Cooper Kupp Earns Honors for Punt Return & Other Scores at ISU

Cooper Kupp Earns Honors for Punt Return & Other Scores at ISU

A 76-yard punt return for a touchdown capped a four-touchdown day for Kupp, who is on the cusp of setting two more Big Sky Conference career receiving records

Cooper Kupp can certainly find ways to put points on the board for the seventh-ranked Eastern Washington University football team.

In the process of scoring his 49th, 50th and 51st touchdowns as an Eagle – and also throwing a TD pass as well – the junior wide receiver/punt returner has been selected by the Big Sky Conference as Special Teams Player of the Week. In addition, he received national honors as the College Football Performance Awards National FCS Performer of the Week.

After catching two touchdown passes and even throwing for one earlier in the game, Kupp scored the only points in the third quarter of EWU's 45-28 win over Idaho State last Saturday (Oct. 17) with a 76-yard punt return for a touchdown. It was the second of his career, having also returned one 67 yards for a score against Montana last November.

Kupp and the Eagles return to the road this week to play at Northern Colorado on Saturday (Oct. 24) at Nottingham Field. The 2012 graduate of Davis High School in Yakima, Wash., enters that contest just seven catches and 77 receiving yards from Big Sky Conference career records. He already holds the league record with 49 receiving TDs.

"Cooper has great vision and sees the whole field," said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin. "He can feel what the entire defense is doing, not just the players covering him. It's the same thing with punt return. He also has a great knack and feel – he can feel certain defenders on his side. We've had other players here that have had that, and you wonder how they escape. Cooper has a lot of that – a combination of vision and feel. Some players are more natural at it than others."

Kupp, who has averaged a TD reception for every 5.3 catches in his career, now has two punt return touchdowns in just 17 returns. Kupp's 15.5 career average per punt return (with two touchdowns) is currently ahead of the school record of 13.4 owned by Eric Kimble (2002-05).

Kupp has 4,421 career all-purpose yards to rank fourth in school history, but is well behind Kimble's total of 5,934. Including two punt return touchdowns, Kupp has 51 total scores as an Eagle to rank three behind Kimble's school record of 54.

Kupp finished with 14 receptions – the second-most in his career and No. 3 in school history – against Idaho State for 161 yards and TD receptions of 9 and 29 yards from Jordan West. Kupp, whose younger brother Ketner Kupp had an interception and six tackles in the victory, also passed 24 yards to West for a touchdown in the first quarter.

"I truly believe he could play quarterback at this level," added Baldwin of the two-time All-American. "It would take some work, but he's that multi-talented. We've worked on gadget plays in the past where he's thrown the ball. He can do some things, that's for sure."

Photo by Julie Hillebrant, ISU

More Cooper Kupp Notes

* Cooper Kupp now has 49 touchdown catches in his career, ranking sixth in FCS history and three ahead of the former school and Big Sky Conference records of 46 set by Eric Kimble (2002-05). Kupp is now just one touchdown catch 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 34 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.

* Playing just his 34th game as an Eagle, Kupp had 14 catches for 161 yards and a pair of scores against Idaho State on Oct. 17 to move past Eric Kimble for the school record with 261 career catches and rank second in Big Sky history and 15th all-time in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision. Kupp broke Kimble's record of 253, and he is only seven behind the league record of 268 set by Kasey Dunn of Idaho (1988-91). Kupp, whose brother Ketner Kupp had an interception and six tackles on defense, also had a touchdown pass to quarterback Jordan West and returned a punt 76 yards for a TD in the third quarter. In three career games now against Idaho State, Kupp has 30 catches for 498 yards and seven touchdowns, Kupp had just four catches for 21 yards in his previous game against Cal Poly on Oct. 10.

* Besides setting the school's reception record, Kupp is now approaching the school and league record for reception yards (4,063; 77 from the record) and is 10th all-time in FCS history. Eric Kimble (2002-05) holds the records with 4,140, which ranks ninth in FCS history. Kupp's 15.5 career average per punt return (with two touchdowns) is currently ahead of the school record of 13.4 owned by Kimble. Kupp has 4,421 career all-purpose yards to rank fourth in school history, but is well behind Kimble's total of 5,934. Including two punt return touchdowns, Kupp has 51 total scores to rank three behind Kimble's school record of 54.

* Kupp now has 20 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 16 performances with at least 125 receiving yards is a school record.

* Already with six FCS records, eight 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 29 of 34 games he has played, with 19 performances of at least eight catches and 20 with at least 100 receiving yards. Kupp has started all 34 games he has played in his EWU career, giving him the second-most starts on the team.

* With a career average of 15.6 yards per catch (261-4,063), Kupp has had 21 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.

* 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."

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