OGDEN, Utah — In a back-and-forth game, Cal Poly spoiled homecoming for Weber State, holding off a last minute drive to win 30-24.
“I thought we did enough good things,” said Cal Poly head coach Tim Walsh. “Right now the thing really pushing us forward is the defensive confidence that we gained today.”
Both sides of the ball were working well early for the Mustangs, as they forced a three-and-out on the Wildcats’ first drive of the game, and then Zach Schottenfeld made a 20-yard field goal after a 77-yard drive to take the lead early in the first quarter.
The triple-option seemed to be unstoppable in that first drive, and Cal Poly’s defense was stout throughout.
After getting an interception in Wildcat territory on the next offensive play for Weber State, Cal Poly decided to go for it on fourth down with four yards to go, despite being well within field goal range. Weber State stopped the play, turning the ball over on downs.
Penalties deep in opposing territory for both teams prevented any more scoring in the first quarter.
In a back-and-forth second quarter, Weber State’s offense seemed to gain momentum and confidence, scoring on a 5-yard touchdown pass after starting the drive on its own 10-yard line.
Cal Poly responded, however, as quarterback Chris Brown found Roland Jackson deep down the right sideline for a 59-yard pass, putting the Mustangs within 10 yards of another touchdown. It would take four downs, but Brown’s one-yard rush put Cal Poly back on top 10-7.
“They did some good things on defense to us,” Walsh said. “You only have X amount of times a year when you can call those plays that we ran. I thought coach (Saga) Tuitele did a great job of using those at the right time.”
On Weber State’s next drive, running back Zach Smith scored a 70-yard rushing touchdown on a bizarre play after he appeared to be brought down to the ground, but he never let his knees or elbows touch the ground. After landing on his feet, Smith dashed up the left sideline to give Weber a 14-10 lead.
Cal Poly remained resilient, forcing and recovering a fumble, and then capitalizing with another touchdown as Brown found Kori Garica wide open on the left side for an 11-yard touchdown to give Cal Poly a 17-14 lead.
In the third quarter, a miscue from Cal Poly in the backfield resulted in a fumble that Weber State recovered — just the second time this season the Mustangs have lost a fumble.
The Mustangs defense remained strong, forcing Weber State to settle for a 40-yard field goal, which Josh Kealamakia converted to tie the score at 17.
Cal Poly dug into their bag of tricks, as Garcia caught a pass from Brown on the left side after what first appeared to be a sweep to the right, scoring a 23-yard touchdown.
The touchdown came after a 46-yard pass, also from Brown to Garcia, put the Mustangs in scoring position, and eventually gave the Mustangs the largest lead of the game at 24-17.
Weber State responded immediately, as running back Bo Bolen scored on a kickoff return of 94 yards.
Just when it seemed like the Mustangs offense was about to be forced to punt late in the third quarter, Brown found Jackson for a 41-yard pass, putting Cal Poly once again in the red zone to start the final quarter.
Fullback Brandon Howe finished off the drive by pushing through the line of scrimmage for a 1-yard touchdown, but Schottenfeld missed the extra point, leaving the Mustangs with a 30-24 lead.
With three minutes left in the game, Weber State started a drive on its own 13-yard line to either tie or win the game, but the Cal Poly defense forced a turnover on downs with just under a minute to play in the game, sealing the victory.
“We played really well against Portland State a couple of weeks ago, and then we haven’t played well other than that on defense,” Walsh said. “I know 30-24 doesn’t look great, but if you look at the numbers, we played pretty well on defense.”
Cal Poly improved to 3-3 overall, and 2-1 in conference play.
The Mustangs continue their two-game road trip as they take on Sacramento State next Saturday at 6 p.m.