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Eastern Washington notebook: Talolo Limu-Jones’ emergence boosts Eagles’ passing game

UPDATED: Tue., Nov. 12, 2019

Eastern Washington wide receiver Talolo Limu-Jones  breaks free against Northern Arizona during a game Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019, at Roos Field in Cheney. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Eastern Washington wide receiver Talolo Limu-Jones breaks free against Northern Arizona during a game Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019, at Roos Field in Cheney. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

For the first three years of Talolo Limu-Jones’ career at Eastern Washington, the redshirt junior receiver’s name was often in the same sentence as “upside,” “potential” or “prototype.”

At 6-foot-5 and 220 pounds, Limu-Jones exhibited the size of a Power 5 conference receiver, playing his first two seasons as a reserve tight end before splitting out in 2018.

His speed, athleticism and vertical leap were enough to warrant the move for Limu-Jones, who was also a former basketball star at Grace Davis (California) High School.

He showed flashes of brilliance in previous seasons, but the sample size was small.

In Eastern Washington’s previous four games, however, Limu-Jones has looked like one of the premier receivers in the Big Sky Conference.

Coinciding with the Eagles’ surge – EWU has won three of its last four games by an average of 34.6 points – is the emergence of Limu-Jones, a receiver with the ability to get over the top of defenses and win one-on-one battles with much smaller cornerbacks.

Limu-Jones has hauled in 18 catches for 409 yards and four touchdowns in EWU’s past four games, his biggest gains coming after the catch.

He had 58-yard receptions against Northern Colorado and Idaho State. He busted off a 62-yard gain at Montana and a 75-yarder vs. Northern Arizona.

When he registered his first start against Northern Colorado, Limu-Jones caught a touchdown pass on the first play of scrimmage.

EWU star quarterback Eric Barriere’s passing game (327 yards per game) has been boosted by Limu-Jones’ improvement.

“He has the NFL type of size as a receiver. He has the athleticism. It’s about bringing it consistently,” said Barriere, the Big Sky Offensive Player of the Week for the second straight week. “He’s been showing it this year and making those explosive plays, especially at the right time when we need to get something going.”

Limu-Jones ranks second on the team in receiving yards, totaling 21 receptions for 506 yards and six touchdowns. He was 39 career catches for 769 yards and 10 touchdowns.

EWU safety Dehonta Hayes has noticed a big change in Limu-Jones’ development.

“When he gets rolling, he’s really hard to stop,” Hayes said. “You see his focus has changed and he’s a lot more focused with his whole approach. He’s grown into that athlete we know he can be.”

EWU head coach Aaron Best lauded Limu-Jones’ improvement and said he still has a lot of room to grow.

“He’s far from a finished product,” Best said. “He’s been very consistent the last four games. There’s still more consistency to be had. More third-down catches to be made, more stiff-arms to make.”

Barriere unhealthy most of season

One of the most dangerous offensive threats in the Football Championship Subdivision told reporters Tuesday he hadn’t been fully healthy until the Eagles’ 66-38 rout of Northern Arizona on Nov. 2.

Barriere has since captured Big Sky Offensive Player of the Week honors the past two weeks, totaling 773 passing yards and six touchdowns and 168 rushing yards and a touchdown in two blowout wins.

The junior Walter Payton Award preseason candidate appeared to be limited in the Eagles’ running game the first eight weeks, despite being arguably the best dual-threat QB in the FCS going into the 2019 season.

“Wasn’t 100 percent throughout the year, but I have been the last couple weeks,” said Barriere, whose injury was undisclosed.

Barriere’s injury may have gone back as far as August. He didn’t participate in either of EWU’s fall scrimmages.

When asked if sitting out the scrimmages was related to the injury, Barriere was coy.

“Something like that, yeah,” he answered.

Two road wins in a row?

EWU (5-5, 4-2 Big Sky) improved to .500 after pasting Idaho State 48-5 on Saturday at Holt Arena, its first road win of the season. The Bengals (3-7, 2-5) dropped their fourth straight.

The Eagles face one of the league’s two last-place teams Saturday at Cal Poly (2-7, 1-5). A win would ensure EWU eludes its first losing season since 2006.

The Mustangs haven’t won a game since Sept. 28, a 24-21 decision over fellow last-place squad Southern Utah (2-8, 1-5).

EWU concludes its regular-season schedule Nov. 23 at home against Portland State (5-6, 3-4).

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