EWU football misses out on FCS playoffs


Head coach Aaron Best addresses the media in the Reese Room following the Selection Sunday show. The Eagles ended the season 7-4 overall and 6-2 in Big Sky in Best’s first season. | Logan Stanley for The Easterner

By Michael Brock, Sports Editor

The EWU football season is over.

On Sunday morning, the FCS committee announced the 24-team playoff bracket on ESPNU, and the Eagles were left out.

Head coach Aaron Best was in disbelief following the outcome.

“Shocked,” said Best. “Absolutely shocked. I felt like our resume was bold, was strong. It’s my firm belief [that we’re] one of the 24 best teams in the nation.”

The team demolished Portland State University 59-33 on Saturday, Nov. 18 to end the regular season at 7-4 overall and 6-2 in Big Sky, but it ultimately wasn’t enough for the committee.

The Eagles dropped their first two games of the season to FBS-opponent Texas Tech and No. 2 seed North Dakota State. They then went on a five-game winning streak, including comeback road victories over Montana and UC Davis. Over that span, junior quarterback Gage Gubrud registered 2,071 passing yards, 23 total touchdowns and four interceptions while completing 69.2 percent of his passes.

On Oct. 21, the Eagles lost to Southern Utah 46-28 as Gubrud was 24-for-44 passing for 246 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions.

After the bye week, EWU returned to Roos Field. They stumbled again on Nov. 4, this time to Weber State 28-20.

In the early hours of Sunday, Nov. 5, Gubrud and junior linebacker Kurt Calhoun were arrested on charges of obstruction. They were subsequently suspended for the next week’s road game against North Dakota.

Redshirt freshman quarterback Eric Barriere manned the Eagles to the 21-14 victory over UND to keep the team’s playoff hopes alive. Barriere was 13-of-23 passing for 130 yards and a touchdown, while adding 66 yards rushing in the win. But they lost junior running back Sam McPherson to an ankle injury in the same game, after he put up 118 rushing yards, 36 receiving yards and a passing touchdown in the first half.

EWU entered the Portland State game on the bubble, with a record of 6-4. With a late kickoff in Cheney, it was already known the fate of the other bubble teams. Delaware, New Hampshire, Montana and Northern Arizona all lost, making an Eagle postseason berth all the more likely.

But in the end, the Eagles missed out on snagging one of the 14 at-large bids, while New Hampshire and NAU snuck in.

The Eagles four losses came against highly-ranked FCS teams and an FBS-level school. Weber State and No. 8 Southern Utah shared the Big Sky title, and were the only teams EWU lost to in conference all season.

EWU suffered three losses to FCS teams with a combined 28-5 regular season record: 10-1 North Dakota State, 9-2 Weber State, 9-2 Southern Utah), while Texas Tech finished 5-6.

“We’re all surprised,” said Best. “And that’s probably an understatement. It’s unfortunate; we’d love to represent the Big Sky and Eastern Washington in that field of 24.”