A decisive homecoming win over an old rival Saturday was followed by a loss.
EWU head coach Aaron Best announced that two-time All-American quarterback Gage Gubrud would miss the rest of the season because of a toe injury he sustained in a victory at Montana State in September, effectively ending his decorated college career.
Gubrud, who finished his career just 16 yards shy of 10,000 passing yards, has opted to undergo surgery.
One of the top QBs at the FCS level, Gubrud, a two-time Walter Payton Award candidate, helped lead the Eagles to the FCS semifinals in 2016, the same year he spearheaded a 45-42 upset of Washington State.
In his five games this season, Gubrud passed for 1,416 yards and 13 touchdowns, a mark that led the nation before his injury. He finished his career with 54 touchdown passes and 13 touchdown runs.
Gubrud wore a protective boot for three weeks, but practiced in full pads on Tuesday without the boot, evoking questions if he’d be ready to return against Idaho.
Losing one of the most accomplished players in program history is tough, Best said, but he said he’s ready to move forward with sophomore Eric Barriere, who is 3-1 as a starter at EWU.
Barriere, a three-star recruit from California, totaled 396 yards of offense and four touchdown in a 38-14 rout of Idaho on Saturday.
“Eric Barriere is our quarterback moving forward and Gage Gubrud will be shelved for the rest of the season,” Best said after the game. “He will get surgery on his foot – we came to that conclusion. Everybody has Gage’s best interests in mind, and that’s where we stand going forward. Eric will be our starting quarterback.”
Best said Gubrud will help mentor Barriere.
“Gubrud had an amazing career in just three years – really, 2 1/2 years. He’s an incredible leader, captain and teammate, and I call him a dear friend,” Best said. “He’s meant a ton for us and will continue to mean a ton because he’ll be a very good mentor for Eric side-by-side in-game, out-of-game and in the meeting room.”
Best EWU defense of the 2000s?
Eastern Washington defensive end Keenan Williams grew up in Cheney, watching some of the Eagles’ most vicious defenses.
He believes the current group, one that’s allowed and average of 17.5 points against Big Sky Conference offenses this season, has a chance to be the best one yet.
“The last time I saw a defense this good was 2010,” Williams said.
“I don’t think we’ve had a defense this dominant since then.
“There’s no reason to think we can’t do what they did in 2010 and (win a national championship).”
EWU busts out the trickery
EWU went deep into its playbook during its blowout of Idaho, and used some trick plays to move the chains.
On a reverse play, wide receiver Jayson Williams looked downfield and completed a 36-yard pass to Johnny Edwards near the goal line, setting up a Tamarick Pierce touchdown in the second quarter.
Running back Sam McPherson also completed a pass on a flea-flicker, a 13-yard connection to quarterback Eric Barriere.
Idaho head coach Paul Petrino remembers when his Vandals owned the series against EWU in the 1980s and 1990s, before Idaho left the Big Sky in 1996.
The Vandals won 14 of 18 in that stretch, including a 40-15 win at EWU in 1994, the last time the teams met in Cheney.
“There were stands on just one side (of the field) back then, the turf wasn’t red (it was grass), and we had a lot better players than they did,” Petrino said after the game, conceding that EWU has the better players now.
Williams wasn’t born the last time Idaho and EWU played as conference opponents, but said he’s ready for a rivalry to blossom.
Especially since EWU’s preferred rival, Montana, wasn’t on the schedule this season.
“I just played it like it was another game,” Williams said. “Really, the team I hate the most is Montana. But if Idaho is going to be our rival, I’ll hate them, too.”
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