on it later – right now I'm thankful to people who helped us win today. We'll get in the film room and work on game 101."

On Comeback Victories Since 2010: "It starts with our message to them and how we are going to handle those situations, but we have to live it – if we tell them to be calm then we better be calm. And then it bleeds through seniors and juniors who have experienced comeback wins. They pass that knowledge down in a certain sense. It's our culture and what we believe in. It doesn't mean you are going to win every one, but you give yourself a better opportunity in the long run. We talk about it all the time that panic will definitely lead to defeat. But if you don't panic, you can fight and claw your way back in it."

 On Fall Success of Eastern Teams: "The across the board success definitely helps our program. We talk about it with our team all the time about the soccer and volleyball matches coming up and how well they are doing. Our guys get excited about that, and I'm know the other programs feel the same. There has always been pride in our programs, but there is just that much more of a really proud feeling right now for all of us of being an Eastern Eagle. That's neat to see. There are a lot of coaches working hard, and the male and female student-athletes are putting in a lot of work. It's reaping the rewards and we're all enjoying the benefits. It's been a blast and it's been fun."

 
 

Career Starts by Returning Players

Defense (187 starts by 22 players): Miquiyah Zamora 30, Samson Ebukam 21, Matthew Sommer 21, Todd Raynes 20, Victor Gamboa 18, Rashad  Wadood 13 (now a running back), Zach Bruce 8, Nzuzi Webster 7, Andre Lino 7, Miles Weatheroy 6, Mitch Fettig 6, Keenan Williams 6, Jake Gall 5, Jake Hoffman 4, Alek Kacmarcik 3, Frank Cange 3, Cole Karstetter 3, Albert Havili 2, Jay-Tee Tiuli 1, D'londo Tucker 1, Jonah Jordan 1, Conner Baumann 1.

Offense (253 starts by 21 players): Clay DeBord 48, Cooper Kupp 36, Thomas Gomez 22, Aaron Neary 21, Jake Withnell 18, Kendrick Bourne 16, Zach Wimberly 13, Cassidy Curtis 13, Jordan West 12, Shaq Hill 12, T.J. Boatright 11, Jabari Wilson 8, Terry Jackson II 7, Nic Sblendorio 4, Nick Ellison 4, Jerrod Jones 2, Jalen Moore 2, Terence Grady 1, Simba Webster 1, Jay Deines 1, Conner Baumann 1 (as fullback).

 
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