Eastern looks to put together a complete game on offense and defense, but task will be difficult on the road the next two weeks
2015 Eagle Football
#8 Eastern Washington University "Eagles"
Idaho State University "Bengals"
Saturday, Oct. 17, 2015 • 1:35 p.m. Pacific
Holt Arena (12,000) • Pocatello, Idaho
EWU Coach: Beau Baldwin (Central Washington '96)
School Record: 70-27/47-11 Big Sky Conference (8th Season)
Career Record: 80-30 (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: 3-2/2-0 Big Sky
2014: 11-3/7-1 Big Sky (OUTRIGHT CHAMPIONS; FCS Playoffs)
Last Game: #7 EWU 42, Cal Poly 41 in overtime (Oct. 10 in Cheney, Wash.)
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.
Nothing ever comes easy in the Big Sky Conference.
And this week is no exception as the eighth-ranked Eastern Washington University football team heads back on the road to face Idaho State this Saturday (Oct. 17) after needing nail-biting come-from-behind victories to improve to 2-0 in the league.
This week's game against the Bengals and former Eagle head coach Mike Kramer kicks off at 1:35 p.m. Pacific time at Holt Arena in Pocatello, Idaho. The game is not televised, but is available via watchbigsky.com. Fans may 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.
Scoring runs of 20-plus points have been the difference for the Eagles in their first two Big Sky outings, helping them improve to 19-1 in their last 20 league games. The Eagles were successful in their league opener on Sept. 26 at Sacramento State, winning 28-20 to begin their pursuit of their fourth-straight Big Sky title and ninth overall. But Eastern had to score 21 unanswered third-quarter points to rally from a 20-7 halftime deficit.
Two weeks later on Oct. 10, Cal Poly ran roughshod over the Eagles and led by 15 points in the fourth quarter before the Eagles rallied to score 22 unanswered points in the final 5:11 of intermission and overtime. A Cal Poly fumble recovered by redshirt freshman Nzuzi Webster on a potential game-winning two-point attempt in overtime sealed the win for the Eagles, who gave up 503 rushing yards.
"We need challenges, environments and tough road games like this one to find out more about who we are and what are about," said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin. "I'm excited to see how we respond after such an emotional win."
Eastern is now 3-2 on the season with a three-game winning streak, but its victories have come by a total of just 14 points, including a 55-50 non-conference win over Montana State. The Eagles are leading the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision in passing (417.8 per game) and fourth in total offense (546.2), but have also had bouts of inconsistency the last two games.
After going 61-straight quarters of scoring, Eastern has had three goose eggs in the last seven quarters. The Eagles have scored 21 and 22 points in single quarters in the last two games, but have had to punt a total of 10 times. The offense has had five three-and-outs and four other possessions of less than four plays that have led to punts or turnovers (one fumble lost).
"We have to find ways to develop a rhythm early and I believe we will," Baldwin said. "We are a long way from where we can be and will be, but it's a process. We're only five games into the year."
Idaho State, now 2-4 overall and 1-2 in the league, hadn't played a game decided by less than 20 points until pulling off an upset at North Dakota last week by a 37-31 score. That snapped a four-game losing streak in games decided by 20, 52, 72 and 32 points.
The Bengals are again impressive offensively by ranking 37th in FCS with an average of 416.0 yards per game, but they have only surrendered an average of 130.8 passing yards per game to rank third nationally. However, they are ranked second-to-last in rushing defense (323.2 per game), in the bottom eight in scoring defense (42.5 per game) and 120th out of 123 FCS teams in turnover margin (minus 1.67 per game).
With a combined 109 points scored in the 2014 meeting (won by EWU 56-53) and EWU finishing with a school-record 743 yards of total offense in the last meeting in Pocatello in 2013, more fireworks can probably be expected this week. Eastern's defense has come up with big plays at times and pitched a second-half shutout at Sacramento State in a 28-20 win on Sept. 26, but ranks last in FCS in total defense (557.4 per game) and rushing defense (351.0 per game), and is allowing 42.0 points per game to rank 112th.
Ranked for the 51st-straight time, Eastern dropped a spot to eighth in this week's STATS FCS Top 25 poll, but are still up six spots since beginning the season 0-2. Eastern is also No. 8 in the coaches poll. Idaho State entered the season ranked 22nd following a breakthrough 2014 season under Kramer when the Bengals finished 8-4 overall and 6-2 in the league. He was EWU's head coach from 1994-1999 and had a 37-32 record overall and 24-22 Big Sky mark.
"Our players love the challenge – they want to go into an environment that is tough and challenging," added Baldwin of the Bengals ending their losing skid with an impressive win at UND. "I've seen it back to when I was an assistant here, but there are times when people are ready to put the nail in the coffin of Mike Kramer's teams and he will absolutely get his team fired up and ready to play. We are going to expect a very, very good Idaho State team on Saturday in Pocatello."
Team Game Notes
* Having dropped from sixth to 14th in the STATS Top 25 poll after successive losses to open the year, Eastern was back up to seventh last week and is eighth this week. In all, four of EWU's 10 FCS opponents are currently in the STATS poll, including Northern Iowa (#12), Montana State (#16), Portland State (#17) and Montana (#20). The Eagles have now been ranked in The Sports Network Poll 51-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 eighth.
* The Eagles are 29-3 in their last 32 Big Sky games since a 0-2 start in 2011. Eastern has won 19 of its last 20 league games, and until an Oct. 25, 2014, loss at Northern Arizona, EWU had won 14 in a row.
* 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 leads FCS in passing yards (417.8 per game), passing efficiency (188.02) and completion percentage (72.6 percent). The Eagles are also fourth in total offense (546.4) and 10th in scoring offense (40.4) 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.
* This week's game at Holt Arena will be EWU's 55th all-time game in a dome, with a current record of 27-27 and a two-game losing streak. Earlier this season, Eastern lost 38-35 to Northern Iowa at the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls, Iowa, where EWU is now winless. Until losing last in the final seconds at Northern Arizona in 2014, Eastern had won nine of its last 10 games in domes. Eastern is 13-4 all-time at Idaho State's Holt Arena, 9-7 at Northern Arizona's Walkup Skydome, 4-8 at Idaho's Kibbie Dome, 0-6 at Northern Iowa's UNI-Dome, 1-0 at North Dakota's Alerus Center and 0-1 at South Dakota's DakotaDome. Eastern also lost to Houston in 1992 at the Houston Astrodome.
* It's had been awhile since the Eagles played such a nailbiter, but EWU's rally against Cal Poly on Oct. 10 was the 15th game EWU has won since 2010 when trailing or tied in the fourth quarter. Eastern trailed by 15 in the fourth quarter against the Mustangs, 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. Two of the 15 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 and six in the 2010 national title season. Eagle Kendrick Bourne has played a huge roll in Eastern's last two fourth-quarter rallies. 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 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. In last year's MSU game, Eastern fumbled with 5:30 left and the Bobcats scored a go-ahead touchdown with 1:55 to play, but the Eagles kept the game alive by converting a fourth-and-10 on its own 39-yard-line with 1:15 left. Bourne then caught a 40-yard pass, the first of three-straight completions for 60 yards that set-up a 1-yard TD run and the game-winning two-point conversion with just 27 seconds left.
* Eastern's defense surrendered 298 rushing yards on 44 carries in the first half (6.8 per carry) against Cal Poly, but allowed just an average of 4.6 after that. In the third quarter Eastern, the Mustangs had 123 yards on 22 carries (5.6) and in the fourth quarter they had 70 on 18 rushes (3.9). In overtime, Eastern allowed just 12 yards on five carries (2.4), not including the fumbled two-point conversion try by Cal Poly that clinched the victory for the Eagles.
* Eastern has had 10 50-point games in the last four seasons (including 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).
* 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 will coach in his 100th game at Eastern when the Eagles host Weber State on Oct. 31 at Roos Field in Cheney. He owns a 70-27 record in seven-plus seasons to currently rank seventh in the 52-year history of the Big Sky with a .722 winning percentage. His 81.0 percent winning percentage in league games (47-11) is fifth all-time in the league.
* The Eagles are now 33-5 all-time on the red turf at "The Inferno" and have won 18 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 25-2 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 10,352 versus Cal Poly on Oct. 10, Eastern has now had 12-consecutive sell-out crowds at "The Inferno" and 24 all-time in stadium history.
Player Game Notes
* Just three touchdown receptions from equaling career total of the immortal Jerry Rice, two-time All-America wide receiver Cooper Kupp leads FCS in receiving touchdowns (10), receiving yards (780), receiving yards per game (156.0), receptions (50) and receptions per game (10.0), and is second in scoring (12.0 per game). 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. Earlier this season, on his way to earning Big Sky Conference ROOT Sports co-Offensive Player of the Week accolades, Kupp finished with 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 47 touchdown catches in his career, moving him this season from 19th to sixth in FCS history. He 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.
* Junior wide receiver Kendrick Bourne has compiled some impressive statistics of his own this season for the Eagles, and is coming off a career-high 10 catches for 84 yards and a pair of touchdowns in EWU's 42-41 overtime victory over Cal Poly. He had a 25-yard TD on the first play of OT, 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 FCS statistics this week, Bourne is fourth in receiving touchdowns (7), 11th in receiving yards (514), 13th in receiving yards per game (102.8) and 16th in receptions per game (6.8). He has 93 catches for 1,445 yards and 19 touchdowns in his 33-game Eastern career.
* Eastern has now had 11 200-yard receiving performances all-time, and three of them have come this season (two earlier this season by Cooper Kupp with 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. A national leader in several categories, 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 passing efficiency (194.8), passing touchdowns (19) and completion percentage (.734), and is second in passing yards per game (353.4). He is also third in total passing yards (1,767), third in passing yards per attempt (10.46), third in points responsible for per game (23.2) and fifth in total offense (358.2 per game). West has now started nine games in his career (6-3 record) and has a career passing efficiency rating of 171.3 to currently rank second in school history ahead of 2005 Walter Payton Award winner Erik Meyer (166.5) and behind two-time Payton runner-up Vernon Adams Jr. (173.8). West has completed 68 percent of his passes for 2,839 yards, 28 touchdowns and four 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. (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 to open the year was manned by seniors, with a pair of seniors as backups. In all, those five senior starters average 299 pounds and now have 101 starts between them, including a trio who have combined for 82 career starts. Preseason All-America tackle Clay DeBord has a team-leading 45 starts, while All-America guard Aaron Neary has started 18. In addition, Thomas Gomez has 19, Cassidy Curtis has 11 and T.J. Boatright has eight. Curtis missed the last four games with a foot injury suffered versus Oregon and will be out until October. DeBord has started every game he has played -- 45 of a possible 48 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 has started there ever since. 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.
* 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
* Kupp now has 47 touchdown catches in his career, ranking sixth in FCS history and one ahead of the former school and Big Sky Conference records of 46 set by Eric Kimble (2002-05). Kupp is now just three touchdown catches from ranking third in FCS history with three players, including the legendary Jerry Rice from Mississippi Valley (1981-84). Kupp won the Jerry Rice Award in 2013 given to the top freshman in FCS. The FCS career record is 58 set by New Hampshire's David Ball (2003-06) and ranking second is Terrell Hudgins (2006-09) with 52. Kupp has played just 33 games while all the others in the top five have played at least 41. In fact, Kupp is the only player in the top 26 in FCS history with less than 36 games played.
* Kupp is now second in school history for career receptions (247; six from the school record) and reception yards (3,902; 238 from the record), and is sixth in career all-purpose yards (4,184). Eric Kimble (2002-05) holds EWU career records for receptions (253, second all-time in Big Sky history and 17th in FCS history) and yards (4,140, Big Sky record and ninth in FCS history) and all-purpose yards (5,934).
* Kupp now has 19 performances of at least 100 receiving yards in his career, and had career highs for catches (15) and yards (246) against Oregon on Sept. 5, 2015. Both of those marks against the Ducks were Autzen Stadium records and the second-best in school history, ranking behind the records of 17 receptions (Aaron Boyce versus Montana on 10/6/07) and 264 yards (Jason Anderson versus Montana on 9/17/94). Kupp's 15 performances with at least 125 receiving yards is a school record.
* Already with six FCS records, seven school marks and two 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 28 of 33 games he has played, with 18 performances of at least eight catches and 19 with at least 100 receiving yards. Kupp has started all 33 games he has played in his EWU career, giving him the second-most starts on the team.
* With a career average of 15.8 yards per catch (247-3,902), Kupp has had 21 receptions of 40 yards or more, including 10 for scores. He also has two punt returns of at least 40 yards, one for a TD. 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.
* 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 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."
* The Eagles have dominated the series against Idaho State, winning 26 of the 35 previous meetings with a current eight-game winning streak and victories in 15 of the last 18. Eastern is 10-4 in meetings in Cheney, 15-5 in Pocatello and 1-0 at Spokane's Albi Stadium. Idaho State head coach Mike Kramer is 0-3 against the Eagles, but was 4-2 versus the Bengals in his six seasons as EWU's head coach (1994-1999). He lost the first two meetings but won the last four.
* Last year's meeting was a shootout in every sense of the word as the second-ranked Eagles survived for a 56-53 Big Sky victory on Oct. 4 at Roos Field. Despite suffering a foot injury that would keep him out of EWU's next four games, Adams accounted for six TDs on the day, with two rushing and four passing, and in the process went over the 10,000-yard mark for total offense in his career. Three of his TD tosses went to sophomore Cooper Kupp, who finished with eight catches for 132 yards. Running back Mario Brown had a career-high 126 yards in the win, and Samson Ebukam blocked a punt that was recovered for a touchdown by Dylan Zylstra. The two teams finished with just 1,231 yards and 109 total points, but after the first quarter they were on pace to combine for 140 points and nearly 2,000 yards. Facing a fourth-and-2 at the ISU 34-yard line with about two minutes to play, Adams found Shaq Hill for a 12-yard gain and a first down that helped EWU run out the clock.
* In a 55-34 Eagle win in 2013 in Pocatello, Eastern had a school-record 743 yards of offense, with 432 through the air and 311 on the ground. The Eagles broke the previous record of 740 set in 1997 against Rocky Mountain. The coach for EWU in that game was Mike Kramer, now the head coach at ISU. Eastern's 311 rushing yards were the most for the Eagles in their last 117 games dating back to a 331-yard performance against Idaho State on Sept. 25, 2004, in a 47-22 win. Vernon Adams Jr. passed for 432 yards and five touchdowns in the win, and Quincy Forte had what was then a career-high 119 rushing yards on just six carries (19.8 per rush). He had an 83-yard touchdown that ranks as the ninth-longest rush in school history, and the longest since Taiwan Jones had a school-record 96-yarder at Idaho State on Oct. 3, 2009. Then-freshman Cooper Kupp had eight catches for 205 yards and a pair of scores, which at the time were the eighth-most receiving yards in school history. Linebacker Ronnie Hamlin had 10 tackles against Idaho State and a key third-quarter interception that led to an Eagle TD.
* In 2011, Eastern secured its 14th winning season in 16 years with a 45-14 victory over Idaho State on a record-breaking day for EWU at Holt Arena in Pocatello, Idaho. The defending NCAA Division I Champions, the Eagles overcame a rash of injuries to win six of their last seven games after a 0-4 start. Senior quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell accounted for 433 yards of total offense in the victory on his way to winning the Walter Payton Award. He finished with 4,009 passing yards to break the school's single season school record, and junior wide receiver Nicholas Edwards finished the season with 95 receptions and 19 touchdown catches to break two other school records. Senior kicker Mike Jarrett added the school record for career kick scoring, finishing with 236 points.
* Mike Kramer is 2-8 in his coaching career against the Eagles, and was 4-2 versus the Bengals when he was EWU's head coach. In his first season at the helm at ISU in 2011, Eastern won 45-14 in Pocatello, then EWU returned in 2013 for a 55-34 victory. The 2014 meeting was the first time Kramer brought his ISU team to Cheney, but he coached MSU there in 2005 in a 35-14 Eagle victory. When he was at MSU, Kramer was 2-5 versus EWU, picking up victories in 2001 (48-38 in Spokane) and 2002 (25-14). His losses against EWU came in 2000 (20-14 en route to a 0-11 debut), 2003 (34-25 in Spokane), 2004 (51-44 in overtime), 2005 (35-14 in Cheney) and 2006 (19-10). He spent five years as an Eastern assistant (1989-93), then six seasons as Eastern's head coach (1994-1999) with records of 37-32 overall and 24-22 in league play. He was the Big Sky Conference Coach of the Year in 1997 after he helped guide the 1997 team to the Big Sky title and an appearance in the semifinals of the FCS Playoffs. That 12-2 team was inducted into the Eastern Athletics Hall of Fame in 2012.
* It will be a Karstetter and Sorensen kind of day at Holt Arena this week. Eastern starting rover Cole Karstetter will be facing his older brother, Kurt, while Eagle radio analyst Paul Sorensen will be describing the action of his son, Cody. Cole Karstetter, a redshirt freshman and 2014 graduate of Ferris High School in Spokane, Wash., is the fourth-leading tackler for EWU this season with 31 stops. Kurt, a senior linebacker for ISU, has 25 tackles with a pair of sacks and an interception. Their parents are Jerry and Perrianne Karstetter, and Jerry is an Eastern graduate who played basketball for the Eagles in 1981. Cole and Kurt's oldest brother, Jared, played as a wide receiver at Washington State. Jerry's sister, Sue, played in 123 games as a standout basketball player for the Eagles from 1978-83. Perrianne's brother, Scott Dahlquist, was a tight end at Idaho. Cody Sorensen, another Ferris grad, has a team-leading 54 tackles with a sack as a senior safety for the Bengals. Yet another Ferris graduate, junior Drew Sharkey, has 22 tackles for the year for ISU.
* Eastern assistant coaches Josh Fetter, Brian Strandley and Cherokee Valeria all coached previously at Idaho State. Amir Owens, Eastern's assistant athletic director for athletic performance, played safety at ISU from 2006-09 and received his degree in 2010. Joel Vickery, the school's assistant athletic director for compliance, played for the Bengals from 2002-04, helping ISU win the Big Sky Conference title in 2002. He received his bachelor's degree in 2006 and his master's in 2007.
* A bye week helped Eastern's injury situation immensely, and only four starters were out of the lineup against Cal Poly on Oct. 10. 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.
* Offensive tackle Clay DeBord (concussion) missed the Cal Poly game, snapping his streak of consecutive Eagle games started at 24. Kicker Tyler McNannay (hip flexor) missed his second-straight game and starting right tackle Cassidy Curtis (foot) has missed the last four games after having surgery on Sept. 10. Wide receiver Shaq Hill (knee) has also missed the last four games. Backup running back Sam McPherson (ankle) has missed the last two and Kurt Calhoun (hamstring) missed the Cal Poly game. Hill and Calhoun are listed as out for the Idaho State game; Curtis is doubtful; DeBord and McNannay are questionable; and McPherson is probable.
* Previously, Cassidy's 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 15 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 Injuries Along Offensive Line: "Coach Aaron Best has been one of the best coaches I've ever seen of taking whatever group he has and getting them ready to compete. It's true that continuity can make you great up front, but coach Best will never use the injuries as an excuse for doing what we need to do as an offense. He's done a great job of that and developing the depth. And the players took on the challenge and are practicing and competing as starters. They are doing a great job with that."
On Late-Game Defense Versus Cal Poly: "There were some adjustments and coach Jeff Schmedding and his staff did a great job with that, but I also think it was a mental and physical toughness they held all the way through. We knew there wasn't anything we could do about the first three quarters, but we kept adjusting, kept grinding and kept moving forward. That's what our defense did."
On Cal Poly Finish: ""I'm so happy for our players for finding a way to grind it out and make plays," said Baldwin. "It was obviously a barn-burner. It was a wild game, and we still have a ton of things to clean up. The one thing about our team – whether we came out on top or not – was that we weren't going to roll over. We still have a long way to go this year and we're finding that out more and more. That's okay as long as we are willing to keep learning and growing. I thought we did that in the second half, but we have to learn and grow more when we are in these situations."
On Offense at End of Game: "We ended up finally finding a little bit of rhythm. We needed to get that rhythm earlier, regardless of the wind. We have to do a better job of finding some early stops on defense. Those are things we are going to work on practice and keep attacking."
On Toughness of League: "We are what we are as a team. I don't care where we are ranked or this and that -- we're a team that can go out and win any game in the Big Sky. But because the league has so many talented and well-coached teams, we have the ability to lose any game if we don't bring it. We respect that and have to attack each day of the week."
On Crowd: "I loved the energy and the sold-out crowd again. That's been something special – since 2003 I've seen the growth and the difference. I just appreciate everybody involved with that and all the fans who came out."
On Being Unified After Win: "It's easy to be unified when you come together like that. But it takes being unified when you are down by 15 late like that. That's the nature of our players and something we believe in. Win, lose or draw, we would have needed to come back even that much more unified next week. We have a tight group and it's great to be around these players."
On Path Ahead: "We have respect the fact we have a long way to go. We found a way to win and found a way to beat a very well-coached and good Cal Poly team. We know we are going to continue to have tough football games, and we have to keep grinding to find ways to get better during the week. We are a team that has the ability to win any game on our schedule, but if we're a little off and we don't bring our A game, we will struggle to beat anybody left on our schedule too. We have to be humble to that fact as we attack next week."
On Jordan West's Passing Yards Record at Sacramento State: "It's a tribute to Coach (Zak) Hill and what he's done to coach and develop those quarterbacks. It's also a tribute to Jordan and what he's done to work hard and take on this tough challenge. It's something we believe in – we're going to work hard to have great quarterback play. It doesn't matter who it is – we expect great things out of our quarterbacks. We've worked hard to get to this point."
Career Starts by Returning Players
Defense (154 starts by 20 players): Miquiyah Zamora 27, Samson Ebukam 18, Matthew Sommer 18, Todd Raynes 17, Victor Gamboa 15, Rashad Wadood 13 (now a running back), Miles Weatheroy 6, Zach Bruce 5, Nzuzi Webster 5, Andre Lino 5, Jake Hoffman 4, Mitch Fettig 3, Keenan Williams 3, Alek Kacmarcik 3, Frank Cange 3, Cole Karstetter 3, Albert Havili 2, Jake Gall 2, Jonah Jordan 1, Conner Baumann 1.
Offense (220 starts by 19 players): Clay DeBord 45, Cooper Kupp 33, Thomas Gomez 19, Aaron Neary 18, Jake Withnell 16, Kendrick Bourne 13, Shaq Hill 12, Zach Wimberly 12, Cassidy Curtis 11, Jordan West 9, T.J. Boatright 8, Jabari Wilson 7, Terry Jackson II 5, Nic Sblendorio 4, Nick Ellison 3, Jerrod Jones 2, Simba Webster 1, Jay Deines 1, Conner Baumann 1 (as fullback).
Previous Game Recap
The seventh-ranked Eagles rallied from a 15-point deficit in the fourth quarter to score 22 unanswered points in the final 5:11 of regulation and in overtime to top Cal Poly and the top rushing offense in the nation 42-41 in a Big Sky Conference showdown Oct. 10 in Cheney, Wash. Eastern scored on its first play of overtime and kicked an extra point, then the Mustangs scored. But Eastern's Nzuzi Webster recovered a Cal Poly fumble on the two-point conversion attempt, putting a sour note on a huge day for the Mustangs that included 503 rushing yards and six touchdowns on the ground on 89 carries. Although out-gained 519-370 in total offense in the game, Eastern had 145 of its yards on its final three possessions of the game, including drives of 85 and 55 yards to force overtime. Despite sustained winds of 17-22 miles per hour throughout the game, quarterback Jordan West passed for 224 yards and four touchdowns, including a pair to Kendrick Bourne. On a third-and-6 play with EWU trailing by six, sophomores Conner Bauman and 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 West to Nic Sblendorio to pull EWU within 35-33. Late-game two-point conversions turned out to be the difference, with Eastern needing a pass from West to Terry Jackson II to knot the game at 35 with 57 seconds remaining and send the game into overtime. That came after EWU's first missed try was nullified by a Cal Poly holding penalty. West, who entered the game leading FCS in passing efficiency (201.6) and passing yards per game (385.8), finished 27-of-35 for 224 yards and four touchdowns. He completed his first eight attempts, but then just seven of his next 13 attempts as EWU punted on five of its next six possessions. But he completed 12 of his last 14 passes to end the game. Bourne finished with a career-high 10 catches for 84 yards and a pair of touchdowns, including a 25-yard TD in overtime and six catches in the fourth quarter. Junior Jabari Wilson had the third 100-yard rushing game of his career, finishing with 103 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries. Senior linebacker Miquiyah Zamora and senior safety Todd Raynes both had 14 tackles for the Eagles, besting their previous career highs of 11. Baumann and sophomore linebacker Jake Gall had 11 and 10 tackles, respectively, as they both also established new career highs. Baumann was making his first defensive career start. Cal Poly averaged 5.7 yards per rush, finishing with 503 yards and six touchdowns on 89 carries. The option-oriented Mustangs went into the game leading FCS in rushing with an average of 363.8 yards per game. Quarterback Chris Brown finished with 173 yards on the ground, and the Mustangs finished an impressive 9-of-17 on third down and 4-of-5 on fourth down.