EWU Records and Milestones Provide Silver Lining to Loss in Frisco

Sunday, January 6, 2019

(As reported on EWU website; photo by Erik Smith)

The silver linings abound for an Eastern Washington University football team that ended the 2018 season with an appearance in the NCAA Division I Championship Game in Frisco, Texas.
A variety of individual and school records were broken when the dust cleared from EWU's 38-24 loss to North Dakota State on Saturday (Jan. 5) as the Bison wrapped up their seventh title in the last eight years since EWU won in its first try in 2010.
Kicker Roldan Alcobendas closed his illustrious career with a NCAA Football Championship Subdivision record and a variety of other school marks. Eastern's running game, led by senior Sam McPherson and sophomore quarterback Eric Barriere, also broke a variety of records as well.
Eastern rallied from deficits of 17-3 in the first half and 31-17 in the second half to pull within seven of NDSU with 2:19 to play. But the Bison scored a late touchdown on a third-and-seven play and the Eagles were left with a 12-3 record and an eight-straight win short of a national title.
"We played our tails off," said Eastern head coach Aaron Best. "I thought we more than held our own for a lengthy period of time. We came in aggressively. We played aggressive. We coached aggressive. And we left here aggressive."
McPherson closed his career with 158 yards on 18 carries versus the Bison, including a 75-yard touchdown in the third quarter. He finished with 1,510 yards on the season to rank fourth in single season school history and his 2,159 career yards ranks 11th.

Eastern as a team averaged 4.8 per rush against NDSU to finish with a school-record 6.62 on the season and break the previous record of 6.41 set in 2001. The Eagles also added to previous team records they broke for rushing yards (3,839) and rushing touchdowns (41).
Barriere had just 10 rushing yards – scoring on a 5-yard run -- but that was enough for him to finish the season with 613 rushing yards and break the previous record for a quarterback of 606 set by Gage Gubrud in 2016. Barriere is now 9-2 as a starter, including 8-2 this season as an injury replacement for Gubrud. Eastern was 8-0 when he rushed for at least 20 yards this season.
"On the last touchdown we went down the field (80 yards on four plays) and that's what Eric Barriere is going to bring to us in the future," said Best of Barriere's season-ending performance that included 198 passing yards and two interceptions. "He was a puppy in this game and so was I. We all make mistakes, and to succeed you've got to fail. And he didn't fail today. He succeeded with small hurdles along the way."
A 40-yard field goal in the second quarter by Alcobendas helped him set the record for the best perfect record of field goals made in the history of the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision. He finished the year as the only player in FCS to be perfect on the season, finishing 16-of-16 to break the previous record of 15-of-15 set by Jon Scifres of Missouri State in 2004.
He also converted all three of his extra points and punted five times for a 45.2 average with a long of 58 and one downed inside the NDSU 20-yard line. That punting performance helped him establish new EWU season and school records for punting average – both at 44.9 per kick.
He finished with a school-record 119 kick scoring points in 2018 after having previously broken the record of 103 set by Josh Atwood in 1997. The 119 points ranks second in Big Sky history, just three from the league record of 122. Alcobendas finished with a school-record 320 career points which is sixth in Big Sky history. His streak of 70-straight extra points broke his own single season record of 63 consecutive in 2016. He set the career record for extra points in a row with 85 from 2016-17.
The Bison have now won 121 of 134 games since 2010, and have won all seven times they have advanced to the championship game since then (2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017, 2018). Eastern won in 2010 in its only previous title game appearance, and knocked off NDSU in the quarterfinals 38-31 in overtime that season in Cheney. The Eagles are 90-30 since 2010, a percentage of .750 that trails only the Bison at .903 and the .778 percentage (70-30) of Ivy League member Harvard, which does not participate in the playoffs.
"Everyone wanted to know if we were going to walk out of here losing 48-14 with our chins held high," added Best. "We're competitors and we earned the right to play in this game, too. And I'm excited to protect our players -- they earned this opportunity. And we fell short. Very close but short."