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Montana State buckles up for high-powered Eastern Washington offense

Brent Vigen
Posted at 9:43 AM, Nov 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-06 11:43:46-04

CHENEY, Wash. — No. 4 Montana State Football (7-1, 5-0) is back in the saddle this Saturday after a much-needed bye week and is hitting the road to Cheney, Wash. for a tough test against No. 5 Eastern Washington (7-1, 4-1).

“It think it’s as healthy as we’ve been, as refreshed, and honestly we need that with the opponent that’s in front of us," head coach Brent Vigen said in Monday's presser.

On paper, Eastern Washington undoubtedly has the best offense in the FCS.

The Eagles not only lead the nation in total offense averaging 602 yards, but their 51.5 points per game also finds them a spot at the top, which is powered by their ring leader Eric Barriere.

“He can hurt you in a lot of ways," Vigen explained. "He can hurt you with the scripted. He can hurt you with the unscripted. Both with his arm and legs. The numbers he’s put up are video game-like.”

Through 8 games, the FCS passing leader is on the cusp of eclipsing 33-hundred yards, and with his contributions on the ground, he averages just over 430 yards of total offense.

“What we have to do is understand that he's probably going to make a few plays here and there, but what can we do to make him uncomfortable?" Vigen asked. "What can we do to contain him? He's a tremendous talent and makes plays in every which way.”

It helps to have an arsenal of receivers downfield to throw to with three of them recording 30-plus catches each this season.

“They spread the ball around quite a bit," Vigen recalled. "You can’t lean one way against a team like this.”

But there’s one more key piece to the Eagles offense that the Bobcats are preparing for this Saturday, and that’s running back Dennis Merrit. He leads the team with 16 touchdowns this season and averages just over 120 all-purpose yards each game.

“I think the key is to keep them all in front of us," Vigen stated. "Not let any of them get behind our secondary, and then we have to tackle really well.”

“They have a great offense, so this is our chance to show that we’re one of the best defenses in the country," Junior defensive lineman Byron Rollins added.

Just like Montana State, the Eagles have also had two weeks to prep for this marquee matchup after their upset loss to Weber State, which only adds more fuel to the fire.

Kickoff is set for 2 p.m. MT, which will be streamed on ESPN+.