×
×
homepage logo

Weber State football takes no margin for error in trip to face explosive Eastern Washington

By Brett Hein - | Oct 22, 2021

MATT HERP, Standard-Examiner

Weber State's Rashid Shaheed (22) dives to catch a touchdown pass while defended by Eastern Washington's Josh Lewis (1) in the first half of play Saturday, Oct. 13, 2018, at Stewart Stadium in Ogden.

Weber State football’s close calls of being one play away against ranked opponents lead to this week’s daunting road trip where the Wildcats visit No. 2 Eastern Washington with no margin of error left to use.

At 2-4 overall and 1-2 in the Big Sky, it’s almost assured that Weber State must win its final five games to make the playoffs.

“There’s a lot riding on it, but also at the same time, this is the same as any other week in the way we’re going to watch film, we’re going to practice hard, we’re going to get ready for them — obviously knowing they’re a great team,” senior defensive tackle Jared Schiess said. “I’m not really trying to look big scheme and just focus on the week. If you don’t take care of business the week in front of you, it doesn’t matter what’s after that.”

Eastern Washington is riding a 20-game win streak on its Elmo-like turf. Its last defeat at Roos Field came Nov. 4, 2017, when Weber State won 28-20 against the No. 11 Eagles.

The last time the two teams played was quarterback Eric Barriere’s second start for Eastern Washington. On Oct. 13, 2018, the No. 3 Eagles visited Ogden, gained 247 yards and did not find the end zone in a 14-6 loss.

It’s hard to imagine such a feat now. Barriere’s most recent exploit came last week, throwing for 600 yards and seven touchdowns in a 71-21 rout of Idaho in which he did not play the entire game — a feat leading conference officials to justifiably tout Barriere’s credentials as a player who should receive Heisman Trophy votes, an award pretty exclusively reserved for the best FBS player.

WSU head coach Jay Hill is confident his defense, which is holding opponents to as much as half their usual yardage outputs, can be up to the challenge.

“We’ve played good against it every time we’ve faced it,” Hill said. “They’re definitely playing at a high level. Barriere’s playing great, the wideouts are playing great, I think the O-line is doing a great job protecting him. It will be a great matchup, no doubt.”

Eastern Washington is 7-0 and averages 54 points and 628 yards per game.

Andrew Boston leads Eastern at 90 receiving yards per game as one of many weapons surrounding Barriere. Leading receiver Talolo Limu-Jones was hurt in a win over Montana and, despite leaving early before EWU completed a comeback win, finished that game with 11 catches for 231 yards.

Last week against Idaho, Freddie Roberson racked up 192 receiving yards, Boston 175 and Dennis Merrit 102.

Oh, and Merritt added 75 rushing yards among three top rushers that helped total 213 yards on the ground.

Weber State feels it’s going to be able to present a problem EWU isn’t used to, as it has in past matchups — at least enough to slow down the explosive Eagles.

“I feel like we’re going to be able to keep a team that’s used to running up and down the field, they’re going to be a little surprised when they feel they can’t just do what they’ve always done, is the goal,” Schiess said.

Even so, WSU’s offense will need to rise to the occasion after again outgaining an opponent but not finishing drives in a 13-7 loss to Montana State last week. The Wildcats took the game’s opening drive 97 yards for a touchdown and never entered the red zone again. Weber State has dealt with quarterback injuries to the point that season starter Bronson Barron has played in 10 of the season’s 24 quarters to date.

“We lose (Barron) for 3.5 games and it’s hurt, bad, our progression on what we’ve wanted to be,” Hill said. “I think he showed flashes last week in the Montana State game, there were things he did that looked like he’s on his way back. But we need to play better and take care of the ball better.”

Turnovers will continue to be a focus for Weber State, which is minus-6 for the season and did not create a turnover against Montana State.

“That’s one thing that’s killed us right now … you’re not going to beat the elite teams in the league doing that,” Hill said.

Schiess said if the defense stays the course and plays as well as it has, turnovers will come.

“From a D-lineman’s perspective, it’s going to be a lot of effort just going as hard as you can on every play and … it comes down to preparation as well,” he said. “Being able to prepare in a way that we’re able to be confident in our reads, confident in our decisions and able to make turnovers based on how confident we are in what we’re seeing.”

ODDS & PREDICTIONS

Jeff Sagarin, longtime college football computer ratings guru, ranks all of FBS and FCS together. His system ranks Weber State 132nd nationally and Eastern Washington 89th.

Using his prediction formula and accounting for home-field advantage, Eastern Washington is favored by 12 points.

WEATHER

It rained some Friday in Cheney, Washington, but it looks like this game will avoid precipitation. The forecast calls for cloudy skies and 52 degrees at the 2 p.m. MDT kickoff, and for the weather to remain pretty static throughout the game.

TV & RADIO

The game will air via live stream on the ESPN+ subscription platform, available through the ESPN app on streaming or mobile devices, or on a browser at watchespn.com.

Weber State’s radio call with Steve Klauke and Jerry Graybeal will air locally on 103.1 FM and online at 1031thewave.com.

Newsletter

Join thousands already receiving our daily newsletter.

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)