The Cal Poly football team found itself trailing after the first quarter of last week’s game against Weber State. This week, Cal Poly found itself in a similar scenario – tied at the end of the opening frame.
But with the help of five consecutive touchdowns in the final three quarters, Cal Poly cruised to its sixth victory of the season, defeating Northern Colorado 56-28 on Saturday in Alex G. Spanos Stadium.
The undefeated Mustangs (6-0, 4-0 Big Sky) used a balanced scoring attack and a strong finish to put away the Bears team (1-5, 0-3) that has struggled as a Division I program since making the transition in 2007.
“I’m really pleased with the performance and the enhancement of the offense and the ability to get the ball to as many people that we get the ball to,” fourth-year head coach Tim Walsh said.
Northern Colorado recently snapped a two-year, 12-game losing streak with a 40-3 win over Division II Colorado Mesa, but since making the divisional jump five years ago, the Bears have only won a total of nine games.
Including their matchup with Northern Colorado on Saturday, the No. 14 Mustangs have now played games against opponents with a combined 1-12 record during the past two weeks. But despite slow starts in each of those contests, the team played its best football as the games went on, according to Walsh.
“It’s probably the thing I’ve been most proud of in our football team the entire year,” Walsh said. “It’s the ability to keep fighting and to fight through things better as the game progresses. And I think that if we continue to do that, it will mean a lot of good things. I think No. 1, we’ve made good adjustments at halftime and, No. 2, our players are buying in.”
On Saturday, Cal Poly’s scoring was spearheaded by senior running back Deonte Williams, who rushed for 117 yards on 22 carries and racked up three touchdowns on the night. Sophomore running back Kristaan Ivory added two more scores with 46 yards, including a 37-yard touchdown run that broke a 14-14 tie and gave the Mustangs a lead they would never relinquish.
Despite 308 total yards on the ground, the Mustangs didn’t use the run game exclusively. Senior quarterback Andre Broadous threw for two touchdowns on 195 yards to go along with his 68 rushing yards.
“We definitely don’t want a team keying on us thinking we’re one dimensional,” Williams said of the balance on offense. “We definitely have a pass game and we have good receivers that can catch the ball. So it was good to see that we opened it up.”
After scrambling out of the pocket on a first quarter play, Broadous connected with sophomore wide receiver Willie Tucker for his longest touchdown pass of the season. The 45-yard strike gave the Mustangs a 14-7 lead with 5:38 to go in the frame.
He also added a 30-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Brandon Michalkiewicz with nine minutes to go in the game.
“Today we noticed they were playing a little flat-footed,” Broadous said. “We were able to take some deep balls with our slot receivers and our wide receivers.”
After Northern Colorado quarterback Seth Lobato’s touchdown pass to tight end Darin McDonald tied the game at the end of the first quarter, Ivory’s 37-yard scoring scamper and Williams’ three touchdowns put the game out of reach for the Bears.
Fifth-year senior Ryan Solomon also got in on the action, as the running back’s 5-yard touchdown run with 3:47 to go in the game finalized Cal Poly’s scoring.
“I was so happy for (Solomon) because I’ve been here with him for four years,” Broadous said. “I know how hard he works in practice on the scout team. And for those guys to get rewarded it’s good for us to see.”
Junior linebacker Johnny Millard led the defense with 12 tackles, while senior Kennith Jackson and defensive lineman Sullivan Grosz finished with 11 for Cal Poly.
Lobato threw for 278 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Bears, while running back Tromaine Dennis added a touchdown on 80 total yards.
The Mustangs remain home next week as they host Portland State (2-4, 1-2). With a win Cal Poly will match its 7-0 start from the 2004 season, a year in which they finished 9-2 overall. Kickoff is set for 6:05 p.m.