Big Sky Conference

Kupp, Reyes, Santiago earn weekly Big Sky awards


His numbers are eye-popping, but the numbers that mean most to Eastern Washington senior wide receiver Cooper Kupp are 5-1 and 10-1.

Those are the win-loss records for Eastern Washington University’s football team over Montana and collectively against UM and Montana State since he arrived on campus in 2012. With three touchdowns receiving and a 54-yard pass to set-up another score, he helped guide Eastern to a 35-16 victory over the Griz Saturday to earn Big Sky Conference Player of the Week honors from the league office as well as College Sports Madness.

In five games versus the Montana Grizzlies, Kupp has had 50 touches, resulting in an average of 16.8 yards, eight touchdowns and one 54-yard play down to the Montana 2-yard line. He’s been a part of five victories in six games versus Montana since his redshirt season in 2012.

Cooper Kupp

Cooper Kupp

The reigning FCS Offensive Player of the Year had more than 100 yards receiving for the 28th time in his 46-game Eastern career against the Griz, finishing with eight catches for 140. Besides his 69-yard touchdown, he also had TD receptions of 5 and 40 yards, giving him 33 plays of at least 40 yards in his career. He has scored in 38 of 46 games in his career, and has averaged a touchdown every 5.6 catches as an Eagle.

“His biggest attribute is his consistency, and that he continues to find ways to produce when everybody’s eyes are on him,” said head coach Beau Baldwin, whose third-ranked Eagles play at 14th-ranked Cal Poly this week. “But he’ll be the first to tell you it’s easy to be get open and find success when he’s playing around a lot of other great players. Whenever that moment is there, he makes a play. That’s why he has such huge numbers over the years – he doesn’t miss an opportunity. And the reason he doesn’t miss those opportunities is that he prepares to such a level that when an opportunity presents itself, he gets it done time after time after time. Plus, he has the guts and the toughness not to be worried about any moment – he just goes out and gets it done.”

He now has career totals of 45 catches for 660 yards and six touchdowns in five games against the Griz, as well as a punt return for a TD and a passing score. He is 2-of-2 passing versus the Griz, including a 54-yard pass to sophomore quarterback Gage Gubrud that set-up a score in the 2016 meeting and a 21-yard touchdown pass to Kendrick Bourne in 2015. He has had three punt returns for 103 yards and an average of 34.3 yards per return. Thus, his total on 50 touches against UM is 838 yards for an average of 16.8 per touch.

He went over the 1,000-yard mark receiving for the fourth time in his career, with only 13 other performances with at least that amount in school history. Kupp has 1,006 yards and 67 catches for the season in just seven games played, already ranking 17th and 15th, respectively, in school history. Despite missing 1 1/2 games with a shoulder injury, he leads the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision in receiving yards per game (143.7) and receptions per game (9.6), and is third in receiving touchdowns (11).

The 2012 graduate of Davis High School in Yakima, Wash., has broken 12 FCS records, eight Big Sky Conference all-time marks and 21 school records. Next up is a big one.

Already the owner of FCS career records with 67 receiving touchdowns and 5,770 yards, he has 378 receptions and is now just 17 catches behind the record of 395 set by Elon’s Terrell Hudgins from 2006-09. At his current season pace of 9.4 receptions per game, he’ll break the record on Senior Day versus Idaho State on Nov. 12. He is just nine grabs away from the FBS record of 387.

He broke a 12th FCS all-time mark on Oct. 29 versus Montana when he caught a pass in his 46th-straight game. Jacksonville State’s Josh Barge also has a current total of 46 in a row, and he and Kupp passed the record of 45 originally set by Marcus Lee of Towson (2005-08), then tied by current EWU wide receivers coach Nicholas Edwards (2009-12) and Tyrone Walker from Illinois State from (2009-12). Current Eagle Kendrick Bourne has a current 33-game streak, and other long streaks by former Eagles include Eric Kimble (44 from 2002-05), Aaron Boyce (42 from 2006-09) and Ashton Clark (36 from 2011-13). Boyce could have had a streak of 46, but he tore his Achilles in 2009 with four regular season games left to play.

Kupp and Bourne have also combined for FCS records for combined career catches (564) and combined career yards (8,514). In addition, Kupp’s 125.4 average reception yards per game is currently a FCS career record, while his other six FCS records were set during his freshman season.

Cole Reyes POW

Cole Reyes

The Big Sky Conference standings are jam-packed at the top, as the calendar turns to November.

However, two teams have separated themselves, and appear to be on a collision for a potential share of a Big Sky title. Kupp’s Eagles and North Dakota are both undefeated in league play, with the Eagles riding a 5-0 record, and seven-game winning streak, while North Dakota is 6-0, after knocking off fellow unbeaten Weber State. EWU is in search of its fifth Big Sky crown this decade while UND is in pursuit of its first league title since joining the BSC in 2012.

All three Big Sky Conference Players of the Week came from that group, with one of the greatest college wide receivers of all time earning his second set of weekly conference honors this season. Kupp is the Big Sky Conference Offensive Player of the Week, North Dakota safety Cole Reyes is the Big Sky Conference Defensive Player of the Week and North Dakota kick returner John Santiago is the Big Sky Special Teams Player of the Week.

A player returning from injury can have a big impact on a program, and no program appreciated the return of a player more than the return of Reyes to UND. Reyes made a pair of second-half interceptions against Weber State, leading the Fighting Hawks to a 27-19 win in Grand Forks, UND’s seventh straight victory.

With UND holding a narrow 14-13 lead in the third quarter, Reyes returned a pick 24 yards, setting up a score. Then, with the Wildcats down 24-19 and driving, the senior made a diving interception that led to a field goal for the Fighting Hawks.

However, Reyes wasn’t the only player who made an important impact play in the battle of Big Sky unbeaten teams in Grand Forks. Santiago, UND’s dynamic sophomore tailback, demonstrated his versatility, returning the opening kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown. Santiago’s score would prove to be the only touchdown of the first half for North Dakota, before going on a 20-6 run in the second half.

Nominees for Big Sky Conference Offensive Player of the Week include: Patrick Tyler, Southern Utah; Alex Kuresa, Portland State; Brandon Cartagena, Northern Colorado; Joe Protheroe, Cal Poly; Jordan Robinson, Sacramento State; and Jeremy Calhoun, Montana.

Nominees for Big Sky Conference Defensive Player of the Week included: Mitch Fettig, Eastern Washington; Junior Tufuga, Southern Utah; Mitch Fettig, Eastern Washington; Tre’von Johnson, Weber State; Josh Buss, Montana; Mikhail Dubose, Northern Colorado; and Manny-Scott Anderson, Sacramento State.

Nominees for Big Sky Conference Special Teams Player of the Week included: Tate Lewis, Southern Utah; Shaq Hill, Eastern Washington; Cory Thomson, Weber State; Keifer Glau, Northern Colorado; and Isiah Hennie, Sacramento State.

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