How Eastern Washington took down the WSU Cougars

Young Kwak
Cooper Kupp and Eastern Washington shocked Washington State last week.

In last week's Football Issue, we spent a lot of ink discussing the near-mythic collegiate careers of two of the nation's most heralded wide receivers — Eastern Washington's Cooper Kupp and Washington State's Gabe Marks — as both enter their senior year. When the two faced off on Saturday in Pullman, there was an expectation of statistical fireworks.

That expectation came to fruition and then some. Eagles fans got a whole lot more than big numbers out of Kupp — they got one of the program's biggest wins ever, a 45-42 win against regional foe Washington State. In the parlance of our region, some thought the Cougs, for the second straight year, "Couged it" in their home opener against an FCS school. But EWU's official Twitter account took a more positive spin, saying the team simply, "Eaged it."

You were promised numbers, and here they are: Marks had 10 catches for 108 yards and a pair of touchdowns, a stat line that would be lauded had Kupp not hauled in 12 balls for 206 yards and three touchdowns. Even more impressive, if not shocking, EWU's sophomore quarterback Gage Gubrud, who had never started a college game, threw for 474 yards and five touchdowns.

"Today the best player on the field was Cooper Kupp, and the second-best player was their quarterback, who's got a name I can't pronounce," WSU head coach Mike Leach said after the game.

Last year, when WSU lost to Portland State, another FCS opponent, it was written off by some as a result of torrential rain grounding Leach's pass-first, pass-often, pass-in-your-sleep offense. This time, it's not so easy. First off, EWU is probably better than initially billed, especially on offense. Then there's the fact that WSU's defensive secondary was, well, terrible.

Is it time to freak out down on the Palouse? Of course not. Last season, the Cougars won nine games after that terrible initial outing. Now, WSU heads to Boise State on Saturday, where they'll face another good quarterback in Spokane native Brett Rypien, whose name Leach probably can pronounce, given that the Cougs tried to lure the Shadle Park grad to Pullman.

As for Eastern, Kupp and company have no drop-off in their schedule, either. They head to North Dakota State, the nation's top-ranked FCS team that has won five consecutive national titles.

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Mike Bookey

Mike Bookey was the Inlander's culture editor from 2012-2016. He previously held the same position at The Source Weekly in Bend, Oregon.