As he has for the better part of the past five seasons, Joe Protheroe did what he has just about always done — act as the lynchpin of the Cal Poly offense.
This night, in his 46th game lining up in the green and gold of a Mustangs uniform, became historic.
Protheroe rumbled for 183 yards on 34 carries to set a school record for career rushing with 4,271 yards, leading Cal Poly to a 38-24 victory Saturday over Southern Utah at Alex G. Spanos Stadium in the 2018 season finale.
Protheroe earned his ninth straight 100-yard game and his 23rd career contest over that mark, surpassing the record 4,205 set by Craig Young (1996-99) with a 24-yard run early in the third quarter.
Protheroe finished with 1,810 yards for the season. His season total is the most in the Big Sky since Cal Poly joined the conference in 2012.
Senior quarterback Khaleel Jenkins also passed for a career-high five touchdowns in the victory, completing 9 of 13 passes for 196 yards and surpassing his former career high of four touchdown passes set against Northern Iowa in 2017. He hit J.J. Koski and Quentin Harrison twice on scoring passes and Malcolm Davis with another.
With the win, Cal Poly’s second in a row for the first time this season, the Mustangs improved to 5-6 on the year, a four-win improvement over last season’s 1-10 mark. Cal Poly finished sixth in the Big Sky at 4-4.
Southern Utah, co-champion of the Big Sky a year ago, fell to 1-10 and 1-7.
The visiting Thunderbirds jumped to a 14-0 lead in the first 14 minutes of the game before Cal Poly mounted its comeback. Karris Davis ran 28 yards for the first score and Tyler Skidmore hit McCoy Hill with a nine-yard touchdown pass.
Koski’s first touchdown catch covering 46 yards and a 32-yard scoring reception by Malcolm Davis knotted the score at 14-14 midway through the second period.
Each team scored another touchdown before the break, leaving the game tied at 21-21. Jay Green scored on a one-yard run for Southern Utah and Koski’s 56-yard touchdown catch knotted the game a second time just before halftime.
Cal Poly outscored Southern Utah 17-3 in the second half to secure the victory.
Cal Poly finished with a 503-450 advantage in total offense and 31:47 to 28:13 in time of possession. The Mustangs, among the nation’s leaders in time of possession and third-down conversions, converted nine of 13 third downs to finish the season 95 of 189 (51 percent).
Cal Poly has beaten Southern Utah 15 straight times in San Luis Obispo and holds a 20-9 advantage in the series.