NEW YORK — Eastern Washington’s football game on Saturday took place roughly 2,600 miles away from campus, having to leave the state for a road game one day earlier than when they usually depart for away games to adjust to the three-hour time difference in New York.
Once they got out onto the field, however, the Eagles were right at home.
All-America quarterback Gage Gubrud accounted for five touchdowns while the defense combined for a school-record 10 sacks as No. 12 Eastern Washington routed Patriot League power Fordham 56-21 at Jack Coffey Field in the Bronx, giving first-year head coach Aaron Best his first-ever head coaching victory.
Almost all of Eastern Washington’s drives in the game ended with either a touchdown or a turnover, though eight of the drives ended with touchdowns. After taking a 21-7 lead into halftime, the Eagles scored touchdowns on their first three possessions to put the competitive nature of the game out of reach. Receiver Dre’Sonte Dorton returned the opening kickoff of the second half 51 yards and, on the ensuing play, running back Antoine Custer exploded up the middle for a 43-yard touchdown. On the ensuing possession, Gubrud found tight end Henderson Belk for a 5-yard touchdown pass to cap a 60-yard, seven play drive for a 35-7 lead. After Fordham responded with a touchdown score of its own, Custer completed a three-play drive with a 22-yard scoring jaunt for a 42-14 lead.
Not bad for a team that was playing a football game at 10 AM Pacific, at least according to their body clocks.
Gubrud, who finished third in the Walter Payton Award voting as the FCS Player of the Year last season, first established himself in this game on the ground, running for a 10-yard score on the Eagles’ second drive for the first points of the game. He later ran it in from nine yards out early in the second quarter to give Eastern Washington a 14-7 lead.
Not everything was pretty for Gubrud and the Eagles, as they finished the contest with five turnovers, with their three first-half giveaways all coming inside of Fordham territory, allowing the Rams to hang around in the game. Two of those turnovers occurred in the second quarter, in which the Eagles had 181 yards of offense to the Rams’ minus-3. One of the turnovers came on a reverse pass by receiver Jayson Williams which was intended for Gubrud, who had the pass hit off of his helmet before it was intercepted by Fordham safety Antonio Jackson. The turnovers were the only eyesore in a game that the Eagles were absolutely dominant otherwise.
Any mistake made by the Eagles was almost always erased by the defense, which harassed Rams quarterback Kevin Anderson all throughout the game, sacking him 10 times and constantly putting pressure on the signal caller when he wasn’t put to the ground. At one point, the Eagles sacked Anderson on four consecutive offensive plays from scrimmage.
Hurting Fordham’s chances in the game before it started was the unavailability of star running back Chase Edmonds, the man who finished fourth in the Walter Payton Award voting and who is less than 1,200 yards away from breaking the all-time rushing FCS record for career rushing yards. Edmonds sprained his left ankle in last week’s victory on the road against Central Connecticut State and his status was was questionable coming into today, but he was not in pads at game time. Without the dynamic Edmonds, the Rams offense only generated 217 total yards, gaining a meager 26 yards on the ground on 44 rushing attempts.
Fordham’s bright spot was the play of Jackson in the back of the Rams’ defense, as he had two interceptions as well as a forced fumble on a third Eagles’ turnover.