Sophomore quarterback Chris Brown led the Cal Poly football team with four touchdown passes in a 42-7 win over Sacramento State on Saturday.
[follow id = “steodosescu”]
With its Big Sky title fate out of its hands, the Cal Poly football team helped its own cause Saturday night.
And for the second week in a row, sophomore quarterback Chris Brown was a crucial in keeping the Mustangs’ playoff hopes alive.
Cal Poly (5-5, 4-2 Big Sky) amassed 490 yards of total offense — 424 of which came on the ground — and held one of the conference’s most potent offenses to 290 yards in a 42-7 rout of Sacramento State in Alex G. Spanos Stadium. Brown finished the night with four touchdowns on six of 10 passing and added 57 yards rushing.
“I hate to say it, we’re one of the best teams in the country,” head coach Tim Walsh said. “We may not get a chance to prove it, but we can prove it next Saturday.”
Next Saturday will be one of Cal Poly’s toughest matchups of the season as the Mustangs entertain No. 3 Eastern Washington at home. The Eagles will be fresh off a 54-29 victory over No. 4 Montana State, the only other undefeated team in conference play entering Saturday.
Cal Poly, meanwhile, earned its second-straight win — the longest streak of the season — after taking down rival UC Davis on Nov. 2.
Slotbacks Kristaan Ivory and Akaninyene Umoh rushed for more than 100 yards as the Cal Poly offense had a field day with one of the Big Sky’s worst defenses. But the story was the Mustangs’ defense Saturday.
Although the team entered the season with a veteran defense, the unit allowed an average of 30 points and 428 yards per game in the Mustangs’ first five contests. Since then, the defense has allowed just 10.4 points and 272 yards per game.
“Most of the teams we played, they come against us having 400 yards of this, 400 yards of that, and our goal is to just hold them out of the end zone and hold them to field goals because you can’t beat our team kicking field goals,” senior defensive back Vante Smith-Johnson said. “That’s what we pride ourselves on, just playing hard and forcing them to make turnovers eventually.”
Smith-Johnson helped do just that. He earned his first career interception on the opening play of the third quarter. It was the second of two picks — the first was nabbed by junior linebacker Cameron Ontko — of Sacramento State quarterback Garrett Safron.
Cal Poly held the Hornets to 62 total yards in the second half and scored the final 28 points of the game.
“If our defense can keep playing like that and if we keep running the football, we’re tough to beat,” Walsh said.
Cal Poly scored first after senior safety Alex Hubbard returned the opening kickoff 76 yards to the Hornets’ 22-yard line. The Mustangs cashed in when Brown threw a 16-yard touchdown pass to senior slotback Cole Stanford. Stanford finished the game with two touchdown receptions.
The Mustangs opened up a 14-point lead when Brown hit tight end Austin Albison in the end zone from 14 yards out. It was the junior’s first career touchdown catch.
Sacramento State narrowed Cal Poly’s lead in the second quarter when Safron found DeAndre Carter for a touchdown that capped off a 99-yard drive.
But it was all Mustangs from there, as Cal Poly finished with more than 400 yards rushing for the second consecutive game.
“The coaches did a really good job of setting certain plays up if we needed to throw the ball, our O-line was doing a good job of getting to the right guys … It was just a matter of taking what we can get,” Brown said.
After suffering an overtime loss to Montana and a loss to Northern Arizona that was spurred by a 96-yard kickoff return late in the game, Cal Poly’s record isn’t indicative of what it could have been at this point, according to Walsh.
“The way we’re playing right now, the last four or five weeks, we have played good enough to be 6-0 in the Big Sky,” he said.
Kickoff for the homecoming game against Eastern Washington will be at 12:40 p.m.