CEDAR FALLS, Iowa – Cal Poly rallied from a 14-point deficit with two touchdowns in the final 125 seconds of regulation to force overtime, but two illegal procedure penalties stymied the Mustangs on their drive as Northern Iowa posted a 45-38 victory Saturday afternoon in the UNI-Dome.
Eli Dunne threw four touchdown passes and Northern Iowa scooped up two Cal Poly fumbles and returned one of them for another score as the Panthers won their home opener.
Trailing 28-21 at the half, Cal Poly pulled to within four points on a 27-yard Casey Sublette field goal midway through the third quarter, but Northern Iowa built the lead back up to 14 points with a touchdown and field goal.
Khaleel Jenkins scored from a yard out with 2:05 to play to trim Northern Iowa's lead to seven, 38-31 and got the ball back with 1:05 to go, needing 91 yards with no timeouts for a potential game-tying score. Jenkins found Kyle Lewis open for a 53-yard touchdown pass on the sixth play of the drive with five seconds remaining to tie the game at 38-38.
Northern Iowa scored on the first possession of overtime on a 13-yard pass from Dunne to Daurice Fountain and Cal Poly lost nine yards on its possession to end the 10th overtime game in Cal Poly's FCS history. The Mustangs are 1-9 in extra time.
With the loss, Cal Poly falls to 0-3 on the year for the first time in Tim Walsh's nine seasons at the helm. Northern Iowa, now 1-1, has won seven straight in the series against Cal Poly since losing the opener in 1997.
Mustang senior fullback Jared Mohamed earned his second career 100-yard game, rushing 23 times for 112 yards. His other 100-yard game was against Southern Utah in 2015 when he rushed for 107 yards and was one of four Mustang 100-yard rushers in the game.
Junior quarterback Khaleel Jenkins called his own number 37 times and added 102 yards. He also completed nine of 16 passes for 238 yards and a career-high four touchdowns. Jenkins' favorite target was sophomore J.J. Koski with five catches for 104 yards and two scores. Lewis caught the other two Mustang scoring passes and finished with three catches for 130 yards.
The first half was tied three times before Northern Iowa took a 28-21 lead into the locker room late in the second quarter. Dunne's second touchdown pass of the game, a 31-yarder to Aaron Graham, came with four seconds left in the first half.
Koski caught a pair of scoring passes in the first half spanning 34 and 35 yards. He had new career highs of four catches, 99 yards and two scores before the first half came to a close.
Cal Poly scored the opening touchdown of the game on a 44-yard pass from Jenkins to Kyle Lewis. Jenkins had thrown just two touchdown passes in his career with the Mustangs and notched three in the first half Saturday.
Jenkins was five of six passing for 143 yards and three scores before halftime. Dunne finished 25 of 40 for 325 yards.
Mustang senior linebacker Mason Montgomery led Cal Poly in tackles for the second straight week. After collecting a career-high 17 tackles last week at San Jose State, notched 14 more against Northern Iowa. R.J. Mazolewski added 10 stops and Kitu Humphrey eight. Jayson Lee recovered a Northern Iowa fumble that was forced by Humphrey and Mazolewski and Humphrey each had one sack.
Cal Poly compiled 543 yards in total offense, more than 100 yards ahead of Northern Iowa, and produced an advantage of 8 minutes, 36 seconds in time of possession. The Mustangs also had five more first downs than the Panthers.
Cal Poly has a bye next week and will prepare for its Big Sky Conference opener Sept. 23 against Northern Arizona. Kickoff for the Hall of Fame Game inside Alex G. Spanos Stadium is set for 6:05 p.m.