Cats Catch First Conference Loss at Cal Poly - KFBB.com News, Sports and Weather

Cats Catch First Conference Loss at Cal Poly

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Cal Poly's full array of offensive weaponry was on display Saturday, but at the end of the day it was one defensive stand that saved the day.

Carlton Dennis intercepted Dakota Prukop's final pass of the day near the goal line to seal the Mustangs' fifth straight Big Sky win, a 35-27 decision over Montana State. It gave Cal Poly a home sweep of the Big Sky's two Treasure State squads in consecutive weekends, pushing Cal Poly into a first-place tie in the conference. In fact, nearly half of the 13-team Big Sky share some portion of first place with just one loss.

“It was an all-or-nothing type play,” said Bobcat coach Rob Ash. “We'd been running power successfully all day, so we wanted to set it up so they'd attack power and run Gunnar Brekke out of the backfield on a wheel route. If they had a guy disciplined enough to cover that, and Tiai (Salanoa) was covered on the secondary route, then you tip your hat to them.”

While the passing game was the key element at the end, both teams thrived for most of the game on the ground. The FCS-leading Mustangs churned out 376 rushing yards, while MSU gained 288. The Cats averaged 7.2 yards per play (466 total), while Cal Poly's 483 yards worked out to a 6.0 per-play average.

“It was a classic game,” Ash said. “It's exactly how I thought it would go. We were able to move the ball all night, and I really thought we'd be able to get it in the end zone on the last drive and get it to overtime. But they made a play to seal up the game.”

MSU led at the half, but Cal Poly scored on its first drive of the third quarter, a 23-yard Chris Brown pass to Mitch Kelly, to set up a see-saw finish. MSU answered with an Anthony Knight touchdown run of four yards, then Brandon Howe rumbled 24 yards for a touchdown to put the Mustangs back in the lead. Montana State's next possession ended in a 41-yard Luke Daly field goal, which drew the Cats to within 28-27.

Cal Poly took possession of the ball with 10:40 remaining, and nearly bled the clock. The Mustangs' textbook 17-play drive gave them their final margin of victory.

Prukop finished with 129 yards rushing – his fourth 100-yard game this year – and 167 yards passing. Gunnar Brekke rushed for 49 yards, and Anthony Knight 48 and two scores. Khari Garcia (15 tackles), Alex Singleton (14) and Cole Moore (12) all had double-digit tackle totals.

Kori Garcia rushed for 124 yards for Cal Poly, and caught three passes for 29 yards. Chris Brown had 97 yards, Howe 86.

But on Saturday all that mattered was Cal Poly's relentless ground game.

Montana State countered with its own impressive offensive show, led by quarterback Dakota Prukop.

The first half went much as Bobcat coach Rob Ash foresaw. The teams combined for only nine possessions, scoring on five. MSU punted on its first drive, and Cal Poly answered with a 9-yard drive that chewed up nearly five minutes. The teams then traded touchdowns, then traded punts.

The Bobcats marched 79 yards, with Anthony Knight rumbling in from one yard to tie the score at 14. The biggest moment in the first half came on the ensuing possession. With Cal Poly facing a fourth-and-three from the Bobcat 12, Brown pitched to Kori Garcia and the sophomore running back steamed toward the end zone. At the three-yard line, though, he began high-stepping and was flagged for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.

That wiped out the touchdown, moved the ball back to the 18, and on a fourth-and-10 Rob Marshall broke up a Brown pass to give MSU the ball. MSU capitalized, moving 63 yards to set up a 36-yard Luke Daly field goal. MSU entered the intermission with its first lead of the half, 17-14.

Garcia dominated much of the first half, rushing for 96 yards and catching a 20-yard pass. Brown rushed for 49. Dakota Prukop led the Bobcats, rushing for 87 yards and throwing for 64. After Shawn Johnson left the game with an apparent first-quarter injury, Anthony Knight gained 32 yards on the ground.

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