Eastern Washington wasted little time adhering to its new credo.
The ninth-ranked Eagles scored on the first play from scrimmage, jumped out to a swift 20-point lead, and kept their foot on the throttle in a 58-13 rout of NCAA Division II power Central Washington on Saturday at Roos Field.
EWU, which adopted a “Leave no doubt” creed after a FCS postseason snub last season, piled up a video-game-like 677 yards on the Wildcats’ defense, 349 through the air.
All-American quarterback Gage Gubrud was surgical against CWU’s experienced secondary, completing 19 of his 23 passes for 337 yards and five touchdowns. Fleet-footed receiver Nsimba Webster had his hand in more than half the total.
Webster had 10 catches for a career-high 212 yards and two touchdowns. He scored on the first play from scrimmage after hauling in a 15-yard pass across the middle and jetting 35 yards to the end zone.
Running back Sam McPherson also posted a career high with 185 yards rushing and one touchdown on 15 carries for EWU, which churned out 328 rushing yards.
“We were reading their defense pretty well,” McPherson said. “A lot of play fakes that we had opened the secondary up, that gave us opportunities to get yards and score touchdowns. The whole offense was in sync today, and that’s what we wanted as we go into next week against (Northern Arizona).”
EWU head coach Aaron Best lauded the offense, which has shifted Nsimba to inside receiver to give him more one-on-one opportunities with safeties.
The Eagles’ offensive line didn’t yield a sack.
“A very solid day for that offensive unit, and the second half of that offense was amazing,” Best said. “And a great second half by the defense. Anytime you put up (a shutout) in the second half, or any half, is amazing.”
The Eagles’ defense was menacing against CWU, Division II’s ninth-ranked team, limiting star quarterback Reilly Hennessey to 19 of 32 passing and an interception. The Eagles’ defense yielded 321 total yards.
Hennessey, a former EWU quarterback, could never get into rhythm against the Eagles’ senior-laden defense.
Linebackers Ketner Kupp and Kurt Calhoun and safety Mitch Fettig had a team-high seven tackles. Kupp also had a sack and redshirt freshman Mitch Johnson had two tackles for loss. Calin Criner had a pick.
CWU was able to move the ball early with Hennessey and running back Cedric Cooper, but the Wildcats were plagued by eight first-half, drive-killing penalties. The Wildcats had more troubles in the second half.
Hennessey connected with safety Sam Sanchez on a 15-yard touchdown pass to make it a 20-7 game, but the Wildcats didn’t get any closer.
“I felt like early on we weren’t doing a good enough job on third or executing what we were supposed to do. As the game went on we got a lot better at it,” said Kupp, who also recorded a sack. “We made some adjustments at half, and coaches did a good job of putting us in the right place.”
CWU head coach Ian Shoemaker said his team was without a half-dozen starters this week for various reasons, including the injured Bill Greer, who had 11 sacks in 2017.
“We were not quite as prepared as we thought we were,” Shoemaker said. “We didn’t execute on either side of the ball enough to give us a chance.
“(EWU has) some great players and are going to win a lot of football games, maybe even the (FCS) national championship.”
The Eagles sat their starters early in the third quarter.
Hennessey, who played in 11 games for EWU and threw more than 1,000 yards before transferring after the 2016 season, expected a competitive game.
“We came in here preparing to play a close football game. Everybody got a wake-up call,” Hennessey said. “We’ve got some things to work on.”
Gubrud had touchdown connections to Webster, tight ends Jayce Gilder and Henderson Belk, and Johnny Edwards.
McPherson, Dennis Merrit and Tamarick Pierce all scored on the ground for Eastern, which travels to Northern Arizona for a game Saturday that features a pair of the Big Sky Conference’s top-tier teams.
Subscribe to The Spokesman-Review’s sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.