SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. - The Cal Golden Bears fought back from a 10-point deficit to take a late lead on a try by sophomore Max Shaulis before Cal Poly's Matthew Verga kicked the game-winning conversion with no time left following a try by Andy Early to give the Mustangs a 22-20 victory Saturday at the Cal Poly Sports Complex.
The loss by California ended its winning streak at 63 matches.
The Bears did not lead until the 72nd minute in a match that saw four yellow cards, two drawn against each team, the last of which left Cal a man down as the Mustangs made their final charge to win the contest.
Cal's error count was high and the Bears never looked the part of a team that was in control, allowing Cal Poly to maintain pressure against a mixed side that featured eight underclassmen on the pitch.
Saturday marked the first non-tournament starts of 2012 for several Cal players, including newly converted flanker Ahmed Chehade and inside center Jared Braun.
Sophomore Paul Bosco got the start at scrumhalf and winger Nicholas Maloney made his 2012 debut following a year away from the game.
The starting second row of the forwards was manned by reserves Nick Westerman and Alex Bowman. Fellow reserve Grant Hyjer got the nod to start at hooker and sophomore Carl Hendrickson made his first start since Cal's match at Loyola Marymount.
Alex Aronson was drafted into the match late due to an illness suffered by freshman Andrew Battaglia. The senior scored a try to mount Cal's initial comeback but was unable to convert any of his four post-try kicks.
Head coach Jack Clark obviously used a lineup that wasn't his front-line players, but dismissed that as a valid excuse for losing.
"That's not how it works," Clark said. "We played as Cal today and were beaten by a better team on the day. We tried to bolster the effort by throwing Danny Barrett into the contest with 25 minutes remaining and although he made a difference, we didn't have the stuff to bring it home."
Coach Clark added: "Our deficiencies were in part attributable to the efforts of the Poly side. I thought they put in an inspired performance."
"I'm proud of my guys," said Mustangs head coach David Burnett. "They had the belief."
The teams battled to a standstill in the first half. It wasn't until the 36th minute that scrumhalf Thomas Leacox zipped over for the first try. Verga, whose boot was one of the differences for the Mustangs, made the extras.
Right on the stroke of halftime, Cal fullback Andre Coquillard scored the first of four Cal tries to make it 7-5 at the break.
Cal Poly worked to extend their lead. Verga slotted a penalty at 45 minutes, and at 58 minutes No. 8 David Schaefer bulled over for a 15-5 Poly lead.
Cal mounted their comeback then, scoring three tries in the space of about 12 minutes. Aronson was first, then sub loose forward Danny Barrett, and then wing Max Shaulis. But none was converted, and while Cal led 20-15, Cal Poly still had a shot.
And a shot they took, with center Early racing in with time up to tie the game, and Verga was good on the clutch kick.
Cal Poly 22
Tries: Leacox, Schaefer, Early
Convs: Verga 2
Tries: Coguillard, Aronson, Barrett, Shaulis