HILLSBORO, Ore. – Eastern Washington wasn’t about to let a called-back touchdown impede its momentum.
Not in this setting.
Not with this much on the line.
One play after EWU receiver Andrew Boston’s score was wiped off the board because of a penalty, quarterback Eric Barriere flung a short pass to Nsimba Webster, who promptly hit fifth gear, bursting past Portland State’s secondary on a 68-yard touchdown.
It was that sort of resolve that helped fourth-ranked EWU rout the Vikings 74-23 Friday night at Hillsboro Stadium, giving the Eagles at least a share of the Big Sky Conference crown and likely a bye in the first round of the FCS playoffs.
The Eagles, who clinched their sixth conference title since 2010, cemented their spot in the FCS playoffs, a year after the program suffered an agonizing postseason snub despite a No. 18 ranking.
Aaron Best wore an ear-to-ear grin after the final horn sounded, signaling his first conference title as Eagles head coach.
“We got a ticket to the dance,” said Best, who is now 13-3 in Big Sky play as the Eagles’ head man. “Last year we were on the front porch, nobody owned the door, so this time we barged the door down.
“I’m just proud of this bunch, and to a part of this university and this enterprise.”
This year, it was EWU’s balanced offense and suffocating defense that brought the title back to Cheney.
Barriere completed 17 of 26 passes for 216 yards and five touchdowns and rushed for 99 yards and score to lead EWU (9-2, 7-1 Big Sky), which racked up 624 total yards.
EWU set a quick tone when Barriere peeled off a 66-yard touchdown on the fourth play of the game.
Sam McPherson churned out 133 yards rushing to lead a run game that totaled 378 yards. He eclipsed the 1,000-yard rushing mark for the season, EWU’s first player to reach the milestone since 2013.
Webster, who had 98 yards receiving to also surpass the 1,000-yard mark this season, iced the regular-season finale when he zipped 57 yards on a punt return to make it 54-21 late in the third quarter.
“Great atmosphere, the fans, everyone came here,” Webster said. “I’m just glad we got the win. We’re back to being Big Sky champs, and we did it in a helluva style. It was great.”
The Eagles’ defense, which leads the Big Sky in points allowed, was true to form, holding Portland State to 304 yards.
For the third straight game, sophomore linebacker Chris Ojoh led the Eagles in tackles (nine). EWU also came away with three interceptions for the third straight game.
PSU (4-7, 3-5) quarterback Davis Anderson connected with receiver Emmanuel Daigbe in the second quarter to make it 21-14 before EWU flipped the switch and widened the lead.
Vikings head coach Bruce Barnum praised EWU, where he graduated in 1987.
“That’s a very explosive football team,” Barnum said. “They’re rolling right now.”
No. 3 Weber State (8-2, 6-1) and No. 9 UC Davis (8-2, 6-1) are also tied atop the Big Sky Conference going into their regular-season finales on Saturday.
EWU will learn its postseason future on Sunday at 9:30 a.m. during the FCS Playoff Selection Show.
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