Cornerback Asa Jackson stepped up just when his team needed him, again.
After halting a South Dakota State drive that would have put the Jackrabbits within striking range of a come-from behind-win three weeks ago, Jackson picked off another pass and returned it for a go-ahead touchdown, this one being from 52 yards out to fuel a 44-25 Cal Poly football win over Central Oklahoma on Saturday at Alex G. Spanos Stadium.
“I just think every time they throw the ball to my side, that’s them disrespecting me,” said Jackson, who ran back a 100-yard interception return against the Jackrabbits to help the Mustangs to a 48-14 win. “That’s the quarterback thinking they can complete it. So when that happens, I got to make them pay. I haven’t been getting as many opportunities as I would have liked this year, so when I do get my few I got to make it happen.”
It was his second interception of the season, eighth of his career and his second touchdown return of the year. And to head coach Tim Walsh and the rest of the Mustangs, it couldn’t have come at a better time.
“Big-time players make big-time plays,” Walsh said. “That was an awesome play to intercept a hitch and take it the length of the field. “That was probably the one that broke their back.”
The interception, however, masked what was yet another day where the Mustangs (2-3) gave up big plays through the air. Central Oklahoma quarterback Ethan Sharp had his way most of the game against the Cal Poly secondary, going 30 for 50 with 290 yards and two scores.
“Give them a lot of credit with what they did. They knew that they were going to struggle running the football so they got rid of the football quick,” Walsh said. “We had three injuries in the secondary which means we couldn’t play half the players we practiced all week. We just didn’t have any secondary players left.”
The Division II Bronchos (1-5) exploited that weakness in a big way during the first half. They came out and stunned the Cal Poly defense, gaining 218 yards of total offense to take a 19-10 lead at the break.
“It was hard for us,” Jackson said, “to see a team that we feel that we are superior to come out and be beating us. So you know, when you get punched in the mouth, it’s time to respond.”
And that’s exactly what the Mustangs did.
On their first possession of the third quarter, the Mustangs drove 87 yards on 12 plays to punch in a 2-yard Andre Broadous touchdown run, cutting the deficit to 19-17.
Later in the third quarter, the Mustangs drove 70 yards on 10 plays to go ahead 24-19 on an 18-yard touchdown run by running back by Deonte Williams, his first in a Cal Poly uniform.
In the fourth quarter, though, Central Oklahoma retook the lead, after Sharp found Matt Jackson for a 21-yard touchdown pass for a 25-24 lead.
But with the Bronchos threatening to score again, Jackson gave the Mustangs exactly what they needed to go ahead and grab their first win since Sept. 17.
“It’s one of those things where I’ve always been, in any sport that I played, a player that’s done better as the stakes get higher,” Jackson said. “Whenever I get my hands on the ball I like to get points, so I just took it down the sideline, tried to get six and it worked out.”