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No. 21/23 Cal Poly Outlasts Northern Colorado, 55-48; Await Playoff Bid

No. 21/23 Cal Poly Outlasts Northern Colorado, 55-48; Await Playoff Bid


SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. – Senior quarterback Dano Graves passed for 191 yards and rushed for 147 more, throwing two touchdown passes and running for another, as No. 21/23 Cal Poly outlasted Northern Colorado 55-48 in a Big Sky Conference shootout Saturday night in Alex G. Spanos Stadium.

Graves completed 14 of 15 passes, including scoring strikes to J.J. Koski and Kyle Lewis, and averaged 8.2 yards per carry, calling his number 18 times and establishing a new career high with his 147 yards. He clinched the victory with a 42-yard run with two minutes to play in the game.

With the win on Hats off to Heroes and Senior Night, Cal Poly improves to 7-4 on the year and 5-3 for a fourth-place tie with Southern Utah in the Big Sky. Northern Colorado fell to 6-5 and 4-4.

Coach Tim Walsh's Mustangs await Sunday's Football Championship Subdivision Playoff Selection Show at 8 a.m. PST on ESPNU to find out if Cal Poly earned a playoff berth for the first time since 2012 and fourth overall, and, if so, where its first-round game will be played.

First-round games are scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 26.

Cal Poly never trailed and, after scoring three times in the first quarter for a 21-7 lead, stayed ahead of Northern Colorado by at least three points the rest of the way.

For the sixth time this season, Cal Poly produced at least two 100-yard rushers in a game. In addition to Graves, junior fullback Joe Protheroe added 110 yards on 24 trips, scoring once on a six-yard run midway through the fourth quarter.

For Protheroe, he has exceeded the 100-yard mark seven times this season and 12 times in his Mustang career. Graves has three 100-yard games this season.

DJ Peluso and Kori Garcia, both seniors, each rushed for 88 yards and a pair of scores. Peluso scored on runs of 13 and 45 yards while Garcia added touchdown runs of six and two yards.

Cal Poly surpassed the 600-yard mark in total offense for the fourth time this season, amassing 634 against Northern Colorado. The Mustangs rushed for 443 yards and passed for 191 more.

Cal Poly held a 29-27 edge in first downs and a nearly 15-minute advantage in time of possession. The Mustangs converted 14 of 18 third-down plays and punted just twice.

Northern Colorado quarterback Kyle Sloter completed 26 of 42 passes for 438 yards and six touchdowns. Stephen Miller caught nine passes for 172 yards and two scores while Hakeem Deggs added seven receptions for 128 yards and three touchdowns.

Northern Colorado was held to 126 yards and no touchdowns on the ground. Anthony Davis notched 66 yards on nine trips.

Senior linebacker Chris Santini was Cal Poly's leading tackler for the third straight week, making eight stops. He also was credited with a quarterback hurry.

Kyle Newsom recorded 18 tackles while Marshaun Cameron and Thomas Singleton each had 12 tackles for the Bears. Cameron also forced a fumble and recovered it as well.

Twice in the final three minutes of the game, Northern Colorado closed the deficit to one possession and attempted onside kicks. Outside linebacker Anders Turner, a member of Cal Poly's hands team, fell on the ball on the first try and batted the ball out of bounds on the second attempt.

Photos of Dano Graves courtesy of Matt Aguirre