Another Epic Battle Expected When No. 10 Eagles Play at No. 22 Griz

Another Epic Battle Expected When No. 10 Eagles Play at No. 22 Griz

With lots riding on the outcome, both teams will enter nationally ranked for the 15th time in the last 21 meetings

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2015 Eagle Football

#10 Eastern Washington University "Eagles"
versus
#22 University of Montana "Grizzlies"

Saturday, Nov. 14, 2015 • 12:40 p.m. Pacific
Washington-Grizzly Stadium (25,217) • Missoula, Montana


EWU Coach: Beau Baldwin (Central Washington '96)
School Record: 73-28/50-12 Big Sky Conference (8th Season)
Career Record: 83-31 (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: 6-3/5-1 Big Sky
2014: 11-3/7-1 Big Sky (OUTRIGHT CHAMPIONS; FCS Playoffs)
Last Game: Northern Arizona 50, #4 EWU 32 (Nov. 7 in Cheney, Wash.)
TV:
ROOT Sports & DirecTV Audience Network (Tom Glasgow/Jason Stiles/Jen Mueller)
Webcast:
None
Radio:
700-AM ESPN in Spokane. Larry Weir returns for his 25th season calling the play-by-play, with analysis handled by Paul Sorensen (Keith Osso 11/7-11/21). 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.

The Eagle-Griz rivalry could be a new dictionary description for "epic."

With both teams entering the game nationally ranked for the 15th time in the last 21 meetings, a lot is riding on the outcome this week when the Eastern Washington University football team plays at Montana Saturday (Nov. 14) in an key Big Sky Conference game.

Kickoff is 12:40 p.m. at Washington-Grizzly Stadium and the game will be broadcast live nationally via ROOT Sports and the DirecTV Audience Network. 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.

The Eagles had their six-game winning streak stopped last week in a rare home loss, falling 52-30 to surging Northern Arizona. But EWU is still in sole possession of second place in the league standings with a 5-1 record, right behind Southern Utah (6-0) and right ahead of the Griz, NAU and Portland State (all 4-2).

Eastern, 6-3 and ranked 10th in this week's STATS FCS Top 25 poll, closes the regular season on Nov. 21 at home versus the 15th-ranked Vikings, who entertain 18th-ranked SUU this week.

Montana is 5-4 overall and ranked 22nd nationally, and is coming off an improbable 33-27 overtime victory at Idaho State last week. The Bengals lined up for potential game-winning field goal, but an errant snap was picked up and returned for a touchdown by the Grizzlies.

"This game has a great November feel to it," said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin. "With two games left we're in a great position in the league, and so is Montana. Both of us are in a position where a lot of teams across the country would like to be. It's a great opportunity for us, and it's a great opportunity for them so they'll be jacked up. It's going to have a playoff feel to it – most November games do."

Under the direction of new head coach Bob Stitt, UM opened the season with a 38-35 victory over four-time defending FCS champion North Dakota State. But the Grizzlies are just 4-4 since then, with victories over NAU, UC Davis, North Dakota and ISU, and setbacks against Cal Poly, Liberty, Weber State and North Dakota – with two of the losses coming at home.

Eastern has won the last four meetings, including the first-ever meeting between the two teams in the FCS Playoffs last December in Cheney, Wash. But the Grizzlies dominated the series before that, and still hold a 26-15-1 advantage dating back to 1938. Eastern is 5-14-1 in Missoula.

Despite last week's loss, Eastern has still won 22 of its last 24 league games, with the only two losses coming at the hands of Northern Arizona. Eastern's senior class (redshirts in 2011) has never lost to Montana, plus, have never not won at least a share of the league title. In addition, two-time FCS All-America wide receiver Cooper Kupp has career totals of 31 catches for 402 yards and three touchdowns in three games against the Griz, as well as a punt return for a TD.

 "Last week had a playoff feel in certain aspects to it, but unfortunately we didn't play as clean enough a game as we needed to," added Baldwin, whose team is 32-0 since 2010 when winning the turnover battle. "That was uncharacteristic of how we've played over the years in terms of taking care of the football and turnover margin. Those are the type of things that can win or lose playoff games for you.

"It will be no different when we go into a tough environment that puts a strain on you with crowd noise and dealing with that atmosphere. We have to be able to block that stuff out and handle it like we have in other years. Our players believe strongly in that and have been mentally strong going into hostile environments I'm excited to see how our team responds."

 
 

Records/Milestone Watch

* More history will most likely be made this week by two-time All-America wide receiver Cooper Kupp. With exactly 100 catches this season to hit the century mark for just the 22nd time in FCS history, he is only four from equaling his own school record of 104 set last year (the Big Sky record is 112). With 297 career grabs, he is just two from the 300-catch mark and three from the 301 the immortal Jerry Rice had for Mississippi Valley from 1981-84. With just seven receptions, Kupp would move into sixth in FCS history and eight would move him into fifth (No. 4 has 310, and the record is 395). With another touchdown grab last week to increase his season total to 18 and his career mark to 55, the junior is only three 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 three TDs from his on Big Sky single season record of 21 set in 2013. In addition, he is 145 receiving yards from moving into third in FCS history in that category and 183 away from Rice to rank second (the record is 5,250).

* Senior tight end Jake Withnell has played in 52 of a possible 52 games as an Eagle, and is just one game behind the school record of 53 (Ronnie Hamlin 2011-14). Primarily used as a blocking tight end, he has eight catches for 31 yards and two touchdowns in his career. He recently joined four other Eagles on the Academic All-District 8 team as selected by the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA). An accounting major with a 3.91 grade point average, the 2011 graduate of South Salem (Ore.) High School will be honored for the fourth time on the Big Sky All-Academic team at the conclusion of the 2015 season.

 
 

Team Game Notes

* After ranking a season-high fourth last week, Eastern dropped to 10th in this week's STATS Top 25 poll. The Eagles dropped from sixth to 14th after successive losses to open the year, but climbed to fourth on the basis of a six-game winning streak. In all, three of EWU's 10 FCS opponents are currently in the STATS poll, including Portland State (#15), Northern Iowa (#17) and Montana (#22). Eastern doesn't play Southern Utah, and they are ranked 18th. In all, nine of 13 Big Sky teams have been ranked in the 11 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 55-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 10th, with Northern Arizona re-entering the rankings at 25th (the Lumberjacks received enough votes to rank 26th in the STATS poll).

* With four turnovers in a 52-30 home loss to NAU on Nov. 7, EWU had its most turnovers in its last 25 games. The Eagles are 1-3 this season when they've had more turnovers than their opponents (losses against Oregon/2-1, UNI/1-0, NAU/4-1), and have had 14 total turnovers for the season compared to 11 for opponents. Eastern is 3-0 when the turnovers are even and 2-0 when it has won the turnover battle. That follows the trend in eight seasons (2008-15) under head coach Beau Baldwin, whose teams are 41-1 when they've won the turnover battle, 17-5 when they've been tied and 15-22 when they've lost (total of 73-28). The last time EWU lost when it won the turnover battle came in the 2009 FCS Playoffs at Stephen F. Austin when EWU had two miscues and forced four in the 44-33 loss. Thus, EWU is 32-0 since 2010 when they've won the turnover battle, 14-4 when they've been tied and 13-15 when they've lost. That's a collective record of 59-19 (76 percent), with 15 of those 19 losses (79 percent) coming in games EWU has lost the turnover battle and 54 percent of EWU's wins coming when they've won the turnover battle (78 percent when including ties).

* The Eagles have won their last eight collective games against two of their biggest rivals – Montana and Montana State. Eastern hasn't lost to either team since 2011, then went 2-0 in both 2012 and 2013. The Eagles were 3-0 in 2014, including wins in the regular season and FCS Playoffs against Montana. Earlier this season, Eastern beat Montana State 55-50. The last time Eastern lost to either team was during EWU's injury plagued 0-4 start to the 2011 season when the Eagles fell at Montana 17-14 on Sept. 17 then lost at home to MSU the next week 36-21.

* In November and beyond since 2004, the Eagles are 38-11, including an 11-7 record in the FCS Playoffs. Since 2010, Eastern is now 23-4 overall in November and beyond, with the lone setbacks coming in 2015 to Northern Arizona and in the FCS Playoffs to Illinois State in 2014 (quarterfinals), Towson in 2013 (semifinals) and Sam Houston State in 2012 (semifinals).

* Until losing to Northern Arizona on Nov. 7, 2015, Eastern had 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 four regular season games in November (NAU, Sac State, Weber State in 2006 and Cal Poly in 2005), with an overall record of 27-4.

* 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 73-28 record in seven-plus seasons to currently rank seventh in the 52-year history of the Big Sky with a .723 winning percentage. His 80.6 percent winning percentage in league games (50-12) is fifth all-time in the league.

* The Eagles are 32-4 in their last 35 Big Sky games since a 0-2 start in 2011. Eastern has won 22 of its last 24 league games, with the lone losses coming against Northern Arizona. An Oct. 25, 2014, loss at Northern Arizona snapped EWU's 14-game conference winning streak and a home loss on Nov. 7, 2015, ended a streak of eight Big Sky wins in a row. 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 28 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.

* Eastern still leads FCS in passing yards (372.4 per game). The Eagles are also third in passing efficiency (163.8), fifth in total offense (495.3), eighth in completion percentage (66.4 percent), eighth in first downs (220), 12th in fourth-down conversion percentage (66.7 percent), 16th in red-zone offense (86.8 percent) and 14th in scoring offense (37.1) 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 games this season 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

* Five Eastern Washington University football players – senior tight end Jake Withnell, senior defensive back Todd Raynes, junior wide receiver Cooper Kupp, sophomore linebacker Jake Gall and sophomore defensive lineman Andre Lino -- have all been selected to the 2015 Academic All-District 8 Football Team by the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA). The five honored players – which equal the most in school history – now advance to the national ballot to select Academic All-America honors. A year ago, Cooper Kupp earned second team All-America honors for the Eagles, who have had eight different players win 11 Academic All-America honors since 1989. A total of 65 have been honored since then on the All-District squad, which includes NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) and Bowl Subdivision (FBS) football players from schools in Washington, Oregon, California, Idaho, Utah, Arizona, Nevada, Alaska, Hawaii and British Columbia. Withnell is an accounting major with a 3.91 grade point average, and is a 2011 graduate of South Salem, Ore., High School. Raynes graduated from Inglemoor High School in 2011, and is from Kenmore, Wash. He has a 3.42 GPA as a mechanical engineering major. Both Withnell and Raynes have been honored three times previously on the Big Sky Conference All-Academic team. Kupp graduated in 2012 from Davis High School in Yakima, Wash., and is majoring in economics with a 3.54 GPA. Gall is from Cle Elum, Wash, and graduated from Cle Elum/Roslyn HS in 2013. He has a 3.53 GPA as a criminal justice major, and Lino is undeclared with a 3.71 GPA. Lino is from Seattle and graduated from Blanchet HS in 2013. Kupp, Lino and Gall earned their first Big Sky All-Academic honors following the 2014 season.

* Just three touchdown catches away from the FCS career record, Eastern wide receiver Cooper Kupp continues to lead FCS in receiving touchdowns (18), receiving yards (1,388), receiving yards per game (154.2), receptions (100) and receptions per game (11.1), and is third in scoring (12.9 per game). His numbers are so extreme he is 15 catches, 342 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 55 touchdown catches in his career, moving him this season from 19th to second in FCS history.

* Junior wide receiver Kendrick Bourne has compiled some impressive statistics of his own this season for the Eagles, and is coming off a nine-catch, 154-yard effort against Northern Arizona on Nov. 7 for the fifth 100-yard performance of his career. He 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 15th in receiving touchdowns (7), ninth in receiving yards (872), 14th in receiving yards per game (96.9) and 11th in receptions per game (7.0). He has 122 catches for 1,803 yards and 19 touchdowns (11th in EWU history) in his 37-game Eastern career.

* Sophomore linebacker Jake Gall has had eight or more tackles in his last four games (total of 41), with eight and 2 1/2 sacks in his last outing against Northern Arizona on Nov. 7. Gall had eight and a key fumble recovery against Northern Colorado on Oct. 24, and in the two games before that had 15 tackles against Idaho State and 10 versus Weber State on Oct. 31. In eight games this season he has 63 tackles to rank second on the team.

* 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. He followed that performance with nine tackles and a forced fumble on a sack against Northern Arizona on Nov. 7. Zamora has a team-leading 84 tackles on the season, and ranks 38th in the FCS and eighth in the Big Sky with an average of 9.3 stops per game. He has a career total of 240, which ranks 18th 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.

* 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 41 Eastern games (21 as a starter) and has 148 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 (30) and is third in points responsible for per game (21.6). He is also second in passing yards per game (320.3), second in total passing yards (2,883), fifth in passing efficiency (163.8), fifth in total offense (324.0 per game) and eighth in completion percentage (.662). West has now started 13 games in his career (9-4 record) and has a career passing efficiency rating of 157.8 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 65 percent of his passes for 3,955 yards, 39 touchdowns and seven 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 120 starts between them, including a trio who have combined for 94 career starts. Preseason All-America tackle Clay DeBord has a team-leading 49 starts, while All-America guard Aaron Neary has started 22. In addition, Thomas Gomez has 23, Cassidy Curtis has 14 and T.J. Boatright has 12. 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 -- 49 of a possible 52 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 55 touchdown catches in his career, ranking second in FCS history – five ahead of the legendary receiver from Mississippi Valley (1981-84) and nine 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 37 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 297 trails Rice by just four (301, eighth in FCS history), and his receiving yards total of 4,510 are 183 behind (4,693, second in FCS history)

* On other FCS career leaders lists, Kupp is ninth with 297 receptions and fourth with 4,510 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 14.8 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 57 total scores to pass Kimble's school record of 54. Kupp has 4,872 career all-purpose yards to rank third in school history, but is well behind the total of 5,934 by Kimble, who played as a running back for the Eagles prior to becoming a receiver.

* Already with six FCS records, 13 school marks and four Big Sky records, Kupp has averaged a TD reception for every 5.4 catches so far in his career. He has scored at least once in 32 of 37 games he has played, with 21 performances of at least eight catches and 21 with at least 100 receiving yards. Kupp has started all 37 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 15.2 yards per catch (297-4,510), 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 had the 19th performance in FCS history of 100 catches or more, and he had the 22nd this year (third in league history). His 104 grabs ranks 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. Kupp finished the 2014 season 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

 * In a series full of drama, the 2014 playoff meeting between Eastern and Montana was the 14th time in the last 20 meetings that both teams entered the game nationally ranked. Each team has won seven times in those 14 meetings. Interestingly, in the first nine Montana was the higher-ranked team; in the last five EWU has been rated higher. The higher-ranked team is 10-4 in the previous 14 nationally-ranked matchups. The 2013 game was the first time both teams entered ranked in the top 10, with the collective ranking of 13 the best ever.

* Below are the 14 matchups in the last 19 seasons when both squads have entered the game nationally ranked. Eastern is 7-7 in those games, with road victories in 1997, 2005 and 2013. Eastern also picked up a home win in 2010 in the debut of Eastern's red Sprinturf surface at Roos Field and in 2012 in the debut of EWU's new videoboard.

2015 - #10 Eastern Washington vs. #22 Montana (in Missoula, Mont.)
2014 - #4 Eastern Washington 37, #12 Montana 20 (FCS Playoffs in Cheney, Wash.)
2014 - #5 Eastern Washington 36, #11 Montana 26 (in Cheney, Wash.)
2013 - #3 Eastern Washington 42, #10 Montana 37 (in Missoula, Mont.)
2012 - #7 Eastern Washington 32, #21 Montana 26 (in Cheney, Wash.)
2011 - #12 Montana 17, #10 Eastern Washington 14 (in Missoula, Mont.)
2010 - #18 Eastern Washington 36, #6 Montana 27 (in Cheney, Wash.)
2009 - #3 Montana 41, #21 Eastern Washington 34 (in Missoula, Mont.)
2008 - #12 Montana 19, #23 Eastern Washington 3 (in Cheney, Wash.)
2005 - #12 Eastern Washington 34, #2 Montana 20 (in Missoula, Mont.)
2004 - #5 Montana 31, #23 Eastern Washington 28 (in Cheney, Wash.)
2001 - #3 Montana 29, #15 Eastern Wash. 26 (2 overtimes in Missoula, Mont.)
2000 - #9 Montana 41, #18 Eastern Washington 31 (in Spokane, Wash.)
1997 - #17 Eastern Washington 40, #2 Montana 35 (in Missoula, Mont.)
1996 - #1 Montana 34, #20 Eastern Washington 30 (in Cheney, Wash.)

 

* Several recent games have come down to the wire. In the 2014 regular season meeting, Eastern took a 33-10 lead in the third quarter before Montana rallied to make it a one-score game. Eastern kicker Tyler McNanny capped a late 58-yard drive with a 34-yard field goal with 28 seconds to play to provide the final margin. In 2013, the Eagles had to recover an onside kick with 1:41 to play to preserve a 42-37 victory. In 2012, Eastern prevailed 32-26, scoring twice in the last 2:19 to pull out the victory. The game in 2011 also went down to the wire as the Eagles lost 17-14 after edging Montana 36-27 in 2010 in the first game on the red Sprinturf surface at Roos Field. Eastern ended that meeting with a fumble recovery for a touchdown.

* Montana now leads the series 26-15-1, and EWU has won five of the last six. But prior to that, Montana had won six of the previous seven meetings. Overall, Eastern is 5-14-1 in Missoula, 9-11 in home games and 1-1 in games played at neutral sites.

* Thirteen recent games in the series have been decided by margins of 10 points or less. The winner has usually piled up points and yardage by the ton. In fact, three of EWU's 17 games of at least 600 yards in total offense have come against the Grizzlies. Eastern had 697 yards of total offense in 1986, 658 yards in 1997 in a 40-35 win, 564 in a 24-23 loss in 2007, 541 yards by the Eagles in a 34-20 win in Missoula in 2005, 540 in a 42-37 win in 2013 and 503 in a 2010 victory in Cheney. In 2013, the two teams combined for 1,029 total yards, and one year earlier had 980. In the last 29 meetings the winning team has averaged 33.4 points. In eight of those 29 games the two teams have combined for at least 70 points, including a 41-34 Grizzly win in Missoula in 2009 and EWU's 42-37 victory in 2013.

* Since 1990, Eastern has won five times on UM's home field in Missoula, but Eastern had won just twice at home from 1990-2009. The lone win over Montana from 1990-2009 at Roos Field (formerly Woodward Field) came in 1991, but Eastern's change to a red synthetic Sprinturf surface and change of name altered its success in Cheney home wins in 2010, 2012 and 2014 (twice). Eastern also won in 2002 in a home game played at Spokane's Albi Stadium.

* The Eagles shared the 2004 and 2005 Big Sky titles with Montana, but the Grizzlies won or shared every league title from 1998-2009. Eastern remains the only Big Sky school other than Montana to win the outright title since 1997, doing it in 1997, 2013 and 2014. The Eagles advanced to the semifinals of the FCS Playoffs in both 1997 and 2013. The 1997 team was inducted into the Eastern Athletics Hall of Fame in 2012. Montana's streak of league titles ended at 12 as EWU and MSU shared the 2010 title.

* In last year's playoff win, it was a story of balance for Eastern as the Eagles defeated Big Sky Conference rival Montana 37-20 in a second-round game in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs Dec. 6 at Roos Field in Cheney, Wash. The Eagles won the turnover battle 3-1, and turned a pair of Grizzly turnovers into 10 points in the second half. Eastern also used a blocked punt by senior Ronnie Hamlin to help open a 7-0 lead early in the game, and led by as many as 17. The Eagles never trailed and scored in every quarter, increasing their streak to 44-straight quarters dating back to August 30. Eastern passed for 182 yards in the game and rushed for 212, with Quincy Forte finishing with 128 on the ground for his fourth 100-yard performance in seven games played. The Eagles finished with a season-low 394 yards of offense, but their defense made up for it by holding Montana to 347. The Eagle defense finished with two interceptions, a fumble, four sacks and three passes broken up, and held Montana to just 5-of-14 on third down. Junior Vernon Adams Jr., who passed for 410 yards and four touchdowns against Montana on Nov. 8 in his return from a foot injury, completed 24-of-35 passes for 182 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Sophomore Cooper Kupp had a career-high 12 catches – the eighth-most in school history – for 86 yards for the Eagles. The Eagles were up just 7-3 late in the second quarter when they mounted a 15-play, 81-yard scoring drive that took 3:35 off the clock. A 3-yard touchdown run by Adams gave EWU a 13-3 halftime lead, then EWU made it 20-3 by scoring with the first possession of the second half. Adams capped a nine-play, 75-yard drive with a 23-yard TD pass to Cory Mitchell, as Montana had the ball in that stretch for just nine seconds compared to 7:36 for the Eagles.

* Earlier in the 2014 season, Vernon Adams Jr. returned after missing four games with a broken foot to pass for 410 yards and four touchdowns, and the fifth-ranked Eagles held off No. 11 Montana 36-26 on Nov. 8 in a pivotal game in the chase to the 2014 Big Sky Conference football title. Thanks to the passing of Adams and a 67-yard punt return for a touchdown by sophomore Cooper Kupp, Eastern jumped out to a 33-10 lead in the third quarter. Montana rallied to make it a one-score game, but EWU kicker Tyler McNanny capped a late 58-yard drive with a 34-yard field goal with 28 seconds to play to provide the final margin.  Adams completed 25-of-37 passes against the Grizzlies with no interceptions, and Kupp finished with eight catches for 134 yards and a touchdown. Junior Shaq Hill finished with eight catches for 114 yards and a touchdown and had a total of 179 all-purpose yards. Redshirt freshman Nic Sblendorio had career highs with five catches for 89 yards for the Eagles, including a brilliant one-handed 32-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter. Eastern had interceptions by Ronnie Hamlin and Tevin McDonald to win the turnover battle 2-1. Montana entered the game leading FCS with just four turnovers in nine games and was 10th in turnover margin (+0.89 per game with 12 takeaways). Ahead just 33-26 with 2:32 to play, Adams had completions of 17 yards to Kupp and 23 and eight yards to Sblendorio to pick up key first downs and move the ball to the Montana 16-yard line. Included was a key third-down completion after the Eagles had converted on just 5-of-12 to that point. The Eagles converted in the red zone with a 34-yard field goal by Tyler McNanny to clinch the win, which was set-up by a 10-yard run by Mario Brown -- the longest rush for an Eagle running back in the game.  Eastern's defense had a total of 11 passes broken up, three quarterback hurries and a pair of sacks. A crowd of 11,339 attended the Montana game, ranking third in school history behind crowds versus Montana of 11,702 in 2010 and 11,583 in 2006.

* In the 2013 meeting, the third-ranked Eagles couldn't shake 10th-ranked Montana and had to hold off the Grizzlies 42-37 on Oct. 26 at Washington-Grizzly Stadium. Behind career days for sophomore quarterback Vernon Adams and freshman Cooper Kupp, the Eagles won in Missoula for the first time since 2005. Eastern scored 21-straight points spanning halftime to take a 42-17 lead entering the final period. Eastern had a 214-46 advantage in offense in the decisive third quarter. Adams completed 27-of-40 passes for a career-high 457 yards, and his six TDs tied the school record. Kupp had his 10th and 11th touchdown catches of the season to finish with 11 grabs for 182 yards. Kupp also recovered an onside kick with 1:41 left to enable the Eagles to run out the clock for the win. Eagle speedster Shaq Hill had an 86-yard TD grab in the first half. The Eagles finished with a 540-489 advantage in total offense. Quincy Forte rushed for 70 yards in the win, and senior linebacker Ronnie Hamlin led the defense with 10 tackles.

* In 2012, No. 7 Eastern scored two touchdowns in the final 2:19 to rally for a 32-26 victory over 21st-ranked Montana Grizzlies on Sept. 29 at Roos Field in Cheney, Wash. The two scores, aided by a successful onside kick, came within 1:26 of each other. Eastern put together an 82-yard scoring drive to pull within two points on a 30-yard touchdown pass from Vernon Adams to Brandon Kaufman. After Shaq Hill successfully recovered an onside kick for the Eagles that was deflected by Kaufman, Eastern scored again on a 20-yard TD pass from Adams to Ashton Clark with 53 seconds to play. Adams completed 25-of-41 passes for 353 yards and three touchdowns in his second career start for EWU, and also added a team-leading 54 yards rushing. He overcame an interception and a fumble in the fourth quarter to become one of several heroes for the Eagles. In the final quarter alone, Adams was 13-of-21 for 171 yards and a pair of scores.  Kaufman finished with eight catches for 138 yards and a pair of scores as he had his fifth-straight 100-yard receiving game. Four Eagles finished in double figures in tackles, including linebackers Ronnie Hamlin (14), Grant Williams (13) and Tyler Washburn (12). Safety Allen Brown had 11 stops, and redshirt freshman Jordan Tonani added eight tackles after starter Jeff Minnerly broke his collarbone on EWU's first defensive series. Montana rushed 61 times and had three players with 95 yards or more. The 407 rushing yards by Montana were the most against the Eagles since Southern Utah rushed for 535 yards in the final game of the 1998 season. The game was Eastern's home opener -- EWU's latest home start since 1981. The game also marked the debut of a new scoreboard and videoboard at The Inferno, two years after the Eagles unveiled their new red Sprinturf surface at Roos Field in a 36-27 victory over UM. The "men in black" also played in new black helmets, to go along with black pants and black jerseys.

* In the 2011 meeting in Missoula, Eastern fell behind 10-0 to the Grizzlies, but rallied to pull within three points in the fourth quarter. The 10th-ranked Eagles held No. 12 Montana scoreless on its final five possessions of the game, but Eastern was unable to score in its last three. An interception with 25 seconds to play iced the win for the Grizzlies. Montana rushed for 316 yards versus the Eagles, but was held to 34 passing yards and was out-gained in total offense 376-350.

* In 2010, the first football game on Eastern's new red Sprinturf surface was a huge success as the 18th-ranked Eagles knocked off the No. 6 Grizzlies in the Big Sky Conference opener for both schools on Sept. 18, 2010, at Roos Field in Cheney, Wash. Mike Jarrett nailed a 31-yard field goal with four seconds left to give Eastern a 30-27 lead, then the Eagles iced it on the final play of the game with a 34-yard fumble return for a touchdown by junior defensive tackle Renard Williams after a sack and forced fumble by sophomore end Jerry Ceja with additional pressure by senior Tyler Jolley. Junior All-America running back Taiwan Jones had 305 all-purpose yards -- including 221 rushing yards -- to lead EWU's 503-yard offensive output. The sold-out stadium featured a crowd of 11,702 as it set a new Roos Field record. The previous record of 11,583 was set on Oct. 7, 2006 versus Montana. Eastern also set a new record for student attendance of 3,105, as the previous high was 2,218 in a 2008 game versus Montana.

* Other games in the series have also been filled with suspense. Eastern knotted the 2009 meeting at 34 with 4:58 to play, only to have the Grizzlies drive for the winning score with 1:18 left in a 41-34 victory. In 2007, Eastern kicked a go-ahead field goal with 2:20 to play before top-ranked Montana kicked the game-winner with 26 seconds to play after converting a fourth-and-10 play. Eastern wide receiver Aaron Boyce had the fourth-best receiving effort in Big Sky Conference history with a school-record 17 catches in the 2007 meeting to earn NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Offensive Player of the Week honors from The Sports Network. His 232 receiving yards were the second-most in school history, and Eagle quarterback Matt Nichols passed for a career-high 451 yards to rank third all-time at EWU at the time.

* In 2004, Montana blocked a 28-yard field goal attempt by the Eagles with 18 seconds remaining as the 23rd-ranked Eagles fell to the fifth-ranked Grizzlies 31-28 in a showdown for first place in front of a Roos Field (formerly Woodward Field) record crowd of 10,754.

* In 2002 at Albi Stadium in Spokane, Eastern beat the No. 1 ranked and unbeaten Grizzlies 30-21, ending Montana's record-tying winning streak in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision at 24 games. It was the first Big Sky Conference loss for UM head coach Joe Glenn, and snapped Montana's record winning streaks of 25 Big Sky games in a row and 13 league road games in a row. And in the process, the Eagle victory opened the door for Montana State and Idaho State to share the conference title with the Grizzlies.

 
 

Injury Report

* Although several key starters and backups continue to miss games, Eastern remains 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 and only three against Northern Arizona on Nov. 7. 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 sixth-straight game last week. Starting defensive tackle Andre Lino (ankle) was held out against Weber State and Northern Arizona after getting injured on Oct. 24 versus Northern Colorado. At running back, backup Malcolm Williams (hamstring) has missed the last four games and Sam McPherson (knee) has missed the last two. All four of those players are questionable this week. Starting wide receiver Shaq Hill (knee) hasn't played since EWU's opener and remains out, as is backup center Spencer Blackburn (thumb), who was injured in practices the week before EWU played Montana State.

* Previously, starting running back Jabari Wilson (ankle) and backup defensive lineman Kaleb Levao (knee) returned to play against Northern Arizona after missing two games. 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. 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 5-1 League Mark: "Our players understand that game got away from us and we didn't play like we wanted to. But we've put ourselves in a position where we are 5-1 in the conference – 6-1 if you count Montana State – and put together a six-game winning streak. Obviously we were on the wrong end last week, but we have to respond to that. That has to be our mindset going into this week against Montana."

On Responding After Loss: "There are certain things we have to keep working on and getting better in terms of timing and what we are doing. We have to come back and respond. We all are used to a lot of wins in a row and a lot of other stuff, so it becomes that shock feeling. But I've known for awhile that with this year's team we are going to be in a lot of tough games. If we're a little off and a little sloppy, and another team is executing better, no matter who it is in this conference you can't always overcome some of that. We've been able to overcome some things and (against NAU) we weren't able to."

On Resiliency: "This is a resilient bunch – these guys are going to be resilient, our coaches are going to be resilient and I'm going to be resilient. We're going to come back fighting – we're still 5-1 in the conference and in control of a lot of things. It still is a very hard place to be. We have to approach the Missoula game with that mindset."

On Offense: "If you're working toward being a great offense, you should feel like it doesn't matter what the other team does. It's about us executing and knowing there are always opportunities, and those are the steps we need to continue to make as an offense in my opinion."

On Turnovers & Getting Behind: "It was one of those games where we didn't take care of the ball like we needed to. We've been down plenty in our career here, and even this year. Our offense has felt the same as we always have, that we are going to go down and score and have a chance to win. I don't know if we were ever pressing, I think we just have to do a better job taking care of the football."

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."

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 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."

 
 

Career Starts by Returning Players

Defense (198 starts by 22 players): Miquiyah Zamora 31, Samson Ebukam 22, Matthew Sommer 22, Todd Raynes 21, Victor Gamboa 19, Rashad  Wadood 13 (now a running back), Zach Bruce 8, Nzuzi Webster 8, Andre Lino 7, Miles Weatheroy 7, Mitch Fettig 7, Keenan Williams 7, Jake Gall 6, Jake Hoffman 4, Alek Kacmarcik 3, Frank Cange 3, Cole Karstetter 3, Albert Havili 2, Jay-Tee Tiuli 2, D'londo Tucker 1, Jonah Jordan 1, Conner Baumann 1.

Offense (264 starts by 21 players): Clay DeBord 49, Cooper Kupp 37, Thomas Gomez 23, Aaron Neary 22, Jake Withnell 19, Kendrick Bourne 17, Zach Wimberly 13, Cassidy Curtis 14, Jordan West 13, Shaq Hill 12, T.J. Boatright 12, Jabari Wilson 8, Terry Jackson II 8, Nic Sblendorio 4, Nick Ellison 4, Jalen Moore 3, Jerrod Jones 2, Terence Grady 1, Simba Webster 1, Jay Deines 1, Conner Baumann 1 (as fullback).

 
 

Previous Game Recap

* On a day when teams ranked second, third, fifth, seventh and 10th in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision rankings lost, fourth-ranked Eastern Washington followed suit. With missed opportunities plaguing their offense through the first 34 minutes of the game and turnovers finishing it off, the Eagles were defeated 52-30 by Northern Arizona in a Big Sky Conference game Nov. 7 at Roos Field to drop out of first place in the league standings. The Lumberjacks scored 21 points off four Eagle turnovers (their most in 25 games) and finished with 384 yards of offense. Northern Arizona had four scoring drives of 54 yards or longer, and converted 13-of-19 third downs. Eastern finished with 438 yards of offense, but converted only 5-of-12 third downs, 1-of-4 fourth downs and was stopped twice in the red zone. The loss ended EWU's six-game winning streak, and was just its second loss in its last 24 league games, with both losses coming at the hands of the Lumberjacks. Northern Arizona won for the third-straight game, scoring 167 points in those three games. With Eastern trailing 24-14 early in the fourth quarter, Northern Arizona took advantage of back-to-back Eastern turnovers and scored a pair of touchdowns in a 1:16 span. Eastern faced a fourth-and-1 in NAU territory, but a tipped pass was intercepted by NAU's Marcus Alford and returned 70 yards for a touchdown. Eastern fumbled away the ensuing kickoff, leading to a 25-yard drive to give NAU a 38-14 lead with 12:48 to play. Redshirt freshman cornerback Nzuzi Webster led Eastern's defense with 10 tackles. Junior linebacker Miquiyah Zamora and junior safety Zach Bruce each had nine tackles. Zamora had a forced fumble on a sack and had two other tackles for loss. Sophomore Jake Gall had eight tackles, including 2 1/2 sacks. It was his fourth-straight game with at least eight stops. Junior Kendrick Bourne had the fifth 100-yard receiving performance in his career, finishing with nine catches for 154 yards. Junior Cooper Kupp hit the 100-catch mark on the season, finishing with nine catches for 98 yards and a touchdown. He also had his 18th touchdown of the season and 55th of his career. Sophomore Terence Grady had his best day as an Eagle, catching five passes for 61 yards and a touchdown. Junior Jordan West completed 20-of-38 passes for 244 yards and a pair of touchdowns with one interception. Redshirt freshman Reilly Hennessey replaced him in the fourth quarter and completed 8-of-13 passes for 123 yards, and added a 4-yard touchdown run.

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
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