HILLSBORO, Ore. – Michael Roos made the trip.
So did Vernon Adams.
The former Eastern Washington football greats were just part of EWU’s fan base Friday night west of Portland, as most of the 4,205 at Hillsboro Stadium appeared to be red-clad visitors.
They took planes, trains (well, Portland’s MAX rail) and automobiles to witness the fourth-ranked Eagles sew up at least a share of a Big Sky Conference title, which EWU did convincingly in a 74-23 rout of Portland State – the most points the Eagles have scored against a fellow FCS program.
They left with the memory of coach Aaron Best getting a Gatorade bath.
Clinching a share of a league title in front of Roos and Adams and a number of other former Eagles was special for running back Sam McPherson.
“They won (Big Sky titles) so many times before,” McPherson said. “It’s always nice to bring a championship back for all of them.”
Best said he could feel a home-like atmosphere.
“We had 2,000 fans here and that’s awesome,” Best said. “At halftime, I felt like we were kind of down a little bit, but they were screaming as we were coming off the field. It’s nice to win it for them – it would have been awesome to win it at home, but we’re still champs.”
Players hoisted two pieces of hardware after the rout: a Big Sky trophy – the same one No. 3 Weber State and No. 9 UC Davis waved around Saturday, as three teams shared the title – and the Dam Cup.
The fifth annual Dam Cup, given to the winner of the young EWU-Portland State rivalry game, was a bonus, much like the handful of milestone marks Eagles reached in their lopsided victory.
- McPherson gained 133 yards to become EWU’s first 1,000-yard rusher since 2013.
“It’s unbelievable. I didn’t think it was going to happen today,” said McPherson, who also caught a touchdown pass.
- Nsimba Webster became the latest EWU player to reach the 1,000-yard receiving mark, tallying 98 yards and a touchdown. He also had a 57-yard punt return for a touchdown.
“It an honor to be in the same conversation of all those great receivers who came before me,” Webster said. “I’d been a quarterback until college, so I had to trust the process.”
- Tight end Jayce Gilder had the second two-touchdown game of his career, both against Portland State, hauling in a pair of passes from sophomore quarterback Eric Barriere.
- Barriere, who is 5-1 as a starter since taking over for injured All-American Gage Gubrud, passed for a career-high five touchdowns.
- Junior running back Tamarick Pierce had a career-long 81-yard touchdown run.
- EWU’s defense finished Big Sky Conference play allowing an average of 16.8 points a game against conference foes.
- The Eagles are also on the cusp for setting a program record for single-season rushing yards. The Eagles have 3,015, nearing the team’s record set in 1950 (3,130).
Injuries pile up again
Roldan Alcobendas, one of the nation’s top kickers and punters, sat out with an injury.
Best said Alcobendas, who is 13 for 13 on field goals and hasn’t missed a PAT all season, was a game-time decision for an undisclosed injury.
Andre Slyter filled in for Alcobendas, hitting 4 of 6 PATs.
Starting safeties Tysen Prunty and Mitch Fettig and starting defensive end Keenan Williams sustained injuries. All three were on crutches after the game.
Best didn’t talk about specific injuries after the game, but he said a potential first-round bye in the FCS playoffs would help some players heal.
EWU learns its postseason future at 9:30 a.m. Sunday during the FCS playoff selection show.
Two-year senior starting linebacker Kurt Calhoun’s career came to a close last week when he announced on Facebook that he’d be sidelined for the season with a spinal injury.
Hard-hitting sophomore Chris Ojoh filled in for Calhoun the past three weeks, leading EWU in tackles all three games.
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