MISSOULA, Mont. — Alex Vega had never attempted a collegiate field goal when he jogged on the field in the fourth quarter Saturday night.
But the redshirt freshman calmly converted a 49-yard field goal with four seconds remaining, propelling the Cal Poly football team to a 20-19 victory against the No. 12-ranked Grizzlies at Washington-Grizzly Stadium.
It was an improbable end to a game that featured several special teams miscues for the Mustangs.
Brown, Protheroe pace ground game
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While senior quarterback Chris Brown only completed four passes and attempted 12, the 6-foot-2, 200-pound quarterback showed he’s again capable of leading Cal Poly’s offense with his feet.
A year removed from rushing for 1,265 yards, Brown led the Mustangs with 130 yards rushing and scored a 60-yard touchdown.
Sophomore fullback Joe Protheroe also surpassed the 100-yard mark and finished with a career-high 112 yards on 29 carries.
The Mustangs finished the game 330 rushing yards.
Gustafson airs it out
At 6-foot-7 and 235 pounds, Brady Gustafson looks the part of an NFL quarterback.
A fourth-year junior making the second start of his career, Gustafson had little trouble moving the ball against Cal Poly’s defense. He completed 28 of his 48 attempts in the first half alone, compared to 55 attempts last week against North Dakota State.
In two games this season, Gustafson has thrown 119 passes to a slew of talented receivers.
He finished Saturday’s game 40 for 64 for 353 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions.
Nard completes his comeback
Cal Poly safety B.J. Nard returned to the field nearly four years after his last official snap.
Not since his senior year of high school in 2011 had Nard played in a game, missing two seasons with a knee injury and redshirting in 2012.
On Saturday, Nard did his best to play catchup.
The 6-foot, 207-pound safety made all six of his tackles in the first half and intercepted three Gustafson passes, two of those coming in the second half.
Nard’s first career interception came with less than four minutes remaining in the first half. He intercepted Gustafson twice more in the fourth quarter, returning the first to the Grizzlies’ 15-yard line.
Cal Poly was unable to score on any of the drives that followed a Nard interception.
Big day in the Big Sky
On the celebrated first Saturday of the college football season, the Big Sky Conference played the role of spoiler more than once.
The biggest upset of the came from the Palouse, where 31-point underdog Portland State defeated Washington State, 24-17. The Vikings erased a 10-point halftime deficit, scoring all 24 of their points in the second half.
It was Portland State’s first victory against a Pac-12 Conference opponent, breaking an 0-14 record against those teams.
North Dakota also went on the road to upset an FBS opponent.
The Fighting Sioux held off a late comeback en route to a 24-13 win against Wyoming.