They rolled in. At a pace that mortals should not be able...
Cal Poly Wins Again, In the End
On Saturday, Cal Poly kept to the script. As has been the case through many of their seven straight victories this season, the Mustangs rode some momentum swings, overcame a second-half deficit, and, in the end, had you wondering how you ever doubted them.
It seemed that every time there was a negative, Tim Walsh’s team pulled an equally impressive positive out of their collective hats. Here are just a few:
Challenge: First play from scrimmage. Flea flicker. Cal Poly cornerback Nico Molino gets beat for 47 yards. On the very next play, Portland State throws again, this time for a 32-yard touchdown.
Response: Cal Poly allowed under 150 yards passing for the remainder of the game (221 yards total). Portland State averages about 240 yards per game and after giving up 79 yards in two plays, Cal Poly’s defensive backs did a decent job for the whole game, minus the 37 seconds it took Portland State to score that first touchdown. After the game, Tim Walsh talked about the importance of keeping opposing receivers in front of the defensive backs, especially as the game went on.
Challenge: An Andre Broadous pitch, something Cal Poly has executed almost flawlessly all season, is dropped. Portland State defensive lineman Ian Sluss picks it up and takes it 57 yards the other way for a touchdown, giving the Vikings a 14-7 lead. Cal Poly had already withstood a 2-play touchdown drive on their first defensive series and it looked like the whole team might be in for a long night.
Response: Broadous leads the Mustangs back down the field and, in under 3:00, Broadous is back in the end zone himself to tie the game.
Challenge: The guy who was burned early in the game was none other than early-season interception hog and Cal Poly’s most consistent defensive back all season, Nico Molino.
Response: Molino had what was probably the play of the game when he broke up a pass with a bone-crushing hit on a Portland State wide receiver in the third quarter. At a time when Portland State was leading the game and Cal Poly was still trying to find out whether they had the gumption to stay in the game, Molino’s hit woke up the sidelines and the crowd and was a huge momentum swing.
Maturity can show in a lot of ways. After getting beat early-on Molino stayed in the game and gave Cal Poly a boost when they needed it most. Also, Molino has been doing this all year. As the game goes on, he seems to pick up tendencies and before the game is over, he is telling his fellow defenders where plays are going. In order to break on the big play he made, he had to read the play both prior to and after the snap. He used his head to anticipate and his shoulder to finish off what was probably the biggest play of the game momentum-wise.
Challenge: Portland State’s defense came to play. They shut down the option and were able to hold the Mustangs to field-goal attempts on two drives in the first half.
Response: Kicker Bobby Zalud, who has been injured at times this season, has the leg, but has had a few bad games. This was not one of them. Zalud kicked a 49-yarder that would have been good from 60 and a 41-yarder in the first half. He added a 20-yard chip-shot to go 3-3 for the game. His kickoffs were also generally excellent. He has been a special-teams weapon when the Mustangs have needed him the most this year, including a game-winning 51 yard field goal at Wyoming.
Keeping it Close
Cal Poly, a running team, is not built to come back from huge deficits (more than a few touchdowns or so). Their ability to respond in real-time before games get away from them is something that has kept them in games long enough to make the adjustments necessary to win games.
Photos by Owen Main