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Cal Poly On the Road for Next Three Games, Visits Weber State Saturday

Cal Poly On the Road for Next Three Games, Visits Weber State Saturday
 
SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. — Cal Poly (1-0, 0-0 Big Sky), which won its season opener for the first time in four years, defeating San Diego 52-34 to stretch its winning streak over two seasons to three games and has won five of its last seven contests, seeks to continue that momentum Saturday afternoon with a non-conference matchup against Big Sky Conference member Weber State (0-1, 0-0 Big Sky) at Stewart Stadium (cap.: 16,500) in Ogden, Utah.
 
Kickoff is set for 5:05 p.m. PDT and the game will be broadcast live on ESPN Radio 1280 AM and 101.7 FM with Chris Sylvester (play-by-play) and Vernon (Veejay) Huskey (analyst). Pregame show starts at 4:30 p.m. The game also will be streamed on Pluto TV (Channel 544) and Watch Big Sky and televised on KJZZ in Utah. Links for audio and video streams as well as live stats are available on the football schedule page at www.GoPoly.com.
 
Cal Poly racked up 607 yards of total offense in the win over San Diego, led by redshirt freshman Jalen Hamler and sophomore fullback Duy Tran-Sampson. In his first game in a Mustang uniform, Hamler passed for 221 yards and three touchdowns and ran for 96 yards and two more scores en route to ROOT SPORTS Big Sky Offensive Player of the Week honors. Tran-Sampson, who had just one carry for four yards a year ago, sprinted 87 yards on his first carry of 2019  for a touchdown and finished with 172 yards and two scores, averaging 11.5 yards per carry.
 
After the two teams traded a pair of touchdowns in the first quarter, Cal Poly scored 38 unanswered points to pull away. The Toreros were thwarted by three interceptions and held to just 119 yards on the ground as the Mustangs extended their series advantage over San Diego to six wins versus one loss.
 
Held to 154 yards of total offense (35 yards on the ground) and forced to punt 10 times, Weber State fell 6-0 at San Diego State last week. The Wildcats converted just three of 15 third-down plays. Davis was limited to seven net yards on eight carries and Constantine completed 21 of 31 passes for 119 yards. David Ames, Justin Malone and Kevin Smith each had four receptions.
 
Cal Poly and Weber State are meeting for the 15th time Saturday. The series dating back to 1995 was all knotted up at 6-6 before the Wildcats earned a 17-3 Big Sky victory over the Mustangs two years ago in San Luis Obispo and posted a 24-17 triumph last year in a non-conference game, also inside Alex G. Spanos Stadium. The Mustangs won three straight before the Wildcats snapped the string with three straight wins, including a 22-15 triumph three years ago in Ogden.
 
In last year's contest, Josh Davis ran for 177 yards and a pair of touchdowns to lead No. 10/13 Weber State to victory over Cal Poly. Jake Constantine replaced starter Kaden Jenks in the second quarter and completed nine of 15 passes for 84 yards and a score as the visiting Wildcats spoiled Cal Poly's home opener. Trailing 24-10, Cal Poly drove 75 yards on 13 plays to pull within seven points with 8:12 to play. Joe Protheroe ran one yard for the touchdown. The Mustangs forced a Weber State punt and had the ball at its own 44-yard line with 2:33 remaining, but on the third play quarterback Jake Jeffrey fumbled and Weber State's Adam Rodriguez recovered at the Wildcat 39-yard line. Weber State was able to run out the clock.
 
Tim Walsh is 9-9 against Weber State, including a 6-5 mark while he was head coach at Portland State, while Weber State head coach Jay Hill is 3-1 against Cal Poly.
 
Both Davis and Constantine are back this fall, leading a Wildcat team with 39 returning lettermen, including eight starters on offense and four on defense. Davis earned third-team All-America honors and also was named National Freshman of the Year after rushing for 1,362 yards and nine touchdowns and catching 30 balls for 193 additional yards. Constantine completed 208 of 341 passes (61 percent) for 2,205 yards and 18 scores.
 
Other top returnees for Weber State are senior defensive end Adam Rodriguez (61 tackles, 15.0 for lost yardage, seven sacks in 2018), a third-team All-American, and junior wide receiver/kick returnee Rashid Shaheed (41 catches, 442 yards, five TDs; 34.3-yard average and two TDs on kickoff returns; 10.1 average on 21 punt returns), a second-team All-American. The Wildcats also return first-team All-Big Sky selections Ty Whitworth (junior offensive lineman) and Jonah Williams (senior defensive end, 42 tackles, 7.0 for lost yardage).
 
Weber State shared the 2018 Big Sky title with Eastern Washington and UC Davis, all with 7-1 marks, and reached the quarterfinal round of the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision playoffs before falling to Maine 23-18. The Wildcats finished 10-3 and ranked No. 6 in the national polls.
 
Co-champion of the Big Sky in both 2008 and 2017, the Wildcats posted a combined 24-45 record from 2009-14, including a 2-9 mark in 2012 and 2-10 in both 2013 and 2014, but were 6-5 in 2015, 7-5 in 2016, 11-3 in 2017 and 10-3 last fall, earning three straight FCS playoff berths. Weber State also claimed Big Sky titles in 1965 and 1968 and have made seven FCS playoff appearances.
 
Sixth-year head coach Jay Hill was a longtime assistant coach at Utah (2000-13), the last nine as cornerbacks coach and special teams coordinator, before he was hired as head coach at Weber State in December 2013. He played college football at Ricks Junior College and Utah, leading the Mountain West interceptions as a senior. Hill played briefly in the XFL and signed free agent contracts with the Buffalo Bills and New York Giants.
 
Weber State has produced one Walter Payton Award winner -- former Arroyo Grande High School standout Jamie Martin, who still holds numerous passing records and, despite not being drafted, played 16 seasons (1993-2008) in the NFL with the Los Angeles and St. Louis Rams, Washington Redskins, Jacksonville Jaguars, Cleveland Browns, New York Jets, New Orleans Saints and San Francisco 49ers.
 
Weber State utilizes a 21 Personnel offense (two running backs, one tight end) and 4-3 defense.
 
Cal Poly returns 10 starters on defense and six on offense. Biggest holes to fill are at outside linebacker (three players with five or more starts are gone) and right up the middle on offense — record-breaking fullback Joe Protheroe, quarterback Khaleel Jenkins and center Harry Whitson, one of four offensive linemen with five or more starts who are gone.
 
Protheroe amassed 1,810 yards on 363 carries last season, raising his career totals to 861 carries and 4,271 yards, all new school records. His 23 career 100-yard games, including five over the 200-yard mark, also are school records, and Protheroe earned seven All-America honors in 2018 after leading the Big Sky and FCS in rushing. Jenkins rushed for 664 yards and passed for 777 more yards, accounting for nine touchdowns in each category. 
 
Top Mustang returnees are wide receiver J.J. Koski, offensive linemen Paul Trujillo-Langdon and Tyler Whisenhunt and the top four tacklers on defense in 2018 — inside linebackers Matt Shotwell (90 tackles) and Nik Navarro (83 tackles), cornerback Kitu Humphrey (67 tackles) and safety Carter Nichols (59 tackles). Koski led the Mustangs in receiving for the second straight year with 33 catches for 666 yards and four scores. Trujillo-Langdon moves from right guard to center to replace Whitson and Whisenhunt remains at left tackle after earning second-team All-Big Sky honors a year ago.
 
Drew Hernandez (664 yards, 7.6 yards per carry, nine touchdowns) and J'uan Campbell (195 yards, two scores) will head the list of returning slot backs this fall. Replacing Protheroe at fullback will be one of four candidates — senior Trey Nahhas, sophomore Duy Tran-Sampson, redshirt freshman Ryan Rivera and grayshirt Dusty Frampton.
 
Redshirt freshman Jalen Hamler won a three-man battle with sophomore Kyle Reid and junior Jake Jeffrey for the vacant quarterback position.
 
On defense, only two of the top 10 players at the three positions on the defensive front last year are gone. Sophomore Jojo Falo made five starts at defensive tackle, sophomore Pono Faaagi started seven games at nose tackle and sophomore Myles Cecil played all 11 games with seven starts at the defensive end spot. Cecil had 39 tackles, Falo 15 and Faaagi 11 a year ago.
 
Dominic Frasch, the national leader in passes defended a year ago, has moved on, but the secondary has plenty of returning experience. Junior field cornerback Kevin Howell played in nine games in 2018 while senior Sharky Reza (15 tackles, five pass breakups in 2018) tops the field at boundary corner. Senior Carter Nichols (59 tackles, five pass breakups in 2018) and junior Bradley Mickey (10 tackles) are the top two candidates at field safety while senior Kitu Humphrey (67 tackles, nine pass breakups) returns for his final season at boundary safety.
 
Coached by Tim Walsh (11th season at Cal Poly (57-58), 29th season overall (174-140), UC Riverside '77), Cal Poly's football program celebrated a trio of milestones last fall. The Mustangs played their 100th season on the gridiron and 25th at the Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA) level while Walsh completed his 10th season at the helm of the Cal Poly football program.
 
Cal Poly played eight games against teams that were ranked in the Top 25 at one time or another last season. Sacramento State earned votes in a preseason poll while Southern Utah earned a share of the Big Sky title in 2017. Despite the difficult schedule, the 14th-toughest in the nation according to Jeff Sagarin of USA Today, the Mustangs managed a four-win improvement over 2017.
 
Cal Poly, which captured the 2012 Big Sky title in its first year in the conference, was picked to finish ninth by both the head coaches and the media in the 13-team Big Sky this fall. Eastern Washington was selected to claim the 2019 Big Sky crown, followed by UC Davis and Weber State.
 
The Big Sky lost North Dakota in its lineup last fall, though the Fighting Hawks will continue to play a Big Sky schedule as an independent for one more season. Idaho returned to the Big Sky last fall after an 18-year run in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
 
The Mustangs claimed four Great West Conference titles in the eight-year history of the league (2004, 2005, 2008, 2011) before moving to the Big Sky in 2012 and have earned NCAA Division I FCS playoff berths in 2005, 2008, 2012 and 2016.
 
The Mustangs have won 65 of their last 90 home contests (72 percent) and, overall, Cal Poly has won 105 of its last 184 games (57 percent) going back to the 2002 finale and has won 22 of its last 52 and 41 of 90 on the road while producing 12 winning seasons in the last 18 years.
 
Cal Poly, which does not have a home game in September, continues its three-game road trip at Oregon State on Sept. 14 and, after a bye, opens Big Sky play Sept. 28 at Southern Utah.
 
Photo courtesy of Matt Brown | Matt Brown Photography