MOBILE, Ala. — Cal Poly presented its own brand of hard nosed, smash-mouth football as it forced three interceptions from South Alabama quarterback C.J. Bennett and capitalized on short-field opportunities all game en route to a 41-10 dismantling of the Jaguars in Saturday’s nonconference football game.
Cal Poly (6-5) rushed for 226 yards and added insult to injury with the win, as it handed South Alabama (6-4) its first home loss in 20 games. The game was the season finale for the Mustangs.
“I thought for the first time all season long both the offense and defense showed up and played well,” Cal Poly head coach Tim Walsh said. “They also played well early — not just for one drive, either. I haven’t seen us run the ball and play that fast all season. It was good ‘southern’ football.”
Cal Poly received the opening kickoff, but stalled in its first possession. After only two defensive plays, the Mustangs forced the first of four South Alabama turnovers when Nick Dzubnar knocked the ball out of Jaguars running back Kendall Houston’s hands and Sullivan Grosz recovered on the Jaguar 31-yard line.
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The Mustangs scored four plays later at the 11:19 mark in the first quarter, with Deonte Williams taking an option pitch 16 yards down the sideline and into the end zone.
The first quarter ended with Cal Poly leading 7-3 after South Alabama’s Jordan Means converted on a 32-yard field goal.
A series of hard, short runs by Williams and Mustang quarterback Andre Broadus, plus an illegal substitution penalty by South Alabama, led Cal Poly to the Jaguar 11-yard line early in the first possession of the second quarter, but the Mustangs had to settle for a James Langford 28-yard field goal to extend the lead to 10-3 with 10:30 remaining in the half.
After another home-team punt — one of six for the Jaguars — Cal Poly drove 76 yards midway through the second stanza into the red zone, where the Jaguars committed another defensive blunder on an offside penalty, setting up Williams for his second score — a 5-yard option scamper to make it a 17-3 contest.
The Cal Poly defense sacked Bennett on first down of the ensuing possession and forced a punt, which left the Mustangs with a 59-yard field to navigate with only minutes left in the first half. However, the Jaguars’ defense swallowed quarterback Andre Broadus in the backfield to force a long fourth down.
The teams the traded interceptions to end the first half, as Mustang reserve quarterback Doug Shumway was picked off by Jaguars defensive back Gabe Loper, and Cal Poly safety Greg Francis recorded his fourth interception of the year, snatching a Bennett pass across the middle.Cal Poly opened the second half by getting a Kennith Jackson interception and the Mustangs took advantage of a short field to score on an 8-yard touchdown pass from Broadous to Willie Tucker.
James Langford hit a 37-yarder with 4:58 left in the third to extend the lead to 27-3.
After forcing one of five South Alabama three-and-outs on the next possession, Broadus, who finished the night 9-of-12 passing for 150 yards, recorded his 18th touchdown of the year with two seconds remaining in the third quarter, leading the Mustangs 75 yards in seven plays and finding the end zone on a 1-yard dive.
South Alabama marched to the Cal Poly 16 to open the fourth period, but Johnny Millard’s sack snuffed out the drive.
Mark Rodgers, who ran for 118 yards on 14 carries for Cal Poly, put the game out of reach with a 1-yard touchdown run following a Troy Shotwell interception.
Cal Poly held South Alabama to only 60 yards rushing, tied for the lowest total in the Jaguars’ three-year history.
“It was a good way to end this season because it’s been a pretty dramatic one,” Walsh said. “We lost a lot of energy after the loss to UC Davis weeks ago, but last week’s (triple-overtime) loss (to Eastern Washington) actually gave us some energy because our offense played well. I told our defense that they would be the ones to step up this week, and they did, in a big way.”
Jake Romanelli gained 49 yards on 21 carries, surpassing the 1,000-yard mark for the season late in the third quarter for Cal Poly. The Templeton High School graduate finished the year with 1,015 yards, becoming the 14th Mustang ever to crack the 1,000-yard mark in a season. James Noble was the last one, accumulating 1,009 yards in 2006.
Langford’s two field goals give him a school-record 15 field goals this season. The old mark of 14 was set by James Tuthill in 1995 and matched by Nick Coromelas in 2005.