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Eastern Washington football notebook: Tamarick Pierce adds depth to Eagles’ running game

UPDATED: Sat., Sept. 29, 2018, 10:12 p.m.

Eastern Washington running back Tamarick Pierce, shown against Washington State earlier in the 2018 season, had another big day against Montana State. (Young Kwak / Associated Press)
Eastern Washington running back Tamarick Pierce, shown against Washington State earlier in the 2018 season, had another big day against Montana State. (Young Kwak / Associated Press)

BOZEMAN – Hard-running junior Tamarick Pierce may not get the lion’s share of Eastern Washington’s carries, but he’s made the most of his limited opportunities.

The Eagles’ prolific backfield tandem of Antoine Custer and Sam McPherson had trouble finding big holes early Saturday in the Eagles’ 34-17 win at Montana State, but when Pierce saw his first action late in the second quarter, he went full throttle.

Pierce, third on EWU’s depth chart at running back, peeled off a 34-yard run on his first carry, barreling through tackles and bouncing outside before he was hit well out of bounds, warranting a late-hit penalty.

One play later, Pierce crossed the end zone on a 12-yard run to give the EWU (4-1, 2-0 Big Sky) a 24-10 lead, a double-digit cushion the Eagles didn’t relinquish.

He finished the game with three carries for 48 yards. The Eagles’ ground game totaled 201 yards on 33 carries. All four or EWU’s touchdowns were on running plays.

Pierce has 219 yards and two touchdowns this season on 25 carries, an impressive 8.6 yards per touch.

“He’s one of those guys that doesn’t need three or four carries to get going. When he finds the crease, he runs like a madman,” EWU head coach Aaron Best said of the Oakland, California, product. “Some people just accept their role, but he attacks his role.”

Kicker Alcobendas

sets school record

Four years after sustaining a season-ending knee injury in a win at Montana State, EWU kicker Roldan Alcobendas created the memory of a milestone.

The sixth-year senior set the Eagles’ all-time record for points by a kicker early in the second quarter when he nailed a 24-yard field goal. He has a EWU-best 244 points.

Alcobendas, whose foot accounted for 10 of the Eagles’ points, is 5 for 5 on field goals this season.

Gilder sets career high

in his home state

EWU tight end Jayce Gilder, a Corvallis, Montana, product, caught his first collegiate touchdown pass two years ago in a win in Bozeman.

Gilder, the 11th EWU letterman from Montana in program history, hauled in career-high four receptions for 41 yards in the latest win against Montana State, where his dad played basketball and where many of his friends attend school.

Dozens of friends and family members came to watch Gilder at Bobcat Stadium.

Kupp returns to Bozeman

Before he was the Los Angeles Rams’ budding wide receiver, Cooper Kupp had 617 yards and seven touchdowns in his four games against Montana State, with a couple of epic performances at Bobcat Stadium.

When he returned to Bozeman as a spectator, Kupp wore a hat and sunglasses in the stands as he watched his younger brother, EWU linebacker Ketner Kupp.

Cooper had more than 160 yards receiving and two touchdowns in a win against the Minnesota Vikings on Thursday, freeing up his weekend to watch an Eagles game. It was his first live EWU game since he taken in the third round of the 2017 NFL Draft.

Ketner, who had a team-high seven tackles, said Cooper surprised him by showing up.

“It was great to see Cooper and (his new baby) little Cooper,” Ketner said. “And for him to take the time to come out here means a lot.”

QBs tackling QBs

On a third-down play late in the first half, EWU quarterback Gage Gubrud failed to get a first down when was brought down on a run.

The tackler was Montana State quarterback Troy Andersen.

Andersen, the Big Sky Conference Freshman of the Year last season as a running back and linebacker, is now the Bobcats’ primary QB. He also played some linebacker and running back in his latest game against EWU.

Webster limited again

Star receiver Nsimba Webster had two catches on EWU’s first drive, including a key 34-yard reception on third down that set up a Gubrud touchdown run.

He had four catches for 56 yards, but his reps were limited, likely because of a sprained ankle he sustained in the first quarter of a loss at Washington State two weeks ago.

After totaling nearly 400 receiving and yards and four touchdowns in the Eagles’ first two games, Webster has totaled 117 yards on six receptions in the next three games.

Turnover improvement

EWU forced 13 turnovers in 2017, six of those interceptions.

Mitch Fettig and Josh Lewis each recorded interceptions against Andersen, bumping the Eagles’ total to four in September.

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