HUNTSVILLE, Texas – Sam Houston State, among the top 10 teams in the Football Championship Subdivision in rushing offense, total offense and scoring offense, was held to just 18 points by the Cal Poly defense Saturday afternoon.
The Bearkats, however, took advantage of three Cal Poly turnovers, a blocked punt and a trio of second-half personal foul penalties to earn an 18-16 victory over the Mustangs in a second-round NCAA Division I FCS playoff game at Elliott T. Bowers Stadium.
Most of the pregame headlines focused on the high-powered offenses of both teams and a shootout was expected. Instead, Cal Poly and Sam Houston State combined for just 628 total yards and 34 points, well short of their season averages.
Cal Poly finishes the year 9-3 despite advantages of 17-15 in first downs, 387-241 in total yards and two minutes in time of possession.
"I am very proud of the effort of all of our 60 players in this game," said Mustang head coach Tim Walsh. "Both defenses had a bye week to prepare and both defenses were extremely well prepared."
After a scoreless first quarter, Sam Houston State scored three times in the second quarter – two field goals and a safety – for an 8-0 lead at halftime. A blocked punt resulted in the safety and one of the Mustangs' three turnovers – two fumbles and an interception – led to a field goal.
Cal Poly was held scoreless in the first half for the first time in 15 games.
Cal Poly junior placekicker Bobby Zalud kicked field goals spanning 23 and 27 yards to close the gap to 8-6 in the third quarter. A 53-yard pass from senior quarterback Andre Broadous to sophomore wide receiver Willie Tucker helped set up the second three-pointer.
Brian Bell hit Keshawn Hill with an 18-yard scoring pass, giving Sam Houston State a 15-6 lead with 31 seconds to play in the third quarter. Two Mustang personal foul penalties on tackles out of bounds kept the 51-yard drive alive.
Cal Poly made it a one-possession game again with a 48-yard field goal from Zalud with 9:25 to go in the contest, but the Bearkats put together a game-clinching, time-consuming six-minute, two-second drive culminating with a 26-yard field goal by Miguel Antonio for an 18-9 advantage with 3:23 remaining. One more Mustang personal foul penalty was called on that 66-yard march.
"Those were all hustle plays," said Walsh. "Our guys played their tails off on those plays. Making tackles are part of the game. Those personal fouls were not intentional at all."
Final score of the game was a 50-yard pass from Ryan Taylor to Tucker on a double-reverse with 1:34 to play. Cal Poly, which had used all of its timeouts earlier in the half, could not recover the onside kick and the Bearkats ran out the clock with three kneels.
Sam Houston State averaged 44.5 points and 480.5 total yards per game, but the Mustang defense held the Bearkats to one touchdown and 246 total yards.
Sam Houston State will play Montana State -- a 16-10 winner over Stony Brook -- in the quarterfinal round next weekend.
Top Mustang rushers were Kristaan Ivory with 77 yards on 14 carries, including a 46-yard run that set up Zalud's first field goal, and Broadous with 54 yards on 17 trips.
Senior slotback Deonte Williams netted 48 yards on 13 carries, finishing second on Cal Poly's single-season rushing chart with 1,506 yards, 72 short of James Noble's school record set in 2005.
Broadous completed six of 12 passes for 113 yards . Tucker caught a season-high six passes for 152 yards and one score.
Tim Flanders gained 101 yards on 17 carries for Sam Houston State, becoming the first running back to rush for over 100 yards against Cal Poly this season.
Quarterback Brian Bell completed nine of 19 passes for 88 yards and one score. Chance Nelson caught three passes for 38 yards for Sam Houston State.
Sophomore linebacker Nick Dzubnar notched 10 tackles, finishing the year as Cal Poly's top defender with 107 total tackles. The Mustangs collected six tackles for lost yardage, including two by junior tackle Sullivan Grosz.
Kenneth Jenkins and Darnell Taylor each had 12 tackles, forced a fumble and recovered a fumble for the Bearkats, who were meeting the Mustangs for the first time.
Zalud set a school record with 91 points scored by a kicker this season. Hitting all of his three field goal attempts and one PAT for 10 points Saturday, Zalud finished the year 12-for-16 in field goals and 55 of 55 on PAT kicks.
Cal Poly football is presented by French Hospital Medical Center.
Photos by Ian Billings/Mustang Daily