SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. – Senior running back Jonah Hodges scored three touchdowns and surpassed the 100-yard mark in rushing for the eighth time this season as San Diego, a 38-16 loser to Cal Poly in September, defeated the Mustangs 35-21 in the opening round of the 2016 NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs on Saturday inside Alex G. Spanos Stadium.
On a slick surface due to rainfall earlier in the day, Hodges rushed for 171 yards, scoring on runs of 8, 7 and 5 yards, to lead the Toreros (10-1) into the second round of the 24-team playoffs against top-seeded North Dakota State next weekend in Fargo, N.D.
Cal Poly, held to just 195 total yards, nearly 300 yards below its average for the season, finished its season 7-5.
San Diego quarterback Anthony Lawrence produced his team's other two touchdowns on passes spanning eight yards to Justin Priest and five yards to Brian Riley.
Cal Poly rallied from a 14-0 first-quarter deficit, scoring with 83 seconds left in the second period on junior fullback Joe Protheroe's seven-yard run and 15 seconds into the third quarter on another seven-yard run by Protheroe.
San Diego, however, re-established its 14-point cushion on Hodges' second scoring run and the touchdown catch by Riley.
The Mustangs got one more look at the game when senior defensive end Kelly Shepard (left) returned an interception 63 yards for a touchdown with 8:07 to play. It was the first touchdown scored by Cal Poly's defense since 2012 when Nick Dzubnar returned an interception for a score at Northern Arizona.
Cal Poly held San Diego to a three-and-out on the next series, but a Mustang fumble was recovered by Spencer Hammitt and the Toreros drove 68 yards on just six plays for the clinching score, a five-yard run by Hodges with 2:23 to play.
Cal Poly mustered just 12 first downs and 155 yards on the ground, far below its season average of 361 rushing yards per contest. Protheroe, nevertheless, earned his eighth 100-yard game of the season and 13th of his Mustang career with 122 yards on 26 carries.
While Lawrence completed 26 of 40 passes for 296 yards and two scores for San Diego, Mustang quarterback Dano Graves connected on just six of 14 passes for 40 yards, a week after going 14-for-15 for 191 yards against Northern Colorado.
Hodges caught seven passes and Riley and Ross Dwelley six each for San Diego.
Mustang senior linebacker Chris Santini notched his third double-digit tackle game in the last four weeks and fourth for the season, recording 13 stops (11 solo). Nic Henson and Colton Giorgi made 12 and 11 tackles for San Diego.
Cal Poly qualified for the playoffs for the fourth time (2005, 2008, 2012 and 2016) and is now 0-2 at home, falling 49-35 to Weber State in 2008.
San Diego, No. 1 in the nation in third-down conversions, converted on 11 of 19 third-down plays Saturday for the first playoff win by a Pioneer League team in FCS history ... the Toreros had the ball for eight more minutes than Cal Poly ... San Diego collected 473 total yards, 177 on the ground and 296 in the air, while its defense held Cal Poly to 3.1 yards per play ... Cal Poly lost for the first time this season when winning the turnover battle; San Diego lost two fumbles and threw a pair of interceptions while the Mustangs lost three fumbles ... the interceptions by Humphrey and Shepard were the first of their collegiate careers ... Joseph Gigantino III and Jerek Rosales recovered San Diego fumbles ... Protheroe finished his junior campaign with 1,334 yards rushing, No. 5 all-time at Cal Poly, and his career total of 2,297 yards is No. 8 all-time ... Kori Garcia ended his Mustang career with 2,885 rushing yards over four seasons, No. 6 all-time ... Santini earned a team-leading 106 tackles this season, becoming the 16th Mustang to notch 100 tackles in a season ... Cal Poly's 12 first downs, 155 yards rushing, 195 yards in total offense and 26 minutes, 4 seconds in time of possession all were season lows ... Saturday's win was San Diego's first in six meetings against Cal Poly ... despite losing three of its last four games, Cal Poly still produced its 12th winning season in the last 16 years.
Photos by Alexander Bohlen