Eagles clinch outright Big Sky Championship in wild fashion

Eagles clinch outright Big Sky Championship in wild fashion

By Erika Meyer, Sports Writer

For the first time in school history, the Eastern Eagles are the outright Big Sky Champions with a perfect record of 8-0, as they defeated Portland State Vikings 42-41.

“It feels really good, it’s tough to do that and I credit the players for battling, not just battling today, but for the whole year to get to this point,” said head coach Beau Baldwin. “It’s not easy, so to do it and to finish it, it’s fun.”

This was a matchup of the top two offenses in the FCS, and both teams had a total of 1,131 yards of offense with Portland State on top with 603 total offensive yards.

Eastern was first to get on the scoreboard after their first couple drives of the game and led 7-0, then the Vikings came back and answered with a touchdown to tie it up in the first quarter of play.

Up to the half, the Vikings gained the lead by scoring 14 points in the second quarter to lead 21-7. The Vikings defense held the Eagles to just 146 yards of total offense as they struggled to find their rhythm.

“I’m not proud with the way I played,” said quarterback Vernon Adams. “I am just happy the way my team played, we came back and stuck together as a team. It was awesome.”

The second half had Eastern turning it around, but it was still not easy. By the end of the third quarter the Eagles found a way to tie the Vikings 28-28, scoring 14 points, and held the Vikings scoreless.

It came down to the fourth quarter with both teams neck and neck. With a minute left of the game the Vikings retook the lead with 41-35,  but they missed the extra point. In 30 seconds the Eagles came back and scored, which would be the game winning touchdown pass to Jerry Rice Award Candidate Cooper Kupp for 15 yards to lead 42-41.

Adams completed 34 passes out of 56 attempts, with two interceptions and five touchdowns. In the win against the Vikings, Adams broke a trio of records.

His 25-yard pass to Kupp, on the game-winning drive, broke the school record of 4,009 yards set by Bo Levi Mitchell in 2011. Adams now has 4,059 passing yards this season. With 481 total yards against the Vikings, Adams now has 4,550 yards of total offense and broke the school record of 4,224 yards set by Erik Meyer in 2005. He also broke the Big Sky single season touchdown record at 46.

Kupp led the Eagles in receiving with nine catches for 147 yards and two touchdowns. He broke the record of 11 consecutive games with a touchdown catch with 12 consecutive games.

“It’s awesome, it’s very cool, but we had to get this win,” said Kupp. “We came out the second half energized knowing we had to come out and get this win.”

Buck Buchanan Award Candidate and senior linebacker Ronnie Hamlin led the Eagles with 14 tackles and a forced fumble. Senior defensive lineman Andru Pulu recorded two sacks and senior defensive back Ronald Baines had two big play interceptions in the third and fourth quarter.

Portland State also missed two field goals, which seemed to be a turning point for the Eagles.

The Eagles, for the first time, are 8-0 in the Big Sky Conference to became the outright champions for 2013. Eastern will go into the playoffs with a bye for the first round.