THOUSAND OAKS, Calif – The last time linebacker Samson Ebukam, quarterback Gage Gubrud and the Washington State Cougars were on the same field, the former Eastern Washington stalwarts helped spearhead a 45-42 upset in Pullman.
Ebukam, now one of the Los Angeles Rams’ primary pass rushers, applied constant pressure on then-WSU quarterback Luke Falk in the 2016 game, totaling two sacks and six tackles.
Gubrud carved up the Cougars’ defense in his first college start, racking up 474 passing yards and five touchdowns as well as 77 rushing yards and a touchdown on the ground.
EWU went on to the FCS semifinals. WSU earned an invitation to the Holiday Bowl, the second of its four consecutive FBS bowl berths.
When Ebukam heard in February that Gubrud was pursuing his final year of eligibility in Pullman as part of WSU head coach Mike Leach’s famed Air Raid system, he was happy for the McMinnville, Oregon, native.
“I think it’s a good fit for him with the scheme WSU has. He went from a spread offense to a spread offense,” Ebukam told The Spokesman-Review at Rams minicamp last month. “He made the best decision to give himself the best shot to get to the next level.”
In nearly 3 1/2 seasons as a starter at EWU, Gubrud, a two-time All-American and Walter Payton Award finalist, passed for 9,984 yards and 87 touchdowns. He also rushed for 1,042 yards and 13 touchdowns.
But after suffering a broken toe against Montana State in late September last season, the redshirt senior was shelved for the rest of the season, later applying for a sixth year of eligibility that was granted in February.
His backup, fleet-footed sophomore Eric Barriere, went on to help lead the Eagles to a share of the Big Sky Conference title and advance to the FCS national title game.
“Barriere was able to step up behind him,” Ebukam said. “So Gage was able to go somewhere else to prove his worth, like what Vernon Adams did. It’s a good thing for him.”
Adams starred at EWU from 2012-2014 before transferring to Oregon his senior season. Despite missing three games due to injury, he earned Pac-12 Newcomer of the Year honors and helped the Ducks reach the Alamo Bowl.
Gubrud is the third star Big Sky Conference quarterback in five years to transfer to a Pac-12 school, including Montana State’s Dakota Prukop, who transferred to Oregon in 2016 before he was benched midseason.
Gubrud sustained another foot injury this past spring before WSU spring football practices, limiting him to mostly passing drills. He was sidelined for the Crimson and Gray spring game.
Redshirt seniors Trey Tinsley and Anthony Gordon, who both have limited game experienced, are in a three-way competition with Gubrud for the starting job this fall.
Adams, who started last week for the Canadian Football League’s Montreal Alouettes, believes Gubrud has the tools to thrive in the Pac-12.
“He didn’t transfer there to not start,” Adams said in April. “It’s kind of like how Oregon brought me in. He’s going to be the guy.”
Former EWU receiver Nsimba Webster, who signed an undrafted free-agent contract with the Rams in May, said it was strange seeing Gubrud in crimson and gray clothes this past spring.
Webster participated in drills in front of professional scouts at WSU and EWU’s respective pro days in April and caught up with Gubrud.
“It was crazy seeing him as a Coug,” Webster said at Rams minicamp. “But I wish him the best and hope he does well over there and follows his dream.”
Former EWU linebacker Ketner Kupp, who also signed an undrafted free-agent contract with the Rams, agreed.
Kupp, his brother and current Rams starting receiver Cooper Kupp, and Gubrud beat Washington State together in 2016, but the Cougars handed Ketner, Gubrud and Webster a 59-24 loss in Pullman last season.
“I’m cheering for him since he’s not playing against EWU this season,” Ketner Kupp said. “He’ll be good there.”
The Kupp brothers have seen two of their former quarterbacks – Adams and Gubrud – make the jump to a Power 5 school.
“It goes to show you how good Eastern is at recruiting guys,” Ketner said. “They end up being guys that bigger schools want.
“Had the bigger schools had the vision our coaches had four years prior, I’m sure (Adams and Gubrud) would have committed there if they gave them a look.”
Washington State (vs. New Mexico State) and EWU (at Washington) open their respective seasons Aug. 31.