Eagles clinch Big Sky title in 35-22 win over Cal Poly

Eagles clinch Big Sky title in 35-22 win over Cal Poly

By Erika Meyer

The Eastern Eagles clinched the Big Sky title in their 35-22 victory over the Cal Poly Mustangs.

The Eagles achieved their seventh Big Sky title in school history and their third one in the last four years.

“It’s hard to win one Big Sky title, let alone three out of the last four years,” said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin. “That’s amazing, and I’m just proud of all the people who are a part of making that happen.”

The Mustangs had a 3-0 advantage over the Eagles in the first quarter, keeping the Eagles to 27 yards total offense on their first two possessions.

The Mustangs are the nation’s top rushing team and the Eagles held them to just three points for three quarters, they would then come back to score 19 points in the fourth quarter but not enough to beat out the Eagles.

Going into the second quarter, the Eagles had 198 total yards offense and took a 14-3 lead at the half.

The Eagles would then score 21 straight points after the half, having a 35-3 advantage over the Mustangs.

Eastern quarterback Vernon Adams went 14 of 21 for 224 yards and a pair of touchdowns before he left the game with a shoulder injury. The two touchdowns would give Adams 41 total touchdowns on the season, moving him up to ninth in total touchdowns in a season in FCS history.

“It was a stinger, but he’ll be fine,” said Baldwin. “[Adams] might have been able to play, but we just thought we would do the smart thing moving forward. Honestly, we didn’t change a lot of what we were doing with Anthony [Vitto]. He went in there slinging it and he was just fine.”

After Adams’ injury, senior quarterback Vitto checked into the game and completed 14-of-21 passes for 127 yards with a touchdown.

Both of Adams’ touchdowns were to redshirt freshman and Jerry Watch candidate, Cooper Kupp.

Kupp had a phenomenal performance as he led the receivers with eight catches for 139 yards and breaking a pair of FCS records.

“National records are great but more than that we got a share of the Big Sky title,” said Kupp. “I think that’s what is more important right now and that’s what is on my mind.”

Kupp broke the FCS record for most receiving yards with 1,231 this season, and caught a touchdown pass for the 11th straight game.

“He’s obviously really talented, but on top of that he maximizes his talent and opportunities,” said Baldwin. “He deserves it because of how hard he works at it. He does all the little things to put himself in position to break those records. He’s always making huge plays.”

Senior linebacker and Buck Buchanan Award candidate, Ronnie Hamlin, led the Eagles with 10 tackles and senior defensive back, Bo Schuetzle, had his first two interceptions of his career.

“I had the opportunity to present, and I was in the right place,” said Schuetzle. “The second [interception] I just went crazy.”

The Eagles remain undefeated in the Big Sky with a record of 7-0 for the first time in school history.

To become the outright Big Sky Champions, the Eagles need to beat Portland State at their last regular season game on Nov. 23.