The Cal Poly football team started the conference season on the right foot with a road victory over Southern Utah.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Jalen Hamler ran for two touchdowns, and backup Jake Jeffrey added another as the Mustangs built a 24-13 lead and held on for a 24-21 win in the Big Sky opener for both schools Saturday night inside Eccles Coliseum in Cedar City.
The Thunderbirds scored a touchdown early in the fourth quarter and made the two-point conversion to pull to within three points. They had an opportunity to tie the score late, but Kekoa Sasaoka’s 22-yard field goal attempt with 2:10 to play caromed off the left upright.
Cal Poly was able to run out the clock and even its record at 2-2. Southern Utah fell to 1-4.
Hamler scored touchdowns of six and 13 yards in the second quarter, and Colton Theaker kicked a 36-yard field goal as Cal Poly built a 17-7 halftime lead.
Jay Green’s 21-yard touchdown run closed the gap to 17-13 in the third quarter, but Jeffrey scored from four yards out early in the fourth quarter to build Cal Poly’s lead back to 24-13.
A 56-yard pass play and a two-point conversion with nine minutes to play helped Southern Utah pull to within three points, but the Thunderbirds were unable to get on the scoreboard the rest of the way.
Cal Poly fullback Duy Tran-Sampson rushed 24 times for 81 yards, and Hamler finished with 65 yards on 20 trips. Hamler completed two of four passes, and Jeffrey connected on both of his attempts. J.J. Koski had all four catches for 55 yards.
Linebacker Matt Shotwell notched nine tackles and one pass breakup to lead the Mustangs defensively.
Cal Poly, which did not play a home game in September, returns home next Saturday to host Montana State for another Big Sky game. Kickoff of the Hall of Fame Game is set for 5:05 p.m.