In the decade since Beau Baldwin accepted the head coaching position at Eastern Washington, the offensive guru has turned the small school in suburban Spokane into a football factory.

It's chief export: quarterbacks.

Of the Eagles' five full-time starting QBs since Baldwin ascended to command just after New Year's Day 2008, the first three are currently playing in the Canadian Football League. The fourth threw for 3,000 yards and 30 touchdowns last season before the fifth, and possibly most promising of them all, beat him out in camp this fall as just a sophomore.

Gage Gubrud is the latest EWU passer to bear the torch, and he's again bringing a national spotlight to Cheney, Washington.

Gubrud, the main cog in Eastern's nationally top-ranked passing offense that Montana will be tasked with stopping Saturday, has already thrown for 2,886 yards and 27 touchdowns in his debut starting season. He has a completion percentage just shy of 71 and just six interceptions in 299 pass attempts.

In seven career starts, he already owns six of EWU's top 11 single-game offensive performances, including a school-record 551 yards of total offense in the first start of his career, a 45-42 victory over FBS Washington State.

And if you can believe it, he's only gotten better since then, Baldwin said.

"I'm just most proud of him because I feel like he's becoming more and more patient," said Eastern's head man, who sports a 79-31 record since taking over the program. "That's the biggest difference for me from where he was at the beginning of the year. Still putting up some numbers, but throwing more picks or getting a little loose with the ball. Now he's become a more disciplined quarterback."

Gubrud has no interceptions in his last four games, a streak of 194 passes.

So just how does Eastern Washington keep churning out new models after striking gold with recent record-setting QBs Matt Nichols, Bo Levi Mitchell and Vernon Adams?

"More than anything we believe strongly in our process and how we develop them," Baldwin said. "It's not so much me going out and recruiting, then just rolling the balls out. You've got to get 'em in here, develop them and fit them to your system."


There was no race for Gubrud's quarterbacking services in 2014 when he graduated from McMinnville High, the eponymous school in an off-interstate town about halfway between Portland and Corvallis, Oregon. The QB drew a couple scholarship offers from small Division II schools, but none at D-I and FCS.

He and EWU had been in talks, but the Oregonian didn't know much about Eastern's prolific offense or its 2010 national championship. He'd only heard of the Eagles because they upset nearby Oregon State, a top-25 FBS team at the time, to start the 2013 season.

"I wouldn't say coming out of high school I had a dream of playing at Eastern Washington," said Gubrud, who walked on as a freshman, "but it's been the biggest blessing and the best thing for me."

When Adams -- the Big Sky Conference record-holder in single-season yards (4,994 passing, 5,559 total) and passing touchdowns (55), and the career leader in touchdowns (110 passing, 121 total) -- famously transferred to Oregon before the 2015 season, it left the door open for a new starter. Gubrud, then just a redshirt freshman, very nearly won the job.

Instead Jordan West took over and set the school's single-game yardage mark that Gubrud would break less than a year later. The younger QB overtook West, now a senior, as this season's starter.

"The competition never ends and I think that really benefits us in that we're always competing and trying to make ourselves better," he said.

If Eastern's offense can continue to improve is a scary proposition for opponents. The Eagles already lead the country with 3,119 passing yards, about 400 more than any other team. Their average of 445.6 ypg would rank second in FCS history if extended through the end of the season.

EWU also ranks second in the nation with 569.6 total yards of offense per game, a couple first downs behind unbeaten Sam Houston State. The Bearkats (7-0) are the top-ranked team in the STATS FCS poll right now. The Eagles (6-1, 4-0 in Big Sky) are No. 3.

Much of that success is because of Gubrud's arm and legs -- he's EWU's leading rusher, too, with 372 yards -- and the QB has come a long way since this time last year. Because of injuries to West and second-stringer Reilly Hennessey, Gubrud made his debut in Missoula last November in a Griz blowout.

Montana will see a much different passer Saturday.

"I mean I didn't expect to come in and break some records and all that, but I knew we'd have success," Gubrud explained. "It's pretty hard not to with the system that we're in, the coaching staff we have and the players I have around me. You're bound for success."

Kickoff is slated for 1:30 p.m. MDT with the game airing regionally on ROOT Sports Northwest.

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