EWU football falls to Texas Tech in season opener

By Logan Stanley, Managing Editor

LUBBOCK, TX. — The beginning portion of the inaugural game of the Aaron Best era got off to an excellent start for the Eastern Eagles — the first three drives for the Texas Tech Red Raiders ended in three punts. But that would not last for long, as Texas Tech scored on their next six consecutive drives. It was an offensive showcase for the Red Raiders, winning the game 56-10 and putting up 626 yards of total offense.

Nothing could be done to stop Texas Tech quarterback Nic Shimonek, who finished the game 26-30 passing with 384 yards and three touchdowns. Efficiency was the name of the game for Shimonek — it was not until the 1:45 mark in the second quarter that he threw his first incompletion of the game.

Big plays fueled the Red Raider offense, with wide receivers Derrick Willies and Keke Coutee both logging superb games. Willies had four receptions for 126 yards and one touchdown, while Coutee had 5 catches for 99 yards and two touchdowns. The pair both had a touchdown over 65+ yards.

Running the ball was no issue for Texas Tech either as three different running backs averaged 5 or more yards per carry. The Red Raiders rushed the ball for a total of 177 yards on 40 carries, punching the ball in the end zone three times on the ground.

For EWU, miscues and poor discipline marked their sluggish performance. The Eagles opened up their first drive with a fumble, a sign of things to come. Additionally, there were far too many drops by receivers early on in the game — all of this led to the Eagles falling in a large deficit. The defense held its own to start the game, but with the offense failing to get anything going, the Red Raiders high-tempo offense simply wore down EWU.

Eastern quarterback Gage Gubrud, coming off one of the most prolific passing seasons in FCS history, struggled to regain his form from the 2016 season. Gubrud finished the game 22-34 passing with 207 yards and one touchdown and one interception. That lone interception resulted in a pick-six for TTU, compounding the day’s misery for Gubrud.

There are bright spots to draw from the game, as Gubrud showed some nice chemistry with a handful of wide receivers:

-Terence Grady, eight catches for 93 yards and one touchdown

-Nsimba Webster, six catches for 57 yards

-Nic Sblendorio, four catches for 30 yards

It’s obviously not the most impressive overall stat line, but the Gubrud to Grady connection was in the works for the game against Texas Tech. That should be something to watch for as the season progresses.

In all, it was not the most ideal opening to open a coaching career for newly-hired Aaron Best. Not all is lost though — this is just the first game of a long season.

The Eagles get the chance to redeem themselves next week when No. 2 North Dakota State heads to Cheney. Last year was a thriller, with North Dakota State winning 50-44 in overtime in Fargo, North Dakota. Kickoff is set for 1:05 p.m. at Roos Field.