SEATTLE – Washington was expected to throttle Eastern Washington the previous two times it faced the FCS power. Instead, the Huskies were pushed to the brink.
The defending Pac-12 champion left little doubt the third time Saturday at Husky Stadium.
Behind quarterback Jacob Eason’s 349 passing yards and four touchdowns, 13th-ranked Washington routed EWU 47-14 in front of 65,709 fans, and the margin could have been much wider.
The Huskies, playing with reserves late in the game, opted to kneel near the end zone in the final seconds.
Eason, a former five-star recruit making his first start since transferring from Georgia after the 2017 season, completed 27 of 36 passes, spearheading the Huskies’ 21-point first-quarter lead.
“They’re nationally renowned for a reason,” EWU coach Aaron Best said of the Huskies. “We didn’t play our best football game today.
“I wish we would have given them a better game. I don’t think we executed well. In pockets we did, but Jacob Eason is the real deal, and I’ve known that since he was a high school freshman.”
EWU, ranked No. 3 in the FCS preseason coaches poll after advancing to the 2018 national title game, put a scare into the Huskies the previous two meetings, in 2014 (59-52) and 2011 (30-27).
The Eagles were dominated from the kickoff, though, totaling just 54 total yards in the first quarter.
Early penalties, dropped passes and special-teams troubles compounded the problems for EWU, which was held to 274 total yards, 64 on the ground.
“They did a good job of stifling our run game,” EWU receiver Andrew Boston said. “And they challenged us to beat them in a man defense. They had us studied up and dialed up.”
EWU standout quarterback Eric Barriere – a preseason Walter Payton Award candidate – was mostly held in check, completing 21 of 35 passes for 211 yards and a touchdown.
Barriere’s big plays were limited and his handful of nice scrambling plays were statistically negated by being sacked four times.
His 64-yard scoring strike to Boston (six catches, 112 yards) cut the Huskies’ lead to 28-7 late in the second quarter, but the Eagles got no closer.
Eastern had a chance to score earlier, but Andre Slyter missed a 36-yard field goal to end a drive in which the Eagles reached the red zone.
EWU didn’t register a sack, allowing Eason – a 6-foot-6, 225-pounder with a rocket arm – and his cache of big, athletic receivers to connect against EWU’s young secondary.
Washington, which has led the Pac-12 in scoring defense the past four seasons and appeared in three straight New Year’s Six bowls, showed why it’s expected to push for another Pac-12 North title.
The Huskies racked up 570 yards of offense and were 5 of 6 in the red zone. The Huskies’ defense allowed just 2.1 yards per carry.
Linebacker Chris Ojoh had a game-high 11 tackles (nine solo) and a pass breakup to lead the Eagles defense, which yielded touchdowns on five of the Huskies’ first seven possessions.
“We had to make the proper adjustments,” Ojoh said. “And as far as the quarterback getting the ball off quickly, we didn’t make the proper adjustments.”
EWU forced Washington into a fourth-down situation on its opening drive, but Richard Newton subsequently peeled off a 23-yard touchdown run.
The Eagles turned it over on downs at midfield the next series, and Eason found a wide-open Andre Baccellia on the first play of the drive, a 50-yard scoring strike.
When Aaron Fuller (two touchdowns) pulled down a one-handed catch on a 7-yard scoring connection on his team’s next series, the Huskies had zipped to a 21-0 lead with 4:17 left in the first quarter.
The last previous UW had a 21-0 lead on EWU, star quarterback Vernon Adams and the Eagles stormed back in 2014’s 59-52 thriller, the second game in head coach Chris Petersen’s tenure at Washington.
That wasn’t the case this time for Petersen’s defense.
“There was a couple things Eastern got on us on today,” Petersen said. “We were looking at EWU’s (2018) offense trying to figure this out, and Central Washington’s (2018) offense with their head coach (Ian Shoemaker), now the offensive coordinator at Eastern.
“There was a lot of offense coming at us,” Petersen said. “So I thought our defense did a great job today.”
Eason, who started as a true freshman at Georgia in 2016 and sat out at UW last season due to NCAA transfer rules, was eager to play against a live defense again.
“I feel like I executed the game plan to where the coaches were satisfied with it,” Eason said. “I am happy with the end result. Going to digest, correct what needs corrected and get ready for Cal.”
EWU begins its home schedule Saturday against NCAA Division II Lindenwood of St. Charles, Missouri.