SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. -- Cal Poly (3-3, 1-0 Great West), which opened Great West Conference play with a come-from-behind 31-27 victory over defending conference champion Southern Utah, continues its run of four consecutive Great West Conference games Saturday afternoon against No. 20 North Dakota (4-2, 1-0 Great West) in the Alerus Center (12,283) at Grand Forks, N.D.
Kickoff is set for 11 a.m. PDT and the contest will be broadcast live on ESPN Radio (1280 am) with Tom Barket providing the play-by-play and Eric Burdick doing color commentary. The game also will be televised live on DirecTV 617 and Fox Sports Pacific and will be replayed on Fox Sports Pacific on Sunday at 7 p.m.
Links for audio and video streams as well as live stats will be available on www.GoPoly.com.
Cal Poly football, presented by French Hospital Medical Center, faces another ambitious schedule under third-year head coach Tim Walsh, taking on a pair of FBS teams, three FCS squads in the national polls (including North Dakota) and another team that was undefeated the last two seasons. Both San Diego State and Northern Illinois won bowl games in 2010, Montana has a pair of FCS national titles to its credit and Eastern Washington claimed the FCS crown last fall. South Alabama did not lose a football game in the program's first two seasons of existence. Cal Poly's 11 foes in 2011 posted a combined 76-53 win-loss record in 2010.
"We have as tough a schedule as you could want at this level," said Walsh. "Our goal is to win the Great West Conference championship and, as far as the playoffs go, we have to win some tough road games to get there. Every game, we will have to play our best."
The Mustangs opened the 2011 campaign armed with nearly 50 returning lettermen, including 14 starters, off a team which finished two points shy of a postseason berth, letting a 21-3 halftime lead slip away in a 22-21 loss to rival UC Davis in the final game of the 2010 season.
Junior quarterback Andre Broadous scored the go-ahead touchdown on a four-yard run with 45 seconds to play, giving Cal Poly its only lead of the game, and senior safety Greg Francis sealed the victory with an interception with one second to go as the Mustangs rallied to defeat Southern Utah on Saturday inside Alex G. Spanos Stadium. Senior fullback Jake Romanelli earned his fourth consecutive 100-yard game rushing, one shy of the school record of five set by Antonio Warren in 1995-96, as he accumulated 101 yards on 22 carries, and scored twice. Final team statistics were very close. Southern Utah had a 366-364 edge in total offense but Cal Poly amassed a 21-19 lead in first downs and ran off one more play, 76-75. Cal Poly rushed for 267 yards while Southern Utah threw for 296 yards.
North Dakota, coached by Chris Mussman (fourth season, 19-19, Iowa State '90) returned 35 lettermen, including 14 starters, off last year's team which went 3-8 overall and winless at 0-4 for fifth place in the Great West Conference. The Fighting Sioux have won three straight since back-to-back losses to Idaho and Fresno State, defeating Black Hills State, Southern Utah and Montana Western.
North Dakota had a bye last week. Against Montana Western two weeks ago, the Fighting Sioux scored 21 points in both the second and third quarters for a 42-9 win. Jake Miller rushed for 152 yards and four touchdowns (3, 2,3 and 4 yards) while Joey Bradley completed nine of 14 passes for 117 yards and a score.
For the season, Miller has rushed for 695 yards and 12 touchdowns, best in the Great West in both departments) while Bradley has completed 74 of 132 passes (56 percent) for 726 yards and three scores. Bradley's favorite targets are Greg Hardin and R.J. McGill, each with 20 receptions. The Fighting Sioux are averaging 184.8 yards rushing and 121.3 yards passing while giving up just 74.5 yards on the ground and 255.8 through the air.
Cal Poly and North Dakota are meeting for only the fourth time in football this weekend. Last year in Alex G. Spanos Stadium, the Mustangs eked out a 22-21 win as slotback Mark Rodgers rushed for 94 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Cal Poly held off North Dakota in the final 11 minutes for the win on Parents Weekend. In Grand Forks two years ago, North Dakota overcame a 17-7 second-quarter deficit and upset No. 16/18 Cal Poly 31-17 in the Alerus Center. Only other previous clash between the Mustangs and Fighting Sioux was in the 1972 Camellia Bowl at Hughes Stadium in Sacramento, won by North Dakota 38-21.
One year shy of their first venture to the Big Sky Conference, the Mustangs welcomed back six starters on offense and eight on defense, plus several other players who started a few games or accumulated a lot of playing time as backups. Among those are Broadous, who started four games at quarterback last fall, all on the road, and numerous defensive players who rotated in and out of the lineup with the starters.
Broadous backed up Tony Smith for two seasons and entered fall camp as the No. 1 signal caller. A year ago, the junior from Portland, Oregon, completed 41 of 64 passes (64.1 percent) for 510 yards and four touchdowns while also rushing 87 times for 305 yards and three more scores.
The Mustangs also will be led by Mark Rodgers (882 yards and eight TDs rushing; 20 catches and three more TDs in 2010), Romanelli (459 yards, eight TDs in 2010) and a veteran offensive line which includes seniors Scott Winnewisser, Art Munoz and Maurice McClure (pictured above).
Top returnees on defense are Buck Buchanan Award candidate Asa Jackson (55 tackles, two interceptions in 2010) at cornerback, linebackers Johnny Millard (38 tackles, two forced fumbles) and Kennith Jackson (67 tackles) and linemen Erich Klemme (28 tackles, 2.5 sacks), Kyle Murphy 23 tackles, six hurries) and Gavin Cooper (39 tackles, six sacks, six hurries).
Cal Poly has captured three Great West Conference titles in the seven-year history of the league (2004, 2005, 2008) and earned NCAA Division I FCS playoff berths in both 2005 and 2008, reaching the quarterfinals in 2005. The Mustangs have won 62 of their last 97 games dating back to the 2002 season finale and have won 21 of their last 45 games on the road and 41 of their last 49 home contests.
Next week Cal Poly continues Great West Conference play by hosting South Dakota on Parents Weekend. Kickoff on Oct. 29 in Alex G. Spanos Stadium is set for 6:05 p.m.