Football

Washington State vs. Eastern Washington: It’s personal

While the city of Pullman will be flooded with a sea of crimson this Saturday, not all in attendance will equally appreciate the gray.

The Eastern Washington Eagles will travel roughly 70 miles south to meet the Washington State Cougars in familiar territory – Martin Stadium. If you recall, the Cougs dropped their 2016 home opener to EWU by a final score of 45-42.

In the upset, two EWU players stood out above the rest: receiver Cooper Kupp and quarterback Gage Gubrud. The pair carded video game-like numbers in their performance.

Luckily for Washington State, Kupp has since graduated to the NFL (Los Angeles Rams); though, quarterback Gage Gubrud returns for round two.

“He’s a really good quarterback,” said nickleback Hunter Dale. “He’s very athletic and he’s gonna give us a challenge.”

After 474 yards, five touchdowns and one interception in Gubrud’s last Pullman outing, Dale is right on the money. The signal caller appears to have Wazzu’s number.

However, one would be hard-pressed to catch Head Coach Mike Leach dwelling on the past. He was quick to diffuse any allegations of unfinished business about Saturday’s matchup.

“If you do the math, there has been a lot of games since then,” stated Leach. “If I sat and looked at every past game I would waste a lot of time and I’d diminish my chances of being very good at the next one.”

While a multitude of Cougs return with clear memory of the upset, many have taken on the demeanor of their coaching staff. This game is nothing more than a straightforward affair.

“Right now, we’re just treating this as another game on our schedule,” added Dale.

The fan base, however, beats to the sound of a different drum. The proximity of these two programs lends a special edge the mix.

While Martin Stadium has enough seats for almost all of Whitman County, an exodus of WSU ticket holders migrate from Spokane every game day to fill the stands. A city which both WSU and EWU have a resoundingly strong alumni presence.

These two universities divide spouses, siblings, grandparents, cousins and friends alike. It would be rather uncommon to find a resident of Spokane County who does not have a connection to both programs in one way or another.

On the field, Washington State may take this as just another game; however, thousands of fans on both ends of the spectrum have a different perspective. This one’s personal.

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