Cal Poly Takes Perfect 4-0 Mark, No. 19/20 Ranking to Weber State Friday
NOTES: CAL POLY | WEBER STATE | BIG SKY
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SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. -- Cal Poly (4-0, 2-0 Big Sky), off to a 4-0 start for the first time in eight years, continues its inaugural season in the Big Sky Conference with its first Friday game in 50 years, visiting Weber State (0-5, 0-2 Big Sky) at Stewart Stadium (17,500) in Ogden, Utah. The game was moved up a day due to the LDS General Conference this weekend.
Kickoff is set for 5:05 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. There is no television for the game. 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 five straight with a 35-17 victory over North Dakota last Saturday in the Alerus Center, Grand Forks, N.D. Senior slotback Deonte Williams cracked the 100-yard mark for the fourth straight game -- 125 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries -- and senior cornerback Nico Molino intercepted two passes as the Mustangs, who let a 14-0 lead slip away, scored three touchdowns in the final 12 minutes for the victory.
Molino intercepted his third and fourth passes of the season, redshirt freshman linebacker Tu'uta Inoke stopped North Dakota on a fake punt play in the fourth quarter and junior defensive tackle Sullivan Grosz (pictured at right) recovered a pair of North Dakota fumbles and blocked a field goal for the Mustangs, all leading to three Mustang touchdowns.
Williams is the No. 1 rusher in the Big Sky and No. 5 in the FCS in rushing, averaging 152.2 yards per game, and also is No. 14 in the FCS in all-purpose yards and No. 10 in scoring. Molino leads the nation and Big Sky with his four interceptions. As a team, Cal Poly is No. 3 in the FCS and No. 1 in the Big Sky in rushing offense (326.25), No. 32 in the FCS in total offense (411.50) and No. 26 in scoring offense (32.0).
Not to be outdone, the Mustang defense is popping up in the national rankings as well. Cal Poly is No. 17 against the rush (109.0), No. 61 in passing defense (208.75) -- the Mustangs were 119th a year ago against the pass -- No. 27 in total defense (317.75) and No. 18 in scoring defense (18.25). Cal Poly also is No. 4 in the FCS in turnover margin (+1.75 per game).
Out of the polls in 2011, Cal Poly regained its spot in the top 25 last week at No. 23 in both the coaches and media polls and moved up to No. 19 in the coaches poll and No. 20 in the media poll following the win over North Dakota. The Mustangs, 4-1 at home each of the last three seasons, have won seven of their last 13 games on the road since going winless away from Alex G. Spanos Stadium in 2009 as part of an eight-game road losing streak.
Weber State opened its 2012 season with four tough matchups, falling to Fresno State and BYU of the FBS followed by losses to No. 19 McNeese State and No. 9 Eastern Washington. Last week the Wildcats fell 37-13 at UC Davis, falling behind 31-0 in the first 28 minutes of play, and lost despite a 360-342 edge in total offense and a 23-18 advantage in first downs. Quarterback Mike Hoke completed 26 of 42 passes for 268 yards and one score but was intercepted three times and sacked four times.
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, is playing its first Friday game since 1962 when the Mustangs beat Santa Clara 41-22 in Buck Shaw Stadium. Cal Poly's 4-0 start this season is its best since the 2004 squad won its first seven games en route to a 9-2 campaign. Nine Mustang teams have started the year 5-0 or better, including the 1953 squad which went 9-0 and the 1933 team that finished 7-0, the only two Cal Poly squads to play at least five games and finish unbeaten and untied.
Weber State, coached by Jody Sears (first season, 0-5, Washington State '91) returned 41 lettermen, including 15 starters, off last year's team which went 5-6 overall and finished tied for third in the Big Sky at 5-3. The Wildcats are 0-5 for the first time in eight years and have been outscored 41-0 in the first quarter and 110-12 in the first half.
C.J. Tuckett has rushed for 262 yards and two TDs in five games while Hoke has completed 90 of 153 passes for 879 yards and five scores. Jordan Clemente has 27 catches for 185 yards. Kris Parham averages 21.5 yards per kickoff return and Tony Epperson averages 48.0 yards per punt, best in the FCS. Epperson also is the leading tackler with 39.
Weber State is averaging 313 yards in total offense per game -- 105 on the ground and 208 through the air -- while giving up 479 yards a contest (220 rushing, 259 passing).
Weber State has 10 Californians on its roster, including safety Chris Wheeler, a junior from Templeton who transferred from Allan Hancock College during the offseason.
Sears joined Weber State's coaching staff as a defensive coordinator last January and became interim head coach in April when John L. Smith left for Arkansas without ever coaching a Wildcat game.
Cal Poly and Weber State are meeting for the ninth time in football this weekend and the Wildcats own a 5-3 advantage in the series. Last meeting was in 2009 in Ogden, Utah, won by Weber State 47-14 as junior quarterback Cameron Higgins threw four touchdown passes and senior running back Trevyn Smith cracked the 5,000-yard mark in career rushing. Higgins passed for 364 yards. Cal Poly quarterback Tony Smith completed 11 of 24 passes for 166 yards and both Mustang touchdowns; he was sacked five times and threw a pair of interceptions. Weber State was ranked No. 12 in the FCS at the time. Cal Poly's last win against the Wildcats was a 47-19 decision in 2007 in San Luis Obispo.
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 69 of their last 106 games dating back to the 2002 season finale and have won 26 of their last 50 games on the road and 44 of their last 53 home contests.
Next week, Cal Poly plays the first of two consecutive home games, hosting Northern Colorado on Parent and Family Weekend. The Big Sky game Oct. 13 in Alex G. Spanos Stadium kicks off at 6:05 p.m.
The Mustangs also host Portland State on Homecoming Weekend, Oct. 20.