No. 14 Cal Poly scored six second-half touchdowns, rushed for 527 yards and quarterback Dano Graves made a triumphant return to his hometown as the Mustangs defeated Sacramento State 59-47 Saturday night at Hornet Stadium.
Graves, the former Folsom High School star, completed 8 of 15 passes for 147 yards and three touchdowns as the Mustangs (6-2, 4-1) rallied from a 21-17 halftime deficit to stay in Big Sky Conference title contention as they prepare to play at No. 3 Eastern Washington (7-1, 5-0) next Saturday.
Big Sky rushing leader Joe Protheroe rushed for 168 yards and a touchdown on 25 carries and Kori Garcia added 146 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries as the triple-option Mustangs went well above their Big Sky best and No. 2 national 347.9 rushing yards per game.
“I think we kind of got worn down a little bit,” said Sac State coach Jody Sears. “We just missed way too many tackles that second half.”
Junior wide receiver Isiah Hennie had six catches for 116 yards and two touchdowns and returned a punt for a school-record-tying 90 yards to lead Sac State (1-8, 1-5). Fred Amey had a 90-yard punt return against UC Davis in 2002.
He became the first Sac State player this season to score three touchdowns and also won the family duel with his brother, Kyle Lewis, Cal Poly’s slotback, who rushed for a score.
“I saw him after the game,” Hennie said. “That’s my older brother. I’m happy he had a decent game. But I wish we could have come away with the win because I know I’m going hear about it when I get home.”
Jordan Robinson rushed for 117 yards and two TDs on 19 carries, his second consecutive 100-yard rushing performance.
Quarterback Nate Ketteringham, who didn’t start the last game at Northern Colorado and has been erratic throughout the season, completed 16 of 29 passes for 236 yards and four touchdowns. He threw an interception and was sacked three times.
“I’m really happy with the play of Nate,” Sears said. “He made some nice throws and we really did some nice things on the ground.”
The Hornets looked nothing like the team that ranked 13th in the Big Sky Conference in scoring offense (18.5), 12th in total offense (359.2) and 10th in rushing (145.5) entering the game.
The Hornets scored seven touchdowns and had 482 total yards.
They went head to head with Cal Poly in the first half in jumping to a 21-17 lead. They had 222 total yards, including 172 rushing.
The much maligned defense, which ranked last in the Big Sky coming in (500 yards per game), forced the Mustangs to punt three times, then late in the second quarter stopped them on downs at the Sac State 5. They also forced them to go for a field goal at the Hornets 8 on fourth down just before the half.
“The energy, that emotion, the intensity – we got some stops in that first half,” Sears said. “There was some pretty good ball being played that first half. ... The thing that continues to wreak havoc with us is consistency. We have to play consistently or we give up explosive plays as you saw (in the second half).”