Eagles are ranked ninth in this week's STATS poll, and have a week off before hosting Cal Poly for Hall of Fame Day & Cancer Awareness Day on Oct. 10
First there was the team passing yardage record, then an individual record for passing efficiency by former walk-on Jordan West. And most recently, another record by West for passing yards.
After breaking Eastern Washington University records three consecutive weeks that had lasted 20-plus years, the Eagle football team enters the bye week No. 1 in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision in passing offense. The Eagles are also ranked in the national polls for a 49th-straight week, holding down the No. 9 position this week in the STATS FCS Top 25 poll. Eastern is also ninth in the coaches poll.
The latest EWU passing record broken was set by West, who passed for 491 yards in Eastern's 28-20 victory last Saturday (Sept. 26) over Sacramento State. One week earlier, he set the school's passing efficiency rating record (313.5) with a 21-of-24 performance for 410 yards and six touchdowns in a 55-50 thriller over Montana State. And in a 38-35 loss at UNI, West and backup Reilly Hennessey combined to throw for 526 yards and set the team's single game passing mark.
It all adds up to a four-game total of 1,865 yards for the Eagles, an average of 466.2 that ranks No. 1 FCS by nearly 90 yards per game. Currently No. 2 in FCS is Sam Houston State at 379.7.
The Eagles are idle this week, then host Cal Poly on Oct. 10 for Hall of Fame Day and Cancer Awareness Day at Roos Field. The Mustangs enter their home game this week versus Idaho State just 1-3 on the season, but have lost to Arizona State, Northern Iowa and Montana State in consecutive weeks after a season-opening victory at Montana.
In other FCS statistics this week, Eastern is second in passing efficiency (191.94), second in completion percentage (.717), third in total offense (590.5) and 10th in scoring offense (40.0).
West leads FCS in passing efficiency (201.6), passing touchdowns (15), passing yards (1,543) and passing yards per game (385.8). He is also second in completion percentage (.724), second in points responsible for (90), second in yards per pass attempt (11.5), third in total offense (391.3 per game) and fourth in points responsible for per game (22.5).
Those are impressive numbers for a player replacing the likes of Vernon Adams Jr., who was the runner-up for the Walter Payton Award the last two years before transferring to Oregon. West has now started eight games as an Eagle (5-3 record).
All three of the records broken date back to the 1990's, so all of EWU's record-breaking All-America quarterbacks since then – Erik Meyer, Matt Nichols, Bo Levi Mitchell and Adams – haven't had quite the numbers the Eagles produced in September.
"It's a tribute to Coach (Zak) Hill and what he's done to coach and develop those quarterbacks," said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin of the trio of West, Hennessey and Gage Gubrud. "It's also a tribute to Jordan and what he's done to work hard and take on this tough challenge. It's something we believe in – we're going to work hard to have great quarterback play. It doesn't matter who it is – we expect great things out of our quarterbacks. We've worked hard to get to this point."
Besides a senior-dominated offensive line and tight end crew, West has been aided by exceptional performances from Eastern's talented receiving crew, featuring record-breaking two-time All-American Cooper Kupp. Kupp had a pair of touchdown catches against Sac State, giving him 47 TD receptions in his career to break the previous EWU and Big Sky records of 46 set by Eric Kimble from 2002-05.
Junior wide receiver Kendrick Bourne also had a huge night in Sacramento, finishing with seven catches for a career-high 204 yards and a 98-yard touchdown. Eastern has now had 11 200-yard performances all-time, and three of them have come this season (two earlier this season by Cooper Kupp with 246 against Oregon and 201 versus Montana State).
Kupp, who is just three touchdowns from matching the career total of 50 by the immortal Jerry Rice, continues to lead FCS in receiving touchdowns (10), receiving yards (759), receiving yards per game (189.8), receptions (46), receptions per game (11.5) and scoring (15.0 per game). He is also second in all-purpose yards per game (193.8).
Bourne is fourth in receiving touchdowns (5), eighth in receiving yards (430), 11th in receiving yards per game (107.5) and 27th in receptions per game (6.0)
Bye Week Comes at a Good Time for Eagles After Surviving in League Opener . . .
More importantly than the gaudy offensive numbers, the Eagles won their league opener for the ninth time in the last 10 years. That gives the Eagles a 28-3 record in their last 31 Big Sky games since a 0-2 start in 2011.
The three-time defending league champions were provided a boost last week by their defense, which held Sac State to no points, five first downs and only 68 yards in the final 30 minutes in helping EWU overcome a 20-7 halftime deficit.
Eastern is expected to practice just Tuesday and Wednesday this week, and the time off will enable the Eagles to heal from a rash of injuries suffered in the first month of the season. Eight total starters – plus some key backups -- have missed games already because of injuries.
"This bye, probably compared to other years, we need as much as I can ever remember," said Baldwin. "And we need to keep growing from it too. The schedule is going to get tougher. Obviously, Cal Poly at home in two weeks is going to be as tough as can be. Then we have two-straight on the road. We have a lot of tough things ahead of us, so we need this bye to grow and get healthy.
"We need a lot of growth if we are going to do great things and be where we need to be at the end of the year," he added.