Jake Romanelli ran for a career-high 179 yards and a touchdown in his final game at Alex G. Spanos Stadium, and Andre Broadous ran for three scores and passed for two more, but the Cal Poly football team came up empty on the final two-point conversion and fell 53-51 in triple overtime to visiting Eastern Washington on Saturday.
A former Templeton High standout, Romanelli shrugged off a shoulder injury to carry the ball 36 times from his fullback position.
Broadous, a junior quarterback who came into the game tied for sixth in the FCS in scoring, ran the ball 32 times for 81 yards in the final home game for 25 seniors.
On their third possession of overtime, the Mustangs (5-5) needed a touchdown and a two-point conversion to force a fourth possession.
Broadous, who was 7-of-11 passing for 96 yards, punched it in on fourth-and-goal from the 1, but rolling right on the conversion try, he could not find true freshman receiver Willie Tucker. Senior cornerback Alden Gibbs knocked the ball down in the back of the end zone for the Eagles (5-5).
It was a disappointing end to what had been a 14-point comeback for Cal Poly. The Mustangs trailed 28-14 after a 2-yard touchdown pass from Bo Levi Mitchell to Ashton Clark with 11:33 left in the third quarter.
Mitchell, the national FCS leader in passing yardage, finished 34 of 50 for 436 yards and five touchdowns.
Nicholas Edwards, the nation’s highest-scoring receiver coming into the game, caught 10 passes for 136 yards and two touchdowns. Cory Mitchell added seven receptions for 132 yards and a touchdown.
With three straight touchdowns in the second half, Cal Poly took a 35-28 lead with 5:07 remaining on a diving 18-yard touchdown catch by Tucker. Broadous looped a pass to the back corner of the end zone, and Tucker left his feet to haul in the ball and land in bounds.
But the spectacular catch left too much time for Bo Levi Mitchell.
The Eagles went 80 yards on 10 plays to tie the score and leave only 1:43 on the clock for the Mustangs. Bo Levi Mitchell hit Cory Mitchell on a 22-yard strike to tie the score at 35-35.
Cal Poly senior running back Mark Rodgers returned the ensuing kick 43 yards to the Cal Poly 46-yard line, but the Mustangs’ last-ditch drive in regulation stalled around midfield when Broadous was brought down on or near the line of scrimmage on the final two plays.
The teams traded field goals on the first overtime possession, and exchanged touchdowns on the second. Broadous capped a 13-play drive with a 1-yard run, and equaling the work of Cal Poly on one play, Eastern Washington receiver Greg Herd took a reverse and passed the ball to a wide-open Edwards in the end zone.
With rules dictating that both teams attempt two-point conversions on the third possession of overtime, Bo Levi Mitchell passed to Herd for a 25-yard touchdown that Mustangs junior cornerback Nico Molino stepped in front of and nearly intercepted. Mitchell scrambled to run in the conversion.
The loss eliminates any remaining hope of Cal Poly gaining a postseason berth. The Mustangs were already prevented from gaining the seven Division I victories recommended to receive an at-large berth to the 20-team FCS playoff bracket with a disappointing loss to UC Davis last week.
Cal Poly had been holding on to a slim chance that six Division I victories might be enough if other teams in the running for a spot also stumbled.
Since North Dakota’s victory over UC Davis on Saturday ensured the Mustangs will have to share the last Great West Conference title before entering the Big Sky Conference next season, Cal Poly will go into next week’s season finale at South Alabama worried only about finishing with an overall winning record.
The winner of next week’s matchup between the Fighting Sioux and South Dakota will share the Great West championship with the Mustangs.