It’s been a strange and unpredictable 14 months for Eastern Washington quarterback Eric Barriere and the Football Championship Subdivision.
Delays. Cancellations. A rare, truncated winter/spring season which ends Sunday when South Dakota State faces Sam Houston State in the FCS national title game.
But before the coronavirus pandemic ripped through small college football, Barriere was widely believed to be among the most dynamic offensive players in the nation. Perhaps the best.
Barriere finished second in voting for the Walter Payton Award, a 34-year-old honor annually given to the top offensive player at the FCS level.
Southeast Louisiana quarterback Cole Kelley, a 6-foot-7 transfer from Arkansas, won the coveted trophy after leading the nation in passing yards (2,662), completions (210) and touchdowns (27).
A 40-member voting panel gave Kelley 137 first-place points, edging Barriere’s 131. Sacred Heart running back Julius Chestnut was the other finalist.
In Barriere’s seven-game season, he threw for 2,439 yards and 19 touchdowns, pacing a 5-2 EWU team that ranked third in the country in total offense (525 yards per game), finished second in the Big Sky Conference and reached the first round of the FCS playoffs.
Eight of the Big Sky’s 13 teams pursued a winter/spring football season. The teams that opted out included powers Montana, Montana State and Sacramento State.
Barriere, who helped EWU reach the FCS national title game as a sophomore in 2018, finished fifth in Walter Payton Award voting as a junior in 2019.
Former EWU greats Erik Meyer (2005), Bo Levi Mitchell (2011) and current Los Angeles Rams receiver Cooper Kupp (2015) are Walter Payton Award winners. Barriere and former EWU quarterbacks Vernon Adams and Gage Gubrud all finished as finalists.
Kupp, one of the top young receivers in the NFL, is one of several Walter Payton Award winners to go on to the NFL. The 2019 winner, North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance, was drafted third overall in this month’s NFL draft by the San Francisco 49ers last month after sitting out the college season.
Other NFL figures who’ve won the Walter Payton Award include Tony Romo, Steve McNair, Brian Westbrook and Jimmy Garoppolo. Former Idaho and Seahawks quarterback John Friesz also won the award in 1989.
Barriere also recently earned first-team Associated Press All-American and Big Sky Conference offensive player of the year honors. Barriere, who is 20-9 as EWU’s starter, is eligible to return as a sixth-year senior, but has not announced if he will return to Cheney this fall.
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