Eric Barriere may have found his next reliable, big-play receiver.
Eastern Washington’s sensational quarterback totaled a career-high 522 passing yards and five touchdowns in the Eagles’ 59-31 nonconference win Saturday over Lindenwood University at Roos Field.
The Eagles also set the program’s single-game yardage record (769 yards).
They can thank speedy fifth-year senior Dre’ Sonte Dorton for the boost.
Dorton broke EWU’s single-game receiving record in the Eagles’ rout of the NCAA Division II Lions, hauling in 15 passes for 289 yards and three touchdowns.
His 78-yard touchdown over the top of Lindenwood’s defense on the game’s first play from scrimmage gave fourth-ranked EWU a lead it never relinquished, despite second-half lapses that gave the Lions chances to mount a comeback.
Dorton, who wears former EWU and current Los Angeles Rams star receiver Cooper Kupp’s No. 10 jersey, broke Kupp’s record.
The former Chiawana (Pasco) High standout had 220 career receiving yards on 17 catches coming into the day.
“That wasn’t even on my mind,” Dorton said. “I was just playing, never thought I’d come close to breaking (Kupp’s 2015) record.”
With the graduation of star receiver Nsimba Webster, also on the Rams’ 53-man roster as an undrafted rookie, many wondered who would step into his former role.
Dorton appears to have answered the call on a day when another proven EWU receiver, Andrew Boston, sat out nursing a minor injury.
“It felt, I’m just out there playing and having fun,” said the soft-spoken Dorton, who exhibited big-play ability throughout the fall camp. “I wasn’t really thinking much, just doing my assignments.”
Barriere, a preseason Walter Payton Award candidate, was 4 yards shy of former EWU quarterback Gage Gubrud’s single-game total yards record (560) and passing yards mark (549) against Montana in 2017.
EWU, which jumped out to a swift 31-0 first-half lead in its home opener, racked up 247 rushing yards, with touchdown runs by Barriere, Antoine Custer and redshirt freshman Isaiah Lewis.
Lewis saw his workload increase when budding running back Dennis Merritt went out out with what appeared to be a serious leg injury in the second quarter, finishing with a team-high 64 rushing yards on 11 carries.
In last week’s 47-14 loss at defending Pac-12 champion Washington, EWU totaled 64 yards on the ground.
Third-year head coach Aaron Best was happy his offense bounced back in convincing fashion.
“Points and yards are what the fans come to watch and see,” Best said. “We’ve become accustomed to those sorts of numbers, and maybe have been too fortunate and too spoiled over the years here at Eastern. It’s nice to score 59 points, especially at home, but it came against a very, very good Division II opponent.”
Lindenwood, which hasn’t had a winning season since 2012, returned 16 starters from 2018 and was picked second in its preseason conference poll.
EWU’s defense, led by senior safety Dehonta Hayes (nine tackles), held the Lions to 84 yards rushing.
When Lindenwood’s passing game picked up in the second quarter, though, the Eagles’ freshman-loaded secondary – part of a secondary that has yielded 659 yards and eight touchdowns in two games – had problems.
Lions quarterback Cade Brister completed 27 of 50 passes for 283 yards and four touchdowns, 230 after the first quarter.
Brister and the Lindenwood offense cut the Eagles’ lead to two touchdowns (31-17 at halftime and 38-24 and 45-31 in the third quarter) on three occasions, but couldn’t get any closer.
Hayes, who has 17 total tackles in two games, wasn’t happy about the Lions putting up 17 unanswered points in the second quarter.
“They shouldn’t have scored 31 points and we know that,” Hayes said. “That’s just something we’re going to take with us and be another chip on our shoulder, and use to it prepare for next week.”
“We had a 9- or 10-minute lapse in that second quarter,” Best said. “Momentum certainly shifted, but I never felt like our momentum was totally gone. It was just a matter when we would get it back.”
Lindenwood, located in the St. Louis metro area, looked to ride its momentum into the second half, but defensive lineman Darnell Hogan intercepted Brister on the second play, and the Eagles subsequently scored on another Barriere-to-Dorton connection.
Brister lauded EWU’s defense.
“They’re big and fast and move to the ball well,” Brister said. “Their coaches did a good job of mixing some things up that they caught me on. Great team. Hopefully, they make another national championship run.”
EWU faces its first Football Championship Subdivision foe of the season next week when it travels to Jacksonville, Alabama, to face 18th-ranked Jacksonville State in a marquee FCS nonconference game.
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