Cal Poly won their Big Sky Conference opener Saturday in a gutty 24-21 win against Southern Utah in Cedar City, Utah.
Prior to the game, head coach Tim Walsh said the game against the Thunderbirds (1-4, 0-1 Big Sky) would likely come down to the wire.
“It’s their homecoming, we better be ready for all the excitement that’s going to surround them … we need to be the better football team,” Walsh said. “I think that’s where Cal Poly succeeds and where we show ourselves as a program.”
Southern Utah came into the game looking to bounce back from a tough 43-7 loss to South Dakota State where they notably missed three consecutive field goal attempts.
And while the Mustangs (2-2, 1-0 Big Sky) led for the entirety of the game, the Thunderbirds were never far behind.
The Mustangs got on the board in the first quarter with a 36-yard field goal by freshman kicker Colton Theaker to take the lead at 3-0. Meanwhile, Cal Poly’s defense stood strong and shut out Southern Utah for a quarter and a half.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Jalen Hamler added onto the lead with a 7-yard run into the end zone to widen Cal Poly’s lead to 10-0.
Southern Utah’s offense finally broke through with a 24-yard touchdown pass to bring the score to 10-7. Cal Poly responded with a 13-yard touchdown rush to push the score to 17-7 in the closing seconds of the second half.
The third quarter was a defensive battle as the only score was another Southern Utah touchdown through the air. However, Southern Utah’s kicking woes reemerged and resulted in a miss of the extra point attempt to bring the score to 17-13.
Cal Poly scored a touchdown off a 4-yard run by junior quarterback Jake Jefferey. The pivotal run would go on to be the game-decider as the Mustangs gained a 24-13 advantage.
The Thunderbirds connected on a 56-yard touchdown bomb through the air to make up for the missed PAT and followed with a two point conversion to close the gap at 24-21.
A comeback seemed imminent when Southern Utah put themselves in a scoring position with just over two minutes remaining in the game. However, another botched field goal by the Thunderbirds ended any chance of a Southern Utah victory as the Mustangs ran the clock out to conclude the game.
Cal Poly returns to Alex G. Spanos Stadium for its first home game in over a month against Montana State on Saturday, Oct. 5 at 5:05 p.m.