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Eastern Washington notebook: Return of Chris Ojoh, Tamarick Pierce not enough to lift Eagles over Grizzlies

UPDATED: Sat., Oct. 26, 2019

Eastern Washington wide receiver Andrew Boston (9) and running back Tamarick Pierce (24) celebrate a touchdown against the Montana Grizzlies in the first half of a Big Sky game on Saturday, Oct. 27, 2019, at Washington-Grizzly Stadium in Missoula. (James Snook / For The Spokesman-Review)
Eastern Washington wide receiver Andrew Boston (9) and running back Tamarick Pierce (24) celebrate a touchdown against the Montana Grizzlies in the first half of a Big Sky game on Saturday, Oct. 27, 2019, at Washington-Grizzly Stadium in Missoula. (James Snook / For The Spokesman-Review)

MISSOULA – For the first time in five weeks, Eastern Washington linebacker Chris Ojoh was in the middle of the Eagles’ defense.

And for the first time since the 2018 Football Championship Subdivision playoffs, running back Tamarick Pierce – EWU’s closest thing to hard-running bruiser Marshawn Lynch, all the way down to their 24 jersey number – registered a carry.

Both made their long-awaited returns at Washington-Grizzly Stadium on Saturday in somewhat surprising fashion, but it wasn’t enough to lift the Eagles, who fell 34-17 to Big Sky rival Montana.

Ojoh, the Eagles’ impressive linebacker and top run-stopper, hadn’t played a down since he went out with an ankle injury in a Sept. 15 loss at Jacksonville (Alabama) State.

Ojoh, a junior who had 108 tackles last season, totaled nine tackles in his return, but the Eagles yielded 440 yards and 24 straight points in the second half to drop to 3-5 and likely out of postseason contention.

Pierce, who averaged nearly 6 yards a carry before going down with a knee injury last December that required surgery, also had a nice showing.

Pierce, who has 15 career touchdowns, picked up where he left off last year, rushing for 57 yards on seven carries, including a 5-yard touchdown run in the second quarter that gave EWU a 14-3 lead. He also had a 30-yard run.

Dorton injured

EWU’s speedy senior receiver and top kick returner, Dre’ Sonte Dorton, may be done for the season, effectively ending the former Chiawana (Pasco) High School star’s career.

Dorton was injured on the opening kickoff in EWU’s 54-21 of Northern Colorado two weeks ago. He wasn’t at practice on Tuesday and didn’t suit up against Montana on Saturday.

One of Dorton’s family members said in a recent social media post that Dorton had suffered an ACL injury and was done for the season.

Dorton has returned two kickoffs for touchdowns this season and has totaled 447 yards and four touchdowns on 27 catches.

Road woes in Barriere era

Since EWU quarterback Eric Barriere was given the keys to the office in Week 6 of the 2018 season, the Walter Payton Award preseason candidate is undefeated at Roos Field (9-0).

He’s 2-6 away from the red turf against FCS squads, including a 0-5 showing against ranked teams or teams ranked the following week.

EWU’s losses to ranked teams: 14-6 at No. 13 Weber State last season; 38-24 to No. 1 North Dakota State at last year’s national title game in Texas; 49-45 at No. 16 Jacksonville State last month; 48-27 at now-No. 7 Sacramento State three weeks ago; and 34-17 at No. 10 Montana on Saturday.

In those fives games, Barriere combined to complete 100 of 193 passes (51.8%) for 1,250 yards, eight touchdowns and eight interceptions.

Former Cheney star shines for Griz

Montana true freshman defensive lineman and former Cheney High standout Jacob McGourin had two tackles and a sack against his hometown’s college team, EWU.

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