After trailing 10-3 at the half with a first quarter that featured a mere 29 total offensive yards, Cal Poly was able to rally back to defeat Western Oregon 24-17 at Alex G. Spanos Stadium Saturday.
“That’s a good football team,” Mustang coach Rich Ellerson said of Western Oregon. “I told our team not to let other people’s expectations steal a great victory because that’s a better football team than Texas State.”
Ellerson said he was pleased with the team’s effort to overcome the deficit, but also said that Cal Poly still needs work in areas such as turning the ball over in scoring position and errors in the kicking game.
“There’s a lot of things we didn’t do.” Ellerson said. “We’re still turning the ball over in scoring position we still do some things in the kicking game that make you want to scream but we got a (win) while we did it.”
Cal Poly produced 404 offensive yards offensively led on the ground by Jono Grayson who had 70 yards on five carries and a touchdown reception, and Ramses Barden, who had four receptions for 121 yards a touchdown reception.
The game marked Barden’s sixth touchdown and third 100-yard game of the season.
Defensively, the Mustangs were able to contain rushing threat Ben Kuenzi, limiting him to 78 yards. Cal Poly, however, allowed Wolves’ quarterback Mark Thorson to pass for 260 yards but under respectable pressure. Thorson was sacked four times. Thorson’s main target was Isaiah Smith, who picked up 156 yards on eight receptions and a touchdown.
“I think we stayed poised; it just took a minute for our offense to get going and start putting points on the board,” Cal Poly linebacker Mark Restelli said.
Restelli had 11 tackles in the game and was named the Defensive Player of the Week by the Great West Conference.
“Definitely the first half they came to play and they were hitting us pretty hard,” Restelli said.
The first Mustang turnover came on the team’s second drive. Cal Poly quarterback Jonathan Dally, who was facing pressure on a third and three play, was picked off by Wolves’ defensive linesman Casey O’Donnell at the Cal Poly 16.
Western Oregon drove down the Cal Poly 3-yard line but failed to capitalize on the turnover when Restelli blocked Bruce Voges 20-yard attempt.
The Wolves drove down the field on their next possession and scored on a nine-play 61-yard drive that ended with a 1-yard Ben Kuenzi scamper.
Western Oregon scored again early in the second quarter with a 37-yard field goal from Voges.
Cal Poly was able to get on the board late in the second quarter when Dally, who completed no passes in the first quarter, connected with Barden in the corner of the end zone, closing the gap 10-7.
The Mustangs got a chance to even the score with 1:33 left in the half after Ernie Cooper recovered a Juan Rodriguez punt on the Western Oregon 14.
Aris Borjas was credited for blocking the punt.
After Dally failed to find Barden in the corner of the end zone on three straight plays, Andrew Gardner attempted a 31-yard that sailed wide to the left with 1:33 left in the half. It was Gardner’s first missed field goal in five attempts.
The Mustangs more than doubled their first-half total offensive yards in the third quarter, posting 234 yards on 26 plays.
Dally, who had passed for 52 yards in the first half, passed for 121 yards and one touchdown.
Jono Grayson’s 7-yard reception from Dally put Cal Poly up for the first time in the game.
“I’m definitely feeling a lot more comfortable,” Grayson said of his role in the offense.
Dally threw for one more touchdown early in the fourth quarter, capping a 99-yard 10-play drive with an 18-yard reception to Tolver. It was Tolver’s third touchdown of the year.
Cal Poly will face Northern Colorado next week in the final game of a three-game home stand.