Frisco Bound

EWU downs Maine to punch ticket to FCS championship


Richard N. Clark IV

Sophomore defensive tackle Keith Moore celebrates the Eagles 50-19 victory over Maine on Saturday. Moore forced and recovered a fumble, playing in a bigger role with Big Sky player of the year Jay-Tee Tuili sidelined due to a team rule violation.

By Taylor Newquist, Sports Editor

No last second plays, no heartbreaks and no doubt. After powering through Maine, EWU will go to Frisco, Texas to play for the program’s second FCS national championship on Jan 5.

The No. 3 seed Eagles (12-2) beat the No. 7 seed Blackbears (10-3) 50-19 in Cheney on Saturday, to snap a three game losing streak in the FCS semifinals. EWU fired on all cylinders forcing four turnovers and racking up 568 total yards.

“I shed a few tears last week, but today I tried to keep them in a little bit,” head coach Aaron Best said. “I don’t know if I can put it into words. I’m kind of on a cloud 10, if there’s a cloud above nine.”

Senior cornerback Josh Lewis sparked the early route, grabbing an interception with just over 10 minutes remaining in the first quarter. The turnover set the Eagles up on the Blackbear one yard line, where sophomore quarterback Eric Barriere found freshman wide receiver Andrew Boston for EWU’s first touchdown.

Jeremy Burnham
Sophomore QB Eric Barriere scans the defense before throwing a pass in the first half against Maine. Barriere finished the game with seven touchdown passes, tying a school record set by Vernon Adams in 2014.

Barriere went on to throw for 352 yards with seven touchdowns, tying a school record for passing touchdowns in a game. Senior wide receiver Nsimba Webster led the receivers with nine catches for 188 yards and four touchdowns. EWU outscored Maine 28-0 in the first half.

“It still hasn’t hit me yet,” Barriere said of leading the team to the championship. “It just feels like a regular game to me still. Once I go back home and I listen to my mom call me, because she’s going to go crazy, and once I settle in that’s when it will finally hit me.”

Barriere compared his situation filling in for the starting quarterback and making it to the championship, to Nick Foles’ run to the superbowl with the Philadelphia Eagles last season.

“I’ve dreamed of being in a national championship,” Barriere said. “For it to finally be here is just surreal.”

Maine rallied in the third quarter, going on a 18-7 scoring run that was stopped with a 58 yard passing touchdown from Barriere to Webster.

The Eagles cruised through the fourth quarter scoring another touchdown and holding the Blackbears scoreless.

EWU now turns to No. 1 seed North Dakota State, who has won six of the last seven FCS national championships. The Eagles have made no secret of their championship aspirations this year, and now have a chance to achieve that goal.