Late drive sends Eagles to Semifinal


Bailey Monteith

Senior wide receivers Nsimba Webster and Terence Grady and senior tight end Henderson Belk celebrate Websters fourth quarter touchdown against UC Davis in the quarterfinals. Webster, Grady and Belk all caught touchdowns in the game.

By Taylor Newquist, Sports Editor

Blood pressures in the Inferno stands were on the rise in the fourth quarter, as EWU trailed with the season on the line. Senior running back Sam McPherson saved the day with a 35 yard touchdown run with 26 seconds remaining on the clock.

UC Davis returned to Cheney for a second time this season, and took a one point lead on a 2-point conversion play with just over a minute remaining in the game. The Eagles, however, responded, securing their first fourth quarter come from behind victory of the year.

The No. 3 Eagles beat the No. 6 Aggies 34-29 in the FCS quarterfinal, and will host No. 7 Maine in the semifinal on Dec. 15 at 11 p.m., and the game will be aired on ESPN 2. EWU is 1-3 in home semifinal games since 2010.

“I never envisioned this 25 years ago,” head coach Aaron Best said. “Being in this seat, being in the final four, being able to host a semifinal here at Eastern Washington University. It really gives me chills. The tears are real, but this is an absolute blast.”

Sophomore quarterback Eric Barriere completed 22 of 26 passes for 235 yards with three touchdowns, and ran for 84 yards with a touchdown.

Barriere sparked the game winning drive with an elusive 29 yard run, before McPherson scampered in to seal the Aggies fate. McPherson talled 147 rushing yards in the game, his third straight with over 130.

“They just scored the two pointer, so everyone was kind of down and thinking it was maybe game over,” Barriere said. “But, everyone on our team and the offense had belief. Once [McPherson] finally got in it was a relief.”

The game winning drive was Barrieres first as the starting quarterback.

The Eagles defense forced four turnovers and limited UC Davis to eight of 10 on third down. Senior linebacker Ketner Kupp lead the team with 16 tackles—his career high.

“Its playoff football,” Kupp said. “That’s kind of how you expect it to go and tonight I’m glad we came out on top. It shows a lot of character about the team.”

EWU has lost its last three home semifinal games, but will be determined to break that streak when Maine comes to Cheney later next week. Tickets for the semifinal go on sale Dec. 8 at 12 p.m. and students will be able to get one for free next week at the EWU bookstore.