No. 6 EWU look to spoil No. 18 NAU’s home opener


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By Taylor Newquist, Sports Editor

The Eagles continue their non-conference schedule with a trip to Flagstaff, Arizona, for a top 25 matchup against fellow Big Sky foe Northern Arizona this Saturday. The Lumberjacks are fresh off of a 30-10 victory against UTEP, their first against an FBS opponent since 2012.

Although UTEP is currently tied for the longest losing streak among FBS members at 13, it was an impressive showing for the NAU defense, allowing just 229 total yards and forcing three turnovers. Standout receiver, and STATS third team pre-season All-American, Emmanuel Butler saw his first action since Sept. 9, 2017, after a season-ending shoulder injury. Butler did not seem to miss a step totaling six catches for 138 yards and two touchdowns.

“He’s a big body and his catch radius is pretty big,” senior cornerback Josh Lewis said about facing Butler this weekend. “He’ll go up and go get it, and he has some real solid hands overall, so it’s going to be hard to punch through his hands, you have to win that ball in the air.”

The Eagles limited former EWU quarterback Reilly Hennessey to 164 yards and one touchdown in their season opening victory over Central Washington last week, including a 59 percent completion percentage and an interception. Turnovers are a key indicator to the Eagles success, they have a 41-0 record since 2010 when leading the turnover margin, and 76 percent of their victories coming from games with more, or equal turnovers to their opponent. Their last loss to NAU came in 2015 in a game that the Lumberjacks forced four takeaways. Last week, the Eagles managed to hold CWU to zero points on three lost fumbles.

Expect an aerial showdown this week between the two quarterbacks, EWU’s Gage Gubrud, and NAU’s Case Cookus. They are both listed on the pre-season Walter Payton Award watchlist (FCS equivalent to the Heisman Trophy). The last time they faced each other in 2016, they threw for a combined 637 yards and five touchdowns (Gubrud 392-2, Cookus 245-3). The Eagles went on to win 50-35, after losing the previous two meetings against the Lumberjacks in 2015 and 2014. They hold a 5-2 series advantage over NAU since 2008.

“I think he’s a good passer,” Gubrud said about Cookus. “He’s very accurate and makes good decisions. He also has a great receiver in Emmanuel Butler to target a lot, too.”

Kickoff is set for 4:07 p.m. and will be broadcast regionally on SWX. You can watch the game online on or PlutoTV channel 239. The Eagles will conclude their non-conference schedule in Pullman, against Washington State on Sept. 15.