EWU defeats Spiders to advance to FCS semifinals
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EWU football booked its ticket to the semifinals of the FCS playoffs for the first time since 2013, squashing the Richmond Spiders 38-0 at Roos Field to improve to 12-1 on the season.
The temperature was a chilling 19 degrees at game time, but neither the weather nor the Spiders could slow down a red-hot Eagles team, who out gained Richmond 451-205 in total yards.
“Offensively, on a day when it’s cold and the ball can slip, we’re just executing and taking care of the football,” said head coach Beau Baldwin. “We’re grinding out and hitting plays when we need to.”
EWU finished +4 in the turnover margin, including four fumble recoveries in the first half.
The Eagles led 21-0 at halftime, with all three touchdowns coming through the air. But on the team’s first possession of the second half, EWU promptly ran the ball on eight of the drive’s nine plays, capped off by a 20-yard touchdown run by senior running back Jabari Wilson to give the Eagles a 28-0 lead.
Sophomore quarterback Gage Gubrud posted another strong playoff performance, finishing 21-32 for 287 passing yards and 3 touchdown passes. The Eagles were 5-5 in the red zone, scoring on every trip inside the 20.
Senior wide receiver Cooper Kupp continued his record-breaking college career, finishing with 128 receiving yards and a receiving touchdown on six receptions. Kupp set the all-division NCAA receiving yards record in the first quarter, breaking Chris George’s record, who played for Glenville State in the NAIA from 1991-94. Kupp now has 6,284 receiving yards in 51 career games.
“The defense did a great job of putting us into some pretty great situations,” said Kupp “We have to be critical of ourselves in how we execute in getting points out of that, regardless of what the scoreboard says.”
The EWU defense continued its remarkable turnaround from just a season ago, shutting out the Spiders. The Eagles have now shut out their opponents in six straight quarters in the playoffs. EWU has not given up more than 28 points in a game since Oct. 8, after having eight such games last season.
“Hats off to our guys on defense,” said Baldwin. “To go four quarters is one thing … if you really think about it, that’s seven quarters of scoreless football [in the playoffs].”
Senior defensive lineman Samson Ebukam recorded eight tackles, four tackles for a loss, two sacks, a forced fumble and an interception to lead the Eagle defense.
“I can’t even explain half the plays I made,” said Ebukam. “At the beginning of the game I just asked God to let me play the best that I can and I guess that’s what I did.”
Junior defensive lineman Albert Havili also recorded two sacks for EWU.
The Eagles will host the FCS semifinal game at Roos Field, and will face off against the Youngstown State Penguins on either Dec. 16 or 17. The Penguins defeated the Wofford Terriers 30-23 in double overtime in their quarterfinal game. There is no scheduled kickoff time yet, but the game can be seen on the ESPN network and heard on 700-AM ESPN.