Like he has the past three years, Cooper Kupp was at his very best on the biggest stage. But so was Gage Gubrud in his starting debut.
Thanks to record-setting days for the wide receiver and quarterback, and Eastern Washington University upset Washington State 45-42 Saturday (Sept. 3) at Martin Stadium in Pullman, Wash. It was EWU's second victory in four seasons over a Pac-12 opponent, having defeated Oregon State to open the 2013 season.
"Special things don't happen by accident," Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin told his jubilant team after the game.
Eastern's offense, with five first-time starters, rolled up 606 total yards – 17th-most in school history. They included 474 passing and 77 rushing by Gubrud, a sophomore from McMinnville, Ore. He had five TD passes and ran for a game-clinching 30-yard score to give him a school record 551 yards of total offense.
With 12 catches for 206 yards and three touchdowns against the Cougars, three-time All-America receiver Cooper Kupp broke the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision record with 58 touchdown receptions. He finishes with 40 catches for 716 yards and 11 touchdowns in four career games against Pacific-12 opponents (WSU, Washington, Oregon and Oregon State). Last season, Kupp set Autzen Stadium records of 15 catches for 246 yards against Oregon (9/5/15).
Won-Lost Records . . .
* The game was the season-opener for both teams. The Cougars of the Pacific-12 Conference and the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision were 9-4 last year and capped the year with a 20-14 victory over Miami in the Sun Bowl. Eastern lost its final three games of the 2015 season and finished 6-5, and missed the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs for only the fourth time in 12 years.
What It Means . . .
* Washington State entered as a more than 20-point favorite, and the Eagles easily covered that spread. In EWU's previous six games versus FBS opponents – including five versus Pac-12 foes – the Eagles won two of them and had been outscored collectively by a mere 22 ponts (204-226).
What's Next . . .
* The two teams which have combined to win the last six FCS titles square off this Sept. 10 in Fargo, N.D., when the Eagle take on top-ranked North Dakota State in only the second meeting ever between the two FCS powerhouses. The Bison are the undisputed heavyweight of the FCS, having won the last five titles since EWU won in 2010. In the quarterfinals of the FCS Playoffs that season, a late game-tying drive at EWU's Roos Field led to a 38-31 victory in overtime for the Eagles. The last team to win the national title was Villanova, which fell to the Eagles the week after EWU beat NDSU.