Big Sky Co-Favorites Tangle in EWU’s Sold-Out Home Opener

Big Sky Co-Favorites Tangle in EWU’s Sold-Out Home Opener

No. 11 Montana State visits No. 14 Eagles in a non-conference game on ROOT Sports, with Bobcats picked to win the title by the coaches and EWU selected by the media

Complete Weekly Release in .pdf format


2015 Eagle Football

#14 Eastern Washington University "Eagles"
versus
#11 Montana State University "Bobcats"

Saturday, Sept. 19, 2015 • 1:05 p.m. Pacific
Roos Field (8,600) • Cheney, Washington


EWU Coach: Beau Baldwin (Central Washington '96)
School Record: 67-27/45-11 Big Sky Conference (8th Season)
Career Record: 77-30 (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: 0-2/0-0 Big Sky
2014: 11-3/7-1 Big Sky (OUTRIGHT CHAMPIONS; FCS Playoffs)
Last Game: #14 Northern Iowa 38, #7 EWU 35 (Sept. 12 in Cedar Falls, Iowa)
TV/Webcast:
Televised live regionally by ROOT Sports.
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. (no live show on Oct. 3) . . .  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.


After this Saturday (Sept. 19), both the Eagles and Bobcats will officially be 0-0 in the Big Sky Conference.

But the significance in the league and nationally can’t be understated as the Eastern Washington University football team opens its 2015 home schedule against league co-favorite Montana State at Roos Field in Cheney, Wash. A sellout crowd will be on hand for the non-conference matchup, extending Eastern’s consecutive streak of regular season sellouts at “The Inferno” to 11.

This week’s fan “Red Out Day” game kicks off at 1:05 p.m. Pacific time and will be televised live regionally via ROOT Sports. 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.

“It’s always nice to be at home and feel the fan support, crowd and energy,” said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin, whose team is 31-5 all-time on the red turf. “When all is said and done, you end up on a 100-yard field playing against a really good opponent. I like the mindset of not wanting to lose on the red, but I want to be a great team wherever we are playing. We have to earn the right to say we’re that type of team that is going to control that home field advantage and take a lot of pride in how we play out there.”

The Eagles were picked by the media to win their fourth-straight league title, garnering 553 votes to Montana State’s 541. Both teams received 17 first-place votes. The coaches gave each team six No. 1 votes, but MSU received 134 points overall to EWU’s 133. The Bobcats are led by MSU junior quarterback Dakota Prukop.

“With Dakota (Prukop) at the helm, they have one of the best offenses not only in the league but in the country,” said Baldwin. “It’s going to be a tremendous challenge.”

This is the sixth-straight season the Eagles and Bobcats have both entered their meeting ranked nationally in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision. Despite their 0-2 start, the Eagles have only fallen from sixth in the preseason rankings to 14th in this week’s STATS Top 25 poll. Montana State was 11th in the preseason and remains ranked 11th this week.

Eastern has won the last three meetings of ranked teams, while MSU won the first two. The last time both teams did not enter the game ranked – in 1999 -- neither squad was.

The Eagles are trying to not only overcome an 0-2 start, but a rash of injuries that have hampered the Eagles already. In particular, three starters and one key backup were missing from the lineup against Northern Iowa last Saturday (Sept. 12) in a 38-35 loss at the UNI-Dome.

Several more key players were lost during the UNI game, but Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin doesn’t use that as an excuse for the loss in that key NCAA Football Championship Subdivision match-up between teams then-ranked No. 7 (EWU) and No. 14 (UNI) in the STATS Top 25 FCS Poll.

“I won’t talk about injuries as a reason why things are not going well,” said Baldwin. “We have enough players in this program, and I felt that way against Northern Iowa. We had some injuries and we had some players go down, but that wasn’t the reason we weren’t able to come out on top. Coaches and players should have done a better job in a lot of different aspects and found a way to win.”

While the Eagles are licking their wounds, Montana State is well rested and sitting at 1-0, having defeated Fort Lewis 45-14 on Sept. 3 in Bozeman. The Bobcats were idle last week, and haven’t played a FCS or FBS opponent since falling 47-40 at home to South Dakota State in the first round of the FCS Playoffs on Nov. 29, 2014. The Eagles have faced four such foes since then.

After this week’s game, the Eagles play their Big Sky Conference opener on Sept. 26 at Sacramento State at 6:05 p.m. Pacific time. The Hornets, coached by former Eagle assistant Jody Sears, are currently 1-1 and play at Weber State in a non-conference game this week.

 
 

Game Notes

* Eastern dropped seven spots to 14th this week in the STATS Top 25 poll, and fell to 15th in the coaches poll. In all, six of EWU’s 10 FCS opponents are currently in the STATS poll, including Montana (#8), Northern Iowa (#9), Montana State (#11), Cal Poly (#17), Portland State (#19) and Northern Arizona (#24). The Eagles have now been ranked in The Sports Network Poll 47-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.

* One of the most pressing ways the Eagles need to clean-up their play is by committing fewer penalties. Against Northern Iowa, the Eagles had 15 for 159 yards after being whistled for 11 for 78 yards against Oregon. The 159 versus the Panthers were the most in EWU’s last 140 games since being whistled for 203 yards worth on Sept. 18, 2004 versus Central Washington. Of the 15 penalties against EWU, eight were on the offense for 79 yards, including three which wiped out total gains of 82 yards. The defense had five for 40 yards, including a procedure call on third-and-four late in the game that helped the Panthers run out the clock. Special teams were whistled for two 15-yard kick catching interference calls. Interestingly, Eastern’s first scoring drive of day was officially 12 plays for 81 yards, but because of penalties, Jordan West had 96 yards on 8-of-9 passing. Late in the game, a 66-yard scramble by West was negated by a holding penalty, and on the next play an interception was returned for a touchdown by UNI to give the Panthers a 38-28 advantage with 5:19 to play.

* Eastern now has a streak of scoring in 56-straight quarters dating back to August 30, 2014. Aside from a scoreless fourth quarter in a 41-9 blowout win against Montana Western on Aug. 30, 2014, Eastern has scored in every quarter of every game in the last two seasons (63 of 64 quarters total).

* Despite missing the second half against Northern Iowa on Sept. 12 with a hip pointer, two-time All-America wide receiver Cooper Kupp leads FCS in receptions (24), average catches per game (12.0), reception yards (365), reception yards per game (212.5) and touchdown catches (5). He had nine grabs for 159 yards and touchdowns of 18 and 73 yards in the first half against the Panthers. He also had a pair of highlight-reel catches – a one-handed grab thrown behind him and another with both hands he had to catch at about a 45-degree angle to the ground with a defender on his left hip. A week earlier, 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 42 touchdown catches in his career, moving him the last two weeks from 19th to 11th in FCS history. His 42 touchdowns ranks second all-time in school and Big Sky Conference history behind the records of 46 held by Eric Kimble (2002-05).

* Thanks in part to a school-record 526 passing yards at Northern Iowa on Sept. 12, Eastern leads FCS in passing yards per game (482.0) – a full 82.5 yards ahead of the next-best team (Samford). Eastern is fifth in total offense so far (550.5), as well as 16th in scoring offense (38.5) after leading FCS a year ago with a 44.1 average. Eastern’s 526-yard passing effort at UNI broke the record of 486 set twice against Montana – Oct. 4, 1986, and Sept. 17, 1994.

* Junior Jordan West has been impressive for the Eagles thus far while making just the fifth and sixth starts in his collegiate career. The former invited walk-on currently is sixth in FCS in passing yards per game (321.0) and fourth in completion percentage (.746) while sharing time with redshirt freshman Reilly Hennessey. Hennessey, in fact, in 10th in FCS in completion percentage (.692) and 59th in passing yards per game (161.0) despite essentially playing only three quarters for EWU. Against UNI, West finished 24-of-29 (83 percent) for a career-high 349 yards and three touchdowns against the Panthers for an impressive passing efficiency rating of 211.1. Hennessey was given reps to open the second half and finished 13-of-18 for 177 yards and a touchdown before departing the game with an ankle sprain. One game earlier versus Oregon, West passed for 293 yards and three touchdowns on 23-of-34 passing before leaving the game in the third quarter with a leg cramp. In the first half alone, the junior from Maple Valley, Wash., was 22-of-29 for 277 yards. Hennessey replaced him after the leg cramp and completed 14-of-21 for 145 yards and a pair of scores in his Eagle debut, helping EWU finish with 438 yards of passing offense and 549 total. West, now that he meets the minimums (two seasons and 150 attempts), has moved into third in school history with a passing efficiency rating of 156.3. He ranks only behind Vernon Adams Jr (173.8) and Erik Meyer (166.5), who are ranked 1-2 in Big Sky history and 2-3 all-time in FCS. West, a former walk-on from Maple Valley, Wash. (Liberty High School ’12), was 3-1 as a starter as an injury replacement in 2014 for Adams. West directed EWU to a total of 1,444 yards of offense (361.0 per game) in those four games. For the season, (four games as a starter and three as a sub), he completed 61 percent of his passes (86-of-142) for 1,072 yards, nine touchdowns and one interception. In 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 90 starts between them, including a trio who have combined for 74 career starts. Preseason All-America tackle Clay DeBord has a team-leading 43 starts, while All-America guard Aaron Neary has started 15. In addition, Thomas Gomez has 16, Cassidy Curtis has 11 and T.J. Boatright has five. Curtis missed the Northern Iowa game with a foot injury suffered versus Oregon and will be out until October. DeBord has started every game he has played -- 43 of a possible 45 games the past four seasons. He missed one game each in 2012 and 2013 because of ankle injuries, and has a current consecutive starting streak of 22 games.

* 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 All-America guard Aaron Neary had to move to that position, with his position taken by senior Jay Deines.

* 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.

* 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 handle 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.

* A year after entering the 2014 season with lack of experience at cornerback, the Eagles have plenty of options in 2015. Because of injuries to key players in 2014, the Eagles are as deep as they’ve ever been in the secondary. Starters against Oregon and Northern Iowa were Rashad Wadood and Nzuzi Webster, but they rotated with Victor Gamboa and D’londo Tucker. Tucker, the only returning cornerback from EWU’s 2013 season, was projected as a 2014 starter but missed the season with a knee injury suffered in the spring. Now a backup, Frank Cange won a starting position in 2014, but ruptured his patellar tendon on Aug. 30 and was lost for the season and underwent surgery. After earning a place in the rotation at cornerback early in the 2014 season as a true freshman, Webster (knee) was injured against Washington on Sept. 6, 2014, and was a medical redshirt. Former cornerbacks Jake Hoffman and Moe Roberts, were moved to safety this year because of the abundance of cornerbacks. Hoffman started four games in 2014.

* Nearing the school record for career kickoff return yards, Eastern wide receiver/kickoff returner Shaq Hill has a 24.8 average in his career to rank eighth in school history and his 2,137 total return yards are second. He is just 39 yards from the school record of 2,176 held by Craig Richardson (1983-86). In addition, Hill has caught 101 passes in 41 career games (12 starts) for 1,661 yards, 15 touchdowns and average of 16.4 yards per reception. He has 16 plays of at least 40 yards in his career, including kickoff returns of 99, 93, 90, 80, 53 and 41 yards. He has also been involved in long pass plays of 86, 76, 68, 58, 56, 55, 54, 47, 44 and 40 yards. Late in the 2014 season, Hill received Big Sky Conference Special Teams Player of the Week honors after having a 90-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in EWU’s 56-34 title-clinching win at Portland State on Nov. 21. His return for a TD was the first for EWU since he had a 99-yard return as a freshman versus North Dakota on Oct. 5, 2012. He finished the season averaging 27.1 yards on 21 kickoff returns for the Eagles to rank 13th in FCS.

* The Eagles are now 31-5 all-time at “The Inferno,” with three of the losses coming the past three seasons in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs.  Those 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 23-2 in the regular season at “The Inferno” and 8-3 in the FCS Playoffs. The Eagles have won 16 regular season games in a row at Roos Field dating back to their last loss in the final home game of the 2011 season against Portland State (43-26). The first loss EWU suffered on the red turf was a 36-21 loss to Montana State on Sept. 24, 2011.

* 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. He owns a 67-26 record in seven-plus seasons to currently rank ninth in the 52-year history of the Big Sky with a .713 winning percentage. His 80.4 percent winning percentage in league games (45-11) is fifth all-time in the league.

 
 

More Cooper Kupp Notes

* Kupp now has 42 touchdown catches in his career, ranking 12th in FCS history and second all-time in school and Big Sky Conference history behind the records of 46 held by Eric Kimble (2002-05). He is now just one touchdown catch from the 43 of Southern Utah’s Tysson Poots (2007-10). The FCS record is 58 set by New Hampshire’s David Ball (2003-06).

* Kupp now has 221 career catches to move into a third-place tie in school history with Brandon Kaufman (2009-12). Kupp has 3,547 yards to remain third in school history, 184 yards from second (Brandon Kaufman, 3,731, 2009-12). Kimble owns the Big Sky record for career TD catches and is sixth all-time in FCS history. Kimble also 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).

* Kupp now has 17 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).

* Already with six FCS records, four school marks and a Big Sky record, Kupp has averaged a TD reception for every 5.3 catches so far in his career. He has scored at least once in 26 of 30 games he has played, with 17 performances of at least eight catches and 17 with at least 100 receiving yards. Kupp has started all 30 games he has played in his EWU career, giving him the second-most starts on the team.

* With a career average of 16.0 yards per catch (221-3,547), 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 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: “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

* This is the sixth-straight season the Eagles and Bobcats have both entered their meeting ranked nationally. The last time both teams did not enter the game ranked, neither squad was. Interestingly, that 35-24 victory on Oct. 24, 2009, started a current stretch in which EWU has won 37 of 43 Big Sky Conference games. It also marked the date when EWU retired the No. 71 jersey of NFL standout offensive tackle Michael Roos (Tennessee Titans). Here are the rankings and results of the last five matchups:
2015 (Cheney) - #14 EWU vs. #11 MSU
2014 (Bozeman) - #2 EWU 52, #14 MSU 51
2013 (Cheney) - #3 EWU 54, #4 MSU 29
2012 (Bozeman) - #6 EWU 27, #2 MSU 24
2011 (Cheney) - #4 MSU 36, #21 EWU 21
2010 (Bozeman) - #17 MSU 30, #9 EWU 7

* The Eagles have won 10 of the last 12 meetings against the Bobcats, and are 28-10 overall in the 38-game series dating back to 1948. Eastern has won five of the last six meetings at home (including a 2003 win in Spokane) as well as five of the last six in Bozeman. Overall, Eastern is 15-6 in Bozeman, 12-4 in home games and 1-0 on neutral fields.

* In last year’s non-conference game, the end result was a heart-stopping 52-51 victory by the second-ranked Eagles against the No. 14 Bobcats on Sept. 20 at Bobcat Stadium in Bozeman, Mont. Eastern quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. led Eastern to a 75-yard drive in the final two minutes, then scored on a two-point conversion to provide the game-winning points. Eagle senior running back Quincy Forte rushed for 190 yards and four touchdowns, as the Eagles finished with 582 yards of total offense. Montana State had 547 yards, but the Eagle defense did its part by holding MSU to 0-of-3 on fourth down and forcing a pair of turnovers.

* In 2013 in Cheney, third-ranked Eastern finished with 591 yards of total offense and scored on all eight of its possessions in the 54-29 romp past No. 4 Montana State. The Eagles broke a Big Sky record by averaging 12.3 yards per play (591 yards, 48 plays), eclipsing the old record of 11.1 by more than a yard. Quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. had 300 yards passing (four touchdowns) and 76 yards on the ground (1 TD) for the Eagles, and Quincy Forte rushed for 123 yards and two touchdowns. Mario Brown rushed twice for 47 yards, including a 40-yard run on EWU first offensive play. Shaq Hill had a career-best 172 receiving yards on four catches, and scored on TD plays of 76, 68 and 17 yards. Cooper Kupp finished with eight catches for 110 yards. T.J. Lee III had 14 tackles and an interception for the defense, and linebacker Cody McCarthy added 12 tackles.

* In the 2012 meeting in Bozeman, the Eagles scored only one offensive touchdown and kicked two field goals in a 27-24 victory over the second-ranked Bobcats. Eastern, ranked sixth at the time, scored on a blocked punt by Dylan Zylstra that was recovered for a touchdown by Evan Day, and then Jordan Tonani returned an interception 21 yards for a touchdown to rally EWU from a 17-13 deficit entering the fourth quarter. That victory, coupled with losses by three teams ahead of the Eagles, catapulted the Eagles to a No. 1 ranking in The Sports Network FCS poll.

* In the 2011 meeting, fourth-ranked Montana State out-gained No. 21 Eastern Washington University 129-56 in the fourth quarter and defeated the Eagles 36-21 at sold-out Roos Field in Cheney, Wash. Eastern was behind by just five points early in the fourth quarter, but the Bobcats put together a pair of time-consuming drives to spoil Eastern’s comeback hopes. Jordan Talley rushed for 108 yards and two touchdowns versus the Bobcats in the first start of his Eastern career. Eastern was just 3-of-10 on third downs while the Bobcats were 11-of-18.

* In the 2010 meeting, Montana State redshirt freshman quarterback Denarius McGhee passed for 283 yards and the No. 17 Bobcats used big plays to hand the ninth-ranked Eagles a 30-7 loss Sept. 25, 2010, at Bobcat Stadium in Bozeman, Mont. Montana State had a 439-382 advantage in total offense, but also scored touchdowns on an interception return and a fake field goal. The Eagles would go on

 
 

Injury Report

* The Eagles played the Northern Iowa game on Sept. 12 without three starters – Shaq Hill (knee), Cassidy Curtis (foot) and Zach Bruce (shoulder), as well as running back Jalen Moore (ankle) who is listed as a co-starter. Against UNI, three more Eagles suffered injuries, including Jerrod Jones (knee), who was the replacement for Curtis. Jones, standout receiver Cooper Kupp (hip pointer) and backup quarterback Reilly Hennessey (ankle) also missed significant playing time in the second half with injuries. Curtis had surgery on his foot on Sept. 10 and is expected out until sometime in October. Entering the MSU game, Bruce is listed as probable; Hill, Moore, Jones and Kupp are questionable; and Hennessey is doubtful. The injuries also took away EWU’s top kickoff returner (Hill) and punt returner (Kupp) from Eastern’s arsenal, as well as the team’s two holders on placekicks (Kupp and Hennessey).

 

Quoting Beau Baldwin

On Need for Offensive Balance: “We have to have more balance offensively. We passed for 526 yards and completed 80 percent of our passes against Northern Iowa, but we had to punt eight times. There are a combination of reasons for that – penalties got us out of rhythm, but we were still completing passes. We can win some games along the way, but I’ve always said we can’t be a championship team unless we create more balance in rushing and passing throughout the season.”

On Defense Versus UNI: “We were really good at times defensive – we had six three-and-outs. But it was sporadic and we got out of rhythm in the second and fourth quarters.”

On Injuries: “Regardless of where players are at on our depth chart – and who is in and who is out – it doesn’t matter. We want the injured players back, but moving forward I’m excited about the players who are in there and we should continue to win football games with whoever is coming off the bench.”

On Nic Sblendorio: “I was really proud of Nic, not just for his statistics, but by the look in his eye and how he attacked things. We’ve seen him make some great catches, but he hasn’t been as targeted as much because of all the other receivers around him. But it was awesome to see him to step up in that situation with Shaq being out and Cooper going down. It wasn’t unexpected, but more was put on him and he answered. He just have to keep grinding and be ready to go whenever he is called upon and in whatever role.”

On UNI Loss: “We have to clean up a lot of things. There are a lot of little things in all areas – from a coaching aspect, from a playing aspect and from a discipline aspect. I don’t think there was a lack of effort, but there are certain areas we have to own the fact that we have to be a lot sharper. We have to know that everything matters all week and everything matters when we go on the road. I give Northern Iowa credit – they did a great job.”

On Penalties: “We have to clean up our technique and any other reasons we are getting penalties. Or playing smarter – whatever it might be, we have to do it. Everything we do in practice carries over. Those are things we have to examine as coaches and players, and be humbled to the fact we can’t make any excuses for anything. (Improvement) will come during the week – it isn’t on Saturday and that has to be our mindset as we attack next week.”

On 0-2 Start: “We have to own up to what we are right now. We have to own the fact that it is going to take even that much more. We are in a little bit of a hole at the beginning of the year – nobody wanted to be in it. But every one of us have to figure out what are the little things we have to do to fight our way out of it. But it’s not about the next eight or nine weeks, but what are we going to do tonight and tomorrow in terms of prep for next week. It’s little steps at a time.”

 
 

Career Starts by Returning Players

Defense (121 starts by 18 players): Miquiyah Zamora 24, Todd Raynes 16, Samson Ebukam 15, Matthew Sommer 15, Rashad  Wadood 13, Victor Gamboa 12, Zach Bruce 4, Jake Hoffman 4, Frank Cange 3, Miles Weatheroy 3, Albert Havili 2, Nzuzi Webster 2, Mitch Fettig 2, Andre Lino 2, Jake Gall 1, Jonah Jordan 1, Keenan Williams 1, Alek Kacmarcik 1.

Offense (187 starts by 17 players): Clay DeBord 43, Cooper Kupp 30, Thomas Gomez 16, Aaron Neary 15, Jake Withnell 14, Shaq Hill 12, Zach Wimberly 11, Cassidy Curtis 11, Kendrick Bourne 11, Jordan West 6, Nic Sblendorio 3, T.J. Boatright 5, Jabari Wilson 4, Terry Jackson II 3, Jay Deines 1, Jerrod Jones 1, Conner Baumann 1 (as fullback).

 
 

More Season Notes

* The Eagles have accumulated 1,747 yards – 1,361 through the air -- and 143 points in its last three games against Pac-12 opponents. Those are averages of 582 total yards, 453.7 passing and 47.7 points per game. Eastern had 625 yards (448 passing) in a 49-46 win over Oregon State in 2013 and 573 yards (475 passing) in a 59-52 loss to Washington in 2014, then had 549 (438 passing) in a 61-42 loss to Oregon in 2015. In those three games, Eastern has passed for 16 touchdowns – seven versus the Huskies, five against Oregon and four in the win over the Beavers.

* The Eastern-Northern Iowa matchup on Sept. 12 at the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls, Iowa, was EWU’s 54th all-time game in a dome, with a current record of 27-27 and a two-game losing streak. 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.

* As a testament to the quarterback development skills of the Eagles – notably head coach Beau Baldwin and quarterbacks coach/passing game coordinator Zak Hill – the three quarterbacks on the field when EWU played at Oregon on Sept. 7 combined for 684 yards and seven touchdowns. Eastern’s quarterbacks Jordan West and Reilly Hennessey, as well as former Eagle and current Duck Vernon Adams Jr., were a combined 56-of-80 (70 percent) with two interceptions, for an impressive passing efficiency rating of 165.7. By comparison, that rating would rank fifth on EWU’s single season lists (behind performances by Adams and Erik Meyer, another Baldwin protégé), and third on the career list (again, behind Adams and Meyer).

* The Eagles opened the 2015 season against arguably the toughest opponent in school history when the Eagles visited Autzen Stadium on Sept. 5 to face the Ducks. Continuing a recent trend against Pac-12 opponents, Eastern finished with 549 yards, giving EWU 1,747 yards and 143 points in its last three games against opponents from that league. Eastern had 625 yards and in a 49-46 win over Oregon State in 2013 and 573 yards in a 59-52 loss to Washington in 2014. However, the Ducks finished with 485 rushing yards and 731 total against EWU, ranking as second and third, respectively, against the Eagles in school history. The rushing total was the most in Eastern’s last 198 games since Southern Utah had 535 on Nov. 21, 1998. The total offense total was the most in 72 games since Northern Arizona finished with 747 exactly 11 years later on Nov. 21, 2009.

* The Eagles entered 2015 with the second-most victories and the third-best winning percentage in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision since 2010. Eastern was 52-15 for a winning percentage of .776, while leader North Dakota State was 67-8 in that span with a .893 winning percentage. Harvard had a .860 winning percentage, with 43 wins in 50 games. The next-best Big Sky schools on the list are Montana State (45-18, .714 – sixth in both categories) and Montana (37-20 .649 – 17th in percentage and 19th in wins).

* Eastern returns 12 players who earned All-Big Sky Conference in 2014, including first team selections Cooper Kupp (wide receiver) and Aaron Neary (offensive guard). Defensive end Samson Ebukam is back after earning second team honors, and wide receiver Shaq Hill was a third team selection, along with Kupp as a return specialist. Another eight players return after earning honorable mention, with a total of 25 All-Big Sky honors won by the Eagles a year ago. Kupp repeated on the All-Big Sky first team, and Hill was honored for the third time. He was honored as a wide receiver in 2013 and as a return specialist in 2012. Offensive tackle Clay DeBord earned second team honors  in 2013 and honorable mention in 2014.

* A total of seven NCAA Football Championship Subdivision All-America teams were announced in 2014, and seven Eagles combined for 20 total accolades. Two of them return for the 2015 season – wide receiver Cooper Kupp and offensive guard Aaron Neary. Earning first and second team honors were offensive tackle Jake Rodgers, as well as quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. Adams and Kupp, who earned six first team selections, were repeat first team selections from 2013. Linebacker Ronnie Hamlin, an All-American also in both 2012 and 2013, earned second and fourth team accolades, and safety Tevin McDonald picked up All-America honors as a third and fourth team pick. The other two players to earn All-America recognition were Neary (second team) and punter Jake Miller (fourth team). All but Miller were selected as first team All-Big Sky Conference selections, with Adams picked as the league’s Offensive Player of the Year. Miller was a second team all-league pick.

* The Eagles are 27-3 in their last 30 Big Sky games since a 0-2 start in 2011.  Until an Oct. 25, 2014, loss at Northern Arizona, EWU had won 14 Big Sky Conference games in a row.

* The Eagles finished the 2014 season ranked first in FCS in scoring offense (44.1 per game) and first downs (361 total), second in passing efficiency (162.52), third in total offense (513.4) and second in passing offense (328.2). Eastern converted 48.0 percent of the time on third down (97-of-202) to rank seventh, down from a high of second earlier in the year. Eastern’s red zone offense was second in FCS, scoring 94.9 percent of the time.

* Eastern’s 34 victories from 2012-14 bettered the 2008-2010 and 2009-11 teams which combined to win 27 games each. It’s also the fourth-best in Big Sky Conference history, ranking only behind the 39 games Montana won between 2000-02 and 2007-09, and 38 the Grizzlies won between 1994-96.

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

* Four years after capturing the NCAA Division I Football Championship, the Eagles finished the 2014 season 11-3 overall. Eastern garnered its 17th winning season in the last 19 years, including playoff berths in eight of the last 11 seasons. The 34 victories in the last three seasons represent the best three-year stretch of success in the school’s football history, and fourth-best in the Big Sky.

* The Eagles closed the 2014 season ranked fourth in FCS, marking the fourth time in five seasons the Eagles have ended the year with a top four ranking. Eastern has also spent time at No. 1 in four of the last five seasons (2014, 2012, 2011, 2010), and was as high as second in 2013.

* For the first time, Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin was selected by the American Football Coaches Association as its District 5 Coach of the Year for the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision in 2014. Baldwin made his 11th national playoff appearance as an assistant or head coach at three different classifications. He has now coached in 26 postseason playoff games (record of 16-9-1), including seven appearances in the FCS Playoffs (record of 10-6), two appearances in the NCAA Division II Playoffs (record of 2-2) and two appearances in the NAIA Playoffs (record of 4-1-1). In all, he has coached on teams that have won two national titles (NCAA Division I in 2010; NAIA in 1995) and nine conference championships (Big Sky Conference in 2004, 2005, 2010, 2012, 2013 and 2014; Great Northwest Athletic Conference in 2002; Columbia Football Association in 2000 and 1998). The two-time Big Sky Coach of the Year coached in his 100th game as a collegiate head coach in EWU’s game at NAU on Oct. 25, 2014. The Tacoma, Wash., native has a school-record 45 Big Sky victories are a school record, besting the 34 of the EWU head coach he previously served under, Paul Wulff (2000-2007). Baldwin won his 50th game overall and equaled Wulff’s record for league victories in a 42-37 victory over Montana in 2013. Eastern has advanced at least to the quarterfinals of the FCS Playoffs in four of the last five years under Baldwin. He helped lead EWU to its fourth Big Sky title in five seasons with the school’s second-straight outright title, which came after the school’s first-ever unbeaten conference mark (8-0) in 2013.

* The Eagles won the 2010 NCAA Division I title after Bo Levi Mitchell passed for three touchdowns in the final 16:48 to lead EWU past Delaware 20-19 in the championship game on Jan. 7, 2011, in Frisco, Texas. He was the game’s Most Outstanding Player, an honor he duplicated on Nov. 30, 2014, when he led the Calgary Stampeders to the Grey Cup title by completing 25 of 34 passes for 334 yards to earn game MVP honors. He entered the 2015 season 16-2 as a starter for the Stampeders after going 19-7 as an Eagle. He also led Katy, Texas, High School to an undefeated season and a state championship in 2007.

* Former Eagle Erik Meyer also led his team to a professional title recently. He led the San Jose SaberCats to a 20-1 record in 2015 and the Arena League title with a 68-47 victory over Arizona in ArenaBowl XXVIII. Meyer, the winner of the 2005 Walter Payton Award given to the top player in FCS, passed for four touchdowns and ran for two more, as San Jose became the first team in league history to finish with 20 victories. He passed for 4,057 yards and 93 touchdowns in the regular season, and also rushed for 142 yards and six more scores.

* In November and beyond since 2004, the Eagles are 38-10, including an 11-7 record in the FCS Playoffs. Since 2010, Eastern is now 23-3 overall in November and beyond, with the lone setbacks coming in the FCS Playoffs to Illinois State in 2014 (quarterfinals), Towson in 2013 (semifinals) and Sam Houston State in 2012 (semifinals).

* Eastern has won its last 19 regular season games in November, dating back to a 15-13 loss to Sacramento State on Nov. 1, 2008. Since 2004, EWU has lost just three regular season games in November (Sac State, Weber State in 2006 and Cal Poly in 2005), with an overall record of 27-3.

* Eastern has games against FBS foes scheduled for every year through 2019. The Eagles have scheduled games against Washington State for Sept. 3, 2016, and Sept. 15, 2018. Eastern will play at Texas Tech on Sept. 2, 2017, and will return to Seattle to play Washington on Aug. 31, 2019.  Eastern hadn't played the Cougars since 1908 when the two schools met on Sept. 8, 2012, which resulted in a narrow, 24-20 WSU victory. The Eagles narrowly lost to Washington 30-27 in 2011 and 59-52 in 2014. The 2016 game at WSU will mark the sixth-straight year the Eagles will play a Pac-12 Conference opponent.

* In an announcement made Aug. 8, 2014, Eastern Washington and North Dakota State – the only NCAA Football Championship Subdivision teams to win a national title since 2009 – will play a home-and-home series with each other starting in 2016. The Bison and Eagles will play each other in Fargo on Sept. 10, 2016, then play at "The Inferno" in Cheney, Wash., on Sept. 16, 2017. Eastern won the 2010 title, including an overtime victory over the Bison in the quarterfinals, but NDSU has won every playoff game since, en route to titles in 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014. Although the Eagles have advanced to the semifinals of the playoffs twice and to the quarterfinals once in the last three seasons, they've fallen short of facing the Bison in the title tilt, let alone meeting again in the playoffs. The last team to win the FCS title besides EWU and NDSU? . . . Villanova in 2009 with a 23-21 victory over Montana.

* In yet another schedule announcement, the Eagles announced on July 29, 2014, that they will make a second trip to play at Texas Tech on Sept. 2, 2017. Eastern played Texas Tech on Aug. 30, 2008, in the EWU head coaching debut of Beau Baldwin. Eastern lost that game 49-24 to the Red Raiders, who were coached by current Washington State University head coach Mike Leach. The Eagles would go on and finish 6-5 that season, while Texas Tech finished 11-2 and shared the Big 12 title with Oklahoma and Texas. Although the Red Raiders slipped to 4-8 in 2014, in 2013 Texas Tech finished 8-5 overall and 4-5 in the Big 12 in Kliff Kingsbury's first season as head coach. The Red Raiders closed the season by upsetting No. 14 Arizona State 37-23 in the Holiday Bowl. Texas Tech had the second-best passing offense in FBS in 2013, averaging 392.8 yards per game (Fresno State led with an average of 394.8 per game). Eastern ranked fourth in FCS with an average of 349.8 passing yards per game. In 2014, Texas Tech ranked fifth in FBS in passing (351.1 per game) while Eastern ranked second in FCS in passing (328.6).

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