GRAND FORKS, N.D. — An interception by junior linebacker Kennith Jackson with 23 seconds to play in Saturday’s football game secured a weighty 23-19 road win for Cal Poly over North Dakota at the Alerus Center on Homecoming Day.
The Mustangs extended their win streak to three and more importantly to a 2-0 record in Great West Conference play.
Leading 23-6 with less than five minutes to play in the third quarter, Cal Poly (4-3 overall) had to withstand a furious North Dakota comeback bid, which ended with Jackson’s interception.
“It was a great win on the road against a good team for our kids,” Mustangs head coach Tim Walsh said. “It got a little closer than we would have liked, but we’ll take it.”
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Quarterback Andre Broadous threw for 162 yards and two touchdowns, and kicker James Langford was perfect on three field goal attempts to provide the Cal Poly scoring.
The game did not start out as well as it ended. After North Dakota punted on its first possession, Cal Poly’s first play from scrimmage resulted in a Jake Romanelli fumble at his own 27-yard line, setting North Dakota up in scoring position. From there, the Fighting Sioux (4-3, 1-1 Great West) drove the ball to the Cal Poly 1-yard line and had a first-and-goal.
That’s where things started to go Cal Poly’s way. Led by defensive lineman Kyle Murphy, the Mustangs stopped North Dakota on three consecutive plays and forced a field goal. The defense stepped up big later in the half as well with interceptions by safeties Greg Francis and Angel Morales, stopping consecutive North Dakota drives and leading to points for Cal Poly each time.
The Morales interception gave Cal Poly the ball at its own 45-yard line and led to the Mustangs’ first touchdown. After a 15-yard penalty on North Dakota moved the ball to the Fighting Sioux 38-yard line, Romanelli released up the middle of the field and hauled in his first touchdown reception of the year on a strike from Broadous.
Broadous would find his other fullback, Akaninyene Umoh, on a 35-yard scoring pass with 9:06 left in the third quarter to extend the Cal Poly lead to 17.
The North Dakota defense only allowed the Mustangs to gain 38 total yards the rest of the way as the Fighting Sioux offense came alive and controlled the clock with three scoring drives.
“The momentum shifted a little bit in the fourth quarter,” Walsh said.
“North Dakota’s offense began to move the ball with (Brent) Goska at quarterback.”
Goska replaced starter Joey Bradley in the second quarter after the two Cal Poly interceptions. Ironically not known for his passing, the senior completed 13 of 24 passes for 206 yards and a 21-yard screen to Jake Miller for a touchdown.
Playing without senior cornerback Asa Jackson, Francis led Cal Poly with 12 tackles. In addition to the first-half interception, he also had a huge pass breakup at the goal line in the third quarter, forcing North Dakota to settle for a field goal.
The difference was Cal Poly’s ability to run on the North Dakota defense. Romanelli’s 93 yards led a 222-yard running attack as the Mustangs rolled up 384 yards of total offense in the game, 265 of that coming before intermission.
This was the second consecutive season the two teams played a thriller. A year ago, Cal Poly came from eight points down to beat North Dakota 22-21 on a Mark Rodgers touchdown run. After gaining 37 yards on nine first-half carries, Rogers was unable to return in the second half because of an injury.