Q & A with EWU football radio announcer Larry Weir

The voice of EWU football and men's basketball joins The Easterner to discuss the 2019 football season.

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Q & A with EWU football radio announcer Larry Weir

Larry Weir, the radio voice of EWU football and men's basketball.

Larry Weir, the radio voice of EWU football and men's basketball.

Courtesy of EWU Athletics

Larry Weir, the radio voice of EWU football and men's basketball.

Courtesy of EWU Athletics

Courtesy of EWU Athletics

Larry Weir, the radio voice of EWU football and men's basketball.

By Drew Lawson, Sports Editor

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Larry Weir is the radio play-by-play announcer for the EWU football and men’s basketball teams. Games are broadcast on 700 ESPN. Weir also hosts the Press Box Podcast for the Spokesman-Review. Follow him on Twitter @LarryWeirPBP.

Questions by Drew Lawson. Any opinion expressed in the questions does not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of The Easterner, its staff members or EWU. The conversation between Weir and Lawson has been edited for space and to fit AP Style.

The full conversation can be heard below, it is split into two segments. 

 

 

DL: EWU football has had a tough start, and not a start that many people were expecting … What are some of your thoughts as to what the slow start could be attributed to?

LW: That’s kind of the question that everybody’s trying to figure out right now. When you look at the stats, you don’t really see a 2-4 record. The coaches like to look at how teams are performing in the redzone, how teams are performing on 3rd down, how teams are doing in turnover margin. Eastern is winning those battles this year overall in the stats. I guess when you look at it, the one thing they’re maybe not doing it consistently enough. There may be a good quarter, there may be a bad quarter. There may be a good half, followed by a bad half or vice versa. Maybe not as much consistent effort as the coaches would like to see … if they can start putting together four quarters of football, I still think this can be a good team and have a tremendous season. 

 

DL: Through all the losses … what players have stood out to you (while) having good seasons?

LW: I think the emergence of (senior) Dre Dorton at wide receiver has been great to see. He’s a guy that’s had to wait his turn over the years … he was here when Cooper Kupp and Shaq Hill and Kendrick Bourne were playing. (He) went through those guys, then through Nic Splendorio, then through Nsimba Webster last year. It’s finally his chance as a senior. You could probably say the same thing for (senior) Jayson Williams. Both those guys have emerged from the shadows of other players and have probably been Eastern’s two best, or at least two of their three best wide receivers so far this year.

On defense, I think it’s been fun to see Trevor Davis Jr. getting a chance to play linebacker more this year. He’s had some really bad injuries, a badly broken leg. It’s been an effort for him to try and get out on the field in his Eastern career. One of the last games of his redshirt freshman year was against Richmond in the playoffs in 2016. He had a five or six tackle game, and it looked like this was a guy that was going to contribute over the next three years, then he breaks his leg in spring ball … I think he has …  been a really good player this year for Eastern.

 

DL: A 2-4 record doesn’t come without some struggles. Are there some position groups that maybe are having trouble more than we were expecting? You look at the offensive line, there’s a lot of sacks (allowed). What are your thoughts on that?

LW: I suppose the offensive line would have to take front and center there because you’ve got all these starts there and all these experienced guys. I think they’ve been solid this year. I would say that with five senior guys you’re probably looking for more than solid. The 22 sacks allowed … I think at times, they’re put in bad positions. It hasn’t necessarily been their fault. Whether it’s a quarterback running into pressure … there’s only going to be so long you can hold your protection if there’s good secondary coverage. (If) receivers aren’t getting open, that’s going to go as a sack against the offensive line when they did their job and gave the quarterback time.  You just have to credit the defense for good coverage. I think they’ve played okay this year, but I think we all expected a little more. 

We knew that corner was going to be a problem, just because they graduated so many guys last year and they really didn’t have a lot of game experience. I think they’ve actually done okay so far this year, especially when you consider their experience level, I think they’ve probably been better than okay. 

That’s the thing, going back to the first question … (There’s) no position you can look at (and) say, “oh boy, these guys, if they had done better, then this team would be in a better spot.” There’s no one thing you can look at with this team and say, “if they improve there, they’re good.” That’s kind of been the tough part of it for me in the first six weeks. I don’t think anybody’s really dropped the ball this year, it’s just one of those things.

 

DL: (EWU is) perfect at home, imperfect on the road. Bigger sample size on the road, but that is … a rare thing for this (program) to lose their first four road games. What do you think you can point to as to why this year they play so much better at home than on the road?

LW: I think the first thing is the competition level. You had Washington, which is an FBS school. You had Jacksonville State, which is Top 25. I had Sacramento State in my Top 25 for the last three weeks, I think they’re a Top 25 FCS team. The one (bad loss) was probably Idaho, but they had that game targeted from last year when they got embarrassed in Cheney. They wanted to prove to Eastern that they’re a better team than what Eastern saw, and they were really fired up for that game. Eastern probably wasn’t as fired up for that game as maybe they should’ve been at the start. They had a lousy first half and got too far behind. I’d say tough competition would be my number one thing on the road with three really good teams and a team that was circling the wagons from 11 months away. 

 

“This team, they’ve always defended the red very well. It’s an honor for the players to year after year to defend the red, they haven’t lost often there.” – Larry Weir

Dre’ Sante sprints across the field as the crowd cheers.

DL: Going back to the Sac State game, a lot of fans were relying on Twitter to figure out what was going on with (EWU junior quarterback) Eric Barriere when he went out for five series. The release from EWU was that it was an undisclosed injury. What did you observe during the time when he went out with a towel over his head and then went back in?

LW: That was an interesting situation, because we don’t have any more information on the radio side than they do on television or the newspapers. All I could do was go by what my eyeballs saw. The first thing I saw was Eric on the sidelines, towel over his head, no helmet. I was thinking (about) concussion protocol, because he took a hit trying to get a first down. I didn’t think there was a blow to the head there, but you never know. 

The next time I look over, he’s wandering around, he’s got his helmet back, there’s no towel over the head. Then … he was walking gingerly off the field, so I thought, “maybe it’s a leg injury of some kind.”

 All of a sudden, we see him back in the game again in the third series of the third quarter. What’s going on with Eric is a mystery at this point in time, because we don’t get the injury information. Is there some kind of lower body injury? Dehydration has been talked about for a couple of games. One would think, if he was dehydrated once, that they’d get that squared away to where it wouldn’t happen a second time. That may have been the situation at Sac State, but I really don’t know. 

That’s a head-scratcher, and it’s something that’s now happened in two out of six games this year, where that’s kind of been an issue for him. I don’t know what it is that’s gotten him into this situation, and I don’t suppose we know if that’s the exact reasoning (behind) the times he’s had to sit out in ball games. It’s a tough situation for Eric and a tough situation for the team. 

 

DL: Talking about consistency, I go back to the (Idaho) game, where EWU maybe wasn’t as fired up as they should’ve been. After that game, (EWU head coach) Aaron (Best) said that guys aren’t competing for their spots, which is leading to complacency in certain areas. Do you think that has something to do with some of the struggles, as well?

LW: It could. I’m not in there on a daily basis, I don’t know what’s going on. 

(Washington State University head coach) Mike Leach took all kinds of heat when he called his team fat, dumb and entitled. He wasn’t talking about their physical appearance, I think he was talking about their mental state. Maybe they had read their press clippings and they were feeling satisfied, that I’m the king of the world and nothing’s gonna stop us. All of a sudden, you find out that you’re not. 

Could complacency have kicked in some places there (for EWU)? Maybe. That would certainly explain some things, but I’m just not around enough to where I think I’m comfortable saying that this is a complacent team or there are complacent individuals, or even a position group that was complacent coming into this season. Knowing these guys, and having talked to them, I find it a little bit hard to believe, but it’s certainly possible. 

 

 

DL: Now, looking ahead. Of course, it’s sports, it’s college football, we should never assume anything, but it’s probably a safe bet that EWU wins Saturday (vs Northern Colorado). After that, it’s a trip to Missoula. It’s a tough game, Montana is looking really good this year. One more loss for this EWU team, and playoff hopes are done. If (EWU) goes into Missoula and wins, do you think that spurs them into November with enough momentum to win out and get in?

LW: I think you have to hope for it. If Eastern is fortunate enough to beat Northern Colorado this weekend, that puts them at 3-4, (and) 2-1 in the Big Sky. You get a week off. Montana will have a tough road game at Sac State during Eastern’s bye week. Eastern saw (first-hand) that that’s not going to be an easy game for Montana by any stretch of the imagination. I think Montana is probably pointing toward the Eastern game … because Eastern’s been the bull of the woods and the Grizzlies have been in a secondary role in the conference. Eastern has won most of the games against Montana in the last 10 years. 

I would think that Eastern, despite being 2-4, is going to be favored in five out of the last six games. I think they’ll be favored in every game in November, and in this (week’s) game against Northern Colorado. Being favored doesn’t mean you win, but that means if you play well, you should win. Then it all comes down to the Montana game. Let’s say Montana wins that game at Sac State. (EWU would have) a road win against a top 10 team, 8-4 overall, seven Division I wins, runners-up last year (and) a Walter Payton Award candidate at quarterback still in (its) lineup. That should get Eastern in the 24-team field. I’d be shocked if they were left out, but I was shocked in 2017 when they were left out, so what do I know. 

 

DL: Looking at the flip side, if (EWU) does lose to Montana, that’s five losses, (meaning its) probably on the outside (of the playoffs) looking in… what do you think we’d see from EWU in November?

LW: I think you’d see a team fighting their rear ends off, because that’s just the way they do things at Eastern. This program hasn’t had a losing record since 2006, and I don’t think this senior class wants to be the first bunch to go out with a losing record since that group in 2006. I think they’re going to be doing all they can to finish the season strong, get four straight wins in the month of November. If they end at 7-5, (their) road losses have come at UW, UM, JSU and Sac State, which are all Top 25 teams this year or very close to it. 

There’s the loss to Idaho as well. That would probably be the one that will motivate (EWU) into the offseason, saying, “if we had taken care of business in this game, the season may have turned out a little bit differently.”

 I think they’ll go out and do what they do, which is play hard, compete and attempt to win those last four games and have the best record they possibly can in the 2019 season, send the 2019 season off on as good a note as they can and get ready for the 2020 season for the guys coming back. 

 

DL: Going back to Eric (Barriere), this has been kind of an interesting year for him. He’s got … a new offensive coordinator and quarterback coach (Ian Shoemaker). We see so much from him … the talent’s there, the production’s there, but there have been some inconsistent moments. I know Eastern has tried to bring back the same philosophies, but do you think there have been some growing pains with the new (coordinator)?

LW: I think there are some adjustments that have to be made. I think there’s some adjustment between any new coach and his position group, as well as the position group to their new coach. I’m sure there are some things that have changed since Coach Shoemaker took over as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, and probably Coach Shoemaker has to make some changes as well based on the talent he has. He’s having to do some things differently as well. Everybody needs to figure out where exactly the other person stands. 

We saw it in 2017. Gage Gubrud had such a good year in 2016 with Troy Taylor, then you bring in Bodie Reeder … and Gage doesn’t have the same year in 2017 that he does in 2016. He was good, but he wasn’t as dynamic as he had been in 2016.

 Last year, he was off to a good start before getting hurt. We had Eric come in, dynamic out of the gate. This year, a little bit less so. He’s had some big plays, putting up some big numbers, but yeah, I would be a little bit surprised if there weren’t some growing pains going on in that quarterback room and some adjustments that have to be made by Coach Shoemaker and by Eric. Coach Shoemaker (is) trying to figure out how to use him, and Eric (is) trying to figure out, “how can I conform to what Coach Shoemaker wants, but still be me?” I think we’ve probably seen a little bit of that this year, where there’s been some growing pains and some trial and error with this 2019 season. 

 

DL: Not only are the players not used to a 2-4 first half of the season, (but) neither are the fans. Social media has definitely become a platform for fans to voice their displeasure with what some (might) call overreactions. What do you make of the social media hubbub, where suddenly there’s people calling for coaches to be fired, players to be benched? When you see that stuff, how do you typically react?

LW: I try not to pay any attention to it. I’m a good Twitter user, but I don’t look at a lot of comments. I’ll see the initial tweet, but I don’t necessarily go into the comments … because I don’t want to see what other people are complaining about. Everybody has the right to complain, and when you’re paying for your tickets you have a right to complain about what you’re seeing, so I don’t have a problem with people complaining. That’s their right to do so. 

 If I were a coach, or a coach’s wife or a coach’s kid, or a family member of the coach I would probably stay off of social media during the season, because when things aren’t going the way you want them to go, people are going to vent their frustration. That’s all they’re doing, blowing off steam. It’s just before, they were blowing off steam in the privacy of their own homes or in the bar with their buddies. Now they’re doing it on social media, where everybody has a chance to see it. 

It’s a tough situation, and coaches have to have thick skin, their families have to have thick skin and the players have to have thick skin. People are saying things that they wouldn’t say to a defensive lineman, offensive lineman, linebacker, tight end or even a kicker on that team. They’re saying things online that they wouldn’t say to that individual’s face. You have to take everything with a grain of salt. People tend to voice their opinions, and they’re perfectly entitled to. I’d certainly be careful where I walked if I were a player or coach. Even as a media member, I’m careful with what I look at and what I see. 

 

DL: Last question. Do you have a prediction for the second half of the season?

LW: I’m not going to predict a record, but I do think this team will come together and start playing four quarters of football. Whether it be this Saturday, or the Saturday after the bye week against Montana, or in November or in just the last couple of games of the season. I think they’re going to find their stride and start playing 60 minutes of football. At that point I think we’re going to see what this team can be in the 2019 season. 

You hope it comes earlier rather than later, because then what you’re hoping for is a run in December and getting as far as they can in the FCS playoffs. I certainly hope for them that they can do that, because I want these players (and) coaches to have the satisfaction end in success … especially the seniors, because there’s a lot of great guys out of that group. I don’t want those guys to have to remember their final season at Eastern as being less than what they thought it could be …  I hope it happens this Saturday, and if it doesn’t I hope after the bye. 

 

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