Senior quarterback Chris Brown threw two touchdown passes before leaving the game with a leg injury, and Cal Poly cruised to a 36-14 victory over Sacramento State in a Big Sky Conference football game Saturday night at Alex G. Spanos Stadium.
The Mustangs opened the game on a 26-0 run and were never seriously threatened the rest of the way. Brown finished the game 6 of 7 passing and matched his season high with 95 yards through the air. He was replaced by true freshman Khaleel Jenkins late in the third quarter.
Nine Cal Poly players had at least one carry, helping the Mustangs rush for 366 yards on 60 attempts, an average of 6.1 yards per rush. Sophomore tight end Reagan Enger, who has been used as the third-string fullback behind Joe Protheroe and Jared Mohamed, rushed for a career-high 91 yards and scored on a 70-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.
“Extremely pleased for our players, I think they really do deserve it,” head coach Tim Walsh said. “I think we have a good football team that’s kind of put ourselves behind the eight ball because of the mistakes that we’ve made.
“Tonight, for the most part, we didn’t make those mistakes.”
What it means: With the victory, Cal Poly improved to 3-6 overall and 2-4 against Big Sky opponents heading into next week’s rivalry game against UC Davis. The Mustangs also ended their second three-game losing streak of the season, having lost to No. 4 Eastern Washington, 10th-ranked Portland State and No. 20 Southern Utah in consecutive weeks.
Mustangs on the move: Cal Poly’s offense picked up right where it left off against Southern Utah last week. Brown led an 11-play, 87-yard drive on the Mustangs’ opening possession, capped by a 13-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Hines.
It was Hines second touchdown reception this season and the seventh of his career.
On Cal Poly’s next possession, the Mustangs drove 84 yards on 12 plays and Brown connected with sophomore Kyle Lewis on a 29-yard scoring strike. In the past three games, Lewis has scored seven touchdowns — three receiving, four rushing.
“The safety saw me at the last minute and he knew it was over,” Lewis said. “I turned around and I see Chris throw the ball. … He had a light touch on it, but I came back on it and caught the ball and to be honest I thought I was out of bounds.”
Protheroe and Mohamed added short scoring runs in the third quarter to give Cal Poly a 26-7 advantage to start the final period. Freshman Alex Vega made a 23-yard field goal -- his first since kicking the game-winner at Montana during the season opener -- and Enger’s long run capped the scoring for the Mustangs.
Bend but don’t break: With leading tackler Tu’uta Inoke back in the starting lineup, the Cal Poly defense kept Sacramento State off the scoreboard for the better part of three quarters.
True freshman quarterback Nate Ketteringham, making his third start of the season, was under constant pressure from a Cal Poly defensive front playing without starting end Logan Mayes.
Ketteringham completed his first seven passes of the game and finished 33 of 42 for 335 yards and was sacked four times. Burton De Koning, Joseph Gigantino, Kelly Shepard and Jason Patterson were all credited with sacks for Cal Poly in a standout defensive effort.
“We knew we had a freshman quarterback back there,” Inoke said, “so we just wanted to make sure that we gave him different looks and make sure we fly around and put pressure on him.”
Up next: Cal Poly will travel north to play its final road game of the season next Saturday when the Mustangs take on UC Davis in the Battle of the Golden Horseshoe.
That game carries extra significance for Cal Poly, which was upset by the Aggies last season at Alex G. Spanos Stadium. A one-win UC Davis came to San Luis Obispo and knocked off the Mustangs, effectively eliminating Cal Poly from FCS playoff consideration.
The Aggies enter next week’s matchup in a similar position, having lost 23-3 to Weber State on Saturday to drop to 1-8 overall and 1-5 against Big Sky opponents.
“There’s some payback probably on our minds,” Walsh said. “We need to make sure that our guys are amped up and ready to go up there and win on their field.”