SACRAMENTO — The Cal Poly football team came into Saturday’s 56-27 win against Sacramento State with a two-pronged plan to limit the Hornets’ high-powered offense.
Sacramento State came into the game ranked ninth in the country in scoring, averaging 41 points per game.
One thing the Mustangs hoped to do was play a bend-but-don’t-break defense by keeping balls from going over their heads and avoiding the big play by the Hornets.
In the first half, that tactic proved fruitful as the Cal Poly defense forced Sacramento State into two field goals and entered the third quarter with a 21-20 lead.
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The other part of the plan was to keep the ball away from the Hornets but sapping the clock with a run-heavy offensive attack.
That strategy did not fare as well.
Sacramento State actually held the ball for nearly nine more minutes than Cal Poly in the first half. The one thing that kept the Mustangs in the game was a quick-strike ability, including a perfect hurry-up sequence to end the second quarter.
The Hornets took a 20-14 lead on kicker Brad Cornish’s second field goal, a 44-yarder with 2:48 left.
Then Cal Poly went 68 yards in eight plays, taking only 1:58 off the clock.
Chris Nicholls had a 23-yard run to start the drive, and Kori Garcia added rushes of 15 and
Quarterback Chris Brown hit slotback Kenny Mitchell for a 3-yard touchdown pass to take the lead with 47 seconds left and the Mustangs expecting the ball to open the second half.
Brown had two touchdown passes in the first half to up his career total to 16, but the players he threw them to were grabbing the first touchdowns of their college careers.
Roland Jackson came into the game leading the Mustangs with 283 receiving yards, and the junior receiver was averaging a remarkable 34.5 yards per catch, as most of his eight receptions had come on deep balls.
But even though he has had several long catches, including an 89-yard catch at South Dakota State on Sept. 6, Jackson had yet to score.
Then Brown hit him running wide open down the middle for a touchdown strike for 52 yards that cut a Sacramento State lead to 17-14 with 8:27 left in the first half.
The next touchdown pass, the 3-yarder to Mitchell, was also the first of the fifth-year senior slotback’s career.
COMING HOME AGAIN
Saturday night was homecoming for the Hornets — and several Mustangs as well.
On defense alone, three Cal Poly starters played their high school football in the Sacramento area.
Linebacker Burton De Koning, a Nevada transfer and a product of Folsom High, made a return to the starting lineup at strong-side linebacker and made his presence known early, racking up six tackles in the first half alone.
Also having their names called by the public address were Sheldon High graduate Marcus Paige-Allen (two first-half tackles) and former Elk Grove High standout Josh Letuligasnoa (one first-half stop).
De Koning actually replaced Tu’uta Inoke as a starter for the game, and Inoke was a former option quarterback at Sacramento Burbank High.
Junior center Stephen Sippel, a two-year starter for Cal Poly, was a teammate of both De Koning as well as backup quarterback Dano Graves and reserve wide receiver Carson McMurtrey at Folsom.