Montana at Eastern Washington

Montana's Justin Belknap (90) tries to tackle Eastern Washington's Eric Barriere on Oct. 2 at Roos Field in Cheney, Wash.

BOZEMAN — Eric Barriere didn’t merely set more records and earn more accolades. He did it while dealing with the recent death of a family member.

Barriere, Eastern Washington’s star redshirt senior quarterback, completed 26 of 35 passes (74.3%) for 600 yards and seven touchdowns in the Eagles’ 71-21 Big Sky win over rival Idaho on Saturday on the Roos Field red turf in Cheney, Washington. Barriere also rushed for a score to make a historic performance in a one-of-a-kind career even more remarkable.

Last Monday, Barriere found out that his aunt died in a car accident, he said in an EWU video after receiving the game ball on Saturday.

“I’ve been going through a lot this week,” Barriere told his teammates. “It’s been really tough on me, and I dedicated this game to her.”

It would’ve been hard to write a better dedication.

Barriere averaged 23.1 yards per completion (17.1 yards per attempt) and finished with a 284.3 passer rating against Idaho (2-4, 1-2 Big Sky). His 600 passing yards set a school record. They’re also the fourth-most ever in a Big Sky game and the eighth-best FCS single-game mark. The seven TD passes tied his own program record.

“He’s a really good player, but I think he was even a better player today, if that’s possible,” said Idaho coach Paul Petrino, via the Spokesman-Review.

EWU also set program records with 837 yards of total offense in the blowout and 29 points in the first quarter. Freddie Roberson caught nine Barriere passes for 192 yards and two TDs, Andrew Boston had five catches for 175 yards and a score and Dennis Merritt made three receptions for 102 yards and a TD.

The win continued a historic start for the Eagles, who are 7-0 (4-0 in conference) and ranked No. 2 in the Stats Perform FCS Top 25. 

Barriere’s performance made him a no-brainer for his fifth Big Sky offensive player of the week honor (fourth solo and fourth in five weeks), as well as the Stats Perform FCS national offensive player of the week.

The gap between Barriere and the next-best FCS quarterback widened. He leads the level in passing yards (3,067), passing yards per game (438.1), yards per completion (15.8), yards per attempt (11.0), passing TDs (28) and passer rating (190.7). He’s also rushed for two TDs, thrown five interceptions, topped 400 passing yards in a game four times and surpassed 500 yards three times.

Barriere’s lowest passing yardage in a game this fall was 264 in a 63-14 win over Central Washington. He’s thrown for at least 347 yards in the other six games.

“Eric Barriere, again, substantiates himself as the best player in the land at this level. Period, bar none, zero discussion as far as I'm concerned,” EWU coach Aaron Best said Saturday, via EWU. “He is explosive, he is selfless and he understands the run game complements the pass game.”

Griz fall, Cats rise in top 25

EWU stayed put at No. 2, but all of the other ranked Big Sky teams moved up or down in this week’s Stats Perform FCS Top 25.

Montana’s 28-21 home loss to Sacramento State on Saturday resulted in a drop from No. 5 to No. 11.

The Grizzlies’ rival, Montana State, rose one spot to No. 8 following its 13-7 win at then-No. 19 Weber State. The Bobcats are the second-highest Big Sky team in the rankings for the first time this season.

Montana State football coach Brent Vigen talks to reporters about the Bobcats' 13-7 win over Weber State on Friday, Oct. 15, 2021 in Ogden, Utah.

UC Davis rose from No. 13 to No. 10 after beating Northern Colorado 32-3.

Sac State traded places with Weber State, going from unranked to No. 19. While unranked, WSU received the fourth-most votes of any team outside of the top 25.

MSU earns weekly honors

In addition to Barriere, a pair of Bobcats got Big Sky player of the week awards.

Montana State defensive end Daniel Hardy and kicker Blake Glessner were named the defensive and special teams players of the week, respectively, marking the first time this season any Bobcat has received conference player of the week honors.

“In both cases, probably opportunities prior to this week where they could’ve been awarded that honor,” MSU coach Brent Vigen said Monday.

Hardy recorded eight tackles and three sacks in MSU’s win at Weber State on Friday night. The senior also forced a fumble that MSU recovered, and he received a Stats Perform FCS national defensive player of the week honorable mention.

Montana State defensive end Daniel Hardy talks to the media about the Bobcats' 13-7 win over Weber State, his big performance and more on Friday, Oct. 15, 2021 at Stewart Stadium in Ogden, Utah.

“Daniel has been very consistent with his efforts, and that’s where it starts for him,” Vigen said. “He’s all-out effort every play, and he would be the first one to say it’s not just about him up front. So really unselfish, but he’s put himself in position with his hard work in the offseason to really become a force.”

That Hardy-caused fumble led to the first of two field goals from Glessner. That kick, from 46 yards out, put the Bobcats up 10-7. The freshman’s second field goal was 32 yards away.

“He’s been very consistent as well, not only with his place kicks but also with kicking the ball off,” Vigen said. “His ball placement in that game, with their dangerous return game, was really important.”

Montana State kicker Blake Glessner talks about his player of the week honor, his field goals in the win over Weber State, his performance this season, teammate and fellow player of the week Daniel Hardy and more on Monday, Oct. 18, 2021 at the Bobcat Athletic Complex in Bozeman. 

NAU goes off in Grand Canyon Trophy game

Northern Arizona beat Southern Utah 59-35 on Saturday to win the Grand Canyon Trophy for the second straight season, and the Lumberjacks won’t be giving the trophy back any time soon.

Earlier this year, Southern Utah announced it would be leaving the Big Sky after 10 years and joining the Western Athletic Conference in 2022. The move means SUU’s annual rivalry game with NAU will take a break, since they’ll be in different conferences and have their nonconference schedules booked for several years.

The Grand Canyon series will pick back up in 2028 in Flagstaff, Arizona. NAU and SUU agreed to a 12-year contract in June, with six games each in Flagstaff and Cedar City, Utah, on an alternating cycle.

NAU (3-3, 2-1 Big Sky) retained the Grand Canyon Trophy with a dominant home performance against the Thunderbirds (1-6, 0-4) on Saturday. The Lumberjacks built a 24-0 lead and answered with touchdowns when SUU twice cut its deficit to 10 points in the second half.

The Lumberjacks finished with 721 total yards, the third most in program history. They also had two 150-yard receivers and a 100-yard rusher for the first time in a single game. Kevin Daniels rushed for 229 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries (12.1 yards per carry), while Hendrix Johnson caught five passes for 174 yards and two TDs and Coleman Owen had 163 yards and two scores on nine receptions.

NAU quarterback RJ Martinez went 23 of 29 (79.3%) for 417 yards, five TDs and no picks.

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