Two prominent Eastern Washington football players couldn’t have picked a worse time to break team rules.
Wth the Eagles needing to win their last two games in order to reach the postseason, All-American quarterback Gage Gubrud and starting linebacker Kurt Calhoun have been suspended for this week’s Big Sky Conference game at North Dakota.
“I was made aware this morning of a situation that occurred (Saturday) night involving both Gage and Kurt,” coach Aaron Best said Sunday. “The incident is in violation of our team rules, and in response to the situation, I have suspended both players for this week’s game at North Dakota,” Best said.
Best did not elaborate on the nature of the violation and did not respond to messages asking for further comment.
“Unless something else unveils itself, we will then move forward,” Best said. “I do not plan on elaborating any further than what I have just indicated on the incident.”
The timing couldn’t be worse for the Eagles, who are coming off back-to-back losses to Southern Utah and Weber State and are all but eliminated from the Big Sky Conference title race.
Both Gubrud and Calhoun have started every game this year for the 11th-ranked Eagles (5-4 overall and 4-2 in the Big Sky), who must win their final two games against North Dakota and Portland State in order to have any chance of earning an at-large berth in the FCS playoffs.
One of the top passers in the nation, Gubrud has thrown for 2,897 yards and 22 touchdowns this season. He was a Walter Payton Award finalist last year as one of the outstanding FCS players in the nation.
Calhoun, a junior from Zillah, Washington, was coming off a career-high performance for tackles with 13 in Saturday’s 28-20 homecoming loss to Weber State.
Calhoun is second on the team with 68 tackles on the season. He will be replaced by redshirt sophomore Andrew Katzenberger, who has appeared in 16 games but has never started.
The critical dropoff comes at quarterback, where the top backup, redshirt freshman Eric Barriere, has appeared in only three games this season.
Barriere is 1-for-2 for 13 yards and an interception, all coming in the season opener at Texas Tech on Sept. 2.
Gubrud, a junior from McMinnville, Oregon, and team captain, has started 23 straight games dating back to the beginning of last season. A third-stringer during the 2015 season, he won the starting job in the spring of 2016. In his first start, he led the Eagles to a 45-42 upset at Washington State.
Eastern has made in-season quarterback changes before, but not because of disciplinary action. In 2014, backup Jordan West started four games (and won three) after starter Vernon Adams Jr. suffered a foot injury.
In 2012, then-coach Beau Baldwin started Adams - then a redshirt freshman - in the Big Sky opener, then alternated Adams with former starter Kyle Padron.
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