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Local college standouts Kendrick Bourne and River Cracraft look to boost 49ers passing game against Seahawks

San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Kendrick Bourne, who played at Eastern Washington, catches a pass for a first down in front of the Dallas Cowboys’ defense during a Dec. 20 game in Arlington, Texas.  (Associated Press)
San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Kendrick Bourne, who played at Eastern Washington, catches a pass for a first down in front of the Dallas Cowboys’ defense during a Dec. 20 game in Arlington, Texas. (Associated Press)

Before San Francisco 49ers wide receivers Kendrick Bourne and River Cracraft shared a position group and an opponent – they host the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday in Arizona – they briefly shared a field in Pullman.

They weren’t on the same sideline.

Bourne’s Eastern Washington Eagles slapped a 45-42 upset on Cracraft’s Cougars in 2016, a game in which the little school flexed its future professional talent.

Cooper Kupp – now the Los Angeles Rams’ primary receiver – shredded WSU’s secondary, hauling in 12 passes for 203 yards and three touchdowns.

Samson Ebukam – now a Los Angeles Rams linebacker – applied constant pressure on WSU quarterback Luke Falk, totaling six tackles and two sacks.

Eight months later, Kupp and Ebukam were taken in the third and fourth rounds, respectively, of the 2017 NFL draft. The Cougars’ lone 2017 draft pick – Oakland Raiders seventh-round safety Shalom Luani – missed the EWU game because of an assault charge.

Several other players from that game – one of the most notable wins in EWU history and among the most embarrassing for WSU – went on to NFL teams, many who got their foot in the door the hard way.

Bourne, who caught seven passes for 87 yards in the upset of WSU, went undrafted before signing a rookie free-agent contract with the 49ers.

He’s since totaled 132 career receptions for 1,693 yards and 11 touchdowns and has been among the franchise’s primary receivers.

Cracraft, who caught five passes for 41 yards in the loss to EWU, has had a more circuitous route to an NFL 53-man roster since being getting picked up by Denver as an undrafted rookie in 2017

He’s been on and off rosters, on and off practice squads and in and out of a job in stints with the Broncos, Philadelphia Eagles and currently the 49ers.

Depleted by several injuries since its run to the last season’s Super Bowl, the 49ers (6-9) elevated Cracraft from the practice squad in early November. He’s been contributing in different ways since the promotion, days before the 49ers’ 37-27 loss at Seattle.

The Seahawks (11-4) have already clinched an NFC West title. The 49ers, who are playing home games in Arizona because of San Francisco’s local COVID-19 restrictions, are eliminated from playoff contention.

Cracraft has played on special teams and appeared in 84 offensive snaps this season, catching four passes for 27 yards.

Bourne and Cracraft both declined interviews this week, according to 49ers media coordinators, but Cracraft told The Spokesman-Review in 2019 what it’s like to live on the NFL fringe.

“You gotta find what the team needs, and last season there was a vacant spot and I found myself back there,” said Cracraft, who was with the Broncos.

“It’s definitely not something I was expecting to do to make the team. I am still working to establish myself as a receiver here.”

Bourne caught eight passes for 81 yards in a November loss at Seattle.

Bourne, who was raised in Portland, told The Spokesman-Review in 2019 he always looks forward to facing the Seahawks.

“It’s big, but I treat it the same as any other game. Never get too high or too low.” Bourne said.

Note: Bourne’s college teammate – former EWU standout offensive lineman Aaron Neary – was released from the 49ers’ practice squad on Saturday.

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