(STATS) -- It was a combination of frustration and desperation when Eastern Washington inserted a third-string redshirt freshman for his first significant playing time at quarterback in the second half of a blowout loss at rival Montana last November.It wasnt until spring practices earlier this year that many people perked up to Gage Gubruds ability.Could an unknown sophomore supplant the two returning quarterbacks ahead of him, including one who threw for over 3,000 yards last season?Not only did Gubrud provide the answer in his first career start in early September, but he, Cooper Kupp and Eastern Washington have a chance to finish as one of the greatest passing offenses in FCS history.The No. 3-ranked Eagles have soared behind an air attack that produces 445.6 passing yards per game. Its an average that at the end of the season would rank second in FCS history.Mississippi Valley States 496.8-yard average in 1984 behind quarterback Willie Totten and wide receiver Jerry Rice may never be topped, but the Eagles are ahead of the next-best passing offenses, Steve McNair and Alcorn State in 1994 (442.3 ypg) and Neil Lomax and Portland State in 1980 (434.9).Six teams have averaged over 400 passing yards in FCS history.As Eastern Washington (6-1, 4-0) gets sets to host No. 16 Montana (5-2, 2-2) in the Big Sky Conference on Saturday, Gubrud is getting better. In last years matchup, he only entered the game behind Reilly Hennessey and Jordan West when, at 50-9, the outcome was no longer in doubt.This season, Gubrud helped lead Eastern Washington to a 45-42 upset at Washington State in the season opener -- passing for 474 yards and setting a school record with 551 yards of total offense -- and theres been no looking back.I like to break the season down to thirds, to get a feel for how someone is playing early in the season, in the middle of the season and late in the season -- especially when you are talking about young quarterbacks, EWU coach Beau Baldwin said.The thing I love about Gage compared to his first three games is that hes playing incredibly patient and disciplined. Hes continuing to take what a defense gives him, and teams can sometimes frustrate you when they force you to continually take everything underneath. Hes handling that really well, and regardless of the statistics and yards, hes taking care of the football a ton better than he did at the beginning of the year. Those are the steps hes taken that Ive been most impressed with, and how hes growing as a quarterbackGubrud has completed 212 of 299 passes (70.9 percent) for 2,886 yards and 27 touchdowns with six interceptions (all before the Big Sky season began). His 520 passing yards at Montana State last Saturday set the Eagles single-game record, and he raised the teams run of consecutive passes without an interception to 169 (140 by Gubrud).The offense also features Kupp, the greatest receiver in FCS history (most receiving yards and touchdown receptions, and soon-to-be most receptions). But when the 2015 STATS FCS Offensive Player of the Year missed 1? games with a shoulder injury last month, the production was seamless.The Eagles have the Big Skys three leaders in receiving yards -- Kupp, 866; Kendrick Bourne, 696; and Shaq Hill, 669. In their careers, the trio has combined for 694 receptions for 10,580 yards and 111 touchdowns in their career.Its all come together for the Eagles -- in a historical way.---=FCS CO-GAME OF THE WEEK=The Matchup: No. 16 Montana (5-2, 2-2 Big Sky) at No. 3 Eastern Washington (6-1, 4-0)Kickoff: 3:35 p.m. ET at Roos Field (8,600) in Cheney, WashingtonTelevision: ROOT SportsSeries: Montana leads 27-15-1 (most recent meeting: UM won 57-16 on Nov. 14, 2015 in Missoula)The Skinny: Bitter rivals meet with Eastern Washington leading the Big Sky Conference in total offense (571.7 ypg) and Montana top-ranked in total defense (318.1 ypg). UM kicker Tim Semenza (62 points) and leading rushing Jeremy Calhoun (60) rank 1-2 in the conference in scoring. QB Brady Gustafson (2,195 yards, 22 TDs) will be even more dangerous if and when leading receiver Jerry Louie-McGee returns from injury. While the Griz employ a 4-3 defense, they might have to keep LB Josh Buss (14.5 tackles for loss) back in pass coverage with DE Caleb Kidder (4.5 sacks) supplying the pressure on EWU QB Gage Gubrud. EWU is one of the three unbeaten teams in Big Sky games (4-0 Weber State plays at 5-0 North Dakota on Saturday). The Eagles have trailed at halftime in five of their seven games, then outscored opponents 207-78 in the second half. On an often-maligned defense, seniors Samson Ebukam (DE), Miquiyah Zamora (LB) and Zach Bruce (S) form a strong trio.Prediction: The stakes would be higher if Montana hadnt lost at Northern Arizona last weekend. A rainy day could slow down the Eagles. Eastern Washington, 34-30.---=FCS CO-GAME OF THE WEEK=The Matchup: No. 4 North Dakota State (6-1, 3-1 Missouri Valley) at N
#2 RE: s coverage with DE Caleb Kidder (4.5 sacks) supplying the pressure on EWU QB Gage Gubrud. EWU is one of the three unbeaten teams
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