Replacing one of the greatest receivers in FCS history is going to be a tough task.
Cooper Kupp claimed every award or record possible during his time at Eastern Washington. Kupp was a four-time FCS All-American with the Eagles and ended up setting career records for receptions, receiving yards and touchdown catches.
It will be impossible to fill his shoes, but the Eagles have a great quarterback in Gage Gubrud and talent across the board on offense.
2016 Eastern Washington Football Season In Review
The Eagles are going to throw the ball come hell or high water. Gubrud led the FCS in passing yards by a mile last season. He tore up the secondaries of Washington State and North Dakota State in the first two games of the season, throwing for a combined 924 yards and nine touchdowns against the best two teams on their slate.
Kupp was Gubrud’s favorite receiver by a mile. He ended the season with 117 catches for 1,700 yards and 17 touchdowns and was the main reason why the Eagles shocked Washington State in the season opener. Against the Cougars, he caught 12 passes for 206 yards and three scores.
Eastern Washington had two other receivers that went over 1,000 yards last season in Kendrick Bourne and Shaq Hill. Bourne was a physical receiver that teams had trouble stopping, while Hill knew how to get into the end zone with 17 touchdowns.
With all of those gaudy passing numbers, it’s not a surprise to see that the Eagles have eschewed a running game altogether. Gubrud was the team’s leading rusher last season with 606 yards. If you take out his numbers, the team averaged less than 100 yards per game on the ground combined between the rest of their runners.
It was a stunning end to the year for EWU, though. Beau Baldwin’s squad took a 31-20 lead into the fourth quarter in the FCS semifinals against Youngstown State only to see it all fall apart. The defense allowed the Penguins to march down the field and score the game-winning touchdown with one second left, sending the Eagles crashing out of the postseason.
2017 Eastern Washington Football Season Preview
The Eagles must replace a lot this season. The top three receivers from last year are gone as well as the head coach and offensive coordinator. The new head man is Aaron Best, who is a long-time veteran of the program. Best played and then later joined the coaching staff at EWU and has spent 20 straight years on campus. Baldwin left to take the offensive coordinator position at Cal.
Best was the offensive line coach and running game coordinator, so it will be interesting to see if there are any changes to the offense with him calling the shots. Sometimes when a team hires a long-time assistant to the head job, there are hiccups—especially initially.
The good news is that Gubrud is back for one more season and most of his offensive line will be intact. He should once again put up great numbers for the Eagles.
The team’s defense improved markedly from the first half of the season to the second half in 2016. In the Eagles’ first six games, they allowed 36.3 points per contest. In the last seven games prior to the loss to Youngstown State, they gave up just 16.1. This unit brings back seven starters from last season and should improve in 2017.
2017 Eastern Washington Football Schedule
September 2: Eastern Washington at Texas Tech
September 9: Eastern Washington vs. North Dakota State
September 16: Eastern Washington at Fordham
September 23: Eastern Washington at Montana
September 30: Eastern Washington vs. Sacramento State
October 7: Eastern Washington at UC Davis
October 14: Eastern Washington vs. Montana State
October 21: Eastern Washington at Southern Utah
November 4: Eastern Washington vs. Weber State
November 11: Eastern Washington at North Dakota
November 18: Eastern Washington vs. Portland State
FCS Pick ‘Em Games To Watch
Eastern Washington isn’t afraid to play the best of the best. The Eagles have possibly the toughest first three games in all of the FCS. They will have to travel to Texas Tech and Fordham and host North Dakota State. It wouldn’t be too much of a shock to see the Eagles at either 0-3 or 3-0 after these three.
The first two weeks of November will likely determine the Big Sky champion. The Eagles play the other two major contenders in the conference, Weber State and North Dakota, in back-to-back weeks. Weber State is at home and EWU will have a week off to prepare. That’s the perfect time to take the Eagles in your FCS Pick ‘Em Contests.