Cal Poly football opened conference play with a 49-21 loss against No. 5 Sacramento State on Saturday, Oct. 1 in Alex G. Spanos Stadium.
Throughout the first half, the Mustangs (1-3, 0-1 Big Sky) were unable to put points on the board, as all of their first-half drives ended in either a punt or turnover on downs. The Hornets (4-0, 1-0 Big Sky), meanwhile, scored a touchdown in three consecutive drives.
The first drive of the game for Cal Poly ended in a three and out until a fake punt was called and the pass was completed to redshirt senior tight end Ryan Rivera for a gain of 14 and a first down. The Mustangs couldn’t capitalize, however, and the drive would end in a punt.
The next two drives would end in three and outs for both Cal Poly and Sacramento State before the Hornets would put together a nine-play drive that resulted in a Marcus Fulcher two-yard touchdown run to put them up 7-0 with 5:41 left to go in the first.
The Mustangs then marched down to Sacramento State’s 21-yard line with a few wildcat formation runs and receptions to graduate wide receiver Chris Coleman, but the nine-play drive would end with a turnover on downs.
The Hornets would get off to a hot start on the next drive after two big gains by Fulcher and a 17-yard pass to senior wide receiver Pierre Williams to put them in the red zone as the first quarter came to an end.
Continuing their drive in the second, Sacramento State running back Cameron Skattebo put the ball in the endzone to extend the lead to 14-0 with 13:20 left in the second.
The Mustangs would then have a 13-play drive end in yet another turnover on downs on the Sacramento State 25-yard line.
The Hornets took advantage of this opportunity by scoring on a 16-yard touchdown pass following a 10-play, 75-yard drive to make the score 21-0 with 5:21 left in the half.
Cal Poly had a third consecutive drive end with a turnover on downs in Sacramento State territory, but head coach Beau Baldwin backed his decision to go for it after the game.
“There wasn’t a single time where I was [doubting the decision], the field goal was long on a couple of those,” Baldwin said.
During the halftime break, Cal Poly president Jeffrey Armstrong announced plans to begin constructing a new football facility named after the late John Madden, set to open in 2024.
Sacramento State didn’t waste any time coming back from the half, as they marched right down the field and scored a touchdown on another 10-play, 75-yard drive to extend their lead to 28-0.
The Mustangs would go three and out on their next drive but created an opportunity after true freshman defensive back Makhi Johnson intercepted an overthrown pass.
Cal Poly took advantage, as redshirt junior running back Shokobe Harper took the direct snap out of the wildcat formation for a four-yard touchdown and the Mustangs’ first score of the night with 5:54 left in the third quarter.
“Part of Coach B’s offense is getting playmakers the ball, so that’s why we implemented the wildcat,” Harper said postgame.
The Mustangs and Hornets would then go back and forth, scoring touchdowns on the next five drives.
The Hornets had an 11-play, 90-yard drive end in a 40-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Asher O’Hara.
Cal Poly answered with a 10-play, 80-yard drive ending in a 26-yard touchdown pass from redshirt junior Spencer Brasch to true freshman wide receiver Logan Booher, cutting the Sacramento State lead to 35-14.
After Sacramento State marched down and scored again, the Mustangs rattled off a quick five-play, 75-yard drive capped off by a two-yard touchdown run from sophomore running back Adam Garwood to bring the score to 42-21.
The Hornets capped off the scoring with 5:57 to go in the game after a 35-yard rushing touchdown from Skattebo turned in the final score of 49-21.
Brasch, in his first full game as the starter, completed 27 of 46 passes for 281 passing yards, one touchdown and one interception.
Harper led all rushers with 17 carries for 61 yards and a touchdown while Coleman showed out once again with five receptions for 97 yards.
Coach Baldwin cited big plays allowed on defense leading to overall struggles in the conference opener.
“We just have to eliminate explosives, which a lot of times either [is] missed tackles, [or] a missed assignment,” Baldwin said.
The Mustangs will lick their wounds and look towards Northern Arizona on Saturday, Oct. 8 at 1 p.m. inside J. Lawrence Walkup Skydome.