Eastern’s offense generates 549 yards – 438 through the air -- in season-opener versus Oregon of the Pac-12 Conference
Eastern Washington University’s offense, under the direction of a pair of quarterbacks and wide receiver Cooper Kupp, was up to the task.
But Oregon scored the first five times it had the ball and the Ducks of the Pac-12 Conference went on to defeat Eastern Washington 61-42 Saturday (Sept. 5) at Autzen Stadium in Eugene, Ore.
Kupp finished with career highs of 15 catches for 246 yards – both Autzen Stadium records. The junior wide receiver had three touchdown receptions to give him 40 in his career, moving him into 12th in FCS history and just six behind the Big Sky Conference and EWU records.
Junior quarterback Jordan West passed for 293 yards and three touchdowns 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. Reilly Hennessey passed for 145 yards and a pair of scores, helping EWU finish with 438 yards of passing offense and 549 total.
“We came in here and fought for 60 minutes,” said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin. “We had a mindset that if we could find a way to be there late in the game, maybe a bounce here or there would decide it. But we knew it would take a lot of good things to happen because they have such a great program.”
Won-Lost Records . . .
The game was the season-opener for both teams, which finished last year among the top four teams in their respective divisions. Eastern entered the 2015 season ranked No. 6 nationally in both the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Coaches Poll and the STATS FCS Poll. Oregon, the runner-up a year ago in the first-ever college playoff in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision, was No. 7 in the preseason Associated Press poll for FBS schools.
What It Means . . .
With its annual game versus a FBS foe behind them – not to mention arguably the toughest opponent they’ve ever faced -- the Eagles can now focus on becoming a force once again in FCS and the Big Sky Conference. Eastern has actually played a higher-ranked FBS team before, but none coming off the storybook season the Ducks had a year ago when they lost 42-20 to Ohio State in the championship game of the inaugural College Football Playoff. In 2006, Eastern fell at No. 6 West Virginia 52-3.
What’s Next . . .
The Eagles play at Northern Iowa of the Missouri Valley Conference on Sept. 12 and at home versus Montana State on Sept. 19 in games against teams ranked 10th and 11th, respectively, in the STATS preseason top 25 poll. In all, four of EWU’s 10 FCS opponents are in that poll, including Montana (#13) and Idaho State (#22), with Cal Poly (#28) and Northern Arizona (#32) close behind.
Tweet of the Game . . .
Keys to Game . . .
Oregon scored on its first five possessions, using scoring drives of 63, 70, 62, 77 and 61 yards to take a 34-14 lead with 10:37 left in the second quarter. The Ducks had 452 yards of offense in the first half and 731 in the game. Royce Freeman rushed for a career-high 180 yards and three touchdowns for Oregon, with 105 yards and two TDs in the first half.
Top Performers . . .
Junior quarterback Jordan West completed 23-of-34 passes for 293 yards and a trio of touchdowns, and redshirt freshman Reilly Hennessey was 14-of-21 for 145 yards and two touchdowns in relief. Junior Cooper Kupp caught 15 passes for 246 yards and three scores, with junior Kendrick Bourne adding five grabs for 60 yards and a TD. Junior Jabari Wilson had 43 yards and a touchdown rushing. Senior Miles Weatheroy led Eastern’s defense with nine tackles, and redshirt freshman Mitch Fettig had eight tackles and a fumble recovery in his Eagle debut.
Key Stats . . .
The two teams combined for 1,280 yards of offense, including 751 in the first half alone. Former Eagle and two-time Walter Payton Award runner-up Vernon Adams Jr. had 181 yards passing in the first half on 14-of-20 passing, and finished the game 19-of-25 for 246 yards and two touchdowns. Adams also rushed for 94 yards in his debut as a Duck after transferring to Oregon after the 2014 season. As a result, he handed the reins as EWU’s quarterback to West, who was 3-1 as a starter in place of Adams in the 2014 season.
Turning Point . . .
After EWU cut the score to 34-21 late in the second quarter, the Eagle defense stopped the Ducks on a fourth down play. But the Eastern offense followed with a three-and-out, leading to a half-ending 58-yard drive by Oregon, capped by a 38-yard field goal to give UO at 37-21 halftime bulge.
Team Highlights . . .
Eastern finished with 549 yards, giving EWU 1,747 yards and 143 points in its last three games against Pac-12 opponents. 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.
Milestones & Records . . .
* Two-time All-America wide receiver Cooper Kupp now has 40 touchdown catches in his career, moving him from 19th to 12th in FCS history. His 40 touchdowns ranks second all-time in school and Big Sky Conference history behind the records of 46 held by Eric Kimble (2002-05). Kupp also went over the 200-catch mark in his career. He now has 212 career catches, and is one from moving into fifth (Tony Davis, 213, 2006-09). Kupp has 3,368 yards to already move into third in school history, 363 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).
Notables . . .
* Eastern now has a streak of scoring in 52-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 scored in every quarter of every game in the last two seasons (59 of 60 quarters total).
* Eastern is now 1-5 versus nationally-ranked FBS teams, starting with an 84-13 loss at Houston in 1990. Eastern then lost at No. 6 West Virginia 52-3 in 2006, 49-24 at No. 12 Texas Tech in 2008 and 59-7 at No. 10 Cal in 2009. Eastern then became only the fourth FCS school since the division was created in 1978 to beat a ranked FBS opponent when the Eagles defeated Oregon State 49-46 in 2013.
* Since the early 1980's when it began the move to become a member of the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (in 1984), Eastern is now 9-24 all-time versus Football Bowl Subdivision teams. Against current Pac-12 Conference members, EWU now 1-9 (1-11 including losses to Washington State in 1907 and 1908), with the lone victory a 49-46 upset of 25th-ranked Oregon State in 2013. Eastern has won two of its last six games versus FBS foes, and the accumulative score in the previous six games was 189-195.
* Eastern has games against FBS foes scheduled for every year through 2019. The Eagles also 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.
Head Coach Beau Baldwin Comments . . .
“Oregon is a premier program, and they do so many things well and have for so many years. We knew we would have to find a way to steal a possession here and there and do some good things. But our players fought – there are lot of things to clean up and learn from. But I have so much respect for this Oregon program.”