As premature as it may seem, the Cal Poly football team needed a win Saturday night to keep its FCS playoff hopes alive.
Though it’s only two weeks into the Big Sky Conference season, the Mustangs couldn’t afford to fall into an 0-2 hole with a trip to Eastern Washington looming next week.
Cal Poly slashed visiting Idaho State time and again on the way to rushing for 499 yards and six touchdowns during a 58-26 win against the sliding Bengals at Alex G. Spanos Stadium.
Four Mustangs scored touchdowns, including two apiece from quarterback Chris Brown, wide receiver Willie Tucker and three from running back Kori Garcia.
Cal Poly also forced three turnovers: two fumbles and an interception from senior safety Kaulin Blair.
“It’s always good to win," Brown said. "There’s a different energy when we step out onto the field at practice and stepping into the meeting rooms because we know we’re a good team.”
Secondary remains a point of concern
Defending against the pass continues to be a challenge for the Mustangs’ secondary.
Entering Saturday’s contest, Cal Poly was allowing 317 passing yards per game, the highest total in the Big Sky Conference.
In terms of overall talent, Idaho State’s Michael Sanders probably ranks near the bottom of the five quarterbacks the Mustangs have faced this season.
Montana’s Brady Gustafson passed for 353 yards in the season opener. Arizona State’s Mike Bercovici passed for 283 yards and three touchdowns in Tempe, and Dakota Prukop threw for nearly 400 yards and three scores last week.
Sanders, a transfer from Scottsdale Community College, had arguably his best half of his season during the first 30 minutes against the Mustangs. His 14 completions covered 167 yards, and he threw a pair of touchdowns to Madison Mangum.
Sanders finished the game 19 of 29 for 285 yards and three touchdowns.
Concussion keeps Protheroe on sideline
Sophomore fullback Joe Protheroe did not dress down for the first time in his career.
The 6-foot, 225-pound Protheroe entered Saturday’s contest as the leading rusher in the Big Sky Conference, averaging more than 108 yards per game. His 98 carries through four games were the most in the conference by a wide margin.
During last week’s loss at Montana State, Protheroe carried the ball 27 times for 156 yards and one touchdown. It was the third time in four games this season Protheroe had at least 27 carries.
In his place, fellow sophomore Jared Mohamed tallied a team-high 24 carries for 86 yards. Reserve tight end Reagn Enger also got a couple reps at fullback late in the second half.
“Joe Protheroe is a great player, there’s no question," head coach Tim Walsh said. "But Jared Mohamed, we’ve said all along, is a good, steady guy. He’s a good player. He’s going to do everything he can to make sure we’re going in the proper direction.
"I thought he played extremely well tonight, too.”