Take a look at a vast majority of the plays from Saturday’s 21-12 loss at Texas State, and the Cal Poly football team’s defense looked like a dominant force.
When you limit the looks to the inverse, however, it’s plain to see where the game was decided: Big plays and yellow flags.
The Mustangs (2-1) gave up 37-yard touchdown runs to two different Bobcats backs, a 27-yard run by Dexter Imade set up the other Texas State touchdown, and the Cal Poly defense repeatedly shot itself in the foot with penalties late in the game.
“Too many big plays,” head coach Tim Walsh said by phone Saturday. “We gave up five or six plays that totaled up 230 yards. We can’t have the penalties with that. That’s disappointing, but I think we played hard.”
For the first time in three weeks this season, the Cal Poly football team went without an honoree in the Great West Conference players of the week announcement Sunday.
If there would have been a Mustangs defensive nominee, it might have been sophomore linebacker Kenny Jackson, who had 11 tackles, two for loss and half a sack.
Also, senior linebacker Marty Mohamed got the Cal Poly offense off to a great start when he picked off a tipped pass for his second interception of the season to kill Texas State’s opening drive.
The Mustangs forced the Bobcats (2-1) to punt seven times, held Texas State to just 1 for 8 on third-down conversions and allowed nearly 150 fewer yards on Saturday than they did in last week’s 35-33 home upset over Montana.
Aside from the three big runs, the Bobcats only averaged 2.8 yards per carry.
“There’s a lot of things our defense did very well,” Walsh said, “but it gets back to their 21 points coming off of big plays. If you look at that, the yards we’re giving up on big plays is not helping us.”
Cal Poly might have even survived despite allowing the long runs, but the Mustangs went too far in helping Texas State move the ball on the game-clinching drive and even hampered their own offense with penalties.
On the possession that turned the Bobcats’ lead from a 14-12 squeaker to an insurmountable two-score advantage, Cal Poly committed two critical violations.
Junior cornerback Asa Jackson was called for defensive holding on a first-and-15, and junior defensive end Gavin Cooper was hit with a personal foul for a facemask on a second-and-6.
Two plays later, Imade ran 37 yards into the end zone to make it 21-12 early in the fourth quarter. To make matters worse, the Mustangs jumped offside on the PAT, and freshman Sullivan Grosz got tagged for a personal foul on the ensuing kickoff, forcing Cal Poly to start the drive from its own 13-yard line.
On the Mustangs’ next defensive play from scrimmage, cornerback Nico Molino committed another personal foul.
The 83 yards on nine penalties racked up by Cal Poly helped give first-time starting quarterback Doug Shumway and the Mustangs awful field position in the fourth quarter, when desperation began to set in.
After the string of personal fouls, Cal Poly’s triple-option attack — not noted for its quick-strike ability — began its final three possessions of the game once from its own 13 and twice from its own 4.
The Bobcats capitalized, while the Mustangs on the other hand scored nothing after Mohamed’s interception, came away with only field goals in two of their four red zone trips and fumbled the ball away on one of the others.
“I just wanted to make sure we played a good football game on the road,” Walsh said. “They did what they needed to do to win the football game, and we didn’t take advantage of the opportunities we had.”
WEST GRABS HOLD OF PLACEKICKING JOB
Traveling both kicking specialists seemed to be a good decision by Walsh, who’d been on record saying only one would go on the road with the team.
He ended up going to a second and got six points out of it.
James Langford, who has excelled at kickoffs this season, had the first crack at a field goal following Mohamed’s interception but the true freshman missed badly from 46 yards out.
That made way for senior Jake West, a former Atascadero High standout, to make two field goals from 32 and 33 yards in the first and third quarters.
They were West’s first two made field goals in his Cal Poly career after having been 0 for 3. He missed a 46-yarder in the Mustangs’ 36-35 loss at Wisconsin in 2008 and one each in the first two weeks this season.
Langford is now 0 for 2, including a 50-yarder he missed against Montana.