No. 11 Eagles Open Defense of Big Sky Titles at Hornets

No. 11 Eagles Open Defense of Big Sky Titles at Hornets

In search of a fourth-straight league crown in 2015, Eastern takes explosive offense to Sacramento where EWU hasn’t played since 2011

Complete Weekly Release in .pdf format


2015 Eagle Football

#11 Eastern Washington University "Eagles"
versus
Sacramento State "Hornets"

Saturday, Sept. 26, 2015 • 6:05 p.m. Pacific
Hornet Stadium (21,195) • Sacramento, California


EWU Coach: Beau Baldwin (Central Washington '96)
School Record: 68-27/45-11 Big Sky Conference (8th Season)
Career Record: 78-30 (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: 1-2/0-0 Big Sky
2014: 11-3/7-1 Big Sky (OUTRIGHT CHAMPIONS; FCS Playoffs)
Last Game: #14 EWU 55, #11 Montana State 50 (Sept. 19 in Cheney, Wash.)
TV/Webcast:
watchbigsky.com
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.


Efficiency at home is one thing, but matching that efficiency on the road this week could be another matter.

Coming off a 55-50 non-conference victory in which the 11th-ranked Eagles flirted with its own Big Sky Conference record for yards per play, the Eastern Washington University football team is back on the road this week to face Sacramento State Saturday (Sept. 26) at Hornet Stadium where EWU has never lost and haven’t played since 2011. It’s the league opener for both teams, as EWU seeks its fourth-straight Big Sky title and ninth overall.

The game kicks off at 6:05 p.m. Pacific time and will not be televised, but will be 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.

Eastern is now 1-2 and will take to Sacramento the top passing offense in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision behind the play of National Player of the Week Jordan West. In successive weeks, the junior quarterback has led EWU to a school record for passing yards (526 versus Northern Iowa) and then broke himself a 23-year record for passing efficiency.

The Eagles will face a 1-2 Hornet squad coached by former Eastern assistant Jody Sears, who faced the Eagles as head coach at Weber State in 2012 and 2013. He took over at Sacramento State in 2014, and the Hornets were 7-5 overall to match the highest win total in the school’s NCAA Division I era.

Led by senior middle linebacker Darnell Sankey, who is third in FCS with an average of 14.3 tackles per game (43 total), the Hornets opened the year by defeating Eastern Oregon 41-20 and has lost to Washington (49-0) and Weber State (32-14) the last two weeks.

In six of the last seven meetings, the game has been decided by eight points or less with an average margin of 4.2 points. Sac State has won two of them, including games in which they held the Eagles to 13 and 20 points.

“A lot of times you can look to your head coach to see where you are going to hang your hat, and Jody Sears obviously has a great history on defense,” said Baldwin, who was on staff with Sears under Paul Wulff at EWU from 2003-2006. “You know Sacramento State’s defense is always going to be ready and play extremely hard. They are going to try to get you into a grind-it-out game, and they can be good at doing that. They find ways to get an offense off-rhythm, and on top of that they have talent that will only get better as they go through the year.”

Although last week’s EWU victory didn’t count in the league standings, it can be used in a league tiebreaker situation at the end of the year. Eastern rolled up 667 yards – the fourth-most in school history – in the battle between the two teams picked to win the Big Sky title. Eastern averaged 11.7 yards per play, nearly breaking the school and Big Sky record of 12.3 set two years ago by EWU the last time they faced MSU at Roos Field. As a result of the win over the then 11th ranked Bobcats, Eastern took over at No. 11 in this week’s STATS FCS Top 25 poll.

Eastern continues to be riddled with injuries, with three starters on both sides of the ball missing the Montana State game. With most of the ailing players questionable entering this week, that will make things significantly harder for the Eagles to continue its mastery in Sacramento where EWU is a perfect 11-0 dating back to 1980. Eastern leads the all-time series 17-4, but haven’t met since 2012 when the then top-ranked Eagles survived for a 31-28 home win.

The last time the two teams played in Sacramento was in 2011, and EWU rallied from 15 points down to force overtime and win 42-35. Current Eastern wide receivers coach Nicholas Edwards caught 11 passes for 192 yards and four touchdowns in that game.

 
 

Game Notes

* Having dropped from sixth to 14th in the STATS Top 25 poll after successive losses to open the year, Eastern is back up to 11th this week. In all, five of EWU’s 10 FCS opponents are currently in the STATS poll, including Northern Iowa (#7), Montana (#14), Montana State (#15), Portland State (#17) and Cal Poly (#20). The Eagles have now been ranked in The Sports Network Poll 48-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.

* 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 have won their league opener in eight of the last nine seasons (2006-14), with the lone hiccup coming in 2011 when EWU lost to Montana and Montana State to open its Big Sky schedule.

* Eastern has now 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.

* Just one touchdown reception from equaling the school and Big Sky Conference career records, two-time All-America wide receiver Cooper Kupp leads FCS in receptions (36), receptions per game (12.0), yards (626), yards per game (208.7), touchdown catches (8) and all-purpose yards per game (212.7). He had 12 catches for 201 yards and a trio of touchdown catches in the win over MSU, and had nine grabs for 159 yards and two touchdowns in just one half of action against Northern Iowa. He also had a trio of highlight-reel catches against UNI – a 73-yard TD, 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 45 touchdown catches in his career, moving him this season from 19th to seventh in FCS history. His 45 touchdowns ranks second all-time in school and Big Sky Conference history behind the records of 46 held by Eric Kimble (2002-05).

* Junior Jordan West set a 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 a career-high 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. Tenneson was 10-of-14 for 265 yards and four touchdowns in that game. West’s yardage total is the 23rd-most in school history and his six TDs were one away from the school record. The former invited walk-on now leads the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision in efficiency rating (220.7), touchdowns (12), passing yards (1,052) and points responsible for (72), and is second in percentage (78.2) and third in passing yards per game (350.7). Against Northern Iowa on Sept. 12, West finished 24-of-29 (83 percent) for 349 yards and three touchdowns against the Panthers for an impressive passing efficiency rating of 211.1. Backup Reilly 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 has now started seven games in his career (4-3 record) and has a career passing efficiency rating of 172.8 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 67 percent of his passes for 2,124 yards, nine touchdowns and three interceptions so far in his career, which includes a 3-1 record as an injury replacement in 2014 for Adams. 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 had 667 yards of offense in its 55-50 win over Montana State on Sept. 19, ranking as the fourth-most in school history. The Eagles averaged 11.7 yards per play, and had just 57 offensive plays compared to 104 for the Bobcats. Eastern scored 34 points in the first half with just nine minutes of possession time. All eight of EWU’s touchdown drives were of five plays or less. The EWU and Big Sky record for average per play is 12.3 set in EWU’s 2013 victory at home against Montana State when EWU scored on all eight of its offensive possessions and had 591 yards on just 48 plays.

* The Eagles have now scored 161 points in the last three meetings against Montana State, including 55 in 2014, 52 in 2013 and 54 in 2013. Eastern also scored 51 against the Bobcats in 2004, giving EWU a program high of four 50+ scoring games versus MSU. Eastern has scored 50 or more against Weber State and Idaho State on three occasions. 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 now has a streak of scoring in 60-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 (67 of 68 quarters total).

* Thanks in part to a school-record 526 passing yards at Northern Iowa on Sept. 12 and 410 more against Montana State, Eastern leads FCS in passing yards per game (458.0). The Eagles are second in passing efficiency (201.5) and third in total offense (589.3), as well as sixth in scoring (44.0) 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.

* Eastern was the seventh-most penalized team in FCS (115 out of 121 schools) after the first two weeks, but cleaned up their play considerably against Montana State. The Eagles had just a single holding penalty and one false start for 15 yards of losses against MSU. A week earlier against Northern Iowa, the Eagles had 15 for 159 yards after being whistled for 11 for 78 yards against Oregon. The 159 yards 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’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 94 starts between them, including a trio who have combined for 77 career starts. Preseason All-America tackle Clay DeBord has a team-leading 44 starts, while All-America guard Aaron Neary has started 16. In addition, Thomas Gomez has 17, Cassidy Curtis has 11 and T.J. Boatright has six. Curtis missed the last two games with a foot injury suffered versus Oregon and will be out until October. DeBord has started every game he has played -- 44 of a possible 46 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 23 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. In the next game, freshman redshirt Nick Ellison made the first start of his career at right tackle.

* 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.

* 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 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.  Gamboa and Webster started versus Montana State on Sept. 19. 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 32-5 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 24-2 in the regular season at “The Inferno” and 8-3 in the FCS Playoffs. The Eagles have won 17 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 68-27 record in seven-plus seasons to currently rank ninth in the 52-year history of the Big Sky with a .716 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 45 touchdown catches in his career, ranking seventh 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 five 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).

* Kupp is now second in school history for career receptions (233) and reception yards (3,748), and is ninth in career all-purpose yards (4,026). 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 18 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 5.2 catches so far in his career. He has scored at least once in 27 of 31 games he has played, with 17 performances of at least eight catches and 18 with at least 100 receiving yards. Kupp has started all 31 games he has played in his EWU career, giving him the second-most starts on the team.

* With a career average of 16.1 yards per catch (233-3,748), 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: “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

* Hornet Stadium is definitely a home-away-from-home for the Eastern football team. Actually, home-field advantage hasn’t meant much for either team in the past 13 meetings in the series. Thanks to a record-setting four touchdown receptions by current Eagle wide receivers coach Nicholas Edwards in a 2011 meeting, Eastern rallied from a 15-point deficit to defeat Sacramento State 42-35 in overtime and kept EWU perfect in 11 tries versus the Hornets in Sacramento. The Eagles lead the all-time series 17-4, with all four losses coming in Cheney. But even stranger than being perfect in Sacramento is the fact that in the last 13 meetings between EWU and Sac State, the home team has won only three times (EWU 45-10 in 2004, 28-24 in 2010 and 31-28 in 2012). Eastern is 6-0 in Sacramento and 3-4 in Cheney in those 13 meetings. “I don’t know, maybe we’ll wear away jerseys next year against them,” laughed Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin after the 2009 meeting. “I just think it’s a little bit of a fluke -- the outcomes of those games just worked out that way. But I do think our players do a good job of traveling -- I always thought that way back when I was an assistant. They are really mature and locked-in to what they are on the road to do, and I think it shows on the field.”

* In the most recent meeting in 2012, Eastern responded with touchdowns the first three times Sacramento State scored and used three Jimmy Pavel field goals to escape with a 31-28 victory on Oct. 20 in a Big Sky Conference game at Roos Field in Cheney, Wash. The game ended with Sacramento State at the Eastern 45-yard line, but the Eagles did enough up to that point to pull out a Homecoming win as the newly-crowned No. 1 ranked team in FCS. Pavel made field goals of 24, 40 and 47 yards for the Eagles, as he remained perfect for the season (11-of-11). Quarterbacks Vernon Adams and Kyle Padron combined to complete 26-of-37 passes for 342 yards and three touchdowns. They also combined to rush for 62 yards. Senior Greg Herd caught nine passes for 109 yards and a pair of scores, and junior Brandon Kaufman added six grabs for 102 yards and a TD. Linebacker Grant Williams, filling in for the fourth-straight game for the injured Zach Johnson (hamstring), had a team-leading 12 tackles. Defensive end Jerry Ceja had a sack for the Eagles as he increased his season total to eight. Ronnie Hamlin, who entered the game with a team-leading 61 tackles, chipped in eight stops.

* In the 2011 meeting in Sacramento, a record-setting four touchdown receptions by Nicholas Edwards (currently EWU’s wide receivers coach) helped EWU rally from a 15-point deficit to defeat Sacramento State 42-35 in overtime. True freshman Jordan Talley provided the winning points with a 1-yard TD run to open overtime. Eastern held on a fourth-and-goal play from its own 3-yard line to preserve Eastern’s fourth-straight victory. Edwards finished with 11 catches for a career-high 192 receiving yards, and tied a school record with his four TD receptions. True freshman Quincy Forte added 87 yards rushing on just 11 carries in the first start of his career as EWU finished with 456 yards of total offense. Greg Herd added seven catches for 81 yards for the Eagles. Another true freshman, linebacker Cody McCarthy, led the Eagles with a career-high 12 tackles. Junior safety Jeff Minnerly added nine and sophomore Ronnie Hamlin chipped in seven. The Hornets played the game without injured quarterback Jeff Fleming, but still managed to run for 313 yards and pass for another 232 for a total of 545 versus the injury-decimated Eagles. Sac State pulled ahead with 2:44 left, but Eastern, thanks to a converted fourth-and-five play, tied it with a 68-yard TD drive, capped by a 22-yard diving catch by Edwards for a touchdown with 55 ticks remaining. In overtime, Eastern needed 10 plays to get into the end zone, then Sac State appeared to be on its way to score with a 15-yard run on the first play. But three Hornet plays yielded seven yards before the game ended on a fourth down incompletion from the Eagle 3-yard line.

* The Eagles entered their 2010 meeting ranked eighth in FCS, but needed a late defensive stop and a short touchdown drive to pull-out another victory, 28-24, at Roos Field. The win was one of six victories EWU had that season when tied or trailing in the fourth quarter, as the Eagles finished 13-2 and won the NCAA Division I title. Eastern led 21-0 early in the second quarter, but was out-scored 24-0 to fall behind mid-way through the fourth quarter. But the Eagles responded -- much like they did all season -- with a key defensive stop that was highlighted by a third down sack by sophomore defensive end Paul Ena followed by a 35-yard scoring drive that was capped by a Brandon Kaufman 6-yard touchdown catch from Bo Levi Mitchell with 33 seconds to play. Taiwan Jones rushed for 145 yards, including a 77-yard touchdown run in which he broke five tackles on his way to his 10th career play of at least 70 yards. Eastern’s defense, which was on the field for 82 plays compared to 56 plays for EWU’s offense, had three sacks, two interceptions and broke-up nine passes. Zach Johnson led the way with 12 tackles and a pair of passes broken up, and his twin brother Matt Johnson had nine tackles, an interception (the 14th of his career) and broke-up three passes. Eastern had a 212-110 lead in total offense early in the game, but over the span of Sac State’s 24-0 run, the Hornets out-gained Eastern 267-66. Sacramento State finished with 398 yards of offense and EWU had 323.

*In the 2009 meeting in Sacramento, the 19th-ranked Eagles scored 35 first-half points and went on to hold-off Sacramento State 56-30 in sweltering heat at Hornet Stadium. Eastern’s 2009 win over Sac State avenged a 15-13 home setback to the Hornets the previous year. In the 2008 meeting, the Eagles had 363 passing yards and 23 first downs, but had three turnovers, were 0-for-6 on third down and had minus 31 yards rushing. In 2009, Eastern had one turnover, were 10-of-14 on third down and had 283 yards rushing.

 
 

Eagle-Sac State Connections

* Eastern running backs coach Kiel (pronounced Kyle) McDonald played 10 games in the 2005 season at Sacramento State before transferring to Idaho. A Big Sky All-Academic selection, McDonald finished his junior season at Sac State with 17 tackles, one interception and four passes broken up before graduating with honors (Cum Laude) in the spring of 2006. He also played at Sacramento City College, earning honorable mention All-NorCal Conference honors as a sophomore.

* Eastern wide receivers coach Nicholas Edwards earned a variety of national NCAA Football Championship Subdivision honors following EWU’s 2011 victory against Sacramento State. He was The Sports Network/Fathead.com co-National Player of Week after tying a school record with four touchdown receptions in EWU’s 42-35 come-from-behind overtime victory on Oct. 22, 2011. He also earned National Performer of the Week and National Wide Receiver of the Week from College Football Performance Awards, and earned Beyond Sports College Network FCS Player of the Week accolades. Edwards, who finished with 11 catches for 192 yards, was named Big Sky Conference Offensive Player of the Week as well.

* Eastern has 16 players from California on its current roster, including backup tight end Terry Jackson II from Sacramento (Bella Vista HS ’11). Starters from California include cornerback Nzuzi Webster (Antioch/Deer Valley HS ’14), as well as his twin brother Simba, a backup wide receiver. Co-starters at running back, Jabari Wilson (Carson/Orange Lutheran HS ’12) and Jalen Moore (La Puente/Bishop Amat HS ’12) are from California, as are starting cornerback Rashad Wadood (Long Beach/Lakewood HS ’11), starting wide receiver Shaq Hill (Stockton/Brookside Christian HS ’11) and punter Jordan Dascalo (Woodland Hills/Taft HS ‘13).

 
 

Injury Report

* Six starters and several other players missed the Montana State game on Sept. 19, a week after four starters were missing from the Northern Iowa game. Those out against the Bobcats included starting right tackle Cassidy Curtis (foot), as well as his replacement, Jerrod Jones (knee/shin). The other five missing starters or co-starters were running back Jalen Moore (ankle), wide receiver Shaq Hill (knee), strong-side linebacker Jake Gall (hip pointer), defensive end Jonah Jordan (ankle) and rover Todd Raynes (hamstring). Backup center Spencer Blackburn (thumb) and reserve wide receiver Jalani Phelps (ankle) were also unavailable against MSU. Hill, Curtis, Moore and Zach Bruce (shoulder) missed the Northern Iowa game, and Cooper Kupp (hip pointer) and backup quarterback Reilly Hennessey (ankle) also missed significant playing time in the second half 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). Bruce returned to play against Montana State, but then injured his knee. True freshman running back Sam McPherson (ankle) and junior running back Jabari Wilson were also injured against MSU. Curtis had surgery on his foot on Sept. 10 and is expected out until sometime in October. Entering the Sacramento State game, Jones is probable; Jordan, Gall, Raynes, Hill, Moore, McPherson, Wilson, Phelps and Hennessey are questionable; and Curtis and Blackburn are out.

 
 

Quoting Beau Baldwin

On Flow of EWU-MSU Game: “There were still a lot of plays being made on both sides, even with all the ridiculous yards both teams had. We got a turnover on defense, had two fourth-down stops and forcing them to kick a field goal at the end of the first half was big. It still had some back-and-forth flow to it in terms of offense and defense. In the end, our players found a way to beat a very good Montana State team with, in my opinion, one of the best players in the country.”

On Efficiency Versus MSU: “We’ve made big plays and had that time of explosion at different times in the past, but not that many times in one game to have that many short touchdown drives. Our defense played with great effort and gave everything they had, but you are going to get a little tired in a game like that. The rate of which we were scoring was putting even more strain on our defense coming back on the field. But that was the type of game we were in, and we had to find a way to win. We have to continue to build the depth of our team so that more players can rotate and play, so when we end up in games like this we are ready to handle it. Montana State wasn’t going to pack it in – they kept fighting all the way to the end.”

On Offensive Line Versus MSU: “They responded in a big way, and the tight ends as well. Jabari had the biggest game of his career and did a great job. Our running backs averaged more than 10 yards per carry as a unit, so that said a lot about what we are capable of doing up front. But we have to do that every week and have to have that mindset. We said it a week earlier, you can throw for a zillion yards but you can’t be a championship caliber football team unless you have the ability to be balanced.”

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.”

 
 

Career Starts by Returning Players

Defense (132 starts by 19 players): Miquiyah Zamora 25, Todd Raynes 16, Samson Ebukam 16, Matthew Sommer 16, Rashad  Wadood 13, Victor Gamboa 13, Zach Bruce 4, Jake Hoffman 4, Frank Cange 3, Miles Weatheroy 4, Nzuzi Webster 3, Mitch Fettig 3, Andre Lino 3, Keenan Williams 2, Alek Kacmarcik 2, Albert Havili 2, Jake Gall 1, Jonah Jordan 1, Cole Karstetter 1.

Offense (198 starts by 18 players): Clay DeBord 44, Cooper Kupp 31, Thomas Gomez 17, Aaron Neary 16, Jake Withnell 14, Shaq Hill 12, Zach Wimberly 12, Cassidy Curtis 11, Kendrick Bourne 12, Jordan West 7, Nic Sblendorio 4, T.J. Boatright 6, Jabari Wilson 5, Terry Jackson II 3, Nick Ellison 1, Jay Deines 1, Jerrod Jones 1, Conner Baumann 1 (as fullback).

 
 
 

Previous Game Recap

A record-setting performance from junior quarterback Jordan West and 188 rushing yards from Jabari Wilson propelled Eastern to a 55-50 victory over visiting Montana State in a non-conference game on Sept. 19 at Roos Field in Cheney, Wash. Eastern’s home opener at “The Inferno” was attended by 10,912 fans – the fifth-largest crowd in school history. EWU improved to 1-2 after earning its first win of the season while Montana State dropped to 1-1 with the loss. Eastern scored after stopping MSU twice on fourth down to take an early 14-0 lead, and led 34-14 late in the second quarter. The Eagles led by 17 in the second half before MSU rallied to pull within 55-50 with 4:13 left to play. Eastern then picked up a pair of first downs on its final offensive possession, including a 30-yard completion from West to Cooper Kupp with 2:30 to play, to help run all but 33 seconds off the clock. Although the Eagles missed a field goal attempt, redshirt freshman Nzuzi Webster snagged his first career pick – EWU’s first interception of the season -- and secured the win for the Eagles. West completed 21 of his 24 pass attempts on the day, throwing for 410 yards and six touchdowns. His 313.5 efficiency rating set a new school record, topping the previous mark of 310.4 set by Mark Tenneson exactly 23 years earlier on Sept. 19, 1992. Kupp continued his strong start to the season, finishing with 12 catches for 201 yards and three touchdowns. Sophomore Nic Sblendorio also had an impressive outing, tallying 120 receiving yards and one score on just three catches. Junior Jabari Wilson needed just 17 carries to notch his career high in rushing, and included a long rush of 62 yards. Freshman Alek Kacmarcik led all defensive players with 18 tackles – equaling the eight-most in school history -- while juniors Zach Bruce and Miquiyah Zamora recorded 10 tackles apiece. Freshman Kurt Calhoun made eight tackles and recorded the lone sack of MSU’s Dakota Prukop, who ran for 196 yards and passed for 353 in the loss. The two teams combined for 1.385 total yards of offense, and Montana State finished with a school-record 40 first downs. Eastern’s eight touchdown drives were all five plays or less and lasted an average just under 90 seconds. Eastern scored its first 34 points on just nine minutes of possession time.

 
 

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 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.

* 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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