Baby, it may be cold outside but the Eastern Washington Eagles were on fire at The Inferno today. The Eagles earned a playoff win over Richmond, 38-0, by playing stellar defense and…the usual…offense.
They will face the Youngstown State Penguins next Saturday in Cheney, WA in a FCS Playoff semi-final. The Penguins were a 30-23 double-overtime winner over Wofford earlier Saturday.
The expectation is always that the Eagle’s prolific offense will put up high offensive numbers. EWU, led by dual Walter Payton Award nominees Gage Gubrud and Cooper Kupp, did what it is so good at – put points on the board. Gubrud was 21-32 passing for 287 yards and three touchdowns. A banged-up Kupp (sprained AC joint, left shoulder) led all receivers with six catches for 128 yards and 1 touchdown.
For EWU fans, those are “expected”. But today, however, today was all about the defense.
In one of their best games of the year, the Eastern Washington defense was hungry, stout and opportunistic. Senior Samson Ebukam terrorized the Richmond backfield all game long. Ebukam had eight tackles (four for loss), one forced fumble, one recovered fumble and one interception.
Those numbers don’t include the amount of times Ebukam and his fellow EWU defenders pressured Richmond sophomore quarterback, Kevin Johnson. Johnson was forced into action this season after injuries hit the Spiders quarterback spot this season.
The defense was also buoyed by the return of Miquiyah Zamora. The senior linebacker was out for the Eagles second-round win over Central Arkansas with an injured hamstring. Zamora came back with a vengeance as he tied Ebukam for the team lead in tackles with eight.
Late in the fourth quarter on the ESPN3 broadcast, commentator and former NFL player Chad Brown referenced the saying, “Stats don’t always tell the story.” But, as Brown added, today they very much did for the Eastern defense.
- First time an Eastern Washington Eagle defense had shut out an opponent since the 2009 season (Northern Colorado, 16-0).
- Held Richmond to under 200 yards of total offense UNTIL the final Spiders possession late in the fourth quarter against Eastern’s second-string defense.
- Richmond’s rushing yards (48) and attempts (37) were nearly equal. At the half, the Spiders had 3 yards on 23 attempts.
- Season high of six sacks for EWU
Richmond could not combat the Eagle defense. Nor could they combat the elements. Whether (no pun intended) the weather was a factor or not, this tweet was an example of the uncharacteristic nature of the Spiders play today:
Richmond senior linebacker Omer Howard said, “Today obviously hurts, we didn’t play anywhere close to how we’re capable of playing, but when I look back there is no other group of guys that I would have rather spent my senior season.”
Comments from Coach Beau Baldwin, Cooper Kupp and Samson Ebukam below:
— EWU Football (@EWUFootball) December 11, 2016
The Eagles will host Youngstown State at 3:30 pm PT next weekend. The Penguins come into the game on a 5-game win streak, having last lost on November 5 to the 5-time defending champ, North Dakota State Bison, 24-3. YSU is ranked 12th in defense in FCS (314.7 yards per game) and 7th in scoring defense (17.7 points per game).
If Eastern Washington keeps playing with fire like they have on defense, Frisco and a National Championship are well within their grasp.