SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. – Quarterback Gage Gubrud passed for 357 yards and four touchdowns while wide receiver Cooper Kupp threw two scoring passes and caught another as No. 3 Eastern Washington defeated No. 14 Cal Poly 42-21 in a Big Sky Conference football showdown Saturday night before 9,722 in Alex G. Spanos Stadium.
Gubrud completed 27 of 37 passes and Kupp finished with 11 receptions for 154 yards as the Eagles won their seventh straight, improving to 8-1 overall and 6-0 in Big Sky games.
Despite reaching their average for yards rushing in a game, Cal Poly fell to 6-3 and 4-2, their second three-game winning streak of the season snapped.
Junior fullback Joe Protheroe (pictured above) became the 20th Mustang in program history to rush for over 1,000 yards in a season and finished with 116 yards on 23 carries, his fifth 100-yard game this season and 10th of his Mustang career.
Senior quarterback Dano Graves gained 121 yards on the ground for his third career 100-yard performance, scoring two of Cal Poly's touchdowns on runs of 9 and 1 yards. Protheroe scored the other Mustang touchdown on a one-yard run.
The game was a matchup of the No. 1 rushing team in the FCS – Cal Poly averaging 370 yards a game – and the top-ranked passing team in the FCS – Eastern Washington averaging 438 yards through the air.
Cal Poly rushed for 372 yards Saturday night and Eastern Washington was "held" to 395 passing yards. The Mustangs scored all three of their touchdowns on the ground while the Eagles scored six times, all through the air.
Eastern Washington never trailed.
After Gubrud hit Shaq Hill with a 30-yard scoring pass 10 minutes into the contest, Graves ran nine yards for Cal Poly to even the score at 7-7 with 1:24 to play in the opening period.
It took just 52 seconds for Eastern Washington to get back on top. Gubrud connected with Kendrick Bourne on a 25-yard pass for a 14-7 Eagle lead and Eastern Washington never looked back.
Bourne caught a 20-yarder from Gubrud early in the second period for a 21-7 advantage. Graves' one-yard run with seven minutes to play in the first half closed the gap to 21-14 and that score would stand up at halftime.
Kupp hit Hill with 28- and 10-yard scoring passes in the third quarter to break the game open at 35-14.
Protheroe's one-yard run late in the third quarter was answered by Kupp's 45-yard touchdown pass from Gubrud with 4:32 to play in the game.
Eastern Washington finished with a 26-25 edge in first downs and 513-458 in total offense, though Cal Poly had possession of the ball for nearly 11 minutes more than the Eagles.
Fullback Jared Mohamed finished with 77 yards on the ground for Cal Poly and Graves was six of 11 for 67 yards.
Cal Poly lost the turnover battle, 3-1, losing two fumbles and throwing one interception.
The Mustangs, who remain tied for third place with Weber State and Northern Arizona, visit Weber State next Saturday for an 11 a.m. Big Sky game in Ogden, Utah.
Photo of Joe Protheroe courtesy of Matt Aguirre