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Eastern Washington notebook: Antoine Custer confident Eagles will bounce back

UPDATED: Sat., Sept. 14, 2019, 10:46 p.m.

Eastern Washington running back Antoine Custer  rushes the ball against Jacksonville State on Saturday, Sept. 14, 2019, in Jacksonville, Alabama. (Doug Kelley / EWU Athletics)
Eastern Washington running back Antoine Custer rushes the ball against Jacksonville State on Saturday, Sept. 14, 2019, in Jacksonville, Alabama. (Doug Kelley / EWU Athletics)

JACKSONVILLE, Ala. – Antoine Custer had reason to grimace following Eastern Washington’s gut-punching 49-45 loss at Jacksonville State on Saturday, but the senior running back smiled through the discomfort.

It wasn’t because he totaled 216 yards – including a career-high 184 on the ground – in the 17th-ranked Gamecocks’ wild come-from-behind win over fourth-ranked EWU.

Three weeks into the regular season and without playing a Big Sky Conference game, Custer kept things in perspective.

“It was a bad loss and good at the same time,” said Custer, who referred to the game as a growing experience littered with positives, and with a few glaring problems.

Custer, who had 28 carries and three receptions, had battled injuries over the last two seasons but had still been a major component of the Eagles’ running back group.

But with fellow senior running backs Dennis Merritt (likely out for the season with a leg injury) and Tamarick Pierce (has yet to carry the football since a knee injury in last year’s playoffs) injured, Custer knew he’d need to increase his workload and improve his durability

He was much like the 2017 All-Big Sky version of himself in the loss, hitting narrow holes and ripping off chunks of yards while also being a viable receiving threat.

Custer’s 100-yard game was his first since the ninth game of EWU’s 2018 regular season.

Now he and the Eagles (1-2) are eager to make this week’s short trip to Moscow, where the Eagles will face Idaho (1-2) in a nonconference game.

“We’re fired up right now. We can’t wait to get back to the drawing board,” Custer said.

Mr. Big Start

For the second straight week EWU receiver Dre’ Sonte Dorton started the game with a big play. Last week, he scored on the first play from scrimmage with a 78-yard touchdown reception against Lindenwood. On Saturday, he returned the game’s opening kick for a touchdown.

Veteran receivers end droughts

It had been almost two seasons since fifth-year senior receivers Jayson Williams and Talolo Limu-Jones hauled in a touchdown pass.

Both ended their respective droughts, with Williams hauling in two touchdown passes and Limu-Jones taking scoring once.

True freshmen step up

EWU put about a half-dozen true freshmen on its travel roster this week, and some have earned their keep.

Defensive lineman Sebastian Gomez broke up a pass and had a sack. Defensive back Marlon Jones Jr. forced a fumble, and running back Silas Perreiah had four carries for 11 yards.

Prunty ejected

The backside of EWU’s defense was dealt a blow when senior safety Tysen Prunty was called for targeting in first half and subsequently ejected for the illegal hit.

Harrison steps up

With starting place-kicker Andre Slyter injured, former Coeur d’Alene High athlete Seth Harrison stepped in for EWU, connecting on his only field-goal attempt and recovering a fumble on a kickoff.

Bad trends

Through three games, EWU has allowed 10 sacks and is yielding an average of 42.3 points and 33.7 yards a punt.

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