EWU football grinds way to 28-20 road victory against Hornets

By Brandon Cline, Sports Editor

The Eastern Washington football team opened up conference play with a gritty road win over the Sacramento State Hornets, 28-20.

EWU got off to a slow start on a hot night in Northern California, entering the half trailing 7-20. The Eagles were just 2-6 on third down conversions in the first half, and a Hornets interception in their own end zone halted a potential Eagles scoring drive late in the second quarter.

After a clinical rushing day the week prior against Montana State, where they ran for 257 yards, the Eagles had just 17 rushing yards in the first half, while Sacramento State piled up 122 yards on 24 rushes.

“We were being out-coached and out-played,” said head coach Beau Baldwin. “I didn’t think there was a single aspect of the game we were doing better, and I tip my hat to Sac State.”

The script was flipped in the second half with the Eagles ripping off 21 unanswered points, starting with a 98 yard touchdown pass from quarterback Jordan West to wide receiver Kendrick Bourne early in the third quarter.

The touchdown came after running back Jabari Wilson fumbled on the first play of scrimmage of the second half, followed by a big defensive stand that forced Sacramento State to punt and keep them off the scoreboard.

“That’s when I saw that we were growing – our defense stormed the field like it didn’t matter. And that was the approach they took,” said Baldwin about the defensive stop. “The offense did a good job of that too. They came to the bench and we said, ‘that one is gone and that one doesn’t matter – we just have to move on to the next series.’”

The defense remained stout throughout the rest of the game, allowing just 68 total yards of offense in the second half, while the Eagles piled on 361 yards and 21 points. The Eagles ran for 51 yards in the fourth quarter, which helped move the chains late for the Eagles and run out the clock.

It was a historic day on several fronts for the Eagles offense, which saw Cooper Kupp break the school and Big Sky record for touchdown passes in a career with 47. The record was held by former Eagle Eric Kimble, who played at Eastern from 2002-05, where Baldwin was the offensive coordinator for three of those years. Kupp is now within 11 touchdown catches of tying the FCS record for a career, set by David Hall of New Hampshire from 2003-06.

It was also a career passing day for West, who threw for a school record 491 yards, breaking Todd Bernett’s previous record of 486 yards, set in 1994 against Montana.

“School records are cool and all, but it doesn’t really mean much,” said West. “What counts is that we are 1-0 in conference and that’s huge.”

The 28 points scored by the Eagles are the fewest they have scored since October 25 of last year, while the 20 points allowed are the fewest they have given up this season.

What’s Next: It’s a bye week for the Eagles, which comes at a time when EWU is nursing a number of injuries. “This bye, probably compared to other years, we need it as much as I can ever remember,” said Baldwin. Following the bye, the Eagles have their home conference opener against Cal Poly on October 10 at 1 p.m. EWU will be celebrating Hall of Fame Day, as well as Cancer Awareness Day. The game will be televised regionally on SWX, and you can follow us on Twitter @EasternerSports for live updates throughout the game and the rest of the season.