FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — The Northern Arizona defense didn’t give the Cal Poly football team anything.
The Mustangs earned every yard, every point and every bit of their share of the Big Sky Conference championship Saturday.
The host Lumberjacks had a hard time stopping the powerful Cal Poly (9-2, 7-1) offense and the Mustangs ran away with a 42-34 win at the Walkup Skydome on Saturday.
There was no question about what was on the line as both teams fought from the opening kickoff in what turned out to be a very physical game.
“Our goal coming in was to be the Big Sky champions,” Mustangs coach Tim Walsh said. “We told the team early in the season we had to win all our home games and then more on the road than we lost. We knew we’d have to win on the road at Northern Arizona. It’s a tough place to play, and that’s a good football team.”
Both Montana State and Eastern Washington earned their share of the Big Sky title with wins earlier in the day. MSU beat Montana 14-7 while Eastern Washington powered past Portland State for a 41-34 win. Eastern Washington earned the conference’s automatic bid via tiebreaker.
The Mustangs offense may have surprised NAU (8-3, 6-2) a little bit with its ability to pass the ball.
The Lumberjacks were ready for the run, but Cal Poly’s Andre Broadous was able to put up 180 yards and two touchdowns through the air.
Walsh gave credit to Broadous and the offensive line for “almost willing some touchdowns,” but Broadous’ soft touch on the ball made it look easy for Cal Poly’s receivers.
“Andre threw the ball well and Cole Stanford made some great plays,” Walsh said. “We did a good job running the ball, but what threw them for a loop is how good we can throw the ball. That was a great job by Andre, and that put them on their heels as far as being aggressive toward the run, and that let us run the ball better.”
Broadous finished with six completions on nine attempts, and added 44 yards and a score on the ground on 15 rushes.
Deonte Williams was the leading rusher for Cal Poly, racking up 139 yards on the ground on 25 carries. He didn’t score, but he was just as dangerous without the ball as he was with it.
“A lot of teams know we run the ball, but we have a lot of weapons and everyone saw it tonight,” Williams said.
Kristaan Ivory scored a pair of touchdowns for the Mustangs as part of a 100-yard performance. He punched one in from 13-yards out and another from one yard.
The Mustangs also played a tremendous defensive game, which included a 40-yard interception return for a touchdown on a Cary Grossart pass that was tipped out of running back Zach Bauman’s hands.
“Defensively, I don’t know that we could play better defense than we did in the first half,” Walsh said. “We got a little passive after that, and they made some big plays that kept them in the game; no matter how hard we tried to put them away, they hung around.”
Cal Poly’s defense knocked Bauman out of the game for most of the second half with an elbow injury, and held the back to 44 yards and no touchdowns on 14 carries.
The championship win was the icing on the cake of a successful first season in the Big Sky Conference.
“I’m excited as I could possibly be,” Broadous said. “It’s our first year in the Big Sky, and we came in and made a statement. We won the championship by beating a team that beat a BCS team, and we beat a great team in Northern Arizona.”
Cal Poly’s win ended the Lumberjacks’ season with two straight losses, but both teams could still make the FCS playoffs depending on today’s selection show.
“We won’t even be back for the selection show, so we’ll already be selected,” Walsh said. “I hope we’re either playing at home or have a bye because we got banged up pretty good and we need to rest up.”
The selection show starts at 10:30 a.m. on ESPNU.