Agony at the Inferno: Eagles lose semifinal game in final second to Youngstown State
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The EWU football team saw its season come to an end on a freezing December night in Cheney, falling to the Youngstown State Penguins 40-38 in the FCS semifinals.
The Eagles led for much of the game, but the Penguins broke the Eagles heart with one second left in the game as wide receiver Kevin Rader caught and pinned the ball against the back of sophomore linebacker Ketner Kupp, retaining possession for the game-winning score. The play was reviewed by officials, but no indisputable video evidence was found to overturn the ruling on the field. On the ensuing kickoff, EWU’s series of laterals were eventually snuffed out by the Penguins, ending the Eagle’s season in heartbreak.
After a Youngstown State touchdown on their first possession of the game, EWU reeled off 17 straight points to take an early lead in the first half. Sophomore quarterback Gage Gubrud connected with senior wide receivers Cooper Kupp and Kendrick Bourne for passing touchdowns.
Kupp caught another touchdown in the opening half from sophomore running back Sam McPherson on a trick play late in the first half, after the Eagles recovered a muffed Penguins punt return. Youngstown State quickly scored a touchdown of their own, and EWU took a 24-17 halftime lead over the Penguins.
After forcing a Youngstown State field goal to start the third quarter, Gubrud found senior wide receiver Shaq Hill on their first possession of the second half for an 18-yard touchdown pass, putting the Eagles up 31-20.
Youngstown State cut EWU’s lead to four early in the fourth quarter as quarterback Hunter Wells threw an 11-yard touchdown pass despite defensive pass interference being called on the Eagles. After a three-and-out for the Eagle offense, the Penguins took the lead on a 12-yard rushing touchdown from running back Tevin McCaster.
The Eagles responded quickly, going 80 yards on a seven play drive that was capped off by a rushing touchdown from Hill.
On the final drive of the game, the Penguins gained 58 yards on 11 plays, capped off by the game-winning touchdown catch by Rader.
Gubrud finished the game 18-33 passing for 353 passing yards, as well as throwing for three touchdowns and turning the ball over twice. Gubrud also ran for 48 yards, giving him 401 total yards in the day. Lost in the frenzy of the game’s crazy ending was Gubrud setting an FCS single-season record for passing yards.
In his final collegiate game, Kupp finished with 180 receiving yards on 10 receptions, catching two touchdowns.
The Eagles forced one turnover in the game, the muffed punt return, and converted it into seven points. After winning the turnover battle last week by four, the Eagles lost it today by one. The Penguins had possession of the ball for nearly 40 minutes while the Eagles had it for roughly only 20 minutes.
EWU finishes the season 12-2, which included an 11-game win streak and a win over the Washington State Cougars in the first game of the season. EWU has now lost in the semifinals three times in four appearances under head coach Beau Baldwin, advancing to the finals and winning the national championship in Baldwin’s second season in 2010.