They rolled in. At a pace that mortals should not be able...
After a 7-0 Start, Mustangs Heading into Hornets’ Nest
Tim Walsh’s Cal Poly football team has accomplished a program-first. In 19 seasons at the Division 1 level, this is the first time the Mustangs are 7-0 to start their season. One of two undefeated teams in FCS, the Mustangs are ranked 11th. While their success has been consistent, it has depended on the team’s ability to wear down opposing teams, making offensive and defensive adjustments to win the second half. As J.D. Scroggin talked about here, Cal Poly has had to come back from a second-half deficit in five of their seven games, leaving nervous fans biting their nails until the end.
Starting today, the Mustangs have to play the toughest stretch of their schedule, going on the road for 3 of the final four games, including visiting top-ranked Eastern Washington in a rare non-conference game versus a Big Sky opponent.
Cal Poly’s triple option, ball-control offense has proven effective at moving the ball, especially in the second half. They have had more big plays than last season and have survived nagging injuries to two of their running backs. Quarterback Andre Broadous is a senior and has played like one. He has used timely long passes and the knowledge of the offense fans would expect from a senior to establish himself as an extension of Coach Tim Walsh n the field. Walsh depends on Broadous to help make in-game adjustments and to find weaknesses in opposing defenses throughout any game.
While he is currently in second place all-time in rushing touchdowns, Broadous hasn’t had to run the ball himself for much of the first half of the season — a fact Walsh should be thankful for. Last season, Broadous punched it in himself 18 times and going into Saturday’s game, he is 8 scores away from James Noble’s all-time career rushing touchdown record of 35. Walsh has to be happy that he has not had to wear-down Broadous. When Cal Poly is in a tough spot, the ball gets put in Broadous’ hands. Look for the senior quarterback to tally more carries during the next four weeks than he has been during the first seven.
The Scary: the schedule
When this season’s schedule came out, Cal Poly fans saw a real opportunity. Non-conference games against a down Wyoming team and an overrated San Diego, paired with a conference schedule that did not include conference games against top-ranked Eastern Washington, third-ranked North Dakota, or fourth-ranked Montana State, gave Walsh’s team a strong chance to win the Big Sky in their first season.
While they don’t have to play any of the above teams in-conference, this is the tough part of the schedule. Sacramento State is ranked fourth in the Big Sky (3-2 in conference) and narrowly missed upsetting the top team in FCS last week, losing to Eastern Washington 31-28. The Hornets are probably better than their 5-3 record indicates, having topped FBS Colorado in Boulder earlier in the year. They have been less consistent than the Mustangs, but have shown that they can play with just about anyone.
If Cal Poly survives this week, they get to go on the road to top-ranked Eastern Washington in a non-conference matchup. The Mustangs’ final game is in Flagstaff, AZ against 13th-ranked Northern Arizona, who is 4-0 so far in the tough Big Sky Conference.
What does it mean?
If Cal Poly can get past Sacramento State, an undefeated or one-loss regular season becomes a likelihood rather than a possibility. If the Mustangs lose in the state’s capital, then losses at Eastern Washington and Northern Arizona become more likely and a scenario where Cal Poly loses 3 games and misses the playoffs is a distinct possibility.
In other words, Cal Poly better bring their “A-Game” today. The difference now isn’t between a good or bad season — it’s between a good or great season. And the difference between good and great, at this level, for this team, will be razor-thin.
Post-game comments from last week’s victory over Portland State.