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Cal Poly Takes 3-0 Mark, No. 23 Ranking to North Dakota on Saturday

NOTES: CAL POLY | NORTH DAKOTA | BIG SKY
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SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. -- Cal Poly (3-0, 1-0 Big Sky), off to a 3-0 start for the first time in six years and ranked for the first time since the 2010 season at No. 23, continues its inaugural season in the Big Sky Conference on Saturday with its second trip to Grand Forks, N.D., in as many years, facing North Dakota (3-1, 1-0) in the Alerus Center (12,283).

Kickoff is set for 4:05 p.m. PDT and the contest will be broadcast live on ESPN Radio (1280 am) with Tom Barket providing the play-by-play and Eric Burdick doing color commentary. The game also will be televised by the Midco Sports Network. Links for audio and video streams as well as live stats are available at www.GoPoly.com.

Cal Poly stretched its winning streak over the last two seasons to four straight with a 28-20 victory over rival UC Davis in the first Big Sky Conference game for both schools Saturday in Alex G. Spanos Stadium. In winning the Battle for the Golden Horseshoe for the first time in four years, the Mustangs amassed 336 rushing yards, led by senior slotback Deonte Williams with his third consecutive 100-yard game, accumulating 188 yards on just 20 carries and scoring three times on runs of 5, 14 and 7 yards.

Williams is the No. 1 rusher in the Big Sky and No. 3 in the FCS in rushing, averaging 161.3 yards per game, and also is No. 11 in the FCS in all-purpose yards and No. 16 in scoring. As a team, Cal Poly is No. 3 in the FCS and No. 1 in the Big Sky in rushing offense (328.0), No. 27 in the FCS in total offense (417.0) and No. 31 in scoring offense (31.0).

Not to be outdone, the Mustang defense is popping up in the national rankings as well. Cal Poly is No. 18 against the rush (101.0), No. 45 in passing defense (186.33) -- the Mustangs were 119th a year ago against the pass -- No. 13 in total defense (287.33) and No. 27 in scoring defense (18.67).

North Dakota opened its first season in the Big Sky with a 35-13 win at Sacramento State as Mitch Sutton rambled for 162 yards and three touchdowns (5, 5 and 1 yards) and quarterback Marcus Hendrickson completed 14 of 23 passes for 147 yards and two more scores.

Facing a difficult schedule, Cal Poly posted a 6-5 mark in 2011, clinching its eighth winning season in the last nine years and nine of 11 with a season-ending 41-10 triumph at South Alabama. Cal Poly's foes on the 2011 schedule were a combined 68-45 and the Mustangs faced two FBS schools (San Diego State and Northern Illinois) while South Alabama was in transition to FBS.

Cal Poly football, presented by French Hospital Medical Center, opened its fourth season under head coach Tim Walsh with just seven returning starters. The Mustangs lost nine of 13 players on the defensive line, do not have a returning starter in the defensive secondary and said good-bye to 1,000-yard fullback Jake Romanelli and slotback/return specialist Mark Rodgers, both seniors in 2011.

Heading the list of returnees, senior quarterback Andre Broadous completed 101 of 171 passes (58 percent) for 1,235 yards and nine touchdowns as a junior, throwing his first career interception in 207 career attempts Nov. 5 at UC Davis. Broadous, who also rushed for 646 yards, was No. 4 in the FCS in scoring (9.82 points per game) and No. 35 in passing efficiency (136.73) a year ago and broke a school record by rushing for 18 touchdowns.

Also topping the list of returnees are the top two Mustang tacklers of a year ago -- linebackers Johnny Millard (82 tackles) and Kennith Jackson (80 tackles) -- along with slotback Deonte Williams, who rushed for 385 yards last year and was the 2008 Big Sky Newcomer of the Year while at Northern Arizona with 950 yards and 12 TDs. Starting wide receivers Lance Castaneda (26 catches) and Willie Tucker (14 catches), both sophomores, also return as well as center Geoff Hyde, offensive linemen Giovanni Sani and Lefi Letuligasenoa and defensive tackle Sullivan Grosz.

Several transfers and redshirt freshmen also are expected to make strong contributions this fall, including defensive linemen Wesley Flowers (UCLA), Jake Irwin (Wisconsin) and Barrett Wangara (College of San Mateo), safety Alex Hubbard (College of San Mateo) and linebacker Cameron Ontko (Wisconsin).

North Dakota, coached by Chris Mussman (fifth season, 26-21, Iowa State '90) returned 39 lettermen, including 16 starters, off last year's team which went 8-3 overall and shared the Great West Conference title with Cal Poly at 3-1.

North Dakota opened its 2012 season with wins over South Dakota Mines 66-0 and Portland State 45-37 before falling to San Diego State 49-41 in Qualcomm Stadium.

Sutton has rushed for 280 yards and six TDs in four games so far this season while Jake Miller has added 276 yards and one score. Hendrickson has completed 62 of 104 passes (59.6 percent) for 970 yards and 14 TDs and his favorite targets are Greg Hardin (20 catches, 457 yards, 7 TDs), R.J. McGill (17-209-1) and Jameer Jackson (16-258-4). Linebacker Garrison Goodman has notched 31 tackles.

North Dakota is averaging 496 yards in total offense per game -- 206.5 on the ground and 289.5 through the air -- while giving up 420.5 yards a contest (196.2 rushing, 224.2 passing). North Dakota is No. 1 in the Big Sky in scoring offense (46.8), total offense (496.0) and passing efficiency (187.3, best in the FCS).

North Dakota, which claims among its most famous alumni former L.A. Lakers head coach Phil Jackson, was NCAA Division II champion in 2001.

Cal Poly and North Dakota are meeting for only the fifth time in football this weekend and for the second straight year in Grand Forks. Last year in the Alerus Center, junior quarterback Andre Broadous threw a pair of touchdown passes and sophomore placekicker James Langford kicked three field goals as Cal Poly overcame an early 6-0 deficit, built a 23-6 lead and held on to beat North Dakota 23-19. The Mustang defense intercepted three passes and safety Greg Francis recorded 12 tackles, all solo, and a key pass breakup in the end zone. Cal Poly also won in 2010 at Alex G. Spanos Stadium, 22-21.

First meeting between the Mustangs and North Dakota was in the 1972 Camellia Bowl at Hughes Stadium in Sacramento, won by North Dakota 38-21.

Cal Poly captured four Great West Conference titles in the eight-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 68 of their last 105 games dating back to the 2002 season finale and have won 25 of their last 49 games on the road and 44 of their last 53 home contests.

Next week, Cal Poly plays its first Friday night contest in 50 years, visiting Weber State for a 5 p.m. PDT Big Sky Conference kickoff in Ogden, Utah. The game was moved to avoid a conflict with the LDS General Conference, scheduled for Oct. 6-7. Cal Poly last played a football game on a Friday on Nov. 9, 1962, a 41-22 victory at Santa Clara in Buck Shaw Stadium.

Photo above of senior center Geoff Hyde courtesy Matt Brown Photography