SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Senior quarterback Dano Graves passed for three touchdowns for the fourth time in the last five games while junior fullback Joe Protheroe and senior slot back Kori Garcia each surpassed the 100-yard mark on the ground as No. 14/17 Cal Poly beat Sacramento State 59-47 in a Big Sky Conference football game Saturday night at Hornet Stadium in the state capital.
In winning for the second straight week after trailing at halftime, Coach Tim Walsh's Mustangs earned their third consecutive victory for the second time this season, improving to 6-2 overall and 4-1 in the Big Sky. Cal Poly is tied for third place with Weber State, trailing North Dakota (6-0) and Eastern Washington (5-0).
Sacramento State fell to 1-8 and 1-5 with its fourth straight loss. Cal Poly has a 20-16 advantage in its series with the Hornets, winning four straight and nine of the last 10, and clinched its 12th winning season in the last 16 years.
Sacramento State overcame 7-0 and 14-7 deficits with three touchdowns in the final 19 minutes of the first half for a 21-17 lead at the break.
Cal Poly made adjustments both offensively and defensively at halftime and dominated the third quarter to turn the game around. The Mustangs accumulated 10 first downs, 196 yards and 21 points in the third period while holding the Hornets to no points, 34 yards and one first down.
J.J. Koski and Jake Smeltzer caught scoring passes from Graves and Protheroe added a one-yard run for a touchdown as Cal Poly turned the four-point halftime deficit into a 38-21 advantage after three quarters. Garcia rushed for 35 yards on a third-and-25 play to keep the drive culminating in Protheroe's one-yard scoring run alive.
Kyle Lewis added a 54-yard scoring romp in the final period, giving him three long touchdown runs in the last three contests. He scored from 70 yards against Portland State two weeks ago and 91 yards against UC Davis last week.
Garcia and Protheroe both surpassed the 100-yard mark during the 60-yard drive ending with Protheroe's one-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.
Garcia (pictured at right) finished with 146 yards on 12 carries, including a 64-yard scoring run on Cal Poly's first offensive play of the game, and now has 10 career 100-yard games. Protheroe added 168 yards on 25 trips for his ninth career 100-yard game as a Mustang.
Protheroe (pictured above) also caught a four-yard scoring pass from Graves late in the first quarter, capping a 78-yard drive that featured a 32-yard pass from Graves to Lewis.
Garcia moved into sixth place on Cal Poly's career rushing list, surpassing Bob Trudeau. Garcia now has 2,709 career yards.
Graves completed eight of 15 passes for 147 yards and three scores without an interception. Koski was his favorite target with three catches for 62 yards.
Cal Poly produced season highs of 527 yards rushing and 674 total yards, posting a 34:10 to 25:50 advantage in time of possession. The Mustangs' 59 points are the most since 70-14 win over Idaho State in 2012.
Isiah Hennie, a brother of Lewis, scored three touchdowns for Sacramento State, catching 23- and 2-yard passes from Nate Ketteringham and returning a Mustang punt 90 yards for another score. That was the first punt returned for a touchdown against Cal Poly since Isaiah Burse of Fresno State returned two punts for touchdowns in 2013.
Hennie finished with six catches for 116 yards and Ketteringham completed 16 of 29 passes for 236 yards with one interception recorded by Mustang redshirt freshman Carter Nichols.
Hornet senior running back Jordan Robinson rushed for 117 yards on 19 carries, scoring twice on runs of 38 and 1 yards.
Cal Poly hosts No. 3-ranked Eastern Washington (7-1, 5-0 Big Sky) next Saturday at 6 p.m. inside Alex G. Spanos Stadium.
Photos courtesy of the Sacramento Bee