MISSOULA, Mont. — The Cal Poly defense couldn’t have had a more ideal start in the No. 15 Mustangs’ 35-23 loss at No. 4 Montana on Saturday.
Cal Poly forced three straight three-and-outs by the Grizzlies to start the game, and the fourth Montana possession was even better for the Mustangs.
On third-and-10, Grizzlies tight end Steve Pfahler caught a 7-yard pass that would have been stopped short for Montana’s fourth straight three-and-out, but Cal Poly was able to strip the ball.
Mustangs junior defensive tackle James Chen made it all the way over to strip the ball and wrestle it away from the Grizzlies players trying to recover, and Cal Poly took over at the Montana 49-yard line.
In the first quarter, the Grizzlies offense netted just 30 total yards in 12 plays and did not pick up a first down.
By comparison, Cal Poly had racked up 151 yards on offense by the end of the first, and following Chen’s fumble recovery, the Mustangs were able to take a 10-0 lead on a 32-yard field goal by Chris Pinto.
Hitting the cold head (and shorts) on
Cal Poly, which arrived in Missoula on Friday, went through its walkthrough that day in the usual San Luis Obispo apparel — T-shirts and shorts.
Only, the Mustangs’ arrival in Montana coincided with the arrival of the first snow of the season. And when Cal Poly was on John Hoyt Field for its walkthrough, temperatures were estimated to be below freezing.
The Mustangs’ refusal to bundle up in an attempt to acclimate with much colder weather than they’re accustomed to certainly created a buzz with the locals.
It was 25 degrees at gametime Saturday with a wind-chill factor that made it feel like 18 degrees, according to The Weather Channel.
However, the cold did not seem to bother Cal Poly as it dominated the first half while Montana failed to record a first down on its first four possessions and lost two fumbles.
Broadous has rough debut
Cal Poly quarterback Tony Smith took an early run to the outside for a 7-yard gain but looked to come up in pain after taking a hit to the upper leg.
Smith appeared to limp through the next couple drives, and after a timeout midway through the second quarter, he was relieved by redshirt freshman quarterback Andre Broadous, who made his college debut.
Broadous rushed for 7 yards on an option keeper on his first official play but fumbled an exchange with fullback Jordan Yocum on third down and left the game in frustration.
Before Smith was named the starter in fall practice, Broadous had been competing for the starting spot.
Another redshirt freshman also made his debut. With Dominique Johnson home in San Luis Obispo with a hurt shoulder, receiver Ryan Taylor caught a 5-yard pass in his first action.
Under the previous coaching regime, Taylor was expected to challenge Smith for the starting spot at quarterback, according to then coach Rich Ellerson.
Cal Poly unveils new PAT bluff
For the first time this season, Cal Poly tried out a new formation for extra points.
The Mustangs lined up with only the snapper, holder and kicker in the middle of the field and the rest of the blockers flanked far outside to the right and left.
After the bluff, the blockers returned to the normal kicking formation, and attempted the PATs. Cal Poly didn’t attempt a 2-point conversion out of the formation, but now it has a new option.
Ticket prices reflect respect
The Associated Press reported that ticket prices were at $55 for Saturday’s game, which was the Grizzlies’ homecoming game, and that was more than any other Big Sky Conference homecoming game and almost double the cost to attend Montana State’s homecoming.
Prices to attend No. 21 Weber State’s, No. 24 Montana State’s or Northern Arizona’s homecoming games ranged between $28 and $30.
Montana athletic director Jim O’Day cited the high quality of Cal Poly as an opponent as a contributing factor to the higher price.