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EWU-Richmond notes: Cooper Kupp perseveres, breaks all-division career record

Eastern Washington football fans have grown accustomed to games like this from wide receiver Cooper Kupp.

And this kind of grittiness.

With an injured left shoulder that’s still dragging at times, Kupp pulled himself off the turf several times Saturday to set the offensive tone in the Eagles’ 38-0 playoff win over Richmond.

In the second quarter, Kupp hauled in a 68-yard pass from Gubrud, then went to the sideline, looking like he wouldn’t play again.

“I got a hit a little wrong and zinged it, but I was able to shake it off,” Kupp said in a classic understatement.

Three plays later, on fourth-and-6, Kupp was back on the field. He lined up on the left side, cut inside and dove to the turf to catch a 20-yard touchdown pass.

Along the way, Kupp became the leading career receiver across all divisions of college football. With his first catch, an 18-yarder, he passed Chris George of NAIA Glenville State, who had 6,177 yards from 1991-94.

In his penultimate game at Roos Field, Kupp had six catches for 128 yards and one touchdown.

Kupp played most of the second half, catching one pass but still affected the game as Richmond often double-teamed him

The result was an unusual spread of receiving stats, as 10 different Eagles caught passes from Gubrud.

Weather effects

There wasn’t much fly in the fly sweep Saturday.

Eastern wide receiver Shaq Hill learned that the hard way in the first quarter, when he took the ball from Gubrud, sprinted to the left hash – and couldn’t plant to go upfield on the icy slickness of Roos Field.

Coaches took note, and Eastern rarely called the play later as temperatures hovered in the mid-20s.

Said running back Antoine Custer Jt., “When the snow gets in your cleats, it feels like mud.”

Slippery conditions at Roos Field played havoc with both teams, but especially the Spiders, who had four fumbles. Not all were weather-related, but the Spiders seemed a bit fazed by the 22-degree weather and the field conditions.

Down 14-0 in the second quarter, the spiders needed a lift and almost got it on a kickoff return from Dejon Brissett.

But when met by two Eastern players on the left sideline, Brissett tried to fake outside. He succeeded, but couldn’t plant his outside foot on the cutback and slid out of bounds at midfield.

In a notable exception, EWU running back Jabari Wilson made a nifty cut on a 20-yard touchdown run that gave the Eagles a 28-0 lead early in the second half.

Eastern coach Beau Baldwin said the weather is a factor only if you allow it to.

“For me, it’s who handles any situation better, so if it is a factor, who’s going to handle it better?” said Baldwin, who added that the lack of wind helped the passing game.

Overcoming penalties

On both sides of the ball, Eastern was good enough to overcome its own mistakes.

The Eagles led 21-0 at halftime despite committing six penalties for 70 yards.

Early in the game, the Eagles had first-and-goal at the 2 following a pass interference penalty on Richmond.

However, a false start penalty, an incomplete pass to Kupp and a short gain on a sweep by Nic Sblendorio brought up third-and-7.

No problem. Gubrud bought some time and found Nsimba Webster – who missed half the season with a shoulder injury – for in the back of the end zone for the first score of the game.

Later in the half, Eastern’s defense was flagged for illegal use of the hands and holding to set up the Spiders with first-and-10 at the Eagle 22, but those mistakes were wiped out with roverback J.J. Njoku’s fourth-down sack of Kevin Johnson on fourth-and-1.

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