In the days leading up to Eastern Washington’s 66-38 dispatching of Northern Arizona on Saturday at Roos Field, Eagles third-year coach Aaron Best said he saw more smiling and an extra kick in quarterback Eric Barriere’s step.
Considering Barriere’s road appearances haven’t been all roses – the Eagles are 0-5 away from Cheney, including a disappointing 34-17 loss at rival Montana last week – it was the sort of uplifting demeanor the Eagles needed in their final stretch of games, hoping to capture their 13th consecutive winning season, even if a postseason berth has turned into a pipe dream.
Barriere responded with one of the best games of his impressive football life, completing 29 of 38 throws for 367 yards and three touchdowns and no interceptions. Barriere also rushed for 101 yards and touchdown on 10 carries.
But what made Barriere different than in his previous 2019 outings was apparent: He decisively ran the ball and with purpose, much like the 2018 version of himself that helped lead the Eagles to the national title game.
In first-year offensive coordinator Ian Shoemaker’s scheme, Barriere – the most athletic quarterback in the league, per Montana coach Bobby Hauck – has been more of a passer, calling his number substantially less than he did a year ago in EWU’s read-pass option game.
Shoemaker said earlier in the week that a mixture of schemes, Barriere’s health and wanting to protect the prized dual-threat talent contributed to fewer carries. Barriere averaged 43.8 yards rushing a game in 2018 last season and stood at 26 going into Saturday, a stat boosted by a 92-yard touchdown run at Sacramento State last month.
“His legs are one of our big positives, and we have to do a better job of taking advantage of them,” Shoemaker said.
Barriere’s postgame grin told the story.
“It felt good to get back in the swing of things, move around a little bit, because the last couple of weeks I haven’t been able to move as much, or be very mobile,” Barrier said. “This weekend, I let it loose and went out and played.”
Loose is what Best had seen all week.
“I thought he was aggressive in his approach to the first-down marker. He attacked the sidelines aggressively, and the middle of the field and made guys miss,” Best said. “Kind of the old-school EB.”
EB – or EB3 – is Barriere’s nickname.
“I said, ‘You got rid of Eric and EB is back,” Best added. “I like both guys, but on Saturday I’ll take EB.”
EWU standout linebacker Chris Ojoh didn’t play, suggesting he will sit his next three games as a redshirt and regain his junior season.
Ojoh missed four games before returning against Montana last week, totaling nine tackles. It was his fourth game, the maximum allotted games an athlete can play before losing redshirt eligibility.
The Los Angeles native played as a true freshman in 2017 and could return next season as a fourth-year junior. He totaled 27 tackles in four games this season.
Look at the books
EWU’s 706 total yards were the fourth most in program history. … EWU’s 66 points were the most NAU gave up in a Big Sky Conference game since 1993. … Northern Arizona standout Case Cookus became the second quarterback in Big Sky history to reach 100 career touchdown passes.
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