Cal Poly

FOOTBALL NOTEBOOK: Cal Poly's defense had up-and-down first half

Cal Poly plays Montana at Alex G. Spanos Stadium, Saturday, October 25, 2014. Cal Poly's Josh Letuligasenoa (48) sacks Montana's quarterback Jordan Johnson (10) during first half play.
Cal Poly plays Montana at Alex G. Spanos Stadium, Saturday, October 25, 2014. Cal Poly's Josh Letuligasenoa (48) sacks Montana's quarterback Jordan Johnson (10) during first half play. ldickinson@thetribunenews.com

As improved as Cal Poly’s pass defense had been in recent weeks, the Mustangs’ secondary was torched, especially in the first half of Saturday’s 41-21 win over No. 7 Montana.

In the first half alone, Montana passed for 178 yards and two touchdowns.

Including a second-quarter 50-yard reverse pass by receiver Ryan Burke to set up a 20-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Jordan Johnson to tight end Mitch Saylor, the Grizzlies started the game 8-of-10 passing for 151 yards. Johnson had an earlier 1-yard touchdown pass to Jamaal Jones.

Montana was able to get what it needed on several third-down situations after the Cal Poly defense had been stout to start the game.

On an 11-play, 86-yard scoring drive that spanned the end of the first quarter and the start of the second and was capped by the 1-yard touchdown toss to Jones, the Grizzlies faced a third-and-19 at their own 27-yard line.

Prior to the third-down play, Montana committed a false start, and Josh Letuligasenoa picked up his second sack of the season.

But Johnson found Jones for a 36-yard gain over the middle, and four plays later, the junior receiver was celebrating in the end zone after his touchdown tied the score at 7 with 11:57 left in the second.

On the Grizzlies’ next possession, Cal Poly had them pinned in a third-and-5 at their own 15-yard line.

In succession, Johnson hit Burke for a 15-yard gain, Burke’s pass was caught by Josh Janssen, and Saylor caught his touchdown pass to give Montana a 14-7 lead.

The Mustangs were not fooled by the reverse pass and maintained coverage downfield, but Janssen got better position on the lofty pass than his Cal Poly defender, and the Grizzlies’ pass attack seemed unstoppable.

NICHOLLS UNABLE TO PLAY

Cal Poly senior slotback Chris Nicholls was not in the starting lineup after he was hurt in last week’s victory at Sacramento State.

Nicholls, who came into the game tied for the team lead with 10 receptions and fourth on the team in rushing yardage, injured his knee in the 56-27 win in Sacramento and did not appear in the second half of that game.

Nicholls was also the team’s primary kickoff and punt returner and backup punter.

In his place, senior Kenny Mitchell started at slotback, redshirt freshman receiver Kyle Lewis returned kickoffs and junior cornerback Chris Fletcher returned punts.

Nicholls’ injury was not thought to be serious, and he could return for next week’s home game against Big Sky leader Montana State.

BRINGING BACK THE ALS CHALLENGE

Going retro as far as Internet time is concerned, Cal Poly resurrected the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge on Friday to honor a former Mustangs safety and linebacker who played on the 1980 Division II national championship team.

Dale Barthel was disagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, commonly known as “Lou Gehrig's Disease,” about 21⁄2 years ago. Barthel, a Lompoc High alumnus, had 72 tackles, four quarterback hurries and a pair of interceptions during his senior season in 1983. His career totals include 113 tackles and eight interceptions, including four as a junior in 1982.

Cal Poly players doused each other in ice water, mimicking the trend that went viral over the summer, and the program donated $1,500 to the ALS Association on behalf of Barthel’s family.

Barthel was also recognized in a halftime ceremony at Saturday’s game. The Mustangs affixed a No. 17 sticker on their helmets, the number Barthel wore during his Cal Poly career.

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