SAN DIEGO — Through one half of play, Cal Poly’s newly renovated offense kept the Mustangs in the game.
Playing a much bigger, faster San Diego State defense, Cal Poly was able to move the ball and find the end zone, keeping the deficit to just two possessions.
The second half, however, was a different story.
In Cal Poly’s bid to win its third straight against San Diego State, the Mustangs gained 105 yards of total offense in the last two quarters — with just 10 coming in the third — to fall to the Aztecs 49-21 Saturday at Qualcomm Stadium.
“Not real pleased with the way we played, but we played against a good football team,” Cal Poly head coach Tim Walsh said. “We had them off-balance a couple of times. We had some really good things that got us back in the game after a tough start, but it’s unfortunate that we couldn’t sustain it.”
It was hardly the result Cal Poly fans are used to seeing, as the Mustangs have had the Aztecs’ number in the past. In 2006, the Mustangs were able to use a 112-yard performance from James Noble to upset San Diego State 16-14. Two years later, Cal Poly combined for 478 yards of total offense to knock off the Aztecs 29-27.
But this year, with San Diego State rolling off their first eight-win season since 1996, the Mustangs’ streak ended.
“Obviously, we wanted to come out here, playing against an FBS opponent, and show that we could hang with them,” cornerback Asa Jackson said. “It’s one of these things where any given day you don’t know what is going to happen. Today we didn’t come out on top.”
Early on, it looked as if the Mustangs could. Despite first-quarter scores from running back Ronnie Hillman and quarterback Ryan Lindley, the Mustangs bounced back.
They capped a 9-play, 80-yard drive with a Mark Rodgers 3-yard touchdown run to make it 14-7 in the second.
After Lindley answered with 3-yard touchdown pass to Dylan Denso to make it 21-7, the Mustangs fired back again, this time with a 17-yard rushing score from fullback Jake Romanelli.
But in the second half, the Mustangs sputtered offensively, going three-and-out on all four possessions they had in the third quarter.
“From that point on, we didn’t play very well,” Walsh said. “So give them credit for taking advantage of it.”
Lindley and the Aztecs offense took advantage in a big way. He finished 15 for 27 with 203 yards and four scores. He got help from running back Hillman, who finished with 189 yards on the ground — 139 in the first half — and two TDs.
“We gave up a couple big plays that we normally don’t give up. We got to correct that first and foremost,” Jackson said of Cal Poly’s defense. “ There’s always room for improvement.”
The Mustangs finished with 284 yards of total offense, with 137 rushing and 147 passing. Quarterback Andre Broadous led the Mustangs through the air, going 6 for 13 with 95 yards, while Rodgers led the Mustangs on the ground with 51 yards.
The loss sets Cal Poly back during the first week of what could be their toughest four-game stretch of the season. In the upcoming three weeks, they’ll head to Montana, come home to face South Dakota State and then hit the road again to take on FBS foe Northern Illinois, who went 10-3 last year with a 40-17 win over Fresno State in the Humanitarian Bowl.