Neither offense started off strong in Cal Poly’s 17-13 loss to Northern Arizona on Saturday.
But both teams executed prototypical hurry-up drives late in the second quarter of a game that was knotted 10-10 at the half.
The Lumberjacks got on the board first with a 37-yard field goal on their opening drive, but that was only set up when Mustangs fullback Akaninyene Umoh fumbled away possession on the first play from scrimmage.
After that, the teams would trade fumbles and punts until Cal Poly put together its first scoring drive, capped by a 33-yard touchdown run by Chris Nicholls with 6:02 left in the second quarter.
But that’s when the defensive dominance took a break.
Northern Arizona went 77 yards on 10 plays to convert a 3-yard touchdown on third-and-goal with 47 seconds left in the second quarter.
Not to be outdone, Cal Poly ate up 41 yards on eight plays and benefited from a personal foul for a facemask against the Lumberjacks, and Mustangs kicker Bobby Zalud nailed a 39-yard field goal as time expired to tie the score.
Ivory goes down early
Cal Poly junior slotback and leading rusher Kristaan Ivory did not practice leading up to the game after injuring his ankle at Montana last week. Ivory had his right foot in a walking boot as late as the Friday afternoon walkthrough.
Still, Ivory was able to make the start but determined early on that he wasn’t the same back who had racked up 805 rushing yards, which ranked second in the Big Sky Conference coming in, and six touchdowns this season.
Ivory took Cal Poly’s second play from scrimmage on a pitch for 3 yards, but did not show much burst and quickly limped off the field.
He remained near the sideline, waiting to go back in, but took his helmet off before the end of the drive and did not return in the first half.
Nicholls’ changing role
Slotback Kori Garcia ran 12 times for 42 yards in the first half in Ivory’s absence, but Nicholls has seen an expanded role with the injuries to Ivory and sophomore receiver Willie Tucker, who remains out for the season with a knee injury.
Listed at receiver, Nicholls received four carries out of the backfield in addition to taking the second-quarter reverse for the 33-yard score after lining up out wide.
Nicholls went without a catch in the first half but lined up all over the field.
Butier makes homecoming
Former San Luis Obispo High standout Nick Butier was listed as a starter for Northern Arizona.
Butier, a sophomore and former All-County linebacker with the Tigers, assumed the role within the past few weeks.
Although the Lumberjacks use their fullback sparingly, Butier made an impact in the first half, catching a 9-yard pass and running for 1 yard.
Also a starter on the kickoff team, Butier came into the game with one tackle, two catches for 17 yards and two rushes for 4 yards.