First look: Eastern Washington at Washington State

Eastern Washingtons quarterback Gage Gubrud, left, cracks a smile after drawing the Central Washington line off sides in the EWU/CWU game Saturday, Sept. 1, 2018 at Roos Field at Eastern Washington University in Cheney. The Eagles beat the Wildcats 58-13. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

What is it? Washington State (2-0) will try to fend off its only FCS opponent of the season, Eastern Washington (2-0), which likewise will attempt to spring an upset of the only FBS team on its 2018 slate.

Where is it? Martin Stadium in Pullman.

When is it? Saturday’s game will kick off 5:30 p.m..

Where can I watch it? Pac-12 Networks will have the live coverage.

Who is favored? With this being an FBS vs. FCS matchup, there’s no official betting line.

How did they fare last week? WSU’s offense eventually went dormant, but the Cougars did more than enough on both sides of the ball to smoke nonconference opponent San Jose State, 31-0. EWU got a test from Northern Arizona in a nonconference test with a Big Sky Conference opponent, but held tight to escape Flagstaff with a 31-26 win.

Why EWU will win: Even if the Eagles haven’t necessarily played a worthwhile defense this season, they’ll be the best offensive team the Cougars have seen to this point. Senior quarterback Gage Gubrud has a trained arm, with nine passing touchdowns in his first two games, a history of hurting the Cougars with his feet. If the Eagles don’t like how things are going through the air, they’re more than comfortable turning the offense over to Sam McPherson, a prototypical scatback who’s rushed for 346 yards and one touchdown so far. Nsimba Webster should be the best receiver the Cougars have seen, with 17 catches for 388 yards and four touchdowns against Central Washington and NAU.

Why WSU will win: Gubrud and a handful of other mobile passers have seemingly taught the Cougars a thing or two over the years and they seem better equipped to handle a running quarterback – Khalil Tate and Brian Lewerke were exceptions last year – than they have been in the past. Tracy Claeys’ defense has allowed just two touchdowns this season and both came after offensive turnovers in the opener against Wyoming. Furthermore, the Cougars rank second in the country in yards per game allowed, at 157.5, and they’re third nationally in yards per play, at 2.86. The Eagles have shown some defensive improvement in two games, but they’re also coming off a season in which they allowed 43.4 points per game.

What happened last time? Making the first start of his EWU career, Gubrud, now a senior, finished 34-of-40 passing for five touchdowns and one interception, while rushing for another 77 yards and a score in the Eagles’ 45-42 upset win in Pullman. And you might be able to argue he wasn’t EWU’s offensive MVP that day. Wide receiver Cooper Kupp caught 12 passes for 206 yards and three touchdowns for Beau Baldwin’s Eagles. Luke Falk and Gabe Marks held up their end of the bargain, connecting 10 times for 108 yards and two touchdowns, but WSU’s defense gave up 31 points in the second and third quarter and the Cougars came up just short.