Cal Poly Clinches Winning Season in Finale, Defeats South Alabama 41-10
MOBILE, Alabama – Cal Poly converted three South Alabama turnovers into touchdowns, senior fullback Jake Romanelli surpassed the 1,000-yard mark in rushing for the season, junior slotback Deonte Williams scored twice and sophomore placekicker James Langford broke a school record for field goals made in a season as the Mustangs wrapped up their eighth winning season in the last nine years Saturday with a 41-10 victory over the host Jaguars in Ladd-Peebles Stadium, home of the Senior Bowl.
Coach Tim Walsh's Mustangs ended the year 6-5 while South Alabama, fielding a football team for the third season, finished 6-4.
Cal Poly, making its second-ever trip to Alabama – the Mustangs played at Troy in 2005 – recorded four sacks, forced four turnovers, including three interceptions, and held South Alabama under 300 yards in total offense.
Romanelli (pictured at right), largely held in check throughout the game, still managed to gain 49 yards on 21 carries, surpassing the 1,000-yard mark for the season late in the third quarter. The Templeton High School graduate finished the year with 1,015 yards, becoming the 14th Mustang ever to crack the 1,000-yard mark in a season. James Noble was the last one, accumulating 1,009 yards in 2006.
Williams scored on runs of 16 and five yards while Langford kicked field goals spanning 28 and 37 yards, giving him a school-record 15 field goals this season. Old mark of 14 was set by James Tuthill in 1995 and matched by Nick Coromelas in 2005.
Sophomore defensive lineman Sullivan Grosz recovered a South Alabama fumble in the first quarter to set up Williams' first touchdown run and junior linebacker Kennith Jackson intercepted a C.J. Bennett pass in the third quarter, setting the stage for an eight-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Andre Broadous to freshman wide receiver Willie Tucker and a 27-3 Mustang lead.
Williams capped a 31-yard, four-play drive with his 16-yard run and a 7-0 Cal Poly lead with 11:19 to go in the first quarter.
South Alabama's only score of the game until the final minute was a 32-yard field goal by Jordan Means with 1:00 left in the opening period.
Cal Poly scored 34 unanswered points to win going away.
Langford kicked a 28-yard field goal, set up by a 34-yard Mark Rodgers run, and Williams added a five-yard scoring run to give Cal Poly a 17-3 halftime cushion. Broadous completed four passes on the first five plays of that 76-yard, eight-play drive.
Tucker's eight-yard pass from Broadous opened the third quarter -- the 41-yard drive ignited by Kennith Jackson's second interception of the season -- and Langford's record-breaking 37-yard field goal gave the Mustangs a 27-3 advantage midway through the third quarter. A 51-yard pass from Broadous to sophomore slotback Cole Stanford set up the field goal.
Broadous ran one yard for a touchdown with two seconds left in the third period, his 18th score by rushing this season, another school record. A 35-yard pass from Broadous to Rodgers preceeded the touchdown run.
Rodgers capped the Mustang scoring with a one-yard run with six minutes to play, capping a 120-yard rushing performance, his fifth career 100-yard game as a Mustang. The 31-yard drive was set up by a Troy Shotwell interception.
South Alabama finally reached the end zone in the final minute, Corey Besteda catching a five-yard pass from Bennett.
Cal Poly, which scored 21 points off three of the four South Alabama turnovers, built advantages of 21-19 in first downs and 379-276 in total offensive yards. The Mustangs gained 229 yards on the ground and 150 more through the air while South Alabama produced 60 yards on the ground and 216 passing yards.
Broadous completed nine of 12 passes for 150 yards and one score. Lance Castaneda caught three passes while Rodgers and Tucker each caught two passes.
Top Jaguar rusher was J.J. Keels with 33 yards on four carries. Bennett completed 22 of 40 passes for 216 yards and a score, but was sacked four times and intercepted three times. Lamontis Gardner caught seven passes while Bryant Lavender had six.
Charles Harris and Jake Johnson each had 14 tackles for South Alabama, which lost at home for the first time in 20 tries since establishing its football program in 2009. The Jaguars' only other loss against non-FBS teams was at Georgia State earlier this year.
Cal Poly shares the Great West title with North Dakota, which rallied from a 17-point halftime deficit to beat South Dakota 38-37 in Grand Forks, N.D. It was the Mustangs' fourth conference title in the eight-year history of the conference. Cal Poly moves to the Big Sky Conference next fall.
Langford also set a school record for points scored in a season by a kicker, finishing with 86. Coromelas had 84 points in 2005.
Broadous tied the school mark for points scored in a season with 108. Wide receiver Ramses Barden tallied 108 points in both 2007 and 2008.