FORT COLLINS, Colo. — Despite giving up 353 yards in the first half alone in Saturday’s 34-17 loss at Colorado State, the Cal Poly football team was 15 yards away from pulling within a field goal of the Rams midway through the fourth quarter.
But when Mustangs quarterback Chris Brown’s pass to Willie Tucker in the end zone fell incomplete on third-and-11 from the Colorado State 15-yard line, the Rams turned the momentum with a huge blocked field goal — their second of the game.
Linebacker Shaquile Barrett burst through the line to bat down Bobby Zalud’s 22-yard attempt. Tucker, holding on the attempt, had to grab Barrett to keep the Rams defender from picking up the ball and returning it for a touchdown.
The Rams (1-2) scored a touchdown 11 plays later to put the game away anyway, and on the block, Tucker got stuck under the pile and suffered some sort of rib or back injury.
Instead of threatening to snatch its second victory over an FBS opponent in as many years, Cal Poly returns to San Luis Obispo 1-2 heading into a bye week before its Big Sky Conference schedule kicks off at Portland State.
“We were still in that game all the way up until the last minute,” said Tucker, who had three catches for 69 yards and a touchdown. “Until they start running down the clock and you kind of realize, ‘Wow, it’s done.’ ”
Barrett was also credited for partially blocking a 47-yard attempt with 4:47 left before the half.
Tucker ended up holding on place-kick attempts because regular holder, senior safety Alex Hubbard, injured a finger and was unable to catch snaps effectively,
Cal Poly head coach Tim Walsh said.
Tucker said it was hard for him to breathe after the game but said his injury, though unknown, was not serious.
ONTKO, STANFORD HELPED OFF
After starting quarterback Vince Moraga was lost for the season with an ACL and meniscus tear at Fresno State last week, there were a couple more tense moments for Mustangs fans Saturday.
Both senior slotback Cole Stanford and junior linebacker Cameron Ontko left the field after writhing spells on the turf characterized by clutching at a knee.
Ontko actually left multiple times after similar displays but returned to the lineup each time. He finished tied for the team lead with 12 tackles.
After missing the season opener against San Diego to undergo arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn meniscus, Ontko returned last week to record a team-high 12 stops at Fresno State.
Stanford, who has nursed an ankle injury since the start of training camp, appeared to originally hurt his knee in Fresno and sat out most of practice this week icing both joints.
He left the game early in the second half and did not return, though Walsh said Stanford was likely to play in the next game against Portland State.
“Those two guys, they both had injuries” coming into the past two games, said senior linebacker Johnny Millard, who ranked second on the team with 13 tackles. “It took a lot of courage for them to fight through what they did, so I just think that’s them battling through injuries, and thank goodness we have a bye week for them to get healthy and for other guys to get healthy, too.”
WANGARA, DEFENSIVE LINE MAKE DIFFERENCE
The Mustangs gave Colorado State quarterback Garrett Grayson plenty of time in the first half, and the result was 227 yards passing and a touchdown on 14 of 17 for Grayson in the first two quarters.
In the third, Cal Poly was able to put more pressure on, and the result was several passes batted down at the line of scrimmage.
Andy Alcaraz had a quarterback hurry and batted a pass. Nick Leyen had one, too. Sullivan Grosz and Ontko stuffed a Rams run for a loss on fourth-and-1 at the Cal Poly 44 to set up a 22-yard Tucker touchdown that made it 27-17 with 3:46 left in the third quarter.
And on a crucial series of defensive stops on the following possession that gave the Mustangs the ball back with a 10-point deficit, reserve defensive tackle Barrett Wangara provided push up the middle and knocked down a pass of his own.
Wangara, a senior, entered the game when starter Chris Lawrence left with an apparent head injury.
“He made some plays,” Walsh said. “He knocked down a couple of passes and we played stouter. Barrett played a lot of downs for us last year. We know he could play, and he did a good job.”