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Vandals' goal (again) — keep EWU QB Barriere a spectator

| October 16, 2021 1:10 AM

By MARK NELKE

Sports editor

Idaho's football team has competed against Eastern Washington quarterback Eric Barriere four times already — which, under normal circumstances, should probably be enough for a college career.

But thanks to COVID-19, Barriere is back for another season of tormenting defenses with his legs as well as his arm.

When Idaho (2-3, 1-1 Big Sky) visits EWU (6-0, 3-0) today at Roos Field in Cheney, the Vandals' best defense against the perennial player of the year candidate in FCS, and the second-ranked Eagles, might once again be their offense.

"It’s going to keep their quarterback standing on the sidelines as much as possible," Idaho coach Paul Petrino said, listing the keys to beating EWU. "We definitely can’t have three-and-outs."

In 2018, Barriere basically had a coming-out party against Idaho, in a 38-14 romp over the Vandals at Roos Field.

He passed for 326 yards and three touchdowns, and rushed for 70 yards and another score (it would have been more rushing yardage, except for 25 yards in sacks).

In 2019 in Moscow, Idaho kept the Eags off the field for much of the first half, building a 28-0 halftime lead en route to a 35-27 triumph.

Barriere passed for two TDs and ran for two scores, finishing with 365 yards through the air.

This past spring, in the season opener in Moscow, Idaho scored the last two TDs for a 28-21 win. Barriere threw for 339 yards and two scores, and finished with minus 16 yards rushing, thanks to 25 yards in sacks.

A few weeks later, Barriere passed for 309 yards and two scores, and ran for 40 net yards (which included 14 yards in sacks) in a 38-31 Eagle victory.

"We've got to give him a lot of different looks," Petrino said. "Do a good job putting pressure on him, and do a good job staying in coverage when he moves, because that’s when he gets a lot of his big plays."

Speaking of quarterbacks, Petrino said "hopefully" he will have both Mike Beaudry and Zach Borisch available today. Beaudry suffered a shoulder injury in last week's win vs. Portland State. CJ Jordan, who was part of a three-QB system at the start of the season, is expected to miss at least another week because of a shoulder injury.

Borisch, a converted running back, had his breakout game last year at EWU — by necessity. With all the QBs in quarantine for that game due to COVID-19, Vandal coaches put in an offense geared around Borisch's running — and they've kept it in this year for him.

Last year in Cheney, Borisch rushed for 205 yards and two touchdowns, and the Vandals went back and forth with EWU before the Eagles scored the last two TDs to escape with the win.

Eastern, off to its best start as an FCS school, isn't all Barriere, of course.

Running back Dennis Merritt is first in the FCS in total touchdowns (13), rushing touchdowns (12), and scoring (13.0 per game), and is also 10th in rushing yards (556). Talolo Limu-Jones is eighth in receiving yards (561), fourth in receiving yards per game (112.2) and 14th in receptions per game (6.6).

The Eagles are first nationally in scoring (51.2 per game), total offense (593.3 yards per game) and first downs (162), and are second in passing offense (429.5) and third in passing efficiency (174.5).

Barriere is first in passing touchdowns (21), and second in total offense (424.8) and passing yards per game (411.2).

"Our guys are always excited for Eastern," Petrino said, noting the Eagles' lofty ranking this season. "If you can’t be excited for that, you shouldn’t be playing college football. We shouldn’t be worried about motivation this week."

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