Bye week will be a little bit happier for the Eastern Washington Eagle football team.
Quarterback Gage Gubrud threw for 435 yards (33-39-0) and rushed for 79 yards (11 carries) on the way to a 49-31 victory over the Northern Colorado Bears. The win moved the Eagles to 3-0 in Big Sky Conference play for the season as they head into their bye week. They’ll next play in Bozeman against the Montana State Bobcats on October 29th.
Gubrud led all players in both passing and rushing for the game. It was a sure sign of the confidence that Gubrud played with today. “When you’re up against a team that is making you be patient – teams that play that way defensively – what they’re saying is eventually that (offensive) coordinator is going to get impatient and want to call something downfield,” said EWU Coach Beau Baldwin. “Gage kept taking what they gave him. He kept taking it or he took off and ran. That is how they (UNC) got NAU last week. Gage stayed patient the entire game.”
Northern Colorado came into Saturday off to their best start since 2003 when they also started 3-1. The Bears came into the game on a high after their 21-18 upset win over Northern Arizona last week in Flagstaff. It was enough to earn them consideration with top 25 votes in last week’s FCS Coaches poll.
Whatever momentum the Bears came into the game with, they continued to roll with it to start the game. They held a 7-3 lead after the first quarter and a 17-14 lead at the half. They made the most of their opportunities whereas the Eagles did not.
Eastern Washington found themselves knocking on the door on two of their first three possessions but failed to put the ball into the end zone both times. They settled for fields goals both times. A Jabari Wilson fumble recovered by UNC halted the Eagles on their second drive.
But, as these Eagles have done time and again this season, they adjusted.
At the half, the Eagles had only 14 points to show for their 327 yards of offense. Gubrud and the Eagle offense made the most of their possessions in the second half.
Gubrud went 12-of-14 for 151 yards passing while rushing for 49 yards on 5 attempts in the third quarter alone. Senior receiver Shaq Hill hauled in a pair of touchdowns among his three receptions in the quarter.
“We found the big moment type of shots to Shaq,” described Coach Baldwin. “Gage saw him and took advantage. I really loved the way he (Hill) played. He was patient, didn’t try to force things, (he) took the run when it was there and played very base that way. Shaq had a monster day.”
The defense adjusted too. After giving up 17 points, 254 yards of offense in the first half, the Eagle defense only surrendered 215 yards and 17 points in the second half. Of course, it helps that the Bears lost star running back Trae Riek to injury didn’t help UNC’s offensive balance. Riek left the game in the second quarter with an arm injury and never returned.
659 yards of total offense, 49 points and the Eastern Washington Eagles are now 5-1 heading into their bye week.
“It’s important to go into a bye week coming off a win, and that’s huge,” said Coach Baldwin. We’re happy to get to this point and find a way to win ballgames and still have the bye week (for EWU) to shore some things up and heal a few of our players. We’ll see what we can do coming out of it.”
Yes, it is a perfect time for the bye week for EWU. Two weeks to prepare for back-to-back games with the Montana schools – the first in Bozeman against MSU followed by the Grizzlies at home in Cheney. Two weeks to heal from injuries as well. And to enjoy the 5-1 start.