It took just a split second for Travis Jones to get through the line and swing his arm up into the trajectory of Chris Pinto’s field goal attempt.
But once he did, San Jose State’s Spartan Stadium was like the slow-motion scene from a summer blockbuster.
“I looked back and the ball must have been in the air forever,” said Jones, a former Atascadero High All-County quarterback and the starting middle linebacker for the Spartans. “I was like, ‘Please don’t keep traveling. Please fall, please fall,’ and it did. Wonderful feeling.”
The fourth-quarter block of Pinto’s 27-yard field goal was a pivotal moment in San Jose State’s 19-9 win over Cal Poly (1-2) on Saturday. Along with a 71-yard run by Lamon Muldrow and Muldrow’s ensuing 2-yard touchdown, it sealed the win for the Spartans (1-3).
San Jose State also blocked Pinto’s lone extra-point attempt, a breakthrough for a Spartans team that hadn’t blocked a kick in more than 41⁄2 years.
“We blocked the first one, so we were hoping to get another one, but if, say, given our five-year history am I confident we’re going to block the field goal?” San Jose State head coach Dick Tomey said, “I’d be looney to say that, but I had a feeling.”
Cal Poly, which also had a punt blocked in a 28-10 loss at Ohio last week, left four points on the field with the blocked kicks.
The field goal, which came with 5:51 left in the fourth quarter, could have cut the Spartans’ lead to 13-12. With the blocked extra point, the game could have been tied at that point.
“Big part of the game, and that’s unfortunate,” Mustangs head coach Tim Walsh said, “but there are a lot of other plays in the game that cause us to lose, not just those two plays.”
On that field goal drive, Cal Poly quarterback Tony Smith — who followed up a 1-for-11 performance against Ohio last week with 135 yards on 10 for 25 passing — hit running back David Mahr for a 28-yard catch and run that put the Mustangs at the San Jose State 33-yard line.
But at the end of the play, Mahr hovered over a Spartans tackler with a downward stare and was flagged for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. The play was shortened to a 13-yard gain, and the drive ended at the Spartans’ 10-yard line.
Cal Poly led 9-6 at halftime, but a major swing of momentum came when the Mustangs turned the ball over deep in their own territory midway through the third quarter.
After San Jose State punter Phillip Zavala pinned Cal Poly at its own 1-yard line for the second straight drive, fullback Jake Romanelli, a former Templeton High standout, couldn’t handle an option dive, and the Spartans recovered the ball at the 9-yard line.
Three plays later, San Jose State receiver Marquis Avery leaped above Mustangs cornerback Asa Jackson to snatch a 7-yard touchdown pass from Spartans quarterback Jordan La Secla.
That score gave San Jose State its 13-9 lead.
Romanelli got the start in place of injured fullback Jordan Yocum, who was available to play, Walsh said, but was still bruised up from the Ohio game, where Yocum had a career-high 27 carries.
“We can’t give up big plays and we can’t turn the football over,” Walsh said. “Turning the football over in this offense is bad, and at some point in time we have to win the field position battle … The field position they played on in the third quarter is an offensive coach’s dream.”
Senior running back Jono Grayson had a breakout game for Cal Poly with a career high 138 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries.
Grayson gave the Mustangs a 6-0 lead with a 53-yard touchdown in the first quarter.
Romanelli was the second leading rusher with a career-high 37 yards on 10 carries.
Dominique Johnson was the only Cal Poly receiver with moer than one reception. The UCLA transfer finished with a Mustangs career-best 93 yards on six catches.
The rest of the team combined for three catches, which was still an improvement over the one reception Johnson caught on behalf of the entire team against Ohio.
“We did improve from last week in different aspects,” Grayson said, “but we still didn’t do enough to win. You can’t just be satisfied with doing better. You have to win.”