Cooper Kupp made some more history Saturday night – this time by throwing the ball.
Twice Kupp got the ball in his hands on reverse plays, and both times he took advantage with touchdown passes in Eastern Washington’s 42-21 Big Sky Conference win at Cal Poly.
Kupp also caught a touchdown pass, a 47-yarder from Gage Gubrud to clinch the Eagles’ seventh straight win.
“Adding a couple of touchdown throws in there was pretty slick,” Eastern coach Beau Baldwin said. “Coach (Troy) Taylor did a good job of dialing those up at the right time. Both of them were open, but they weren’t the typical wide-open throws you see on those kind of plays. He (Kupp) had to make some throws and he put them in some tight spots.”
Eastern quarterback Gage Gubrud also had a big day, completing 29 of 39 passes for 395 yards and four scores to help the Eagles improve to 8-1 overall and 6-0 in the Big Sky going into next week’s Homecoming game against Idaho State.
“It was a huge team win, and any time you can do that on the road against a great team like this, you feel excited,” Baldwin said.
The third-ranked Eagles came into the game at Alex G. Spanos Stadium in San Luis Obispo, California in a first-place tie with North Dakota, which kept the pressure on with a 23-13 win at Northern Colorado.
More pressure came from Cal Poly’s triple-option offense, which rolled up 458 yards of total offense. However, the Eagles took advantage of three turnovers and a clutch goal-line stand midway through the fourth quarter while leading 35-21.
Still leading 35-21 midway through the fourth quarter, the Eagles caught a break when Cap Poly fullback Joe Protheroe dropped a sure touchdown pass on third-and-6 at the EWU 9-yard-line. One play later, quarterback Dano Graves was stopped well short of the first down and EWU took over to set up Kupp’s touchdown.
Cal Poly, which never led, fell to 6-3 overall and 4-2 in the Big Sky.
Cal Poly got the ball first and moved into the red zone, but EWU cornerback Josh Lewis intercepted Graves in the end zone. The Eastern offense took it from there, capping a 10-play, 93-yard drive with Gubrud’s 30-yard touchdown pass to Shaq Hill.
The Mustangs answered with quarterback Graves’ 7-yard keeper, but Eastern retook the lead when wide receiver Kendrick Bourne hauled in a one-handed catch in the end zone for 25 yards.
Gubrud and Bourne connected again early in the second quarter, ending a six-play, 52-yard drive with a 20-yard score to double the lead to 21-7.
Cal Poly got back in the game without throwing a pass, moving 10 plays and cutting the deficit to 21-14 on Protheroe’s 1-yard plunge.
The Eagles drove into Cal Poly territory on its next possession, but Gubrud threw a rushed pass that was intercepted by Jerek Rosales at the Mustang 39.
A rare end-zone drop by Kupp prevented the Eagles from taking a two-score lead just before halftime. They settled for a 39-yard field goal try from Roldan Alcobendas, which hit the right upright.
Eastern used a trick play to go up 28-14 early in the third quarter, as Kupp took a reverse and threw a 28-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Shaq Hill.
After an exchange of punts, Eastern roverback J.J. Njoku pounced on a fumbled backward pass to set up the Eagles at the Mustang 28. Five plays later, Kupp threw his second TD pass of the night, a 10-yarder to Hill that made it 35-14 late in the third quarter.
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