Eastern Washington

EWU All-American QB Gage Gubrud’s career ends where it began: Montana

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When Beau Baldwin pulled Jordan West with his team trailing 40, most of Washington-Grizzly Stadium wondered, “Who’s Gage Gubrud?”

Gubrud’s first collegiate action came as a redshirt freshman at Montana. Aaron Best’s startling announcement on Saturday confirms that Gubrud’s college career ended in Montana as well.

The Eastern Washington All-American senior quarterback will have season-ending surgery, Best told the press following EWU’s 38-14 win over Idaho last weekend. Gubrud suffered an undisclosed leg injury late in Eastern’s 34-17 win at Montana State on September 29 in the second Big Sky Conference game for both teams.

“Eric Barriere is our quarterback moving forward and Gage Gubrud will be shelved for the rest of the season,” Best after his team jumped out to a 31-0 halftime lead over Idaho in their sixth win in eight games this season. “Everybody has Gage’s best interests in mind, and that’s where we stand going forward. Eric Barriere will be our starting quarterback.”

 

Gubrud’s first game came in Missoula for the final 20 minutes of a lopsided loss that gave a glimpse into what would become a record-setting sophomore season less than a year later.

It’s a rare occasion Baldwin’s teams ever had unsettled quarterback situations at Eastern Washington. But in 2015, Baldwin made the move away from West, a pro-style quarterback with a rocket arm who threw six touchdowns in his second start against Montana State, in favor of Reilly Hennessy late in the season despite his team’s undefeated record in league play.

EWU was coming off a 52-30 loss at Northern Arizona, a game that saw Baldwin replace West for the first time with Hennessy. The week following Eastern’s first league loss of 2015, Hennessy made his first career start against the Griz in Missoula.

But with Montana leading 50-10 with six minutes to go in the third quarter, Baldwin made another move, an uncharacteristic necessity for one of the best quarterback developers the Big Sky has ever seen.

Baldwin put Gubrud in the game following a forced fumble of Montana running back Jeremy Calhoun. Seven plays later, Gubrud scored a rushing touchdown from one yard out.

The Eagles would lose that afternoon 57-16, the second loss in a three-game losing streak that kept Eastern out of the playoffs at 6-5. The following off-season, a quarterback battle ensued. Gubrud outlasted West and Hennessy, leading to one of the most prolific passing seasons in the history of college football.

In 2016, Eastern returned to the ranks of the nation’s elite FCS teams behind the peerless performance of senior trio Cooper Kupp, Kendrick Bourne and Shaq Hill. The three All-American wide receivers made easing into being a first-time starting quarterback much smoother for Gubrud. But he still carved out his own place in Eastern Washington and Big Sky Conference history with his gaudy numbers, particularly in 2016.

GAGE GUBRUD BY THE NUMBERS

Eastern Washington quarterback Gage Gubrud suffered a season-ending injury against Montana State/ by Brooks Nuanez

 

  • Gubrud finished his career with 21 Eastern Washington records, eight Big Sky Conference records and three in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision, most coming in a sensational sophomore campaign in 2016.

 

  • With 11,026 yards of total offense in his career, Gubrud averaged 344.6 yards of total offense per game to rank third all-time in FCS and break the Big Sky record of 328.9 set by Dave Dickenson of Montana with 11,513 yards in 35 games from 1992-95.

 

  • Gubrud finished his career with a 21-7 record as the starter, including leading Eastern to a 12-2 mark that included an 8-0 record in Big Sky play.

 

  • Threw for 5,160 yards to set an FCS single-season record in 2016.

 

  • Shared Big Sky Offensive MVP honors with EWU senior wide receiver Cooper Kupp.

 

  • Finished as one of three finalists for the 2016 Walter Payton Award.

 

  • Piled up 5,766 yards of total offense, just 33 shy of the FCS single-season record held since 1994 by the late Steve McNair.

 

  • Gubrud went over the 10,000-yard mark in his career for total offense on Sept. 8 at Northern Arizona to become the fourth Eagle in school history to achieve that feat. He finished just 16 yards from joining those same three players in the 10,000-yard passing club, with a current total of 9,984 in his career. His average of 312.0 per game was a school record, and ranks third in Big Sky history and 20th in FCS.

 

  • His 11,026 yards of total offense ranks third in EWU history and 12th all-time in the Big Sky Conference. Gubrud also had 87 touchdown passes in his 32-game career to move into third in school history past Erik Meyer (2002-05) with 84. There are no official lists for TD passes in the 55-year history of the league, but it’s believed he’s tied for eighth.

 

  • At No. 4 in school history in career passing yards with 9,984, Gubrud ranks only behind 10,000-yard passers Matt Nichols (12,616, No. 1 in Big Sky), Vernon Adams Jr. (10,438, unranked) and Erik Meyer (10,261, unranked). He is also third in total offense with 11,026 yards, ranking behind Nichols (13,308, No. 1 in Big Sky) and Adams (11,670, No. 7), but surpassing Meyer (10,942, No. 13).

 

  • Gubrud had a school-record 10 400-yard passing performances in his career, three more than Adams with seven. He has had back-to-back-to-back 400-yard performances on three occasions, and Adams, Jordan West and Matt Nichols are the only other quarterbacks in EWU history to have accomplished that feat two games in a row.

 

  • Gubrud’s 19 300-yard passing performances are tied with Nichols (19) and are one behind Adams (20) for the school record.

 

  • Gubrud owns school records with 13 performances of at least 400 yards of total offense and six with at least 500. He owns eight of the top 10 single game total offense performances in school history.

 

  • In five games in 2018, Gubrud had 1,585 yards of total offense – 1,416 through the air and 169 on the ground. He completed 61.9 percent of his passes (99-of-160) and had a 156.8 passing efficiency rating. At the time he played his last game, he ranked ninth in the country in total offense.

 

Eastern Washington advanced to the semifinals of the FCS Playoffs before losing in brutal fashion in the final seconds at home, 40-38 to No. 13 Youngstown State. Gubrud led the Eagles to seven wins in nine games after two straight losses to begin Best’s first season at the helm. Baldwin left following the 2016 season for the offensive coordinator job at Cal. Last season’s 7-4 record was not good enough to get into the FCS playoffs.

Gubrud led the Eagles to a 4-1 start, the lone loss at Pac 12 Washington State. Barriere is 2-1 since taking over, the loss a 14-6 defeat at the hands of No. 4 Weber State. The game marked the first time since 2008 EWU did not score a touchdown.

Best praised Gubrud’s well-rounded career earlier this week.

“It’s incredible – not just for this team but for this athletic department and university,” said Best of Gubrud’s contributions in an EWU press release. “He came on campus without a scholarship, earned a scholarship and then caught fire his sophomore year. He had an amazing career in just three years – really 2 1/2 years. He’s an incredible leader, captain and teammate, and I call him a dear friend. He’s meant a ton for us and will continue to mean a ton because he’ll be a very good mentor for Eric side-by-side in-game, out-of-game and in the meeting room. We could sit here for an hour-and-a-half in talking about the greatness and accolades he represents. He’s a true EKG, and we highly respect his work. It’s just unfortunate his career was cut short due to a physical ailment.”

About Colter Nuanez

Colter Nuanez is the co-founder and senior writer for Skyline Sports. After spending six years in the newspaper industry with stops at the Missoulian, the Ellensburg Daily Record and the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, the former Washington Newspaper Association Sportswriter of the Year and University of Montana Journalism School graduate ('09) has cultivated a deep passion for sports journalism during his 13-year career covering the Big Sky Conference. In August of 2014, Colter and brother Brooks merged their passions of writing and art to found Skyline Sports.

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