Eagles lose second straight after mauling in Missoula

By Brandon Cline, Sports Editor

The Eagles’ luck went from bad to worse when the Montana Grizzlies shellacked the Eagles, 57-16, in Missoula, Montana, on Nov. 14. The loss comes on the heels of the Eagles’ Homecoming loss against the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks a week before, with the Eagles now sitting at 5-2 in conference play.

The script was eerily similar to the week before, with the Eagles turning the ball over six times — two of which were taken back for touchdowns. “We have to find ways to snap back out of it,” said head coach Beau Baldwin. “We’ve had snowballs before and we’ve been in situations where we’ve felt it, but it hasn’t gone on for this long.”

After inserting backup quarterback Reilly Hennessey late in the fourth quarter in the loss to the Lumberjacks, head coach Beau Baldwin used an alternating quarterback system against the Grizzlies. The results were mixed, to say the least.

It was Hennessey who got the first snap of the game over quarterback Jordan West, who had started every game of the season coming into the matchup. It was West who finished the day with the most passing attempts, completing just 7 of 19 attempts for 119 yards and two interceptions.

Hennessey had the more effective day, completing 7 of 12 attempts for 113 yards, without throwing any touchdowns or interceptions. Hennessey coughed up the ball twice though, one of which was recovered by the Grizzlies and taken 33 yards for a touchdown.

With the Eagles down, 50-9, in the third quarter, Baldwin inserted redshirt freshman quarterback Gage Gubrud into the game. Gubrud had not taken a snap in a game all season and finished 7 of 13 passing for 66 yards and an interception.

Gubrud ran for a touchdown on his first drive, on a designed quarterback run from one yard out. “It was good for Gage to get some action and some true game reps. He came in and did some good things,” Baldwin said.

As a unit, the three quarterbacks were 21 of 44 passing for 298 yards, zero touchdowns, three interceptions and two fumbles. Wide receiver Cooper Kupp had the only passing touchdown on the day for the Eagles, a 21-yarder to wide receiver Kendrick Bourne in the second quarter, cutting the Grizzlies’ lead to 9-27.

“I felt good about it in the first half with what we were doing. We had different packages where they were going to be in the game,” said Baldwin on the alternating system. “They were all invested into the week, they were all excited about their roles. I felt it could have been a very successful plan to maximize each of their skills in different spots.”

Montana quarterback Brady Gustafson returned for the first time since suffering a lower leg injury in September, finishing 20 of 34 for 266 passing yards and a touchdown pass.

The Grizzlies ground game was consistent all game long, led by running back John Nguyen who ran for 102 yards on 15 carries. Freshman running back Jeremy Calhoun was effective in the red zone, rushing for three touchdowns, the furthest being from three yards out.

“It was a statement win against a very good football team,” said Montana head coach Bob Stitt. “I don’t know how exactly we did that against a team like them, but we needed it.”

The Eagles now look ahead to their final regular season game, in a home tilt against the Portland State Vikings. Both teams sit at 5-2 in conference play, and both are desperate for a win to try and help ensure a spot in the FCS Playoffs.

Ranked 15th in the FCS by STATS and 16th in the coaches poll, the Vikings are coming off a 24-23 victory against Southern Utah, who sit at 6-1 and solely atop the Big Sky. The Vikings were projected to finish ninth in the Big Sky in the preseason coaches poll and have been riding high since beating FBS foe Washington State University, 24-17, in their first game of the season.