No. 22/21 Eastern rallies, but falls at Sacramento State 48-27

No. 22/21 Eastern rallies, but falls at Sacramento State 48-27
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The consistency bugaboo caught up with the Eagles once again.

The No. 22/21 Eastern Washington University football team made plenty of plays and had plenty of stops, but it wasn’t enough as the Eagles lost 48-27 to Sacramento State Saturday (Oct. 5) in a Big Sky Conference game at Hornet Stadium.

The Hornets scored 21 unanswered points in the first half to help them open up a 20-point lead in the third quarter and won for the first time in Sacramento against the Eagles in 13 tries. Eastern scored a pair of touchdowns in the last 18:30 of the game, but Sac State held on to beat EWU for just the fifth time in 24 meetings thanks to returns of both an interception and fumble for touchdowns.

Eastern punted six times – five on three-and-outs – and missed on its first three attempts to convert fourth downs. The Eagles also had 11 penalties for 97 yards, compared to five for 62 yards for Sac State.

“We were in the game,” said Eastern head coach Aaron Best . “When they had their sack-fumble returned for a touchdown, we were within two scores and had the ball. So we were in the game, No. 1. That’s who we are and who we are going to be.”

Quarterback Eric Barriere led the Eagles with 412 yards of total offense, including 309 through the air and 102 on the ground with one touchdown rushing and two passing. Antoine Custer Jr. added 55 yards and a touchdown on the ground, and Jayson Williams led EWU receivers with seven catches for 120 yards.

The Eagle defense kept EWU in the game by forcing six Hornet punts and allowing Sac State to convert just two of its first 10 third downs. Dehonta Hayes had 17 tackles for the Eagles, matching the 17 he had versus Idaho two games ago. Calin Criner had 12, and Tre Weed had six plus his first career interception.

Eastern jumped out to an early 7-0 lead on a 75-yard drive to start the game, but Sac State scored the next 21 points to open a 21-7 advantage. Included was a 27-yard interception return for a TD by the Hornets.

Barriere scored on a 92-yard run on the next possession – the fourth-longest in school history – but he would leave the game shortly after that and not return until the third quarter.

In the meantime, Sac State was able to score once at the end of the second quarter and once in the third to take a 34-14 lead with 5:15 to play. With Barriere back in the game, Eastern rallied to score on drives of 71 yards and 59 yards to cut the lead to a single score. The second touchdown came with 13:11 left to play on a 27-yard TD pass from Barriere to Jayson Williams .

However, Sac State converted two third downs on its next possession, and took a 41-27 lead with a 75-yard drive. The 13 plays and time elapsed of 6:55 were season highs for the Hornets. Sac State provided the dagger with 2:18 to play on a 73-yard fumble return for a touchdown with 2:18 to play.

Records & Rankings . . .

* Eastern is 2-4 overall and 1-1 Big Sky Conference play, with a 35-20 victory over North Dakota on Sept. 28 counting in the league standings for EWU. Prior to that, the Eagles had lost their previous two games to FCS competition by a total of 12 points.

* Now 3-2 overall and 0-0 in the Big Sky, Sac State is coached by Troy Taylor, who spent the 2016 season as offensive coordinator at Eastern before moving on to the same position for two seasons at Utah. This is his first season at the helm, and the Hornets lost a pair of close games to FBS foes – 19-7 at Arizona State on Sept. 6 and 34-20 at Fresno State on Sept. 21. While he was at Eastern alongside former head coach Beau Baldwin and Best as running game coordinator, the Eagles led the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision in passing offense (401.0 per game) and were second in total offense (529.6) and third in scoring (42.4).

What’s Next . . .

* The No. 22/21 Eastern Washington University Eagles will put a pair of 11-game winning streaks on the line in EWU’s 93rd Homecoming Game when Northern Colorado comes to Roos Field on Oct. 12 in what promises to be yet another wild and wooly league game. Kickoff is 1:10 p.m. Pacific time at “The Inferno” in a game broadcast regionally by ROOT Sports and nationally via the DirecTV Audience Network. Eastern will try to establish a new school record for consecutive home victories at the current site of Roos Field (formerly Woodward Field), plus extend a long winning streak over UNC. Both streaks are at 11, as EWU hasn’t lost a home on the red turf since Nov. 4, 2017. The Eagles fell at Northern Colorado in 1981, but haven’t lost since in the 13-game history of the series. Eastern’s 11-game winning streak includes the last 10 with the Bears as a member of the Big Sky Conference. Eastern is 55-34-3 in its previous 92 Homecoming contests, and last year beat Idaho 38-14. The year prior, EWU fell to Weber State 28-20 after beating Northern Colorado 49-31 in 2016.

Key Stats . . .

* Eastern finished with 497 yards of total offense, while Sac State had 471. Eastern entered the Sacramento State game ranked 14th in the FCS in total offense (469.8), 21st in passing (297.0), 52nd in rushing (172.8) and 20th in scoring (36.0). Sac State team entered 16th in FCS in passing offense (301.0), 17th in total offense (462.3) and 11th in scoring (38.5).

EWU Highlights . . .

* A 92-yard touchdown run by Eric Barriere after he was flushed out of the pocket by Sacramento State equaled the longest run in school history. It only ranks behind runs of 96 by Taiwan Jones (2009 versus Idaho State), 95 by John Ditz (1954 versus Lewis & Clark) and 94 by Sam McPherson (2018 versus Northern Arizona). It was the longest run by a quarterback, with the previous long set by Barriere at Portland State in 2018 when he had an 85-yard run. The Eagles had four runs of at least 81 yards in 2018.

* Senior defensive end Darnell Hogan made the first start of his career, giving EWU a total of 14 players who have made their starting debuts in 2019. Hogan is from Seattle and graduated in 2015 from Cleveland High School, and the Sac State game was his 31st as an Eagle.