POCATELLO, Idaho — It looked like nothing would go right for Cal Poly, and things were only getting worse.
In Saturday’s 30-28 loss against Idaho State, the No. 21 Mustangs dug a 17-0 hole, and the Bengals were looking to keep Cal Poly scoreless in the first half.
Idaho State punted from its own 42-yard line, and Mustangs returner Chris Nicholls was unable to corral the ball, instead letting it bounce all the way to Cal Poly’s own 2-yard line.
Then things started to look up a little bit.
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With only 5:35 left in the second quarter, the Mustangs went on a 14-play, 97-yard touchdown drive that gave them hope for the second half.
Sophomore slotback Kori Garcia had runs of 14 and 12 yards on the possession, and senior fullback Brandon Howe got loose for a 13-yard gain.
Every play turned out to be a run on the drive, which ran the clock down to 26 seconds, but the decisive play started as a pass.
Cal Poly quarterback Chris Brown dropped back looking to throw on second-and-2 at the Bengals’ 10-yard line, but when nothing materialized, Brown tucked the ball, got to the edge and dove while stretching the ball at the pylon.
The run was ruled a touchdown, and the Mustangs were poised to receive the ball to start the second half down just 10 points.
FOURTH-DOWN CALL GOES WRONG
Cal Poly may have had another score early in the second quarter, but Idaho State stepped up to stop Brown on the kind of fourth-and-short play the Mustangs have owned all season.
After punting on its first two possessions, Cal Poly drove into Idaho State territory, moving to the Bengals’ 22-yard line. There, the Mustangs faced fourth-and-1, but when Brown took an option keeper over the right guard, Idaho State’s Cody Sorensen and Hayden Stout were there to stuff him for no gain, giving the Bengals the ball.
Cal Poly could have tried what would have been a 39-yard field goal, but the Mustangs have attempted only two field goals all season and not one longer than 20 yards since junior kicker Stephen Pyle was hurt in the second week of the season and replaced by redshirt freshman Zach Schottenfeld.
Coming into the game, Cal Poly ranked fourth in the FCS on fourth-down conversions, successful 72.7 percent of the time.
QUICK ON THE DRAW
Idaho State took the opening kickoff and needed only six plays and 1:43 to go 75 yards for a touchdown.
Bengals running back Xavier Finney ran for 48 yards on four carries to start the drive, and quarterback Justin Arias made his first pass attempt a big one, hitting tight end Hagen Graves for a 21-yard touchdown over the middle.
The touchdown pass was Arias’ 30th of the season, and gave the national leader sole possession of the single-season program record.
After that quick score and a Cal Poly punt, Idaho State’s second drive was much more methodical but featured another big touchdown strike.
The Bengals sapped 6:51 off the clock on a 12-play, 75-yard drive, and Arias connected with receiver KW Williams from 30 yards out. Williams shuffled his feet to get at least one in bounds in the right corner of the end zone, and Idaho State led 14-0 slightly more than midway though the first quarter.
The Bengals added a 35-yard field goal by Zak Johnson with 8:51 left in the second quarter to take a 17-0 lead.