On a rare Friday night game in Alex G. Spanos Stadium, Cal Poly found its first victory of the season in a 44-15 win over Brown University. Last year, Cal Poly’s only win of the season did not come until November. This year, the Mustangs earned their first win just three games in.
“We definitely needed to start this year off right,” senior quarterback Khaleel Jenkins said. “The first two losses kind of hurt and we were hungry to get one tonight, so it was nice to come out on top.”
The first ever meeting between the Mustangs (1-2) and the Bears (0-1) remained close throughout the first half.
Early into the second quarter, Cal Poly broke the 3-3 tie when when sophomore slotback Broc Mortensen caught a kickoff on the 99-yard line, took off through center and darted past Brown’s defense for the kickoff return touchdown.
Despite Brown’s sophomore quarterback Michael McGovern completing nine out of 15 passes in the second quarter, enabling the Bears to score 15 points, the Mustangs were able to maintain the lead.
Senior fullback Joe Protheroe carried in two of his game-high three touchdowns in the second quarter, as Cal Poly led 24-15 going into halftime. Protheroe recorded career highs with 43 carries and 228 rushing yards. Protheroe made sure to credit the driving force of the Mustangs’ offense.
“[Jenkins] was a general out there, he made the right reads, so he just opened up opportunities for me,” Protheroe said.
Just 13 days earlier, in Cal Poly’s 2018 season opener, Jenkins returned to the starting lineup after being sidelined by a season-ending knee injury just five games into the 2017 season. Jenkins suffered another injury, forcing him back to the sidelines. Cal Poly head coach Tim Walsh had Jenkins marked as game-time decision against Brown. Walsh had asked Jenkins if he was ready to play against Brown.
“[Jenkins] said, ‘Coach, I want this more than anything,’” Walsh said. “That’s all I needed to hear, his confidence that he was ready to play.”
Jenkins connected on five of nine passes for 81 yards and rushed for 69 yards on 13 carries, leading the Mustangs to his first ever win as a starter for Cal Poly.
“It’s been a long time coming, but it was a team win tonight, so I’m just happy that we got some confidence going into the conference,” Jenkins said.
“[Jenkins] showed people the flashes of what he can be,” Walsh said. “He can play better than that, and he knows it. So I think you’ll see a better performance by [Jenkins] each and every week.”
Despite starting the second half with a 24-15 lead, the Mustangs were determined to stifle the Bears’ offense.
“We just got really simple on defense,” Walsh said. “They threw so many weird formations at us, unbalanced stuff. Some things we didn’t really know to prepare for so we didn’t prepare for it. And when you get them all, we made a lot of mistakes in alignment and assignment.”
Cal Poly kept Brown off the scoreboard in the second half while expanding its lead. Jenkins and Protheroe both carried one yard for a pair of touchdowns. In the final minute, redshirt freshman quarterback Kyle Reid scored his first touchdown as a Mustang on a three-yard run for the 44-15 win.
The Mustangs will begin Big Sky Conference play on the road against the no. 6 ranked Eastern Washington (2-1) and will return to Alex G. Spanos Stadium to host Montana (2-1) on Saturday, Sept. 29.