Big Sky Conference

Kupp, Sibley, Butler, Vega earn first players of the week



 The Big Sky Conference announced its league players of the week on Monday, honoring players from Eastern Washington, Northern Arizona, Portland State and Cal Poly following the opening weekend of action for all four squads.

The first Big Sky Offensive Player of the Week went to EWU junior wide receiver Cooper Kupp and Northern Arizona wide receiver Emmanuel Butler. The Defensive Player of the Week went to Portland State senior cornerback Aaron Sibley following the Vikings’ 24-17 upset of FBS Washington State. The Special Teams Player of the Week was Cal Poly freshman Alex Vega for drilling a last-second field goal to lift Cal Poly to a 20-19 win over No. 8 Montana.

Two-time All-America wide receiver Cooper Kupp finished with career highs of 15 catches for 246 yards – both Autzen Stadium records – in a 61-42 loss to Oregon on Saturday. Both of those marks against the Ducks were the second-best in school history, ranking behind the records of 17 receptions (Aaron Boyce versus Montana in 2007) and 264 yards (Jason Anderson versus Montana in 1994). Kupp now has 40 touchdown catches in his career, moving him from 19th to 12th in FCS history after catching three touchdowns against the Ducks.

“I’d be shocked if you could show me a better receiver at any level in the country,” said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin of the two-time consensus NCAA Football Championship Subdivision All-American “Usually I don’t talk like that, but that’s how I feel right now and think that we have. We are very fortunate to have him as a leader and player on this football team.”

Kupp’s 40 touchdowns ranks second all-time in school and Big Sky Conference history behind the records of 46 held by former Eagle Eric Kimble (2002-05). Kupp also went over the 200-catch mark in his career against Oregon, and now has 212 to rank sixth in school history. His 3,368 yards is third in EWU history.

“It’s just a will and an amazing mindset that he has,” Baldwin said. “He is talented – he is talented in every aspect of what it is to be a wide receiver. People want to knock him for his speed, but he still runs behind people over and over again. He took a bubble screen 73 yards against Oregon and a Pac-12 team with a lot of speed. So Cooper is plenty fast.

“The thing that takes him over the top in comparing him to other receivers in the country is his will. You marvel when you see him out there doing what he is doing. Somebody asked him how he breaks so many tackles, and it’s very simple to him, ‘I don’t like to be tackled so I refuse to be tackled.’ That’s a mindset. It’s kind of like the mental toughness you need to be tired and still play through it. The guys who can do that have grit, and Cooper has another type of grit. When the ball is in the air, ‘it’s mine. Period.’ That’s the way he thinks.”

Butler had a career night in a 34-28 NAU win over No. 24 Stephen F. Austin. It took two minutes for Butler to make his first catch of the game and it came in thrilling fashion as he rolled right past the SFA defense and into the end zone with a 57-yard touchdown catch. By halftime, Butler had three catches for 106 yards and two touchdowns. He didn’t score in the third, but made up for it in the fourth with a 36-yard touchdown catch from wide receiver Alex Holmes on the switch. His 216 yards were a new career high, almost totaling his yards from a year ago; in addition to his new career-high for touchdowns in a game. He caught seven passes.

Sibley played a key role in the secondary, as Portland State upset Washington State, the Vikings’ first win over a Pac 12 opponent and the third over an FBS team in 35 tries. Sibley made four tackles, including one for loss and broke up a pass. But his biggest plays of the day were a blocked field goal in the first half, and a game-sealing interception in the final minute of play.

Vega literally lifted Cal Poly to victory on Saturday, as his first field goal attempt as a Mustang was a game-winner – a 49-yarder with four seconds remaining at Montana to give Cal Poly the 20-19 victory. His longest field goal in high school was 37 yards. Vega also averaged 58.8 yards on six kickoffs with one touchback.

Nominees for the Offensive Player of the Week included: Jamaal Jones (Montana); Alex Kuresa (Portland State); Mike Sharp (Southern Utah); Ben Scott (UC Davis); Michael Sanders (Idaho State); Daniel Kniffin (Sacramento State); Mitchell Herbert (Montana State); Trae Riek (Northern Colorado); and Chris Brown (Quarterback, Cal Poly).

Nominees for the ROOT Sports Defensive Player of the Week included: Josh Burton (Weber State); Taj Rich (North Dakota); Samson Ebukam (Eastern Washington); Josh Bamrick (Northern Arizona); Kendrick Van Ackeren (Montana); Mike Needham (Southern Utah); Kyle DeVaughn (UC Davis); CJ Langlow (Idaho State); Joey Banks (Sacramento State); Mac Bignell (Montana State); and B.J. Nard (Cal Poly).

Nominees for the ROOT Sports Special Teams Player of the Week included: Simba Webster (Eastern Washington); Daniel Sullivan (Montana); Marcus Minsella (Portland State); Colby Wadman (UC Davis); Isiah Hennie (Sacramento State); and Bryson McCabe (Montana State).



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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