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UNI quarterback Bailey as athletic as it gets

It’s only mid-September, but Eastern Washington’s defenders are seeing the gamut of quarterback styles.

Two weeks ago at Washington State, the Eagles dealt with Luke Falk, an elite passer but seldom a threat to run. Last week it was dual threat Easton Stick of North Dakota State.

Now Eastern is preparing for Saturday’s home opener featuring Aaron Bailey of 10th-ranked Northern Iowa, the best running quarterback Eastern will see all year. And probably the most athletic.

Said Eastern coach Beau Baldwin, “I haven’t watched each guy (on the schedule), but I’d say right now he is (the most athletic).

“He’s strong and tough to bring down … but he can throw it.”

The Eagles know that already, having faced Bailey in a 38-35 loss last year in Cedar Falls, Iowa. Bailey got the start, going 7 of 13 for 91 yards and two touchdowns while also adding a career-high 134 yards on the ground.

Bailey, a 6-foot-2, 222-pound senior, has been inconsistent this year as the Panthers won 25-20 at FBS Iowa State in the opener but fell at home to Montana last week, 20-14.

He’s already run 45 times for a net 122 yards, but Bailey was just 16 of 37 for 194 yards and one score against the Griz. He hasn’t thrown an interception, but is completing just 48.4 percent of his passes while often going deep.

“The long passes … we didn’t complete any of them except for one,” coach Mark Farley said. “A couple of them should’ve been played better, a couple thrown a little better. Nothing is going to be perfect, but there was a way for just about every one of those balls to be completed.”

Kupp a difference-maker, UNI coach says

Will Northern Iowa catch a break for a second year in a row and not get a full dose of Cooper Kupp?

Eastern’s All-American wide receiver is listed as questionable after spraining his right shoulder last week at North Dakota State, leaving UNI to guess whether he’ll see action.

“Oh, it matters,” Farley said of Kupp’s status. “He’s good. He’s a difference-maker.”

Last year at UNI, Kupp was en route to the biggest receiving game in school history. Late in the first half, he was up to nine catches for 179 yards and two touchdowns, but suffered a hip-pointer just before halftime and didn’t return.

“Then when he left the game, things changed. It does, it changes everything. He is that dynamic of a player,” Farley said.

Eagles losing the turnover battle

Through two games, Eastern is minus-2 in turnovers, an unwelcome trend that began last year when the Eagles were minus-7.

That’s worrisome, because Eastern’s won-lost record often mirrors the turnover battle; for example, the 2010 national champions were plus-13 and the 2014 squad was plus-8 en route to an unprecedented third straight Big Sky Conference title.

In eight-plus years under Baldwin, the Eagles are 41-1 when they’ve won the turnover battle, 18-5 when they’ve tied and a 15-25 when they lose.

Griz freshman finalist for ‘Academic Heisman’

Last year, Montana football senior captain and Rhodes Scholarship finalist Derek Crittenden boarded a plane for New York to attend the National Football Foundation’s William V. Campbell Trophy ceremony as a finalist for the “Academic Heisman” award.

This year, another Grizzly could get the chance to attend the same black-tie event at the famed Waldorf Astoria hotel as one of the nation’s elite academic and athletic student-athletes.

Gresch Jensen, a freshman out of Auburn, Washington, is a finalist for the 2016 NFF National High School Scholar-Athlete Awards, which will honor a student-athlete from each of the country’s five regions as the “best and the brightest for their accomplishments as athletes, scholars and citizens at the high school level.”

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