Sports

Eagles blow past Northern Colorado to move to 2-1 in Big Sky

CHENEY, Wash. - On a historic day at home, the Eagles had a memorable first half.
 
Taking a 40-0 lead after the first 30 minutes, the Eastern Washington University football team romped past Northern Colorado 54-21 for a record-setting victory in EWU's 93rd Homecoming Game at Roos Field on Saturday (Oct. 12).
 
Eastern scored 17 points within a 4 1/2 minute stretch in the second quarter, six scored on a 34-yard fumble return for a touchdown by Joe Lang after a force by Tre Weed. That helped EWU score 30 points in the quarter and take a 40-0 lead at halftime as EWU finished the game with its 17th-most yards in school history and had its 63rd game with at least 50 points (record of 60-3).
 
"Any points we'll take at this point, whether it is from offense, defense or special teams – luck or no luck, they all count the same," said Eastern head coach Aaron Best, whose team has a bye before playing at Montana on Oct. 26. "Defense flat-out owned the day in the first half. We got a little bend-ish and not break-ish in the second half, but the defense was put in some situations of having to go back out there after some three-and-outs by our offense after halftime. Kudos to the Coach Eti Ena and his staff – they did a great job of game-planning and the players did a great job of executing."
 
On its way to a dominating 637-352 advantage in offense – 409-112 in the first half alone -- Eastern established a new school record for consecutive home victories at the current site of Roos Field (formerly Woodward Field), plus extended a long winning streak over UNC. Both streaks are at 12, as EWU hasn't lost a home on the red turf since Nov. 4, 2017. The Eagles fell at Northern Colorado in 1981, but haven't lost since in the 13-game history of the series. Eastern's 12-game winning streak includes the last 11 with the Bears as a member of the Big Sky Conference.
 
Junior Eric Barriere completed 28-of-43 passes for 445 yards and five touchdown passes for EWU. It was the sixth 300-yard passing performance of his career, and coupled with his 41 yards rushing, his 486 yards were the second-most of his career and 10th with at least 300. He now has 45 career TD passes to rank eighth in school history.
 
Junior Talolo Limu-Jones had a hat-trick with three touchdown receptions, to go along with career highs of four catches for 96 yards. He now has seven catches and five scores this season, and 25 catches and nine TDs in his career. Senior Antoine Custer Jr. added 68 yards rushing, and senior Jayson Williams had a career-high eight receptions for 115 yards while sophomore Andrew Boston added seven for 96.
 
The Eagles had a 215-yard first quarter, and scored 10 early points on a 58-yard touchdown pass from Barriere to Talolo Limu-Jones and a 32-yard field goal by redshirt freshman Seth Harrison – one of four he would kick on the day.
 
Eastern scored early in the second quarter on a 19-yard pass from Barriere to senior tight end Jayce Gilder, then EWU got the ball back on a forced fumble by Lang on the ensuing kickoff which was recovered by Keshaun King. Harrison kicked a field goal to give EWU a 20-0 lead with 10:48 left in the quarter.
 
A blocked punt by redshirt freshman Justin Patterson led to another field goal, then Lang had his fumble recovery for a TD on the next UNC possession at the 8:08 mark. After a failed try on fourth down by the Bears, the Eagles scored again on a 32-yard scoring pass from Barriere to Johnny Edwards IV with 3:59 to play. Harrison kicked another field goal on the final play of a 40-point half.
 
Special teams had a hand in the second half onslaught, blocking a punt and creating a turnover off a kickoff return. Eastern had a 2-1 lead in turnovers forced, improving to 52-0 since 2010 when winning the turnover battle.
 
In playing its first game as an unranked team since 2011, Eastern had dropped out of the national rankings last week for only the second time since 2011. The Eagles had been ranked 46-straight times in the STATS poll, and 103 of the last 104 (EWU had a 57-week streak ended with the final poll of the 2015 season). In preseason rankings in 2019, EWU was ranked fourth by STATS and third by the American Football Coaches Association – both the highest of the season -- before falling to Washington.
 
 
Records & Rankings . . .
 
* Eastern is 3-4 overall and 2-1 Big Sky Conference play, with a 35-20 victory over North Dakota on Sept. 28 counting in the league standings for EWU. Prior to that, the Eagles had lost their previous two games to FCS competition by a total of 12 points, then fell at Sacramento State 48-27 on Oct. 5.
 
* Winless on the road in five games, The Bears are 1-6 overall 1-2 in the Big Sky, where home teams entered Saturday having won nine of the 13 games played thus far. A week after Eastern fell 35-27 at Idaho, the Bears beat the Vandals 27-24 in Greeley, Colo. That came two weeks after the Bears were defeated 50-0 at Sacramento State, a team Eastern lost to 48-27 on Oct. 5 in Sacramento. The Bears lost at Northern Arizona on Oct. 5 by a 41-23 score. Eastern's next opponent at Roos Field is NAU on Nov. 2.
 
 
What's Next . . .
 
* Eastern has a bye before taking its 0-4 road record to Montana on Oct. 26. Eastern has come out on top in six of the last seven meetings with the Griz, and seven of the last nine. In fact, the Eagles are 13-1 since 2012 against its rivals from the Treasure State – UM (6-1) and Montana State (7-0). Eastern won 48-41 in Montana in 2017, before the addition of Idaho to the league in 2018 resulted in EWU and Montana not playing each other that season for the first time since 1982. Idaho -- and no longer Montana – is now considered to be EWU's "rival" by the league and will play each other every season. Portland State is EWU's other "rival," while Idaho will face Montana every year starting in 2020.


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