Late in the third quarter, as Saturday’s game at Eastern Washington was slipping away, the UC Davis defensive coaches decided to take a chance.
Facing an Eastern Washington offense that looked ready to run, they left All-American receiver Cooper Kupp to be covered by a lone cornerback.
From his 29-yard-line, quarterback Gage Gubrud threw downfield, where Kupp adjusted to the pass and the defender didn’t. The 71-yard touchdown gave the Eagles a 49-30 lead and capped a record-breaking day for Kupp.
Kupp finished with 12 catches for 274 yards – 1 yard short of his school record of 275.
“A solid day,” said Kupp, who diverted to praise to his teammates, especially on the long touchdown catch.
“When we get into those heavy sets, they (UC Davis) have to make a decision,” Kupp said after the 63-30 win. “It’s tough on a defense to decide what to do, because we have so many weapons.”
Already the FCS leader in career touchdown receptions, Kupp broke the yardage against UC Davis. His total of 5,417 broke the record of 5,250 set by Elon’s Terrell Hudgins from 2006-09.
Kupp also has a record 63 career receiving touchdowns, and his 352 receptions are second on the all-time FCS list – 43 behind the record of 395 set Hudgins.
“He’s different, he just is,” coach Beau Baldwin said. “He inspires us in so many ways, just to keep working and grinding. That’s what he is.”
Forgettable second quarter
Lost in a lopsided final score was a forgettable second quarter for the Eagles.
Leading 14-0 late in the first quarter, Eastern was deep in Davis territory. At that point, the Eagles had outgained Davis 192-50 and forced four punts.
They lost a chance to go up three scores on a fumble by true freshman running back Antoine Custer Jr., and momentum shifted in every phase of the game.
The Aggies struck first with their running game, as Joshua Kelley scored on a 58-yard run down the left sideline.
Less than a minute later, they put a safety on the board when Gubrud scrambled his way backward into the end zone, where he was flagged for intentional grounding.
The safety made it 14-9, whereupon UC Davis marched 90 yards in just eight plays to take a 16-14 lead.
“They wanted it more in the first half,” said Baldwin, whose team also lost early lead the previous week at Northern Arizona before rallying in the second half.
“I look at it as, what do we need to do better when we get a 14-0 lead? And what do we need to do better to continue to play better in the second quarter?” Baldwin said.
The quarter was reminiscent of the Aggies’ last visit to Cheney in 2012, when they outscored Eastern 22-0 in the second quarter. Davis led 25-14 at halftime, but the Eagles rallied for a 31-28 win.
Hall of Famers honored
Highlighted by former Eagle and Tennessee Titan football player Michael Roos, the school’s 16th induction class in the Eastern Athletes Hall of Fame was introduced at halftime.
An All-American at Eastern, Roos was inducted after a 10-year All-Pro career as an offensive tackle with the Tennessee Titans of the National Football League. Roos and his wife, Katherine, were also be presented the Eastern Hall of Fame Service and Contribution Award.
Three other individuals were also inducted, including high jumper Becky Nelson-Clark who won a national high jump title at Roos Field when it was previously known as Woodward Field.
The 1976-77 men’s basketball team and its point guard, Ed Waters, were inducted, as was two-time track and field All-American Steve Kiesel. The former Eagle Athletic Association was also recognized with the Service and Contribution Award.
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