The Cal Poly football team ended its season on a sour note with a 45-21 loss to North Dakota in Alex G. Spanos Stadium on Saturday night.
It was Senior Night for the Mustangs (4-7, 3-5 Big West), whose roster features 18 seniors playing in the final game of their Cal Poly careers. Following the pregame ceremony, it was the Fighting Hawks (6-4, 4-3), not the Mustangs, who jumped out to an early lead.
Battling for seven wins and playoff eligibility, the Fighting Hawks led 28-0 at halftime. Two rushing touchdowns by Big West Conference rushing leader John Santiago put the Fighting Hawks up 14-0 less than a minute into the second quarter.
North Dakota quarterback Keaton Studsrud added two touchdown passes of his own before the half, including a 64-yard strike to wide receiver Clive Georges.
The Fighting Hawks received the second-half kickoff and led a long, sustained drive down the field. The drive culminated with a 5-yard touchdown scamper by Santiago, his third of the game.
The Mustangs finally got on the board midway through the third quarter. Senior quarterback Chris Brown finished a 10-play, 50-yard drive with a 3-yard touchdown run.
Cutting deeper into the Fighting Hawks’ lead, Brown led the Mustangs on their second scoring drive of the game at the end of the third quarter. The quarterback found senior wide receiver Roland Jackson for a 61-yard touchdown pass to cut the lead to 35-14.
After the pair of touchdowns, the Mustangs’ momentum halted. The Fighting Hawks added a field goal and another touchdown to extend their lead to 45-14 with less than five minutes left in the game.
Brown tacked on a 1-yard touchdown rush in the final two minutes of the game, and the Fighting Hawks ran out the clock on the ensuing possession.
The Mustangs led the FCS in rushing prior to the game, averaging 410.7 rushing yards per game. This game, however, told a different story. The Fighting Hawks held the Mustangs to only 153 rushing yards, the Mustangs’ lowest total since the first game of the 2011 season.
In his last game for the Mustangs, Brown led the team with 63 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 21 attempts. Brown also tacked on 211 passing yards and a passing touchdown, his highest total of the season, topping last week’s 153-yard performance at UC Davis.
In a season defined by missed opportunities, including an overtime loss at then-No. 7 Eastern Washington and a three-point loss to then-No. 13 Portland State on Homecoming, this game didn’t help ease the pain.
With playoff hopes long out the window, the Mustangs look ahead to next season. The rigorous 2016 schedule features an early-season matchup at FBS opponent Nevada on Sept. 10.