Eastern Washington beats Maine 50-19 in FCS semifinals
CHENEY, Wash. (AP) – Eric Barriere threw seven touchdown passes as Eastern Washington beat Maine 50-19 in the semifinals of the FCS playoffs on Saturday, to advance to the national title game against powerhouse North Dakota State.
Nsimba Webster caught four touchdown passes for third-seeded Eastern Washington (12-2), which was playing in the national semifinals for the fifth time in nine years.
Barriere completed 21 of 30 passes for 352 yards and tied the school record for scoring passes in a game.
Chris Ferguson threw for 325 yards for Maine (10-4), which was making its first appearance in the semifinals. But he also committed some key turnovers early.
It was the ninth road game of the season for the seventh-seeded Black Bears of the Colonial Athletic Association.
Maine fell into a hole early.
Eastern’s Josh Lewis intercepted a Ferguson pass deep in Maine territory and was tackled on the 1-yard line. Barriere threw a touchdown pass to Andrew Boston for a 7-0 lead.
Ferguson fumbled near midfield on Maine’s next possession and Eastern recovered. Barriere threw a 3-yard pass to Jayce Gilder for a 14-0 lead.
Barriere’s 11-yard touchdown pass to Webster gave the Eagles a 21-0 lead, still in the first quarter.
Barriere’s fourth touchdown pass, a 16-yarder to Webster late in the second quarter, made it 28-0 at halftime.
Maine finally scored on a safety in the opening seconds of the second half, when a bad snap sent the ball into the Eastern end zone and Barrierre kicked it out the back.
Eastern had to kick off and Maine got a 31-yard field goal from Kenny Doak.
Barriere replied with a 9-yard touchdown pass to Webster for a 35-5 lead.
Maine’s first touchdown came on a 47-yard pass from Ferguson to Andre Miller midway through the third.
Joe Fitzpatrick ran for a touchdown as Maine cut its deficit to 35-19 late in the third.
Barriere replied immediately with a 58-yard scoring pass to Webster, and the 2-point conversion was good, for a 43-19 lead at the end of three.
The Eagles played without Big Sky defensive player of the year Jay-Tee Tiuli, a lineman. No reason was given.
Maine: The Black Bears have the nation’s top run defense, allowing 68 yards a game, but could not stop the Eagles on the ground or in the air. The Bears can be excused a bit of jet lag after flying home 2,600 miles from a victory over Weber State in Ogden, Utah, last week and then flying 3,000 miles on Thursday to play the Eagles.
Eastern Washington: The Eagles of the Big Sky Conference won the national title in 2010, but have lost three times in the semifinals since, in 2012, 2013 and 2016. The Eagles average 538 yards and 44 points per game. The Eagles went 9-0 on the distinctive red turf of their home stadium this season.
Maine’s season is over.
Eastern Washington advanced to the national championship game Jan. 5 in Frisco, Texas, against North Dakota State (14-0). The Bison seek their seventh national title in the past eight years.
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