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CHENEY, Wash. — An injury to Northern Iowa quarterback Theo Day, lack of execution on offense and enough playmaking from Eastern Washington QB Eric Barriere sent the Eagles past the Panthers, 19-9, in the first round of the FCS playoffs on Saturday at Roos Field.
“We should have scored on the first drive,” UNI Coach Mark Farley said. “We knew we could stop them. As long as you keep them under 20 (points) you should win, but we didn’t perform on offense and they did a good job on defense.”
Day, who completed 12 of 22 passes for 189 yards and a touchdown, suffered a lower body injury in the second quarter that limited his mobility. Despite the injury, he engineered a nine-play, 85-yard touchdown drive just before halftime, completing 5 of 6 passes and pulling the Panthers within 9-7.
After the half, though, he threw an interception on the Panthers’ first drive and his physical limitations after cooling down during the break was enough to prompt a change to backup Matt Morrissey.
“(Day will) be fine. He was hurt and he couldn’t run,” Farley said. “That wasn’t the difference in the football game.
“The difference in the football game was we moved the ball into the red zone and we didn’t perform in the red zone.”
After a Day interception, Barriere flashed his elite ability, escaping Caden Houghtelling’s grasp on a would-be sack, reversing field and scrambling 18 yards for a touchdown.
“I don’t want to compare (Barriere) to anybody, that’s not fair to him,” Farley said. “He’s leading his team and that’s what a quarterback is supposed to do. Both plays he made were scrambles.”
Morrissey, who had only taken a few kneel downs in his UNI career, struggled against EWU’s defense, finishing 10 of 28 for 126 yards and two interceptions.
Trailing 19-7 in the middle of the fourth quarter, Morrissey’s second-down attempt from the EWU 27 for Daric Whipple near the end zone was picked off by Keshaun King. The Eagles defense stopped three more UNI drives before time expired, including one that reached the EWU 3.
“They were trying to take away Isaiah (Weston), we just don’t have Isaiah full-time, he’s part-time. But, he was effective when he was in there,” Farley pointed out.
Prior to Morrissey’s interception, trailing 16-7 late in the third quarter, Tim Butcher and Spencer Cuvelier committed face mask and unsportsmanlike conduct penalties that moved the Eagles up 30 yards into UNI territory.
Four plays after the penalties, Wyatt Hawkins’ 30-yard field extended the Eagles’ lead to 19-7.
“It was tough. Some calls just didn’t go our way, but that’s football,” UNI senior linebacker Alfonzo Lambert said. “We had to get our heads (right) and realize, all right, there’s still a lot of game left.”
UNI finishes its 2021 season 6-6.
“The message in the locker room was, one, learn from guys like Trevor (Penning), (Jared) Brinkman and Isaiah Weston. They’re different for a reason,” Farley said.
“That’s the key our team can take from those players.”