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5 keys to an Eastern Washington victory: Limiting mistakes, strong finish are points of emphasis for Eagles

UPDATED: Fri., Dec. 14, 2018, 9:17 p.m.

Barriere’s decisiveness

Maine leans on a game-changing front seven, a unit that aims to harass Eastern Washington quarterback Eric Barriere and either bring him down in the backfield or force him into an ill-advised read.

In the Eagles’ run-pass-option game, Maine has the size and speed off the ball to close running lanes in a hurry, which could force Barriere to pull the ball and look for an immediate receiver.

He won’t have time to be indecisive. Barriere has progressed in his decision-making skills every week since a 14-6 loss at Weber State on Oct. 13, but this could be his biggest test against a pressure-laden defense.

Maintain fourth-quarter strength

EWU has turned it on in the fourth quarter the last five games, outscoring its opponents 100-17 in that stretch. If the Eagles can continue their late-game efficiency, it could be tough sledding for a Maine team that traveled 3,000 miles this week and 2,600 miles last week.

Limit penalties

Maine is the second-most penalized team in the FCS, hit with 116 flags that have pushed the Black Bears back 1,098 yards.

If the Eagles (78 penalties) can play a relatively clean game, and the Black Bears have an average day (8.9 penalties), it could prove big in a what may be defensive slugfust in which yards come at a premium.

Turn turnovers into points. Period.

EWU is 49-0 since 2010 when winning the turnover battle, often because it turns turnovers into points.

The Eagles have been a turnover-forcing machine late in the season, totaling 20 of their 28 the last five games.

Takeaways against a pedestrian Maine offense (27.1 points per game, 339 yards, 22 turnovers) could prove big for EWU, which may need its defense to put it in favorable field position.

Roldan Alcobendas

EWU’s All-American, Fred Mitchell Award-winning kicker could be key Saturday.

Maine’s defense has allowed only 19 touchdowns in 41 red-zone tries, often forcing teams into field goals.

Alcobendas is 15 for 15 this season. Every point in this FCS semifinal will matter.

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