Eastern Washington quarterback Gunner Talkington is comfortable enough in his own skin to sport an aggressive, free-flowing mullet.
The backup from Battle Ground, Washington, appeared just as comfortable operating the Eagles’ offense Saturday in the Red-White Game. Talkington completed 10 of 17 passes for 155 yards and a touchdown to help the Red team edge the White team 20-14 at windy Roos Field.
In a battle for the No. 2 quarterback job that EWU head coach Aaron Best said “will be fun to watch” in August, Talkington more than looked the part in the Eagles’ final spring gathering.
Wide receiver and Red teammate Jayson Williams – the game’s Most Valuable Player who hauled in four passes for 67 yards and two touchdowns – said Talkington’s confidence was palpable.
“The offensive line gave QB 2 (Talkington) enough time and he made plays,” Williams said as he held his Eagle-shaped MVP trophy. “He made a push for that QB 1 spot tonight.”
Talkington, a 5-foot-10 sophomore who threw a touchdown on a fake field-goal play in the FCS national title game in January – the same game he lost a fumble while scrambling – said he’s used the spring to clean up some things.
“There’s been some things that (new offensive coordinator Ian Shoemaker) has wanted me to get better at,” Talkington said. “Rolling out, throwing on the run and being more accurate, so I want to continue to do that his summer.”
Dual-threat starting quarterback Eric Barriere completed 12 of 19 passes for 157 yards and a touchdown for the White team. He also threw an interception on the opening drive and was quick-whistle sacked four times.
EWU returns several experienced receivers and over 40 lettermen from last year’s FCS national runner-up, but redshirt freshman Freddie Roberson was the day’s biggest playmaker.
The 6-3 speedster had four catches and three carries for the Red team, totaling 99 yards.
Both secondaries were dotted with youth and inexperience. EWU graduated all of its primary cornerbacks and most of its returning safeties and rovers sat out to nurse injuries.
Hunter Klinge, a freshman defensive back who joined the team this spring, had the game’s lone interception.
About a dozen of EWU’s biggest returning contributors from last season were out.
Sophomore defensive end Mitchell Johnson, who had a game-high seven tackles and three sacks for the Red team, made it a point to help out the backside of the defense.
“(The defensive line) definitely thought that we had to give some of these younger corners and safeties less time on coverage,” said Johnson, an All-Big Sky selection last year. “They’re going to get better in the spring, which they did, and our main goal today was to get to the QB quicker than in the past.”
The White team’s defensive line also caused problems.
Red team kicker and punter Trevor Bowens attempted to punt out of his end zone early in the scrimmage, but his kick was blocked by Tamir Hill and picked up by linebacker Chris Lefau, who went on to score the only touchdown of the first half.
Lefau, a freshman, also joined the team this spring.
EWU’s Ted team led 20-7 late in the fourth quarter before Barriere found Talolo Limu-Jones on a 13-yard scoring connection. Limu-Jones had a team-high four catches for 68 yards.
“We got in some good work. It wasn’t as clean as we would have liked it, but great teams make plays individually and collectively,” Best said. “There were some good plays at times and some subpar plays at times, but all in all it was a competitive game.”
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