No. 17 Cal Poly Seeks Big Sky Title, Playoff Berth Saturday at No. Arizona
NOTES: CAL POLY | NORTHERN ARIZONA | BIG SKY
VOTE TIM WALSH FOR LIBERTY MUTUAL COACH OF THE YEAR
JACKSON EARNS BIG SKY PLAYER OF THE WEEK HONOR
AUDIO STREAM | VIDEO STREAM | LIVE STATS
AUDIO: BIG SKY RADIO SHOW | BIG SKY TELECONFERENCE CALL
SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. -- No. 17 Cal Poly (8-2, 6-1 Big Sky), which opened the 2012 season with seven straight wins and snapped a two-game losing streak with a 70-14 win over Idaho State last week, wraps up the 2012 regular season Saturday with the Big Sky Conference championship at stake, visiting No. 15 Northern Arizona (8-2, 6-1 Big Sky) inside the J. Lawrence Walkup Skydome (10,000) in Flagstaff, Arizona.
Kickoff is set for 3:05 p.m. PST and the game 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 Fox College Sports Pacific, available on DirecTV (617, 623 or 626) in some areas and Charter Cable channel 403 in San Luis Obispo County, and NAU-TV. The telacast will be replayed on Fox Sports Arizona at 9:30 p.m.
Links for audio and video streams as well as live stats are available at www.GoPoly.com.
Cal Poly, Northern Arizona, Montana State and Eastern Washington all share first place in the Big Sky with 6-1 conference records. Winner of Saturday's Cal Poly vs. Northern Arizona game earns at least a share of the Big Sky title. The only way Cal Poly can earn the Big Sky's automatic bid to the NCAA FCS playoffs is with a win Saturday plus losses by both Eastern Washington (at Portland State) and Montana State (at Montana). The Mustangs do not have any tiebreaker advantage in a three-way tie for the Big Sky championship.
Cal Poly completed a perfect 5-0 season at home with a 70-14 win over Idaho State last Saturday as slotback Deonte Williams surpassed the 100-yard mark for a school-record ninth time in 10 games this season, rushing for 125 yards and three touchdowns. Quarterback Andre Broadous threw three touchdown passes for the second time this season and the Cal Poly defense intercepted Bengal quarterback Kevin Yost three times. Safety Alex Hubbard (pictured above) returned one 15 yards for a score and linebacker Kennith Jackson had the other two thefts, both setting up one-play Mustang scoring drives in the first three minutes of the game. Cal Poly amassed 650 yards in total offense, including a school Division I record 505 on the ground, and 33 first downs.
Northern Arizona's eight-game winning streak was snapped by Southern Utah 35-29 in triple-overtime last week in Flagstaff. Lumberjack quarterback Cary Grossart was sacked on fourth down on the final play of the game. Colton Cook kicked a 19-yard field goal on the final play of regulation for Southern Utah, sending the game into overtime. Grossart threw for 298 yards and four touchdowns for the Lumberjacks, who suffered their first Big Sky loss of the year.
Williams is the top rusher in the Big Sky and No. 7 in the FCS in rushing, averaging 131.9 yards per game. He has 10 career 100-yard performances as a Mustangs to go with four 100-yard games as a freshman at Northern Arizona in 2008 en route to Big Sky Newcomer of the Year honors. With 1,319 yards in nine games this season, he is the 15th Mustang to crack the 1,000-yard rushing mark for a season and Williams needs 260 yards to catch James Noble's single-season rushing yardage mark of 1,578 yards in 2005. Noble also had eight 100-yard games that season.
Senior cornerback Nico Molino is 18th in the nation and first in the 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 (334.3) and the Mustangs also are No. 2 in the Big Sky and No. 9 in the FCS in scoring offense (38.2).
Out of the polls in 2011, Cal Poly regained its spot in the top 25 seven weeks ago and climbed steadily up the polls each week to as high as No. 11 in both the coaches and media polls before falling to Sacramento State on Oct. 27. The Mustangs, 4-1 at home each of the last three seasons, went unbeaten at home this fall for the first time since the 2005 squad went 6-0 at home. Cal Poly has won 47 of its last 56 home games (84 percent) and has claimed eight of its last 16 games on the road since going winless away from Alex G. Spanos Stadium in 2009 as part of an eight-game road losing streak.
Cal Poly football, presented by French Hospital Medical Center, has already clinched its 10th winning season in the last 12 years. The Mustangs captured four Great West Conference titles in the eight-year history of the league (2004, 2005, 2008, 2011) before moving to the Big Sky this fall and earned NCAA Division I FCS playoff berths in both 2005 and 2008, reaching the quarterfinals in 2005. The Mustangs have won 73 of their last 112 games (65 percent) dating back to the 2002 season finale and have won 27 of their last 53 games on the road.
Williams, who opened the 2012 season with four consecutive 100-yard games, surpassed the 1,000-yard mark in career rushing as a Mustang six weeks ago. He now has 1,704 yards in two years at Cal Poly and, including his 2008 freshman season at Northern Arizona, has 2,654 yards in three collegiate campaigns.
Broadous recently cracked the 2,000-yard mark in career passing as a Mustang. He has thrown for 2,827 yards, No. 9 all-time at Cal Poly, and has been picked off just four times in 358 career attempts. With 29 career rushing touchdowns, he needs six more to catch Noble's school record, and he also has passed for 29 career touchdowns, No. 5 all-time. Broadous has rushed for 1,386 yards in his Mustang career.
Northern Arizona, coached by Jerome Souers (15th season (84-84), Oregon '83) returned 39 lettermen, including 15 starters, off last year's team which went 4-7 overall and finished tied for sixth in the Big Sky at 3-5. After losing their opener 63-6 at Arizona State, the Lumberjacks won eight straight, outscoring those foes 279-120, before the streak was snapped by Southern Utah last week. Northern Arizona is one of 10 FCS teams to beat an FBS school this season, earning a 17-14 win at UNLV on Sept. 8.
For the season, Grossart has completed 157 of 234 passes for 1,723 yards and 14 scores; he has been intercepted seven times. Dejzon Walker is the top Lumberjack receiver with 34 catches, followed by Ify Umodu with 32 and Zach Bauman with 30. Bauman is the top Northern Arizona rusher with 1,138 yards and eight touchdowns, averaging 5.4 yards per carry.
Northern Arizona has outscored its 10 opponents 31.4 to 21.8 and is averaging 410 yards in total offense per game -- 181 on the ground and 229 through the air -- while giving up 326 yards a contest (120 rushing, 206 passing). The Lumberjacks have earned three FCS playoff berths (1996, 2001, 2003), shared the Big Sky title in 2003 and has posted nine winning seasons in the last 15 years, including this fall.
Cal Poly and Northern Arizona will be playing each other in football for the ninth time Saturday, the first meeting since 2003, and the Mustangs are still seeking their first win over the Lumberjacks. First meeting was in 1935 and Northern Arizona has outscored Cal Poly 206-105, including a 24-7 victory in their last meeting, 2003, in Flagstaff.
Cal Poly is 13-5 in regular-season finales over the last 18 years.
The 2012 NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision playoff bracket will be announced Sunday at 10:30 a.m. PST on ESPNU.