Cal Poly Football to Host South Dakota Armed With 3-Game Winning Streak
SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. -- Cal Poly (4-3, 2-0 Great West), which opened Great West Conference play with come-from-behind four-point victories over both defending conference champion Southern Utah and then-No. 20 North Dakota, continues its run of four consecutive Great West Conference games Saturday night against No. 15/17 South Dakota (5-3, 2-0 Great West) in Alex G. Spanos Stadium (11,075).
Kickoff is set for 6:05 p.m. PDT and the contest will be broadcast live on ESPN Radio (1280 am) with Tom Barket providing the play-by-play and Kyle Shotwell doing color commentary. The game also will be televised live on KSBY-TV with Andrew Masuda and Bill Halter in the booth and Kathy Kuretich on the sidelines. Links for audio and video streams as well as live stats will be available on www.GoPoly.com.
Winner of Saturday's game between a pair of teams with 2-0 Great West marks will clinch at least a share of the conference title. Cal Poly, seeking a record fourth Great West championship, is still receiving votes but not ranked in either the Sports Network media or FCS coaches polls. The Mustangs, however, are in the top 20 in a pair of computer rankings -- No. 19 by Jeff Sagarin of USA Today and No. 21 in last week's Grid Power Index (similar to the Football Bowl Subdivision's BCS rankings). South Dakota is ranked 17th in the media poll, 15th in the coaches poll, 26th by Sagarin and has a GPI of 22.
Cal Poly football, presented by French Hospital Medical Center, is tackling 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 South 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.
Last week in Grand Forks, N.D., junior quarterback Andre Broadous threw a pair of touchdown passes and sophomore placekicker James Langford kicked three field goals as Cal Poly overcame an early 6-0 deficit, built a 23-6 lead and held on to beat North Dakota 23-19 in a Great West Conference football game inside the Alerus Center, where the Fighting Sioux had won 64 of 75 games.
The Mustang defense intercepted three passes and safety Greg Francis recorded 12 tackles, all solo, and a key pass breakup in the end zone as Cal Poly earned its third straight victory. Linebacker Kennith Jackson's interception with 23 seconds to play sealed the verdict.
South Dakota, coached by Ed Meierkort (eighth season at South Dakota (19th overall), 53-33 (108-88), Dakota Wesleyan '82) returned 53 lettermen, including 21 starters, off last year's team which went 4-7 overall and 1-3 for fourth place in the Great West Conference. The Coyotes have beaten then-No. 1 Eastern Washington, Southern Utah and UC Davis and lost to FBS schools Air Force and Wisconsin along with Illinois State.
In a 27-24 win over UC Davis last week, quarterback Dante Warren threw one touchdown pass, ran for another and completed 10 of 21 passes for 185 yards. The Coyotes snapped a 17-17 halftime tie with a 66-yard interception return by Adam Broders, his second interception of the game, and a 43-yard field goal by Kevin Robb.
For the season, Marcus Sims has rushed for 542 yards and three touchdowns while Warren has connected on 55 percent of his passes (76 of 139) for 1,033 yards and seven scores with seven interceptions. Top Coyote receivers are Will Powell with 24 catches and Dustin Nowotny with 20. Broders has three interceptions on the year while Jeremy Blount averages 23.2 yards per kickoff return and 9.0 per punt return. Cole Zwiefelhofer averages 43.8 yards per punt and Robb is 13 of 16 on field goals and 21 of 22 on PAT kicks. Broders leads the Coyotes defensively with 76 tackles while Tyler Starr has 11 sacks among his 40 tackles.
South Dakota has 26 sacks in eight games. The Coyotes are averaging 163 yards rushing and 147 yards passing while giving up 144 yards on the ground and 233 through the air.
Cal Poly and South Dakota are meeting for only the fourth time in football this weekend. Last year in the DakotaDome at Vermillion, S.D., the Mustangs rallied from a 14-0 second-quarter deficit for a 38-24 victory as slotback Mark Rodgers rushed for 235 yards on just 15 carries, scoring twice on runs of 44 and 74 yards. He averaged 31 yards per kickoff return and also completed a pass from wildcat formation. South Dakota outscored Cal Poly 50-48 in 2009 at Alex G. Spanos Stadium. Only other previous clash between the Mustangs and Coyotes was in 2008, a 49-22 Mustang victory in Alex G. Spanos Stadium.
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), senior fullback Jake Romanelli (459 yards, eight TDs in 2010) and a veteran offensive line which includes seniors Scott Winnewisser, Art Munoz and Maurice McClure.
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 63 of their last 98 games dating back to the 2002 season finale and have won 22 of their last 46 games on the road and 41 of their last 49 home contests.
Next week Cal Poly concludes Great West Conference play by traveling to UC Davis in the Battle for the Golden Horseshoe. Kickoff on Nov. 5 in Aggie Stadium is set for 2:05 p.m.