CHENEY, Wash.— Eric Barriere threw seven touchdown passes as third seeded Eastern Washington beat seventh seeded Maine 50-19 in the semifinals of the Division I FCS playoffs, to advance to the national title game for the second time in the school’s history.
The Eagles broke a three-game losing streak in playoff semifinal games.
“We were in control from the start,” EWU coach Aaron Best said. “We made a statement on offense.”
Nsimba Webster caught four touchdown passes for Eastern Washington (12-2), which was playing in the national semifinals for the fifth time in nine years. He had nine catches for 188 yards.
Barriere completed 21 of 30 passes for 352 yards and tied the school record for scoring passes in a game. Barriere did not become a starter until mid-season, when starter Gage Gubrud was lost to an injury.
“I can’t believe he is the backup,” Maine coach Joe Harasymiak said.
Chris Ferguson threw for 325 yards for Maine (10-4), which was making its first appearance in the semifinals. He, however, also committed some key turnovers early.
“You can’t start that way early in the first quarter,” Harasymiak said. “They were the better team today. I’m proud of these seniors for taking us to a level we have never been to. We’ll be back.”
Eastern’s Josh Lewis intercepted a Ferguson pass deep in Maine territory and was tackled on the 1-yard line. Barriere threw a touchdown pass to Andrew Boston for a 7-0 lead.
Ferguson fumbled near midfield on Maine’s next possession and Eastern recovered. Barriere threw a 3-yard pass to Jayce Gilder for a 14-0 lead.
Barriere’s 11-yard touchdown pass to Webster gave the Big Sky Conference tri-champions a 21-0 lead, still in the first quarter.
Barriere’s fourth touchdown pass, a 16-yarder to Webster late in the second quarter, made it 28-0 at halftime.
Maine finally scored on a safety in the opening seconds of the second half, when a bad snap sent the ball into the Eastern end zone and Barrierre kicked it out the back.
Following the safety kick, Maine got a 31-yard field goal from Kenny Doak.
Barriere replied with a 9-yard touchdown pass to Webster for a 35-5 lead.
Maine’s first touchdown came on a 47-yard pass from Ferguson to Andre Miller midway through the third quarter to make it 35-12.
Joe Fitzpatrick ran for a touchdown as Maine cut its deficit to 35-19 late in the third quarter.
Barriere quickly replied with a 58-yard scoring pass to Webster, and with a successful two-point conversion EWU took a 43-19 lead just before the end of the third quarter.
Barriere threw his seventh touchdown with a 29-yarder to Gilder in the fourth quarter to finish the scoring.
Maine registered 479 yards of offense, while Eastern Washington forced four turnovers.
The Eagles won the national title in 2010, but had lost three times in the semifinals since (2012, 2013 and 2016 all at home) but avenged those losses in getting to trip now to Frisco, Texas this year.
Eastern Washington will play top seeded North Dakota State in the Division I FCS Championship game on Jan. 5th. The Bison defeated South Dakota State, 44-21, to advance to its seventh title game in eight years.