The Cal Poly football team was held to 233 yards of total offense and turned the ball over three times in a 34-13 road loss on a steamy Saturday to nonconference foe San Jose State at CEFCU Stadium.
The Mustangs managed to hang with their opponent from the Power 5 Conference Mountain West in early action, jumping out to a 6-0 lead and trailing just 7-6 at halftime as temperatures remained in triple digits throughout the first half. But San Jose State scored two touchdowns in the third quarter, including one by Paso High School graduate Bailey Gaither on a 49-yard reception. Gaither finished the game with 56 yards on three catches.
“I just don’t think we have any rhythm on offense for whatever reason and we have had great rhythm in our past,” Cal Poly coach Tim Walsh said.
Cal Poly had the chance to take the lead right before halftime, but a strip by San Jose’s Owen Roberts on quarterback Khaleel Jenkins at the Spartans’ four yard line stopped the drive dead in its tracks.
“If we take care of the ball in the last two weeks we probably win both games, or have the oppurtunity to win both games,” Walsh said.
Cal Poly pulled to within 20-13 early in the fourth quarter with a 12-play, 44-yard touchdown drive, culminated by a 1-yard scoring run by Jenkins. But the Spartans pulled away on a 17-yard touchdown run by Zamore Zigler and a 22-yard fumble return by Jamal Scott.
Cal Poly fullback Joe Protheroe, who had 139 yards on a career-high 39 carries in the Mutangs’ loss to Colgate last week, had just 25 yards on nine carries before leaving the game with a knee injury. Walsh said Protheroe will undergo an MRI on Monday.
“Whatever it is it is, but the reality of the situation is he does have a red shirt year so if it is bad he will come back bigger and stronger than ever next year and hopefully light it up,” Walsh said.
Protheroe’s backup, Jared Mohamed, finished with a team-high 97 yards on 22 carries.
Jenkins had 44 yards on 17 carries and was 4 of 10 passing for 37 yards.
It was the second straight week the Mustangs’ vaunted rushing game — which averaged an FCS best 343 yards per game last season — faltered, gaining 196 yards on 61 carries, just a 3.2 yards per carry average.
San Jose State quarterback Montel Aaron, who replaced starter Josh Love, finished the game with 183 yards and three touchdowns on 11 of 17 passing.
Cal Poly wraps up its nonconference schedule next Saturday on the road against Missouri Valley Conference powerhouse Northern Iowa, ranked No. 20 in last week’s FCS Coaches Poll, which opened its season with a loss to Iowa State on Saturday.