Eagles open up Big Sky play against Grizzlies - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Eagles open up Big Sky play against Grizzlies

Eagles have won 5 of last 6 meetings against Grizzlies. Photo: EWU Athletics Eagles have won 5 of last 6 meetings against Grizzlies. Photo: EWU Athletics

By EWU Athletics

The 11th-ranked Eastern Washington University football team is in much of the same boat as the Montana Grizzlies.
Those teams will be paddling furiously to get off to a fast start in the Big Sky Conference when the Eagles and Grizzlies open their league schedule this Saturday (Sept. 23) at 5:10 p.m. at Washington-Grizzly Stadium in Missoula, Montana.
The game will be broadcast live regionally by ROOT Sports and nationally via the DirecTV Audience Network. Fans can also listen to the game on 700-AM ESPN, 105.3-FM, via the web at tunein.com and via mobile phone app, with pre-game coverage starting one hour prior to kickoff.
While Montana was thumping Savannah State 56-3 to improve to 2-1 on the season, Eastern picked up its first victory on Sept. 16 by dominating Fordham 56-21 in the Bronx, New York. The Eagles rolled up its seventh-most yards in school history with 650, while registering a school-record 10 sacks on defense to hold the Rams to 217 total yards.
But this Saturday, the slate is wiped clean in a renewal of a rivalry that has seen Eastern come out on top in five of the last six meetings and six of the last eight. In fact, the Eagles are 10-1 since 2012 against its rivals from the Treasure State – UM and Montana State. However, EWU's last venture to Missoula yielded a 57-16 thumping at the hands of the Griz.
"It's an electric environment in Missoula," said Eastern head coach Aaron Best, who will be making his 10th trip with the Eagles to Missoula as either a player or coach. "Their fans are rabid, they are awesome people and they are passionate about their football team. They aren't always nice, but that's the way you like it. Fan is short for fanatic. It's awesome to be a part of this series home or away."
Just one year after that humbling 41-point setback, the Eagle defense allowed just 16 points in the rematch on Oct. 29, 2016, at Roos Field in EWU's 35-16 victory. The 16 points for the Griz was their lowest total in the last 33 games in the series dating back 32 years to a 14-14 tie in 1984. In last year's meeting, the two teams combined for 995 yards of offense, with EWU winning despite a 540-455 yardage advantage for Montana.
This is the first time in the last 11 meetings that both teams are not nationally ranked. The last time that happened was in 2007 when top-ranked Montana needed a field goal with 26 seconds left to beat the unranked Eagles 24-21 in Missoula. Eastern is 5-15-1 in Missoula, a win total unmatched by any other league school. Eastern won in Missoula in 1990, then again in 1992, 1997, 2005 and 2013 when EWU would go on to win Big Sky Conference titles.
Best has been a part of EWU teams who have registered wins in Missoula in 1997, 2005 and 2013, and losses in 1999, 2001, 2005, 2009, 2011 and 2015.
"They are a monumental program and have been the pinnacle of FCS for a long time," he added. "We envision ourselves to be at that level and continue to play at that level. We always respect our opponents, and we have a ton of respect for Coach (Bob) Stitt and his staff. It's fun to be a part of this game, and there is nothing like it in FCS."
As a result of its victory over Fordham, EWU improved from 12th to 11th in this week's STATS FCS Top-25 rankings, and Montana received enough votes to rank 32nd. Eastern is also rated 11th this week by the coaches, and Montana received enough votes to rank 30th. North Dakota State is No. 2 in both polls, behind defending FCS champion James Madison. Eastern has now been ranked by STATS in 74 of its last 75 polls, but had its streak of being in the top 10 snapped at 15 after losing at home to the Bison on Sept. 9.

EWU-Montana Game Notes

Gubrud Wins Fourth Big Sky Player of the Week Award
He and his teammates took their lumps in the first two games, but Walter Payton Award candidate Gage Gubrud and the Eagles found their stride versus Fordham last Saturday (Sept. 16) in a 56-21 blowout victory.
Thanks to a 650-yard offensive explosion by the Eagles that was the seventh-best in school history, the junior All-America quarterback was selected as the Big Sky Conference Offensive Player of the Week Monday (Sept. 18). It was the fourth time the 2016 co-Big Sky MVP has been honored with the weekly offensive award by the league office.
Gubrud passed for 399 yards and three touchdowns, and also ran for 72 yards and two scores, in helping Aaron Best record his first victory as EWU's head coach. He completed 29-of-41 passes and had 471 yards of total offense to rank as the 18th-most in school history (eighth-most for Gubrud).
His 399 yards passing were the 36th-most in school history (seventh-most for Gubrud). It was the first time in his career he has had multiple rushing touchdowns in a game, and he also had three touchdowns passing. He accounted for five touchdowns (13th most in school history) and 30 points (15th).
A year after leading FCS in total offense (411.9) and passing yards per game (368.6), Gubrud had only 341 yards passing and 366 total yards in EWU's first two games against Texas Tech and North Dakota State. But after exceeding those totals versus Fordham, he is up to 18th in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision in total offense (279.0) and 20th in passing (246.7).
Eastern Hopes to Ride Momentum from Milestone Win at Fordham
A school-record 10 sacks and the first victory in the head coaching career of Aaron Best merely scratched the surface of what a milestone win EWU's 56-21 victory at Fordham actually was.
Eastern's defense held Fordham to just 217 yards total and 1-of-17 on third down, and EWU recorded 11 three-and-outs. Those marks, plus the sack total, resulted in the Rams finishing with just 26 net yards rushing. It was EWU's best defensive rushing performance in 75 games, dating back to Oct. 15, 2011, when the Eagles held Northern Colorado to 17 rushing yards in a 48-27 win. Interestingly, that total included just one sack. Overall, the defensive performance was the third time in the last six games EWU has allowed 244 yards or fewer, and the fourth time in eight games with 292 or less. EWU allowed Richmond just 205 yards in a 38-0 win in the quarterfinals of the FCS Playoffs in 2016.
The different Eagles contributed toward EWU's 10 sacks. The previous record was nine set on Oct. 24, 1992, against Northern Arizona and matched Oct. 23, 2004 versus Weber State. The Eagles registered five quarterback sacks in the first half alone, with senior end Albert Havili having 2 1/2. Sophomore Dylan Ledbetter, starting in place of injured nose tackle Jay-Tee Tiuli, had two sacks. Junior Jonah Jordan finished with 1 1/2.
The Eagles had great balance on offense, finishing with 399 yards through the air and 251 on the ground. The 650 yards were the seventh-most in school history and most in EWU's last 11 games. The rushing total was EWU's most in the last seven outings. Sophomore Dennis Merritt had a 70-yard touchdown run on his first carry of the season in the fourth quarter, his first score as an Eagle.
Kicker Roldan Alcobendas broke the school record for most extra points in a row, making all of seven of his against Fordham to extend his streak to 72. He broke the record of 66 set by Jason Cromer from 1988-90. Alcobendas made his last 63 in a row last season to shatter the previous season record of 47.
Junior quarterback Gage Gubrud completed 29-of-41 passes and had 471 yards of total offense to rank as the 18th-most in school history (eighth-most for Gubrud). He rushed for 72, and passed for 399, which was the 36th-most in school history (seventh-most for Gubrud). It was the first time in his career he has had multiple rushing touchdowns in a game, and he also had three touchdowns passing. He accounted for five touchdowns (13th most in school history) and 30 points (15th). He was also credited with two tackles against Fordham after Eagle turnovers (two interceptions and three fumbles).
Other offensive standouts included junior wide receiver Nsimba Webster with five catches, good for a career-high 101 yards and a career-long 38-yarder. Sophomore running back Antoine Custer Jr.  had 102 all-purpose yards, finishing with 49 on the ground and 53 on a pair of catches, including a career-long 43-yard TD catch. Sophomore wide receiver Dre' Sonte Dorton, helping fill-in for injured wide receiver Terence Grady, caught a pair of passes for 52 yards and had three kickoff returns for 99 yards. Thus, he averaged just over 30 yards per every time he touched the ball. He entered the game having just two other touches (both kickoff returns) for 29 yards. He is averaging 25.7 yards on his seven career touches. Junior tight end Henderson Belk caught a pair of passes, including the first touchdown of his career on a 5-yard pass from Gubrud. He entered the game with just two catches in what is now a 26-game career. Junior Zach Eagle had a reception for 14 yards in his first start as an Eagle.
Defensively, senior defensive end Albert Havili had the second multiple sack game of his Eastern career – and second in five games – with a career-high 2 1/2 versus Fordham. He had two versus Richmond in the quarterfinals of the 2016 FCS Playoffs. He now has 8 1/2 in his Eastern career. Sophomore defensive nose tackle Dylan Ledbetter, making the first start of his career, had a career-high eight tackles and two of EWU's 10 sacks. He entered the game with 34 tackles and 2 1/2 sacks in his previous 16 games as an Eagle. Junior defensive lineman Jonah Jordan had career highs of five tackles and 1 1/2 sacks versus Fordham. He entered the game with 20 tackles and 2 1/2 sacks in his previous 19 games as an Eagle. Senior John Kreifels had a career-high four tackles against Fordham, having entered the game with 16 tackles in his first 25 games in an Eagle uniform.
A trio of true freshman also had big days. Chris Ojoh had the best game of his young career with five tackles, including a half-sack. Johnny Edwards IV had his first two catches of his Eastern career against Fordham, good for 15 yards. And Anfernee Gurley had his first fumble forced and pass broken up in his Eastern career versus Fordham.
Even a quartet of players made their Eagle debuts and contributed. Senior Miquel Perez played in his first game as an Eagle, and forced a fumble on the first tackle of his career. It was recovered by sophomore Conor McKenna, who was also playing in his first game. Sophomore Joe Lang had his first tackle as an Eagle in his first game played. Tight end Trenton Harris also made his Eagle debut.
Eastern dominated in the second quarter, gaining 181 yards of offense to minus-3 for the Rams. Tied 7-7, a 62-yard punt by Jordan Dascalo pinned Fordham deep, and EWU got the ball back after a punt and went on a two-play 34-yard drive. Gubrud scored his second touchdown of the game on a 9-yard run. Eastern then had a five-play, 57-yard drive that featured a career-best 15-yard reception and 17-yard TD rush by Tamarick Pierce on back-to-back plays. The punt by Dascalo equaled the second-longest of his career (he had a 67-yarder in 2015 versus Montana), and ranks as the 19th-longest in school history. After taking a 21-7 leading at halftime, Eastern also wanted to make a statement in the second half – and they did. A 51-yard kickoff return by Dorton was followed by a 43-yard touchdown strike from Gubrud to Custer to give EWU a three-touchdown lead just 17 seconds into the third quarter.
In addition, the Fordham game was the 200th in 16-plus years for Best as a coach at Eastern. He was 129-68 in 16 previous years as an assistant coach from 2000-2006 and 2008-16 until taking over as head coach this season.
Among Eagles in NCAA Rankings, Dre' Sonte Dorton & Albert Havili Are Near the Top
Eastern's kickoff return unit has long been impressive, and so far this year the Eagles and Dre' Sonte Dorton are leading the way. Dorton has averaged 29.5 yards on four returns to rank eighth in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision, while the team is 20th at 25.2 per return.
Defensively, Eastern is seventh in sacks at 4.33 per game, with Albert Havili ranking 17th nationally and first in the league with an average of 1.17 per game. Eastern's offense, after a 650-yard onslaught against Fordham, has improved to 44th in FCS in total offense (385.0) and is 31st in passing (351.0). Quarterback Gage Gubrud is up to 18th in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision in total offense (279.0) and 20th in passing (246.7) after leading FCS in both categories a year ago (411.0 and 368.6, respectively).
Besides Custer, Eastern has some other top-notch returners back from a year ago. Last year as a true freshman, Antoine Custer Jr. averaged 26.7 yards on 14 kickoff returns with a touchdown, with long returns of 93, 55 and 35 yards. Teammate Nsimba Webster had a 65-yard return against UC Davis, but broke his clavicle in the process. Webster had a 25.3 average per return, and EWU's 21.7 average as a team ranked fourth in the Big Sky and 25th nationally. Eastern has returned 18 kickoffs for touchdowns in the past 21 seasons and 19 punts for scores in the same time span (1996 through 2016).
Undefeated Co-Champions in 2016, North Dakota & EWU Picked 1-2
There won't be an undefeated tie this year between North Dakota and Eastern Washington University in the race to the Big Sky Conference football championship, but they are expected to battle at the top again. The Fighting Hawks and Eagles have been pegged to finish 1-2, respectively, by both the coaches and media as the picks were released July 18 at the Big Sky Conference Football Kickoff in Park City, Utah.
The Eagles received five first-place votes and 271 total points by the media, and had two first-place tallies and 124 total votes by the coaches. The Fighting Hawks were picked first on six of the coaches' ballots, and received six more total votes than EWU. North Dakota earned 15-of-24 first-place votes from the media and had 298 total points. The Grizzlies were picked to finish sixth in both polls.
The two teams play each other on Nov. 11 in Grand Forks, N.D. in what could be a showdown for the league title. That game ends the regular season for the Fighting Hawks, while the Eagles play their last game at home versus Portland State the following week. A year ago, Eastern was picked to finish second and ended up tying North Dakota at the top of the league standings with perfect 8-0 records.
The Fighting Hawks return several key contributors from the 2016 season, including safety Cole Reyes and running back John Santiago. Reyes is the Big Sky's reigning Defensive Player of the Year and was selected as the Big Sky's Preseason Defensive Player of the Year. The Fighting Hawks also return the Big Sky's Coach of the Year, as Bubba Schweigert returns for his fourth season in Grand Forks.
Looking for First Turnover Advantage in '17, Eastern 38-0 Since 2010 When Winning the TO Battle
The Eagles are looking for their first turnover advantage of the 2017 season after losing that battle 3-0 versus Texas Tech, tying North Dakota State 2-2 and finishing with a 5-1 deficit against Fordham.
In the last nine seasons, the Eagles are 47-1 when they've won the turnover battle, 21-6 when they've been tied and 18-27 when they've lost (total of 86-34). The last time EWU lost when it won the turnover battle came in the 2009 FCS Playoffs at Stephen F. Austin when EWU had two miscues and forced four in the 44-33 loss. Thus, EWU is 38-0 since 2010 when they've won the turnover battle, 18-5 when they've been tied and 16-20 when they've lost. That's a collective record of 72-25 (76 percent), with 20 of those 25 losses (80 percent) coming in games EWU has lost the turnover battle and 53 percent of EWU's wins coming when they've won the turnover battle (78 percent when including ties).
After going six games without winning the turnover battle in 2016 (including the first three), Eastern had turnover advantages in six of its last 12 games, including a 7-1 advantage in its two playoff victories. The Eagles had a dominating 5-1 advantage over Richmond, and one game earlier had a 2-0 advantage over Central Arkansas. But EWU lost the turnover battle 2-1 to Youngstown State, as EWU finished the season 6-0 when it won the turnover battle, 2-2 when it lost and 4-0 when it was tied.
Eagles Have Impressive 40-6 Big Sky Record Since 0-2 Start in 2011
The Eagles have won 40 of their last 46 Big Sky games since a 0-2 start in 2011. Eastern has won 30 of its last 34 league games, with the lone losses coming against Montana and Portland State in 2015 and Northern Arizona in both 2015 and 2014. An Oct. 25, 2014, loss at Northern Arizona snapped EWU's 14-game conference winning streak and a home loss against the Lumberjacks on Nov. 7, 2015, ended a streak of eight Big Sky wins in a row. Including non-conference victories (two versus MSU and one against Cal Poly) and a playoff win (Montana), the Eagles have won 34 of their last 38 versus conference foes, and are 44-6 since the 0-2 start in 2011. As a result, head coach Beau Baldwin left Eastern with a 58-14 Big Sky record for a winning percentage of .806 to rank as the fifth-best in league history. His .726 winning percentage overall (85-32) is seventh all-time in the 53-year history of the Big Sky.
Challenging Schedule Proving to Be Just That
Eastern's three non-conference foes in 2017 are so far 5-2, including a pair of victories over the Eagles. Texas Tech leads the way at 2-0, North Dakota State is also 2-0 and Fordham is 1-2. Those three foes combined to win 68 percent of their games overall in 2016 (25-12), 65 percent in league play (15-8) and 67 percent in the postseason (2-1). By contrast, Eastern's non-conference opponents in 2016 were 31-11 overall the year before for 74 percent, 18-7 in league play (72 percent) and 7-1 in the postseason (88 percent). The Eagles emerged from that gauntlet with a 2-1 record.
Eagles Open Big Sky Conference Slate at Rival Montana
After finishing a perfect 8-0 in league play a year ago, Eastern's eight Big Sky Conference foes this coming season combined for a 40-50 record overall and 30-34 league mark in 2016. Two of the opponents – North Dakota and Weber State – advanced to the FCS Playoffs and were a collective 16-8 on the season and 14-2 in the Big Sky.
Eastern opens Big Sky Conference play on the road at Montana (6-5/3-5) on Sept. 23 before playing its home opener on Sept. 30 versus Sacramento State (2-9/2-6) on Hall of Fame Day at EWU. Eastern plays at UC Davis (3-8/2-6) on Oct. 7, then hosts rival Montana State (4-7/2-6) on Oct. 14.
An Oct. 21 game at Southern Utah (6-5/5-3) is the first of three-straight games against teams with winning records overall and in league play in 2016. After a bye week on Oct. 28, Eastern hosts Weber State (7-5/6-2) for Homecoming on Nov. 4 and plays at fellow defending Big Sky champion North Dakota (9-3/8-0) on Nov. 11. The regular season closes with Senior Day at Roos Field on Nov. 18 versus Portland State, with the FCS Playoffs beginning the following weekend on Nov. 25.
First Starts of Careers Made by Quartet of Eagles in First Three Games
When EWU played at Texas Tech on Sept. 2, a total of 21 of 22 starters hit the field with starting experience under their belts. Six full-time starters returned on each side of the ball, plus all of the team's specialists from a year ago. An additional five starters on offense and four on defense had previously started for the Eagles. The lone starting debut came on defense when sophomore Jack Sendelbach started in place of Ketner Kupp (ankle) on defense.
Junior tight end Henderson Belk was listed as a starter against Texas Tech, but EWU began with four wide receivers instead. Belk, though, made his starting debut one game later versus North Dakota State. Against Fordham on Sept. 16, sophomore defensive nose tackle Dylan Ledbetter made the first start of his career as an injury replacement for Jay-Tee Tiuli. Ledbetter, whose father, Mark, lettered as a linebacker at Washington State from 1986-89, had a career-high eight tackles and two of EWU's 10 sacks. He entered the game with 34 tackles and 2 1/2 sacks in his previous 16 games as an Eagle. Also, junior wide receiver Zach Eagle made his first start as an Eagle wide receiver and caught a pass for 14 yards and had two punt returns.
Eight freshman redshirts made their Eastern debuts against Texas Tech on Sept. 2 – Eric Barriere, Talolo Limu-Jones, Calin Criner, Keith Moore, Rudolph Mataia Jr., Brett Thompson, Nicholas Blair and Conner Crist. Three true freshmen made their debuts in an Eastern uniform, including Anfernee Gurley, Johnny Edwards IV and Chris Ojoh. Three other true freshmen were on Eastern's travel squad and did not play -- quarterback Nick Moore, cornerback Ira Branch, and wide receiver Andrew Boston. They remain redshirts, as well as junior defensive end Jim Townsend.
In addition, Aaron Best made his head coaching debut versus the Red Raiders. It came versus the same team former head coach Beau Baldwin made his EWU head coaching debut against back on Aug. 30, 2008, in a 49-24 Red Raider victory. Interestingly, Best is a 1996 graduate of Curtis High School in Tacoma, Wash., and Baldwin graduated from the same school six years earlier. Best was making his debut as Baldwin's offensive line coach in that 2008 game.
Career Starts
Defense (192 starts by 18 players): Andre Lino 25, Mitch Fettig 25, Nzuzi Webster 23, Victor Gamboa 22, Albert Havili 19, Josh Lewis 13, Keenan Williams 12, Jay-Tee Tiuli 11, D'londo Tucker 8, Cole Karstetter 8, Jake Hoffman 8, Ketner Kupp 5, Kurt Calhoun 4, Jack Sendelbach 3, John Kreifels 2, Dylan Ledbetter 1, Jonah Jordan 1, Conner Baumann 2 (including 1 as a fullback).
Offense (124 starts by 14 players): Tristen Taylor 17, Chris Schlichting 17, Matt Meyer 16, Gage Gubrud 16, Spencer Blackburn 14, Nic Sblendorio 12, Antoine Custer Jr. 9, Nsimba Webster 5, Kaleb Levao 4 (including 1 as defensive lineman), Terence Grady 4, Jack Hunter 4, Stu Stiles 2, Henderson Belk 2, Zach Eagle 1, Jayce Gilder 1,.
Gubrud Seeks to Maintain Career Records Marks
After setting three FCS, seven Big Sky marks and 18 school records in the 2016 season, junior Gage Gubrud now seeks to maintain a pair of career marks. After 20 games in his career (12-4 in 16 games as a starter), he remains the Eastern career leader in passing yards per game (298.3), completion percentage (.660) and total offense per game (335.0). He is also sixth in passing yards (5,966, 34 from 6,000 in his career and 1,526 from the No. 5 position), fifth in touchdown passes (52, 18 from No. 4) and sixth in total offense (6,700, 728 from No. 5). Gubrud already owns six of the top eight single game total offense performances in school history (1-2-3-5-6-8) and five of the top 14 passing performances (1-3-6-13-14). In addition, he had an impressive string of 222 passes without an interception in 2016, going four full games in 2016 from Sept. 24 to Oct. 22 without a pick. He had a school-record 551 yards of total offense in the first start of his career, a 45-42 season-opening victory over Washington State of the Pac-12 Conference.
Roldan Alcobendas Breaks Consecutive Extra Points Record
Kicker Roldan Alcobendas tied then broke the school record for most extra points in a row, making all of seven of his against Fordham on Sept. 16 to extend his streak to 72. He broke the record of 66 set by Jason Cromer from 1988-90. He also handled most of EWU's kickoff duties against the Rams, averaging 60.4 yards per kick.
In his 21-game career, Alcobendas has made 13-of-19 field goals and 104-of-108 extra points. Thus far this year he has made field goals of 22, 38 and 22 yards to extend his streak without a miss to six.
Alcobendas is a 2013 graduate of Camas (Wash.) High School, and had to sit out both the 2013 and 2015 seasons because of knee injuries. He finished the 2016 season 9-of-15 kicking field goals and made 73-of-74 extra points. He made his last 63 extra points in a row in 2016 to shatter the previous season record of 47. His 73 total extra points made in 2016 were one behind the Big Sky Conference record of 74 set by former Eagle Kevin Miller in 2013. He also averaged 54.6 yards on 44 kickoffs with seven touchbacks.
Returning to the venue he suffered a season-ending knee injury in 2014, Alcobendas made field goals of 48 and 31 yards and had a career-high 11 total points in EWU's 41-17 victory over Montana State in 2016 to earn Big Sky Conference Special Teams Player of the Week honors. His 48-yarder was the best of his career, and equals the 23rd-longest in school history. He also had a 31-yarder blocked and made all five of his extra point attempts to account for 11 of EWU's points. In addition, he averaged 64.0 yards in three kickoffs, including one touchback.
Career Average for Dascalo is Fourth Among the Top Punters in School History
With an impressive 42.7 average on 15 punts thus far in 2017, Jordan Dascalo has now punted 93 times as an Eagle for a 41.0 career average to rank fourth in school history. He averaged 46.8 yards on six punts in EWU's season-opener against the Texas Tech with a long of 58. A pair of his punts were downed inside the 20, and the average starting position for TTU after his six punts was its own 23. Dascalo also kicked off three times, with all three resulting in touchbacks. He had a 62-yard punt at Fordham on Sept. 16, equaling the second-longest of his career (he had a 67-yarder in 2015 versus Montana), and ranking as the 19th-longest in school history. He had a 45.0 average on four punts in that game, with two of them downed inside the 20.
In his career, Dascalo has now had 30 punts downed inside the 20. He has had nine punts in his career of at least 56 yards, including a career-long of 67 to rank sixth in school history. He is also 4-of-7 in his EWU career kicking field goals, and has averaged 59.9 yards (6,644 total yards) in 111 career kickoffs with 45 touchbacks.
Dascalo, who punted as a freshman in 2014 for Washington State, earned Big Sky Conference Special Teams Player of the Week honors for his performance against his former team on Sept. 3, 2016. He averaged 55.3 yards on three punts, including one downed inside the Cougar 20-yard line. He also kicked a 48-yard field goal on the final play of the first half that started a decisive 17-0 scoring run by the Eagles in the 45-42 win. He also had seven kickoffs for a 57.0 average against WSU with one touchback. His 48-yarder equaled the 23rd-longest in school history and was the best in nearly seven years by an Eagle since Mike Jarrett booted a 49-yarder versus Idaho State on 10/3/09.
Former Head Coach Mike Kramer Returns to Provide Radio Analysis: On a weekend when Paul Sorensen will return home to Washington State University to be inducted into the Cougar Hall of Fame, former Eagle Mike Kramer will make a homecoming as well. The former Eastern assistant coach and head coach will join radio play-by-play announcer Larry Weir to provide analysis when the Eagles play at Montana Saturday (Sept. 23).
He spent five years as an Eastern assistant (1989-93), then six seasons as Eastern's head coach (1994-1999) with records of 37-32 overall and 24-22 in league play. He was the Big Sky Conference Coach of the Year in 1997 after he helped guide the 1997 team to the Big Sky title and an appearance in the semifinals of the FCS Playoffs. That 12-2 team was inducted into the Eastern Athletics Hall of Fame in 2012. The 1997 team will be joined in the Hall of Fame on Sept. 30 of this year by the 1992 team. He was an assistant for the '92 Eagles, which won the first of nine Big Sky Conference titles and also advanced to the FCS Playoffs. Kramer was also head coach at Montana State for seven seasons from 2000-2006 and at Idaho State for six more years from 2011-2016, and had a brief stint at Washington State under former Eastern assistant and head coach Paul Wulff.
Sorensen was an All-America safety at Washington State as a senior in 1981, and also played for the Cougars in 1980. He is his 15th year of handling analysis and color commentary for Eagle football, and previously was a long-time producer and rights holder of EWU broadcasts. He has been associated with the Eagles on radio since 1985. His son, Cody, played safety at Idaho State and then provided color for ISU's radio broadcasts in 2016. Cody attended Ferris High School in Spokane.

More Aaron Best Comments

On Montana: "It's always a special game whether we're in Missoula or Cheney. They have a great coaching staff and offensive and defensive philosophy and scheme they stick with. They'll pressure our offense, and will force us to make some plays in man-to-man situations. Their offense will spread the field, and will make our team run and tackle in space."
On Progress of Team: "We strive for perfection knowing we aren't going to achieve that, but we want to be as close as we can. We're still an unfinished product and we want to continue to get better as the season goes along. By no means are we are a well-oiled machine – we just found some oil against Fordham and will continue to put oil in the engine."
On Fordham Win: ""I don't know if words describe how this team has come together and believed in themselves. They did a great job of coming across the country and playing well on both sides of the ball."
On Gage Gubrud's Performance at Fordham: "We knew what we were dealing with the first two games of the season. He was the same Gage as last year, but he just got more comfortable against Fordham. He got the ball out of his hand a little quicker and let his receivers do a little more work for him. Every ace pitcher and every top quarterback have normal days too, but we're not accustomed to those from Gage. Make no bones about it, Gage studied his tail off and came back like a true competitor against Fordham."
On Record Total of Sacks:  "I don't care if it was six sacks or 10 sacks, that defensive front four was amazing. And that was without Jay-Tee Tiuli, a player who has a lot of experience and success. Give Eti Ena, Jeff Schmedding and Brian Strandley a ton of credit. The linebackers filled the gaps like they need to and our backend wasn't too shabby themselves. If we play defense at that pace and with that passion, we have a chance in most ballgames. That's who we are – we are blue collar."
On Long Trip: "Not once did the players or coaches mention it. We practiced at 10 a.m. and the team knew why we were practicing at that time, but nobody needed to go public with why. All the credit goes to the coaching staff and these student-athletes. I couldn't be prouder. I really, really love that locker room and it showed that we were together this whole week."
On Turnovers: "I knew there were a lot of turnovers, but I stopped counting after about three. A few of those were unfortunate and were just guys trying to make plays. We have to get better in that department. We aren't going to consistently be on the winning side of things if we continue to give the ball up to the opposing team, not matter if we're home or away. I don't this to be a trend or a situation where we feel it is okay to give them five possessions. Fortunately we ended up on the right side of things on the scoreboard, but that isn't going to happen too often."

More Team Notes

Jackie Kellogg and Tony Brooks Will Join Their Championship Team in Hall of Fame On Sept. 30
After attending different high schools in Tacoma, Wash., 30 years ago, Jackie Kellogg and Tony Brooks became inseparable as Eagles. The two good friends and former Eastern football teammates will be among the inductees when the 17th induction of the Eastern Athletics Hall of Fame takes place Sept. 30, 2017, in Cheney, Wash.
Both highly-honored as Eagles on different sides of the ball, Kellogg and Brooks will be inducted along with one of the EWU teams they played for. The 1992 squad won the first of what is now nine Big Sky Conference football championships and advanced to the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs. The Eagles were coached by Dick Zornes and finished 7-4.
Other individual inductees will be soccer player Tiera Como-Irby and basketball players Ronn McMahon and Fay Zwarych-Shaw. In addition, the late Lt. William "Bink" Wall will be honored posthumously as this year's recipient of the Eastern Athletics Hall of Fame Service & Contribution Award. Wall was an All-Evergreen Conference linebacker while playing for Eastern from 1965-67. He lost his life in 1970 serving the United State Army in Vietnam.
Kellogg was twice a first team All-Big Sky Conference selection and finished his career from 1990-93 with a school-record of 41 passes broken up that still stands. His 17 interceptions and 222 tackles were also among the top four in school history at the time.
As a professional, Kellogg played in four different leagues during his nearly decade-long career, including a highly-successful eight seasons from 1995-2002 in the Canadian Football League. He was originally a 1989 graduate of Clover Park High School in Tacoma, Wash.
Brooks graduated from Mount Tahoma High School in 1989 and then became the first of EWU's big-play receivers that have become synonymous with the Eastern Football program in recent years. He was an All-American and finished his career from 1990-93 with all four school receiving records. His 167 receptions were a record for 10 years and now rank 10th (entering the 2017 season), and 3,013 yards, 26 touchdowns and 18.0 average per catch were also school records at the time. On single season lists, his 60 catches in just 10 games in 1993 was a school record that has now been surpassed by 22 other performances in school history.
Both Kellogg and Brooks were selected to the Big Sky All-Academic team in each of their four seasons as an Eagle. They were both selected by the Eastern Athletic Department to the "100 for 100" All-Time Football Team, which was honored on Sept. 27, 2008, to commemorate Eastern's 100th year of football. In 1999, Dick Zornes selected them to the "Z" Team consisting of 36 players that he felt were the best players and made the largest contributions toward the 158 games Eastern won in Zornes' 26-year association with Eagle Football.
The induction breakfast and ceremony will start at approximately 8 a.m. on Sept. 30. The public is invited to attend and the cost is $20 per person. Guests must register via a link that is available at http://goeags.com/HOF. Inductees will also be honored at halftime of EWU's football game against Sacramento State later that day (kickoff at 1:35 p.m. and televised regionally on SWX).
Established in 1996, this year's individual inductees in the Hall of Fame will bring the total to 83 and the '92 squad will be the 15th team admitted. With the addition of Wall, there have also been 18 individuals and one organization honored as recipients of the Eastern Athletics Hall of Fame Service and Contribution Award. All of the inductees and induction classes may be viewed at: http://goeags.com/HOF.
Rare Trip East of the Mississippi for Eagles
The game at Fordham on Sept. 16 was just the eighth occasion all-time that EWU has played east of the Mississippi River, The last time came in 2013 in Ohio when Eastern fell at Toledo 33-21. The Fordham game was also only EWU's sixth game ever in the Eastern time zone.
In fact, Eastern traveled a day earlier than a normal road trip, and departed Cheney on Thursday (Sept. 14). Classes at EWU don't start until Sept. 20, so the extra day enabled the Eagles to acclimate themselves to the time difference and what will be a 6 a.m. Pacific time pre-game meal before the kickoff four hours later. Besides having a walk-through practice at Fordham on Friday, the Eagles also visited the 9/11 Memorial in Manhattan and took a subway to Times Square. The terrorist attacks in 2001 took place just after Eastern made another East Coast visit, having defeated Connecticut 35-17 on Sept. 8, 2001.
Eastern is now 3-5 in games played East of the Mississippi River, including in 2007 when the Eagles played at Appalachian State (Boone, N.C.) in the FCS Playoffs (L, 35-38). Eastern's other games in the East were West Virginia in 2006 (L, 3-52), Southern Illinois (Carbondale) in the FCS Playoffs in 2004 (W, 35-31), Connecticut in 2001 (W, 35-17), Eastern Illinois (Charleston) in 1991 (L, 12-30) and Fairmont State in Morgantown, W.Va., in the NAIA Championship Game in 1967 (L, 21-28).
Eastern has also played three games very close to the Mississippi River in Louisiana – McNeese State (Lake Charles) in 2007, Nicholls State (Thibodaux) in 2004 and Northeast Louisiana (Monroe) in 1992 -- and six times at Northern Iowa (Cedar City) in 2015, 2005, 1994, 1992, 1989 and 1985.
In 2018, Eastern is scheduled to play at Washington State (9/15/18) in a rematch of EWU's 45-42 win to open the 2016 season. The Eagles will play in 2019 at Washington (8/31/19), a team EWU narrowly lost to 59-52 in 2014 and 30-27 in 2011. In 2020, the Eagles will play at Florida, and in 2022 are scheduled to play at Oregon.
Big Sky & Missouri Valley Begin Challenge Series
In an effort to publicize current matchups and promote future non-conference scheduling between two of the premier FCS conferences, the Mis­souri Valley Football Conference and the Big Sky Conference are in the midst of a Challenge Series between the two leagues. The eight-game series began Sept. 9 and will conclude Oct. 7.
So far, the Big Sky is 2-5, with two of the losses coming in match-ups of nationally-ranked teams in the STATS poll. Eastern was seventh and North Dakota State was No. 2 when they meet, and North Dakota was 10th when it fell to 23rd-ranked South Dakota. The other three league losses were to ranked opponents, while unranked Southern Utah picked up a 24-21 win over No. 21 Northern Iowa.
In the previous four seasons, institutions in the two conferences have played one another 35 times. The MVFC has the advantage in that span, although the Big Sky and MVFC split last year's eight meetings, 4-4. Since being founded in 1985, the MVFC has an all-time edge of 50-33 in games played be­tween their institutions, which includes 30 playoff meetings. Notably, the Big Sky and the MVFC make up two of only three leagues to have two or more playoff teams every year since 1999. In each of the past three seasons, the MVFC and Big Sky, meanwhile, have combined to produce eight of the 24 teams in the NCAA Division I Football Championship playoff field. Since the FCS playoffs began in 1978, the two leagues have combined to pro­duce 13 national champions.
Date -- Matchup (TV) . . . Note: STATS Rankings at time of game or current rankings are listed
Sept. 9 -- #2 North Dakota State 40, #7 Eastern Washington 13
Sept. 9 -- #21 UNI 45, Cal Poly 38 (overtime)
Sept. 9 -- #4 South Dakota State 31, Montana State 27
Sept. 9 -- #22 Western Illinois 38, Northern Arizona 20
Sept. 9 -- #11 North Dakota 34, Missouri State 0
Sept. 16 -- #23 South Dakota 45, #10 North Dakota 7
Sept. 16 -- Southern Utah 24, #21 Northern Iowa 21
Oct. 7 -- #14 Illinois State at Northern Arizona, Time TBD (NAU-TV AZ/Pluto TV)
NDSU & EWU Enjoy More FCS Playoff Success in 2016, But Come Up Short to Advancing to Title Game
Both Eastern Washington and North Dakota State are no strangers to postseason football, and last year both advanced to the semifinals of the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs.
Improving by six wins from the previous season and highlighted by an 11-game winning streak, Eastern finished the 2016 season 12-2 overall and a perfect 8-0 in the Big Sky Conference. Eastern was the No. 2 seed in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs, and ranked third in the final STATS FCS Top 25 regular season poll.
After rolling through its first two opponents in the playoffs, Eastern suffered a heartbreaking 40-38 loss to Youngstown State, which needed an improbable catch with one second left to pull out the victory. Eastern ended the year ranked fourth in the final STATS top 25 poll after coming so agonizingly close to returning to its first NCAA Division I Championship game since 2010 when the Eagles won the national title.
Until falling to YSU, EWU hadn't lost since falling to five-time defending FCS champion North Dakota State 50-44 in overtime on Sept. 10. One week before that, the Eagles had knocked off Washington State of the Pac-12 Conference 45-42. One week after edging Eastern, NDSU beat 13th-ranked Iowa 23-21.
Top-seeded North Dakota State had won five-straight FCS titles and 22-consecutive postseason games before it was defeated at home by fourth-seeded James Madison 27-17 in the semifinals. James Madison went on to beat YSU 28-14 in the NCAA Division I Championship Game on Jan. 7 in Frisco, Texas.
Eagles Celebrate 50th Anniversary of Games at Roos/Woodward Field With 50th Game on the Red Turf
The North Dakota State game on Sept. 9 was the 50th at Roos Field since the red turf surface was installed in 2010. Eastern is now 41-9 overall, and have lost just five regular season games at "The Inferno" – 31-5 (86.1 percent), plus are 10-4 in playoff games.
This is the seventh season the stadium has been known as "Roos Field," as a new red synthetic Sprinturf surface made its debut in 2010. Eastern finished a perfect 8-0 in its debut season at "The Inferno," including three playoff victories. Eastern is 41-8 overall (84 percent) since the red turf was installed in 2010 – including a 4-0 record versus rival Montana. Eastern has a 154-63 record (71.0 percent) in 217 games at Roos Field (formerly Woodward Field) since 1967, with the Eagles utilizing Joe Albi Stadium in Spokane as the school's main home field from 1983-89.
In 2016, Eastern finished 7-1 in the 50th season of football at EWU's current stadium location, which opened in 1967 and is celebrating its 50th anniversary in the 2017 season. A crowd of 10,231 were on hand for EWU's 2017 home opener, the 15th-most in school history and giving EWU 21-straight regular season sellouts (crowd of 8,600 or more) and 33 overall.
Eastern's 2016 average attendance was 8,435 (67,477 in eight home games), ranking behind the school record of 9,577 set in five home games in 2015. The Montana game on Oct. 29 had a crowd of 10,931 to rank as the fifth-most in school history, with the top three coming versus the Griz (11,702 in 2010, 11,583 in 2006 and 11,339 in 2014).
Reunion for 1967 Football Team Includes Honor for Fallen Hero
The 50-year-old memories of the hard-hitting by football player Lt. William "Bink" Wall – and the ultimate sacrifice he paid just three years later – were remembered at the North Dakota State game when he was honored posthumously as the recipient of the Eastern Athletics Hall of Fame Service and Contribution Award.
A reunion to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Football team's near-perfect season and runner-up finish in the NAIA Championships took place that weekend. That squad, which was the first team inducted into the Eastern Athletics Hall of Fame in 2001, was honored in pre-game introductions at Roos Field (formerly Woodward Field), which is also celebrating its 50th anniversary this fall.
As part of the pre-game introductions for that team, Wall was honored for his service to Eastern and his country. Originally from nearby Tekoa, Wash., he was killed in Vietnam in 1970 -- just three years removed from his honor-filled Eastern football career and 13 days prior to the birth of his second child. His wife, Linda Wall-Sullivan, as well as their two daughters and five grandchildren, were acknowledged with the '67 team at the NDSU game. The memory of Wall will also be recognized during EWU's normal Hall of Fame event on Sept. 30.
The Service and Contribution award was created in 2007 to recognize extraordinary achievements and contributions by individuals with a past association with the Eastern athletic department. This award, selected by the Eastern Athletics Hall of Fame Executive Committee, seeks to honor individuals who have contributed not only to EWU, but to other outside endeavors such as education, community service and coaching – and in Wall's case, service to our country.
Eagles Entered Season With National Rankings of Fourth (Coaches) & Fifth (STATS)
The reigning national champion James Madison Dukes were picked Aug. 7 as an overwhelming preseason No. 1 in the STATS NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Top 25, with Eastern Washington ranked fifth. In the coaches poll released a week later, the Eagles were fourth.
James Madison, which won the CAA Football title and only lost to North Carolina in a 14-1 season, collected 134 of the 163 first-place votes and 4,034 points in the STATS poll of national media. On the way to winning their second national title, the Dukes ended North Dakota State's five-year championship run in the semifinals. Last year's FCS runner-up, Youngstown State, was ninth.
North Dakota State was picked second in the preseason poll, followed in the Top 5 by Sam Houston State, South Dakota State and Eastern Washington. The Missouri Valley Football Conference had a poll-high six teams and the CAA was second with five. Eastern received 3,270 points, with fellow Big Sky Conference members North Dakota ranking eighth (2,871) and Cal Poly coming in at No. 23 (427). Eastern doesn't play Cal Poly, but takes on North Dakota on Nov. 11 in Grand Forks, N.D., in a showdown of undefeated Big Sky co-champions in 2016 (both were 8-0 and didn't play each other).

Eastern is 25-13 (66 percent) Since 2010 Versus Ranked Opponents
The Eagles have now played 121 games against ranked teams in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision since becoming a member of that classification in 1983 (then known as I-AA). Eastern is 54-67 (.446 in those games, including a 17-42 mark (.288) versus top 10 foes. Since 2010, though, the Eagles are 25-13 overall (.658) and 8-7 (.533 versus top 10 teams. So far this season, Eastern is 0-1 with a 40-13 loss to second-ranked North Dakota State (the Eagles were ranked seventh).
Eastern was 6-2 against ranked teams in 2016, having lost to top-ranked North Dakota State by a 50-44 score in overtime and then falling 40-38 to 13th-ranked Youngstown State in the semifinals of the FCS Playoffs. Eastern defeated Northern Iowa, ranked 10th at the time, by a 34-30 score on Sept. 17, beat No. 25 Northern Arizona 50-35 on Sept. 24, defeated No. 16 Montana 35-16 on Oct. 29, knocked off No. 14 Cal Poly 42-21 on Nov. 5, then beat No. 14 Central Arkansas 31-14 on Dec. 3 and was victorious over No. 12 Richmond 38-0 on Dec. 10. Overall, EWU has faced the No. 1 team in FCS nine times, winning twice (35-31 in 2004 over Southern Illinois in the FCS Playoffs and 30-21 in 2002 over Montana at Albi Stadium in Spokane, Wash.

Player Notes

Gubrud Heads List of Players Honored With Preseason Accolades
There are at least 5,160 reasons Eastern Washington University's Gage Gubrud is now among the favorites to win the Walter Payton Award presented by STATS to the top offensive player in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision.
The junior quarterback burst on the FCS scene a year ago in his first season as a starter by passing for a FCS record 5,160 yards, to go along with 48 touchdown passes and more than 5,700 yards of total offense. On Aug. 2, STATS named him among the players on the Watch List to win the award after finishing third in the voting a year ago. He was later named to the watch list for FCS Performer of the Year as selected by College Football Performance Awards.
Gubrud was joined on the STATS Watch List by Chase Edmonds from Fordham, which hosts EWU in The Bronx, N.Y., on Sept. 16. Edmonds was first in the nation in rushing yards per game (163.5), and second in all-purpose yards per game (194.6) and points per game (10.9). He finished fourth in the voting for last year's Payton Award, right behind Gubrud.
In addition to the Watch List, Gubrud was selected to the STATS preseason All-America second team and was picked defend his title as the league's Offensive MVP. He was last year's NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Player of the Year by the Touchdown Club of Columbus.
Defensive tackle Jay-Tee Tiuli earned third team preseason All-America honors from STATS, while Gubrud, defensive end Albert Havili and safety Mitch Fettig earned preseason All-Big Sky Conference honors. In addition, Gubrud was selected by College Sports Madness to win the Big Sky Conference Offensive Player of the Year award and was joined on CSM's preseason All-BSC squad by eight other Eagles. Defensive nose tackle Jay-Tee Tiuli joined Gubrud on the first team, with wide receiver Nic Sblendorio, safety Mitch Fettig, cornerback Nzuzi Webster and defensive end Albert Havili picked for the second team, and center Spencer Blackburn and linebacker Ketner Kupp chosen to the third team.
Gubrud Returns After Winning FCS Player of the Year Accolades
There were a handful of FCS Player of the Year awards handed out following the 2016 season, and quarterback Gage Gubrud was among those honored. After breaking a NCAA Football Championship Subdivision single season record with 5,160 passing yards, Gubrud was selected as the 2016 FCS Player of the Year by the Touchdown Club of Columbus (Ohio). He and his parents attended the live presentation of awards at the 62nd Touchdown Club of Columbus Awards (www.tdccolumbus.com) on Saturday, Feb. 4, 2017. Gubrud was the sixth recipient of the TDC's FCS Player of the Year Award, with Old Dominion's Taylor Heinicke the winner in 2012. Jacksonville State quarterback Eli Jenkins won in 2015, Marshaun Coprich of Illinois State won in 2014 and Timothy Flanders of Sam Houston State won in the inaugural year in 2011.
Gubrud finished third in the voting for the Walter Payton Award presented by STATS to the top offensive player in FCS, finishing behind winner Jeremiah Briscoe from Sam Houston State and Gubrud's Eagle teammate Cooper Kupp. It was the 30th awarding of the honor, which has become known as the Heisman Trophy of the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision level.
With voting conducted at the conclusion of the regular season, it was Briscoe, who threw an FCS single-season record 57 touchdowns in 2016, finishing with 599 votes to defeat Kupp (372) and Gubrud (362). Despite being unable to lock down the program's fourth Walter Payton Award winner, Eastern Washington was still able to make history at the STATS FCS Awards ceremony. Kupp and Gubrud became the first pair of teammates to be voted as finalists for the prestigious honor, whose past winners have included Eastern quarterback Erik Meyer (2005), Eagle quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell (2011) and Kupp (2015). Only Villanova has had as many past winners as EWU, and Kupp would have become just the second repeat winner had he won.
Kupp was also the 2015 winner of the FCS Offensive Player of the Year by both STATS and the FCS Athletic Director's Association (he repeated as winner of that award in 2016), and he was also presented the 2015 Walter Payton Award as selected by Mickey Charles LLC.
Gubrud Among Two All-Americans and Six All-BSC Players Back
Quarterback Gage Gubrud was honored on six All-America teams in 2016, including as a first team selection by Hero Sports. Gubrud was a second team selection by STATS, the American Football Coaches Association, Associated Press and College Sports Madness. Hero Sports also selected him to its Sophomore All-America squad. Four seniors also received All-America accolades, and a sixth, center Spencer Blackburn, who was picked for the Hero Sports Sophomore All-America squad. 
Gubrud and Cooper Kupp were honored on Nov. 22 as the Big Sky Conference co-Offensive MVPs, the first time in league history two players from the same team were selected by the coaches to share the award. Both were unanimous selections as first team selections in the league, with Kupp also becoming just the fourth player in league history to earn first team all-league all four seasons.
A total of 13 Eagles overall were honored, including a league-high seven first team selections. Returning for 2017 are first team defensive tackle Jay-Tee Tiuli, second team center Spencer Blackburn, third team cornerback Nzuzi Webster and honorable mention performers Mitch Fettig (safety) and Tristen Taylor (offensive tackle).
Blackburn took over as Eastern's starting center in the fourth game of the season for injured senior Jerrod Jones, and earned second team All-Big Sky Conference honors. After Blackburn's insertion into the starting lineup beginning with the Northern Arizona game on Sept. 24, Eastern's five starters on the offensive line for the rest of the year consisted of two redshirt freshmen and a trio of sophomores.
Eastern players have now been selected as the Big Sky Conference Offensive MVP in 12 of the last 16 seasons, including six of the last seven.
Gubrud Breaks Three FCS, Seven Big Sky and 18 EWU Records
Sophomore quarterback Gage Gubrud – the Big Sky's co-Offensive MVP along with teammate Cooper Kupp -- put up some remarkable numbers in his first season as EWU's starter, breaking three FCS records, seven Big Sky marks and 18 school records.
Gubrud is a 2014 graduate of McMinnville (Ore.) High School and passed for an FCS record 5,160 yards in the 2016 season, breaking the record of 5,076 by Taylor Heinicke of Old Dominion in 2012. His 11 games with at least 300 yards passing and 12 with at least 300 yards of total offense are also FCS records. Gubrud's total of 5,766 yards of total offense were just 33 from the total offense mark of 5,799 set by Steve McNair of Alcorn in 1994. Gubrud broke EWU and Big Sky Conference single season records previous set by Vernon Adams Jr. in 2013 with 4,994 passing yards and 5,559 yards of offense.
Gubrud's average of 411.9 yards of offense per game was also a league and school record, and ranks fifth in FCS history. He broke the previous Big Sky record set 25 years prior by Jamie Martin of Weber State with a 394.3 average in 1991. Gubrud's final tally of 368.6 passing yards per game was an EWU school record, breaking the record of 364.5 set by Bo Levi Mitchell in 2011. They were also the second-most in Big Sky history (behind the record of 379.6 set by Dave Dickenson of Montana in 1995) and ranked ninth all-time in FCS.
Gubrud also set Big Sky and school records for total offensive plays (704), passing completions (386) and attempts (570), and a school record for rushing yards by a quarterback with 606 (the old record was 605 by Vernon Adams Jr. in 2013). The six single game EWU records he holds are for passing yards (520 vs. Montana State), total offense (551 vs. Washington State), touchdowns responsible for (7 vs. UC Davis), points responsible for (42 vs. UC Davis), fewest interceptions per pass attempt (0 in 64 attempts versus Central Arkansas) and completions (47 vs. Central Arkansas), which was also a league record.
Gubrud 2016 NCAA Statistical Leader in Passing and Total Offense
Helping EWU lead FCS in passing offense for the second-straight year, Gage Gubrud passed for 5,160 yards, 48 touchdowns and a .677 completion percentage, and also rushed for a team-leading and EWU quarterback record 606 yards (4.5 per carry) and five more scores.  He finished as the FCS leader in total offense at 411.9 per game, passing yards (5,160) and passing yards per game (368.6), and was second in points responsible per game (22.9), total points responsible for (320) and passing touchdowns (48). He was also third in completion percentage (.677) and third in passing efficiency (166.6).
Antoine Custer Jr. Makes Big Plays Rushing & Returning for Eagles as a True Freshman in 2016
True freshman running back Antoine Custer Jr., made big plays all season as a true freshman for the Eagles, finishing his debut season with 977 all-purpose yards and a pair of Big Sky Conference Player of the Week accolades. He rushed 98 times for a net of 416 yards and five touchdowns, and caught 27 passes for 187 yards and a score, and also averaged 26.7 yards on 14 kickoff returns with a touchdown. Custer started at running back in six games, including Eastern's opener against Washington State, and scored the first touchdown of the season for the Eagles on a pass from Gage Gubrud.
He ended the regular season by returning four kickoffs for a 26.8 average in a 35-28 victory against Portland State on Nov. 18. He had a long of 35, which sparked EWU's nine-play, 61-yard drive that knotted the game at 28 in the fourth quarter. En route to a career-high of 185 all-purpose yards, he also rushed for a team-high 69 yards on 13 carries (5.3 per carry), giving him 210 yards in his last two regular season games of the season.
He had the first 100-yard rushing game of his career, and first of the season for the Eagles in EWU's 48-17 win over Idaho State on Nov. 12. He finished with 141 yards on 12 carries, including an 83-yard touchdown in the second quarter which equals the ninth-longest in school history. It was the first 100-yard rushing performance by an Eagle in EWU's last 15 games dating back to Jalen Moore's 128-yard performance at Northern Colorado. His 141 were the most for an Eagle in 19 games since Jabari Wilson had 188 versus Montana State earlier in the 2015 season. While EWU's offense ended up with four turnovers and had to punt three times, the Eagles had excellent balance with 281 on the ground and 276 through the air. Eastern finished with a total of 557, including 209 in the third quarter. It was the first time in 23 games the Eagles had more rushing yards than passing yards, dating back to a playoff win over Montana on Dec. 6, 2014, when the Eagles had 212 on the ground and 182 through the air.
He missed the Northern Colorado game on Oct. 8 with a concussion. He was also very productive in a 42-21 win at Cal Poly on Nov. 5 when he had 145 all-purpose yards -- 64 yards rushing, 39 on three catches and 42 on two kickoff returns.
Custer is proof that lightning can strike twice in the same spot. Just like he did against Northern Iowa on Sept. 17 when he had a 93-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to open the second half against Northern Iowa, Custer provided a third quarter spark for the Eagles in EWU's 63-30 win over UC Davis on Oct. 1. He opened the third quarter with a 55-yard return this time, leading to a short touchdown drive as part of EWU's 35-point onslaught in that period. The resulting TD pulled EWU within 23-21, and the lead quickly changed hands twice before the Eagles scored the final 35 points of the game.
His 55-yarder was just his­­­ second return as an Eagle, and then he followed that with a 16-yard return versus the Aggies. Teammate Nsimba Webster had an earlier 65-yard return against UC Davis, but broke his clavicle in the process. Senior Shaq Hill, who was a freshman All-American as a returner, had a 43-yarder against Montana on Oct. 29 and averaged 17.9 on eight returns. Webster had a 25.3 average per return, and EWU's 21.7 average as a team ranked fourth in the Big Sky and 25th nationally. In addition, Eastern's 20.3 average on punt returns – including a 22.9 average for Cooper Kupp – ranked first in the league and third in FCS.
Trailing Northern Iowa by 17 at halftime on Sept. 17, Custer's TD in EWU's come-from-behind 34-30 win over Northern Iowa helped earn him his first Big Sky Conference Special Teams Player of the Week honor. His TD return was the first by an Eagle since Hill had a 90-yarder against Portland State on Nov. 21, 2014. Hill, EWU's all-time leader in kickoff returns and yards, actually provided three blocks down the sideline during Custer's TD return.
In the last 21 seasons (1996-2016), Eastern has returned 37 total kicks for touchdowns while allowing just 17. Until North Dakota State had one in the FCS Playoffs in 2010, Eastern had not allowed a kickoff return for a touchdown in more than 10 years (599 total returns).
Running Back Duo Returns After Seeing Significant Action as True Freshmen
A pair of running backs from Eastern's talented 2016 recruiting class played as true freshmen in the 2016 opener against Washington State on Sept. 3 when Antoine Custer Jr. and Tamarick Pierce received carries at running back. Custer started and had the first EWU touchdown of the season on a 14-yard reception, and rushed once for no gain. Pierce did not get a carry, but carried four times for 18 yards the next week at North Dakota State. Custer was a California two-time All-State selection out of powerhouse De La Salle High School, and Pierce was an All-State selection from Oakland, Calif., and Saint Mary's High School. Custer rushed for 4,429 yards (103.0 per game and 10.3 per carry) and scored 66 total touchdowns while helping his team compile a 41-2 record in three seasons, with a pair of state titles and a runner-up finish. He finished with 5,965 all-purpose yards in his career, and scored 53 touchdowns rushing, four receiving and nine on returns and recoveries. Pierce rushed for 3,342 yards (8.8 per carry) in his career with 35 rushing touchdowns, caught 44 passes for 424 yards and eight more scores, and scored 47 total TDs in three seasons.
Offensive lineman D.J. Dyer made his Eagle debut against Northern Arizona on Sept. 24 when injuries to Eagle offensive linemen forced him to burn his redshirt. The other 15 true freshman on the roster redshirted and played on scout teams, including highly-touted quarterback Eric Barriere from La Habra (Calif.) High School. He accounted for 130 career touchdowns with 9,304 passing yards and 1,718 rushing yards in high school, and led the Highlanders to a collective 30-8 record and a perfect league record in three championship seasons.

Recent Game Recap

#12 Eastern Washington 56, Fordham 21: With EWU's defense registering a school-record 10 sacks and the offense piling up 650 total yards, the No. 12 Eagles defeated Fordham of the Patriot League Sept. 16 at Jack Coffey Field in the Bronx. Eastern scored 28 unanswered points to pull away from a 7-7 tie after the first quarter. Junior All-America quarterback Gage Gubrud passed for 399 yards and three touchdowns, and also ran for 70 yards and two scores, in helping Aaron Best record his first victory as EWU's head coach. Eastern finished with its seventh-most yards in school history, compared to just 217 for the Rams. Ten different players contributed toward EWU's sack total, breaking the previous record of nine set on Oct. 24, 1992, against Northern Arizona and matched Oct. 23, 2004 versus Weber State. Because of the sacks, Fordham had just 26 net yards rushing for EWU's best defensive rushing performance in 75 games. Eastern dominated in the second quarter, gaining 181 yards of offense to minus-3 for the Rams. After a nine-play, 75-yard drive was EWU's lone score in the first quarter, EWU put together two long scoring drives to take a 21-7 lead at halftime. A 62-yard punt by Jordan Dascalo pinned Fordham deep, and EWU got the ball back after a punt and went on a two-play 34-yard drive. Gubrud scored his second touchdown of the game on a 9-yard run. Eastern then had a five-play, 57-yard drive that featured a career-best 15-yard reception and 17-yard TD rush by Tamarick Pierce on back-to-back plays. After taking a 21-7 lead at halftime, Eastern opened the second half with a 51-yard kickoff return by sophomore Dre' Sonte Dorton, followed by a 43-yard touchdown strike from Gage Gubrud to sophomore Antoine Custer Jr. to give EWU a three-touchdown lead just 17 seconds into the third quarter. Kicker Roldan Alcobendas broke the school record for most extra points in a row, making all of seven of his against Fordham to extend his streak to 72. He broke the record of 66 set by Jason Cromer from 1988-90. Dorton, helping fill-in for injured wide receiver Terence Grady, caught a pair of passes for 52 yards and had three kickoff returns for 99 yards. Senior wide receiver Nic Sblendorio led the Eagles with eight catches for 67 yards and a touchdown. Junior wide receiver Nsimba Webster had five catches, good for a career-high 101 yards, including a career-long 38-yarder. Custer had 102 all-purpose yards, finishing with 49 on the ground and 53 on a pair of catches. Sophomore defensive nose tackle Dylan Ledbetter, making the first start of his career, had a career-high eight tackles and two of EWU's 10 sacks. Senior defensive end Albert Havili had the second multiple sack game of his Eastern career – and second in five games – with a career-high 2 1/2 versus Fordham. Junior safety Mitch Fettig had seven tackles and had one of the six passes broken up by the Eagles. The game was to feature a pair of players who finished in the top four in voting last year for the Walter Payton Award given to the top player in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision, but only one of them played. Gubrud was third and Fordham running back Chase Edmonds – injured and unable to play versus the Eagles -- was fourth. While Gubrud passed for a FCS record 5,160 yards, Edmonds is chasing the FCS career rushing record. He entered the EWU game with 5,400, needing 1,159 to equal the record of 6,559 set by Adrian Peterson of Georgia Southern.  A year ago, Edmonds was first in the nation in rushing yards per game (163.5), and second in all-purpose yards per game (194.6) and points per game (10.9).

Series History

* Montana leads the all-time series 27-16-1, but EWU has won five of the last six and six of the last eight. But prior to that, Montana had won six of the previous seven meetings. Overall, Eastern is 5-15-1 in Missoula, 10-11 in home games and 1-1 in games played at neutral sites.

 * In a series full of drama, the 2016 meeting between Eastern and Montana was 16th time in the last 22 meetings that both teams entered the game nationally ranked. Each team has won eight times in those 16 meetings. Interestingly, in the first nine Montana was the higher-ranked team; in the last seven EWU was rated higher. The higher-ranked team is 11-5 in those 16 nationally-ranked matchups. The 2013 game was the first time both teams entered ranked in the top 10, with the collective ranking of 13 the best ever.

* Below are the 16 matchups in the last 21 seasons (two in 2014) when both squads have entered the game nationally ranked. Eastern is 8-8 in those games, with road victories in 1997, 2005 and 2013. Eastern picked up a home win in 2010 in the debut of Eastern's red Sprinturf surface at Roos Field, and in 2012 in the debut of EWU's new videoboard.

2016 - #3 Eastern Washington 35, #16 Montana 16 (in Cheney, Wash.)
2015 - #22 Montana 57, #10 Eastern Washington 16 (in Missoula, Mont.)
2014 - #4 Eastern Washington 37, #12 Montana 20 (FCS Playoffs in Cheney, Wash.)
2014 - #5 Eastern Washington 36, #11 Montana 26 (in Cheney, Wash.)
2013 - #3 Eastern Washington 42, #10 Montana 37 (in Missoula, Mont.)
2012 - #7 Eastern Washington 32, #21 Montana 26 (in Cheney, Wash.)
2011 - #12 Montana 17, #10 Eastern Washington 14 (in Missoula, Mont.)
2010 - #18 Eastern Washington 36, #6 Montana 27 (in Cheney, Wash.)
2009 - #3 Montana 41, #21 Eastern Washington 34 (in Missoula, Mont.)
2008 - #12 Montana 19, #23 Eastern Washington 3 (in Cheney, Wash.)
2005 - #12 Eastern Washington 34, #2 Montana 20 (in Missoula, Mont.)
2004 - #5 Montana 31, #23 Eastern Washington 28 (in Cheney, Wash.)
2001 - #3 Montana 29, #15 Eastern Wash. 26 (2 overtimes in Missoula, Mont.)
2000 - #9 Montana 41, #18 Eastern Washington 31 (in Spokane, Wash.)
1997 - #17 Eastern Washington 40, #2 Montana 35 (in Missoula, Mont.)
1996 - #1 Montana 34, #20 Eastern Washington 30 (in Cheney, Wash.)


Looking Back

2016 . . . #3 Eastern Washington 36, #16 Montana 16 -- The third-ranked Eastern Washington University football team scored 21 unanswered first half points and then struck twice in the third quarter to run past 16th-ranked Montana 35-16 in a Big Sky Conference showdown Oct. 29 at Roos Field in Cheney, Wash. Eastern's sensational senior receiver Cooper Kupp had touchdown receptions of 69, 40 and 5 yards, plus a 54-yard pass to sophomore quarterback Gage Gubrud that set-up another score. Gubrud passed for 327 yards and four scores, with Kupp finishing with eight catches for 140 yards. But it was Eastern's defense that reversed a 57-16 loss in 2015 in Missoula to a 19-point victory in the 2016 rematch. Eastern held Montana nearly 30 points below its season average of 44.9 points per game, and it was the fewest Montana has scored in the series since 1984. Although Montana out-gained Eastern 540-455, Eastern averaged 7.3 yards per play compared to 5.7 for the Grizzlies.  Montana had 94 offensive plays, but Eastern's defense held the Grizzlies to just two touchdowns, plus a field goal for UM's only points in a 43:50 span and 35-3 EWU scoring run. Eastern had interceptions by sophomores Mitch Fettig and Alek Kacmarcik, and sacks by Samson Ebukam and Dylan Donohue. Four of Montana's seven possessions in the first half ended with an interception, a missed fourth-down conversion, a missed field goal and two punts. In the second half, Eastern had an interception and forced Montana to punt four times – including a pair of three-and-outs. Trailing 7-0, Eastern scored late in the first quarter on a 69-yard scoring strike from Gubrud to Kupp. On EWU's next possession, on what appeared to be a reverse, Kupp found Gubrud for a 54-yard pass play to the Montana 2-yard line. Eastern's Tamarick Pierce then scored to give Eastern a 14-7 lead it wouldn't relinquish. The Eagles added three more scores during a game-deciding 35-3 scoring run. Gubrud completed just two of his first nine passes, but finished 21-of-37 and extended his string of passes of passes without an interception to 222 until the Grizzlies tipped and intercepted a pass in the third quarter. Senior Kendrick Bourne had his ninth 100-yard performance receiving, finishing with five catches for 124 yards. Fettig had a career-high 13 tackles to eclipse his previous career high for tackles by four. Senior safety Zach Bruce came one tackle from his career high, finishing with 13 and a pass broken up. Senior linebacker Miquiyah Zamora had 11 tackles, and Kacmarcik was the fourth Eagle in double figures in tackles with 11, as well as an interception he returned 46 yards.
2015 . . . #22 Montana 57, #10 Eastern Washington 16: The 10th-ranked Eagles had six turnovers and allowed No. 22 Montana to open leads of 27-3 in the first half and 50-9 in the third quarter in a resounding 57-16 Big Sky Conference loss to the Grizzlies Nov. 14, 2015, at Washington-Grizzly Stadium in Missoula, Mont. The turnover total included two that were returned for scores by Montana. The Grizzlies took a 27-3 lead just 20 minutes into the game, then scored 20 points in the first 7:21 of the second half. In the opening half, Eastern had a pair of turnovers, one on a fourth-down conversion attempt. The Grizzlies scored after both, as well as after another failed fourth-down attempt. The result was a 27-3 hole with 10:03 left in the first half. Eastern trailed 20-3 and had the ball early in the second quarter when Reilly Hennessey was sacked by the Grizzlies and fumbled. Herbert Gamboa scooped it up and ran 33 yards for a touchdown. The Eagles also turned the ball over in their own territory three of the first four times they had the ball in the second half, and Montana turned them into 13 points and a 50-9 lead. Cooper Kupp finished with six catches for 118 yards, and also had a 21-yard touchdown pass in the first half. Terence Grady had six grabs for 78 yards, and Kendrick Bourne had five catches for 80 yards and a touchdown reception from Kupp. Three Eastern quarterbacks combined to complete 22-of-45 passes for 319 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. Hennessey made his first career start and completed 7-of-12 passes for 113 yards in the first half. He was shaken up on a sack in the second quarter and didn't return. Jordan West was 7-of-19 for 119 yards and two interceptions, and Gage Gubrud made his Eagle debut at quarterback and finished 7-of-13 for 66 yards, a 1-yard touchdown run and an interception. Alek Kacmarcik led the Eagles with 11 tackles, Keenan Williams had seven tackles and Victor Gamboa forced a fumble and recovered it at the EWU 32-yard line, leading to a 21-yard touchdown pass from Kupp to Bourne. Eastern was just 2-of-15 on third down while Grizzlies converted half of theirs (9-of-18).
* Several recent games have come down to the wire. In the 2014 regular season meeting, Eastern took a 33-10 lead in the third quarter before Montana rallied to make it a one-score game. Eastern kicker Tyler McNanny capped a late 58-yard drive with a 34-yard field goal with 28 seconds to play to provide the final margin. In 2013, the Eagles had to recover an onside kick with 1:41 to play to preserve a 42-37 victory. In 2012, Eastern prevailed 32-26, scoring twice in the last 2:19 to pull out the victory. The game in 2011 also went down to the wire as the Eagles lost 17-14 after edging Montana 36-27 in 2010 in the first game on the red Sprinturf surface at Roos Field. Eastern ended that meeting with a fumble recovery for a touchdown.
* Thirteen recent games in the series have been decided by margins of 10 points or less. The winner has usually piled up points and yardage by the ton. In 2016, the two teams combined for 995 yards, with EWU winning 35-16 despite a 540-455 yardage advantage for Montana. In fact, three of EWU's 21 games of at least 600 yards in total offense have come against the Grizzlies. Eastern had 697 yards of total offense in 1986, 658 yards in 1997 in a 40-35 win, 564 in a 24-23 loss in 2007, 541 yards by the Eagles in a 34-20 win in Missoula in 2005, 540 in a 42-37 win in 2013 and 503 in a 2010 victory in Cheney. In 2013, the two teams combined for 1,029 total yards, and one year earlier had 980. In the last 31 meetings the winning team has averaged 34.2 points. In nine of those 31 games the two teams have combined for at least 70 points, including a 41-34 Grizzly win in Missoula in 2009, EWU's 42-37 victory in 2013 and Montana's 57-16 romp in 2015.
* Since 1990, Eastern has won five times on UM's home field in Missoula. After the 1990 victory, wins in Missoula in 1992, 1997, 2005 and 2013 would eventually yield Big Sky titles for the Eagles. Eastern, however, won just twice at home from 1990-2009. The lone win over Montana from 1990-2009 at Roos Field (formerly Woodward Field) came in 1991, but Eastern's change to a red synthetic Sprinturf surface and change of name altered its success in Cheney with consecutive home wins in 2010, 2012, 2014 (twice) and 2016. Eastern also won in 2002 in a home game played at Spokane's Albi Stadium against the top-ranked Grizzlies.
* The Eagles shared the 2004 and 2005 Big Sky titles with Montana, but the Grizzlies won or shared every league title from 1998-2009. Until Southern Utah won the title outright in 2015, Eastern was the only Big Sky school other than Montana to win the outright title from 1997-2014, doing it in 1997, 2013 and 2014. The Eagles advanced to the semifinals of the FCS Playoffs in both 1997 and 2013. The 1997 team was inducted into the Eastern Athletics Hall of Fame in 2012. Montana's streak of league titles ended at 12 as EWU and MSU shared the 2010 title.
* In EWU's 2014 playoff win, it was a story of balance for Eastern as the Eagles defeated Big Sky Conference rival Montana 37-20 in a second-round game in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs Dec. 6 at Roos Field in Cheney, Wash. The Eagles won the turnover battle 3-1, and turned a pair of Grizzly turnovers into 10 points in the second half. Eastern also used a blocked punt by senior Ronnie Hamlin to help open a 7-0 lead early in the game, and led by as many as 17. The Eagles never trailed and scored in every quarter, increasing their streak to 44-straight quarters dating back to August 30. Eastern passed for 182 yards in the game and rushed for 212, with Quincy Forte finishing with 128 on the ground for his fourth 100-yard performance in seven games played. The Eagles finished with a season-low 394 yards of offense, but their defense made up for it by holding Montana to 347. The Eagle defense finished with two interceptions, a fumble, four sacks and three passes broken up, and held Montana to just 5-of-14 on third down. Junior Vernon Adams Jr., who passed for 410 yards and four touchdowns against Montana on Nov. 8 in his return from a foot injury, completed 24-of-35 passes for 182 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Sophomore Cooper Kupp had a career-high 12 catches – the eighth-most in school history – for 86 yards for the Eagles. The Eagles were up just 7-3 late in the second quarter when they mounted a 15-play, 81-yard scoring drive that took 3:35 off the clock. A 3-yard touchdown run by Adams gave EWU a 13-3 halftime lead, then EWU made it 20-3 by scoring with the first possession of the second half. Adams capped a nine-play, 75-yard drive with a 23-yard TD pass to Cory Mitchell, as Montana had the ball in that stretch for just nine seconds compared to 7:36 for the Eagles.

* Earlier in the 2014 season, Vernon Adams Jr. returned after missing four games with a broken foot to pass for 410 yards and four touchdowns, and the fifth-ranked Eagles held off No. 11 Montana 36-26 on Nov. 8 in a pivotal game in the chase to the 2014 Big Sky Conference football title. Thanks to the passing of Adams and a 67-yard punt return for a touchdown by sophomore Cooper Kupp, Eastern jumped out to a 33-10 lead in the third quarter. Montana rallied to make it a one-score game, but EWU kicker Tyler McNanny capped a late 58-yard drive with a 34-yard field goal with 28 seconds to play to provide the final margin.  Adams completed 25-of-37 passes against the Grizzlies with no interceptions, and Kupp finished with eight catches for 134 yards and a touchdown. Junior Shaq Hill finished with eight catches for 114 yards and a touchdown and had a total of 179 all-purpose yards. Redshirt freshman Nic Sblendorio had career highs with five catches for 89 yards for the Eagles, including a brilliant one-handed 32-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter. Eastern had interceptions by Ronnie Hamlin and Tevin McDonald to win the turnover battle 2-1. Montana entered the game leading FCS with just four turnovers in nine games and was 10th in turnover margin (+0.89 per game with 12 takeaways). Ahead just 33-26 with 2:32 to play, Adams had completions of 17 yards to Kupp and 23 and eight yards to Sblendorio to pick up key first downs and move the ball to the Montana 16-yard line. Included was a key third-down completion after the Eagles had converted on just 5-of-12 to that point. The Eagles converted in the red zone with a 34-yard field goal by Tyler McNanny to clinch the win, which was set-up by a 10-yard run by Mario Brown -- the longest rush for an Eagle running back in the game.  Eastern's defense had a total of 11 passes broken up, three quarterback hurries and a pair of sacks. A crowd of 11,339 attended the Montana game, ranking third in school history behind crowds versus Montana of 11,702 in 2010 and 11,583 in 2006.

* In the 2013 meeting, the third-ranked Eagles couldn't shake 10th-ranked Montana and had to hold off the Grizzlies 42-37 on Oct. 26 at Washington-Grizzly Stadium. Behind career days for sophomore quarterback Vernon Adams and freshman Cooper Kupp, the Eagles won in Missoula for the first time since 2005. Eastern scored 21-straight points spanning halftime to take a 42-17 lead entering the final period. Eastern had a 214-46 advantage in offense in the decisive third quarter. Adams completed 27-of-40 passes for a career-high 457 yards, and his six TDs tied the school record. Kupp had his 10th and 11th touchdown catches of the season to finish with 11 grabs for 182 yards. Kupp also recovered an onside kick with 1:41 left to enable the Eagles to run out the clock for the win. Eagle speedster Shaq Hill had an 86-yard TD grab in the first half. The Eagles finished with a 540-489 advantage in total offense. Quincy Forte rushed for 70 yards in the win, and senior linebacker Ronnie Hamlin led the defense with 10 tackles.

* In 2012, No. 7 Eastern scored two touchdowns in the final 2:19 to rally for a 32-26 victory over 21st-ranked Montana Grizzlies on Sept. 29 at Roos Field in Cheney, Wash. The two scores, aided by a successful onside kick, came within 1:26 of each other. Eastern put together an 82-yard scoring drive to pull within two points on a 30-yard touchdown pass from Vernon Adams to Brandon Kaufman. After Shaq Hill successfully recovered an onside kick for the Eagles that was deflected by Kaufman, Eastern scored again on a 20-yard TD pass from Adams to Ashton Clark with 53 seconds to play. Adams completed 25-of-41 passes for 353 yards and three touchdowns in his second career start for EWU, and also added a team-leading 54 yards rushing. He overcame an interception and a fumble in the fourth quarter to become one of several heroes for the Eagles. In the final quarter alone, Adams was 13-of-21 for 171 yards and a pair of scores.  Kaufman finished with eight catches for 138 yards and a pair of scores as he had his fifth-straight 100-yard receiving game. Four Eagles finished in double figures in tackles, including linebackers Ronnie Hamlin (14), Grant Williams (13) and Tyler Washburn (12). Safety Allen Brown had 11 stops, and redshirt freshman Jordan Tonani added eight tackles after starter Jeff Minnerly broke his collarbone on EWU's first defensive series. Montana rushed 61 times and had three players with 95 yards or more. The 407 rushing yards by Montana were the most against the Eagles since Southern Utah rushed for 535 yards in the final game of the 1998 season. The game was Eastern's home opener -- EWU's latest home start since 1981. The game also marked the debut of a new scoreboard and videoboard at The Inferno, two years after the Eagles unveiled their new red Sprinturf surface at Roos Field in a 36-27 victory over UM. The "men in black" also played in new black helmets, to go along with black pants and black jerseys.

* In the 2011 meeting in Missoula, Eastern fell behind 10-0 to the Grizzlies, but rallied to pull within three points in the fourth quarter. The 10th-ranked Eagles held No. 12 Montana scoreless on its final five possessions of the game, but Eastern was unable to score in its last three. An interception with 25 seconds to play iced the win for the Grizzlies. Montana rushed for 316 yards versus the Eagles, but was held to 34 passing yards and was out-gained in total offense 376-350.

* In 2010, the first football game on Eastern's new red Sprinturf surface was a huge success as the 18th-ranked Eagles knocked off the No. 6 Grizzlies in the Big Sky Conference opener for both schools on Sept. 18, 2010, at Roos Field in Cheney, Wash. Mike Jarrett nailed a 31-yard field goal with four seconds left to give Eastern a 30-27 lead, then the Eagles iced it on the final play of the game with a 34-yard fumble return for a touchdown by junior defensive tackle Renard Williams after a sack and forced fumble by sophomore end Jerry Ceja with additional pressure by senior Tyler Jolley. Junior All-America running back Taiwan Jones had 305 all-purpose yards -- including 221 rushing yards -- to lead EWU's 503-yard offensive output. The sold-out stadium featured a crowd of 11,702 as it set a new Roos Field record. The previous record of 11,583 was set on Oct. 7, 2006 versus Montana. Eastern also set a new record for student attendance of 3,105, as the previous high was 2,218 in a 2008 game versus Montana.

* Other games in the series have also been filled with suspense. Eastern knotted the 2009 meeting at 34 with 4:58 to play, only to have the Grizzlies drive for the winning score with 1:18 left in a 41-34 victory. In 2007, Eastern kicked a go-ahead field goal with 2:20 to play before top-ranked Montana kicked the game-winner with 26 seconds to play after converting a fourth-and-10 play. Eastern wide receiver Aaron Boyce had the fourth-best receiving effort in Big Sky Conference history with a school-record 17 catches in the 2007 meeting to earn NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Offensive Player of the Week honors from The Sports Network. His 232 receiving yards were the second-most in school history, and Eagle quarterback Matt Nichols passed for a career-high 451 yards to rank third all-time at EWU at the time.

* In 2004, Montana blocked a 28-yard field goal attempt by the Eagles with 18 seconds remaining as the 23rd-ranked Eagles fell to the fifth-ranked Grizzlies 31-28 in a showdown for first place in front of a Roos Field (formerly Woodward Field) record crowd of 10,754.

* In 2002 at Albi Stadium in Spokane, Eastern beat the No. 1 ranked and unbeaten Grizzlies 30-21, ending Montana's record-tying winning streak in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision at 24 games. It was the first Big Sky Conference loss for UM head coach Joe Glenn, and snapped Montana's record winning streaks of 25 Big Sky games in a row and 13 league road games in a row. And in the process, the Eagle victory opened the door for Montana State and Idaho State to share the conference title with the Grizzlies.

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