San Diego secures PFL's first playoff win
(STATS) – That San Diego running back Jonah Hodges finished with more rushing yards and touchdowns than Cal Poly's No. 1 rushing offense in the FCS meant the Pioneer Football League had a breakthrough victory in the FCS playoffs Saturday night.
San Diego avenged a 22-point early season loss to Cal Poly with a surprising 35-21 win in the first round in San Luis Obispo – the first ever in the playoffs by a PFL team.
The upstart Toreros (10-1), who have won nine straight games since falling 38-16 to the Mustangs from the Big Sky Conference, next play at No. 1 seed and five-time defending FCS champion North Dakota State (10-1), in the second round next Saturday.
Hodges, a fifth-year senior, finished with 35 carries for 171 yards and three touchdowns. In contrast, Cal Poly's triple option offense – which averaged 360.6 rushing yards per game – had 47 carries for 146 and two touchdowns.
With quarterback Anthony Lawrence also throwing for 296 yards and two touchdowns at rainy and muddy Alex G. Spanos Stadium, San Diego outgained Cal Poly 469 yards to 193.
Perhaps it wasn't too surprising because San Diego entered the game ranked No. 1 in the FCS in scoring defense, total defense and time of possession.
This is the fourth year that the PFL has had an automatic playoff bid for its champion and the first three qualifiers were outscored 107-21, including San Diego falling 52-14 at Montana two years ago.
But the Toreros never trailed in their second playoff appearance. Hodges broke a 14-14 tie with a 7-yard touchdown run with 8:27 left in the third quarter and he put the game away with a 5-yard score with 2:26 left in the fourth quarter.
Joe Protheroe provided the majority of Cal Poly's offense with 120 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. Defensive end Kelly Shepard also scored on a 62-yard interception return.
The win was San Diego's first against Cal Poly after five previous losses.