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Rare is the productive defensive effort on Eastern Washington's Kupp

FARGO--The most prolific offensive player in Division I FCS football comes to Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome this Saturday, Sept. 10, in Eastern Washington wide receiver Cooper Kupp. So far, three teams in the Missouri Valley Football Conf...

Sep 3, 2016; Pullman, WA, USA; Eastern Washington Eagles wide receiver Cooper Kupp (10) celebrates after a game against the against the Washington State Cougars at Martin Stadium. The Eagles won 45-42. Mandatory Credit: James Snook-USA TODAY Sports
Eastern Washington Eagles wide receiver Cooper Kupp is chase down by Washington State Cougars linebacker Dylan Hanser during the first half at Martin Stadium. (James Snook/USA TODAY Sports)

FARGO-The most prolific offensive player in Division I FCS football comes to Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome this Saturday, Sept. 10, in Eastern Washington wide receiver Cooper Kupp. So far, three teams in the Missouri Valley Football Conference have tried to stop him.

All three failed.

North Dakota State will get its turn at Kupp, who is the heavy favorite to repeat as the winner of the Walter Payton Award that goes to the best offensive player in the subdivision. So far, the benchmark is South Dakota State, which gave up four receptions to Kupp for 90 yards and two touchdowns in a 2013 playoff game.

"No. 1, their offense is the type of offense that if you have a good receiver he's going to get a lot of opportunities," said SDSU head coach John Stiegelmeier. "No. 2, they move him around to try and get mismatches."

Those mismatches were evident against Northern Iowa in a non-conference game last season. Kupp had nine receptions for 179 yards and two touchdowns, and that was just in the first half because Kupp did not play in the second half because of a hip pointer. UNI took a thrilling 38-35 victory.

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His best statistical day against a Missouri Valley team was in the 2014 playoffs when he had 10 catches for 185 yards and two touchdowns against Illinois State, although the Redbirds took a big lead and held on for a 49-46 win. ISU went somewhat conservative on defense, head coach Brock Spack remembers, but he said the physical presence of the 6-foot-2, 215-pound Kupp is more impressive in person than on tape.

"He's put together very well," Spack said. "He's a formidable guy. He's strong. He reminds me of a lot of guys you see on Sunday."

That would be in reference to receivers in the NFL, which is expected to be Kupp's next stop. The task to control that kind of talent on Saturday will most likely start with Bison cornerback Jalen Allison.

Washington State couldn't figure it out last Saturday when Kupp had 12 receptions for 206 yards and three touchdowns in Eastern Washington's 45-42 win.

"He's a really good competitor," Allison said. "And he's a bigger guy and has really good ball skills."

In fact, there have only been a handful of teams over the course of three-plus years that have limited Kupp. The only teams to keep him out of the end zone were Cal Poly and Montana last year; Southern Utah, Northern Colorado and Montana in 2014; and Towson in 2013.

Two Big Sky teams virtually shut him down, but never more than once. Kupp had only two receptions for nine yards against the University of North Dakota as a freshman, but came back with nine for 111 yards and a touchdown the following year. He had four catches for 21 yards against Cal Poly last year, although he had eight for 139 yards and two touchdowns against the Mustangs as a freshman.

"I think it takes a group effort," said Bison linebacker Nick DeLuca. "We have a good game plan for this week and we'll try to limit his yardage on what he can do on the field, which is pretty exceptional."

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Up next: No. 8 Eastern Washington at No. 1 North Dakota State

Where: Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome

When: 2:30 p.m. Saturday

TV: KVLY

Radio: 107.9-FM

Sep 3, 2016; Pullman, WA, USA; Eastern Washington Eagles wide receiver Cooper Kupp (10) celebrates after a game against the against the Washington State Cougars at Martin Stadium. The Eagles won 45-42. Mandatory Credit: James Snook-USA TODAY Sports
Eastern Washington Eagles wide receiver Cooper Kupp (10) celebrates after a game against the against the Washington State Cougars at Martin Stadium. The Eagles won 45-42. Photo by James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Jeff would like to dispel the notion he was around when Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press, but he is on his third decade of reporting with Forum Communications. The son of a reporter and an English teacher, and the brother of a reporter, Jeff has worked at the Jamestown Sun, Bismarck Tribune and since 1990 The Forum, where he's covered North Dakota State athletics since 1995.
Jeff has covered all nine of NDSU's Division I FCS national football titles and has written three books: "Horns Up," "North Dakota Tough" and "Covid Kids." He is the radio host of "The Golf Show with Jeff Kolpack" April through August.
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