The Cal Poly football coaching staff extended a challenge to J.J. Koski in the days leading up the Mustangs’ home opener against Weber State.
In order for Cal Poly to upset the No. 10-ranked Wildcats on Saturday night, the junior wide receiver would be counted on to make game-altering plays on the perimeter.
Koski did exactly that in front of more than 6,000 spectators at Alex G. Spanos Stadium, pulling in seven receptions for 127 yards — both career highs — to lead the Mustangs during a 24-17 defeat.
“I thought he rose up and took that challenge,” head coach Tim Walsh said, “and I thought overall he played a very good football game. But unfortunately it wasn’t enough for us.”
Weber State freshman Josh Davis rushed for 177 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Wildcats (1-1) to their first win of the season and third in a row overall against Cal Poly (0-2).
After trailing 10-3 at halftime, Mustangs sophomore quarterback Jake Jeffrey scored the team’s first touchdown of the season on a 7-yard run midway through the third quarter.
Jeffrey, starting in place of injured senior Khaleel Jenkins, went 9-of-17 passing for 133 yards, and he rushed 12 times for 12 yards and was sacked once.
“He’s not the fasted, he’s not the strongest, he’s not the biggest, but he might be the toughest,” Walsh said of Jeffrey. “He’s got a competitive attitude that you’ve got to love and a no-quit thing in him.”
A big play threat
After being held to one reception in the first half, Koski proved to be a difference make over the final 30 minutes.
Late in the fourth quarter, Jeffrey connected with Koski on key 15-yard pass that set up a Joe Protheroe touchdown run, pulling the Mustangs within 24-17.
Cal Poly’s defense forced a three-and-out on the ensuing possession, giving the offense the ball near midfield with 2:33 remaining. Another long pass to Koski put the Mustangs inside Weber State’s 40-yard line, but a fumble on the third play of the drive thwarted Cal Poly’s comeback.
“Our coaching staff put together a good game plan,” Koski said. “I thought that we could exploit some of their secondary and they called some great plays tonight and we took advantage of it when we got the opportunity.”
Sophomore linebacker Matt Shotwell turned in the best performance of his young Cal Poly career.
The 6-foot, 225-pound Shotwell recorded a career-high 10 tackles to help lead the Mustangs defensively.
Shotwell is the youngest of four brothers to play football at Cal Poly. His oldest brother, Kyle, was a Buck Buchanan Award winner in 2006, an honor given annually to the top defensive player in the Football Championship Subdivision.
Shotwell said playing the entire second half against North Dakota State the previous week helped prepare him to face a talented Weber State team.
“Overall I thought we played really well on defense,” Shotwell said. “I think it gives us a little more confidence going into Brown, seeing that we competed with a top-10 team.”
Nik Navarro led Cal Poly with 11 tackles, including two for lost yardage and a forced fumble. Jayson Lee added six tackles and one sack for the Mustangs.
One promising long-term development for the Mustangs is the impending return of Jenkins.
Walsh said Jenkins, who suffered a knee injury during Cal Poly’s season-opening loss to No. 1 North Dakota State, could return to the starting lineup when Big Sky Conference play begins Sept. 22.
“I’m not going to play him if he’s not Khaleel Jenkins, if you get what I’m saying,” Walsh said. “He’s got to show us that he’s physically ready to do the things that we know he can do in order for us to say we’re going to play him.”
Coming up next
Cal Poly will be back in action next week when it hosts Brown at 7:05 p.m. Friday.
The Bears of the Ivy League are coming off a 2-8 season and will face the Mustangs in their season opener.
Cal Poly kicks off Big Sky Conference play the following week with a trip north to play sixth-ranked Eastern Washington.
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