It took five months for Cal Poly head coach Tim Walsh to decide who his quarterback would for Saturday’s game against the University of San Diego.
By midway though the first quarter, it was clear that he made the right choice.
Redshirt freshman Jalen Hamler completed his first collegiate pass to J.J. Koski for 65 yards and never looked back, completing his next four for a total of 207 yards and three scores.
The Mustangs season high for passing yardage in a game last season was 196 yards.
He finished the game 8 for 11, throwing for 221 yards and three touchdowns as the Mustangs won 52-34 at Alex G. Spanos Stadium. Hamler also had two rushing touchdowns.
“He was extremely accurate. I really like the air he put on it,” said Walsh, who improves to 5-1 lifetime against San Diego. “His timing was good. His presence in the pocket was good. All of those things for a redshirt freshman is an extremely good result. A great positive to take forward in the season.
“But for how pretty it was for the first 35 minutes, it was pretty ugly for the last 20 minutes. We have a lot of work to do.”
Leading 54-14, the Mustangs took Hamler out in the third and gave looks to his preseason competition, Jake Jeffrey and Kyle Reid, as well as the backup offensive line and defense.
After Hamler was out, the Mustangs were listless on offense and gave up 20 unanswered points. Hamler and the defensive starters re-entered the game, and the defense came up with several big stops when they needed to, including an interception by former Arroyo Grande High School standout Bradley Mickey. Matt Shotwell also had an interception.
“We’ve got to learn how to win again,” Walsh said. “When you’re ahead 52-14, that’s when you need to put the pressure on, and you get it over with.”
Another product of Arroyo Grande, Colton Theaker, kicked a 28-yard field goal and handled all of the extra points.
The offensive line, which underwent a reshuffling in the offseason, produced big holes in the run game, and it didn’t take long for Cal Poly to capitalize. On the second play of the game, Duy Tran-Sampson ran 87 yards for a score. He finished the game with 172 yards on 15 carries and two touchdowns.
A former St. Joseph standout in C.J. Cole rushed for 38 yards on four attempts.
Koski finished the game with five catches for 154 yards and two scores, and Quentin Harrison had three catches for 67 yards and a score.
Next Saturday, the Mustangs (1-0) will play at Weber State before taking on Oregon State the following week.