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Eastern Washington University Football

No. 2 Eastern Washington puts on offensive display in rout of Big Sky rival Idaho

By Dan Thompson For The Spokesman-Review

Eric Barriere had just been sacked for a loss of 18 yards at Eastern Washington’s 25-yard line when the third quarter came to an end.

The fourth quarter began, and Barriere, the Eagles’ senior quarterback, trotted back out to the field facing third-and-34. Up by 43 points against Idaho, it looked like Eastern was a play away from punting for the first time all afternoon and that their star quarterback’s record-setting day was nearing its end.

But that’s not how Barriere saw it when he lined up for what turned out to be a 39-yard screen pass to running back Dennis Merritt.

“I was expecting a touchdown, actually,” Barriere said.

And why not? On Saturday, it seemed as if every one of Eastern’s 79 offensive plays had a chance to go for a touchdown, because so many of them did.

Eastern scored touchdowns on its first seven drives, faced just two fourth downs all game and racked up a school-record 837 yards of offense in a 71-21 victory over Idaho at Roos Field, where the second-ranked Eagles (7-0, 4-0 Big Sky) have won 20 consecutive games.

“I’ve scored 70 a couple times already,” Barriere said, referring to high school and the 74-point effort he led at Portland State in 2018.

“It’s nothing new. We expect to do this stuff as an offense. Sometimes you might not reach that goal, but we know what we can do as an offense.”

The screen pass to Merritt also gave Barriere enough yards to break the school’s single-game passing record, previously held by Gage Gubrud. Barriere finished that drive with another touchdown pass, his seventh of the game, to Jakobie James, to end his game for good.

Barriere completed 26 of 35 pass attempts for 600 yards – 51 more than Gubrud’s total – boosting his career total to 11,806, the fifth-most passing yards in Big Sky history.

Among Eastern Washington quarterbacks, that total ranks second behind Matt Nichols, who also holds the conference record with 12,616 passing yards, accumulated from 2006 to 2009.

Barriere dedicated his record-breaking performance to his aunt, whom he learned on Monday had died in a car wreck.

“I’m going to get a little emotional because most of y’all don’t know, but I’ve been going through a lot this week,” Barriere said while addressing his teammates in a video posted to social media. “I found out on Monday I lost my auntie to a car accident, so it’s just been really tough on me and I dedicated this game to her today.”

Coach Paul Petrino’s Idaho team split the two games the teams played during last spring’s season, but Saturday, in the midst of a much more normal football year, the Vandals were no match for Barriere and the Eagles’ offense.

“(Barriere’s) receivers played really well,” Petrino said. “He was spot-on today. His offensive line protected him well. They had a good game plan, and they executed it. He’s a really good player, but I think he was even a better player today, if that’s possible.”

Eastern receivers Freddie Roberson (10 catches, 192 yards, two touchdowns) and Andrew Boston (10 for 175 and a score) finished with career-high yardage totals. Merritt, the senior running back, gained 77 yards on 11 carries and had another 102 on three receptions, including one he took 53 yards for a touchdown. The Eagles even played without injured senior Talolo Limu-Jones, who, until Boston passed him, led the team in receiving.

As he did on the third-and-34 play, Boston had a key block on Merritt’s touchdown, which was his Football Championship Subdivision-leading 14th this season. Merritt has scored in every Eagles game this year and has 912 yards from scrimmage.

Barriere’s 3,067 passing yards this year also lead the FCS.

“At the end of the day, when you’re in a groove, you’re in a groove,” Eagles coach Aaron Best said.

“We played at an up-tempo pace. Seventy-one is hard to get, period. And you need some turnovers, need some luck,” added Best, whose team also forced three turnovers and didn’t give away any. “At this point through seven games, we’ve dictated the tempo in most games. And we did that from start to finish today.”

Idaho (2-4, 1-2) scored twice on its first five drives, including a 75-yard run by quarterback Zach Borisch and an Aundre Carter 3-yard rush at the end of a 16-play, 88-yard drive. But it was 36-14 at that point, early in the second quarter, and Idaho’s defense simply couldn’t stop Eastern’s offense, which gained an average of 10.6 yards per play.

“Later in the half we had a (16-play) drive. That’s how you stop (Barriere),” Petrino said. “I don’t think you do any other way. I just think you have to keep him on the sideline and then hope you get a couple stops here and there.

“And you have to outscore them, but you also have got to keep him on the sidelines as much as possible, and we surely didn’t do that.”

The Eagles will stay home for their next two games, contests with Weber State (Saturday) and, after a bye, Montana State on Nov. 6. MSU (6-1, 4-0) beat Weber State (2-4, 1-2) 13-7 on Friday night.

The Eagles will go on the road to face UC Davis (Nov. 13) and Portland State (Nov. 20) to close out the regular season.

“Even though we won big today, we’re playing another good opponent next week and the week after and the week after that,” Barriere said. “These next couple weeks are about to be really crucial for us.”