Ivone Garza for The Easterner
CHENEY, WA. — Another week, and another lackluster performance from the Eastern Washington University Eagles. Just like against Texas Tech, the Eastern defense could not hold its own. This time, it was the rush defense that failed to stop North Dakota State and their potent ground attack.
In all, the Bison rushed the ball 63 times for 395 yards. All day, the running backs for NDSU enjoyed finding holes with ease. Simply, nothing could be done to stop the Bison and their pro-style running offense. Particularly, NDSU running backs Bruce Anderson and Lance Dunn were forces to be reckoned with. Anderson had 23 carries for 167 yards and one touchdown, while Dunn had 19 carries for 148 yards and three touchdowns.
Granted, the EWU secondary played a solid game, holding NDSU quarterback Easton Stick to 13-20 passing for 157 yards. It just wasn’t enough for EWU, who now sit at 0-2 on the season.
Part of that 0-2 start can be contributed to Eagles quarterback Gage Gubrud, who hasn’t looked close to being the perennial player of the year candidate he was in 2016. Last season, Gubrud was one of the best passers in the entire nation. Through two games, that has not been the case, as he is completing his passes at just a 51 percent clip right now.
That is due in part to the offensive line allowing too much pressure and wide receivers dropping some easy passes. But Gubrud has been making poor decisions, evident into the game against NDSU. Gubrud threw into double-coverage on numerous occasions, ending his day with two interceptions as well as a number of dropped interceptions by the Bison. Gubrud finished the game 10-30 passing with 134 yards.
It’s obvious through two games that this Eagles offense is desperately missing its wide receiver corps from last season. After receivers Cooper Kupp, Kendrick Bourne and Shaq Hill all departed last year, no one has really stepped up to fill their places. That’s no easy task, conceded. But no EWU wide receiver has eclipsed the 100-yard mark in either game this season.
This team is a stark contrast from the 12-2 squad from just last year. The defense is giving up 579 yards a game while also allowing 48 points per contest. On the flip side, Gubrud is 32-62 passing with 341 yards and four turnovers.
Following the game, head coach Aaron Best talked at length about the team’s performance against NDSU.
“Offensively we made some plays and stretched the field at times,” said Best. “There were a few plays, but at times we were inconsistent. We had balls that were put on receivers and we just have to execute better. We’ll find the players we can get our first win with. We have to look at ourselves in the mirror and find a way – any way – to win next week.”
This is the second time in the past three seasons EWU has opened up with multiple losses. In 2015, the Eagles also began 0-2. EWU wound up finishing 6-5 that season.
The Eagles head to New York next week to take on Fordham. Currently, EWU is ranked No. 6 in the nation and Fordham is unranked. It is going to be a crucial game for Gubrud and the Eagles as they look to get back on track and pick up their first win of 2017.
Kickoff is set for 10 a.m. P.S.T. at Coffey Field. The game will be broadcast on 700-AM ESPN and 105.3-FM in Spokane/Cheney; KTEL 1490-AM and 99.7 FM in Walla Walla.