Clad in an Oakland A’s hat and jersey, Keelan Doss threw out a ceremonial first pitch at Oakland Coliseum in August, a rare opportunity for an FCS football star with a season still ahead of him.
The UC Davis wide receiver is among California’s most decorated college athletes and is considered by many NFL Draft analysts as one of the top 20 pass catchers in the country.
He’s starring at a relatively obscure school in a town 15 miles west of the nearest city, Sacramento. He once led all of Division I (FBS and FCS) in receiving yards. He returned to school for a senior year, despite having a solid enough draft stock to leave.
When fifth-ranked Eastern Washington (7-2, 5-1 Big Sky) plays host to fourth-ranked UC Davis (8-1, 6-0) at 1:05 p.m. Saturday at Roos Field in a key conference battle, the Eagles’ secondary will face the best receiver who has stepped on the red turf since Cooper Kupp.
EWU linebacker Ketner Kupp sees some similarities between the 6-foot-3, 205-pound Doss and his 6-2, 205-pound brother, Cooper, the Los Angeles Rams’ steady young receiver.
“We have six (defensive backs) on our roster who practiced against Cooper (his senior year in 2016),” Ketner Kupp said. “I won’t have to guard Doss, so thank goodness for that. But our corners will definitely takes some looks at Cooper’s film and compare it to (Doss).”
Doss, a two-time Walter Payton Award candidate, tallied 1,499 receiving yards last season, and is on his way (779 yards) to breaking the 1,000-yard mark in a more-balanced UC Davis system.
He won’t touch Kupp’s all-time best FCS career marks of 6,464 yards and 73 touchdowns, but he’s garnered similar respect.
Doss torched EWU’s secondary last season in Davis, hauling in 15 passes for 208 yards and a touchdown in the Eagles’ 41-38 come-from-behind win.
EWU head coach Aaron Best said Doss is an equally good person.
“I tried to nudge him last year, told him to apply for the draft early,” Best said. “And I said it with a straight face. We looked at each other and both snickered after that.
“His resume is as strong as any. He’s a fun player to watch from a distance, but not so fun up close and personal.”
Doss and quarterback Jake Maier, also a Walter Payton Award candidate, have led the Aggies to their best season since moving up from NCAA Division II in 2003.
UC Davis, which ranks first in the Big Sky in scoring offense (43 pgg), is coached by Dan Hawkins, the former Boise State and Colorado head man who took over the program in 2017.
The Aggies are 0-6 against EWU, which leads the country in total offense (532.4 yards per game) and ranks first in the Big Sky in points allowed (15.3) in conference play.
Aggies needle Eagles on Twitter
“Leave no doubt” has been EWU’s credo since before the season and has been widely published on marketing signs and used as a Twitter hashtag campaign.
When No. 4 UC Davis jumped No. 5 EWU in the FCS media poll on Monday, the UC Davis football Twitter account posted a graphic of their new ranking with a “Leave no doubt” caption, just days before the teams face off at Roos Field.
It was the first time the UC Davis football Twitter account tweeted the phrase.
Fettig, Calhoun set to return
EWU handled Northern Colorado 48-13 last week without two of its defensive mainstays.
Safety Mitch Fettig and linebacker Kurt Calhoun sat out with injuries, but both are expected to return for the Eagles’ showdown with UC Davis, Best said.
Seniors accept all-star game invite
EWU defensive tackle Jay-Tee Tiuli and corner Josh Lewis have accepted invitations to play in the annual NFLPA Collegiate Bowl on Jan. 19 in Pasadena, California.
Former Washington tight end Will Dissly, who went on to play for Seattle Seahawks before a season-ending injury, and former Washington State linebacker Frank Luvu, on the New York Jets’ roster, played in the game last season.
Former EWU punter Jordan Dascalo also played in last year’s game.
Slyter’s leg boosts Eagles
Slyter’s strong leg has accounted for a Big Sky-best 34 touchbacks this season, a mark that ranks second in the country.
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