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Sports >  EWU football

2021 football preview: For QB Eric Barriere, chance at a title made choice to return to Eastern Washington an easy one

By Dan Thompson For The Spokesman-Review

Eric Barriere does not like finishing second.

Not as a team. Not as an individual.

In that sense, the decision of whether to return to Eastern Washington for this season – after the Eagles lost in the FCS playoffs last spring – wasn’t a difficult one.

He wants to win a championship. And he wants to do it at Eastern.

“(I’m) just going out there knowing it’s my last opportunity to win a championship and playing the game of college football, because after this season nothing is guaranteed,” Barriere said in mid-August. “So really (I’m) just trying to make the most of this season and trying honestly to win a championship.”

He also doesn’t want to finish second again for a major award, as he did for the Walter Payton Award last spring, an honor given instead to Southern Louisiana quarterback Cole Kelley as the FCS’s top offensive player.

“Just hearing that all the work that I put in throughout the season, and I actually came up short on a major award is kind of crushing,” Barriere said. “That just motivated me to come back and be even better. Obviously people thought that I didn’t deserve it for a reason, so that’s pushed me more.”

The redshirt senior enters this season with 8,739 passing yards in 37 games at Eastern, holding the starting job since taking over for injured Gage Gubrud halfway through the 2018 season. That’s the highest total among active players in the FCS, and fifth on the Eagles’ all-time career list. He needs 3,877 passing yards to match Matt Nichols’ record.

That would be slightly more than the 3,712 yards Barriere threw for in 2019. But if this fall he meets his per-game average from the spring, 348.4 yards, he would be on the cusp of that record heading into any potential playoff games.

“Eric, he’s already shown he’s the best QB in the country and in my opinion it’s not even close,” sophomore receiver Freddie Roberson said after the first preseason scrimmage. “Having him back there, that takes a lot of stress off of us, because with him and his legs, he can do a lot with the ball in his hands.”

Barriere said at the Big Sky kickoff weekend in July that he considered transferring but never actually entered the transfer portal. He said he wanted to finish out his career where he began it, at Eastern, and that being loyal was important to him.

He has already been named the Big Sky Conference’s preseason offensive player of the year, and it seems every week his name is added to another award’s watch list.

Even for the Eagles’ defensive players, having Barriere around is both an encouragement and an extra motivator heading into this season.

“When you’ve got E (Barriere) back there, anything is possible, to be honest,” senior defensive back Calin Criner said. “I don’t wanna say it’s a now or never mentality, but this (year) is what we’re focused on.”

So, too, it seems, is their starting quarterback.

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