EWU football beats Cal Poly for third win in a row


Photo by Melanie Flint

Jordan West prepares for a pass during the game on Oct. 10.

By Brandon Cline, Sports Editor

For the third-straight game, the seventh-ranked Eastern Washington Eagles found a way to come away with a gritty victory. In front of the twelfth sold-out crowd straight, the Eagles took down the Cal Poly Mustangs and their triple-option offense, 42-41, in overtime on Oct. 10.

With 9:16 left in the game, Cal Poly’s quarterback, Chris Brown, rushed in from 13 yards out for a touchdown — his second of three rushing touchdowns on the day, giving the Mustangs a 35-20 lead.

The Eagles responded in a big way, pulling the game to within eight points again on running back Jabari Wilson’s four-yard touchdown run with 5:11 remaining in regulation. On the following Cal Poly possession, the Eagles defense forced a three-and-out for the first time all day, giving them the ball back at their own 45-yard line with 3:02 remaining in the game.

On that drive, quarterback Jordan West did what he’s done all season, going 5-6 for 49 yards and a touchdown pass to Nic Sblendorio with 57 seconds remaining. West found wide receiver Kendrick Bourne four times for 33 yards on the drive, two of which moved the chains for the Eagles.

The Eagles’ initial two-point attempt failed, but a defensive holding call on Cal Poly moved the ball to the one-yard line. On the second attempt, West and Wilson sold the play-action pass, allowing West to easily find tight end Terry Jackson uncovered in the end zone, tying the game at 35.

With just 16 passing yards in the game, Brown and the Mustangs were content on getting the game to overtime, with the Eagles riding a wave of momentum.

The Eagles possessed the ball first in overtime, where West found Bourne on a short route on the first play. Bourne bounced the play out near the sideline, diving just inside the pylon for a touchdown, and the Eagles took the lead for the first time since there was 7:27 remaining in the first quarter.

Starting with the ball at the 13-yard line after a personal foul call on the Eagles, it took Cal Poly five plays to get into the end zone, on Brown’s third rushing touchdown of the game.

The game came down to the next play, with Cal Poly going for the two-point conversion and the win. Brown’s option to Kori Garcia was well-covered by the Eagles, but it didn’t matter as Garcia fumbled the ball out of the bounds, completing EWU’s come-from-behind win.

“It was a wild game, and we still have a ton of things to clean up,” said head coach Beau Baldwin, who moves to 47-11 all-time in conference play. “The one thing about our team – whether we came out on top or not – was that we weren’t going to roll over. We still have a long way to go this year and we’re finding that out more and more.”

The conditions favored the Mustangs — a team with the best rushing attack in the FCS — on a windy day with gusts reaching up to 25 miles per hour. The Eagles’ passing offense — top in the FCS — was obviously affected, but West remained efficient, going 27-35 for 224 passing yards, four touchdowns, and no turnovers.

The Eagles’ ground game was effective as well, with Wilson rushing for 103 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries. Malcolm Williams Jr. had 7 carries for 41 yards, and the Eagles finished with 146 rushing yards on the day.

Cal Poly’s ground game dwarfed EWU’s though, rushing for 503 yards on 89 attempts, averaging 5.7 yards per rush. The rushing attack for the Mustangs aided in helping shadow their porous passing game, with Brown completing two of just five passing attempts for 16 yards.

After scoring touchdowns on 3 of 4 possessions in the first half, Cal Poly punted on two straight possessions to start the second half. “We were starting to get into our rhythm a little bit in the first half, but obviously not the way we want to start,” said defensive coordinator Jeff Schmedding. “But that happens sometimes with those teams when you’re seeing [the triple option] for the first time live.”

Schmedding said holding Cal Poly to minimal gains on first and second down was the key for getting the defense off the field. “They’re a hard team to stop on third-and-shorts,” he said.

The Mustangs were 9-17 on converting third downs and 4-5 on converting fourth downs.

The Eagles move to 2-0 in conference play and 3-2 overall. The win extended EWU’s regular season home winning streak to 18 games, with the last loss coming in 2011 to Portland State University.

Along with Southern Utah University, the Eagles are one of just two teams still undefeated in the Big Sky. Meanwhile, Cal Poly moves to 1-2 in conference and 2-4 overall.

What’s Next: The Eagles travel to Pocatello, Idaho for a tilt against Idaho State University, who are coming off a 37-31 road win at the University of North Dakota. Idaho State is 1-2 in conference play, and lost to Cal Poly earlier this season, 26-58. The game is on Oct. 17, and kickoff is scheduled for 1:35 p.m.