SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Sophomore quarterback Garrett Safron passed for 303 yards and four touchdowns to lead Sacramento State to a 35-29 upset of No. 11 and previously unbeaten Cal Poly in a Big Sky Conference football game Saturday night at Hornet Stadium.
Coach Tim Walsh's Mustangs, who had a chance to take over sole possession of first place in the Big Sky – No. 1-ranked Eastern Washington fell 30-27 to Southern Utah earlier in the day – dropped to 7-1 for the season and 5-1 in Big Sky games.
Sacramento State improved to 6-3 and 4-2.
Three Cal Poly teams in the 19-year Division I era have started 7-0 and all three lost in Week 8.
Cal Poly turned two Sacramento State fumbles into 10 points in the first five minutes of the game.
Linebacker Nick Dzubnar recovered both Hornet fumbles, returning the first one 58 yards to set up a two-yard touchdown run by fullback Brandon Howe.
Dzubnar's second fumble recovery set up a 32-yard field goal by Bobby Zalud with 9:47 to go in the opening period.
The rest of the first half belonged to Sacramento State as the Hornets amassed 326 total yards in the first 30 minutes of play, 223 through the air.
Safron connected with Morris Norrise on a five-yard scoring pass, Shane Harrison with a 28-yarder and TJ Knowles with a four-yarder just before halftime.
Ezekiel Graham added a 15-yard run as the Hornets turned the early 10-0 deficit into a 28-17 halftime advantage. Cal Poly's largest deficit in its first seven games this season was 10-0 against UC Davis.
Mustang senior quarterback Andre Broadous scored on a one-yard run moments after a 76-yard Deonte Williams sprint up the right sideline four minutes prior to halftime.
Broadous scored on another one-yard run with four minutes to play in the third quarter, capping a 90-yard, 17-play drive. The Mustangs, who did not throw a pass on the drive, closed the gap to 28-23.
Broadous now has 29 career rushing touchdowns, six shy of the school record held by James Noble.
The Hornets countered with a 33-yard touchdown pass from Safron to Norrise and Cal Poly answered with a 44-yard scoring pass from Broadous to Willie Tucker with 2:10 to play, pulling to within six at 35-29.
The ensuing kickoff was covered by Sacramento State linebacker Cody Allen and the Hornets were able to pick up one first down and run out the clock.
With the losses by Cal Poly and Eastern Washington, Northern Arizona moved into first place in the Big Sky at 5-0 with its 12-10 win at Northern Colorado. The Lumberjacks are 7-1 overall.
Williams (pictured above) finished with his seventh 100-yard game in eight contests this season, accumulating 168 yards on 22 carries. Williams also became the 15th Mustang to surpass the 1,000-yard mark for a season, following Jake Romanelli in 2011. Williams now has 1,094 yards in eight games.
Kristaan Ivory added 80 yards on 12 trips as Cal Poly finished with a season-high 387 yards on the ground. It was the sixth time in eight games that the Mustangs surpassed the 300-yard mark in rushing.
Broadous completed four of 10 passes for 86 yards and Tucker had two catches for 55 yards.
For Sacramento State, Safron completed 31 of 38 passes for 303 yards and four scores. Norrise caught seven passes and Graham six for the Hornets. De'jon Coleman rushed for 70 yards on just eight carries.
Cal Poly's defensive leaders were Dzubnar with 11 tackles, one pass breakup, one forced fumble and two fumble recoveries. Linebacker Johnny Millard added eight tackles.
Both teams lost two of three fumbles and there were no interceptions in the contest, the first meeting between the two in-state rivals since 2009.
Cal Poly plays a non-conference game against Big Sky member Eastern Washington next Saturday in Cheney, Wash.