Ron Gould is a big fan of the Eastern Washington offense – gushingly so.
In an eight-minute conference call earlier this week, the UC Davis coach used the word “phenomenal” three times to describe the Eagle passing game – the one his Aggies will confront Saturday afternoon at Roos Field.
Recalling the St. Louis Rams teams of 15 years ago, Gould rattled off the names of the top Eastern receivers and quarterback Gage Gubrud and proclaimed the Eagles “the greatest show on turf.”
“It’s phenomenal how fast they run the plays,” Gould marveled. “We’re playing a great team – they could be the best team in the country.”
Whether Gould is motivated by gamesmanship or genuine admiration, it doesn’t matter: The Eagles are flying high again. They rank third in the Football Championship Subdivision in total offense and rank in the top 10 in every major passing category.
Better yet, the fourth-ranked Eagles (3-1) have seemingly hit their stride after a 50-35 win at Northern Arizona that was their most complete game yet. Wide receiver Cooper Kupp was back after missing one game with a shoulder injury and Gubrud was back in form as he logged 479 yards of total offense. Meanwhile, the defense was forcing turnovers and three-and-outs like i
Yes, Eastern is cruising – just as it was late in the 2012 season when a 3-6 Davis team came into Roos Field and outscored No. 5 Eastern 22-0 in the second quarter. It took a big halftime speech from coach Beau Baldwin and a blocked field goal on the final play to preserve a 31-28 win.
The dangers of complacency aren’t lost on Eastern, and Baldwin was quick to note that he’d be 2-2 had the fake field goal misfired against Northern Iowa.
Likewise, the Aggies (1-3) might be 2-2 if they hadn’t fumbled a punt in the final seconds of a 38-35 loss to Weber State last week.
“I was very pleased with our grit,” said Gould, who also watched the Aggies drop one sure touchdown pass.
Apart from that game, the Aggies are still an enigma, with lopsided losses at FBS Oregon (53-28) and Wyoming (45-22) offset by a 52-35 romp over Division II Southern Oregon.
Baldwin said he’s impressed with the Aggie defense. “They are very stout up front … and will give us a lot of challenging looks up front and you can’t get a bead on exactly what they are going to do,” Baldwin said.
Meanwhile, the Davis offense is less run-heavy than before. Senior quarterback Ben Scott is 87-for-141, with seven touchdowns and two interceptions, but he’s no threat to run. Senior running back Manusamoa Luuga is the main weapon on the ground, with 325 yards on 66 carries.
They’ll face an Eastern defense that’s coming off its best game yet: The Eagles gave up 491 yards, but nabbed three interceptions while holding a versatile NAU offense to 6-for-17 on third down.
Asked about the EWU defense, Gould relied his favorite word. “What stands out is their guys up front – that defensive line is phenomenal,” he said.
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