The Easterner

No. 12 EWU Football Takes Down Fordham, 56-21

Junior+quarterback+Gage+Gubrud+warms+up+pregame.+Credit+to+Jon+Lambert+%28via+EWU+Sports+Information+Department%29.
Junior quarterback Gage Gubrud warms up pregame. Credit to Jon Lambert (via EWU Sports Information Department).

Junior quarterback Gage Gubrud warms up pregame. Credit to Jon Lambert (via EWU Sports Information Department).

Junior quarterback Gage Gubrud warms up pregame. Credit to Jon Lambert (via EWU Sports Information Department).

By Michael Brock, Sports Editor

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The Eastern Washington University football team marched into New York on Saturday afternoon and flattened the Fordham University Rams, 56-21. After dropping their first two games to open the 2017 season, this was a dominating showing on both sides of the field from the Eagles.

Offensively, there were glimpses of the Gage Gubrud that lit up the FCS a year ago. On EWU’s third drive, the junior quarterback propelled his team 75 yards to take the 7-0 lead. For the possession, junior running back Sam McPherson rushed for ten yards, while Gubrud had 55 yards on three completions and ran for another ten yards and the score.

The Rams’ offense was forced into a three-and-out (which became a theme) and Gubrud was picked off on the next Eagles’ possession. Fordham quarterback Kevin Anderson hit wide receiver Jonathan Lumley with a 43-yard completion to set up a five-yard touchdown pass to Corey Caddie, and it looked like it was bound to be a back-and-forth Saturday of football.

But Gubrud—the reigning Big Sky offensive co-MVP—had other plans.

After an empty possession by both teams, the Eagles needed only two plays (a 25-yard completion to sophomore wide receiver Dre’ Sonte Dorton and a nine-yard Gubrud run) to take back the lead, 14-7. A sack by senior defensive lineman Albert Havili gave Eastern the ball back. Gubrud laced the defense for a couple completions and sophomore running back Tamarick Pierce for a 17-yard rush to the house.

At the half, EWU led 21-7. Notably, Fordham was held to negative nine rushing yards through two quarters played. Gubrud was 20-27 with 205 yards in the air at halftime, to go with 30 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. The only thing keeping the Rams in the game was the Eagles’ three turnovers

If the game was in question thus far, all doubt was dissipated on the first play of the third quarter. After Dorton returned the kickoff 51 yards, sophomore running back Antoine Custer took Gubrud’s pass 43 yards for a touchdown and a 28-7 lead. The Eagles scored on the next two possessions as well, to put the game away.

The victory was the first of head coach Aaron Best’s career, who gave his thoughts to EWU Sports Information after the game. “I don’t know if words describe how this team has come together and believed in themselves,” said Eastern head coach Aaron Best. “They did a great job of coming across the country and playing well on both sides of the ball.”

The defense excelled in Saturday’s win over Fordham. Credit to Jon Lambert (via EWU Sports Information Department).

On defense, it was a case of night-and-day, a far cry from the 96 points and 1,158 yards given up in the first two games. Fordham’s first drive was ended via sack by senior defensive lineman Albert Havili, which was a sign of things to come, as the team sacked the Rams 10 times — a new single-game school record. Anderson was held to 17-28 passing for 191 yards and two touchdowns.

Havili ended up with four tackles and two sacks. Sophomore lineman Dylan Ledbetter had eight tackles and two sacks and junior back Mitch Fettig had seven tackles and one pass broken up, as nine Eagles finished with at least four tackles. The cherry on top was all this was done without senior and All-Big Sky defensive lineman Jay-Tee Tiuli.

In total, EWU held their opposition to 26 rushing yards, 191 receiving yards and 14 first downs. The Rams were 1-17 on third downs and averaged just 3.01 yards per play. Two of Fordham’s eight drives in the second and third quarters ended in touchdowns. The other six?

All punts.

On the flip side, the Eagles offense simply got the job done. They had 650 total yards, including 399 yards in the air and 251 on the ground for an average of 9.03 yards per play.

Gubrud finished 29-41 with 399 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions to go along with 72 yards and two more TDs on the ground. With junior Terence Grady out with a broken left collarbone, the receiving core was down a man. But junior wide receiver Nsimba Webster had five catches for 101 yards and senior receiver Nic Sblendorio added eight receptions for 67 yards and a score. On the ground game—along with Pierce’s 17-yard score—Custer had eight carries for 54 yards and a touchdown, and added two catches for 53 yards and another score.

All in all, a commanding showing by the Eastern football team.

The Eagles complete non-conference play with a record of 1-2 and will travel to Missoula, Montana next Saturday to begin Big Sky Conference play, but Best isn’t quite ready to talk about next weekend’s opponent just yet.

“We have a five-hour trip ahead of us, and I’m glad we all are going to go home with smiles on our faces,” Best said. “We’re not going to talk about our trip to Missoula yet – we’ll deal with that on Sunday. We’ll enjoy the ride home.”

“The first one is always the big one, so congratulations Eagle Nation.”

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About the Writer
Michael Brock, Editor in Chief

Michael Brock is The Easterner’s Editor in Chief. Brock, a senior studying journalism, was born and raised in Petersburg, Alaska. He is in his second...

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No. 12 EWU Football Takes Down Fordham, 56-21