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EWU Football No. 1 in Big Sky coaches and media pre-season polls

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EWU quarterback Gage Gubrud and safety Mitch Fettig at the Big Sky Conference’s summer meetings | Taylor Newquist for The Easterner

EWU quarterback Gage Gubrud and safety Mitch Fettig at the Big Sky Conference’s summer meetings | Taylor Newquist for The Easterner

EWU quarterback Gage Gubrud and safety Mitch Fettig at the Big Sky Conference’s summer meetings | Taylor Newquist for The Easterner

By Taylor Newquist, Sports Editor

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The Big Sky Conference’s annual summer meetings found a new home in downtown Spokane this year, as players, coaches and media members gathered at the Double Tree on Spokane Boulevard. Representing EWU was head coach Aaron Best, quarterback Gage Gubrud and safety Mitch Fettig.

Monday’s proceedings opened with news that EWU had been ranked No. 1 overall in coaches and media Big Sky pre-season polling for the first time since 2014. Returning 18 starters, seven All-Big Sky performers and the coaching staff, had the three Eagles in attendance concurring about the team’s high expectations.

Both Gubrud and Fettig let their national title aspirations be known, but are focused on bringing the Big Sky title back to Cheney after finishing last year No. 3 in the conference and missing out on the FCS playoffs.

“Expectations are always really high,” Gubrud said. “Always winning the Big Sky title and the national title are the expectations every ear. We’re returning everyone on the offense except for two guys. It’s going to be fun to see how we’ve grown as a unit, and with the coaches.”

Best said that there’s a sense of being humbled among this year’s team after last year. He talked about the evolution of the program over the last 15-20 years, and how being 7-4 would have been good in the past, but now the benchmark is making the playoffs.

EWU head coach Aaron Best addresses the media at the Big Sky Conference’s summer meetings | Taylor Newquist for The Easterner

“We’ve created the pressure for ourselves to be better and better every year,” Best said. “But I’m excited about those situations and that’s what I believe competitors do, they want to thrive in the toughest situations.”

Fettig emphasized the team’s mantra that they developed this offseason, ‘leave no doubt’. The motto reminds the team of being denied a playoff berth by the selection committee at the end of last season. He said that they know their goals are going to stay the same, and that they’ve been pushing that message.

“Every workout,” Fettig said. “Every field session we’ve done, we’ve had that [missing playoffs] in the back of our mind knowing we have to work that much harder.”

A big part of EWU’s success will hinge on its turnover margin. Last year the Eagles had only 13 takeaways, and gave up the ball 23 times. Fettig – one of two defensive senior co-captains alongside Ketner Kupp – said that the defense needs to have at least three turnovers during each practice and game, and failing to do so results in a ‘little run’.

“Knowing how big the turnover margin is,” Fettig said. “And how much that helps you in the outcome of a game, that’s huge moving forward. We need to keep building on it because last year was not a good year for us turnover wise, but the year before we made the semi-finals [FCS Playoffs] and we had almost 30 turnovers.”

The Eagles are all of the same mindset that they are going to have to work to keep their preseason No. 1 ranking. Players will report back to the team on August 2, ahead of their season and home opener against Central Washington on Sept. 1 at 1:05 p.m.

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EWU Football No. 1 in Big Sky coaches and media pre-season polls