Eagles score 22-straight points, then win when Cal Poly fumbles two-point conversion attempt in overtime
Just another day – a 'barn-burner" as Eagle head coach Beau Baldwin called it -- in the Big Sky Conference.
The seventh-ranked Eastern Washington University football team rallied from a 15-point deficit in the fourth quarter to score 22 unanswered points in the final 5:11 of regulation and in overtime to top Cal Poly and the top rushing offense in the nation 42-41 in a Big Sky Conference showdown Saturday (Oct. 10) in Cheney, Wash.
Eastern scored on its first play of overtime and kicked an extra point, then the Mustangs scored. But Cal Poly fumbled the two-point conversion attempt, putting a sour note on their huge day that included 503 rushing yards and six touchdowns on the ground on 89 carries.
Although out-gained 519-370 in total offense in the game, Eastern had 145 of its yards on its final three possessions of the game, including drives of 85 and 55 yards to force overtime. Despite sustained winds of 17-22 miles per hour throughout the game, quarterback Jordan West pass for 224 yards and four touchdowns, including a pair to Kendrick Bourne.
"I'm so happy for our players for finding a way to grind it out and make plays," said Baldwin. "It was obviously a barn-burner."
Won-Lost Records . . .
* Now 3-2 overall, the Eagles also needed a second-half comeback to win their league opener on Sept. 26 at Sacramento State with a 28-20 victory. That began their pursuit of their fourth-straight Big Sky title and ninth overall. The Mustangs are now just 2-4 overall and 1-2 in the Big Sky, but all of their games have come against teams nationally ranked at some point this season.
What it Means . . .
* The Eagles extended their string of regular season victories at Roos Field to 18 and are now 33-5 all-time at "The Inferno." Three of those losses have come the past three seasons in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs, as Eastern is now 25-2 in the regular season at "The Inferno" and 8-3 in the FCS Playoffs. The last home loss for the Eagles in the regular season came in the final home game of the 2011 season against Portland State (43-26).
What's Next . . .
* Eastern plays two-straight road games, including a visit to Holt Arena in Pocatello, Idaho, to face Idaho State next Saturday (Oct. 17). On Oct. 24, Eastern plays at Northern Colorado before returning to Roos Field to face Weber State on Halloween Night.
Keys to Game . . .
* Late-game two-point conversions turned out to be the difference, with Eastern needing a pass from Jordan West to Terry Jackson II to knot the game at 35 with 57 seconds remaining to help send the game into overtime. That came after its first missed try was nullified by a Cal Poly holding penalty. Then, after pulling within 42-41 in overtime, a pitch attempt was fumbled shy of the end zone, securing the victory for EWU.
Top Performers . . .
* Junior Jordan West, who entered the game leading FCS in passing efficiency (201.6) and passing yards per game (385.8), finished 27-of-35 for 224 yards and four touchdowns. He completed his first eight attempts, but then just seven of his next 13 attempts as EWU punted on five of its next six attempts. But he completed 12 of his last 14 passes to end the game.
* Junior Kendrick Bourne finished with a career-high 10 catches for 84 yards and a pair of touchdowns, including a 25-yard TD in overtime. One game earlier, he had 204 receiving yards versus Sacramento State to rank as the eighth-most in school history.
* Junior Jabari Wilson had the third 100-yard rushing game of his career, finishing with 103 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries.
* Senior linebacker Miquiyah Zamora and senior safety Todd Raynes both had 14 tackles for the Eagles, besting their previous career highs of 11. Sophomore defensive end Conner Baumann and sophomore linebacker Jake Gall had 11 and 10 tackles, respectively, as they both also established new career highs.
Key Stats . . .
* Cal Poly averaged 5.7 yards per rush, finishing with 503 yards and six touchdowns on 89 carries. The option-oriented Mustangs went into the game leading FCS in rushing with an average of 363.8 yards per game. Quarterback Chris Brown finished with 173 yards on the ground, and the Mustangs finished an impressive 9-of-17 on third down and 4-of-5 on fourth down.
Turning Point . . .
* On a third-and-6 play with EWU trailing by six, sophomores Conner Baumann and Andre Lino combined on a key stop that led to a shanked 22-yard Cal Poly punt. Eastern followed with a seven-play, 55-yard drive that was capped by a 16-yard touchdown pass from Jordan West to Nic Sblendorio to help send the game into overtime.
Team Highlights . . .
* The game was Eastern's first to go to overtime since 2011 when EWU scored on four-straight plays – two touchdowns and two conversions – to win in triple overtime at Cal Poly 53-51. Eastern sent that game into overtime with a 10-play, 80-yard drive with 1:51 left in regulation. Saturday's game was Eastern's first OT game at home since beating North Dakota State 38-31 in the 2010 FCS Playoffs. That game also was ended by an opponent fumble, and helped spark the Eagles to the national championship.
Milestones & Records . . .
* With a crowd of 10,352, Eastern had its 12th-consecutive sell-out crowd at Roos Field, and 24th all-time in stadium history.
* The Eagles are now 29-3 in their last 32 Big Sky games since a 0-2 start in 2011.
Notables . . .
* Eastern is now 4-0 against Cal Poly all-time at Roos Field, and is 6-2 overall with the home team winning six of the eight games. Eastern beat the Mustangs 61-7 in the first-ever NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (then known as I-AA) game for Cal Poly to open the 1994 season. That game was also the head coaching debut of former Eagle Mike Kramer, who is now head coach at Idaho State, EWU's opponent next week.
Head Coach Beau Baldwin Comments . . .
On Cal Poly Finish: "It was a wild game, and we still have a ton of things to clean up. 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. That's okay as long as we are willing to keep learning and growing. I thought we did that in the second half, but we have to learn and grow more when we are in these situations."
On Cal Poly: "I have so much respect for coach Walsh and Cal Poly and what they do. They came in here and did an incredible job. It had a lot of grinding moments. Give credit to Cal Poly – they came in here and played incredible football and were in control at many times. But our guys fought and found a way."
On Offense at End of Game: "We ended up finally finding a little bit of rhythm. We needed to get that rhythm earlier, regardless of the wind. We have to do a better job of finding some early stops on defense. Those are things we are going to work on practice and keep attacking."
On Toughness of League: "We are what we are as a team. I don't care where we are ranked or this and that -- we're a team that can go out and win any game in the Big Sky. But because the league has so many talented and well-coached teams, we have the ability to lose any game if we don't bring it. We respect that and have to attack each day of the week."
On Crowd: "I loved the energy and the sold-out crowd again. That's been something special – since 2003 I've seen the growth and the difference. I just appreciate everybody involved with that and all the fans who came out."
On Being Unified After Win: "It's easy to be unified when you come together like that. But it takes being unified when you are down by 15 late like that. That's the nature of our players and something we believe in. Win, lose or draw, we would have needed to come back even that much more unified next week. We have a tight group and it's great to be around these players."
On Path Ahead: "We have respect the fact we have a long way to go. We found a way to win and found a way to beat a very well-coached and good Cal Poly team. We know we are going to continue to have tough football games, and we have to keep grinding to find ways to get better during the week. We are a team that has the ability to win any game on our schedule, but if we're a little off and we don't bring our A game, we will struggle to beat anybody left on our schedule too. We have to be humble to that fact as we attack next week."