The first-quarter explosion was only a flare-up compared to the third quarter.
With Cooper Kupp breaking yet another NCAA Football Championship Subdivision career record, the Eastern Washington University football team erupted for 35 points in the third quarter and rolled past UC Davis 63-30 in a Big Sky Conference game Saturday (Oct. 1) at Roos Field in Cheney, Wash.
Already the FCS leader in career touchdown receptions, Kupp broke the FCS record for career receiving yards against UC Davis. His current total of 5,417 broke the record of 5,250 set by Elon's Terrell Hudgins from 2006-09. Kupp has a record 63 career receiving TDs, and is second on the all-time FCS receptions list (352, 43 behind the record of 395 set by Elon's Terrell Hudgins from 2006-09).
The Eagles scored all of their points in the first 49:44 of the game en route to EWU's highest-scoring game since 2001 when the Eagles had 63 versus Cal State Northridge and 66 two games earlier versus Simon Fraser. The 63 points equaled EWU's best as a member of FCS and in a Big Sky game.
Kupp finished with 12 catches for 274 yards and TD receptions of 71 and 32 yards, coming one yard from his own school record of 275. Quarterback Gage Gubrud had 254 passing yards in the third quarter alone, and finished with 486 to come five from the school record of 491. Eastern had 627 yards of total offense – the ninth-most in school history – including a 131-0 advantage after two possessions each for the Eagles and Aggies.
The outcome was a fitting result for EWU's annual Hall of Fame Game, which featured the induction of former Eagle All-American and Tennessee Titans All-Pro offensive tackle Michael Roos. In addition, Roos and his wife, Katherine, were recognized with the Eastern Athletics Service and Contribution Award for their ongoing support of the Eagles, including a $500,000 pledge toward the red turf at the stadium that now bears his name.
Won-Lost Records . . .
* Eastern is 4-1 and 2-0 in the Big Sky Conference, and the Aggies are now 1-4 and 0-2 in the league. Eastern was picked to finish as high as third in the league, while UC Davis was picked 12th in the media poll and 13th by the coaches. Eastern has now won all five previous meetings against the Aggies – 2005, 2007, 2012, 2014 and 2016.
* Entering the game, Eastern remained fourth in this week's STATS FCS Top 25 poll, and also held steady at fifth in the coaches poll. North Dakota State remains No. 1 in both polls. In the Athlon Power Rankings, the Eagles are second behind North Dakota State.
What It Means . . .
* The Eagles have won 34 of their last 40 Big Sky games since a 0-2 start in 2011. Eastern has won 24 of its last 28 league games, with the lone losses coming against Montana and Portland State in 2015 and Northern Arizona in both 2015 and 2014. An Oct. 25, 2014, loss at Northern Arizona snapped EWU's 14-game conference winning streak and a home loss against the Lumberjacks on Nov. 7, 2015, ended a streak of eight Big Sky wins in a row. Including non-conference victories (two versus MSU and one against Cal Poly) and a playoff win (Montana), the Eagles have won 28 of their last 32 versus conference foes.
What's Next . . .
* The Eagles remain at home on Oct. 8 to face Northern Colorado at 1:05 p.m. Pacific time for Homecoming and Military/Veterans Appreciation Day. After a bye on Oct. 15, Eastern's next road game will be at Montana State on Oct. 22 in a league game. Montana, a perennial playoff participant and Big Sky title contender, will visit Cheney on Oct. 29. After a road game at Cal Poly on Nov. 5, the Eagles will have Senior Day on Nov. 12 against Idaho State. Eastern closes the regular season Nov. 18 (Friday) at Portland State, which joined Montana as runner-up in the league last season and advanced to the playoffs.
Keys to Game . . .
* After leading 14-0 after one quarter and then trailing 23-14 at halftime, Eastern's third-quarter outburst including a commanding 302-83 advantage in total offense. In five games this season, EWU has outscored opponents 87-21 in the third quarter. The Eagles have trailed in every game, including four times at halftime. EWU has been outscored 79-48 in the second quarter this season, including 23-0 versus UC Davis.
Turning Point . . .
* Just like he did against Northern Iowa on Sept. 17 when he had a 93-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to open the second half against Northern Iowa, true freshman Antoine Custer provided a third quarter spark for the Eagles against the Aggies. He opened the third quarter with a 55-yard return this time, leading to a short touchdown drive to pull EWU within 23-21. The lead changed hands twice before the Eagles score the final 35 points of the game
Top Performers . . .
* Sophomore Gage Gubrud completed 33-of-46 passes for 486 yards and six touchdowns. He was five yards shy of the school record of 491 set last season by teammate Jordan West versus Sacramento State, and one TD shy of the record of seven set by Vernon Adams Jr. versus Washington in 2014.
* Senior Cooper Kupp caught 12 passes for 274 yards and a pair of touchdowns. It was the 26th time in his 43-game career (all as a starter) he has had at least 100 yards, and his 12th with at least 10 catches. He came just one yard from his school record of 275 yards set last year versus Northern Colorado when he also had a record 20 catches.
* Senior Shaq Hill and senior Kendrick Bourne each had two touchdown grabs and 82 receiving yards, with Hill catching seven and Bourne finishing with eight.
* Junior D'londo Tucker made his first start of the season and had a pair of tackles, a pass broken up and an interception he returned 27 yards for a touchdown. His return gave EWU a 56-30 lead eight seconds into the fourth quarter.
* Senior safety Zach Bruce, the Big Sky Conference tackles leader entering the game, finished with six stops.
* Senior Miquiyah Zamora led Eastern with 10 tackles, the eighth time in his career he has hit double figures.
* Junior Jay-Tee Tiuli had four tackles, including a pair of sacks and a quarterback hurry.
Key Stats . . .
* The Eagles finished with 627 yards of offense, its most of the year and the ninth-most in school history. Eastern had a 192-50 advantage in the first quarter and a 235-16 disadvantage in the second quarter. In the second half, Eastern had 419 yards compared to 130 for the Aggies.
* Eastern entered the game as the FCS leader in passing offense, with an average of 419.5 yards per game. The Eagles were also third in total offense (526.3), sixth in scoring offense (43.3), eighth in third down conversions (47.6 percent), ninth in completion percentage (.677) and ninth in passing efficiency (160.65).
* Just four starts into his career, sophomore Gage Gubrud entered as the FCS leader in total offense at 416.5 per game, passing yards (1,430), passing yards per game (357.5), and points responsible for (90), and was second in passing touchdowns (12), fourth in points responsible per game (23.0), 14th in passing efficiency (157.9) and 15th in completion percentage (.667). Teammate Cooper Kupp missed 1 1/2 games with a shoulder injury, but was still second in receiving yards per game (126.3), third in receptions per game (9.7) and fourth in receiving touchdowns (5). Senior Kendrick Bourne was sixth in receptions per game (7.8) and sixth in receiving yards per game (118.0).
Team Highlights . . .
* EWU won the turnover battle 3-1, and in eight-plus seasons (2008-present) under head coach Beau Baldwin, the Eagles are 43-1 when they've won the turnover battle, 18-5 when they've been tied and 16-25 when they've lost (total of 76-31). The last time EWU lost when it won the turnover battle came in the 2009 FCS Playoffs at Stephen F. Austin when EWU had two miscues and forced four in the 44-33 loss. Thus, EWU is 34-0 since 2010 when they've won the turnover battle, 15-4 when they've been tied and 14-18 when they've lost.
Milestones & Records . . .
* Eastern played the UC Davis game without a pair of offensive linemen, including senior starting center Jerrod Jones (knee) and backup Will Gram (concussion).
* With 171 career receptions for 2,483 yards and 23 touchdowns, senior Kendrick Bourne now ranks in the top nine in all three categories in school history. His touchdowns ranks eighth, his receptions are seventh and his yards are ninth.
* Teammate Shaq Hill has 129 career catches for 2,030 yards and 19 touchdowns. His touchdowns rank 12th in school history, and he is eight catches from the No. 21 position and 31 yards from ranking 18th in yards.
* With three double figures tackle performances in a row now, senior Miquiyah Zamora has 298 career tackles, moving him into 10th in school history. The next player for him to catch is Dion Alexander with 313 from 1992-95.
Notables . . .
* Eastern 16th induction class in the Eastern Athletes Hall of Fame was introduced at halftime, highlighted by former Eagle and Tennessee Titan football player Michael Roos. An All-American at Eastern, Roos was inducted after a 10-year All-Pro career as an offensive tackle with the Tennessee Titans of the National Football League. Roos and his wife, Katherine, were also be presented the Eastern Hall of Fame Service and Contribution Award. Three other individuals were also inducted, including high jumper Becky Nelson-Clark who won a national high jump title at Roos Field when it was previously known as Woodward Field. The 1976-77 men's basketball team and its point guard, Ed Waters, were inducted, as was two-time track and field All-American Steve Kiesel. The former Eagle Athletic Association was also recognized with the Service and Contribution Award.
* The 2016 football season at Eastern Washington University marks the 50th season Eastern has played its football games at its current site in Cheney, Wash. But this is the seventh as "Roos Field," as a new red synthetic Sprinturf surface made its debut in 2010. Eastern finished a perfect 8-0 in its debut season at "The Inferno," including three playoff victories, and is 35-7 overall since the turf was installed. Eastern has a 149-62 record (71 percent) in 211 games at Roos Field since 1967, with the Eagles utilizing Joe Albi Stadium in Spokane as the school's main home field from 1983-89.
Head Coach Beau Baldwin Comments . . .
On Second Half: "We did respond and it was explosive. It took all facets to do that, whether it was another big kickoff return, turnovers on defense or scoring on defense. Scoring 35 in the third quarter was kind of crazy. I don't look at it as pounding our chest, I look at it as what do we need to do better when we get a 14-0 lead? And what do we need to do better to continue to play better in the second quarter? We were solid right off the bat, because it's two weeks in a row we've been in that position. The game is 60 minutes and I love our guys – they just find a way to explode in all facets in that third quarter no matter what the score is."
On Defense: "Their offensive line does a good job, and their running backs are just tough. They break some tackles and do some things well, but we need to wrap-up better. Once we fit up better and wrapped up better, we put them in some more uncomfortable situations. Especially once we were able to play with a little bit of a lead – it put them in a tougher spot."
On Possibility of Replacing Gage: "We talked about it not so much about Gage, but we know how good Reilly and Jordan can be. We definitely wanted to go into the third quarter and see where Gage was, and he answered that right from the get-go. We adjusted some things we were doing to try to put him in the right situation to have success. He was able to go make the plays."
On Wide Receivers: "They continued to keep that peddle down until we got into run-the-ball mode, and I liked the way we did that at the end of the game too. To have three receivers do that is kind of crazy, but there are things we have to look to clean up."
On Kupp: "He's different, he just is. He inspires us in so many ways, just to keep working and grinding. That's what he is. He's a leader in this program and this entire University with how he does things and handles himself. Ultimately, it's obvious what we see on the field, and he does all the little things for us. It's great to have him back this year."
On 4-1 Start: "I'm proud, but like any competitive person I'm looking at the things we have to clean-up and the things we have to improve. I want to be more consistent offensively and defensively, and I feel like we've just been a little sporadic., especially in our two home games. We've been good, but then not so good in stretches of time. We have to figure that out, but we're 2-0 in the conference and every game in this conference is hard to win. And it's always hard to come from behind, and we have found a way to do that in every game this season. Our players are resilient that way, and as long as we have that, we know we always have a shot to win."