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Eastern Washington notebook: Eagles hope home momentum helps them end five-game road skid

UPDATED: Tue., Nov. 5, 2019

Eastern Washington’s Eric Barriere  dodges a tackle during a game against Idaho on Sept. 21, 2019, at the Kibbie Dome in Moscow, Idaho. (Libby Kamrowski / The Spokesman-Review)
Eastern Washington’s Eric Barriere dodges a tackle during a game against Idaho on Sept. 21, 2019, at the Kibbie Dome in Moscow, Idaho. (Libby Kamrowski / The Spokesman-Review)

Eastern Washington’s 10-game winning streak against Idaho State is impressive.

The Eagles’ five-game, season-altering road skid isn’t.

EWU (4-5, 3-2 Big Sky Conference) looks to extend the former and buck the latter on Saturday when it visits the Bengals (3-6, 2-4) at Holt Arena in Pocatello.

“It’s eating us up as players,” EWU sixth-year senior center Spencer Blackburn said of his team’s road woes. “Because it’s not that hard of a task and we haven’t been able to do it.”

EWU’s junior linebacker Jack Sendelbach is confident the Eagles will break through.

“It’s definitely been weird this year because I’ve never been in a situation like this, but we’ll find a way for sure,” Sendelbach said. “We’re tweaking some stuff here and there, so let’s hope that it pays off.”

The Eagles were dealt a brawny road schedule.

EWU fell at defending Pac-12 champion Washington (47-14); at FCS No. 17 and Ohio Valley Conference power Jacksonville State (49-45), when the Gamecocks won their 30th straight home game; at Sacramento State (48-27), which is now ranked No. 8 in the FCS media poll; and at No. 10 Montana (37-14).

Idaho’s 35-27 upset of EWU in Moscow is the most debilitating of the losses. Jacksonville State (6-4) has since dropped out of the Top 25.

“Every game we’ve had on the road we’ve had some sort of flaw or hindrance that sticks out,” Blackburn said. “Jacksonville State, we blew a 28-7 lead. Idaho, didn’t starting moving the ball until the fourth quarter. Montana started off strong, then slowed down in the second half.”

It’s a completely different animal on the red turf, though.

Unblemished (4-0) at Roos Field this season, the Eagles are riding a school-record 13-game home winning streak.

EWU’s 35-20 win over North Dakota, now ranked No. 22 in the FCS media poll, is the Eagles’ best win.

The others were against NCAA Division II Lindenwood (59-31); traditional Big Sky basement dweller Northern Colorado (54-21); and Northern Arizona (66-38). Northern Arizona has the 122nd-ranked defense in the country and Northern Colorado is 123rd.

EWU shredded all three of those teams, averaging 704 yards in the lopsided wins, boosting the numbers of an Eagles offense that’s ranked No. 1 in the country (506 yards per game).

The Eagles had 706 yards in their win over NAU on Saturday, a game coached and players dubbed the most “complete” outing of the season.

“We definitely had different concepts going in,” Blackburn said of the NAU game. “It was more similar to past years.”

EWU isn’t the only team in the conference to struggle away from its confines. Southern Utah (0-6), Northern Arizona (0-5), Idaho State (0-5) and Idaho (0-4) are all winless on the road. Other struggling road teams are Northern Colorado (1-5), Cal Poly (1-4) and Portland State (1-4).

The last time EWU went winless on the road was 1969. It has two chances to prevent that, including at Cal Poly next week.

“We have to find our identity – or our hidden identity – on the road this week,” EWU head coach Aaron Best said. “We have to find a way to get that road win in Pocatello this week.”

Barriere, Harrison

earn Big Sky honors

EWU quarterback Eric Barriere and place-kicker Seth Harrison earned Big Sky Player of the Week honors following EWU’s 66-38 drubbing of Northern Arizona.

Barriere was the Offensive Player of the Week after completing 29 of 38 passes for 367 yards and three touchdowns and no interceptions. Barriere also rushed for 101 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries and had a 20-yard reception.

Harrison, a redshirt freshman from Coeur d’Alene High, went 9 for 9 on extra points and hit a 27-yard field goal.

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