As Eastern Washington football fans wring their hands over the recent spate of injuries, the players are decidedly calmer.
Among the on the practice field Tuesday afternoon was strongside linebacker Ketner Kupp, now the starter after Alek Kacmarcik suffered a concussion against Washington State.
Walking alongside him was Kacmarcik himself.
“Sure, it’s tough, because you work all offseason and then you can’t play,” said Kacmarcik, a redshirt sophomore from Woodinville who will miss his second straight game this week against Northern Iowa.
“In the meantime, I’ll be on the sideline, doing what I can to help,” Kacmarcik said.
In short, it was business as usual at Roos Field, three days after a 50-44 overtime loss at top-ranked North Dakota State. Which means the Eagles displayed the same body language as a week earlier after their 45-42 win over Washington State.
Injuries hit the eighth-ranked Eagles hardest at linebacker – starting middle ‘backer Miquiyah Zamora has a hamstring injury – and at receiver, where All-American Cooper Kupp suffered a strained shoulder. Both are listed as questionable for Saturday’s expected sellout against No. 10 Northern Iowa (1-1).
Coach Beau Baldwin said that the coaches and trainers were taking a wait-and-see attitude with Cooper Kupp, who didn’t practice Tuesday.
“He’s a guy who can go through and not practice and still be effective on Saturdays,” Baldwin said.
While most of the attention was focused on Cooper Kupp, the Eagles (1-1) have reinforced with actions and words that the Eastern receiving corps is more than one guy.
“It was a group effort,” said Stu Stiles, the former Mt. Spokane star who had a career day in Fargo with eight catches for 169 yards and a touchdown. “I think we showed that we’re a whole group, that we’re also the best group in the country.”
Along with receivers Kendrick Bourne (eight catches for 133 yards at NDSU), Shaq Hill (eight catches for 109 yards at WSU), Nic Sblendorio and Simba Webster, Stiles showed off quality depth that’s been building for awhile.
And the whole point, said Baldwin, who’s never used injuries as an excuse,
“I think that’s garbage – you have to believe in those next guys,” said Baldwin, who said the surprising performances this year at quarterback, offensive line and wide receiver are the fruits of years of work.
“I think that sometimes gets lost in sports these days, where it’s about rolling the balls out and going on to the next recruit,” Baldwin said as the Eagles warmed up at Roos Field.
“We have coaches here, that from top to bottom, one of our big goals – my goal – is that we’re going to develop all 95 of our players,” Baldwin said.
The players took it from there, Stiles said. The transition to new starting quarterback Gage Gubrud was smoothed by months of voluntary summer drills.
“That’s something that’s been a long time coming, but the timing is there,” Stiles said.
Notes: Fewer than 600 tickets remain for Saturday’s game, athletic director Bill Chaves said Tuesday afternoon. … EWU is 0-6 against Northern Iowa, but this is the first meeting in Cheney. … Through two games, Gubrud is the national passing leader with 924 yards, far ahead of runner-up Ben Scott of UC Davis (684 yards). Eastern leads the nation is passing offense with 473 yards per game.
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