Cal Poly Football dropped its last home game of the regular season in a 42-41 heartbreaker against Eastern Washington on Saturday, Nov. 16. The Mustangs forced two fumbles in the fourth quarter for a chance at a late-game comeback, but the opportunity fell short after a missed field goal in the last minute of the game.
“I can’t be prouder of the team I coached tonight, because [Eastern Washington] is a good offensive football team,” head coach Tim Walsh said. “That’s the best offensive football team in the whole country we just played… it was a great team effort…”
The Eagles jumped to an early lead behind a 75-yard drive on six plays. Eastern Washington running back Antione Custer Jr. capped off the drive with a 40-yard touchdown run to score the first points of the game. Eagles kicker Seth Harrison missed the ensuing extra point.
After Cal Poly was held to a 31-yard gain in their first drive of the night, Eastern Washington doubled its lead through a 57-yard drive on four plays. A 45-yard pass from quarterback Eric Barriere found the hands of wide receiver Talolo Limu-Jones for the Eagles’ second touchdown of the night.
Eastern Washington followed up with a two-point conversion to make up for the missed PAT earlier in the game.
Cal Poly responded with a 67-yard drive on 12 plays. However, the Mustangs failed to score on 4th & 1 after a fumble was recovered by the Eagles. The Eagles were held to a gain of just three yards on their next drive.
The Mustangs put themselves on the scoreboard with just under seven minutes remaining in the first half. After a 22-yard drive on nine plays, freshman quarterback Jalen Hamler completed a one-yard touchdown run to cut the Mustangs’ deficit to 14-7.
However, the Eagles responded with a 38-yard touchdown run through Custer to maintain their lead at 21-7 with six minutes remaining in the quarter.
Cal Poly and Eastern Washington both registered a final touchdown before the halftime whistle was blown.
A 22-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver J.J. Koski capped off a 77-yard drive for the Mustangs before the Eagles responded with a 75-yard drive of their own. The Eagles only required one minute and 18 seconds to set Custer up for his second touchdown of the night — a two-yard run to conclude the first half at 28-14.
Cal Poly kicked off the second half with a 75-yard drive on eight plays. The drive ended in a 32-yard touchdown pass to Koski for his second touchdown of the night. With eight minutes remaining in the quarter, Eastern Washington’s Barriere completed a 37-yard touchdown run to widen the gap to 35-21.
Sophomore fullback Duy Tran-Sampson scored his first touchdown of the night on the ensuing drive. After a 42-yard drive on four plays, Tran-Sampson produced a two-yard touchdown run to bring the score to 35-28.
Custer responded with yet another touchdown run — his fourth of the night — to maintain the Eagles’ 14-point advantage at 42-28.
With ten minutes remaining in the game, Hamler found Koski on an 11-yard touchdown pass. The Mustangs followed up with a fumble recovery to give themselves a chance to equalize the game.
Tran-Sampson produced a four-yard touchdown run on the ensuing drive to bring the score to 42-41. The comeback was unsuccessful after a two-point conversion attempt fell short.
However, Cal Poly forced yet another fumble to regain possession with three minutes left to play. The Mustangs drove the ball all the way to Eastern Washington’s 35-yard line on four plays to set up a game-winning field goal for freshman kicker Colton Theaker.
Theaker’s kick sailed wide as the game concluded at a score of 42-41.
“I wish I could pinpoint [where the game went wrong],” Walsh said. “A lot of people are going to say, ‘Well, if the kicker made it…’ Well, there were other plays in the game too. It wasn’t just the kicker. We had other opportunities to win the game.”
Koksi led the Mustangs in scoring and ended the night with a career-high three touchdown catches. The senior also caught for 76 yards in the defeat.
“[Koski] is a great player,” Walsh said. “Everyone knows who’s going to get the ball, and he still makes plays. I can’t be prouder of him… he’s doing everything he can to help our team.”
Cal Poly will travel to the University of Northern Colorado for its final game of the regular season on Saturday, Nov. 23 at 11:05 a.m.
“For all the work that they’ve put in, we obviously should have five or six wins, but we don’t,” Walsh said. “We’ve got one [game] left and hopefully they’re going to have the integrity to combat one more time and be the men I think they are.”