Cal Poly's Zalud caps a strong season with good playoff performance

jscroggin@thetribunenews.comDecember 1, 2012 

HUNTSVILLE, Texas — When Cal Poly kicker James Langford left town for greener pastures at Cal in the offseason, the Mustangs lost the highest-scoring kicker in program history.

And replaced him with a higher-scoring one.

Junior kicker Bobby Zalud accounted for 10 points and moved past Langford on the program’s all-time single-season kicker scoring list in Saturday’s 18-16 second-round FCS playoff loss at Sam Houston State.

Zalud finished the season with 91 points, five more than Langford totaled as a sophomore in 2011. Last year, Langford hit 15 of 20 field goals and 41 of 42 extra points.

Zalud made 12 of 16 field goals this season, including two 51-yarders, and was perfect on 55 extra points.

Aside from a desperation gadget play in the final 2 minutes, the kicks by the Arkansas State transfer were all the scoring the Mustangs’ triple-option offense could muster against the third-leading rushing defense in the FCS.

“Being a kicker, you definitely want to be the guy to go out there,” Zalud said, “but you definitely would like to see the offense get into the end zone for touchdowns and put seven points on the board.”

On paper, the matchup between high-scoring run-based offenses was billed as a shootout, but it devolved into almost the exact opposite.

The No. 5 Bearkats (9-3) were leading the FCS with 44.6 points per game, but they stumbled to a season-low 241 offensive yards and needed three field goals of their own from kicker Miguel Antonio.

The No. 12 Mustangs were sixth in the FCS averaging 38.6 points per game, but a season-low 224 rushing yards were illustrated no better than when Cal Poly failed to convert red-zone trips into touchdowns.

The Mustangs needed Zalud’s perfection, which included a 27-yarder in the second quarter that was iced by an unsuccessful challenge of a reviewed 11-yard catch by Brandon Michalkiewicz and a game-long 48-yard third-quarter field goal that cut the lead to 15-9.

“Some of the drives kind of stalled out at the end,” Zalud said. “Coach had the faith in me to march me out there. And I definitely want that opportunity. I’m glad he had the faith in me to go out there and kick it.”

When sophomore punter Paul Hundley was ruled ineligible to start the season, Zalud even took over punting duties.

Though a blocked punt on an off-center snap led to a safety for Sam Houston State in a game that was won by two points, it was one of few punting lowlights this season for Zalud, who hadn’t taken long snaps since he was at Carlsbad La Costa Canyon High in 2009.

He averaged more than 40 yards per punt for the season and remained proud of even his shortest placekick on Saturday, a 23-yard field goal.

Even though the crowd of 7,073 at Bowers Stadium was ramped up for his 48-yarder, it was the only one where he wasn’t kicking into a wind forecast in the double digits.

“The crowd got into it, but the wind was a factor today,” Zalud said. “The wind was blowing all over the place. It was swirling in the stadium. I just had to stick true to my line and knock it through.”

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