SAN LUIS OBISPO, CALIF. -- Southern Utah senior kicker Ryan Griffith missed an extra point with nine seconds remaining that would have forced overtime, and the No. 19 Cal Poly Mustangs escaped with a 24-23 Saturday night at their Homecoming Game in San Luis Obispo, Calif.
Prior to the miss wide left, a blocked extra point against San Diego State was Griffith's only missed extra point of the season. In field goals, he is 12 of 14 on the season, with both of his misses on Oct. 3 in the T-Birds' victory over Texas State.
"The snap was fine; everything was good," SUU football coach Ed Lamb said in a post-game interview with Power 91 Radio's Art Challis. "He just hooked the ball."
The T-Birds (2-4, 0-1 Great West) have now lost nine straight meetings with the Mustangs (3-3, 1-0 Great West).
The T-Birds were down 24-17 when senior quarterback Cade Cooper threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to junior wide receiver Tysson Poots with nine seconds remaining. At first, SUU's offense stayed on the field to go for a two-point conversion and the win, but after a Cal Poly timeout, the T-Birds elected to go for the extra point.
Lamb said in the interview with Challis that he believed the T-Birds would have had the edge if the game went to overtime because they have a more dynamic offense than Cal Poly and a defense more capable of getting stops.
The T-Birds recovered an onside kick after the missed extra point, but Cooper was sacked and fumbled the ball on the game's final play.
Before the T-Birds scored with nine seconds left, Cal Poly had the ball for more than half of the fourth quarter on a 14-play, 48-yard drive that ended in a field goal to put the Mustangs up 24-17 with 1:51 to play in regulation. On the drive, Cal Poly junior quarterback Tony Smith, who only attempted seven passes in the game, completed a pass to sophomore fullback Jake Romanelli to convert a fourth-and-3 to keep the drive alive.
Smith completed 3 of 7 passes for 22 yards. The Mustangs ran the ball 48 times for 228 yards and three touchdowns, led by Romanelli, who had 24 carries for 108 yards and a score. The T-Birds never held the lead in the game, nor were they down more than seven points at any time in a game that was close from the start.
The Mustangs scored the game's first points on a 23-yard touchdown run by Romanelli with 6:35 remaining in the first quarter, capping off a 10-play, 68-yard drive that began after the T-Birds got to the Mustang 32-yard line on the game's opening drive before failing on a fourth-down attempt.
The T-Birds tied the game at 7-7 on the ensuing drive when Cooper found sophomore wide receiver Jared Ursua for a 14-yard score with 47 seconds left in the quarter to cap off a 12-play, 71-yard drive.
The T-Birds forced Cal Poly to punt the next two drives, but SUU's first drive of the second quarter ended in another failed fourth-down attempt and on their second drive, Cooper was sacked by Cal Poly senior linebacker Carlton Gillespie, causing a fumble that was recovered by Cal Poly sophomore defensive lineman Erich Klemme.
The fumble recovery gave the Mustangs the ball deep in SUU territory at the 19-yard line, which they took advantage of with a 2-yard touchdwon run by senior slot back Jon Hall to take a 14-7 lead.
The T-Birds had a chance to tie the game at 14-14 before halftime, but Cooper threw an interception to Cal Poly senior safety David Fullerton in the end zone on third-and-15 from the Mustang 20-yard line.
Lamb said in the interview with Challis that the two turnovers in the second quarter, one of which led to a Mustang touchdown and one of which took away a T-Bird touchdown, made a big difference in the game's outcome.
"They protected the ball and we didn't," he said.
The T-Birds did not punt in the game, ending every drive with either a score or a turnover. The final two plays of the game changed the turnover totals from 2-0 to 3-1 with the Mustangs turning it over on the onside kick and the T-Birds giving it back on a sack-fumble on the game's final play.
The T-Birds outgained the Mustangs 385-250. Cooper completed 27 of 40 passes for 263 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. Poots had a big day receiving for the T-Birds, catching 12 passes for 170 yards and a touchdown. As a team, the T-Birds collected 122 rushing yards on 40 carries, which includes five Mustang sacks that accounted for minus 18 yards. Cal Poly senior defensive end Ryan Shotwell had three of the sacks.
After falling short on their bid to spoil Cal Poly's Homecoming, the T-Birds will look to win their own Homecoming Game and pull even in Great West play when they play host to North Dakota on Oct. 24 at 2 p.m.