Posted: Sep 09, 2019
SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. — Cal Poly (1-1, 0-0 Big Sky), which followed its season-opening 52-34 win over San Diego with a 41-24 setback at Weber State last week, plays the second of three consecutive road games Saturday afternoon, visiting Pac-12 Conference member Oregon State (0-2, 0-0 Pac-12) at Reser Stadium (cap.: 43,154) in Corvallis, Oregon.
Kickoff is set for 1:15 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 12:30 p.m. The game also will be televised on Pac-12 Oregon with Jim Watson (play-by-play) and Jordan Kent (analyst) and streamed on the Pac-12 Now app. 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.
Last week in Ogden, Utah, the Mustangs were held to 164 rushing yards and had the ball for just 24 minutes, 45 seconds in their fourth straight loss to Weber State. Hamler completed 11 of 14 passes for 182 yards and rushed for 53 yards and one touchdown, a 47-yard run. Lepi Lataimua ran 50 yards for a score and Brandon Davis recovered a blocked Wildcat punt in the end zone for a touchdown.
Oregon State dropped its opener at home to Oklahoma State, 52-36, and traveled to Honolulu last week, falling 31-28 as Hawaii's Ryan Meskell kicked a 28-yard field goal with 2:01 remaining to snap a 28-28 tie. The Beavers rushed for 263 yards, led by Jermar Jefferson with 183 yards and one touchdown. Sixth-year senior quarterback Jake Luton completed 15 of 32 passes for 169 yards and one score and Isaiah Hodgins caught seven passes for 96 yards, including a 13-yard touchdown catch.
Cal Poly and Oregon State are meeting for the first time Saturday. Cal Poly's only other game against an active Pac-12 school was against Arizona State in 2015, falling 35-21. The game was tied at 21-21 with eight minutes remaining before the Sun Devils scored twice to pull away. The Mustangs, who play at Cal in 2020, played Arizona State three times before the Sun Devils became a Pac-12 member in 1978 and also played Arizona once, back in 1945.
Oregon State returned 49 lettermen, including 19 starters (seven on offense, nine on defense, three on special teams) from last year's squad which finished 2-10 overall and 1-8 for sixth place in the Pac-12 North standings.
Top returnees include Jefferson, a First-Team Freshman All-American by The Athletic, 247Sports, ESPN, the FWAA and USA Today after finishing with seven 100-yard games, including two of 200 or more yards. His 254-yard outing at Arizona State is the second-best single-game total in Oregon State history and his 1,380 yards for the season is a Beaver single-season record and ninth nationally for the 2018 season (first among freshmen). He scored four touchdowns in a game twice — against Southern Utah and Washington State.
Other top Beaver returnees include senior offensive linemen Blake Brandel and Gus Lavaka, quarterback Jake Luton (140 of 224, 1,660 yards. 10 touchdowns in eight games), wide receivers Isaiah Hodgins (59 catches, 876 yards, five TDs in 2018) and Trevon Bradford (56-649-6), defensive back Jalen Moore (team-leading 102 tackles), inside linebacker Shemar Smith (85 tackles), kicker Jordan Choukair (35 of 38 PATs, 12 of 20 field goals with long of 47 yards) and punter Daniel Rodriguez (41.9 average on 55 punts).
Bodden, Bradford, Jefferson and Hodgins were All-Pac-12 honorable mentions in 2018.
Oregon State has played football since 1893 and has compiled a 537-605-50 record. The Beavers are 11-6 in bowl games. Last bowl game Oregon State played in was the 2013 Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl, won by the Beavers over Boise State, 38-23. The Beavers are 14-48 over the last five-plus seasons since that game. Oregon State has captured five Pac-12 titles, the last in 2000.
Second-year head coach Jonathan Smith was hired Nov. 29, 2017, becoming the first Oregon State alumnus to become head coach of the Beavers. A graduate of Glendora High School, Smith was a four-year letterman quarterback at Oregon State from 1998-2001, leading the Beavers to the 1999 Oahu Bowl and the 2001 Fiesta Bowl and finishing his Beaver career as the school's all-time leading passer with 9,680 yards. He also set school records for career touchdown passes (55), single-game passing yards (469 yards) and single-season passing yards (3,053 yards in 1999).
Smith's coaching career started as a graduate assistant coach in 2002 and 2003 under both Dennis Erickson and Mike Riley, respectively. The 40-year-old earned his first full-time coaching position at Idaho in 2004, where he served as quarterbacks coach through 2009.
From 2010-11, he was the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for Montana, and Smith joined Boise State for the 2012 and 2013 seasons as the Broncos' quarterbacks coach. He followed head coach Chris Petersen to Washington to serve as the Huskies' offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach from 2014-17.
Smith earned his bachelor's degree in liberal studies from Oregon State in December 2001.
Oregon State runs multiple offensive sets and a 3-4 defense.
Cal Poly returned 10 starters on defense and six on offense. Biggest holes to fill were 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. Whitson is now an offensive analyst with the Mustangs.
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 in 2018. Trujillo-Langdon moved from right guard to center to replace Whitson and Whisenhunt remained 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. Both missed the first two games due to injury. 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. Falo suffered an injury on the first play of the San Diego game and could be out for the season.
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 (57-59), 29th season overall (174-141), 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. In addition, 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 before moving to the Missouri Valley Football Conference in 2020. Idaho, once a Pac-8 member, 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 185 games (57 percent) going back to the 2002 finale and has won 22 of its last 53 and 41 of 91 on the road while producing 12 winning seasons in the last 18 years.
Cal Poly, which does not have a home game in September and has a bye next week, concludes its three-game road trip with its Big Sky Conference opener Sept. 28 at Southern Utah.
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