Senior quarterback Chris Brown ran for 132 yards with two touchdowns and passed for two more scores in leading Cal Poly to a 58-26 victory over Idaho State in a Big Sky Conference matchup Saturday night at Alex G. Spanos Stadium.
The Mustangs got off to a fast start offensively and avoided a fourth consecutive loss, improving to 2-3 overall and 1-1 against Big Sky opponents. The Bengals (1-4, 0-2), who finished in a three-way tie for second in the conference last fall, lost their fourth straight game.
"There's no question we needed a win," head coach Tim Walsh said. "I think our players came out with the attitude that there was a urgency to making sure that we gave ourselves the best opportunity to win."
How it happened: After struggling to move the ball and get stops early in their past two games, the Mustangs raced out to a 14-0 lead and stayed in control the rest of the way. Brown led Cal Poly on four straight scoring drives to start the game and the defense kept Idaho State out of the end zone the entire first quarter.
The 6-foot-2, 205-pound quarterback surpassed the 100-yard rushing mark for the third time this season and 10th time in his career. Brown also threw two touchdown passes to fifth-year senior Willie Tucker.
Cal Poly put the game away with a 24-point third quarter, thanks in part to a pair of Idaho State fumbles that gave the Mustangs a short field. It was Cal Poly’s highest scoring quarter since the 2012 season.
X-factor: Since moving into the starting lineup last week against Montana State, Tucker has reestablished himself as one of Brown’s favorite targets.
Having missed most of 2013 and all of 2014 with a knee injury, Tucker has come on strong the last two weeks. During Saturday’s victory, Tucker caught four passes for 87 yards and two touchdowns.
The 6-foot-2, 201-pound El Dorado Hills native has caught three touchdown passes this season and 14 during his career.
"We knew we needed a win," Tucker said. "We definitely needed a win to keep our Big Sky Conference championship hopes in stride."
Garcia in a groove: After running for 107 yards in the first three games of the season combined, junior running back Kori Garcia seems to have settled into rhythm the past two weeks.
A 114-yard effort against Montana State last week put away any doubts that a lingering shoulder injury would keep the preseason All-American sidelined.
The Los Angeles native, who became the 18th Mustang in program history to rush for more than 1,000 yards a year ago, turned in another strong performance against the visiting Bengals.
Garcia rushed for 146 yards on 18 carries and scored three touchdowns.
"The main thing was to have a fast start," Garcia said. "We can't put it all on the defense."
Up next: Cal Poly will be back on the road next week when the Mustangs travel to Cheney, Wash., to play No. 9-ranked Eastern Washington.
The three-time defending Big Sky Conference champion Eagles (2-2) had a bye on Saturday. The last time the two teams met, Eastern Washington cruised to a 35-22 victory in San Luis Obispo back in 2013.