EASTERN WASHINGTON at WASHINGTON STATE
Vernon Adams first gained national recognition beyond FCS followers in 2013 when he led Eastern Washington to a Week 1 upset of then-ranked Oregon State.
The Beavers were coming off a surprising Top 25 finish the year before, but had no answer for the Eagles’ prolific offense. Circumstances are remarkably similar entering this particular matchup, pitting Beau Baldwin’s perennial Big Sky contenders against Pac-12 competition.
Washington State won nine games last season, the program’s high since 2003 and a new benchmark under head coach Mike Leach. The Cougars had a realistic course to the Pac-12 Championship Game in the season’s final month, and would have controlled their destiny in November, had Christian McCaffrey not done a tight-rope act on Halloween night.
And the Cougars did it all despite…opening 2015 with a loss to a Big Sky opponent. Well, then.
Washington State’s Week 1 loss to Portland State a season ago doesn’t instantly bolster Eastern Washington’s case — on the contrary, the Cougars are probably more likely to take FCS competition more seriously as a result. As defensive back Parker Henry said at Pac-12 media days last month, “It reminds you, it’s hard to win a game in college football.” -
However, next month’s trip to the Palouse isn’t exactly Eastern Washington’s first rodeo, either.
The Eagles followed up their upset of Oregon State by putting a scare in — and 52 points on — Washington. Last season, with a quarterback not named Adams behind center, Eastern Washington posted 42 against the Oregon Ducks.
And, in a game that includes standout Gabe Marks, the best receiver on the field might actually be Eastern Washington’s Cooper Kupp.
Kupp didn’t miss a beat catching passes from Jordan West. In fact, his 2015 production landed him the Walter Payton Award, the FCS version of the Heisman.
Expect loads of passing yards and a high-scoring, back-and-forth affair.