By Dave Cook
Special to College Sports Journal
Editor’s Note: This story is courtesy of Eastern Washington athletics
POCATELLO, ID — Some college players would be happy with a complete career in what Cooper Kupp has accomplished in three games against Idaho State. Eagle head coach Beau Baldwin is simply overjoyed for his defense.
The junior wide receiver broke the school record for career receptions and inched closer to the Big Sky Conference all-time mark as the Eastern Washington University football team beat Idaho State 45-28 Saturday (Oct. 17) at Holt Arena.
Kupp also had a touchdown pass and returned a punt 76 yards in the game, but it was the play of the defense that most impressed Baldwin. The Eagles forced four turnovers, made ISU punt on three drives of five plays or less and stopped the Bengals on downs twice.
“It was a huge day for both sides of the ball, and a huge break-out game for our defense to get a bunch of turnovers and a bunch of stops,” said Baldwin. “Even one of the touchdowns they scored was late in the game, and another was a five-yard drive.”
Playing just his 34th game as an Eagle, Kupp had 14 catches for 161 yards and a pair of scores to move past Eric Kimble for the school record with 261 career catches and rank second in Big Sky history and 15th all-time in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision. Kupp broke Kimble’s record of 253, and he is only seven behind the league record of 268 set by Kasey Dunn of Idaho (1988-91).
Kupp, whose brother Ketner Kupp had an interception and six tackles on defense, also had a touchdown pass to quarterback Jordan West and returned a punt 76 yards for a TD in the third quarter.
In three career games now against Idaho State, Kupp has 30 catches for 498 yards and seven touchdowns, Kupp who led FCS in receiving, receiving yards and receiving TDs entering the game, had just four catches for 21 yards in his previous game against Cal Poly on Oct. 10.
“It’s a group effort and these players keep grinding and finding a way,” Baldwin added of EWU’s fourth-straight win. “It’s a great group to coach, and it will continue to be fun coaching them this next week.”
Won-Lost Records . . .
* Eastern is now 4-2 on the season with a four -game winning streak, and are 3-0 in league play. But EWU’s first three victories came by a total of just 14 points, including a 55-50 non-conference win over Montana State.
* Idaho State, now 2-5 overall and 1-3 in the league, hadn’t played a game decided by less than 20 points until pulling off an upset at North Dakota on Oct. 10 by a 37-31 score. That snapped a four-game losing streak in games decided by 20, 52, 72 and 32 points. Idaho State entered the season ranked 22nd following a breakthrough 2014 season under former Eastern head coach Mike Kramer when the Bengals finished 8-4 overall and 6-2 in the league. He was EWU’s head coach from 1994-1999 and had a 37-32 record overall and 24-22 Big Sky mark.
What it Means . . .
* The Eagles are 30-3 in their last 33 Big Sky games since a 0-2 start in 2011. Eastern has won 20 of its last 21 league games, and until an Oct. 25, 2014, loss at Northern Arizona, EWU had won 14 in a row. The Eagles have dominated the series against Idaho State, winning 27 of the 36 previous meetings with a current nine-game winning streak and victories in 16 of the last 19. Eastern is 10-4 in meetings in Cheney, 16-5 in Pocatello and 1-0 at Spokane’s Albi Stadium. Idaho State head coach Mike Kramer is 0-4 against the Eagles, but was 4-2 versus the Bengals in his six seasons as EWU’s head coach (1994-1999).
What’s Next . . .
* Eastern plays the second of two-straight road games when it travels to Northern Colorado to take on the Bears on Oct. 24. Northern Colorado recorded a 56-27 romp over UC Davis on Oct. 17. The Eagles return to Roos Field to face Weber State on Halloween Night.
Keys to Game . . .
* The Eagles forced four first half turnovers – three on interceptions and one a fumble – leading to 17 Eastern points. Senior rover Todd Raynes returned an interception 25 yards for a score, and Mitch Fettig and Ketner Kupp also picked off passes. The fourth turnover was a forced fumbled and recovery on a sack by Nick Foerstel.
Top Performers . . .
* Junior Jordan West completed 29-of-46 passes for 323 yards and a trio of touchdown passes. He also caught a 25-yard TD pass from wide receiver Cooper Kupp.
* Junior Kendrick Bourne was impressive for the third-straight game, finishing with 10 catches for 102 yards. He has had 27 grabs for 390 yards and three touchdowns in the last three outings.
* Junior Jalen Moore had his first carries since the Oregon game, and finished with 67 yards on 13 carries. Fellow junior Jabari Wilson added 59 yards on 16 carries.
* Sophomore linebacker Jake Gall had a career-high 15 tackles, including 1 1/2 for losses. He also had a pass broken up.
* Senior linebacker Miquiyah Zamora added seven tackles and a pass broken up, and true freshman Ketner Kupp had six tackles and an interception.
Key Stats . . .
* In the first quarter alone, the two teams combined for 321 yards, on pace for a nearly 1,300-yard collective total. But the two teams slowed down significantly after that, finishing with 832 yards (451 for EWU and 381 for ISU). The first quarter was a crazy one, with a pair of turnovers, a turnover that was overturned by replay, a converted fake punt by ISU, a fourth-down conversion by EWU and TD passes from Jordan West to Cooper Kupp AND Kupp to West.
Turning Point . . .
* Trailing 14-7 in the first quarter, Eastern responded with a 12-play, 75-yard touchdown drive – including a key fourth-down conversion. A 9-yard TD pass from Jordan West to Cooper Kupp started a 17-0 scoring run for the Eagles that gave them a 24-14 lead in the second quarter.
Team Highlights . . .
* In the first quarter alone, 52 of the 58 Eagles on the trip played. Eventually, 54 players saw action on the day.
Milestones & Records . . .
* Cooper Kupp now has 49 touchdown catches in his career, ranking sixth in FCS history and three ahead of the former school and Big Sky Conference records of 46 set by Eric Kimble (2002-05). Kupp is now just one touchdown catch 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) and ranking second is Terrell Hudgins (2006-09) with 52. Kupp has played just 34 games while all the others in the top five have played at least 41. In fact, Kupp is the only player in the top 26 in FCS history with less than 36 games played.
* Besides setting the school’s reception record, Kupp is now approaching the school and league record for reception yards (4,063; 77 from the record) and is 10th all-time in FCS history. Eric Kimble (2002-05) holds the records with 4,140, which ranks ninth in FCS history.
Notables . . .
* Saturday’s game at Holt Arena was EWU’s 55th all-time game in a dome, with a current record of 28-27. Earlier this season, Eastern lost 38-35 to Northern Iowa at the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls, Iowa, where EWU is now winless. 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 14-4 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.
* Starting kicker Tyler McNannay (hip flexor) missed his third-straight game, and starting offensive tackle Cassidy Curtis (foot) and starting wide receiver Shaq Hill (knee) haven’t played since EWU’s opener. Newcomers to the injury list who missed the Idaho State game included a trio of key backups — wide receiver Simba Webster (knee), linebacker Alek Kacmarcik (hamstring), defensive lineman Kaleb Levao (knee) and running back Malcolm Williams (hamstring). Eastern was particularly thin at linebacker, with backup Kurt Calhoun (hamstring) missing his second-straight game.
EWU Head Coach Beau Baldwin Comments . . .
On Defense: “I loved that so many people were talking and our defense was listening that the first team to eight touchdowns was going to win. Our defense didn’t think that would be the case and came out and played great football. We were led by our defense in this game – it’s a very good Idaho State team and offense, and our defense came to play.”
On Kupp’s Touchdown Pass to West: “That’s difficult for any team to cover, because you don’t account for the quarterback coming out late. We just saw something on video that he might come free, especially when get eyes on Cooper on the reverse. We committed to calling it early — that was the key. Sometimes you don’t call it, and then you wish at the end of the game you would have.”
On Playing 54 of 58 Players on Trip: “We played a ton of guys, and everybody did contribute. It’s hard to beat anybody on the road and win at Holt Arena. It’s hard to beat a very good Idaho State team. It was big for us to play the closest thing we have all year to play a complete game on offense, defense and special teams. Our guys are grinding through – we have players who injured. But everybody has injuries and deals with that, it’s just who deals with it the best. And I think our guys handle it well – both players and coaches.”
On Progress: “We need to keep growing as a team in a lot of areas. We still sputtered a little more than I would like on offense. And we still can improve in special teams – we did some good things but we still have room for improvement. We are still a work in progress, and I think a lot of teams in the conference and country would say that. There are ton of little things we need to work on moving forward.”
On Victory by UNC Over UC Davis: “It doesn’t surprise me. They were able to beat a Sac State team that gave us a ton of trouble as well. And then to turnaround and win this game like that doesn’t shock me. Coach Collins does a great job and we look forward to that challenge on the road.”