FRISCO, Texas -- Eastern Washington sophomore quarterback Eric Barriere didn’t expect to play much this season, let alone lead the Eagles to the NCAA Division I FCS national championship game.
Eastern Washington has won seven consecutive games heading into Saturday’s title game against North Dakota State. Barriere was one of the most popular interviews during Thursday’s media session on the south end of Toyota Stadium.
“It’s pretty crazy because I didn’t think I was even going to play this year,” Barriere said. “I thought I would just get my snaps here and there.”
Barriere went 1-1 in his first two career starts after senior All-American quarterback Gage Gubrud went down with a season-ending foot injury. The Eagles had a bye week after a 14-6 road loss against Weber State on Oct. 13. They haven’t lost since.
“After the bye week, that’s when it started getting comfortable, getting it rolling, everybody starting to believe in me,” Barriere said. “You never know when your name will be called so you always just got to work and have belief.”
The 6-foot, 195-pound Barriere has completed 177 of 286 passes for 2,252 yards and 24 touchdowns. He’s also rushed for 603 yards and seven touchdowns on 90 attempts. Barriere passed for 352 yards and seven touchdowns in a 50-19 victory against Maine in the FCS semifinals in Cheney, Wash.
“He’s really athletic and I think they’re almost more dynamic with him,” Bison safety James Hendricks said. “They’re running game is a little bit more efficient and they’re really explosive in the pass game. They’ve got a lot skill positions that are really fast and they have a lot of team speed.”
Hendricks compared Barriere to South Dakota State quarterback Taryn Christion with his ability to escape the pocket and make big plays with his legs.
“But he’s his own player and he’s a really good player and he’s good at what he does,” Hendricks said.
Eastern Washington senior running back Sam McPherson, who has rushed for 1,352 yards and 12 touchdowns, admitted there was some concern after Gubrud got injured.
“When Gage went down, I’m not going to lie, you’re a little worried,” McPherson said.
However, Barriere quickly erased any doubt with his dynamic, big-play ability.
“He’s just a freak athlete. The guy can scramble like crazy,” McPherson said. “He’s a game changer. He will make those plays that most people can’t make. That’s what makes him special.”
NDSU defensive coordinator Matt Entz said one of the keys to containing high-powered Eastern Washington, which is averaging 44.5 points per game, is to keep Barriere in the pocket.
“He’s a dynamic player,” Entz said. “I’m always concerned about being about to keep the quarterback in the pocket.”
Barriere said he’s prepared to play in a stadium Saturday that should be mostly filled with NDSU fans.
“We know there is going to be a bunch of Bison fans here so it’s pretty much going to be like an away game in a way,” Barriere said. "We’ve just got to go out there and just try to settle in … and be ourselves.
"We’ve just got to start fast all four quarters and I think that will be key.”