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3-2-1, football: The Daily’s primer on Eastern Washington

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Eric Barriere

EWU QB Eric Barriere (#3) evades a tackler during EWU's 50-19 rout over Maine in the 2018 FCS Semifinals.

After nearly eight months without football since the Rose Bowl loss to Ohio State, the Washington football team is preparing to open its season against Eastern Washington for a week one matchup. Let’s take a closer look at the keys and figures of the Huskies’ first opponent of the 2019 season.

3 numbers to know

43.1: The Eagles ranked fourth in the FCS in scoring average a year ago, with just over 43 points per game in 2018, despite scoring the most points due to an extended run in the playoffs. quarterback Gage Gubrud led the Eastern Washington offense for the first five games of the season, but sophomore Eric Barriere filled in after Gubrud suffered an injury in the fifth game. Barriere ensured the Eagles offense remained high-flying, including a 74-point performance against Portland State in which he threw for five touchdowns and rushed in another. 

4: Despite a strong passing attack, the Eagles also had four players eclipse 550 yards rushing in 2018. Then-senior Sam McPherson spearheaded the Eagles’ rushing attack and ran for 1,510 yards to go along with 13 rushing touchdowns. Now a senior, Antoine Custer Jr. compiled 625 rushing yards and hit paydirt eight times as a good complementary option to McPherson a year ago but is due for a larger workload this season. Barriere ended the 2018 campaign as the third-leading rusher for the Eagles and tallied 613 yards in addition to eight rushing scores. Senior tailback Tamarick Pierce rounds out Eastern’s rushing threat after averaging 7.9 yards per carry and totaling 550 yards.

100: A senior last season, placekicker Roldan Alcobendas nailed all 16 of his field goal attempts last season for the Eagles, a perfect 100%. Alcobendas’ 2018 season included four goals from over 40 yards. He had 119 points on the season, which marked the third time in the last 10 years where an Eastern Washington placekicker has had at least 100 points. While Alcobendas has since graduated, EWU will look to Andre Slyter to be consistent on his kicks as the Eagles primary place kicking option in 2019. 

2 players to watch

Jayce Gilder - TE 

Redshirt senior tight end Jayce Gilder was second on the team in receiving touchdowns. With leading wide receiver Nsimba Webster off to the NFL with the Los Angeles Rams, Gilder should build off last year’s numbers and is firmly in the running to lead Eastern Washington’s receiving corps in scoring. Gilder was also named one of five co-captains for the upcoming season. 

Chris Ojoh - LB

As a sophomore, Chris Ojoh started eight games throughout the season. After making his starting debut against Cal Poly, Ojoh was a key player for the Eagles during their seven-game winning streak that stretched fr om mid-October to mid-December. He elevated his play in the championship game against North Dakota State, where he tallied 11 tackles and a sack. Ojoh will be a starting linebacker this season and should emerge as a leader for the defense.

1 recap of last season

After starting the year out with two wins, the Eagles lost a non-conference matchup against Washington State in Pullman. Eastern Washington would bounce back and win its next three conference games before falling short in an away game to No. 13 Weber State. Following the loss, the Eagles emerged victorious in their next four games to finish their regular season with a (9-2, 7-1) record.

Eastern Washington earned a No. 3 seed in the FCS football bracket which gave them a first-round bye. The Eagles advanced to the finals after defeating Nicholls State in the second round, No. 6 seed UC Davis in the quarterfinals, and Maine in the semifinals. 

Eastern lost to the No. 1 North Dakota State in the championship game 38-24. This title game appearance marked the Eagle’s first since they defeated Delaware 20-19 in 2010.

Reach reporter Evan Wong at sports@dailyuw.com. Twitter: @evan_wong29

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