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Eastern Washington carries offensive momentum into game against inconsistent Idaho State

Eastern Washington quarterback Eric Barriere  calls a play during a game on Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019, at Roos Field in Cheney. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Eastern Washington quarterback Eric Barriere calls a play during a game on Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019, at Roos Field in Cheney. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

Eastern Washington isn’t sure which quarterback it will face when the Eagles face explosive, up-and-down Idaho State on Saturday at Holt Arena in Pocatello.

Matt Struck (123 of 237 for 1,884 yards, 20 touchdowns and seven interceptions) has taken the majority of the snaps this season, but the junior was pulled in a 26-20 home loss to Northern Colorado last week following an interception returned for a touchdown early in the third quarter.

True freshman Sagan Gronauer – a 6-foot-1, 200-pound Las Vegas product – played the majority of the second half, completing 6 of 12 passes for 62 yards, a touchdown and interception.

Former Coeur d’Alene star quarterback Gunnar Amos also registered a start at quarterback for ISU this season. He retired, according to ISU, following a 16-13 loss at Northern Iowa, which is ranked No. 7 in the Football Championship Subdivision.

Whoever’s behind center Saturday, he’ll be leading a capable, balanced offense that’s averaging 403 yards a game.

“We can anticipate both quarterbacks will play,” EWU head coach Aaron Best said. “If not, we expect the freshman to play from the get-go.”

Bengals standout receiver Mitch Gueller, who has 3,149 career receiving yards, said it won’t matter.

“Whoever’s back there at quarterback, our job is to get open,” Gueller said.

EWU has won 10 straight against Idaho State, a team it hasn’t faced since 2016.

The Eagles (4-5, 3-2 Big Sky) and Bengals (3-6, 2-4) are winless on the road. While EWU is seemingly hitting its late-season stride, ISU is swooning.

ISU handled Portland State (51-24) and North Dakota (55-20) at home earlier in the year, gave a good Northern Iowa all it could handle on the road and led Montana 17-0 in Missoula before the Grizzlies flipped the switch, running away with a 55-10 win.

Since then, the Bengals have dropped three straight to Idaho (45-21), Southern Utah (59-34) and Northern Colorado.

So which edition of the mercurial Bengals will EWU see?

“They’re like us, inconsistent,” EWU linebacker Jack Sendelbach said. “They have a powerful offense, a great group of receivers, a good running game. They’ve been at home except for the slip-up against Northern Colorado, but they’re going to be a great team to play.”

ISU running back Ty Flanagan has been a steady presence, averaging nearly 100 yards (97.4) a game.

“Our offense is ready to get into a shootout with anybody,” Gueller said.

The Bengals rank 108th in turnover margin (0.78) and passing yards allowed (270).

EWU has won two of its last three games, including routs of Northern Colorado (54-21) and Northern Arizona (66-38).

The Eagles rank No. 1 in the country in total offense (506 yards per game).

“(EWU’s) offensive line, all five seniors, all big,” ISU coach Rob Phenicie said. “A big, good-looking crew and they do a good job of protecting (standout quarterback Eric) Barriere. We have a lot of their film and been studying them.”

Barriere played his best game of the season last week, earning Big Sky Player of the Week honors after completing 29 of 38 passes for 367 yards and three touchdowns and no interceptions. Barriere also rushed for 101 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries and had a 20-yard reception.

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