Cal Poly got off to a quick start in Saturday’s 42-39 win against Southern Utah, and Mustangs quarterback Chris Brown was as hot as could be.
The junior started the game 8-of-8 passing for 93 yards, including touchdown strikes of 13 yards to tight end Austin Albison and 24 yards to wide receiver Jordan Hines.
Brown also had a 13-yard screen pass to slotback Kori Garcia and a 22-yard strike to Chris Nicholls.
The strong passing game facilitated Cal Poly’s 21-0 first quarter lead over the Thunderbirds.
Brown’s first incomplete pass didn’t come until there were almost five minutes left in the second quarter.
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Throwing to sophomore slotback Elias Stokes on third-and-10 from the Southern Utah 41-yard line, Brown threw low to Stokes, who appeared to initially lunge for a completion but dropped the pass as he rolled on the ground.
Just like the rest of the Mustangs, Brown cooled significantly in the rest of the half, completing only one of his next three passes for just 2 yards.
LATE FIRST IMPRESSION
A projected starter in training camp, senior defensive end Chris Judge made his season debut in the starting lineup, and the former Air Force transfer made an immediate impact.
Playing only sparingly this season after undergoing offseason hip surgery, Judge recovered a fumble and sacked Thunderbirds quarterback Ammon Olsen in the first half.
On Southern Utah’s first play from scrimmage, Cal Poly’s other starting defensive end, sophomore Josh Letuligasenoa, forced a fumble by running back Malik Brown that a bunch of Mustangs players jumped on.
When the pile peeled off, Judge was at the bottom with the ball, recovering it at the Thunderbirds 23-yard line.
After Cal Poly scored first with the 13-yard touchdown pass to Albison on the opening drive, just two minutes later, the Mustangs were back in the end zone on a 1-yard touchdown run by fullback Brandon Howe, thanks to Judge.
Judge also had one of two sacks in the first half. Sophomore defensive tackle Marcus Paige-Allen had the other, and the Mustangs tripled their season total for sacks in just two quarters.
In racking up its 21-0 lead in the first quarter, Cal Poly dominated the time of possession.
After Brown’s 24-yard touchdown pass to Hines made it a three-score lead, the Mustangs had kept possession for 12 minutes, 15 seconds. To that point, Southern Utah had the ball for only 1:07.
But the Thunderbirds had a big rally before the end of the half, scoring 17 unanswered points and then taking the lead on the first drive of the third quarter.
Kicker Trevor McGirr got Southern Utah started with a 34-yard field goal early in the second quarter.
The Thunderbirds had a 29-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Ammon Olson to receiver Justin Brown and a 3-yard touchdown run by Olsen with only 56 seconds left in the half. Olsen hit tight end Chandler Allphin for a 5-yard touchdown pass early in the third quarter to give Southern Utah its first lead at 24-21.
To help the Thunderbirds on their way to a comeback, Cal Poly was flagged for a few untimely penalties.
A tripping personal foul by left guard Nick Enriquez appeared to stall a promising Cal Poly drive early in the second quarter when Cal Poly led 21-10.
The Mustangs ended up converting on third-and-long with the screen pass to Garcia, but then left tackle Miles Williams was called for a false start on third-and-5 later in the drive that ended with a punt.
On the ensuing drive by Southern Utah, Letuligasenoa was whistled for a personal foul that set up the Thunderbirds with a first down at the Cal Poly 33. Southern Utah followed with Olsen’s touchdown run to make it 21-17.