GRAND FORKS, N.D. – Senior slotback Deonte Williams cracked the 100-yard mark for the fourth straight game and senior cornerback Nico Molino intercepted two passes as No. 23 Cal Poly, which let a 14-0 lead slip away, scored three touchdowns in the final 12 minutes for a 35-17 Big Sky Conference victory over North Dakota on Saturday night at the Alerus Center.
Molino intercepted his third and fourth passes of the season, redshirt freshman linebacker Tu'uta Inoke stopped North Dakota on a fake punt play in the fourth quarter and junior defensive tackle Sullivan Grosz recovered a pair of North Dakota fumbles for the Mustangs, who are off to their first 4-0 start in eight years.
Cal Poly improved to 4-0 for the season and 2-0 in their first Big Sky campaign while North Dakota fell to 3-2 and 1-1. North Dakota had lost just 12 games in 11-plus seasons at home, carrying a 64-12 home record into Saturday's contest.
North Dakota compiled advantages of 23-16 in first downs, 409-395 in total offense and had the ball eight more minutes than Cal Poly, but turned the ball over four times, two on fumbles recovered by Grosz and two more on the interceptions by Molino.
Cal Poly jumped to a 14-0 lead in the first 13 minutes of the game.
Senior quarterback Andre Broadous connected with junior slotback Cole Stanford on a 20-yard scoring pass with 11:43 to play in the first quarter, capping a 27-yard, five-play drive that started with Grosz's recovery of a North Dakota fumble.
Williams ran three yards for another Mustang touchdown and a 14-0 advantage. The drive went 80 yards and Cal Poly ran on 15 of the 17 plays.
North Dakota shut down Cal Poly's offense for the next 36 minutes and answered with 17 points for a 17-14 lead early in the fourth quarter.
Mitch Sutton ran two yards for a touchdown with 50 seconds to play in the second quarter and Zeb Miller kicked a 26-yard field goal with 8:02 to go in the third quarter.
Quarterback Marcus Hendrickson scrambled two yards for another North Dakota touchdown and a 17-14 lead with 13:25 remaining in the game.
Cal Poly answered quickly with a four-play, 75-yard drive highlighted by a 65-yard run by Stanford that set up a three-yard touchdown run by Broadous. The Mustangs led 21-17 with 11:44 to go.
North Dakota tried a fake punt play but ended up eight yards short of a first down as Inoke made the tackle near midfield. Cal Poly fumbled the ball back to North Dakota on the first play from scrimmage, but North Dakota's 54-yard field goal attempt was blocked by Grosz and the Mustangs marched 60 yards in seven plays for another touchdown and a 28-17 advantage with 3:54 to go.
Broadous capped the drive with a two-yard run. Williams surpassed the 100-yard mark for the fourth straight game during the drive with four carries on the march.
Grosz recovered another North Dakota fumble one play after the kickoff and Cal Poly put the game away with an 18-yard run by Williams with 3:25 to go.
Williams finished with 125 yards on 19 carries, scoring twice, and Broadous also ran for two touchdowns. Stanford accumulated 90 yards on just five trips and junior fullback Akaninyene Umoh added 76 yards on 14 carries as Cal Poly surpassed the 300-yard mark in rushing for the fourth time in four games this season.
Broadous completed just three of five passes for 74 yards and one score. Stanford caught two Mustang passes and sophomore wide receiver Willie Tucker grabbed the other.
Hendrickson completed 22 of 40 passes for 276 yards and rushed for 66 yards on 13 carries for North Dakota. His favorite targets were Kenny Golladay, R.J. McGill and Sutton, each with five catches. Sutton, who rushed for 162 yards in North Dakota's win at Sacramento State last week, was held to 37 yards on 17 trips by the Mustangs.
Cal Poly football, presented by French Hospital Medical Center, remains on the road next week, visiting Weber State for another Big Sky Conference game Friday, Oct. 5, at 5:05 p.m. PDT.