An ‘odd’ but successful spring season comes to an end in Fargo.
After an unprecedented spring season and an impressive 5-1 record, EWU football found itself in a familiar place on April 24 — back in the NCAA Division I Football Championship playoff. Their first-round opponent in the 16-team bracket was also well-known to Eagles players and fans — FCS national powerhouse North Dakota State University.
Unlike in previous years, the NDSU Bison seemed ripe for an upset, having lost two games during the spring campaign and failing, for the first time in a decade, to win at least a share of the Missouri Valley Conference title. But it was not to be. Playing on the road in the 19,000-seat FargoDome, a venue notoriously difficult for visiting teams, the Eagles struggled to contain the Bison running game and fell 42-20.
It was a dispiriting end to an otherwise exemplary short season, one that saw standout performances from several players. Chief among them was Walter Payton Award finalist and the Big Sky Conference Offensive MVP Eric Barriere, who finished the season with 2,579 yards of total offense and 19 passing touchdowns. In Fargo, Barriere completed 17 of 28 passes for 246 yards, a touchdown and interception. He has not yet announced whether he intends to return to Eastern as a sixth-year senior in the fall.
After the game, coach Aaron Best told reporters his team has earned a breather, but will be ready when FCS football returns to something approaching normal this fall.
“We need some time off physically and mentally,” Best said. “This has been such an abnormal season in a lot of different ways — in a lot of good ways but a lot of weird, odd and challenging ways, too.”
The Eagles will open the fall season on Thursday, Sept. 2 against UNLV at Allegiant Stadium, in Las Vegas, Nevada.