The third-worst defense in the Football Championship Subdivision looked the part.
So did one of its most consistent home teams.
Eastern Washington piled up 637 total yards Saturday and breezed past Northern Colorado 54-21, winning a school-record 12th consecutive game at Roos Field.
EWU (3-4, 2-1 Big Sky Conference) jumped out to a 40-0 halftime cushion in front of a homecoming crowd of 9,091 – pummeling the traditionally downtrodden Bears (1-6, 1-2).
EWU, which hasn’t lost to Northern Colorado since 1981 when both teams were NCAA Division II members, extended its winning to streak to 12 games against the Greeley, Colorado, school.
“It shows everyone that we’re not gone and we’re going anywhere,” EWU rover Joe Lang said in reference to his team’s unexpected slow start to the season. “We’re still EWU and we’re protecting the red turf. We’re still the EWU team everyone remembers.”
Junior quarterback Eric Barriere completed 28 of 43 passes for 445 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions in three quarters – carving up a struggling Northern Colorado defense that’s yielded more than 500 yards a game this season.
Talolo Limu-Jones hauled in three touchdown catches to lead EWU’s productive receiving group. Jayson Williams, Andrew Boston and Johnny Edwards combined for 296 yards on 20 receptions.
“(Williams) does all the work,” said Limu-Jones, who had touchdown receptions of 58, 31 and 11 yards. “He (gets the big receiving yards) and I get the ball in the end zone.”
EWU’s defense, which bounced back from a 48-27 loss at resurgent Sacramento State last week, was just as menacing.
The Eagles gave up a season-low 352 yards and held standout running back Milo Hall to 80 yards on 20 carries. Each of Hall’s three touchdowns came in the second half of the blowout.
“We had too many mistakes, bad snaps, fumbles, blown assignments and it all adds up,’ Northern Colorado coach Earnest Collins Jr. said. “(EWU) was hitting on deep balls and turned into the perfect storm against us.”
A flurry of first-half turnovers boosted the Eagles.
After Jayce Gilder’s 19-yard touchdown reception gave EWU a 17-0 lead early in the second quarter, the Eagles’ Keshaun King recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff, leading to a 21-yard field goal by Seth Harrison.
The Bears tried to punt on their next possession, but it was blocked by Justin Patterson, leading to another Harrison field goal.
A few plays later, Northern Colorado receiver Noah Serria fumbled. EWU rover Joe Lang picked up the loose ball and ran 38 yards to the end zone, giving EWU a 30-0 lead.
“Tre (Weed) knocked it out, and I had to get the ball before it went out of bounds. I knew it was going to be a tight one” Lang said. “Then I took to the end zone. Those plays give us a lot of energy.”
Northern Colorado limited EWU’s running game to 174 yards. Antoine Custer, the Big Sky Conference’s leading rusher going into the game, led the Eagles’ ground game with 80 yards on 19 carries.
Harrison, a former Coeur d’Alene High kicker, made all four of his field-goal attempts for EWU.
It may have been a bigger blowout if EWU’s offense didn’t sputter deep in Northern Colorado territory in the first half, resorting to Harrison’s kicks. EWU tried to run the football 12 times in those four red-zone tries, but was held to 8 yards.
Penalties near the goal line also hindered the Eagles.
“First-half production in the red zone has to be better,” EWU head coach Aaron Best said. “It puts you in a bind when you end up in second-and-long when the field is condensed that much, so it’s certainly something we need to be more efficient at.”
The Eagles’ offensive line, which gave up 22 sacks in its previous six weeks, kept its quarterbacks clean. The Bears totaled one sack late in when backup QB Gunner Talkington was in the game.
EWU has a bye next week before traveling to Big Sky rival and eighth-ranked Montana (5-1, 2-0) on Oct. 26.
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