SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif – Cal Poly was given two late chances to hand unpredictable Eastern Washington its sixth road loss.
Quarterback Eric Barriere fumbled on EWU’s last two possessions Saturday, giving the run-heavy Mustangs ample opportunity to pull off the late-season upset.
The Mustangs didn’t take full advantage of those gifts.
Cal Poly kicker Colton Theaker’s 35-yard attempt with 1 minute, 2 seconds left was wide right, and EWU survived 42-41 at Spanos Stadium.
Cal Poly (2-8, 1-6 Big Sky) scored a touchdown on its previous possession with 4:58 remaining, but EWU (6-5, 5-2) stuffed the would-be go-ahead 2-point conversion try.
Barriere’s second straight fumble moments later set up the late field-goal drama, but EWU ultimately won its third straight game.
“When you give up turnovers on your last two possessions, that usually doesn’t equate to victories,” EWU head coach Aarron Best said in a school release. “But our guys were resilient and our energy is zapped. It took every ounce of energy to get to this point and we ended up on top. I proud of how scrappy we were today.”
The Eagles, who have a winning record for the first time this season, conclude their regular season Saturday at home against Portland State (5-6, 3-4).
The Eagles’ top-ranked offense did a lot with little time.
In 54 plays and nearly 17 minutes of total possession, the Eagles racked up 497 yards and 42 points and mostly had its way with the Mustangs’ defense, which ranked 110th in the country.
Cal Poly’s efficient clock-eating triple-option offense kept the ball out of explosive EWU’s hands. The Mustangs had 43 minutes of possession, courtesy of 367 rushing yards on 78 carries.
When the Mustangs did pass – quarterback Jalen Hamler was 6 for 10 for 110 yards with three touchdown passes and a rushing touchdown – it appeared to have caught the Eagles off guard.
EWU running back Antoine Custer rushed for 107 yards and scored three of his four touchdowns in the first half, eclipsing the 1,000-yard mark this season.
Barriere was just as dangerous with his legs, totaling 164 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown. He was limited to 11-of-22 passing for 176 yards and a touchdown.
The Eagles had two-touchdown leads most of the game but couldn’t widen the gap.
EWU couldn’t get out of its own way, either.
Calin Criner’s muffed punt return attempt set up Cal Poly’s first touchdown, a 1-yard Hamler run.
A roughing the passer call on rover Kedrick Johnson helped Cal Poly reach the end zone a second time, a Hamler touchdown pass to standout J.J. Koski to make it a 21-14 ballgame
Cal Poly didn’t commit a turnover and converted on 4 of 6 drive-boosting fourth-down conversions.
EWU has won seven straight against Cal Poly, the last-place team in the Big Sky.
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