An early 21-0 deficit to Montana State proved too much for Cal Poly on Sunday. The No. 15 Bobcats (2-1, 1-0 Big Sky) ended up beating the No. 20 Mustangs 45-28, holding off a strong Cal Poly (1-3, 0-1) surge post-first quarter to take the first conference matchup of the season in Bozeman, Montana.
It was the Big Sky Conference football opener for both schools, but early on Montana State was the team that looked most ready for the game. Two rushing touchdowns from Chad Newell and an 88-yard passing play sparked by junior quarterback Dakota Prukop put Montana State up by 21 points with three minutes to play in the first quarter.
With their backs against the wall, the Mustangs sought to right the ship. Their offense, which is a variation of the read-option, is conducive to compiling big rushing statistics but less effective in closing the gap.
While Cal Poly was able to put forth a pair of 100-yard rushers in sophomore running back Joe Protheroe (156 yards on 27 carries) and junior running back Kori Garcia (114 yards on 19 carries), they only managed 50 yards through the air.
Meanwhile, Prukop led a vicious Bobcat passing game that gouged the Mustangs’ secondary all night. Prukop finished with 399 yards and three touchdowns, the best numbers put up by an opposing quarterback against the Mustangs all season.
After the first 21 points tallied by Montana State, Cal Poly outscored their opponents 28-24 over the rest of the game.
Despite pedestrian defense, the Mustangs showed some offensive prowess by scoring four touchdowns with a nearly run-only offense. Cal Poly quarterback Chris Brown also threw two touchdowns on the night, though Prukop had eight times as many yards through the air.
The young 2015 season could be characterized in much the same way for the Mustangs.
With the exception of their win over Montana on opening day, the Mustangs have shown flashes of their capabilities in their three losses on the year. Arizona State, Northern Iowa and Montana State are all quality teams and Cal Poly performed well in certain facets of the game, it just hasn’t been enough to win.
The Mustangs hope to inch closer to a .500 record with a win this week at home vs. Idaho State. It will be this year’s Hall of Fame Game, with a 6:05 p.m. kickoff at Alex G. Spanos Stadium.