CHENEY, Wash. — For most of the season, the University of Maine was able to dictate football games behind a dominant run defense.

But in the FCS semifinals Saturday, Eastern Washington capitalized on two early turnovers, took a four-touchdown halftime lead and ended Maine’s season with a 50-19 victory on the red turf of Roos Field.

The Eagles (12-2) moved the ball quickly and at will much of the game, racking up 568 yards, the most allowed by the Black Bears (10-4) all season.

Eric Barriere set an Eastern Washington postseason record with seven touchdown passes, and the Eagles gouged the Black Bears for 216 rushing yards after Maine held Weber State to minus-1 a week ago.

The 216 yards was the most allowed on the ground by Maine this season.

“We left plays out there,” said Maine safety Jeff DeVaughn. “It wasn’t the Black Hole today.”

Maine’s offense didn’t play much better. After Kenny Doak missed a 46-yard field- goal attempt – short, into the wind – on the Black Bears’ first drive, Chris Ferguson threw an interception on their next, then fumbled on the third.

The Eagles turned both turnovers into touchdowns.

“Those two are obviously on me,” said Ferguson. “We can’t start that way. We put our defense in a hole, and once we got in that hole it was tough to get out.”

Maine’s next four drives ended in punts, and it mustered just 59 yards on 22 first-half carries while attempting to establish some balance on offense. Not once in the first half did the Black Bears reach the red zone.

The Eagles, on the other hand, scored on four of their five red-zone visits in the first half, putting the Black Bears, down 28-0, in their biggest deficit since a comeback 31-28 victory over Western Kentucky on Sept. 8.

The Black Bears found life early in the third quarter. They got a safety on a bad snap by the Eagles, and Doak booted a 31-yard field goal on their next drive to make it 28-5.

But again, Barriere had a quick answer: a 5-play, 62-yard touchdown drive, and Maine was forced to throw, almost exclusively, from then on.

“Once it got to about 11 minutes left in the third quarter, we decided we had to chuck it and start going for it on fourth down,” Maine Coach Joe Harasymiak said. “It’s tough in those situations because you really don’t go over that as a coach, being down four scores. … You’ve got to come to grips with the reality of the situation.”

Ferguson completed 28 of a season-high 54 passes for 325 yards.

For a while, the pass-heavy strategy worked. After falling behind 35-5, the Black Bears scored consecutive touchdowns – a 47-yard catch by Andre Miller, then a 2-yard run by Joe Fitzpatrick – to draw within 35-19.

But again, Barriere and the Eagles scored quickly when Barriere found Nsimba Walker wide open for a 58-yard touchdown – Walker’s fourth of the game. Eastern Washington scored the fourth quarter’s only touchdown to make it the most points allowed by the Black Bears all year.

“Bottom line, the matchups: They won every single one of them,” Harasymiak said. “The defense for us has been winning those all year. But today they did a really good job of winning those matchups, and our style of defense is going to come down to one-on-ones, and today we just lost them.”

Maine went without a sack for the first time since Oct. 22, 2016, and lost the turnover count (1 to 4) for the seventh time this season.

This was the farthest into the FCS playoffs Maine had ever advanced.

“We took us to a place we’ve never been, and now we’ve set a standard,” Harasymiak said. “We’ve got to keep doing the things that great programs do to get back here.

“We want to be in this position every year.”

Eastern Washington will take on North Dakota State (14-0) on Jan. 5 for the FCS national championship in the Dallas suburb of Frisco, Texas.


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