Karl Ivory wrestled an interception away from Jerome Eason in the end zone with 31 seconds to play, spoiling Southern Utah's comeback bid and its Homecoming in the process as No. 10 (I-AA) Cal Poly hung on for a 24-17 Great West Football Conference win over the Thunderbirds.
Trailing 24-17, Southern Utah had driven from its own 16-yard line to the Cal Poly 4 and had second-and-goal with 40 seconds to play. Casey Rehrer lofted a ball into the left corner of the end zone and Eason and Ivory both had possession before Ivory pulled it away, then returned it to the 21-yard line to seal the win.
"That was a great play. He went up and just took it away from Jerome," SUU coach Wes Meier said. "I saw Jerome had it and I thought we were about to tie the game, then (Ivory) came out of there with the ball. That was a really disappointing way to end the game.
"I thought our kids played well and we played well enough to win but they were able to take advantage of a couple of big plays and we came up just short," he added.
Southern Utah piled up 386 yards of total offense to just 248 for the Mustangs, but Cal Poly was able to take advantage of a blocked punt and some good field position to win the game.
Southern Utah took a 17-14 lead with 14 seconds remaining in the first half on a Rehrer to Braden Godfrey pass and the Thunderbirds held that lead until late in the third period. With three minutes to play, SUU punter Trevor Ward fielded a bad snap from center and had his punt blocked at the 5 by James Pryor. It was returned to the SUU 4 by Matt McCormick, setting up a 4-yard Anthony Garnett run for a touchdown and the lead.
The Mustangs tacked on a 40-yard field goal later in the third period.
Cal Poly struck first in the game, as Jonah Russell took a Garnett pass over the middle and rambled 42 yards for a touchdown with 10:01 to play. Southern Utah answered with a 37-yard Steve Pulver field goal, but the Mustangs went up 14-3 on a 1-yard Adam Martinez dive on fourth-and-1 after SUU had held three times inside the 3-yard line. SUU pulled to within 14-10 on a 6-yard Rehrer to Eason pass.
Rehrer finished with 310 yards of total offense after passing for 254 yards and rushing for another 56, while Garnett, in his first start for the Mustangs, threw for 149 yards.