Eagles have just 12 yards in the final quarter, but defense preserves lead in the final 21 minutes in Baldwin's 100th game as EWU's head coach
Previous wins were close, but this Halloween matinee at windy and rainy Roos Field was downright frightening.
The Eagle defense made a one-point lead hold up for the final 21 minutes of the game and the fifth-ranked Eastern Washington University football team remained unbeaten in the Big Sky Conference with a 14-13 victory over Weber State Saturday (Oct. 31) at Roos Field in Cheney, Wash.
With howling 23-mile per hour winds causing havoc in the passing game, two Jordan West-to-Cooper Kupp passing touchdowns held up in the final 21:07 after EWU took a 14-13 lead with 8:53 left in the third quarter. Weber State missed field goals on its next three possessions, then EWU clinched the win by forcing four-straight incompletions on the final possession of the day for Weber State. The fourth was an incompletion on fourth down from the WSU 48-yard line with nine seconds left.
Eastern was out-gained in total offense 412-189, and EWU had only 12 yards in the final quarter. But junior linebacker Miquiyah Zamora led the way for the Eagle defense with a career-high 16 tackles and senior rover Todd Raynes had 13. Eastern had three sacks, including 1 1/2 by junior defensive end Samson Ebukam.
"When you see a day where it's going to be rainy and windy, you are going to be in a grind-it-out, old-school type of ballgame," said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin. "We have to embrace those situations and know that little mistakes can be magnified because your possessions are so few. There is less margin for error."
It was the 100th game in the Eastern head coaching career Baldwin, who ranks among the top seven coaches in Big Sky history for winning percentage overall (73.0 percent, 73-27) and in league games (82.0 percent, 50-11).
Won-Lost Records . . .
* The Eagles are now 6-2 on the season with a six-game winning streak, and are a perfect 5-0 in the Big Sky standings. Five of Eastern's victories now have come by a collective 18 points, including a 43-41 triumph at Northern Colorado on Oct. 24, won on a 44-yard field goal by Jordan Dascalo on the game's final play.
* Weber State is now 4-5 overall and 3-3 in the league. The Wildcats were coming off a 52-36 loss at Northern Arizona, which is EWU's next opponent on Nov. 7, also in Cheney. The Wildcats won at Montana 24-21 on Oct. 10 and at Northern Colorado 38-17 on Sept. 26. Coupled with a 32-14 victory against Sacramento State, WSU had a collective 39-point winning margin against a pair of teams EWU beat by just 10.
What it Means . . .
* Eastern recorded its first victory with 14 or less points since defeating Idaho 8-5 in 2003. It was EWU's first win in league play with 14 or less since beating Northern Arizona 14-10 in 1999.
* The Eagles remained on top of the Big Sky standings with the victory. Eastern is 32-3 in their last 35 Big Sky games since a 0-2 start in 2011. Eastern has won 22 of its last 23 league games, and until an Oct. 25, 2014, loss at Northern Arizona, EWU had won 14 in a row. The current league winning streak for the Eagles is now eight games.
What's Next . . .
* Eastern returns to Roos Field to face Northern Arizona for its already sold-out Homecoming game on Nov. 7 at 3:05 p.m. The Weber State game began a regular season-ending stretch for the Eagles in which three of their last four regular season games are at Roos Field where they are 34-5 all-time on the red turf with a 19-game regular season winning streak.
Keys to Game . . .
* What hurt the Eagles, helped the Eagles. With sustained winds of 23 miles per hour and gusts twice that, Weber State missed a third-quarter 29-yard field goal against the wind, and field goals of 38 and 40 yards in the fourth quarter with the wind.
Top Performers . . .
* Junior linebacker Miquiyah Zamora eclipsed his previous high of 14 tackles by two, finishing with 16 tackles and a sack.
* Senior rover Todd Raynes had 13 tackles – one from his career high – and had a tackle for loss of two yards, a pass broken up and two quarterback hurries
* Sophomore linebacker Jake Gall had his third-straight game with at least eight tackles, finishing with 10 tackles.
* Junior defensive end Samson Ebukam finished with eight stops, including 1 1/2 sacks totaling seven yards in losses. He also had a quarterback hurry.
* Redshirt freshman safety Mitch Fettig equaled his career high with eight tackles and had a pair of passes broken up.
* Junior Jordan West completed 12-of-25 passes for 121 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
* Junior Jalen Moore rushed for 68 yards on 18 carries.
* Junior Cooper Kupp had touchdown receptions of 40 yards and 4 yards from West, and finished with seven catches for 74 yards.
* Junior Kendrick Bourne added four catches for 42 yards.
Key Stats . . .
* When they were playing against the wind, Eastern had only 74 yards offense in the first and fourth quarters, while Weber State piled up 243. In the second and third quarters, Weber State had a 115-74 advantage. The Wildcats more than doubled Eastern in total yards (412 to 189), passing yards (240-121), rushing yards (172-68), first downs (27-10) and time of possession (41:35 to 18:25). But Eastern won the most important stat of the day, points.
Turning Point . . .
* Already ahead 10-0, Weber State had driven to the EWU 23-yard line early in the second quarter before redshirt freshman Alek Kacmarcik intercepted his first career pass for the Eagles. Eastern followed with an eight-play, 73-yard scoring drive, capped by a 40-yard touchdown pass from Jordan West to Cooper Kupp on a fourth-and-five play.
Team Highlights . . .
* The Eagles are now 34-5 all-time on the red turf at "The Inferno" and have won 19 regular season games in a row at Roos Field. Three of the losses have come the past three seasons in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs, and EWU's last regular season loss came in the final home game of the 2011 season against Portland State (43-26). Eastern is 26-2 in the regular season at "The Inferno" and 8-3 in the FCS Playoffs. The first loss EWU suffered on the red turf was a 36-21 loss to Montana State on Sept. 24, 2011 after an unbeaten debut season during EWU's national championship season in 2010.
Milestones & Records . . .
* With a Roos Field crowd of 8,759 versus Weber State, Eastern has now had 13-consecutive sell-out crowds at "The Inferno" and 25 all-time in stadium history. The crowd against the Wildcats was the 20th most in stadium history, which is in its 49th season of existence in 2015.
* Cooper Kupp now has 54 touchdown catches in his career, ranking second in FCS history – four ahead of the legendary Jerry Rice from Mississippi Valley (1981-84) and eight ahead of the former school and Big Sky Conference records of 46 set by Eric Kimble (2002-05). 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). Kupp has played just 36 games while all the others in the top five have played at least 41.
* On FCS career leaders lists, Kupp is 11th with 288 receptions and fourth with 4,412 yards. The FCS records for receptions and yards are held by Elon's Terrell Hudgins (2006-09), who had 395 catches for 5,250 yards and 52 touchdowns in 45 games. Hudgins is now No. 3 in TD catches, and the record is 58 held by David Ball of New Hampshire (2003-06).
Notables . . .
* Eastern leads the all-time series against Weber State 19-14, but is just 9-5 in games played in Cheney. Eastern has won the last three meetings at Roos Field, but were thumped two years earlier at home by a 31-13 score. Eastern has won the last five meetings overall, but three of them have been decided by a collective total of 13 points. Eastern is 8-8 in Ogden, including victories five of the last six times the Eagles and Wildcats have met there. Eastern is also 2-1 versus WSU in games played at Albi Stadium in Spokane.
Head Coach Beau Baldwin Comments . . .
On Weather: "When you see a day where it's going to be rainy and windy, you are going to be in a grind-it-out, old-school type of ballgame. We have to embrace those situations and know that little mistakes can be magnified because your possessions are so few. There is less margin for error."
On Weber State: "We knew coming into this game – even it was a clear day -- that Weber State would be physically the toughest team we've played up to this point. When they are playing their game, they are as good as anyone in this league on defense and they are physical. And on offense, they are starting to find their way a little bit more."
On Defense: "Forcing field goal attempts were huge. Even if they made them, we were in a better situation on the scoreboard. There is no question the defense stepped up. You have to have all facets of your team ready every week if you are going win games like this. When the conditions are like this, you are going to get into this type of ballgame. Our defense did a great job with that."
On Offensive Performance: "There were certain things our offense did well, but even in sleet, rain, wind, we have to operate better and execute better in those moments. The only time I really get frustrated if there are unforced errors or discipline issues. If you are having a tough time because the guy against you is a good player, and you're battling and you're fighting, we can live with that. We have some things we have to examine in areas that could have been the difference had we not won. We have to keep working on cleaning those up."
On Winning Close Games: "You can be a talented team, but you have to have the guts and mindset late. If you don't have it, your season is going to end at some point. You have to have that mindset and mentality that it doesn't matter what just happened, but you have to keep responding. If we do that, we have a shot. That's where we are as a team. It doesn't matter if we're in the 10s, 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s – we're going to play in different kinds of ballgames and we have to adjust as we go. We have to embrace it."
On Coaching in 100th Game: "More than anything I want to thank everybody who has been a part of this fun ride to this point. We'll reflect more on it later – right now I'm thankful to people who helped us win today. We'll get in the film room and work on game 101."