Disastrous first half dooms EWU


Drew Lawson for The Easterner

The EWU offense watches from the sidelines during the fourth quarter of Idaho’s 35-27 upset victory over the Eagles Saturday.

By Drew Lawson, Sports Editor

In 2018, the EWU football team lost a total of two games. Through four games in 2019, the No. 11 Eagles (1-3) have already lost three after getting upset by the Idaho Vandals (2-2) 35-27 Saturday.

A first half where basically everything went wrong for EWU put the Eagles out of the game before they were ever really in it. Idaho scored a touchdown on its first two possessions as senior quarterback Mason Petrino and freshman running back Aundre Carter moved the ball up and down the field on the EWU defense without much resistance. The Vandals scored four first half touchdowns in all to take a 28-0 lead into the break while outgaining EWU 329-103.

While the defense had its share of difficulties during the first 30 minutes, the EWU offense didn’t do much to help the cause. EWU punted four times and lost a fumble on its first five possessions. On its sixth drive, the only one in the half where the Eagles moved into Vandal territory, EWU junior quarterback Eric Barriere threw an interception into triple coverage. EWU head coach Aaron Best wasn’t shy in sharing his feelings about the first half.

“It bothers me from a lot of angles, but especially because I’ve worn this jersey for quite some time,” Best said. “That first half was probably the worst half of football I’ve ever seen.”

EWU built some momentum in the second half with a drive that resulted in a 3-yard Barriere touchdown scramble, but the Eagles missed an opportunity to put the pressure squarely on the Vandals. The EWU defense blocked a field goal after Barriere’s touchdown, and the Eagles drove down to the Idaho one yard line with a chance to make it a two-score game just before the third quarter ended. Instead, EWU went backwards and turned the ball over on downs. The Eagles outscored Idaho 20-7 in the fourth quarter, but Idaho’s goal line stand proved to be fatal to EWU with the final score being 35-27.

Barriere was 28-46 for two touchdowns through the air and ran for an additional two scores. Senior wide receiver Dre Dorton had 133 yards and a touchdown receiving.

For Idaho, Petrino was 22-31 with two touchdowns passing and 63 yards and a score rushing. Senior wide receiver Jeff Cotton was a difficult matchup for the EWU secondary, which was missing starting sophomore cornerback Darreon Moore. Cotton caught 10 passes for 110 yards and a score. Carter ran for 76 yards and two touchdowns.

Defensively, senior safety Dehonta Hayes led EWU with 17 total tackles and a pick. Sophomore linebacker Tre Walker had 14 total tackles for the Vandals.

EWU was missing four defensive starters Saturday. Both starting linebackers, senior Jack Sendelbach and junior Chris Ojoh, were inactive. Darreon Moore was out, and nose tackle Keith Moore missed his fourth straight game. None of the player’s statuses are currently known.

Now that EWU has lost three games, the Eagles will likely have to run the table and go 8-0 in Big Sky Conference play to have a chance to return to the FCS playoffs. Despite that reality, Barriere said the team can’t think about the playoffs right now.

“The (FCS) playoffs are too far away,” Barriere said. “As of right now, we just have to focus on one game at a time.”

That next “one game” comes on Sept. 28 at Roos Field against North Dakota. The BSC conference opener kicks off at 2:05 p.m.