They rolled in. At a pace that mortals should not be able...
Why it’s Time for Cal Poly Football Fans to be Excited
Last night, Cal Poly did something they haven’t done since 2004 — start the season with four straight wins. That year, Cal Poly won their first seven games, and if this year’s squad matches that feat, an FCS National Championship will be firmly on the minds of the Green and Gold nation.
I’ve tried to be careful not to over-hype this year’s team, but I can’t help it anymore. In football, four games is enough to get a good feeling about a team. And this team is good. Very good. Potentially, really, really, very good.
For Mustangs fans, there is so much to be excited about, but I thought I’d list 5 of these things.
1) This team deals with mid-game adversity. While they won their opener against the University of San Diego fairly easily, the next three games have all come amidst some adversity. At Wyoming, they gave up a 14-pont lead and trailed 15-14 before coming back to win the game. In the Battle for the Golden Horseshoe, Cal Poly surrendered 10 straight fourth-quarter points before their defense finally settled down to ice the game. Against North Dakota yesterday, the Mustangs again gave up a 14-point lead and all the momentum before coming back to score the final 21 points of the game and seal the Big Sky road victory.
The ability to deal with momentum shifts against you and still execute is a sign of a good team. If the Mustangs can continue to deal with in-game momentum swings in the way they have, they will probably continue to be successful.
2) The Mustangs are winning in the Big Sky. Over the past 8 years, Cal Poly and other Great West schools have been widely looked-down upon in FCS polls. Cal Poly fans were excited this year about conference legitimacy. In a better conference, Cal Poly has started 2-0, beating their rival and what was a good artificial-turf based 8th-ranked offense in FCS.
Winning in the Big Sky Conference will be a lot more meaningful than winning in the Great West. To compete for a national title, you need to be in the playoffs, and being in the Big Sky will help Cal Poly’s chances of getting in the playoffs.
3) The defense can stop the run, but it looks like they can do enough to stop the pass too. I have said all year that Cal Poly can stop the run. Their entire defense hits hard and wraps-up ball carriers. They continued to prove this in only giving up only 3.5 yards per rush in Grand Forks. The question I’ve had about their defense was how well they could get pressure on the quarterback and cover receivers downfield. To add to this question-mark, Cal Poly lost their defensive backs coach, Randy Hanson, after he was arrested after a bar fight during the preseason.
So, how has the defensive backfield responded? Well, the team has only given up 18.25 points per game to their opponents and hasn’t allowed more than 22 points in any single game. Cornerback Nico Molino has four interceptions in four games and Cal Poly has won the turnover battle forcing 10 turnovers in four games compared to giving up only 4 total.
4) At this point, Deonte Williams has established himself as a legitimate FCS star. Deonte Williams is a star. In four games, the senior slotback has stacked-up some impressive numbers. By the fourth game, when North Dakota must have been keying on him, Williams still was able to muster 125 yards on 19 carries and two touchdowns. Williams now has 622 yards and 6 touchdowns on the season (4 games) and is averaging over 150 yards per game.
Williams is fifth in the FCS in rushing after four games and his continued success should open up other offensive options like Akaninyene Umoh, Kristaan Ivory, and this week’s all-purpose star Cole Stanford. A good triple option offense needs a group of runners who are all threats and while Williams has established himself as the main threat, others should benefit from opponents keying on him and quarterback Andre Broadous.
5) Cal Poly has not played a totally clean game yet. The Mustangs are getting wins out of games without probably playing their best. Whether getting down early, giving up two touchdown leads, or having to overcome missed field goals, the Mustangs haven’t had any games I would call easy yet. Even the San Diego game was somewhat close until the second half.
Speaking of field goals, kicker Bobby Zalud hasn’t been healthy since the Wyoming game. Zalud, who was 3-3 in the first two games, is 0-3 since he went down with back spasms prior to the UC Davis game. IF he can get healthy, Zalud can be a weapon for Cal Poly. If he is hurt, he has shown that he may be a liability. Cal Poly fans should keep Zalud on their radar, especially if the Mustangs are going to continue to play close games.