SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. -- Cal Poly (5-4, 3-1 Great West), which completed Great West Conference play last week with a 24-17 loss at UC Davis, snapping a four-game winning streak, closes out the 2011 campaign with a pair of non-conference contests, hosting defending NCAA Football Championship Subdivision national champion Eastern Washington (4-5, 4-3 Big Sky) on Saturday night in Alex G. Spanos Stadium (11,075).
Kickoff is set for 6:05 p.m. PST and the Cal Poly Faculty/Staff contest will be broadcast live on ESPN Radio (1280 am) with Tom Barket providing the play-by-play and Kyle Shotwell doing color commentary. KSBY-TV also will air the game live with Bill Halter and Andrew Masuda in the booth and Kathy Kuretich on the sideline. Links for audio and video streams as well as live stats will be available on www.GoPoly.com.
Cal Poly clinched at least a share of its fourth Great West title Oct. 29 with a 27-24 win over South Dakota inside Alex G. Spanos Stadium, but couldn't overcome a 21-3 halftime deficit in the loss at UC Davis last week. The Mustangs had won each of their first three conference games by a total of 11 points and had to come from behind for all three victories.
Cal Poly rallied from a 14-3 second-quarter deficit to beat defending Great West champion and No. 22 Southern Utah 31-27 on Oct. 15, climbed back from an early 6-0 deficit to beat No. 20 North Dakota 23-19 on Oct. 22 and erased a 17-0 halftime deficit to beat No. 17 South Dakota two weeks ago. The Mustangs have won their last three home games despite trailing at intermission.
The Mustangs are still receiving votes but not ranked in either the Sports Network media or FCS coaches polls despite winning three straight games against teams who were ranked in the top 25 and four overall this season. The Mustangs are in the top 20 in a pair of computer rankings -- No. 14 by Jeff Sagarin of USA Today (114th among all 246 Division I schools, ahead of Colorado, Indiana and UNLV, among others) and No. 19 in last week's Grid Power Index (similar to the Football Bowl Subdivision's BCS rankings).
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, five FCS squads that have been in the national polls 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.
Against UC Davis last week,Colton Silveria ran for two touchdowns and Randy Wright passed for another, all in the first half, as UC Davis built a 21-3 advantage and held on for the victory in the eighth edition of the Battle for the Golden Horseshoe.
Cal Poly forced UC Davis to punt just once in the first three quarters and the Mustangs committed a season-high 13 penalties for 114 yards as the Aggies beat Cal Poly for the third straight year. Mustang junior quarterback Andre Broadous threw his first collegiate interception on his 208th career attempt. Jonathan Calhoun intercepted the pass with 9:15 to play in the game.
The Mustangs converted three fourth-down plays and closed the gap to seven points on a one-yard run by Deonte Williams, who earned his first 100-yard game as a Mustang, netting exactly 100 yards on 21 carries. Cal Poly got the ball back with 1:45 to play at their own 5-yard line, but fumbled the ball back to the Aggies in the final 40 seconds.
Eastern Washington, coached by Beau Baldwin (fourth season, 31-16, Central Washington '96), returned 52 lettermen, including 15 starters, off last year's team which went 13-2, finished tied for first place in the Big Sky Conference and captured the 2010 NCAA FCS National Championship, defeating Delaware 20-19 in the title game.
The Eagles, coming off a bye week, bounced back from an 0-4 start with Big Sky wins over Weber State, Northern Arizona, Northern Colorado and Sacramento State, but had their four-game winning streak snapped by Portland State 43-26 on Oct. 29. In the loss to the Vikings, the Eagles surrendered 338 yards rushing and 499 total yards. Portland State erased a 20-15 deficit with 21 unanswered points and won going away despite Bo Levi Mitchell's 440 yards passing and four TDs for the Eagles. Nicholas Edwards caught nine passes, three for scores.
For the season, Mitchell, the transfer from SMU, has completed 247 of 402 passes (61.4 percent) for 3,176 yards and 24 TDs with 11 interceptions. Edwards has 73 catches for 1,008 yards and 14 scores while Greg Herd has caught 56 passes for 886 yards. Top Eagle rusher is Jordan Talley with 359 yards (3.6 per carry) and three scores. Jake Miller averages 43.4 yards per punt. Linebacker Ronnie Hamlin leads the defense with 68 tackles while end Jerry Ceja has 5.5 of EWU's 24 total sacks.
The Eagles average 128.7 points and 422 yards in total offense (67 rushing, 355 passing) but are giving up 29.7 points and 407 yards (206 rushing, 202 passing) a contest.
Cal Poly and Eastern Washington will be playing each other in football for the fifth time Saturday night. The two teams split the previous four contests. They played back-to-back in 1994-95 and 2004-05, with the home team winning each time.
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 were 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 are 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 four Great West Conference titles in the seven-year history of the league (2004, 2005, 2008, 2011) and earned NCAA Division I FCS playoff berths in both 2005 and 2008, reaching the quarterfinals in 2005. The Mustangs have won 64 of their last 100 games dating back to the 2002 season finale and have won 22 of their last 47 games on the road and 42 of their last 50 home contests.
Next week Cal Poly wraps up the 2011 season with another non-conference game at South Alabama (6-3). The Jaguars have a bye this week.