POCATELLO – Earlier this week, Eastern Washington head coach Aaron Best said the Eagles have to “… find our identity – or our hidden identity – on the road this week.”
It took a full half, but that identity was found when EWU’s offense finally roared to life, notching the Eagles’ first road victory of 2019 with a 48-5 trouncing of the Idaho State Bengals on Saturday.
Antoine Custer rushed 13 times for 145 yards and Eric Barriere completed 23 of 38 passes for 406 yards and three touchdowns, and tacked on another 61 rushing yards to lead EWU.
The Eagles’ offense was inconsistent in the first two quarters, seeing multiple trips to the red zone end with field goals. After the third red-zone trip of the first half appeared to be heading the same way, the Eagles found the end zone, thanks to a fake field goal, when backup quarterback and holder Gunner Talkington connected with Blake Gobel on a 15-yard pass for the first touchdown of the game.
After they saw multiple first-half drives stall in the red zone, the Eagles solved the issue early in the second half by skipping the red zone altogether, connecting on two touchdowns of over 80 yards and expanding their lead to 29.
Antoine Custer shook a defender and sprinted 89 yards for the Eagles’ first offensive touchdown of the game not set up by trickery, giving EWU a 27-2 lead.
After the game, Custer was quick to pass along credit for the long run to his teammates.
“Silas (Perreiah), Will Gram, too” Custer replied when asked about the play and who else was responsible for it. “Also, Johnny Edwards. He blocked the corner on that run.”
On EWU’s next offensive play, Berriere connected with Edwards, who used an effective double move to extricate himself from the coverage of the ISU defensive back for an 80-yard touchdown reception. Edwards finished the game with 107 yards on four receptions. Fellow wideout Andrew Boston led the Eagles with 147 receiving yards on 10 grabs and two touchdowns.
Though happy with his offense, Best thought his defense deserved equal praise.
“Any time you go on the road in these kind of conditions against a team that’s going to lean on the run, do the RPO (run-pass option) thing and then take some shots deep, to (only) give up three points,” Best said. “Coach (Eti) Ena put in a great game plan not knowing who the quarterback would be. Even as depleted as our defense is, the 64 guys in pads only gave up three points. I couldn’t be prouder of this bunch.”
Coming into the game, Idaho State head coach Rob Phenicie announced Sagan Gronauer would start in place of Matt Struck. Gronauer was sacked twice, hurried multiple times and was held largely ineffective in moving the Bengals’ offense downfield.
Gronauer was held to 25 yards passing before he was benched in favor of Struck. Struck was marginally more effective, but also threw three interceptions and completed only 45% of his passes.
In addition to ending EWU’s winless streak away from Roos Field, the victory keeps alive hopes of another winning season and extending the Eagles’ streak of consecutive winning seasons, which stands at 12.
The Eagles have not had a losing season since a 3-8 campaign in 2006.
They travel to San Luis Obispo next week for a matchup with the Cal Poly Mustangs, who sit at the bottom of the Big Sky Conference standings.
The Eagles conclude their 2019 season on Nov. 23 at Roos Field against Portland State.
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