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.
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.
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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