Cheney Free Press -

By PAUL DELANEY
Staff Reporter 

Eagles, Cougs go at it in Pullman

 

Last updated 9/13/2018 at 10:04pm

Fans at Washington State University's Martin Stadium might not have known a lick about EWU quarterback Gage Gubrud, let alone how to pronounce his name prior to his leading Eastern in a huge upset victory, 45-42 in 2016. Here he is racing towards the clinching touchdown off of a 30-yard run with 1 minute, 39 seconds remaining.

Eastern Washington returns to the scene of the crime - their theft of perhaps the biggest football win in program history - Saturday, shooting to make it two stunners in a row over Washington State at Martin Stadium in Pullman.

Led by quarterback Gage Gubrud who was making his first start, the Eagles stunned the Cougars 45-42 back on Sept. 3, 2016.

This is only the fifth game in a series that began over a century ago and heavily favored Washington State College in its infancy where they won 46-0 in 1907 and 73-0 a year later. The series went dormant until 2012 when Wazzu had to have a stout defensive stand to escape with a 24-20 win in 2012, head coach Mike Leach's first season in Pullman.

Kickoff is set for 5:05 p.m. for the two teams that each sport 2-0 records. Eastern comes off a 31-26 victory at Northern Arizona whole WSU shutout visiting San Jose State 31-0.

"It's the first time in my career as a player and a coach where an FBS game is game three, it's usually game one," EWU head coach Aaron Best said during the Sept. 10 coaches show broadcast. "It's uncharted territory again as a head coach."

Gubrud had what was then a school-record 551 yards of total offense, passing for 474 yards and five touchdowns, and rushing for another 77 and a game-clinching score. The victory over the Cougars catapulted Eastern all the way to the semifinals of the FCS playoffs as EWU finished 12-2 in 2016 with a last-second loss, 40-38 to Youngstown State ending hopes of a return trip the Frisco, Texas and the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs.

Eastern, ranked No. 5 or No. 6 depending on the poll, plays a WSU team coming off a 9-4 finish in 2017. The Cougars were 6-3 in the Pac-12 Conference and ended the season with a 42-17 loss to Michigan State in the Holiday Bowl.

It may be a tough task for Eastern to duplicate its production in the last two games, which also includes a 58-13 win over NCAA Division II Central Washington to open the season.

While the Eagles lead the FCS with an average of 623.5 yards per game, the Cougars have the second-best defense in the Football Bowl Subdivision, allowing just 157.5 yards per game. "They are flat out flying around trying to be chaotic," Best said.

From the player's standpoint, "We're definitely comfortable going down there," EWU's leading rusher, Sam McPherson said on the coaches show. It was in Pullman where he scored his first collegiate touchdown. "It's going to be a very tough game but we're excited."

Paul Delaney can be reached at pdelaney@cheneyfreepress.com.

 

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