OGDEN, Utah — The La-Z-Boy recliners behind the south end zone of Weber State’s Stewart Stadium give prize-winning fans the “Best seats in the house.”
When Barrett Wangara saw them, he was ready to kick his feet up and lounge like a king. The 6-foot-2, 275-pound defensive tackle had certainly earned it.
Wangara had an interception fall in his lap and ran 58 yards untouched for the pivotal touchdown in the Cal Poly football team’s 45-23 victory over the Wildcats, preserving what has been a perfect season for the Mustangs (5-0, 3-0 Big Sky Conference) and a winless one for Weber State (0-6, 0-3 Big Sky) on Friday.
“It felt real good in the end,” Wangara said. “That’s once in a lifetime for a D-lineman, so I’m definitely going to cherish that.
“That’s the farthest I ever ran in a game. I’m just glad it happened.”
With Cal Poly leading 21-20 late in the third quarter of a back-and-forth game, Wisconsin transfer defensive end Jake Irwin pressured Weber State quarterback Mike Hoke, deflecting the ball out of Hoke’s hand as he tried to throw the ball away.
Instead, it went right to Wangara, and the ensuing touchdown began a stretch where the Mustangs outscored the Wildcats 24-3 to finish the night.
The second-string defensive tackle would have been pretty low on the list of candidates to pull off such a stunt, but the defensive linemen were prepared for just such a play. But after Wangara ran all that way, the plans fell apart.
“We usually have a specific interception-to-touchdown dance,” junior defensive tackle Sullivan Grosz said, “but we were all too tired to run over there and do it.
“I’m out of breath, just jogging behind him, but nobody’s able to catch him. … We were all pretty jealous.”
Said Cal Poly head coach Tim Walsh: “He’s so humble. He plays the game, does what he’s supposed to do, and sometimes he goes unnoticed. Tonight, he got an opportunity to be noticed, and I think that’s great for him and for Cal Poly football.”
It was one of many breakout performances for a Mustangs program that was all of a sudden short on running back depth.
Fullback Akaninyene Umoh and slotback Cole Stanford were game-time decisions to start. Stanford played and Umoh didn’t, and Deonte Williams was limited by an ankle injury during the game.
Williams finished with 31 yards on just six carries to end his string of four straight 100-yard rushing games, a mark that ties former Templeton High standout Jake Romanelli’s Cal Poly Division I program record.
Those injuries opened the door for redshirt freshman fullback Brandon Howe and sophomore slotback Kristaan Ivory, who had two touchdowns apiece.
Ivory had a second-quarter 30-yard screen pass for the Mustangs’ first score of the game and added a 5-yard touchdown run in the third.
Howe caught an 8-yard touchdown pass to give Cal Poly a 14-13 halftime lead and ran 37 yards for the final score of the game.
Sophomore receiver Willie Tucker had his first touchdown of the season and third of his career on a 34-yard bomb early in the fourth quarter.
The three touchdown passes were a career high for Mustangs senior Andre Broadous, who had thrown for two touchdowns five times before.
Led by Ivory’s 89 yards, Cal Poly rushed for 246 total. Averaging fewer than seven completions per game, Broadous was 6-of-11 passing for 99 yards, but half his completions went for scores.
“I think other teams know that we can throw,” Broadous said. “A lot of our crowd or maybe just people outside of the football team think we can’t throw because we don’t do it a lot, but I know for a fact that other teams come up to us and they strategize for it because we’re efficient. We don’t pass a lot, but we’re efficient, and we get big plays out of our pass game.”
For a while, it seemed only the Wildcats were getting any big plays out of its offense.
Weber State had a 6-0 lead to start the game, and the Cal Poly offense punted twice with a grand total of 20 yards on its first two possessions.
The defense didn’t fare much better as Weber State moved the ball more consistently than any team the Mustangs had faced this season.
The Wildcats had season highs for total offense (528), rushing yards (237), passing yards (291) and first downs (29).
C.J. Tuckett ran for 98 yards and a touchdown. Hoke was 22 of 39 for 291 passing yards, a 9-yard touchdown to Erik Walker and might have had more if not for several drops.
“They had a good offensive plan, and that quarterback, that guy’s legit,” Walsh said. “He did a great job of running the run-game part of the offense, and he threw the ball particularly well too.
“I don’t care what anybody says, wining on the road in this league is extremely difficult, and to come here with the short week and guys down and guys hurt and guys banged up, I thought offensively, we did a great job all night long of responding to everything that team did, and that’s what great teams do. When one side of the ball’s struggling the other side’s got to pick it up.”