Big Sky Conference

Eight Big Sky stars named to AP All-America teams

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Cooper Kupp already has every receiving record there is in college football. The Eastern Washington senior continued making history this week nonetheless.

On Thursday, Kupp was named an Associated Press first-team All-American, marking the first time ever that a player has been named to the All-America first team four consecutive times.

Ralph Russo from AP reports that Kupp is believed to be the first player to be a four-time first team selection in FCS, which was previously known as Division I-AA. The AP began naming I-AA All-America teams in 1982 and its records go back to 1988.

Cooper Kupp broke the Division I record for all-time receiving yards Saturday against UC Davis/ EWU athletics

Cooper Kupp broke the Division I record for all-time receiving yards Saturday against UC Davis/ EWU athletics

Kupp leads the FCS in receiving yards per game (126.7), is second in receptions per game (8.9), and is third in receiving touchdowns (15). Kupp has 107 catches for 1,520 yards in just 12 games played this season, already ranking second and fourth, respectively, in school history. He currently holds down the first, second, third and fifth-best season marks in receptions, and second, third, fourth and sixth in yards. He is seven catches and 330 yards from single season school records.

Kupp has now broken 15 FCS, 11 Big Sky and 25 EWU records in his illustrious 51-game Eastern career, and has added a collegiate all-division mark. With a pair of early catches in the first quarter against Richmond on Dec. 10, he surpassed the NAIA record of 6,177 by Chris George of Glenville State from 1991-94 after surpassing NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision, NCAA Division II and NCAA Division III records earlier this season. He now has 6,284 yards, to go along with FCS records of 418 receptions and 71 touchdown catches.

Kupp was one of three Eagles named to the AP All-America team. Sophomore quarterback Gage Gubrud earned a spot on the second team while defensive end Samson Ebukam, a freshman All-American four years ago, earned a spot on the third-team defense.

Five other players from the Big Sky Conference joined the three EWU players picked from the co-Big Sky champions. League Defensive Player of the Year Cole Reyes of North Dakota helped lead UND to a share of the conference crown and was first-team All-American as a junior. UND junior Deion Harris was a second-team selection. Weber State tight end Andrew Vollert, Portland State cornerback Xavier Coleman and Southern Utah punter Tate Lewis joined Ebukam on the third team.

UND junior Cole Reyes

UND junior Cole Reyes

Reyes and Harris were part of a UND defense that shared the national lead with 20 interceptions during the regular season and led the Big Sky in both rushing and scoring defense. Those efforts helped UND win its first Big Sky Conference title and also earn the program’s first appearance in the FCS playoffs.

Reyes was named the Big Sky Defensive Player of the Year and both players earned first-team accolades from the conference. The Schaumburg, Illinois native finished with 70 tackles in 10 games. Harris led all Big Sky players with five interceptions and returned three of those for touchdowns, while Reyes added a career-high three interceptions and added eight pass break-ups.

With 10 more pass break-ups in 2016, Harris now ranks in a tie for sixth on UND’s all-time charts with 23. The Hibbing, Minnesota native added 36 tackles, including 26 solo stops.

Reyes is the first Fighting Hawk to be named to the AP’s first team since Weston Dressler received the honor after UND’s final season at the Division II level in 2007.

Gubrud and Kupp shared the Big Sky Offensive Player of the Year and have combined for a record-breaking season, with several more records on the verge of being broken. That duo finished in the top three in the voting for the Walter Payton Award presented this year by STATS, and the winner will be presented on January 6 the day before the national championship game in Frisco, Texas. The Eagles host Youngstown State Saturday with a spot on the line in the championship game.

EWU quarterback Gabe Gubsrud (8) is the co-Big Sky Offensive MVP/ by Brooks Nuanez

EWU quarterback Gabe Gubsrud (8) is the co-Big Sky Offensive MVP/ by Brooks Nuanez

Gubrud is a 2014 graduate of McMinnville (Oregon) High and has passed for 4,807 yards and 45 touchdowns, completing 68.5 percent of his passes. He also rushed for a team-leading 558 yards (4.5 per carry) and five more scores. He is the FCS leader in total offense at 412.7 per game, passing yards and passing yards per game (369.8), and is second in points responsible per game (23.2), total points responsible for (302) and passing touchdowns (45). He is also third in completion percentage (.685) and fourth in passing efficiency (166.9).

Gubrud is just 187 passing yards and 194 yards of total offense from the EWU and Big Sky Conference single-season records set by former EWU quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. in 2013. Gubrud has a current total of 4,807 yards this season (fifth in FCS history) and 5,365 total yards of offense (fourth in FCS), compared to the league record marks he is right behind of 4,994 (third in FCS history) and 5,559 (second in FCS), respectively, by Adams.

Gubrud is only 269 yards from the FCS passing record of 5,076 by Taylor Heinicke of Old Dominion in 2012 and 435 from the total offense mark of 5,799 set by Steve McNair of Alcorn in 1994. Gubrud’s average for total offense of 412.7 is on pace to set school and Big Sky records, and currently ranks fourth in FCS history. His average of 369.8 passing yards per game is just off of the Big Sky record of 379.6 set by Dave Dickenson of Montana in 1995.

Gubrud has broken season school records for total offensive plays (662), passing completions (368) and attempts (537), and has tied the record for most 300-yard passing performances (10). His completion percentage (.685) is also on record pace. The five single-game records he holds are for passing yards (520 vs. Montana State), total offense (551 vs. Washington State), touchdowns responsible for (7 vs. UC Davis), points responsible for (42 vs. UC Davis) and completions (47 vs. Central Arkansas).

Gubrud has just 12 career starts (11-1 record), but he already owns six of the top eight single game total offense performances in school history and five of the top 14 passing performances.

Eastern Washington senior Samson Ebukam led an EWU defense that shutout Richmond in a 38-0 win in the quarterfinals of the FCS playoffs in Cheney on Saturday/ by Jason Bacaj

Eastern Washington senior Samson Ebukam / by Jason Bacaj

Ebukam has a team-high 8.5 sacks this season to go along with totals of 68 tackles. 13.5 total tackles for loss, two forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries, six quarterback hurries, a pass broken and an interception. He is a 2013 graduate of David Douglas High School in Portland, Oregon

He has 23 sacks in his career to rank seventh in school history, and 185 total tackles total in 52 games (37 as a starter). One of six Eagle co-captains for the 2016 season, he received second-team All-Big Sky honors in both 2014 and 2015, and first team accolades in 2016. He was a second team Freshman All-America selection in 2013.

Vollert led the Wildcats in receiving yards, receptions and touchdowns this the season. He totaled 62 catches for 840 yards and seven touchdowns. He finished the season ninth in the Big Sky in receptions per game at 5.2 and was also ninth in receiving yards per game at 70.0.

The Big Sky Newcomer of the Year after transferring from San Jose State had at least two receptions in every game this season and had at least five catches in nine of the 12 games. He had a season-high eight catches for a season-high 112 yards against Northern Arizona and also topped 100 yards receiving against Sacramento State.

Andrew Vollert, left, earned AP All-America honors/ by Brooks Nuanez

Andrew Vollert, left, earned AP All-America honors/ by Brooks Nuanez

He is the 52nd player in Weber State history to earn All-America honors and the second for head coach Jay Hill.

Portland State’s Coleman was rarely thrown at during the season, but still managed to finish with two interceptions, along with a forced fumble. Of the seven passes he defended on the season, Coleman broke up five of them, as Portland State had the league’s fourth-best pass defense. He earned first-team All-Big Sky honors and is one of the league’s top NFL prospects.

Lewis helped propel Southern Utah to a league-leading performance in punting, and earned all-Big Sky honors for his season’s work. Lewis finished with an average of 45.4 yards per punt, while placing 20 punts inside the 20-yard line.

 

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