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Eastern Washington University Football
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EWU notebook: Eric Barriere puts together efficient outing in final regular-season start; Eagles stay solid on special teams, defense

UPDATED: Sat., Nov. 20, 2021

A host of Eastern Washington tacklers converge on Portland State's ball carrier during a Big Sky Conference game Saturday in Hillsboro, Oregon.  (Trevor Bowens/EWU Athletics)
A host of Eastern Washington tacklers converge on Portland State's ball carrier during a Big Sky Conference game Saturday in Hillsboro, Oregon. (Trevor Bowens/EWU Athletics)
By Dan Thompson For The Spokesman-Review

In his final regular-season start as a member of the Eastern Washington football team, senior quarterback Eric Barriere played some of his most efficient ball all season in a 42-28 victory Saturday over Portland State.

Quietly – in the most relative sense of the term – Barriere completed 26 of 34 passes for 320 yards and five touchdowns against the Vikings (5-6, 4-4 Big Sky), and for the third game in a row he did not throw an interception.

He became the Big Sky’s all-time leader in passing touchdowns (115 in his career), moved into ninth on the FCS all-time passing yardage list (12,996) and continued to build a case for the Walter Payton Award as the best offensive player in the Football Championship Subdivision after finishing second in voting for the award last season.

Eagles coach Aaron Best called Barriere the best quarterback in the nation after the game, and pointed out that “everybody expects greatness every single snap, and that’s fine.”

Barriere was certainly on point against the Vikings, a team he has now defeated three times as a starter during his time at Eastern. The Eagles (9-2, 6-2), currently ranked No. 5 in the FCS, have won five straight overall in their series against the Vikings.

Through 11 games this season, Barriere has 4,257 passing yards, 40 touchdowns and just six interceptions. He also has 224 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns.

The other primary candidate for the Walter Payton Award this year is, again, Cole Kelley of Southeastern Louisiana, who won the award last season. This fall, Kelley has thrown for 4,382 yards, 38 touchdowns and six interceptions. But his rushing numbers are higher than Barriere’s, with 442 yards and 16 touchdowns.

Southeastern Louisiana is 8-3 overall this season and is a likely at-large team in the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs.

Boston continues to bounce back

After two down games against Weber State and Montana State, senior receiver Andrew Boston again asserted his skill and value to the Eagles’ offense.

Boston scored his sixth touchdown of the season and caught a team-high seven passes for 80 yards against the Vikings. Last week he had seven receptions for 72 yards following a two-game stretch where he caught just two passes for 10 yards.

“At the end of the day, sometimes balls don’t come to you,” Boston said Saturday. “Every time they do, I just try to do the best I can to take care of business.”

Boston is second on the team in receptions (51) and yards (791) behind fellow senior Talolo Limu-Jones (55 and 889). Nine different receivers caught passes for the Eagles on Saturday.

Special teams do enough

Special teams have been an issue for the Eagles much of the season, something exemplified by the three fake punts that Weber State successfully executed against them earlier this year.

Saturday, the Vikings sneaked an onside kick early in the fourth quarter and recovered it, a move that ultimately didn’t substantially damage the Eagles’ ability to win the football game.

But special teams continue to be a question mark for the Eagles as they head into the playoffs. They have yet to return a kickoff more than 30 yards – redshirt freshman Efton Chism III advanced one that far against PSU – and Saturday the Vikings averaged 25 yards per kickoff return, with a long of 40.

Sophomore Nick Kokich averaged 33.5 yards on his four punts against the Vikings, dropping his season average to 40.0, lowest in the Big Sky. None of the four kicks landed inside the Vikings’ 20-yard line.

After the game, Best defended the efforts of his special teams units and pointed out that the team is dealing with injuries in key spots.

“Those weren’t pretty punts by any stretch,” Best said, “but we’re down a long snapper, and we’ve been down a kicker the entire season.”

Long snapper Cody Clements is injured, and kicker Seth Harrison – who made 18 of 21 field-goal attempts his first two seasons but just 6 of 12 this year – hasn’t played the last three games.

“These guys just find a way to get it done, to be effective,” Best said, noting that freshman kicker Jackson Cleaver went 6-for-6 kicking extra points Saturday.

Safety depth tested

Eastern Washington played without two of its top four safeties, as sophomore Ely Doyle and junior Keshaun King did not suit up.

Starters Anthany Smith (a junior) and Calin Criner (a senior) were the team’s top two tacklers (7 and 9, respectively), and Smith forced a key third-quarter fumble, his first of the season. Redshirt freshman Kameron Lane spelled them in spots but did not have a tackle.

For the fourth time in five games, Eastern forced more turnovers than it gave up. During that span the Eagles are plus-8 in turnovers, and on the season they are plus-12.

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