Ryan Chartrand

College football is a beautiful thing, even when the game is ugly.

It mesmerizes us with well-orchestrated drives, awesome physicality and unlikely comeback victories.

But when Cal Poly edged Great West Football Conference rival UC Davis 23-17 Saturday night, perhaps the best pageantry had nothing to do with what happened between the hash marks.

It was just as much about the sixth-largest home crowd in the history of the Cal Poly football program, which has existed since 1915. Even with 8,435 fans packed into the still-under-construction Alex G. Spanos Stadium, there could have been more.

Hundreds of students lined up around the block were turned away from a game that sold out of general admission tickets Oct. 3.

As the Mustangs walked in their gear from Mott Gym down to Crandall Gym for pre-game operations, several face- and body-painted students greeted them with cheers a full hour and 30 minutes before kickoff.

The green- and gold-clad contingent stayed on its feet virtually throughout the entire second half as if to cajole the Mustangs to 17 unanswered points in the third quarter.

“Any time the crowd can rock like this, it’s great,” Cal Poly senior middle linebacker Kyle Shotwell said after the game.

Cal Poly head coach Rich Ellerson said it was the loudest student section he had seen since coming to Cal Poly in 2001.

And the fun didn’t stop there.

For those who missed it, after the game, bands from Cal Poly and UC Davis staged a spirited Battle of the Bands that lasted more than 45 minutes.

At one point, a Cal Poly band member shouted, “You got beat by a state school!” to which a UC Davis counterpart playfully responded, “We beat you twice before!”

The Mustang Marching Band members then proceeded in perfect synchronization off Mustang Memorial Field, advancing into the night past Mott Gym. Who knows where or when they stopped.

It was a game that lasted just 2 hours, 42 minutes, but on the periphery, there were festivities surrounding the game that began in the morning (tailgate parties), picked up at 4 p.m. (the line forming) and got downright wild at 4:45 p.m. (the gates opened).

A bye week is in store next and the Mustangs have just two home games remaining, but they host homecoming against South Dakota State on Oct. 21.

Two of the 14 largest home crowds in the 91-year history of the program have already been recorded this season and it’s barely October.

Just imagine what the crowds will be like once the stadium is complete.

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