Eric Barriere looked like the dual-threat quarterback that topped several preseason lists.
Eastern Washington’s traditionally explosive offense was back to its usual ways.
The Eagles totaled 622 yards on Saturday in a 45-13 win over Northern Arizona at Roos Field, extending its school-record home winning streak to 15 .
Barriere completed 29 of 49 passes for 413 yards and three touchdowns in a near-empty stadium, but several fans stood outside the red-turfed venue to catch a view of the Big Sky Conference rout.
EWU (1-1), beginning the home slate of its rare six-game winter/spring Football Championship Subdivision season, was just as menacing on defense, holding the Lumberjacks to 355 yards without yielding a touchdown until the fourth quarter.
“I thought for a better part of the day we were balanced, and that’s something we intended to do this week no matter what the score was,” said EWU head coach Aaron Best, who missed the season opener at Idaho last week after testing positive for COVID-19. “And with that balance comes productivity, and I thought we had a lot of that today.”
After scoring two offensive touchdowns in a 28-21 road loss at Idaho a week ago, EWU’s offense was balanced and efficient.
The Eagles, who managed just a Jackson Cleaver field goal on their first three drives because of two turnovers , went to running back Tamarick Pierce, allowing the bruising senior to total 115 rushing yards and two touchdowns.
Barriere, an All-American, connected with 10 receivers, led by All-Big Sky receiver Andrew Boston (eight catches, 120 yards), who missed the season opener against the Vandals.
“I thought we played a complete game, in total,” Boston said. “I think we missed on some opportunities, but we’ll go back to the film, check some things out. Overall, though, a complete game.”
All of Barriere’s touchdown passes – a 3-yard connection to tight Blake Gobel, 54 yards to Anthony Stell and 32 yards to Freddie Roberson – were in the first half, when EWU totaled most of its yards (398).
The blowout was reminiscent of EWU’s 66-38 home win over the Lumberjacks in their previous meeting in 2019, when Barriere spearheaded an offense that totaled 706 yards.
Barriere, working behind an offensive front with four new starters, sat out most of the fourth quarter .
Northern Arizona’s defense ranked among the worst in the country in 2019, and it didn’t look much better despite coming off a 28-25 home win over Southern Utah last week.
Its offense, using a two-quarterback system of Oklahoma State transfer Keondre Wudtee and freshman Jeff Widener, managed just over 250 yards heading into the fourth quarter.
Neither got into a flow.
When the Lumberjacks did have successful drives, they were mostly held to field-goal attempts thanks to EWU’s red-zone defense. All-American kicker Luis Aguilar, working against the wind, went 2 for 3 and accounted for seven of his team’s points.
EWU’s shorthanded defense held NAU to 121 rushing yards and 3.2 yards per rush, an effort led by junior linebackers Chris Ojoh (12 tackles) and Ty Graham (seven tackles), and defensive end Mitch Johnson, who had eight tackles and a sack.
Redshirt freshman defensive end Brock Harrison had three quarterback hurries.
“Two weeks in a row the defense has played really well, really together,” Best said. “And not with everybody we thought we would have at this point.
For the second straight week EWU was without the services of linebacker and team captain Jack Sendelbach and team captain and safety Calin Criner.
University of Washington transfer Jusstis Warren, who started at defensive end against Idaho last week, was also out.
EWU’s policy this season amid the pandemic is to not release the reasons players aren’t playing.
The Eagles travel to Idaho State (1-1) on Saturday for a game at Holt Arena in Pocatello.
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