As the Washington State defense prepared for this year’s opener against Eastern Washington, all eyes were on Cooper Kupp.
The Cougars knew he was coming, and so did everyone else. A pregame headline in The Spokesman-Review posed the question to WSU fans: “How do you stop this guy?”
WSU never answered that question, as Kupp had 12 catches for 206 yards and three touchdowns in a game the Eagles won 45-42.
If Cougar fans were surprised, they hadn’t been paying attention. Kupp has been at his best on the big stage: In four games against Pac-12 teams, he’s caught 40 balls for 816 yards and 11 scores.
The results are startling: Kupp has broken 12 FCS records, eight Big Sky Conference all-time marks and 21 school records.
On Saturday against Idaho State, he could break the biggest of all. Already the owner of FCS career records with 68 receiving touchdowns and 5,924 yards, Kupp has 389 receptions and is six catches behind the record of 395 set by Elon’s Terrell Hudgins from 2006-09.
“I’d be shocked if you could show me a better receiver at any level in the country,” EWU coach Beau Baldwin said. “Usually I don’t talk like that, but that’s how I feel right now and think that we have here at Eastern.”
The secret is out, and NFL scouts have been regular attendees at Eastern games this year. Kupp is projected to go has high as the second round in next year’s draft. Every major NFL draft prediction web site has Kupp ranked among the top 10 wide receivers, and even the most pessimistic forecast has him going in the fifth round.
This is what an AFC North Division scout told NFLDraftscout.com: “Good size. Athletic. Savvy. Hell of a kid too. I’ll be surprised if he doesn’t carve out a solid 10-year career as a pro.”
That would leave him a year short of grandfather Jake, a lineman who played 11 years with four NFL teams. His father Craig also briefly played quarterback in the NFL.
But genetics only go so far. Kupp calls football “an art,” and is constantly working to perfect his craft.
“It’s great to see how hard he works – it’s brushed off on all of us,” teammate Kendrick Bourne said.
The reigning FCS Offensive Player of the Year received just two NCAA Division I offers out of high school – Eastern and Idaho State. Knocked for his lack of speed, Kupp has compensated with superior technique and physical play before and after the catch. His stiff-arm is the stuff of legend in the Big Sky.
“Somebody asked him how he breaks so many tackles, and it’s very simple to him: ‘I don’t like to be tackled, so I refuse to be tackled,’ ” Baldwin said.
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