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Eastern Washington notebook: Eric Barriere taking charge of Eagles’ powerful offense

UPDATED: Tue., Oct. 9, 2018, 9:35 p.m.

Eric Barriere has the keys to Eastern Washington’s offense until further notice.

The status of All-American quarterback Gage Gubrud’s injured foot remains uncertain, so Barriere, who shredded Southern Utah’s defense in a 55-17 rout last week, could start his second consecutive game Saturday at 13th-ranked Weber State (3-2, 1-1 Big Sky).

Gubrud didn’t practice Tuesday, 10 days after sustaining his injury late in fourth quarter of a 34-17 win at Montana State. He wore a protective boot Saturday as Barriere, a dual-threat sophomore, combined for 331 yards and three touchdowns.

EWU head coach Aaron Best said he’ll know more about Gubrud’s injury this week and if he’ll be ready to go Saturday.

“We’re still collecting some information and some data to see if he could further hurt what he has going on,” Best said. “If that’s the case, then we’ll pull the reins back again. But we should know by late (Wednesday) if not Thursday at the latest, as far as what his prognosis is for this game.”

Gubrud, a three-time Walter Payton Award candidate, is 16 yards shy of 10,000 career passing yards.

If fourth-ranked EWU (5-1, 3-0) goes with the less experienced Barriere against Weber State, it will be the best defense he’s faced.

Barriere is 2-0 as a starter, beating a winless Southern Utah team that ranks last in the nation in defense (593 yard allowed per game). In 2017, he led the Eagles in a 21-14 win at North Dakota, a team that finished near the bottom of the Big Sky at 3-8.

Weber State, which dispatched Gubrud and the Eagles 28-20 in Cheney last year, is allowing a Big Sky-low 374 yards per game and is tied with EWU’s defense for fewest points allowed per game (24.8).

The Wildcats aren’t making things easy on quarterbacks either, tallying 17 sacks and 18 turnovers in five games.

The balanced, explosive Eagles’ offense has carved up its opposition, averaging 45 points and 570 yards a game.

Southern Utah prepared for Gubrud, not Barriere, a more electric, run-first quarterback. Best expects Weber to be well aware of Barriere and his tendencies this week after his sterling performance.

“As much as we liked what Eric did on Saturday, he’ll have more speed bumps in front of him if he gets the opportunity to play,” Best said.

EWU was in a similar situation in 2014 when star quarterback Vernon Adams broke his foot in a Week 6 win at Idaho State on Oct. 6, when the No. 4 Eagles were off to a 5-1 start.

Adams was sidelined five weeks and missed the next four games. Jordan West stepped in, going 3-1 as a starter until Adams returned Nov. 8 against No. 11 Montana. EWU won the league and advanced to the FCS quarterfinals.

Eagle out; Webster healthy again

One of EWU’s most proven receivers, Zach Eagle, will miss the next 4-5 weeks with a leg injury, Best said.

Eagle, a senior, went down in the first half at Montana State and didn’t suit up against Southern Utah. He has 41 career receptions for 541 yards and two touchdowns.

True freshman Tre Weed returned punts in place of Eagle last week, his third appearance this season.

Eagle stepped up when standout pass catcher Nsimba Webster was limited against Washington State, Cal Poly and Montana State with an ankle injury.

Webster, who leads EWU in receiving yards (619) and receiving touchdowns (five), said he’s back in top shape.

“Having the injury, with tendons in that ankle, prevented me from being at full speed,” said Webster, who had 116 yards and a touchdown Saturday against Southern Utah. “I’ve just been trying to get healthy to play the best that I can. I feel like I am back to my ability.”

Alcobendas No. 1 in the nation

EWU kicker Roldan Alcobendas, the program’s all-time leader in kicking points, also leads the country in field-goal percentage.

The senior from Camas, Washington, is one of eight kickers at the FCS level who hasn’t missed the season, hitting all seven of his field-goal attempts.

Low sacks, high results

Sam McPherson’s big runs. Gubrud’s throws. Webster’s catches.

The Big Sky is well aware of what those three can do, led by a veteran offensive line.

The boys up front are also among the best at keeping their QBs clean. The Eagles are tied with three programs with the fourth-fewest sacks allowed (four) this season.

Weber State QB has Royal ties

The Wildcats have employed two quarterbacks this season, including redshirt freshman Kaden Jenks, who starred at 1A power Royal High.

Jenks was a load for Northeast A programs Colville, Lakeside and Deer Park in the playoffs his junior and senior seasons, when he led Royal to back-to-back state titles.

Royal fell to Colville 28-10 in the 2014 state title game, Jenks’ sophomore season.

Jenks has completed 16 of 44 passes for 104 yards.


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