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Sunday, October 13, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Sports

Eastern looks for improvement after big win over WSU

Three days after one of the biggest wins in school history, the Eastern Washington football players had no problem staying humble.

Their coaches made sure of that.

The day after an epic 45-42 win over Washington State, defensive coordinator Jeff Schmedding hauled his players in the film room and showed them a dose of North Dakota State’s power running game.

“They got the message,” Schmedding said with a smile as the Eagles began practicing for the Bison on a drizzly Tuesday afternoon at Roos Field.

Tuesday was the start of the work week for most fans, but the Eagles were already midway through game preparation for top-ranked and five-time FCS champion North Dakota State.

For coach Beau Baldwin, the afterglow of the WSU win was gone the next day “Come Sunday, you’re moving on … it (the WSU game) feels like it was a month ago now.”

So while Eagle fans throughout the region were getting in their digs on WSU friends and co-workers, the Eastern players were digging deep – because as sublime as it was, the win over the Cougars was anything but perfect.

All the Eagles appreciated that fact – even wide receiver Cooper Kupp, whose 12 catches for 206 yards and three touchdowns were as close to perfect as it gets.

Sunday night’s film session “gave us a chance to see where we can get better, and there were plenty of them,” Kupp said.

It was the same story for first-time starting quarterback Gage Gubrud and his young offensive line, who grew up together in a hurry last weekend on the Palouse.

Gubrud looked back to a shaky first series, but said the Eagles “felt good about ourselves after that.”

Piling up 606 yards of total offense will do that for you. Even offensive line coach Aaron Best – never one to gush praise – allowed that his group was “solid” against the Pac-12’s Cougars.

What impressed Best most was that when he looked his players in the eyes – “before, during and after the game” – he didn’t see any jitters. “They were ready to play regardless of the outcome, and they executed pretty well too,” Best said.

It was the same story for the defense, which gave up 515 yards but held the Cougars scoreless for 31 minutes from early in the second quarter to early in the fourth.

After watching film, cornerback Nzuzi Webster was reminded of the occasional communication lapses and the need to be patient.

Then again, naked aggression may be the Eagle defenders’ biggest ally against NDSU’s power ground game. That’s a big change from defending WSU’s Air Raid.

“We’ve got to reset, because it’s a different animal,” senior linebacker Miquiyah Zamora said.

Notes

Eastern is ranked eighth in this week’s STATS Top 25 poll, up six spots from last week. … The Eagles came out of the WSU game unscathed, but nose tackle Matt Sommer is questionable for North Dakota State with a knee injury suffered during fall camp. … The Eagles practice again on Wednesday and Thursday before flying Friday via charter to Fargo, N.D.

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