Following a five-game winning streak, the Cal Poly football team (6-3, 5-2 Big Sky Conference) fell 30-28 at Idaho State (5-1, 7-3) on Saturday, dropping the Mustangs into fifth place in the Big Sky. Cal Poly has one remaining conference game against UC Davis, but this loss will make the road to the Big Sky title contingent on a conference loss by the four teams above the Mustangs in the standings.
Cal Poly came out of the blocks slow, falling behind 17-0 in the second quarter. The Mustangs didn’t score until the end of the second quarter when junior quarterback Chris Brown capped a 14-play, 97-yard drive with a 10-yard touchdown run.
The positive momentum for the Mustangs continued into the third quarter when freshman wide receiver Kyle Lewis took a screen pass 44 yards for a touchdown. With the score 17-14, the Mustangs’ defense, which has played well as of late, needed a big stop. They held the Bengals to a field goal, keeping the lead within striking distance.
On the ensuing drive, head coach Tim Walsh made a gutsy call to go for it on 4th-and-5 from the Mustangs’ own 48-yard line, but the attempted rush fell short and the ball was turned over on downs.
The Mustangs defense stayed strong and held the Bengals to yet another field goal to put the score at 23-14 with 5:37 to go in the third quarter. Brown then came up with a huge 33-yard run to keep the Mustangs in it, 23-21.
Senior linebacker Cameron Ontko then came up with a huge interception, giving the Mustangs the ball at their own 38-yard line. However, nothing came from the possession. The Bengals and the Mustangs traded defensive stops, including another pick by senior defensive back Jordan Williams.
The Bengals were the first to break the scoring drought, taking a 30-21 lead late in the fourth quarter.
Brown answered with another touchdown, but it proved too little too late for the Mustangs, as there was only 2:14 left on the clock.
Brown carried the Mustangs offense yet again, carrying the ball a whopping 39 times for 195 yards and three touchdowns. He had a rough day in the air, though, going just 8-of-22 for 105 yards and a score. Sophomore running back Kori Garcia led the backfield with 13 carries for 105 yards, while senior fullback Brandon Howe added 15 carries for 65 yards.
The Mustangs’ chances at a Big Sky title are significantly hurt after the loss. They will need a lot of help and a win against UC Davis on Saturday when they return home to take on the last-place Aggies in Alex G. Spanos Stadium at 6:05 p.m.