Former Davis Pirate Cooper Kupp pulled down twelve catches for 206 yards and 3 touchdowns to help Eastern Washington shock the Cougs 45-42 in Pullman.
It’s been 8 months since the Cougs December Holiday Bowl win over Miami. WSU comes into this season with high expectations after a 9-4 season a year ago and what many thought as coach Leach’s system beginning to take shape. The Cougar defense coming into this game was big question mark, and Eastern used a big third quarter to exploit the D. The defense was having trouble stopping sophomore Gabe Gubrud in his first start of his short college career.
The best quarterback on the field Saturday was not Luke Falk. Gubrud threw for 474 yards completing 34 of his 40 passes for 474 yards and 5 touchdowns. “This is going to be a good learning experience for us, it’s almost like a mirror of last year,” said Falk. The junior had 418 yards on 41-51 passing and 4 touchdowns. The Cougs opened up last season with a loss to another big sky team in Portland State, which makes it 5 straight season opening losses for them. After that the Cougs used this as momentum to propel them to their best season since 2003.
The Cougs senior receiver Gabe marks got in the end zone first from 53 yards out go give them the early 7-0 lead. That started a series of 7 straight touchdown drives. With the Cougs up 21-14 Gubrud found Cooper Kupp for a 75 yard touchdown pass to tie the game at 21.The FCS offensive player of the year Kupp, was unstoppable for the Eagles. Kupp decided to come back for his senior season instead of going to the NFL draft, and after today’s performance Coug fans wish he would have.
Eastern opened up the second half with Gubrud finding Kupp again wide open in the end zone on broken coverage for a 26 yard touchdown pass to give the Eagles their first lead of the game. They followed that up with another connection from Gubrud to Kupp who had a one handed snag in the corner of the end zone to give the Eagles a 38-28 lead.
Midway through the third, the Eagles were on the move again deep in Cougar territory when Gubrud made his first mistake of the game in an interception by Marcellus Pippens in the corner of the end zone from 7 yards out. The second half defensive adjustments by Eastern kept the highly potent WSU offense scoreless until 5 minutes remaining when Falk found Gerard Wicks from 9 yards out to pull the Cougs within 3. Eastern then put the game away late in the forth. Quarterback Gabe Gubrud ran the ball 30 yards on a keeper to devastate the sold out crowd of 32,952.
“They deserve a great deal of credit because they beat us in all 3 phases of the game I feel like,” coach Mike Leach said following the game. “I didn’t feel like the really slowed us down other than when we got behind the sticks and then we squandered opportunities.”
The Cougs have a tough game next week at Boise State against the always dangerous Broncos on the blue turf in a Saturday night showdown on ESPN. The Cougs would love to even out their record before they play Idaho the following week and Oregon on October 1st. On a positive note, last season the Cougs had 12 of their 13 games decided in the 4th quarter last season, so this is a team that plays with their competition. Their four road wins against Rutgers, Oregon, Arizona, and UCLA were all decided in the final minute of the game, so as disappointing as this is, there is still hope for a great season.