The Cal Poly football team’s trip to Cheney, Washington to take on No. 7 Eastern Washington (3-2, 2-0 Big Sky) was all it cracked up to be. However, the 42-41 final score did not favor the Mustangs (2-4, 1-2).
The highly touted offensive battle between the top rushing team in FCS (Cal Poly) and the top passing team in FCS (Eastern Washington) needed more than four quarters to decide on a winner.
Eastern Washington quickly jumped out to a 6-0 lead as quarterback Jordan West capped his first drive with a 13-yard touchdown pass.
Cal Poly then rattled off 21 unanswered points on three consecutive touchdown runs by three different players.
Senior quarterback Chris Brown ran in a 2-yard touchdown midway through the first quarter to give the Mustangs a 7-6 lead. Sophomore running back Joe Protheroe scored the Mustangs’ second touchdown on a 3-yard run 12 seconds into the second quarter. The Mustangs’ third and longest touchdown of the game came late in the second quarter when senior wide receiver Roland Jackson Jr. ran the ball 55 yards to the house.
Eastern Washington ran for a touchdown with under a minute to go in the first half, settling the halftime score at 21-13 in favor of the Mustangs. Cal Poly had 298 team rushing yards at the break.
The Mustangs came out firing in the third quarter, scoring the quarter’s only touchdown on a 6-yard Protheroe run. Going into the final quarter, Cal Poly led 28-13, its second 15-point lead of the night.
The Eagles and Mustangs traded touchdowns to start the fourth quarter, but then the wheels began to fall off for the Mustangs.
Trailing 35-20, Eastern Washington tacked on a rushing touchdown to get the game within one possession. With 57 seconds left, West threw a 16-yard touchdown to wide receiver Nic Sblendorio to bring the Eagles within two points of the Mustangs.
With an obvious decision to go for the two-point conversion, the Eagles kept their offense on the field and let West — who led the nation in passing yards per game going in — throw the ball. Senior Mustang linebacker Burton De Koning intercepted the pass and appeared to have sealed the game.
However, a controversial holding call gave the Eagles a second chance. West took advantage of the opportunity and threw a two-point conversion to tight end Terry Jackson II.
After a failed Cal Poly drive during the waning minute of the game, the teams headed to overtime.
Eastern Washington wasted no time in their first possession as West threw a 25-yard touchdown strike to give the Eagles a one-touchdown lead.
Cal Poly answered on its possession as well, but opted to go for a two-point conversion of its own. The Mustangs failed to convert, and the game ended in a 42-41 Eastern Washington victory.
If end-of-game statistics told the story, the Mustangs dominated. Cal Poly had more first downs, plays, yards and a greater time of possession than the Eagles, but couldn’t pull off the victory.
Brown finished with a game-high 173 rushing yards on 31 carries and Protheroe added 121 yards of his own. Six other Mustangs recorded rushing yards as the team combined for 503 yards on the ground.
Cal Poly’s defense held Eastern Washington’s passing game in check too. West, who averages 353.4 passing yards per game, threw for only 224 yards. The Mustangs did allow four passing touchdowns.
The Mustangs head back to San Luis Obispo for a bye week before taking on No. 25 Portland State at home on Oct. 24.
Cal Poly has played four ranked FCS teams and one FBS team so far in the season. Following the Portland State game, the Mustangs play three unranked teams before hosting No. 23 North Dakota to finish the season.