Aggies are 0-10 against Eagles

Eric Barriere is gone, so UC Davis might have a fighting chance of beating Eastern Washington on Saturday night in Davis. And a win would be a first for the Aggies, who are 0-10 all-time against the Eagles and can blame Barriere for four of those losses because the quarterback made a difference in each of those four games.

In those four games, Barriere completed 101 of 150 passes for 1,324 yards and 10 touchdowns. He threw two interceptions and was sacked six times, including five in the Eagles’ 34-29 victory in the 2018 FCS playoffs. UC Davis, Eastern Washington and Weber State shared the Big Sky Conference championship five years ago.

Eastern Washington’s Eric Barriere had his way with UC Davis, passing for 1,324 yards and 10 touchdowns in four victories.

The five-point loss was the closest the Aggies came to beating Berriere and the Eagles. The playoff game came four weeks after UC Davis traveled to Cheney and was knocked out cold in a 59-20 victory. At least the Eagles were nice enough to shovel the snow from the red turf and provide sideline heaters for the Aggies.

Barriere threw for 285 yards and one touchdown, but the Eagles did not need anything more from him because they rushed for 370 yards and six touchdowns. Eastern Washington ran 94 offensive plays to 50 for UC Davis and had a 37:15-22:45 edge in time of possession. A 69-yard touchdown run by Tehran Thomas with 22 seconds to play in the second quarter left UC Davis trailing 21-17 at halftime.

Eastern Washington scored twice in the first seven minutes of the third quarter to blow the game open. Barriere’s touchdown pass came with 41 seconds remaining in the game, adding insult to injury for UC Davis. Why Barriere was still in the game with the Eagles leading by 32 points in the fourth quarter is anyone’s guess.

In the playoff rematch, UC Davis was 73 seconds away from its first victory against Eastern Washington after Jake Maier’s 3-yard touchdown pass to Ulonzo Gilliam. The Aggies passed on an extra-point attempt to tie the game and took the lead when Maier connected with Namane Modise for the two-point conversion.

Eastern Washington needed just 47 seconds to regain the lead. Berriere had a 29-yard run and then threw an 11-yard pass to Nsimba Webster. Focusing on Barriere cost the Aggies when Sam McPherson broke loose for a 35-yard touchdown run.

The next meeting came in April 2021 after the spread of COVID-19 led to the 2020 season being reduced to a five-game schedule in the spring. Berriere was 30-of-41 for 393 yards and three touchdowns. Two of his scoring passes came in the first half as the Eagles jumped out to a 16-0 lead on their way to a 32-22 victory.

It was more of the same seven months later when the teams met in Davis. Barriere was 34-of-54 for 411 yards and three touchdowns in a 38-20 victory. The Aggies finished the season with a three-game losing streak, falling 27-7 to Sacramento State in the Causeway Classic and 54-26 at South Dakota State in the playoffs.

Eastern Washington’s quarterback on Saturday will be redshirt sophomore Kekoa Visperas, who has thrown for 849 yards and five touchdowns in three games. The Eagles are 1-2 with losses to No. 2-ranked North Dakota State and Fresno State in double overtime. The Aggies are 2-1 and ranked 15th with their only loss coming at Oregon State, which is ranked 14th in the Associated Press Top 25 poll.

Six Big Sky teams are ranked in the FCS coaches poll and there will be two battles of ranked teams on Saturday in the first week of the conference season. Third-ranked Montana State will travel to No. 8 Weber State and No. 4 Sacramento State will pay a visit No. 10 Idaho. Montana is No. 11 and will travel to Northern Arizona.

Plenty on line in Causeway

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Miles Hastings will start at quarterback for UC Davis in the Causeway Classic.

Much more than bragging rights will be at stake Saturday when UC Davis hosts Sacramento State in the 67th edition of the Causeway Classic. This will be the third consecutive meeting of the rivals with a piece of the Big Sky Conference championship on the line. The Aggies shared the title in 2018, the Hornets did the same two years ago and Sacramento State can claim the crown outright Saturday with a victory and a Montana State loss to Montana.

Montana State kicks off two hours before the Causeway Classic beings at 1 p.m., so the Hornets should know by halftime if they have a chance to have the title all to themselves. The Causeway Classic is hardly a road game for the visiting team, but Sacramento State has not lost a Big Sky game away from Hornet Stadium since Troy Taylor signed a seven-year contract to become the Hornets coach in 2019. The Hornets are 7-0 on the Big Sky road with one of their victories just so happening to come at Montana State in 2019

Sacramento State is riding a seven-game winning streak, its longest in 55 years, with all of those victories coming against Big Sky opponents. The Hornets dropped two of their three nonconference games, including a 42-30 loss at Cal on Sept. 18. Sacramento State also lost to Northern Iowa, which at the time was ranked 15th in the FCS Top 25. The Panthers fell out of the rankings this week but could be one of 13 teams to receive at-large berths to the FCS playoffs. The 24-team bracket will be announced at 9:30 a.m. Sunday on ESPNU.

UC Davis (5-2 Big Sky, 8-2 overall) fell four spots to No. 10 in the rankings after losing 38-20 to Eastern Washington last Saturday. A Top 10 spot should be enough to get the Aggies an at-large berth into the playoffs regardles of Saturday’s outcome. Sacramento State (7-0, 8-2) is No. 11 and will be the Big Sky’s automatic qualifier with a victory and a Montana State loss. If both the Hornets and Bobcats lose, Sacramento State will receive the automatic bid by virtue of its 28-21 victory Oct. 16 at Montana, which at the time was ranked No. 5. The Grizzlies are currently No. 7, two spots below Eastern Washington.

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Eric Barriere

The Big Sky should have five teams in the playoffs and there is a good chance two of them will meet at some point. That happened in 2019 with Weber State defeating Montana in the quarterfinals. Sacramento State was seeded fourth two years ago, drew a first-round bye and then lost to Austin Peay. UC Davis and Eastern Washington met in the second round in 2018, four weeks after the Aggies lost 59-20 to the Eagles on Nov. 10 in Cheney. UC Davis returned to Cheney for the playoff rematch and lost 34-29 when Eastern Washington’s Sam McPherson scored on a 35-yard run with 26 seconds to play.

Eastern Washington has continued to have its way with UC Davis. Last Saturday’s victory was the Eagles’ 10th in as many meetings with the Aggies. Quarterback Eric Barriere has personally seen to maintaining the Eagles’ superiority. In four games against UC Davis, Barriere has thrown for 1,324 yards and 10 touchdowns. The redshirt senior was at it again last Saturday in Davis by throwing for 411 yards and three touchdowns without being sacked. That was a standard performance for Barriere, who passed for 600 yards and seven touchdowns in the Eagles’ 71-21 victory over Idaho on Oct. 16.

UC Davis coach Dan Hawkins tipped his figurative cap to Barriere last Saturday. “He’s a generational talent. He could play at any level and play well,” Hawkins said. “As I told our team and him, I have had the fortune or misfortune of playing against a number of Heisman Trophy winners and (Heisman) finalists. (Barriere is) as dominant a player as anyone I’ve played against. You’re not going to shut him down. You just try to limit what he can do.”

Wrestling with Sacramento State’s tag team of quarterbacks should prove much easier for UC Davis than trying to take down Barriere. Taylor plays to the respective strengths of Jake Dunniway (2,051 yards passing and 11 touchdowns) and Asher O’Hara (a team-high 593 yards rushing and eight touchdowns).

Hawkins has done the same at UC Davis with redshirt freshmen Miles Hastings (920 yards passing and six touchdowns) and Trent Tompkins (420 yards rushing and six touchdowns) taking turns. Hunter Rodrigues started the first four games this season after starting all five games last spring. The junior has not been the same since sustaining a concussion at Weber State on Sept. 25. He missed the Idaho game and was benched after tossing two interceptions in the first half of a 27-17 loss at Idaho State on Oct. 9.

Two more interceptions against Northern Colorado on Oct. 16 convinced Hawkins to go with Hastings, who has started the past three games. Hawkins has not lost faith in Rodrigues even thought Rodrigues has lost the starting job. “I think for a variety of reasons he was pressing,” Hawkins said. “I felt bad because it had to be hard for him. But as my dad told me a long time ago, life is not fair and either is football. Humility before honor – I get it.”